Final stumbling block cleared with sprint races
Motorsport.com, says it has learned that the final major stumbling block in trialling qualifying trials, with sources revealing that teams have now agreed to a financial package. One of the issues was the extra costs caused by running an extra race because of damage.
Beyond some teams wanting a bigger financial compensation from F1 chiefs for the extra money it would cost to add three more races, the issue was further complicated by the impact this could have on cost cap limits. The bigger teams wanted $1m increase in the budget cap to cover damage, but the teams operating on a smaller budget feared this would have been used to extract performance.
Following discussions over the past few weeks regarding the costs issue, multiple sources have confirmed that a financial proposal has been put forward that teams are happy with. While the details haven’t been announced the website says it believes the cap will be raised by half a million dollars.
Also if a team has a big repair bill following an accident, there is scope within the agreement for further leeway with extra payment and a raised cost cap limit to cover this, so they are not unfairly penalised. This clears the major hurdles, but the rules of the sprint races are still to be finalised.
With teams in agreement over the matter, however, there is no huge rush to get the matter across the line so a final vote may not take place for a few more weeks – although it could happen as soon as the Imola race weekend.
The sprint qualifying plan will be to run three 100km Saturday races at Silverstone, Monza and Interlagos this year to see what impact it has on the television and trackside spectacle. The Saturday race will offer a few points, and decide the grid for Sunday’s main event
In Sakhir Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said getting the financial details sorted was important for the bigger outfits who were pushing right at the limit of F1’s new budget cap.
He said, “There just has to be a sensible allowance that takes that into account, because we’re chasing £10,000, £20,000, £30,000 savings at the moment to ensure that we’re hitting the cap.”
“To suddenly have a variable like this is something that just needs to be accommodated. We’re keen to support it but there needs to be an accommodation.”
Hamilton “super excited” by Verstappen title challenge
Sir Lewis Hamilton says he is “super excited” about the prospect of a title challenge against Max Verstappen after the wheel-to-wheel start to the 2021 season in Bahrain. The long-anticipated battle between the seven-time champion and the youngest ever race winner appears to be on the cards this season, with Mercedes and Red Bull looking close.
Hamilton told Sky Sports in Bahrain after the race, “I’m super excited and super happy for the fans, that they are excited. Of course, this is only one race, so we don’t know what the future holds in terms of”
“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 and I hope for many more of these sorts of races with Max and Valtteri [Bottas, third in Bahrain]. We have seen a tremendous battle [in Bahrain] between two very good teams and two very good drivers.”
Despite taking victory in Bahrain, Mercedes continues to insist that they remain on the back foot, with team principal Toto Wolff suggesting that the W12 is trailing their rivals’ RB16B “quite a bit” over a single qualifying lap.
He added “Bahrain was always not the strongest race for Red Bull and, also, they haven’t been particularly good out of the blocks. [The opening weekend] showed all that is not the case anymore in 2021 and so I have no doubt that they are extremely difficult to beat.”
Wolff also pointed out that Red Bull hasn’t been strong in Bahrain and in recent years have not been strong from the start of the year. Despite this, he still believes that Red Bull are going to be extremely difficult to beat and are still leading the pack.
Verstappen and Hamilton in a league of their own
Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko believes that Max Verstappen and Sir Lewis Hamilton’s fight for victory in the Bahrain Grand Prix proved they are “in a class of their own”. The two drivers engaged in a close and hard-fought battle which was decided in the closing laps.
When Verstappen tried to overtake Hamilton with four laps to go, he went off track to complete the move and was instructed by the team to hand the place back to Hamilton. Then the Mercedes driver managed to keep the Dutchman behind for the remaining three laps.
Following the race, there has been much talk about a season season-long scrap between Verstappen and Hamilton, with Marko believing it proved they are in a league of their own compared to the rest of the grid. Marko told Formul1.de, “The race clearly showed that the two are in a class of their own. The thing that Hamilton has over Max is incredible consistency.”
“I don’t know how many races he has, how many wins. You could see how he did a great job tactically, how he made line changes and so on. It was a very difficult race for Max. But again, they are more or less on a par with each other. Max will also be able to draw on a wealth of experience like Hamilton’s at some point.”
Verstappen was in disappointed after the race, he wanted to try and build the five-second penalty using his fresher tyres, however, Marko says Red Bull’s thinking was that the stewards would have adjusted the penalty accordingly.
Explaining, “The only thing is that the five seconds wouldn’t have guaranteed a win. We were convinced that the penalty would have been such that Hamilton would have won. If he was 5.8 seconds ahead, we would have got 10 seconds. From that point of view, staying ahead would not have helped.
Ferrari could know after Barcelona progress
Ferrari says it could take another four race weekends for it to be sure about the amount of progress it has made with its new engine. The Italian team spent most of the winter developing a new power unit after a dismal 2020, following a technical directive issued in February 2020.
The directive took away the advantage it had with straight-line speed which was not helped by the draggy aero concept, leading it to drop to sixth in the constructors’ championship. It believes that following the running in Bahrain it has made a good step forward, but the team wants more time to better judge just how much progress has been made compared to the main opposition.
Sporting director Laurent Mekies said: “We have improved, no doubt, so we are okay with what we see. But there is always work to do to extract the most of it at the race track, because [in Bahrain] it’s special conditions. You go from super hot afternoon peak temperatures to racing at night.
“Of course we know exactly our numbers, but I think the question is what does that number becomes when you factor in the progression of the others. And there again, I think the real answer to that you’ll discover when you analyse qualifying.” However, these are only estimations.
He says further analysis will need to be done after the opening few races to see how much progress has been made so it can give an estimate. Team principal Mattia Binotto said he was relieved that Ferrari had made up for its straight line handicap this year.
However, he was unsure about how much of that step forward was down to the power unit and how much due to the car’s more efficient aerodynamics. Adding “Certainly the power unit has improved and I happy to see Sauber and Haas has progressed.”
“I think on our side we progressed in all the areas that were possible, so the aero is certainly better in terms of behaviour, and with good correlation.”
Alpha Tauri targets another step forward in Barcelona
Alpha Tauri technical director Jody Egginton says the team “should have a nice step forward” by May’s Spanish Grand Prix. The Italian team came out as one of the strongest teams in Bahrain thanks partly due to a more powerful Honda engine.
Pierre Gasly showed the potential of the car when he qualified fifth, however, damage at the start of the race prevented him from turning into decent points. While his teammate Yuki Tsunoda impressed on his debut going from thirteenth to ninth. Team principal Franz Tost was happy with his team’s fast and reliable package but warned it would take “two, three races to get a better picture” of where things stand in F1’s tight midfield battle.
By then the Italian team will have rolled out incremental aerodynamic upgrades race by race, which Egginton said is the result of the team trying to claw back downforce taken away by the mandated cuts to the floor.
Egginton said in Bahrain, “We’ve already got developments in the pipeline,” Egginton said during the Bahrain weekend. It’s aerodynamics. The floors have changed dramatically because of the regulation change, and the diffuser and the way the car works aerodynamically at the rear.
“Everyone was trying to recover load, we recovered a reasonable chunk of load and now we’re trying to work on increasing the operating window, give the car wider operating window aerodynamically to work in. Especially in low speed, and then the driver can exploit that and we’ll go quicker.”
Alpha Tauri is still trying to sort out the correlation and validation between track and wind tunnel, however, the three weeks between Sakhir and Imola has made it confident that the team can bring a substantial upgrade for Barcelona in a months time.
Adding “We’ll have some new bits in Imola, we’ll have some new bits in Portugal. We’ll have some new bits in Spain, so it’s incremental. There’s no headline-grabbers but by Spain, we should have a nice step forward.”
Egginton revealed that most of the effort is going on exploiting performance.
Radical options considered during Hamilton-Rosberg phsyo drama
Mercedes CEO Toto Wolff says the team was forced to consider radical options at the height of the rivalry between Sir Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg between 2014 and 2016. The friendship and rivalry, described by Wolff as a phsyo drama with historical context “none of us knew, and will never know.”
The battle cumulated with the famous clash which say both crash out of the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix, although the other points of on-track drama was at that season’s Austrian Grand Prix, as well as the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix. This had made it one of the memorable teammate rivalry as one of the fiercest in F1 history.
Speaking to former BBC F1 Presenter and co-owner of Whisper Films, which produces Channel 4 F1, Jake Humphrey’s The High-Performance Podcast, Wolff revealed the intensity of the rivalry came close to forcing Mercedes to impose race suspensions on the drivers at the height of the pair’s on-track feuding.
He said, “It was very difficult because I came into the team as a newcomer in Formula 1, and Nico and Lewis had been in the sport for much longer. But still, I was able to create an environment where they had to respect the team.”
“Sometimes with an iron fist, or iron grip, and they understood that they couldn’t let us down, they couldn’t let Mercedes down.” He says that he believed that there was some selfish behaviour, making him warn the drivers that a pattern of behaviour he would have no fear in making somebody miss races.
while although Mercedes enjoyed their three most statistically dominant seasons in the Hamilton/Rosberg era from 2014-16, Wolff said that he remained convinced that the negativity between the duo was ultimately a destructive force rather than a positive one at the team.
He says he was not sure that the that the hostility got the best out of everyone, explaining “If the debriefing room is full of negativity because the two drivers are hostile with each other, then that will spill over into the energy of the room, and that is not something that I will ever allow again.”