Ferrari believes its “definitely improved”
Ferrari believes while it’s “definitely improved” its power unit for this season they will still need to introduce another all-new power unit at the start of next year to return to the front of Formula One.
In Bahrain, last November the Ferrari was almost two seconds off pole position but for this year’s race with the new power unit Charles Leclerc was just under seven-tenths off. The Monacan qualified fourth behind Max Verstappen and both Mercedes, making Binotto pleased by the progress of both the chassis and the engine, as Leclerc eventually finished the race sixth, two places up on new signing Carlos Sainz.
He told F1.com, “Definitely the power unit has improved, and happy to see as well that [Alfa Romeo] and Haas progressed. I think from our side, we progressed in all the areas that were possible.”
“The aero is certainly better in terms of behaviours [and] the correlation, but the power unit, the car, overall, wherever it was possible to make improvements, we tried to do them. It’s an entire package, so I would not really split it in areas, it’s the entire package which now is better and that’s enough.”
Despite making gains the aim for Ferrari remains to be the ones setting pole position, rather than chasing. The team has made progress this year, but Binotto believes they are still lacking in all areas, looking to challenge at the front with an entirely new power unit next year, co-insides with the technical change.
Adding “When we will again have a new power unit, we may catch up or have a benchmark for the others. I think on the aero as well – medium and high-speed downforce – I think it’s an entire package again.”
“But now the differences are closer and closer. More important is I think we are working in the right direction with the right tools and that will make us stronger in the future.”
Ferrari made a strong start in Bahrain to take fourth in the constructors, two places up on where they finished the 2020 season.
Hamilton welcomes excitement in Verstappen battle
Sir Lewis Hamilton says he is pleased that fans are excited by the potential battle between Mercedes and Red Bull, but he warns that there could “be ahead a lot more” after Bahrain.
The Dutchman took pole for the opening race by almost four-tenths, as well as showing race-winning pace after leading the early stages of the Bahrain Grand Prix. Verstappen ultimately lost out when Mercedes went for an aggressive strategy, with Hamilton holding up Verstappen, who made a mistake on his final lap.
Mercedes warned after the Bahrain race that its 2021 package does not “really have any strengths relative to [Red Bull],” per trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin in the aftermath of Hamilton’s win, with the team also predicting that it will struggle at F1’s next two races at Imola and Portimao.
Many have started to predict a season-long battle between the two drivers going down to the wire in Abu Dhabi, on that prospect Hamilton told Motorsport.com, “I’m super excited and super happy for the fans, that they are excited. I think it’s something that all the fans have wanted for a long time.”
“Of course, this is only one race, so we don’t know what the future holds in terms of [how the season will unfold]. With the pace they have, they could be ahead a lot more, but we’re going to work as hard as we can to try and stay close in this battle.”
Hamilton says he is hoping for more races like this with Verstappen as well as teammate Valtteri Bottas. Verstappen is relishing the prospect of fighting Hamilton for race victories across a whole season.
Adding “It was great today but like Lewis said, it’s a still bit difficult to say where we are exactly in pace. But, again, it’s also a very long season so I guess we will just find out in time how it’s going to go.”
Honda’s boost by Red Bull aerodynamics
Honda believes that the aerodynamics of the R16B have been boosted by the new compact engine. The Japanese manufacture went into their final season with an all-new concept which will be run by Red Bull from next season.
The aggressive packaging has been reintroduced after its disastrous use when Honda first returned to the sport in 2015, it was set with cooling problems and the smaller turbo unable to deliver necessary boost levels, and prompted a revised approach from Honda, its return to compact packaging is clearly working this time.
Technical director Toyoharu Tanabe says that no stone was left unturned in its efforts to deliver something that would boost both power and packaging for Red Bull. He told Motorsport.com, “We reviewed every single part and the kind of concept of our previous PU, and then we designed this year’s PU as a new PU.”
“Of course our desire to improve our performance in our PU means ICE and ERS. Also with the new design, we made it a little bit more compact compared to previous PU. I think it has contributed to the car package and performance as well.”
Speaking about the changes to the power unit after the race, Tanabe said, “The camshaft position has been lowered, and we have lowered the engine height. It is a compact package.”
“As a result, when the engine is installed in the chassis, the degree of freedom of the airflow flowing inside the car is increased. In other words, it has contributed to the aerodynamics.”
He says it was hard to come up with how much they have increased downforce and lap time, but Red Bull chief technical officer Adrian Newey was grateful for the power unit being more compact and it contributing to the new installation.
Haas not putting effort into Williams fight
Haas team principal Gunther Steiner says the team is “not putting any effort” into anything that is not taking the fight to Williams during 2021. Ahead of the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, they would not be developing this year’s car to focus on next years regulation change.
The team will bring its only upgrade package to Imola, that is because it was not ready for testing or the opening race in Sakhir, but after that, the focus will be on 2022. Haas appears to have accepted its place at the back, Mick Schumacher was nineteenth in qualifying half a second behind the Williams.
Steiner is staying realistic about Haas’ prospects for the season ahead and recognises the most it can do is help its drivers get experience ahead of what he hopes is a better 2022. He told Motorsport.com, “I would say if we can take the fight to Williams that’s about it. You know, and I am very realistic about that. And we are not putting any effort into doing anything more than that.”
“I think the biggest amount we can get out of the car [is] to get our drivers prepared or get them prepared better, just get them experience and that is what we want to do so they are ready when we have a better car and that is just how our plan is for this year.”
Nikita Mazepin appeared to struggle more than Schumacher with the Russian having several spins before crashing out, while Schumacher made mistakes he managed to get to the end of the race.
Steiner is optimistic both his drivers learned from their mistakes and won’t repeat them. Saying, “I think when you fight, they need to learn this fighting. I think both of them went on to the throttle too harsh, you know, and they then went on the kerb or something like this.”
He believed that both drivers got caught out by how powerful the torque is, explaining when you get a kick of torque it is hard to recover from. Steiner says he was confident that the drivers wouldn’t make the same mistake again.
Williams won’t compromise 2022 for this season
Williams says it will not make any compromises with its 2022 design in a bid to push itself further up the grid this year. While the team is looking to move off the bottom of the constructors in the battle with Haas and Alfa Romeo, it doesn’t want to comprise itself with the regulation changes.
CEO Jost Capito insists that the priority is to make sure that its 2022 challenger is as good as can be, even if that means it cannot give everything it wants to its current car. He described 2021as a transitional year, when they will mainly be focusing on next year and any development will be done without compromising next years car.
Capito told Motorsport.com, “There is not so much more we can do on the ’21 car. We will fight through the season, and we will push. We know where the car is and we will of course do further development but what can be done without compromising the ’22 car.”
In recent years Williams has struggled under the regulations introduced in 2017 often battling for points when circumstances create a mixed-up race, it believes that the change of regulations for next year do offer a huge opportunity to shake up the competitive picture.
Its owners Dorilton Capital believes that injecting cash into the team, Capito hopes that will lead to long term success. Adding “We really need a significant step in ’22 with the new regulation and with a new car. So that is where we are aiming at.”
He said that does mean that they don’t want to make the best out of 2021, but success would not be measured by points or position.
Rosberg wins in Extreme E
Nico Rosberg’s Extreme E team beat Sir Lewis Hamilton’s X44 team in the opening round of the championship in Al-Ula Desert X-Prix in Saudi Arabia. The victory was secured by triple rallycross champion Johan Kristoffersson and Australian Molly Taylor.
Andretti United, run by Michael Andretti and McLaren CEO Zak Brown, were second in the three-car final with Sweden’s Timmy Hansen and Britain’s Catie Munnings 23.73 seconds off the pace.
Hamilton’s team had taken pole following Saturday’s qualifying to get through to the time trial before the car suffered steering problems. Hamilton’s former teammate Jenson Button and his team failed to qualify for the final round during the race, with Carlos Sainz Sr fourth.
Kristoffersson made the best start in the final, leaving the others trailing in the dust before Taylor put in a solid run after the handover to seal the win. The race saw a collision between Ganassi and ABT.
The next race takes place in La Rose near Dakar, in Senegal, which sees racing return to the area for the first time since the 2007 Dakar Rally.
Vettel should have taken a year out
Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko believes Sebastian Vettel should have taken a year off from Formula One in 2021 instead of joining Aston Martin. Vettel who won all four of his titles with Red Bull was dropped by Ferrari in May last year for 2021 before he signed for Aston Martin.
However, the four-time champion had a difficult weekend in Sakhir, Vettel was knocked out in Q1 and receiving a grid penalty, the German driver finished fifteenth after a clash with Esteban Ocon that landed him a ten second time penalty. Despite dominating the midfield battle last year, the team struggled to be at the front of it.
They believe the updated regulations had hurt its low-rake car concept. Asked about Vettel’s struggles, Marko said he had not changed his view that the former Red Bull driver should have taken a year out before returning under the new regulations in 2022.
Speaking to Formel1.de, Marko said, “I was of the opinion, I told you that too, that he should take a year off, sort himself out, ask himself what he wants. I believe that a lot is possible within Formula 1 next year. He didn’t do that. Now he sits in the Aston Martin, which of course suffers similar to the Mercedes [with low rake].”
Despite the freeze of large parts of the technical regulations due to the pandemic, there has been a twenty percent cut in downforce. Most of the reductions have focused on the floors, which appears as if it has affected low rake cars more than high rake cars. Mercedes has also been affected, but also its customer Aston Martin.
But Marko agrees that Aston Martin had been hurt by the rule changes, he felt it did not fully explain the performance gap the team now faced. He believes that Aston Martin has not managed to stabilise the rear of the car, which hasn’t helped with the handling of the car.
He added, “Let’s go back to the test where Mercedes had a very unstable rear end: Mercedes managed to stabilise that to a large extent. Whereas with Aston Martin, as far as I have seen, they have not succeeded to that extent.”
“They will eventually get better handling together as well, but apparently not to the level of Mercedes, and that one-and-a-half seconds [to Mercedes], I would say, is not just with Vettel, it’s partly in the car.”
Marko believes that Aston Martin was currently in sixth or seventh in terms of performance.