Alonso set to return to F1 for third stint with Renault
Fernando Alonso is to return to Renault for the third time replacing Daniel Ricciardo, multiple sources have told BBC News and Motorsport.com. Last month, managing direct Cyril Abiteboul admitted he is considering bringing Alonso out of retirement to sensationally replace the outgoing Daniel Ricciardo.
According to other reports, the deal could be announced in the coming weeks with a deal of around £10m per year. The Spaniard has driven for the team twice before. He left F1 in 2018 and is due to make a third attempt to win the Indianapolis 500 with McLaren in August.
A spokesperson for Renault said the team “declined to comment on rumours”.
Team principal told Monaco’s radio station “There can be many drivers, there are great drivers who are free next year. The only thing I am saying is that we are going to take time to reflect.”
“Honestly, deciding on a driver in a season that has not yet started … seems a bit strange to us. Choosing the driver is the last piece of the puzzle in the reconstruction, hence the importance of taking our time and doing things well.”
Alonso, one of the sport’s most successful yet controversial stars of recent history, will partner Esteban Ocon in 2021 with Ricciardo already signed for McLaren. His time with Renault resulted in two world titles but weren’t without controversy his involvement in Crashgate remains a mystery.
It is long been believed that F1 is unfinished business, he left the sport in 2018 saying he had “achieved in F1 more than I dreamed of and it’s time to achieve bigger things outside F1”
Alonso is likely going to have to accept that the Renault is not going to be competitive straight away. Next year, teams will have to use the same cars as in 2020 as a result of a rule change introduced because of the coronavirus pandemic.
His hopes one again is a gamble on the 2022 regulation changes when the idea is to close the field thanks to a cost cap.
Ferrari fast tracks upgrades
Ferrari has announced it is going to fast track as much of its ‘Spec 2’ cars for this weekends Styrian Grand Prix. The team went into last weekends season opener in Austria aware that it was on the back foot, with its car in the same specification as it had been in pre-season testing.
The team uncovered aerodynamic flaws in Barcelona, which it has decided to address with a major overhaul. The changes were originally planned to be introduced at this month’s third round of the season at the Hungaroring.
But competitive struggles last weekend has left the team pushing extra hard to bring as many of the new components as possible to this weekend’s Styrian Grand Prix. In a statement, Ferrari said it was flat out with development work at Maranello “in the hope of bringing forward to next weekend the introduction of the aerodynamic package scheduled for the Hungarian Grand Prix or, at least, some of its components”.
The team said it did not believe the car changes would be enough to completely eradicate the near one-second deficit it had to Mercedes in Austria, but it hoped that they “could allow the team to move up the order”.
The advantage of bringing them this weekend is they can have a direct comparison to last weekend, a unique opportunity to carry out this test.
Ferrari’s CEO Louis Camilleri has also underlined his faith in the team and its boss Mattia Binotto, despite the tricky times the outfit faced. Camilleri says that there is lots of work to do and that the team is not where it needs to be.
Saying that “The only solution is to react and I’m pleased by the immediate reaction and the work that Mattia and all his team are putting in at every level. This is not just to bring to the track today what was scheduled to be ready tomorrow, but also to speed up the programme of development for the coming races.”
He believes that the team remains united in facing the challenges ahead, and setbacks will certainly not change our chosen course
Ferrari “unrecognisable” in Austria – Vettel
Sebastian Vettel says that his SF1000 was “unrecognisable” in Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix compared to earlier in the weekend when he was encouraged by its form.
The four-times champion had a difficult race, a spin reminiscent of the ones he had last year. Meanwhile, his teammate Charles Leclerc had a sensational run to second, helped by a time penalty for Lewis Hamilton, who was runner-up on the road.
Speaking on Monday evening Vettel revealed he had spent the day getting his head together in the local countryside. He said on ServusTV “Since I spend the time between the races here, I took advantage of the sunshine. I was on the mountain and cleared my head.”
Reflecting on the weekend he added, “The speed was simply missing. We are still looking. There are maybe two or three things that were not quite ideal. The car was unrecognisable to the feeling I had on Friday. So all in all, it wasn’t a good day for me.”
Asked about the clash with Sainz, which occurred while the Spaniard was battling with Leclerc, he said: “It wasn’t supposed to be an attack. I just wanted to be as close as possible.
Leclerc says he was very annoyed about it, saying “The two of them were fighting a bit. I didn’t expect Carlos to move in at the last minute. It’s my fault, I didn’t want to touch him and then I dropped the anchor and locked the rear wheels. For not having a handbrake, I think I did a good job. But of course, it was not intentional to turn the car around.”
He says that he had the advantage.
Vettel was asked if Leclerc’s run to second had made up for the team’s disappointing overall form. Saying “He drove a good race. I am the first to recognise the performance of others. The car is not as strong this year as we had hoped. Let’s see how long the season is left. We are certainly not where we wanted to be.”
No bad blood with Albon
Lewis Hamilton says there’s “no bad blood” with Alex Albon despite being penalised for the second time in three races for a clash with the Red Bull driver.
The English born duo made contact following the final safety car restart when Albon on fresher tyre made a bold overtaking move on the outside of Hamilton. The incident closer mirrored one at the penultimate race of 2019 in Brazil when Albon also tried to pass in the closing laps.
In both accidents the British-Thai driver was sent spinning while in podium contention, with the six-times champion awarded a five-second penalty, dropping him to fourth.
Hamilton insisted that the circumstances were different in both cases, and while he accepted responsibility for Brazil, he thought last weekend’s contact was a racing incident.
He told reporters, “Well firstly I have a huge amount of respect for Alex. I think he’s a super talented young man, and I don’t have any bad blood or bad feelings towards him whatsoever.”
“In Brazil, he saw me coming straight to him. That was for me wholeheartedly my mistake and my problem and I tried to face it with dignity. I think today was, in my opinion, a racing incident.”
“He was on a much better tyre. I entered the corner committed in blocking – obviously I was defending the position. I took the corner as normal, I had quite a lot of lock on to get round the corner.”
Hamilton says he got understeer and didn’t get back on the power, which created greater grip. He also says he changed his mind from his initial TV comments he thought he might be to blame but changed his mind on viewing a replay.
Saying, “Before I’d seen the incident I did apologise to Alex, in an interview. Just because in the heat of the moment, you don’t always have the viewpoints of everything, and I didn’t want to jump to conclusions, and then I went to watch the replay and I think it was a racing incident, as I said.”
Mercedes electrical woes despite one-two
While everything may have looked like a comfortable one-two finish in the Austrian Grand Prix, behind the scene the team were experiencing technical issues. Now the German team says the issues were the result of a build-up of what the team describe as ‘electrical noise’.
Bottas was leading the race comfortably from pole when he and Hamilton were told that it was “critical” they avoided the kerbs, including the red and white rumble strips, as Mercedes managed gearboxes.
They managed to get the cars to the end, with Bottas winning and Hamilton taking second but being classified as fourth following a five-second time penalty for his collision with Alexander Albon. It’s now emerged that the team were suffering a spike in electrical power, which recurred throughout the weekend, where from the team aren’t sure.
Director of trackside engineering Andrew Shovlin told F1’s podcast, “Austria’s just a really horrible circuit for the cars. Normally you start the season somewhere like Melbourne, and Melbourne’s a track where it’s very difficult to overtake, and when it’s difficult to overtake you can then afford to look after your car and people aren’t going to get by.”
“This is a circuit where it’s quite easy to overtake and as a result if you don’t use the kerbs, if you don’t push hard, you’re at risk. That’s one of the factors, but it’s the kerbs themselves that are very, very violent and you spend a lot of the lap running on them.”
He also says often the race is one of attrition.
McLaren believes Norris made “the next step”
McLaren believes Lando Norris’s third place in Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix proves he has “made the next step” as a driver. The Englishman scored his first podium after charge saw him pass Sergio Perez before making up the time to cash in on Lewis Hamilton’s five-second penalty.
Hamilton’s penalty allowed Norris to be the third youngest podium finisher in F1 history, capping off an impressive weekend that saw him qualify fourth and spend much of the race leading the midfield runners. McLaren F1 boss Andreas Seidl said it was proof of the advancements Norris had made entering his second season on the grid.
Seidl told Motorsport.com, “For a driver, it is important to create this momentum for himself as it gives him the confidence he needs to pull it off when it matters in qualifying and the race.”
“Lando was simply building it up as he started well last year. You could see that last year in his race starts when he started carefully at the beginning, and then once he had a bit of confidence and races under his belt, he was there.”
Seidl said the work they have done over the winter has helped, and that the was very happy with the result for Norris. The Englishman gained eight tenths on Hamilton, allowing him to finish third by less than two-tenths of a second in the final classification.
On-board footage of Norris’ final lap has gone viral on social media in the aftermath of the race, with his race engineer instructing him when to use the overtake button before celebrating the result once Hamilton’s penalty was confirmed.
McLaren believed they had lost third, but the penalty was enough for Norris to take third. Seidl says that the Bristolian got the best out of the car in the final few laps of the race and that was important, also proving that the work over the winter was key in his development
Speaking about his final lap, Norris said: “The pace was really nice in clean air. The Ferraris were quicker than us, the Racing Points were quicker than us, especially on the race pace.”
“We were very fast yesterday but the race pace they were for sure quicker. They have a nicer car to drive, a bit more downforce and that helps in the race with the tyre degradation.
Haas didn’t take “unnecessary risks” – Steiner
Haas team principal Gunther Steiner insists that the team didn’t take an “unnecessary risk” by going too marginal on cooling in the Austrian Grand Prix.
Both Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen suffered overheating issues early in the race both then going on to retire with brake issues. Steiner insists that the team hadn’t expected the braking issue going into the race. Steiner told Motorsport.com, says they are still investigating where they came from.
Saying, “The brake issue, I don’t know why it came up, we’re still investigating. They overheated pretty early. We needed to manage it to get to the end of the race, but we didn’t think it was this dramatic, that they will break or they will not last.”
“Romain had the same thing as Kevin, and we were just calling in on the radio when he had the failure because we saw that it had gone extreme, his wear as well. So they just wore out, due to overheating, so we need to find out why we had all this overheating today.”
Steiner says brakes have always been an issue at the Red Bull Ring, the team goes for the limit on aero but it appears that cooling could be the issue for Haas.
Since entering the sport, Haas has struggled with the brakes and has experimented with different suppliers.
The VF20 has only run in winter testing in Barcelona as the team was not able to do any extra filming day during the break, and Steiner admitted that extra running might have helped to flag the problem.
Despite the double retirement Steiner was not unhappy with the pace of the car when it wasn’t compromised by the brake issues. Saying, “I think it wasn’t bad, we could keep up because we had to start to really lift and coast very early on from the first laps because we saw immediately that we are running hot with the brakes.”
“So that doesn’t help not only performance on lap time, but also to get the tyre to work good, and your brake balance you cannot change because otherwise it deteriorates.”