Red Bull not concerned about Verstappen’s errors
Red Bull are insisting they have no concerns about the small errors that cost Max Verstappen victory in Sunday’s Portuguese Grand Prix. The Dutchman had a frustrating time at Portimao as some high profile mistakes ended up derailing his chances of toppling Mercedes.
Verstappen’s fastest time in qualifying good enough for pole position was deleted for track limits, while early mistakes allowed Sir Lewis Hamilton to close in on him and launch an overtake. Then, on the final lap of the race, another track limits moment led to the Dutchman losing his fastest lap, and with it a world championship point.
While the mistakes proved to be a defining outcome of the weekend, it proved that fine margins will decide the outcome of the battle between Red Bull and Mercedes, Verstappen’s boss Christian Horner says he has no concerns about any weakness under pressure.
Instead, he suggests that such stumbles are inevitable when a driver is having to push as hard as Verstappen is in his battle to beat Mercedes. He also points out it is Hamilton who has shown himself to crack more, following the error at Imola that led to the world champion running off the track and hitting the barriers.
Horner explained to Motorsport.com, “I think obviously we need to be perfect, but I think that there are strengths and weaknesses to the cars. Let’s not forget that Lewis dropped the ball in a pretty big way in Imola a couple of weeks ago, and got away with it quite lightly.
“So it’s inevitable when you’re pushing to the limits, like these guys are, then it is all about these fine margins, and I think obviously the whole track limit debate is just frustrating. “I mean it’s been brutal for us across the first three events: the win in Bahrain, the pole position yesterday and then the fastest lap. So it’s been pretty expensive for us.”
Portimao qualifying ‘shows I have a lot to learn’ – Leclerc
Charles Leclerc believes that his performance in qualifying for the Portuguese Grand Prix shows he still has “a lot to learn” despite receiving praise for his one-lap displays. The Ferrari driver qualified fourth in Sakhir and Imola, but in Portimao last weekend he was only eighth after struggling to nail his final lap in Q3.
It resigned Leclerc to a qualifying defeat to Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr and meant he could only recover to sixth place in the race, losing out in the midfield fight to McLaren’s Lando Norris.
Ferrari’s sporting director Laurent Mekies said that Leclerc seemed “less comfortable” at Portimao with the tricky track conditions, lacking the usual “magic” he can deliver across one lap to outstrip the performance of the car.
Mekies said, “He has this capacity to extract two-tenths that we didn’t know were there in our car. He does that on a regular basis. It’s nearly normal business for him to do that.”
While Leclerc is grateful for those comments, he believes that his display in qualifying showed he had room for improvement. He said after the race, “feel like yesterday shows also that I’ve got a lot to learn still. Surely qualifying is one of my strengths. But yesterday, and overall, this weekend has been quite poor for me. So, very inconsistent. So there’s still a lot to work on my side.”
One of the themes which emerged in Portimao was the drivers struggling with the grip and Pirelli bringing their hardest compounds left many drivers feeling uncomfortable throughout the weekend.
Leclerc explained that he struggles with building up his lap time across all three stages of qualifying, having gained just 0.067 seconds between his best laps in Q1 and Q3. Saying “What I learned from this weekend is maybe I should have taken it step by step, especially on such a difficult weekend like this. I’ve tried to push the car to its limit straight away and it made my weekend very, very messy.”
Williams steps up recruitment drive with plans to “innovate”
Williams’s head of vehicle performance Dave Robson has announced the team has begun a recruitment drive as part of Dorilton Capital’s “plan to innovate” since taking over. The US investment firm brought the team last summer and has spent much of the last six months evaluating its investment as well as installing a new management structure.
Former Volkswagen motorsport director Jost Capito was appointed as the Williams team’s CEO at the end of last year, with Simon Roberts continuing as team principal permanently after being the acting incumbent in that role after Monza 2020.
Recently the team has started to advertise for several engineering roles, mainly in the aerodynamic department. Speaking about the recruitment drive in Portimão, Robson told Motorsport.com, “My understanding is that there’s quite a lot of positions going in aerodynamics.”
“They’re new positions and they’re new groups of people that we’re trying to bring in to develop some new ways of working as part of the new owner’s plan to innovate and do things slightly differently as we look to push the way we develop the car next year and into the future. So yeah, I think it is a really good sign.”
He says with the big change in aero regulations next year this would be a fresh way of looking at things, a new approach with more people can only be a good thing.
The team has also appointed former VW motorsport technical boss Francois-Xavier Demaison has also joined Williams for 2021, as technical director, and Robson explained how the pair will work together to develop the team’s efforts at its Grove factory and at race events.
He added, “Personally, I still report into Simon, so in that regard, it’s not different, but obviously F-X is in charge of all of the technical side back at the factory, and so, my relationship with him and the guys that work with him and for him is really important, because that’s how we’ve got to communicate at that level to develop the car the way we need it.”
Track limits causing controversy – Montoya
Former F1 driver Juan Pablo Montoya believes the debate over track limits is making the title battle between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen “too controversial.” Red Bull has been annoyed this season after penalties have cost Verstappen a race win, a pole position and the fastest lap point so far this season.
The team’s motorsport advisor Helmut Marko suggested after the Portuguese Grand Prix when a wide moment for Verstappen saw his fastest lap time deleted, that F1 needs to change its approach to dealing with track limits.
Montoya says fans in relishing the head-to-head contest between Hamilton and Verstappen this year, but says things are being overshadowed by the ever-present track limits debate.
Speaking to Motorsport.TV Live about the F1 title battle, Montoya said: “I think it’s great. I think it’s great for TV to have, especially two teams going at it. I think F1 in the last couple years was missing that a little bit. Having the two, Red Bull and Mercedes, go at it like that, it’s been a lot of fun.”
“But I would say it’s been a little too controversial with the track limits. I know they’re trying to make the tracks safer with runoffs and everything, but it’s so hard to control, and [understand] why sometimes it’s right and [sometimes] it is wrong. When it’s a judgement call, it’s very difficult. I don’t envy the stewards of F1 dealing with this.”
Montoya believes that Red Bull is on the receiving end of penalties will make them more determined to beat Mercedes, explaining that Helmut Marko doesn’t have a lot of patience.
However, Montoya believes that Hamilton’s skills, allied to the kind of good fortune he had at Imola when a red flag saved him from being lapped after he ran off track, will make him a tough prospect for Verstappen to beat.
Adding, “he is lucky enough that red flag the race, he gets in the right position, and he takes advantage of those opportunities and finished second. So how do you beat Lewis when you have that amount of luck and talent? It is very difficult.”
Grosjean’s farewell at Paul Ricard
Romain Grosjean’s farewell test will take place following next months French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard. The Frenchman will also compete in demonstrations throughout the weekend.
In November’s Bahrain Grand Prix, Grosjean escaped a 119mph crash and fireball when his Haas crashed on the opening lap of the race. Burns meant he missed the final two races of the season, after being dropped by the team in October for this season.
But following the accident, he made it clear that he didn’t want the accident to be his final memory of driving an F1 car. Mercedes then responded by offering him a private test when he had recovered, six months on that is now taking place.
Grosjean said, “I am so excited to jump back in an F1 car! It will be a special opportunity for me and to drive a world championship-winning Mercedes will be a unique experience.”
“I’m very grateful to Mercedes F1 and to Toto for the opportunity. The first I heard about the chance to drive a Mercedes was in my hospital bed in Bahrain when Toto was speaking to the media and made the invitation. Reading that news cheered me up a lot!”
As per the regulations, the Frenchman will drive Sir Lewis Hamilton’s 2019 title-winning car, Grosjean said the chance to drive again at his home Grand Prix in France would be so special. Last years race was cancelled due to the pandemic. The W10 won eleven races on the way to Hamilton’s fifth world title.
Hamilton added “Romain’s accident reminds us of the dangers these guys face each time they climb into the cockpit but it’s also a testament to the incredible steps this sport has taken to improve safety over the years.
“I know the F1 community will celebrate seeing Romain back on track. I’m really happy to see Romain back in an F1 car after his accident last year. When it happened, we were all praying for him and seeing him walk away from it and recover so well was a massive relief.”
Wolff said: “We are very happy to support Romain with this special opportunity. The idea first came when it looked like Romain would be ending his active career in Formula 1, and we didn’t want his accident to be his last moment in an F1 car.”
“He enjoyed a long and successful F1 career and we wanted to make sure that his final memories would be at the wheel of a championship-winning car. I’m excited to see what Romain’s feedback on the W10 is.”
Abiteboul joins Mecachrome
Former Renault F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul has revealed his next steps in motorsport following his surprise departure from the French car manufacturer earlier this year. The Frenchman left the team ahead of its rebrand and restructuring into Alpine.
After five months away, Abiteboul has now been appointed as a motorsport advisor to the engineering company Mecachrome. The Mecachrome company has a long history in motorsport, having worked for decades with the Renault F1 operation.
This season the company is manufacturing several significant components for the Renault power unit that Alpine F1 uses. Its engines are also used in F2 and F3. His role will be focused on strategic options for the medium-term development of Mecachrome’s business in motorsport.
Christian Cornille, CEO of Mecachrome, said: “We are proud that Cyril can provide his support and expertise to the teams of the group in this activity, which since 1983 has supported prestigious brands in the largest categories of motorsport, F1, F2, F3, endurance, rally.”
“Mecachrome group have to understand the trends and opportunities of this sector and make them consistent with the Group’s objectives and the transformation undertaken in its other businesses.”
Abiteboul will also be joining the venture capital firm HCVC as a venture partner in its next fund aimed in hardtech. He will use his experience in the automotive and motorsport worlds to help HCVC as it invests in new companies in the mobility sector.
HCVC has already invested in over forty companies in Europe and the United States.
Founder and managing partner Alexis Houssou commented: “We’re very proud to welcome Cyril to our team and can’t wait to work with him to support founders in building the future of mobility.”