Switching to high rake would have written off 2021 – Shovlin
Mercedes believes that switching to a high rake concept this year to overcome downforce losses would have made 2021 a ‘write-off’. The German manufacturer believes the minor changes to the regulation have hurt the low rake cars much more than their high rake rivals.
Customer team Aston Martin who also followed the same low rake philosophy as also believes it has lost around a second a lap because of the floor changes is as much as one-second per lap.
While there is some scope for both Mercedes and Aston Martin to run the rear of their cars slightly higher to recover some of the downforce losses, doing so to the extremes that a team like Red Bull does is impossible. This, however, would require a whole new suspension, which is not allowed under the regulations as well as a change in aero concepts.
Mercedes head of trackside engineering Andrew Shovlin told Motorsport.com, this would take many months of work that would then be required to even get back to current downforce levels, by which stage the championship would be long lost. Explaining “We’ve got a car that could win a championship if we make some clever decisions with it, do some good work with it and operate well over the year.”
“But whether or not it’s high rake or low rake, we can’t do anything about that now. What we certainly can’t do is suddenly say we’re going to lift the rear of our car 30mm and work with that, because that would write off the season. We would lose so much in doing that – to recover it, it’s just not practical.”
Aston Martin team principal Otmar Szafnauer reckoned that the rear suspension situation made a pursuit for a higher rake car impossible. He said that because of the pandemic teams were forced to homologate the suspension, and to changed they would have used all of the tokens for development.
Shovlin says that while the tweaks to the regulations suggest things have swung towards high rake cars, and says there was no point in worrying about it.
Adding “Did this set of regulations drag back low-rake cars more than high-rake cars? That may well be the case. I know that they [Red Bull] won the last race [of 2020] but, generally, we were ahead at the end of the year and that’s not the case now.”
Honda evaluating whether to be more aggressive with engine
Honda is to evaluate whether they can allow Red Bull and Alpha Tauri to be more aggressive with engine usage in races after Red Bull lost the Bahrain Grand Prix. Mercedes saw an upswing in performance and with Sir Lewis Hamilton getting track position ahead of Max Verstappen and holding the Dutchman to take the win.
Reflecting on the weekend, Honda says that one aspect that it will look at closely is whether it could have been more aggressive with its power deployment in Bahrain. While teams are restricted to using a single-mode in both qualifying and the races, there is still scope to vary a host of factors, such as energy deployment strategy, and elect to choose how aggressive the power unit is run through the entire weekend.
Following what happened in Bahrain, technical director Toyoharu Tanabe says it will work out whether its approach was best and if it needs to do things differently from now on. He told Motorsport.com, “We will review and consider this data We need to see how much the power unit has been exhausted in this race, and we will then use it according to the characteristics of each circuit in the future.”
“We plan to verify whether this usage was optimal. Basically, I think that it can be used without problems, but I plan to think about what I should do to use it properly in the future.”
Honda says it was disappointed with the result sharing the same frustrations as Red Bull after missing out on the win, but Tanabe says that it was a positive performance and a good race for the opening race of the season. He says that the strategy was optimal, but he was not a 100% satisfied.
He also believes that the competitive picture between Red Bull and Mercedes is different this year from how it was in 2020. Adding “Last year, we were only able to win when everything went well. In terms of the difference with Mercedes, I think this year we are in a better position.”
Mazepin “beating himself up” over Bahrain woes
Haas team principal Guenther Steiner says that Nikita Mazepin was “beating himself up” because of his first lap crash in the Bahrain Grand Prix, but is confident that the Russian rookie is “ready to go again.”
Mazepin’s debut weekend went from bad to worse when he lost control of the car on the kerbs at the second corner on the opening lap of the race. The Russian took full responsibility for his mistake, saying his team “deserved better”. Steiner said Mazepin was “pretty beat up” after his early retirement but has no doubts the Russian will try to bounce back in Imola.
Steiner told Motorsport.com, “I just said to him to keep his head up and keep ongoing. For sure, it’s not ideal what happened, but it happened. He beats himself up pretty badly but he is ready to go again.”
Asked if Mazepin was trying too hard to prove his many critics wrong, Steiner answered Mazepin “was in a good place” ahead of his debut. Saying that “You always want to prove yourself, right? I don’t know how much it affects you. He seemed to be pretty in a good place when we started testing. I wouldn’t put it down purely to that, but for sure it is never an advantage to have a winter like he had”
The Haas car looks to be a difficult car to drive on the limit, with Mick Schumacher also spinning on his way to sixteenth. But Steiner believes that Mazepin’s character makes him push harder, and wasn’t surprised because the car is not easy to drive.
He believes that both drivers were too harsh on the throttle before getting on the kerb, which is difficult to recover from. Since announcing the line-up, Steiner has admitted the lack of experience carried risks.
Ben Sulayem launches FIA presidential campaign
Last week, former rally driver Mohammed ben Sulayem launched his campaign for December’s FIA presidential election. The third term of incumbent president Jean Todt ends this year as he reaches his term limit following twelve years in the role.
Ben Sulayem challenged Todt before withdrawing his bid in 2013. No other candidates are declared yet, but the Emeriti is expected to be faced by whoever is endorsed by Todt.
He has also announced his running mate for deputy president for motorsport Robert Reid, 2001 World Rally Championship-winning co-driver, as his deputy president for motorsport. Reid is the chair of the FIA WRC stewards, and president of the FIA Closed Roads Commission.
Other candidates linked to the role have included the 2001 World Rally Championship-winning co-driver, as his deputy president for motorsport. Reid is the chair of the FIA WRC stewards, and president of the FIA Closed Roads Commission.
Meanwhile Canadian Automobile Association CEO Tim Shearman as candidate for deputy president mobility, and Carmelo Sanz de Barros of the Royal Automobile Club of Spain as the head of the FIA Senate, have been nominated.
The election will conclude at December’s FIA Conference and Prize Giving, details of which haven’t been announced. He had explored the possibility of an extension, given the disruption caused by COVID-19, but ultimately the move was not agreed.
Sulayem has long been regarded as the most powerful motorsport figures in the Middle East. He played a key role in setting up the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and is known as an ally of Max Mosley, Todt’s predecessor as FIA president.
Running his campaign under the banner of FIA for Members, he has promised a “fresh approach” and says that “the FIA must encourage a culture of democratic and transparent governance”.
He noted: “I want to give much back to the FIA and its amazing community, and I hope my experience in both mobility and sport as a vice president, competitor, but also businessman and car enthusiast can add value. I am proud to lead such an experienced and passionate team that is focused on delivering what the members want and need.”
Albert Park changes outlined
Organisers of the Australian Grand Prix believes that lap times could fall by five seconds when the modified circuit hosts its first race in November. Over the last few months, the circuit has been undergoing a major overhaul with a number of geometric changes, expected to help promote overtaking at Albert Park.
One of the biggest changes is at Turn Nine and Clark, which has been replaced by a single heavy stop right-hander, leading to a fast-flowing section on Lakeside Drive.
Several other areas will also be widened or re-profiled to create more racing lines and cambers that are conducive with wheel-to-wheel racing. Meanwhile, that section will become a DRS Zone before the hard stop into the tighter Turn Thirteen which will become slower and tighter thanks to a slight extension of the entry and sharper angle at the apex. The camber will also be adjusted and the corner widened by three metres.
The AGPC has now formally unveiled the full suite of changes and outlined its expectations of the new layout.
Turn One will be widened by 2.5 metres to the driver’s right, with Turn Three widened four metres in the same direction and given a camber adjustment. It means that the corner numbering and length of the circuit will be changed.6
The changes are expected to reduce lap times by five seconds, will marginally cut the length of the circuit from 5.303km (3.3miles) to 5.231km (3.25 miles) and reduce the track from sixteen to fourteen corners.
It is expected to cut lap time in qualifying to 01:15.8, five seconds faster than in 2019, top speed is expected to reach 330kmh with driver expected to experience 5.4G.
The pitlane has already been widened by two metres, with plans to up the speed limit to 80 km/h, while a full resurfacing will take place between the 2021 and 2022 races.
Ricciardo backs changes to Albert Park
Daniel Ricciardo has backed the changes being made to Albert Park in an attempt to improve racing ahead of the Australian Grand Prix. Seven of the sixteen corners will be changed ahead of this year’s race which has been postponed until 19 – 21 November.
Australia had been scheduled to start the 2021 season, but Covid restrictions in the country meant it had to be postponed to a new date in November. He says “It’ll make the racing closer, I’m pretty confident of that.”
Organisers the Australian Grand Prix Corporation have taken advantage of the delay to bring forward modifications to the track, which is a popular venue with both fans and F1 personnel, but has sometimes struggled to provide exciting racing.
Tsunoda ‘best rookie in years’ – Brawn
Formula One motorsport and technical managing director Ross Brawn has hailed Yuki Tsunoda as the best rookie in years after the Japanese scored points on his debut in Bahrain. The former Ferrari technical director and team principal of Honda, Brawn and Mercedes, said he had been impressed by the 20-year-old AlphaTauri driver’s “brilliant spells”
Writing in his column for F1.com, Brawn said, “He is the best rookie F1 has had for years, having been fairly stunning in whatever series he has competed in. His promotion by Red Bull looks like a brilliant move. We can all remember the glorious days of full grandstands at Suzuka and the passion of the Japanese fans.”
“I think we are going to have that again, which is incredibly exciting.”
Tsunoda was one of three rookies this season, one of them last year’s Formula Two winner Mick Schumacher and Haas teammate Nikita Mazepin. The Japanese driver finished ninth, first to score points in nearly a decade and the six-fifth driver to do so on his debut.
His result was the best result by a Japanese since Kamui Kobayashi finished sixth for Toyota in Abu Dhabi in 2009. Kobayashi also finished ninth on his debut that year but points were only awarded to the top eight at the time.
Alfa Romeo confident its back in midfield
Alfa Romeo team principal Fred Vasseur believes despite failing to score in the Bahrain Grand Prix, the team has reclaimed its place in the midfield. Last season, the team was hampered by the lack of performance from the Ferrari engine, meaning it scored only eight points on its way to eighth place in the constructors’ championship.
In testing, the team emerged as the surprises as it showed a big step forward when both Kimi Räikkönen finished eleventh and Antonio Giovinazzi twelfth just outside the points. This has made Vasseur convinced that strong results are now just a matter of time.
Vasseur after the race said, “Tonight gave us a strong indication of the progress we have made in the last twelve months. We raced with authority, leaving the Alpines and an Aston Martin behind us and finishing on the tail of the other Aston.”
“Even though we leave Bahrain with no points, we do so having reclaimed our place in the midst of the midfield – and results will surely come soon. We demonstrated to be the able to fight in and around the top ten and we can look with optimism to the rest of the season.”
He says the race was eventful, even though there was a low attrition rate, with Alfa Romeo having its work cut out. Vasseur says that going to Imola the team knows it can battle for again for a place in the top ten.
Giovinazzi says that twelfth place was the maximum they could have hoped for, as well as being encouraged by the progress made. Adding “Alpha Tauri is still too fast for us, but we need to be happy because compared to last year we improved a lot. We are much closer to Alpine, to Aston Martin. So yeah, I think we can have more fun today.”
Although Giovinazzi lost some time in the pits, he reckons a points finish was still out of the question. Adding “I think without that mistake maybe it was just good to be in front of Kimi, but not in the top ten.”
The week ahead
Next week will start slowly in terms of news because of the bank holiday and Easter break between the two weekends in Bahrain and Imola, we have not had this long a break between races in season since 2019. But this is important as the second half of the season is crammed with triple headers.
Naturally, this break marks the start of the European season, and as we saw at the end of last year there is a long drive and logistical challenge between Imola and Portimao meaning teams need to prepare for that. But we do have a week break between the two races making it easier for the teams and will we see upgrades?
Eyes will also be on AlUla in Saudi Arabia where the first round of Extreme E takes place, we have four teams owned by world champions Sir Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Mario Andretti and Jenson Button and Carlos Sainz Sr. Of course, Williams built the battery so there is always going to be a bit of interest.
Teams I think will begin looking and speaking about what they have learned from Bahrain, and what changes, upgrades can be brought in the coming races. The talk I think will continue to be about the battle between Mercedes and Red Bull, at Imola we should get a better picture of how that plays out.