Mercedes to remain neutral on team orders
Mercedes F1 CEO and team principal Toto Wolff says that Lewis Hamilton’s chance of making history this year gives the team extra motivation while insisting they will continue to treat him and team-mate Valtteri Bottas equally.
As the sport marks its seventy season 2020 marks a chance for the Englishman to equal Michael Schumacher’s seven titles and surpass his number of wins too. But, despite the potentially historic season ahead, Wolff says the team will remain neutral n supporting Hamilton and Bottas, who will be aiming for his first championship.
He told Sky Sports, “We have always been very neutral to the drivers and we want to provide them with equal equipment and equal opportunity. Both know that, and there is no hidden agenda within Mercedes, no politics.”
“We will see how they get out of the blocks [in 2020], and I hope that Valtteri has a great season – but equally I obviously cheer for Lewis to giving it his best for the seventh title, to equal Michael’s record.” Since Bottas joined the team Hamilton has won all three titles, although last year he was miles behind in the constructors.
There is also a big motivation for Mercedes, as they look to continue their streak of six consecutive clean sweeps of the constructors. Wolff, referring to the next big rule changes in 2021, added “2021 is an easy objective, 2020 is the tricky one.”
The Austrian says there is a strong bond within the team, saying that its a good place to work at and for me personally I take great contentment with the relationships.
Speaking about the year, Wolff said, “I am really looking forward to the 2020 season to try to be the best us, come up with the best engine, chassis, have the drivers in the right space and continue with our success.”
Red Bull has foundations for 2021 challenge – Verstappen
Max Verstappen believes that he and Red Bull now has the foundation to allow the team to challenge for the title next year. Despite his age, the dutchman is entering his sixth season in the sport and is ranked alongside six times champion Lewis Hamilton by team principals and journalists.
Last season, Verstappen beat both Ferrari drivers to finish third in the drivers’ championship after Red Bull’s switch from Renault engines to Honda, and though he remained some 135 points behind champion Hamilton. He now believes that the pieces are there for him to challenge for a title.
Asked by Motorsport.com, if he now saw a foundation for a title challenge at Red Bull, Verstappen said, “I think so. I think we are in the right direction. There’s no question about that. Now, it’s just about how much development we can push through for next year. I more or less know, I just hope it’s going to be enough.”
“Next year, there are no real changes in the regulations anyway, so you can just build on what you have now. And with a second-year working with Honda, I think that should help.” He says that the engine performance improved massively last year, and the team knows where they need to improve this year.
The Dutchman could be key in the 2021 driver market as he has already stated it is crucial for him to see Red Bull at the sharp end from the very start of the season, rather than playing catch-up as it often has during the hybrid era.
Verstappen says the team knows that they need to be there from the start of the season. Reflecting on 2019, he says it was “very positive” for both himself as a driver and his outfit in terms of executing on race weekends.
He believes that the team maximised their results in the early part of last season when they couldn’t challenge for wins. Adding “So if we can keep that up, then we can have a strong year next year.”
News In Brief
Ricciardo donates to the bush fire relief effort
Daniel Ricciardo has announced he will be donating a number of items as well as the race suit he will wear at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix to help the relief effort following bush fire crisis in New South Wales. The country’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has warned the fires could burn for months
Alonso starts the Dakar Rally
Fernando Alonso’s latest quest to prove himself as the greatest driver of all time as seen him start the Dakar Rally. The race is taking place in Saudi Arabia driving a Toyota Hilux pickup, with five-time Dakar motorcycle winner Marc Coma as co-driver. His main challenger is Carlos Sainz Sr and thirteen-time winner Stephane Peterhansel
Leclerc signs contract
Ferrari announced at the teams annual Christmas lunch that Charles Leclerc has signed a five-year deal to stay with the team until 2024. Leclerc joined Ferrari as a race driver in 2019 but has been a member of the Driver Academy since his championship-winning GP3 season in 2016
McLaren aims to run to budget cap – Seidl
McLaren teams principal Andrea Seidl says the team will try to match the top three teams in 2021 by running to the limit of the budget cap. As part of the 2021 regulation changes, a budget cap of around a £150m is aimed to weaken the budgetary advantage of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.
Speaking about the budget cap to Motorsport.com, the German said, “The target for us is clearly to run at the budget cap. There’s a clear commitment that we will run at the budget cap because obviously that’s the only chance to be able again to fight the big ones; you need to be on a level playing field in terms of budget.”
McLaren ended last season in the top four for the first time since 2012, but was a hundred and seventy-two points behind third-placed Red Bull. The incoming budget cap has raised concerns that the top teams could spend even more in ’20 to better prepare themselves for the following season.
Seidl says McLaren will not up to its spending next year to put itself in a better position for the rules overhaul, despite being one of the teams likely to benefit most from the 2021 regulation change.
He told Motorsport.com, “You need to be realistic to what is achievable. Even if someone will give us for next year a hundred million more, you first need to be able to digest that and to put a structure in place that actually can produce more output in this short period of time.”
“This is why I’m not too worried about ’20, also not too worried about the quotes I’m reading at the moment that it will be the most expensive year ever for the top three teams,” Seidl says there is a limit on development tools and in the future, these will be the key performance differentiator.
Stella completes reshuffle of McLaren
McLaren’s team principal Andreas Seidl says that he has completed a reshuffle of the team’s leadership structure promoting Andrea Stella to racing director from his former role of performance director.
Stella, who joined McLaren from Ferrari at the end of 2014, will now be head of all trackside operations, including engineering and race strategy. This creates a three-figure management structure, with Seidl as team boss, James Key as technical director and Piers Thynne as production director.
Seidl installed the structure of three main divisions reporting into him when he began his role as team principal last May. The plan is to have a traditional management structure which is easy to understand and gives clear responsibilities, reporting lines and accountability.
Seidl had been fulfilling the racing director role himself through 2019 as he worked to understand McLaren and find the right appointment.
Until Seidl joined the team the post had been vacant following the resignation of Eric Boullier as a de facto team boss before his departure in July 2018 as part of a major restructuring aimed at stopping them falling further.
The German helped the team make progress in 2019 to finish in a strong fourth place in the constructors, with a driver line-up comprising Carlos Sainz and rookie Lando Norris. Seidl describes McLaren’s progress in 2019 as “an incredible step forward. It gives us a lot of motivation and energy”.
He told BBC News, “Looking ahead, we have to keep this momentum up and simply have to keep on pushing in order to achieve our ambitious targets. At the same time, we should never underestimate what our competitors can do.”
McLaren hasn’t won a race since Brazil 2012, and the belief that switching to Renault from Honda in 2018 proved there was more than a lack of engine performance. The weaknesses cost the jobs of Boullier, chief technical officer Tim Goss and engineering director Matt Morris.
The new technical team will deliver their first car this season after Key and Seidl joined in the early months of last season. They are aiming to consolidate their progress through 2020 before major changes in 2021.
With the new technical regulations and cost cap aimed at bringing the field closer together and internal, with a decision led by Seidl to switch to Mercedes engines for 2021.
Kubica joins Alfa as reserve driver
Robert Kubica has returned to Alfa Romeo as the teams’ reserve driver for 2020. The Polish driver made his debut with the team, known as BWM Sauber, in 2006 after announcing last year that he will no longer race in Formula One.
Kubica’s arrival coincides with that of Polish petrol firm PKN Orlen, who has signed a deal to become the team’s co-title sponsor. The team will now officially be known as Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN. He is the only driver to win a race for the Swiss team.
He said, “I am really happy to be starting this new chapter in my career as I join Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN. This team holds a special place in my heart and I am pleased to see some faces still here from my years in Hinwil.”
Kubica admits that the circumstances are obviously different, but says he is convinced he will find the same determination and hunger to succeed.
Team principal Fred Vassuer added “The exciting new partnership with PKN ORLEN is a statement of intent for both parties. It is proof of the ambition of our common project and of our desire to compete at the very top of Formula One.”