Hamilton dismisses intensity of title fight
Lewis Hamilton has dismissed the intensity of his title fight with Max Verstappen ahead of this weekend’s Turkish Grand Prix. This weekends race in Istanbul is expected to be wet causing concerns about the track being slippery once again this weekend like last year.
The Englishman took victory and his seventh world title at this race last year, and he will be looking to extend his lead in the championship over Max Verstappen as he moves towards his eighth title. Just two points separate the two in a battle that is expected to go all the way to Abu Dhabi.
Hamilton said earlier this week in Paris, “I generally find it relatively easy as I have other outlets and I’m able to blow off steam in lots of different ways. To come back into the racing environment fresh, recovered and positive. I don’t really have any worries.”
“I’m able to just arrive here and love doing my job. We’re just taking things one week and one race at a time. We’re always trying to elevate, and I’ve spent plenty of time speaking to the team about how we can advance and improve.”
Although he won in Sochi, Verstappen did a brilliant job in limiting the damage in the crazy final few laps when the rain started to fall, rising from twentieth to finish second. Both drivers are hoping that the circuit is more gripped in compared to last year, when some drivers described it as an ice rink.
Last November, Hamilton took victory after starting sixth which allowed him to take his seventh title equalling Max Verstappen.
He added, “It’s not a case of ignoring it as it’s there. It’s a case of understanding what will be, will be. All you can do is prepare the best way you can and give one hundred per cent so I don’t worry about these things.”
“I’ve had lots of ups and downs in the past, but I’ve had an amazing time with a lot of growth. I just prepare for now which means doing the work with the guys back in the factory.”
Similar conditions to last years wet session are expected for qualifying, Hamilton was five seconds off the lead. But believes that if similar conditions were to arrive this weekend, Hamilton is confident his car will be more competitive.
Saying “I feel we rectified some of that in the race. We’re better prepared and I think the track has potentially shifted a little bit. We might be faced with slightly different challenges this weekend.”
Losing title wouldn’t change Verstappen’s life
Max Verstappen says if he loses the championship battle to Lewis Hamilton this season it would not “change my life.” The championship fight between the two this year has featured serval flash points with crashes in Silverstone and Monza, as well as losing points in Baku and Budapest.
Verstappen says he and Red Bull are “very relaxed, but also very focused” as there is “nothing you can force or you have to stress about because we always want to do the best we can anyway.”
Asked in Red Bull’s preview for Istanbul, how he stays relaxed considering the pressures and expectations on a driver involved in a title fight, Verstappen replied: “I always do my best and I know that the team is also doing the best they can. If that’s going to be first at the end of the year, that’s, of course, an amazing achievement and that’s what we work for, right?”
“But, even if we would finish second, I think we’d still have had a great season and at the end of the day it’s not really going to change my life. I mean, I enjoy what I’m doing, and I think that’s also very important. For me, there is not much to worry about really.”
Verstappen also stated that he now has “quite a strong package now with the fresh engine” that was fitted to his car ahead of last month’s Russian Grand Prix. He says that the team are keeping on developing and pushing forwards, to have a better balance in the car.
He says the team are keeping on pushing to find a better balance in the car. This weekend Verstappen believes there is a lot of unknowns this weekend, following complaints last year about a slippery track, the circuit has been blasted ahead of this weekend to try and improve grip.
Despite the boost from the fresh Honda engine that he took to second place last time out at Sochi, Verstappen still reckons “the upcoming races will be tough” in the fight with Mercedes.
Red Bull & Honda to continue to work together
Red Bull and Honda are going to work together on several levels in what could be described as a transitional period following the Japanese manufacturers’ withdrawal at the end of the year.
In 2022 Honda will support the building and operation of its engines for Red Bull, which has bought the intellectual property rights to continue using the power units. This arrangement will end in 2023 when the remainder of Honda’s staff will transfer to Red Bull.
The two will continue to co-operate on their young driver programme. This year Japanese driver Yuki Tsunoda made his debut with Alpha Tauri, with the aim of “further promoting the growth of motorsport in Japan, with the ultimate goal of getting more Japanese drivers into top-line global motorsport.”
Honda decided to withdraw from the sport at the end of the season to concentrate on zero-emissions vehicles for road use. Its F1 engineering expertise will transfer to other projects looking at zero-carbon road transport.
Koji Watanabe, chief officer for brand and communications at Honda, said: “In this way, Honda can still contribute to the motor racing world.”
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said: “Red Bull’s collaboration with Honda has been enormously successful and while our relationship in Formula 1 is changing, neither of us wish for that to be the end of the story.”
Drivers hope track conditions have improved
Charles Leclerc is hoping that the track surface in Istanbul Park will “still be slippery” after the low-grip 2020 conditions benefited Ferrari, while several other drivers are hoping the situation has improved considerably.
Ahead of this weekend’s Turkish Grand Prix, the circuit has been water blasted in an attempt to make the surface rougher following an FIA recommendation in the aftermath of the 2020 event.
The surface was only laid weeks before last years race which didn’t leave enough time for the track to cure and the bitumen remained saturated with slippery oils. This was also not helped by Pirelli bringing their hardest compounds, those two factors left the drivers struggling to build tyre temperature and feeling like they were driving on a surface “worse than ice”, per McLaren’s Lando Norris.
Motorsport.com, says it understands this was only completed in the last few weeks, is aimed at making the track surface rougher to raise grip levels by exposing the gaps between the stones, with Pirelli also making its compound choice one step softer for 2021 to provide further assistance.
Leclerc said that he “remembers that a lot of people complained [in 2020], but I was one of the only ones that were actually happy that it was like this because we were competitive, we were fighting for very good positions.”
He added, “Obviously a podium was possible. I enjoyed that weekend, it didn’t end up the way I wanted, by being just under the podium, being fourth. But, overall, it was a positive weekend for us, and I hope we can reproduce that this year.”
Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz is expecting the blasting to have changed the grip levels, but warned the drivers could encounter “extreme” tyre degradation with the track’s demanding layout.
Daniel Ricciardo says the water blasting should give the track “a few more edges so we can get the tyre to bite into it a bit more.”
Lance Stroll, who took pole last year before dropping to ninth in the latter part of the race, suggested that if the grip levels have improved then Istanbul’s famous, multi-apex Turn Eight won’t be “much of a corner with our cars nowadays”.
Sainz will take a new hybrid system and penalty
Carlos Sainz will take a grid penalty for Sundays Turkish Grand Prix after Ferrari decided to upgrade the hybrid system on his power unit. The Italian manufacturer introduced the update for his teammate Charles Leclerc in Sochi.
In their preview for Istanbul, Ferrari announced Sainz would take the same update this weekend meaning he will pick up a back of the grid penalty as a result of taking on a new power unit. The team had always planned for its drivers not to take the penalty at the same race, with Leclerc taking his in Sochi after his crash in Budapest.
In the team’s preview, they said, “As was the case for Charles Leclerc in Russia, in Turkey Carlos Sainz will take a completely new power unit fitted with the new hybrid system. Therefore he will start from the back of the grid with the aim of climbing up the order to try and score some points.”
After the Russian GP, Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto was reluctant to estimate the overall gain the upgrade provided but confirmed it was “a step” in performance with a focus on its 2022 package. Under current F1 regulations, teams are permitted to make one specification update per year on each of its power unit components.
The team also confirmed that Mattia Binotto will miss this weekend “to focus on the development of next year’s car”. Binotto will also follow the race weekend from the team’s factory “with a permanent link to the team at Istanbul Park”, having also missed a handful of F1 races last year using the same set-up.
Ferrari slipped further behind McLaren in the fight for third in the constructors, following Sochi it is seventeen and a half points behind.
Track limits for Istanbul
The FIA have announced they will be enforcing track limits at Turns One, Six and Fourteen at this weekend’s Turkish Grand Prix.
At the exit of all the corners, any time achieved by leaving the track will be deleted by the stewards. Additionally at the final corner the lap the driver is currently on as well as the following lap.
On the third occasion of a driver failing to negotiate the corners by using the track during the race, he will be shown a black and white flag, any further cutting will then be reported to the stewards. This means a total of three occasions combined not three at each corner.
As ever, this will not automatically apply to any driver who is judged to have been forced off the track, each such case will be judged individually.
Medical team tests positive for Covid
FIA medical delegate Dr Ian Roberts and medical car driver Alan van der Merwe will miss this weekend’s Turkish Grand Prix after testing positive for Coronavirus. The governing body said the pair had not travelled to Istanbul and a team from Formula E was standing in for them.
Van der Merwe and Roberts helped former Haas driver Romain Grosjean make a ‘miracle’ escape from a fiery Bahrain Grand Prix crash last year and were hailed as heroes after the drama.
Alonso says drivers are being treated differently
Fernando Alonso believes that drivers are being treated differently when it comes to on track behaviour. The two-time champions comments come after being asked about deliberately using the run-off area at the first corner at the last race in Russia.
Alonso said, “It’s a confirmation of many things. One, that there are different rules for different people – or different talks the week after for different people.” He added he had “been the idiot on track for most of the championship” as others gained an advantage by breaking rules.
On his way to the grid in Sochi, Alonso practised going through the run off area at the first corner on his reconnaissance laps before the race. He then deliberately went through it on the first lap, avoiding the bottle-neck effect at the tricky right-left combination.
Alonso did not gain any places with the move, he rejoined behind the driver he was behind on the way into the corner, which meant he complied with the rules. But committing early to the run-off meant he could gain places before the corner because he could brake later than other drivers.
He explained he had planned the move “just to see the questions here in Istanbul – just to confirm [that] when I do things, they have a different behaviour and different repercussions on the following event. So now maybe they change the run-off area in lap one in the first couple of corners.”
Alonso then referenced the fact Lando Norris wasn’t given a penalty for crossing the white line when entering the pits during the chaotic final laps in Sochi. Adding “Let’s see the next one that crosses the white line on the pit entry, let’s see which nationality he is, and which penalty he will get.”
Earlier this season, the Spaniard made several comments this season about rivals getting away with breaking guidelines and not being punished. Ahead of this weekends race he said he would raise it with race director Michael Masi about the issue but had not made any progress.
Vettel questions the human cost of a growing calendar
Sebastian Vettel says that Formula One cannot neglect the human cost of an ever-growing calendar ahead of a record-breaking twenty-three race calendar next year. Earlier this week, F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali has already confirmed plans for a 23-race season that, despite finishing earlier in the year than 2021, will feature the most races in F1 history.
The plan has once again raised questions about the sustainability for teams, drivers, fans and everyone involved in the sport, especially those required at the track beyond the typical four-day race weekend.
When asked by Motorsport.com about the strain a twenty-three race calendar may put people under, four-time world champion and current Aston Martin driver Vettel said it was already proving to be an “immense task” for those working in F1.
Vettel added, “We mustn’t neglect that we are a group of people and human beings travelling around the world. You can do the numbers.”
“If we have fifty-two weekends in a year, we do twenty-three of those as races and [there are] a couple of months in a year that we can’t hold races in most places around the world, it obviously gives you a very intense season.”
“The objective should be [that] we have a sustainable way to run our season, not only for our environment but also looking at the human resource. f you have so many people involved, the weekends are far longer than the Saturday-Sundays that we see on the TV. I think drivers, we are on the lucky end.”
Vettel said it was important that people can have a normal life away from F1 and can spend time at home.
The weekend ahead
This weekend F1 heads to Istanbul where you need to believe that Mercedes and Red Bull can be equally matched again, I think are at the point in the season we’re with the final quarter momentum is going to be key. Lewis Hamilton is normally very good at this, but can Max Verstappen break that soon before Mexico City as I think now its going to be about getting as many points as possible.
I think looking at this circuit it is more a Mercedes circuit, but it’s about getting the tyres to work in the mixed conditions we are expecting in qualifying and maybe the race. This is a circuit where you can expect overtaking and multiple pit stops as it has always seemed to be hard on tyres last year.
In the midfield I think McLaren appear to be finding a bit of an edge over Ferrari as the Mercedes engine has a power advantage. You do need to wonder how fired up Lando Norris will be after losing the win in Sochi, that could play on his and the teams mind if we have similar conditions in qualifying.
Ferrari, we know now are going to take a penalty with Carlos Sainz, you need to think they can come through the pack to get points and do they use Charles Leclerc to try and take as many points away from McLaren? This battle is I think swinging towards McLaren following Monza and Sochi, so can they hit back