Wolff calls on Mercedes to match Ferrari’s gains
Mercedes CEO and Team principal Toto Wolff has called on his team to match the engine performance gains by Ferrari and says he will not accept that the Italian team has taken the upper hand in terms of power.
Mercedes dominated the first three seasons under the current hybrid regulations, but over the first three seasons under the current turbo hybrid regulations, but in the past two years Ferrari has made steady progress to close the gap.
Evidence from recent races suggests Ferrari is now ahead in terms of engine performance, giving its drivers a distinct advantage on the straights at the last three rounds. Speaking to ESPN, Wolff said ” “It’s very complex and not straightforward at all. Because of the maturity of these regulations, it’s very difficult to extract more performance without harming reliability.”
“So every experiment you do that potentially adds performance needs to be validated against reliability. At the end, a DNF is going to kill you in the championship much more than the ultimate last tenth of performance.”
He added that its complex to extract performance that they need to be sufficient, but its up for that challenge.
Both Mercedes and Ferrari are expected to introduce an engine upgrade at Spa or Monza, Asked if he really thought Mercedes could match Ferrari, Wolff added: “Well we are going to. Andy Cowell [Mercedes’ engine boss] and his troops, including the chassis integration team around it, will leave no stone unturned in order to match that.
Ferrari has more “potential to unleash”
Sebastian Vettel says that his Ferrari says that the team has “a lot of potential to unleash” when the Formula 1 season resumes after the summer break.
The German is currently twenty-four points behind his fellow four times champion Lewis Hamilton, following his wins in Hockenheim and Budapest. Ferrari meanwhile, have a ten point deficit in the constructors.
The Italian team has made strong progress with both its car and engine, with Vettel knowing that they could lead both championships. However, his crash at Hockenheim and Hamilton’s strong recovery drive to win, has cost him the championship lead.
Both manufacturers will be introducing what should be their final engine upgrades of the season at either the Belgian or Italian GPs after the break.
Asked by Motorsport.com about the momentum in the title battle, Vettel said: “As we’ve seen this year the pendulum seems to swing once this side, once that side. If it’s like this, consistency is the key. I didn’t do myself a favour [in Germany] but I think it’s part of racing, stuff happens.”
“Compared to last year, we lost the championship I think because our car wasn’t quick enough to be a match in the final part of the season, despite what happened with the DNFs.”
“This year has shown so far that our car is more efficient, our car is stronger and still has a lot of potential to unleash. I’m quite confident with what’s sitting in the pipeline that we can improve. It should be an exciting second part of the year.”
Twelve months ago, Vettel left Budapest with a similar lead over Hamilton only for his title hopes to fall apart, with a start line crash in Singapore and reliability problems in Suzuka resulting in two retirements handed Hamilton the title.
Hamilton won both as well as in Austin, wrapping up the title despite crashing with Vettel at the following race in Mexico City. This season the Englishman has experienced lows as Mercedes hasn’t been as strong as they have been in the past four season.
He says that he did “absolutely not” feel like he was beginning to take control of the title fight. He told Autosport, “It’s far too early. I don’t believe there’s ever a moment that you’ve got your hands on the title or the trophy.”
“We’ve got a long, long way still to go. A lot can happen but what’s really important is that we continue to keep up the pressure and keep working as we have done until now.”
“There’s nothing we really need to alter. I think our work ethic has been very strong and the team morale is better than ever, the spirit is better than ever.”
Ricciardo leaves Red Bull for Renault
Daniel Ricciardo has announced he will be leaving Red Bull to join the teams engine supplier Renault at the end of the season. The announcement by the teams came from Red Bull and means that Carlos Sainz will leave the French manufacturer.
The Australian said “It was probably one of the most difficult decisions to take in my career so far. But I thought that it was time for me to take on a fresh and new challenge.”
Ricciardo will replace Carlos Sainz alongside Nico Hulkenberg, Red Bull loaned Sainz to Renault at the end of last season. Renault’s F1 managing director, Cyril Abiteboul said “Daniel’s signing underscores our determination to accelerate our progress towards the forefront of the sport. It is also a recognition of the work accomplished over the past two and a half seasons.”
Once Lewis Hamilton signed his contract, Ricciardo was seen as the next major piece in the driver market.
This news comes after his teammate Max Verstappen signed an long term, multi million pound deal last season. Renault, who returned to the sport in 2016, have not won a race since 2009. But they have been slowly rebuilding the team, after buying out the Lotus team.
The team had also been in negotiations with Mercedes, trying to buy the contract of Esteban Ocon. Ocon now faces an uncertain future after his Force India team went into administration last Friday.
On Tuesday Ricciardo had indicated a new deal with Red Bull was imminent.
Lauda undergoes a lung transplant
Three times champion and Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda underwent a successful lung transplant on Thursday in Vienna. The former champion was reportedly taken ill while on holiday in Ibiza recently, and flew to Vienna for treatment for a “severe cough”.
Lauda suffered lung injuries in his fiery crash in the 1976 German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring that almost cost him his life. He inhaled toxic gases and flames in the crash’s aftermath, but made an amazing recovery to return to the sport just three races later.
A statement from the Vienna General Hospital said: “Due to a severe affection of the lungs, Niki Lauda had to undergo a lung transplantation at the AKH Vienna today. The transplantation was done successfully by Walter Klepetko, head of thoracic surgery, and Konrad Hotzenecker.”
“We kindly ask for your understanding that the family won’t give any official statements and we ask to protect the privacy of the Lauda family.”
Rich Energy claims it could buy Force India
The British energy drink company Rich Energy is claiming that it could buy Force India who went into administration last week, despite its earlier bid being rejected.
Rich has claimed that they have been negotiating with the team all season, but has repeatedly been rejected. The latest offer was tabled last Friday, however, the £30 million sponsorship deal was dismissed because it was not deemed an offer that would help the team.
The plan was for two £15m instalments, they were considered insubstantial by the judge given the weight of the team’s debt and it was considered better to place Force India into administration. This has been well received by most parties, including senior figures at the team and its creditors Mercedes and BWT.
William Storey, Rich Energy’s CEO told Motorsport.tv, he had backing from “four sterling billionaires” reported to include West Ham United Football Club owners David Sullivan and David Gold, had a contract to buy the team in May but was held back by lawyers on the team’s side.
Despite the support from the paddock after entering administration, Storey claims it was a “wholly avoidable and tragic outcome”. Storey would not “specifically outline what our plans are” but said Rich Energy would “be in Formula 1 sooner or later.”
“We’ve got the money to do so, the business model and the reasons to do it. Having spent six months working on Force India we’re not going to relinquish that overnight.”
He also says his group are ready to go and more than capable of buying the team. There are believed to be four serious offers on the table, for the administrators FRP Advisory to consider, to be linked to development driver Nikita Mazepin, Lawrence Stroll, the father of Williams driver Lance.
As well as two American consortiums, one involving IndyCar team boss Michael Andretti and his driver Alexander Rossi’s father Pieter; and one that includes ex-baseball franchise boss Jeff Moorad.
Rich Energy needs to convince to administrators, and creditors like Mercedes, that it is more credible than these well-established competitors.
Kubica more at ease with car
Williams’s reserve driver Robert Kubica says he feels more at ease in the car twelve months after driving a car for the first time since 2011. The Polish driver tested for the team at this weeks test in Budapest, a year after Renault tested him at the same circuit.
This year he has also taken part in pre-season and several Friday practice sessions as he continues to push for a 2019 race seat.
When asked by ESPN, how his most recent appearance went, he said: “It was all OK. We did have a bit of a mixed program with some data collection for next year.”
“Trying to understand how we can make the car work better for next year’s car. But we did do a few runs with a current specification car as well. So the feeling was good.” He says that a year on everything now is more familiar and he has more confidence.
Kubica’s aim on Wednesday, was to measure the cars performance and to help the team to drag itself off the bottom of the championship. Earlier this year, he joked that the livery was the teams biggest strength.
Saying “It was just more for the aero guys to get more information about it and what it does to the rest of the car and how the airflow is going to be distributed differently. We did end up also with trying a new livery on the last run with new paint. It looked nice, so maybe.”
The Week Ahead
Most of the teams now will be closing down for the summer, so theres not going to be much happening in terms of news. However, I would expect that drivers will be speaking about the season so far and looking ahead to the second half of the season.
Now we have the Ricciardo announcement, things will begin to move to slot the rest of the drivers who don’t have contracts will begin to make decisions about their futures. The next big one, is Kimi Raikkonen do Ferrari stick or go with Charles Leclerc? I expect though the announcement will be made at Monza.
One of the stories that will continue to rubble on is the sale of Force India. The team forced itself into administration last week, as we understand this was a forced move to get the team sold. But now it is about trying to understand who are the credib
The next two weeks are for the teams and drivers to reflect, plus figuring out what they need to do. I imagine this break is needed after the crazy June/July schedule, that everyone needs to relax. Speculation however we need to be careful.