Raikkonen set to announce future
Kimi Raikkonen is set to announce his future with Ferrari over the weekend, according to reports in both the British and Italian media. Speculation is mounting about whether the Italian team will offer him a new contract.
According to Italian media, the Finn has already been told by Ferrari’s chairman John Elkann that he will not be retained by the team. The news was expected on Friday, but as of y there has been no confirmation.
Raikkonen will be replaced by Sauber driver Charles Leclerc, the Monacan has delivered good results. Shortly before Elkann was appointed CEO, after the death of Sergio Marchionne, it was reported that a contract had already been signed.
Raikkonen has had two stints with Ferrari and is their last world champion, he left the team at the end of 2009 before returning four years ago. The Finn has failed to win for the team since Spa in 2009, but enjoyed three wins with Lotus and had twenty-three podiums for Ferrari since rejoining.
Lewis Hamilton said the sport wouldn’t be the same without the Iceman, who turns 39 next month, on the grid. He said “I made it no secret that before I even got to Formula 1, when I was playing the PlayStation I was always Kimi in the McLaren, imagining that was me,” he said.
“It was an amazing experience and it was cool because I think our driving style was kind of similar, which meant that I ended up being quite comfortable with the set-up that he used back then.”
“He’s had an incredible career and it’s been a real honour to race against a great Finn such as him.”
Russell turned down Monza practice
George Russell is unlikely to gain more experience in Formula One this season after he turned down the chance to drive for Force India at last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix.
This year the Englishman is fighting with Lando Norris, who will enter F1 next year, for the driver’s championship. Until the championship is resolved, it appears that Russell will not be taking part in practices. He told Motorsport.com “I was meant to be driving in FP1 for Force India this weekend. In this tense title battle at the moment, we preferred to put more focus on F2 really.”
“We did FP1 with Force India in Abu Dhabi last year [while Russell’s GP3 title was undecided] and still put it on pole afterwards, [so] I don’t think it would have affected me too much. You can get so caught up in the F1 dream that you forget what your priorities are. Formula 2 is my priority.”
With two F2 Grand Prix race weekends, in Sochi and Abu Dhabi, there are four races to go and Russell leads Norris by twenty-two points. But with five F1 Grand Prix weekends remaining he could still drive in FP1 this season.
He said he did not know for certain if he would do FP1 later in this season but his argument for not pursuing his chance at Monza and Mercedes F1 CEO Toto Wolff’s own comments suggests it is unlikely.
Wolff said “That was his call actually. He thought doing FP1 once in an F1 car was quite a distraction. I think it is a sensible call not to be too distracted from the limelight of F1 and would rather concentrate on the current job and this is F2.”
Russell’s hopes of moving into F1 appear weak, as fellow junior driver Esteban Ocon could lose his seat with Force India. Mercedes have already said finding Ocon a seat is a priority over Russell being promoted.
Russell’s best option appears to be Williams, but there is mounting speculation that his F2 rival Artem Markelov could head there as part of an all-Russian line-up alongside Sergey Sirotkin.
F1 would be banned if incidents were fatal – Todt
FIA president Jean Todt claims that Formula One would risk being banned if recent accidents saw drivers be seriously injured or killed.
The last to Grand Prix weekends have seen two big accidents, at Spa Charles Leclerc’s halo deflect a flying wheel during the first corner crash. While in practice at Monza, Marcus Ericsson suffered a high-speed barrel role in practice and in 2016, Fernando Alonso crashed in Melbourne forcing him to miss the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Todt knows that its vital drivers are able to walk away from such incidents unhurt. Although injuries and fatalities were an accepted part of F1 decades ago, Todt said the world has changed in such a way that any run of problems nowadays could have terrible consequences for motor racing.
He says in the future there should be no hesitation to introduce safety improvements. The Frenchman told Autosport “If you see Alonso’s crash in 2016, if you see Ericsson on Friday, you should spend some time and realise how amazing it has become and the progress that has been done. It is not taken for granted.”
“A few decades back, after [crashes like] that, drivers would not be there. It would be a big pain, because what was acceptable 40 years ago would not be acceptable now. And it could maybe mean that motor racing would be banned.”
Todt was a huge supporter of the halo which was criticised by drivers when it was introduced at the start of the year. Speaking about that, he said “maybe it changed a little bit the design of the car. But honestly I love racing, I love F1. I am not in shock when I see a car with the halo.”
Todt wasn’t expecting new teams
FIA president Jean Todt says that he is not expecting any new teams to join F1 in 2021, despite the proposed changes to the engine regulations. A new engine formula designed to make the engines louder, cheaper and simpler is expected to be signed off in Singapore next week.
These proposals have been toned down from the more radical overall following disapproval from the current manufacturers. However, a number of changes to allow drivers to push are still being considered as well as ones to attract new engine manufacturers.
The new rules have been watched carefully by Porsche, Cosworth and Aston Martin, in case there are opportunities for them to enter the sport. But with framing the rules having dragged on, FIA president Jean Todt has said that the indications now are that no new entrants will now come initially.
Asked by Motorsport.com about the prospect of a new manufacturer joining F1, Todt said that one party – which is understood to be Porsche – had been serious but had now suggested it was not going to greenlight a project.
Todt said, “There was some demonstration of interest from one, who said to us we are not in a situation to commit for 2021 but, what is very important for us, is to know exactly what will be the regulations because there could be a strong interest in the future.”
The Frenchman says that the most important thing for him was to make sure that the current manufacturers were happy to continue. Todt says it would be unfair to say “okay, we want to attract a new one so let’s change everything’.
“What about all the investment they have been doing for years and we say, we change completely the regulations because we may have one or two coming? That is one of the reasons why it was not a revolution on the engine regulations.”
Todt says that he wasn’t confident that the new rules would engage new manufacturers as the rules were so different. Adding “So I was very sceptical. That is why I also asked to consider to have some common regulations in other championships because it would encourage other manufacturers, if you were able to have seven to 10 customers, to be able to buy the powertrain. But that has not happened.”
Mercedes considers releasing Ocon
Mercedes F1 CEO Toto Wolff has admitted that the team would consider releasing Esteban Ocon from the teams young driver programme if it helps him gets a seat next season.
The Frenchman has been supported by the French Manufacture through his junior career and is facing an uncertain future, as Lance Stroll expected to join the team after its takeover by his father. His route to both McLaren and Renault have been closed off because of his ties to Mercedes.
Williams remains an option for the Frenchman, but Wolff says being a Mercedes junior is not helping Ocon’s development at the moment. Wolff told Sky Sports “Fundamentally why we do this is we take great enjoyment in helping young talented drivers who lack finances.”
“When we took Esteban from Gravity [management team], we felt that he needed support. But if our support only works until Formula 1, but is then detrimental to these guys to get the right seats, you need to consider these things [releasing Ocon].” Wolff says he understands why the Frenchman isn’t an attractive offer for other teams.
Mercedes works seats look to be filled probably until the end of 2020, however, Wolff believes Ocon will be in a race-winning car sooner rather than later.
Ocon’s performances looked to have him set for a move to Renault, however, the team signed Daniel Ricciardo. That move then prompted McLaren to sign Carlos Sainz and promote Lando Noris, Red Bull to promote Pierre Gasly.
While Ocon still would have hoped to have an opportunity at Force India, having impressed over two years with the team, but their administration and subsequent takeover by a Lawrence Stroll-led consortium again caught the Frenchman out.
That means that Stroll’s son Lance is expected to move to Force India. While Ferrari are expected to promote Charles Leclerc to replace Kimi Raikkonen, with Ferrari’s customers Haas and Sauber unlikely to sign a Mercedes driver.
The only option appears to be Stroll’s vacant seat with Williams.
Ferrari ordered to stop covering the camera
The FIA has told Ferrari they must stop using its camera in cooling bags, following questions about the teams tactic. The team has been placing a bag of ice over the camera when in the pits or on the grid.
Ferrari has claimed they were placing it there to keep the electronics of the car cool, but there has been the suspicion that the Italian team has wanted to cover up the steering wheel so that other teams could not see the settings of the car.
F1 race director Charlie Whiting has looked into the matter and, following some unease from FOM about how its cameras were being treated, Ferrari was informed before the race in Italy last weekend to cease its behaviour.
The move did not stop Ferrari from continuing to close off the view of the camera, though with it opting to use an umbrella to block the view on the grid at Monza. A spokesman for the FIA, confirmed the governing body had acted, and said it would continue to monitor any concerns there may be about internal car electronic temperatures.
They said “We did ask Ferrari to stop using these ice packs. The main reason was that FOM were not happy with them doing it. The issue is one of internal ECU temperature which the FIA will continue to monitor with FOM.”
The Week Ahead
Next weekend, Formula One heads to Singapore as we begin the countdown to the final key races. Singapore in recent years has become a major weekend off track as deals for drivers and sponsorship are done. The biggest talking points will be, how Mercedes can limit Ferrari’s damage, this has been a weak circuit for the silver arrows.
The biggest talking point will be who partners Sebastian Vettel, I believe the foundations laid down by Sergio Marchionne before he died, and Charles Leclerc’s performance this season should see him get the seat. Ferrari know he is a talent and doesn’t want to lose him, that announcement I think will mean Antonio Giovinazzi will fill the Sauber seat.
The other talking points will be which team can keep it together to close out the championship. Ferrari has struggled to do the going back to 2008, after being pipped by Hamilton in the drivers. But this year, its Mercedes who have made the bigger errors.
Singapore could also give us a hint for Sochi at the end of the month because they are very similar circuits, ones which have suited Ferrari in recent years. They are both street circuits and that has been a week point off Mercedes.