Hamilton doesn’t know why Ferrari move never happened
Lewis Hamilton has admitted he will “never know exactly why” a “dream” move to Ferrari never materialised in his career. The most successful driver of all time has regularly been linked to joining the sport’s most successful team but has never managed to get close to a deal.
As Hamilton approaches the latter part of his career and is currently committed to Mercedes until 2023, it appears highly unlikely that a deal will ever happen. Speaking to Sky Sports Italy, the seven-time champion said, “it’s definitely going to be crazy to think that I never drove for Ferrari”.
“Of course I look at the colour and the red, it’s just… it’s still the red. I have a couple of Ferraris at home, so I do get to drive a Ferrari, just not the one! For everyone that’s a dream position to be in. It was just never really fully on the cards for me.
“I’ll never know fully exactly why, but I wish them all the best and I’m going to spend the next bit of my time stopping them from winning the championship!” The Ferrari dream is one held by many drivers, last year when the team dropped Sebastian Vettel there was speculation briefly that Hamilton could join Ferrari, however, it signed Carlos Sainz as Sebastian Vettel’s replacement, while also fell back to the midfield.
In the same interview, Hamilton admitted that he had considered retiring at various times over the last few years – and says he will continue until the “hunger” and “desire” stops.
Saying “There’s definitely plenty of times I’ve had over the last four or five years where I’ve been like, I don’t know if I want to keep giving or sacrificing the training and my personal life. There’s other things that I’d like to do, normal stuff I want to do… but on the other side I’m like, wow, I’m so fortunate that I get to do this job.”
Penalty in Istanbul ‘possible’ for Hamilton
Mercedes have admitted that Lewis Hamilton taking an engine penalty for this weekend’s Turkish Grand Prix is a “possibility” as they look to avoid reliability failures in the championship battle against Max Verstappen.
Hamilton is already on his third power unit of the season the maximum allowed by the regulations meaning that with seven races to go that he will need a fresh unit. That means that he would need to start from the back of the grid.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Mercedes F1 CEO and team principal Toto Wolff, said they are considering taking the hit this weekend as F1 heads to Istanbul Park. He added, “It’s a possibility. When, and how, is not yet decided.”
Hamilton’s championship rival Max Verstappen took his power unit change in Sochi, before having a brilliant race driving from twentieth to second. That means the gap between the two is just two points.
Wolff added, “Most important is that you don’t DNF because of a reliability issue. You can cope with swings, whether you finish second, third, I think that is OK, the championship is going to go long. But if you don’t finish… So we are looking at the parameters of the engines, making sure we don’t suffer from any reliability problems.”
Hamilton took victory in Istanbul eleven months ago claiming a record equalling seventh world title, another victory will see him extend his championship lead as he looks for his eighth title.
Hamilton may have won the Russian GP and re-taken the championship lead, but that buffer is only two points from Verstappen after his incredible comeback.
Speaking after that race, Hamilton expressed his belief that Mercedes had not made the most of the opportunity to move further clear of Red Bull and Verstappen, given their big car disadvantage at the high-speed Monza and Sochi.
Saying “There are definitely things that we will try and do better moving forwards but we just won’t give up, we’ll just keep trying, keep pushing, remain hopeful and just do the work.”
It is believed that the majority of the circuits remaining are expected to suit Red Bull more, starting with this weekend in Istanbul.
Talks underway to create more flexibility on race weekends
FIA race director Michael Masi says there are discussions underway about having more flexibility with the weekend’s schedule when bad weather is expected. The controversy around the Belgian Grand Prix continues to raise questions about what can be done to avoid a repeat in the future.
Asked if TV schedules restricted the FIA’s ability to shuffle F1 sessions, Masi said: “It is not so much TV schedule dependent. It is something that we will be discussing in the coming weeks.
“We said following Spa that there are a whole lot of strategic discussions that need to take place between the FIA, F1 and the ten teams, and that is going to be one of the discussions at the strategy group meeting. Those discussions will happen in a proactive manner, so we will have a look at it and see where we get to.”
Masi did downplay the Russian Grand Prix weekend timetable shuffling that allowed the F3 title-deciding race to take place a day earlier than planned. The rain did affect Saturday’s running, with FP3 cancelled and one of the F3 races, but he denied that was a reaction to Spa.
Adding “Let’s look at Saturday for what it was. If you look at earlier in the day for those that were here at that time saw that there was a window that looked okay, which is why we brought the F2 cars into pit lane.”
“Obviously that diminished, and we’ve always run by the principle on those scenarios which is to go session by session, which is what we did.” Masi says one of the factors in moving it to Friday was that it was the last round of the championship.
Domenicali says 2022 could finish a month earlier
F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali has told Sky Sports that the 2022 twenty-three race calendar could finish mid-November, the earliest finish to a season in a decade with a third of it could include the Sprint format.
Speaking to Sky Sports following the sport’s Qatar announcement, the Italian said while saying a full 2022 calendar reveal wouldn’t be until 15th October, disclosed key details about the schedule.
2022 is set for the record-breaking twenty-three races, of course, subject to Covid-19, which were planned for 2021 before cancellations, while it is also due to start in March and finish in the middle of November.
This is to avoid clashes with the FIFA World Cup, as well as potentially the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, Commonwealth Games and Platinum Jubilee.
If the season does finish in mid-November it would be a month earlier than this season as well as the earliest finish since 2012, of course, this plan depends on the pandemic. Domenicali said “I can anticipate that, for sure, the calendar will be done with 23 races.
“Of course we will be very respectful towards the Covid regulations issued around the world from the different governments. But that is our aim that F1 can give this sign of hope and to go to normal things to enjoy.”
Adding, “There are of course considerations related to periods to make sure logistically the flow has to be right. One thing I can tell you, without discovering too many things is that next year the season will start in the middle of March and will finish in the middle of November.”
The 2022 season, according to leaked calendars is expected to start in Bahrain and Jeddah in mid-March with the season finale in Abu Dhabi. While surprise additions in the calendar were Imola and Istanbul, both added to the calendar last year as ‘one-off’ and continued this year because of the pandemic.
Speaking about Sprint Qualifying, which will be trialled again at Interlagos next month. Domenicali says the format could be used at ‘seven or eight’ races next year. Adding “The vast majority of the comments we received were super positive. Promoters are super happy because there is something new and important on Friday and Saturday and Sunday.”
“We are receiving this positive feedback therefore we need to know next year we have a great plan where we will consider also the points highlighted by people who did not like this format. Generally speaking it has been an incredible success.”
He says that sprint qualifying is something they want to keep for a third of races, with a certain different way of giving rewards and points and to connect with specific circuits that as you know would make the difference.
Norris says 2022 car “not nice to drive”
Lando Norris says his early impression of the 2022 car from the McLaren simulator is that it is ‘not as nice’ to drive as current cars. Teams are currently working on next years regulation changes which are designed to create closer racing and more equal competition.
However, the new aero platform, a big cut in downforce, plus new tyres, will make the handling of the 2022 challengers unique, something that Norris has already picked up on in the simulator.
Speaking to Motorsport.com at the launch of his new LN Racing Kart, Norris said, “It’s a very different car to drive. In a way not as nice as this season. But I think hopefully that’s the same case with every other team as well.”
“We’ll see, there’s no point trying to think it’s amazing or terrible. You just have to do the best job you can and hopefully, next season, we go to the pre-season test with a good car.”
The concept car was unveiled at Silverstone, speaking about McLaren’s development he says that the car hasn’t entered manufacturing with the drawings changing regularly. Norris says it could be many months until the car is physically built and it is changing regularly.
Simulator work is going to be key to maximising performance because track testing will only be two weeks. Fernando Alonso says he expected the forthcoming winter to be the most intense he has experienced in his F1 career.
Asked about what will be critical to car performance in 2022, Alonso said: “I think it will depend more on the performance of how our cars are working in the simulator, and working in winter testing.”
“Eventually after three or four races you [will hopefully be] on top of the car and on top of the regulations enough that the performance of the car will dictate the results you will get, as we see now.”
Norris admits to feeling depressed following his debut
Lando Norris has opened up on live television in the UK speaking about the mental health difficulties he faced when he first arrived in Formula One, admitting he was often depressed.
The Englishman who nearly won his first Grand Prix in Sochi, says that the often jokey the smiley and happy image that he has carried with him throughout his career does not tell the true story of feelings he had a few years ago.
He says that the doubts that went around his mind about whether or not he was good enough for F1 during his rookie campaign had a big impact on him.
Norris explained how the reality of what drivers go through behind the scenes can be a world away from what fans think they experience.
He told ITV This Morning, “I guess people, from when they just watch TV, don’t realise many things that a driver goes through. It’s a bit of shame, but there are more programmes now where you get to see what the driver is like behind the scenes, and the amount of pressure and stress that they have to cope with.
“Especially at my age, coming into Formula 1 at 19, there’s a lot of eyes on you. So, dealing with all these kinds of things, took its toll on me.”
Norris said that the immense pressure to perform to ensure that he didn’t blow his first opportunity in F1 was hard to battle with. Adding “[It was] feeling like I don’t know what’s next? If this goes wrong, if I don’t go out in the next session and perform, what’s going to happen?
“What’s the outcome of all of this? Am I going to be in Formula One next year, if I’m not? What am I going to do because I’m not really good at many other things in life?” Norris admitted to feeling depressed following a bad weekend and that they can add up.
Norris says that a combination of support from his McLaren team, plus working with mental health charity Mind, has helped him get into a much better place now. Reflecting on Sochi, he says that he was keeping expectations in check, aware that McLaren doesn’t have the car to challenge Mercedes and Red Bull.
Qatar to make debut in November with a ten-year deal from 2023
On Thursday it was announced that the Losail International Circuit will host round twenty of this year’s championship, as well as a ten-year deal to host the Qatar Grand Prix on the streets of the capital Doha from 2023.
This year’s race replaces the cancelled Australian Grand Prix, it will be the countries first F1 race despite hosting MotoGP since 2004. However, Liberty Media have not yet formally confirmed whether it will be a night race, becoming the fifth night race on a regular calendar.
F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali said “We are very pleased to welcome Qatar to the Formula One calendar this season and for the longer term from 2023. The Qatar Motor & Motorcycle Federation and Authorities have been incredible and have moved at great speed to ensure the race can take place this season at the Losail Circuit”
“We have shown that we can continue to adapt and there is huge interest in our sport and the hope from many locations to have a Grand Prix. The huge effort from all the teams, F1 and the FIA has made it possible to deliver a twenty-two race calendar, something that is very impressive during a challenging year and something we can all be proud of.”
There will be no 2022 race to avoid a clash with next year’s world cup. However, the addition of the gulf state has once again raised concerns from human rights groups about sport washing. Amnesty International, says that the race was another example of a country using sport to rebrand and change its image.
Sacha Deshmukh, CEO of Amnesty International UK, said “Having sunk vast amounts of money into Paris Saint-Germain and hired thousands of overseas workers to build stadiums for next year’s World Cup, Qatar is clearly attempting to turn itself into a sporting superpower.”
Deshmukh added: “Drivers and their teams should be prepared to speak out about human rights in Qatar in the lead-up to this race, doing their bit to break the spell of sport washing and image management.”
F1 responded in a statement of its own: “For decades Formula One has worked hard to be a positive force everywhere it races, including economic, social, and cultural benefits. Sports like Formula One are uniquely positioned to cross borders and cultures to bring countries and communities together.
“We take our responsibilities on rights very seriously and set high ethical standards for counterparties and those in our supply chain, which are enshrined in contracts, and we pay close attention to their adherence.”
Szafnauer still in charge of Aston Martin F1 programme
Aston Martin team principal Otmar Szafnauer says his role won’t change despite the arrival of former McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh to the wider company. Whitmarsh was appointed as CEO of the newly formed Performance Technologies division.
Since leaving McLaren in 2014, Whitmarsh has mainly been involved in the America’s Cup with Ben Ainslie Racing, latterly as chairman of BAR Technologies. He also briefly had a consultancy role with the FIA when the new financial regulations were being put together.
Szafnauer says that Whitmarsh’s brief is bigger than F1, looking at efforts to exploit F1 technology outside the sport, and thus his own responsibilities remain unchanged. He told Motorsport.com, “The F1 side will remain under my leadership and remit,” he said. “So I’ll still be team principal and CEO. Martin will be group CEO, with the F1 side reporting through him.
“So I guess the only thing that hasn’t been planned is how much of his time, because he’s got the entire group, does he spend on each one of those entities? I would imagine at the beginning most of his time will be spent growing the Aston Martin Performance Technologies area, which is where his most recent expertise lies, and not focus so much on F1.”
Szafnauer says that Whitmarsh will bring valuable knowledge gained outside the sport while working at both McLaren and with BAR. The team’s new Silverstone base has been designed to encompass non-racing projects.