Hamilton’s “special” Sochi win
Lewis Hamilton believes that Mercedes won “special” result by defeating Ferrari in the Russian Grand Prix, ending Ferrari’s three wins since the summer break.
Hamilton lead teammate Valtteri Bottas home to take maximum points and take the teams first win since Budapest, during a race when Ferrari failed to capitalise on what appeared a faster race car. At the start, Hamilton was passed by Vettel.
That appeared to comprise Mercedes, however, the decision to run in Q2 with the medium tyres was key to the strategy. Teams know that a pit stop in Sochi costs a lot of time and thus only like to stop once, and the team decided that on Saturday it was a key factor in the race.
Hamilton told Sky Sports, “It’s been so hard to just try and stay within distance of them. To separate them in qualifying was good but then they were on another planet when we took off from the start. They were gone. After that, they had such great pace that I was struggling to keep up with them.”
“We thought that the soft tyre would drop off so this morning we were like ‘either we’re right in our estimation of the tyre or they are right’ – and I think they were because the soft tyre went really far.” He says that he was just able to stay with Ferrari when the tyres fell away.
The key moment came on lap twenty-six when an engine problem crippled Vettel’s Ferrari on his out lap from the pits and the team told him to immediately stop on track on safety grounds.
With the Virtual Safety Car thrust into action, Mercedes were able to stop Hamilton’s car in what proved an effective ‘free’ stop while rivals on track ran at reduced speed. That allowed Hamilton to pass Leclerc on the fresher tyres.
His ninth win of the season puts him two away from his best-ever season – but his first in eight weeks and the world champion added: “It feels like a long time since we won – and I know it’s not. But it feels long, particularly with the break and everything.
Leclerc “still trust” Vettel despite Sochi drama
Charles Leclerc says he “still trusts” Sebastian Vettel in the wake of the team orders drama at the Russian Grand Prix between the Ferrari drivers. The rivalry between the twenty-one-year-old and the four-time champion has been a topic of conversation all season – with focus ramped up after Sunday’s events at the start in Sochi.
Vettel took the lead from Leclerc in the racing opening stages as part of a pre-arranged ‘tow’ agreement designed to block out Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, but the former world champion then resisted initial radio instructions to let his team-mate back ahead.
While he was annoyed with the team over the team on strategy, Leclerc insisted there are not any trust problems between himself and Vettel. He told Sky Sports, “I think the trust doesn’t change and we need to trust each other, Seb and myself.”
“I think it’s usually important for the benefit of the team in some situations to know that you can count on the other car, and vice versa – I mean in both ways. So yeah. I think it’s very important but yes, the trust is still here.”
Leclerc said he felt there was no need to challenge Vettel into Turn Two because he knew the positions would be reversed, and there was no need to take the risk at the time.
Steiner facing scrutiny for “idiotic steward” remark
Haas team principal Gunther Steiner may face further scrutiny from the FIA for his criticism of the Russian Grand Prix stewards. Steiner labelled the decision to award Kevin Magnussen as “stupid idiotic steward.”
The stewards awarded the penalty, which dropped him from eighth to ninth after the Dane ran wide and failed to go around the bollards a Turn Two when battling Sergio Perez. But he failing to rejoin the track to the left of two polystyrene markers as instructed earlier in the weekend.
Steiner did not impress the FIA with a message he sent Magnussen over the radio, which referred to “a stupid idiotic steward”. The Italian did not impress the FIA with a message he sent Magnussen over the radio, which referred to “a stupid idiotic steward”.
The FIA could launch formal disciplinary proceedings as it is not the first time that Steiner has been critical of officials, and it is understood that the FIA may look into the incident further.
Should the FIA feel Steiner crossed a line in Russia, the easiest solution would be to discuss the matter informally at the next race in Japan.
When Sebastian Vettel told the then-race director Charlie Whiting to “f*** off”, he was referred to the FIA International Tribunal, but this was dropped after Vettel apologise.
The International Sporting Code includes a code of good conduct that includes a reference to participants not using words to “cause damage to the standing and/or reputation of…the FIA, its bodies, its members or its management”.
That means the stewards from Sochi may be able to request Steiner meets with the panel that is assembled for Suzuka.
Verstappen Sr urges for changes at Red Bull
Former F1 driver Jos Verstappen has urged his son’s Red Bull team to make changes to avoid another “lost year” in 2020. Following a difficult September, the Dutchman hinted that he and Max were becoming impatience about the progress being made.
Speaking on Dutch TV, Verstappen said he was “concerned” by Red Bull’s failure to move forward. He said, “The expectation was that we would close the gap this year, but it doesn’t look like that yet. We have to work hard and the team has to change things to close the gap, otherwise, next season will be a lost year as well.”
“Everyone is building a new car for the new season, but we’ve now had a year to close the gap with this car and we haven’t come any closer. So why should we be able to close that gap next year?”
The former driver says that Red Bull really needs to really make changes if its to fight for the championship.
Verstappen also added he has noticed that son Max was showing his own signs of frustration about matters. Adding “Max can’t do much about it at the moment, as we depend on the team. We’re a little behind with the car, we’re a little behind with the engine. We need to work harder on those two things if we want to be able to go for the championship next year.”
He says at the last two races he sees frustration in interviews, but it was not up to Max to get the team in a position to fight for titles. Verstappen Sr, also believes that Red Bull will not be able to compete for championships next season.
Verstappen is locked into a Red Bull contract for next year, but rival teams will be aware that he could be open to a move in 2021 if his current team does not improve.
Renault deserved better in Sochi
Nico Hulkenberg says his result at the Russian Grand Prix result feels “bitter” and was not what the pace of his Renault deserved. The German had the edge over his teammate Daniel Ricciardo all weekend and put himself sixth on the grid for the race.
However, the combination of a subpar opening lap, a slow pitstop and a poorly-timed virtual safety car brought out by Sebastian Vettel left Hulkenberg on the back foot. Asked if tenth was bittersweet, Hulkenberg said “No, just bitter, not sweet enough today.
“It started with a poor start, poor first lap and lost three or four positions, then I raced back, recovered one position or something. We wanted to undercut but the slow pitstop put us right back. And in this field every tenth matters,” he added.
Hulkenberg says losing a couple of seconds was bad, but he had to manage the tyre life. But the timing of the virtual safety car went against them, and was never able to show their pace.
Hulkenberg could’ve gained an extra place at the chequered flag due to Kevin Magnussen’s looming five-second penalty, but a loss of power “in the last 10 laps” meant he was unable to take advantage.
With Daniel Ricciardo’s retirement, it means the French manufacture has dropped thirty-three points behind McLaren in the constructor’s championship.
Toro Rosso rebrand
As reported on Saturday, Toro Rosso could be about to disappear from the grid as the Red Bull has asked the FIA and the F1 Commission to change the name to Alpha Tauri.
Over the weekend in Sochi, Red Bull’s motorsport consultant Helmut Marko as saying at last weekend’s Russian Grand Prix that governing body FIA and commercial rights holders Liberty Media had approved the move.
The move comes ahead of a key World Council meeting in Cologne on Friday, where the proposed 2021 regulations must be agreed. Also, the F1 Commission would need to agree by the October 31st deadline.
Scuderia Toro Rosso, the Italian translation of “Red Bull Team”, were the tail-enders known as Minardi before the change of ownership at the end of 2005.
Formula One is no stranger to teams changing names: Racing Point are the direct successors to Force India, who were previously Spyker, Midland and Jordan. While Alfa Romeo are the renamed Sauber and BWM Sauber. Champions Mercedes were previously Brawn, Honda, BAR and Tyrrell.
Why Kvyat helmet change was rejected
F1 race director Michael Masi has explained why Daniil Kvyat was refused to let him run a special helmet design at the Russian Grand Prix. The Russian was upset that he couldn’t run a different design, pointing out that other drivers have used multiple colour schemes this year.
Masi explained that Kvyat had made a formal request to change colours, then he had no choice but to reject it because it was his third different design of the year.
Masi explained, “I don’t think that Kvyat was picked out. The question was asked, if the helmet design is substantially similar. And the response was: ‘No, it’s not.’”
“The team asked me if the design was in my view substantially similar. Which is I think the wording in the regulation.” While many have pointed out that others have run more than one design, Masi has suggested that has only happened because not everyone has asked in advance.
asked if all teams got approval beforehand, he said “Not necessarily. Generally, those that ask get a response either one way or the other.”
Max Verstappen is one driver who has used a number of different coloured helmets this year, but Masi said that he had not been informed beforehand about any change of helmet design.
Masi has suggested that the situation surrounding helmet designs is something that may need looking at again. The idea for one design per season was it makes it easier to identify drivers, but some argue that the halo where most teams place drivers names has made this irrelevant.
He added “If we’ve got someone changing helmets all the time, we actually got to think and look twice and see who it is, when we’re doing a live television broadcast. So there were various reasons why it was brought in, and it’s one of those we’ve already spoken about.”
No driver is yet to go beyond the ‘joker’, as such the penalty for which remains unknown.