F1 Today – Austrian Prixview – 02/07/2020

F1 Today

Vettel “surprised” by Ferrari exit

Sebastian Vettel says he was “surprised” when Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto phoned him up to say he would not be retained for next year. Two months since the announcement in his first press briefing, he gave fresh insight into the circumstances.

He says that there were no talks with Ferrari about a new contract and he was surprised by the call, there was never an offer from Ferrari. This means that the reports of a sticking point of a pay cut or the fact the team wanted to make him a number two driver.

Asked what a sticking point with Ferrari had been, Vettel said “There was no sticking point. It was a surprise to me when I got the call from Mattia when he told me that there was no further intention from the team to continue.

“We never got into any discussions, there was never an offer on the table and therefore, there was no sticking point.”

The German says that he hasn’t held talks with any other teams about a seat for next season and says that he would be prepared to walk away from F1 if he could not find an environment, he was happy with.

Vettel says he isn’t really having talks with anyone and wants to make sure he wants to make the right decision for his future. He still believes he is still competitive.

Adding, “I think I have a very competitive nature. I’ve achieved a lot in the sport and I’m motivated and willing to achieve more. To do so, I think, I need the right package and the right people around me. So that’s what I’m looking out for at the moment.”

He says should the right opportunity come up, “it is quite clear.” Vettel also made clear that he would not play games and announce the end of his F1 career if he wasn’t committed to seeing it through.


I wasn’t targeting my fellow drivers – Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton says he was not targeting his fellow Formula 1 drivers in his criticism of people “staying silent” over racial injustice but speaking about motorsport as a whole.

The killing of George Floyd in May prompted worldwide protests against racism and the six-times champion has led the calls for change in Motorsport. Hamilton wrote on Instagram at the end of May that he saw “those of you who are staying silent” and described F1 as “a white-dominated sport”, leading the call for greater diversity.

The comments by Hamilton prompted several other drivers to post their own messages condemning racism, while several campaigns within F1 to effect change have been launched in recent weeks.

Speaking in a video as part of a new Daimler citizenship campaign, Hamilton clarified that he was calling on motorsport as a whole to speak up against injustice – not specifically his fellow drivers.

Saying, “Ultimately, people perceived it as that I was targeting drivers. I really wasn’t. It was targeted at the whole industry. It’s been something I’ve been aware of for a long, long time, and not really seen anyone do anything about it.”

“In today’s world where we all have a platform to be able to utilise our voice, we all have these followers, our voices are very powerful.” Hamilton says its something he has experienced for a long time, and we can continue to push for change,

Mercedes confirmed on Monday that it would be changing to a black-based livery for the entire 2020 season as part of its anti-racism campaign. While Hamilton has launched his own commission to get more BAME people into Motorsport.

He added, “It is a very expensive sport, and I think that’s definitely an underlying factor. There are so many great jobs and opportunities within our sport, but there is the opportunity is not the same for minorities to get through.”

Hamilton says the commission aims to understand why there aren’t many minority groups in the sport, saying no one knows the route cause of this. He hopes for positive change.


Mercedes announces Spec-3 power unit

Mercedes and its customers Racing Point and Williams are to run the spec 3 power unit from this weekend Austrian Grand Prix. The manufacturer says it has made further changes since Melbourne, despite the obvious restrictions on the available time created by the shutdown.

For the first time engine divisions were shut down March-May, following a decision of the FIA World Motor Sport Council. Reliability was an Achilles’ heel for Mercedes in Barcelona in February, with both the works team and Williams requiring unscheduled changes.

The main issues for Mercedes were cooling the MGU-H during the first test and during the second test the here were two bearing failures, a problem that was addressed before Australia.

The power units sealed and fitted to all the cars in Melbourne were not officially used as the cars never left the pitlane, so the season’s allocation starts afresh in Austria.

A spokesman said, “We have a different spec to Melbourne because we have made reliability updates since then. They are the product of the time we have been able to work since Melbourne, minus the shutdown, and we hope they stand us in good stead ahead of this busy opening phase of the season.”


“smash-and-grab” upgrades

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says Formula One is facing “smash-and-grab” 2020 season due to the uncertainties of the coronavirus pandemic, which will increase the importance of limited car upgrades.

The season finally gets underway tomorrow with practice for the opening races at the Red Bull Ring over the next two weekends. However, only eight races have been confirmed over the next two months, with still no firm plan to what happens after that.

As the coronavirus lockdowns swept away the expected 2020 schedule after the aborted Australian GP, the car updates that teams had planned to introduce in the early races are now being implemented differently across the grid.

With upgrade limit next season and these cars largely being carried over to 2021, its important that the teams decide what upgrades to bring freely and what to leave till next years token system.

Red Bull like many teams will bring the ‘spec-3’ car to Austria, that doesn’t include Ferrari.

Horner “I think we had a good pre-season. It felt like Mercedes still are a sniff ahead. But it’s all going to come down to the rate of development. And obviously Honda’s evolution as well.”

““I’m sure the top teams will all be bringing updates that would have normally been either [added on] in the early European season and it’s going to be [about] ‘how much is that worth?’ Who’s going to be putting on the most performance onto their cars?”

He says the teams are in a situation where these cars need to last the teams for two seasons. Horner says the shutdown of the sport over the last two month means that they have brought both the Hanoi and Zandvoort upgrades.

Horner says they need to get up to speed quickly and that the true picture would only become clear at Silverstone.


Kerbs removed to help with spares

The FIA has removed the yellow ‘sausage’ kerbs at the Red Bull Ring for the opening two races to ease Formula One teams’ concerns about damaging cars when running low on spares.

The Coronavirus shutdown and the triple header to open the season has to lead to some concerns about a shortage of parts, also that the kerbs at the circuit could damage cars.

In his briefing ahead of this weekends race, race director Michael Masi confirmed that the additional yellow exit kerbs at both Rindt and Red Bull Mobile have been removed for this weekend, with timing loops replacing them to police track limits.

This means that any drivers deemed to have crossed beyond the red and white kerbs between these two points will have be deemed to have exceeded track limits. They will have three strikes in the race before being shown the black-and-white warning flag for exceeding track limits. Any further infringements will then be referred to the stewards.

The only other track change for this weekend is the addition of an extension to the concrete behind the Turn 8 apex kerb and to the exit kerb.

As in previous years, three DRS zones will be used this weekend: one on the main straight, one between Turn 1 and Turn 3, and one between Turns 3 and 4.


News in Brief

Drivers to make anti-racism gesture

Lewis Hamilton says he and his fellow drivers will make a collective gesture of support for anti-racism before the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday. The decision hasn’t been made on what action will be taken, but he says “we will stand to represent something.”

Raikkonen still pondering F1 future

Kimi Raikkonen says he still hasn’t decided on his plans for the 2021 F1 season, including whether he will race on or retirement from the sport. The Finn is out of contract at the end of the year, and there has been speculation he could leave F1 at the end of 2020

Grosjean concerned by Haas’s lack of upgrades

Romain Grosjean says he is “concerned” about the lack of planned upgrades at the team. Team principal Gunther Steiner recently announced that the uncertainty over the season means he didn’t want to authorise spending on developments, and thus Haas will start the season with a car essentially unchanged since Australia.

Asked by Motorsport.com, if he was concerned about that, the Frenchman admits that he was concentrating on the stable package and focusing on optimising everything they have. He said, “We can focus on what we have and optimise everything we do.

“Obviously I’m maybe a little bit more concerned than Kevin, and we know that F1 is about bringing development and bringing new parts. But last year I finished the last race with the kit I started the year on. Sometimes an update doesn’t really work the way you want.”

Grosjean says while its great to have new parts, it doesn’t mean that they will work and can make you focus in the wrong place. He is also happy to go racing and make the car as quick as possible. He believes that the base point is good.

However, is aware that the conditions are going to be different from Barcelona Testing, but says they have been looking to optimise everything they have learnt over the past few months.

Grosjean’s teammate Kevin Magnussen says he’s more relaxed about the lack of new parts and has accepted the situation. Saying, “I’m not really that concerned. Of course, we would all prefer to have upgrades rolling in, but we don’t know where we are yet. I think we’re pretty positive, the whole team, after testing.”


Russell confident for better 2020

George Russell heading into his second season with Williams with significantly higher hopes pinned on the new Williams FW43 after becoming mired at the back of the field in 2019.

After securing the F2 title in 2018, Russell was hindered in showing his talent last season at Williams which proved to be miles off the pace and spent the year struggling to bridge the sizeable gap that had opened up between Williams and the rest of the field over the course of the season.

Williams is more confident following testing where they were not always slowest and were encouraging lap times during pre-season testing, even if he says it is impossible to say where the team is until Friday practice gets underway.

He said “I am more confident than I was last year but it is difficult because we when we tested at Barcelona it was 10-15 degrees, the track was cold, different tyres… so until we get here we aren’t going to know, I think we will have a good indication after this weekend.”

Russell despite dominating against his then-teammate Robert Kubica, the Englishman managed to impress with his relative pace and consistency in the circumstances and is hopeful this year’s FW43 will allow him to showcase his abilities in F1.

Saying “Last year we made steps but it was a really difficult car to drive, we were really trying to the limit but it was snapping on me, I was losing the read end and losing confidence.” He says based on testing he is confident they can make progress, but admits it’s difficult coming from so far behind.


Fully committed to McLaren – Sainz

Carlos Sainz says he will be “fully committed” to McLaren in 2020 as he bids to finish on a high before making his move to Ferrari. The Spaniard heads into this season knowing he will leave McLaren for the Italian manufacturer at the end of the year.

Sainz says he is keen to repay the faith shown in him in his sole season with the team last year. Speaking on Natalie Pinkham’s podcast ahead of this weekend opening race he said he will be giving it all. Saying “I think it’s going to be a smooth transition, very easy going.”

“Everyone at McLaren can be 100 per cent sure that until the last lap of the last race, I’m going to be a McLaren driver pushing flat-out and being fully focused on the McLaren job.”

“When that’s over I will focus on Ferrari, but I don’t want one thing to interfere with the other. I am fully committed to this project, to this team, I want to finish on a high and I’m going to give my absolute best.”

Sainz says once this season is over then it will be then the time to think about the move to Ferrari, which will have its challenges.

His s journey to one of motorsport’s most coveted seats hasn’t been plain sailing, with stints with Toro Rosso and Renault before joining McLaren. He explained, “they are very special people [at McLaren], very important people in my career because without them the Ferrari opportunity wouldn’t come.”


Ecclestone becomes a father again

Former Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone and his third wife Fabiana Flosi has confirmed to media outlets that they have become parents. The eighty-nine-year-old told Blick magazine: “We have a son named Ace. I am so proud.”

His wife Fabiana Flosi, 44, told the Swiss newspaper it was “all so easy”, adding: “The birth was over after 25 minutes. I thank god.”

Ecclestone already has three daughters with his previous partners, Deborah was born to his first wife Ivy Bamford before he had Tamara and Petra, with his second wife Slavica Radic.

The businessman who has made headlines in recent weeks making comments about BAME people and racism, told the PA news agency: “I don’t see there’s any difference between being 89 and 29. You’ve got the same problems I suppose. It’s alright.”

Flosi, herself part of the organisers of the Brazilian Grand Prix, has said she hopes the baby has no interest in Formula One.

The weekend ahead

It’s now seven months since Abu Dhabi, I think this weekend is going to be interesting we have only had eight days of testing and six with theses 2020 cars. Austria has been a circuit where only Mercedes and Red Bull have won at since it returned to the calendar in 2014.

Red Bull I think proved Mercedes can be beaten, but we are forecast not to have the heat we had in recent years so conditions should be similar to those according to the forecast it should be cooler around twenty degrees, wet on both Saturday and Sunday.

We don’t know how the upgrades are going to work or whether the order we had in February was right, I suspect the midfield is going to be tight. The other thing is how rusty are the drivers are going to be, we may see this divide between those who have taken part in eSports and those who haven’t. This is a big question which I don’t think one race will answer, and how does this dynamic work going into next weekend.

The midfield proved really interesting in testing, is that group still very tight? McLaren were the top team we believed in that group, are we going to see them slip away because of the financial woes? Austria is a race we know is fast and high speed.


Join us throughout the weekend for updates and analysis from the Austrian Grand Prix, session reports and Notebook in the evenings. Read the Prixview here


Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.