Mercedes & Red Bull remain leaders
Lando Norris believes that Mercedes and Red Bull remain the leaders going into the second test in Sakhir on Thursday. His McLaren team and Ferrari set the headlines a fortnight ago at the first test, although Mercedes did go fastest on the final day of the test.
However, Norris tried quickly to downplay expectations, saying he’d rather have finished last to keep expectations in check, believes Mercedes and Red Bull, the two dominant forces of 2021, are still ahead of the game despite the 2022 rules reset.
He told Motorsport.com, “Mercedes never look like that good in testing – until they get to the first race. If they’re good in testing, it means they’re probably going to be incredible by the first race. “So, no, I think everyone is working on their own programmes, everyone is on different fuel loads and power modes and whatever.”
“We can see a picture, we can see we are in decent position, but then Mercedes and Ferrari have looked very good since day one. They’ve been at the top of the timesheets every single time and their long run pace looks good.”
Norris echoed the general feeling, Ferrari look very strong with Mercedes and Red Bull likely to be with them. He also says McLaren’s test was “not perfect” but with teammate, Daniel Ricciardo had a lot of ideas of where to improve if it wants to make the next step and challenge the top teams.
Adding, “Personally, I feel like we have a lot of work to do as team if we want to be fighting with them. That’s expected but I think we know there’s still many things for us to improve on to get to the level they’re at.”
Sainz hoping drivers don’t need to live with porpoising
Carlos Sainz is hoping that drivers don’t need to live with “annoying” porpoising for the entire season. One of the talking points from the first test was the excessive bouncing which the drivers were complaining about was excessive bouncing on the straights.
This has been caused by the change in the regulations to more grounds effect cars, with all the teams affected in some way but a few were able to get a grip on it by the end of the test. But the challenge going into the season for all the teams is how to get rid of the porpoising without compromising performance will be quite tricky as teams prepare for the start of the season, and that could leave drivers in a situation where they have to endure it.
The reality of the challenge should become clear at this weeks second test in Sakhir ahead of next weekend’s Grand Prix, however Sainz is hoping for a quick solution. The Spaniard told Motorsport.com, “It doesn’t feel great, obviously. Especially when you think that we’re doing 300 km/h and we’re jumping 30-40mm up and down like crazy. Annoying.”
“But hopefully it’s resolved and it’s not something that we need to live with. It’s quite on the limit. You have to trust the engineers and everyone around you that it’s just going to keep getting better, as we learn these ground effect cars.”
Valtteri Bottas whose new Alfa Romeo team was the most affected by the issue, said the shaking around from the bouncing impacted vision on the approach to corners.
Pierre Gasly reckoned that teams would need to be mindful about the potential impact of porpoising at certain periods of races, especially when tyre pressures drop and the cars could be naturally running closer to the ground.
Saying “It’s not that pleasant,” explained the Frenchman. “Driving-wise, it was a bit shocking the first time it happened when we tried the car because we didn’t really expect it. But it’s just finding ways to go around it.
“We know that in certain circumstances in the race – safety cars, tyre pressure dropping etc – we may face this and it may actually become an issue in the race. We’ll have to think about all these different situations where things will get a lot worse.”
He added that Alpha Tauri needed to put development in place to try to improve.
Imola signs new four-year deal
Imola will remain on the calendar for four more years, the Autodromo Internationale Enzo Dino Ferrari returned to the calendar in 2020 following the numerous cancellations due the pandemic.
Imola first held a Grand Prix in 1980 and then became the traditional opener to the European season until 2006, although this season is affectively a flyway race between Melbourne and Miami.
F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali, who grew up in the town, said, “I am delighted that we will be continuing our excellent partnership with Imola for the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix until 2025. “The circuit is iconic and has been part of the history of our sport and they have done an incredible job of hosting two races during the pandemic.
“It is a proud moment for our Italian fans to host two races and for all our fans around the world to see this fantastic circuit on the calendar for the future.”
Bravi appointed as Sauber managing director
The Sauber Group which runs the Alfa Romeo team has named Alessandro Alunni Bravi as its new managing director. The lawyer has been the teams general counsel and board member since 2017.
The Italian is also well known in the F1 paddock as the manager of former McLaren driver Stoffel Vandoorne, who is currently racing for Mercedes in Formula E, while he has also worked with current Alfa reserve driver Robert Kubica. Previously he operated alongside Nicolas Todt at All Road Management, whose stable of drivers included Felipe Massa, Charles Leclerc and Pastor Maldonado.
He has already worked with team principal Fred Vasseur as the legal advisor to the ART F2 and F3 since 2010. Sauber says that Alunni Bravi will focus “on marketing, communications, sales, legal, IT and finance.”
Despite its team being called Alfa Romeo, the Sauber Group have been keen to maintain its engineering and technology business, highlighted by its wind tunnel facility. In 2021 the organisation was nearly sold to Michael Andretti, but main shareholder Finn Rausing was ultimately unwilling to let it go and opted to remain in charge.
Vasseur said “Alessandro has been an integral part of the growth of our company, on and off the track, in the last few years. I am excited about the contribution he will make in his new position. Few can match his knowledge of motorsports with that of business and the complex legal landscape in which we operate, and this makes Alessandro the right person for this challenge.”