Questions about delay in deploying safety car
Charles Leclerc, Sebastian Vettel and Carlos Sainz Jr have all raised concerns about the delay in deploying the safety car following Max Verstappen’s crash in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
The tyre failure which caused the Red Bull driver to spin and crash at one of the fastest parts of the circuit led to the red flag, following the use of double-waved yellow flags and a safety car. However, when most of the drivers passed the crash for the first time the safety car had not been deployed.
Leclerc explained after the race that he was still uncertain why it took race control so long to neutralise the race. He “I was just surprised there was not a safety car earlier, that’s why I raised my concerns on the radio.
“Because for me, it was clear I would stop pushing with a crash like this. It’s in the middle of a straight, so it’s quite dangerous. It just took longer than what I expected, that’s it. But I think all the drivers have been surprised the same way.”
The Ferrari driver said that he will bring it up and ask race director Michael Masi “why it took a bit longer than normal.”
Leclerc’s Ferrari teammate Sainz was also concerned by the delay. Adding “Normally when there is such a big accident, first there is a double yellow, and then straightaway seconds after there is a safety car. I think it was 30 seconds, one minute, for the safety car to be deployed, and we had to go through a very heavy accident in only yellow flag conditions.”
Vettel added “I was wondering a little bit why it took so long when Max had the shunt, for the safety car to come out. It was quite clear that he was standing in the middle of the track and it took a little bit long but we will see. We will find out why.”
Pirelli believes tyre failures cause by debris
Pirelli says it believes that the tyre failures for Lance Stroll and Max Verstappen were caused by debris, but are not drawing full conclusions until it completes its full investigation.
Both Lance Stroll and Max Verstappen walked away from two separate 200mph accidents caused by left rear tyre failure on their cars. Verstappen’s crash with two laps to go resulted in the race believed the failures were not caused by excessive wear as neither of the tyres from the cars involved had unusually low tread depth at the point of failure.
Pirelli motorsport director Mario Isola said, “I believe I can exclude that failures were due to tyre wear, because it is not a matter of tyre wear. We found a cut on the inside shoulder of the rear left tyre used by Hamilton in the same stint.”
“The cut was quite deep and big — probably 6-7 cm — but not cutting the construction, so the tyre was still in one piece. Just the tread is cut [on Hamilton’s tyre], and when there was the red flag and Lewis came to the pit lane and changed the tyres we were able to find the cut.”
“The left rear is not the most stressed in Baku, as talking about the tyres it is obviously rear right [that is most stressed].”
Isola said the debris theory was backed up by the nature of the failures, which happened suddenly and with no warning from tyre pressure sensors on the cars. Following the race, Christian Horner told the media there was no warning on the telemetry, which could suggest a bad batch.
But Isola said he would make the findings public, which would need time to understand and that he would not give an answer on preliminary conclusion. The theory on cuts has been backed up because the failures, as well as the cut on Hamilton’s tyres backed up the theory.
Mercedes “destroyed” by Baku
Mercedes CEO and team principal Toto Wolff said he and Lewis Hamilton are “destroyed” by the way their Azerbaijan Grand Prix unravelled on Sunday. Following Max Verstappen’s crash and the following red flag, Hamilton went straight on into the first corner after the restart finishing sixteenth, while teammate Valtteri Bottas was twelfth.
Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez went on to take victory, meaning Red Bull now have a twenty-six point lead in the constructor’s championship. Wolff said the result was hard to take, saying “Both of us are destroyed, to be honest. For him obviously, as a driver, you have it, it’s so close, and then it’s all gone.”
“We just need to be the best, the best of us, and the best that we have. And we haven’t given the drivers a competitive package this weekend. It’s been far from a competitive package”
“It is not only the incident at the end, that frustrates. It’s overall not meeting our own expectations. All of us together: Lewis, the engineers, myself, everybody in the team.” Baku was the first time in the hybrid era that Mercedes have had two races where they have failed to finish on the podium.
Asked if these were the hardest weeks of F1 he could remember, Wolff said: “Yeah, they are the toughest. Because not having performance in Monaco, and Valtteri, who would have made it solid on the podium, needing a pitstop of 36 hours, is not really a great achievement, based on the standards that we’re setting ourselves.”
Bottas confused by Baku slump
Valtteri Bottas says he was confused by his “weird” lack of pace in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. The Mercedes team struggled on Friday, and while teammate Sir Lewis Hamilton managed to turn it around and find pace in both qualifying and the race, but Bottas was never able to recover.
The Finn only managing tenth in qualifying before dropping to fourteenth at the red flag, eventually finishing twelfth after Hamilton went off on the restart and a penalty for Nicolas Latifi moved him up two places. The difficult Baku race came immediately after a disastrous outing for Bottas in Monaco, where an issue with a stuck wheel forced him to retire in the pits.
when asked by Motorsport.com about the cause of his disappointing race, Bottas said, “It was actually quite similar feeling to yesterday and also Friday. Really the main issue was lack of pace and just not being quick enough.”
“Today quite early on in the race I could see that I just didn’t match the cars ahead, especially when one of the Aston Martins was ahead of me, I just couldn’t keep up. I’m confused, and it’s really weird.”
Vettel hoping for momentum following Baku
Sebastian Vettel is hoping that his second-place finish in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix can help the team build momentum after a “very rough start” to 2021. The four-time champion has struggled to adapt to Aston Martin’s car, failing to score points in his first four races for the team.
Monaco however appeared to be his breakthrough where he finished fifth, but in Baku, he battled his way from eleventh to start fourth at the first restart. Vettel then passed former teammate Charles Leclerc gaining third, followed by Pierre Gasly following the red flag and when Sir Lewis Hamilton went straight on inherited second.
Following the race, the German said “I didn’t have many expectations, to be honest. I knew that the whole weekend I felt good, so I knew we could score some points, but I certainly didn’t expect second and the race was really strong.”
“Obviously I’m very happy with P2 and [for] the team, I think it’s great for us. We had a very rough start to the season. We expected quite a bit more after such a strong year the team had last year. I can’t wait to get back to have a couple of drinks with the guys.”
Last season when the team was called Racing Point, they had been regularly fighting at the front of the field and even won a race in Sakhir, this season, the team has dropped into the midfield behind Alpha Tauri. It looks as if they have been the team most affected by the minor regulation changes.
Vettel’s second-place marked his best finish since Mexico 2019, as well as matching his best result in Baku in 2016. He says that he took enjoyment out of fighting for positions further up the field, sensing there was a big opportunity for the team as he gradually rose through the field.
On Thursday he had said that he remains in F1 to win, following the race which he enjoyed he feels they are getting closer to that position. Vettel says he was comfortable in the car and hopes to carry the momentum into Paul Ricard.
McLaren shareholder Ojjeh dies aged sixty-eight
Mansour Ojjeh a major shareholder in McLaren death was announced on Sunday at the age of sixty-eight. The Saudi billionaire brought into McLaren in 1984 and became a driving force in their huge success alongside his former business partner Ron Dennis.
A statement from McLaren said the team “mourn his loss with deep sadness”.
Ojjeh maintained a low-profile public persona but was instrumental in McLaren successes over a lengthy period. He stepped down from the boards of the team and the wider McLaren Group being replaced by his son Sultan.
During his three and a half decades the team won ten drivers’ titles, with Niki Lauda, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Mika Häkkinen and Lewis Hamilton, and nine constructors’ championships, through engine partnerships with Porsche, Honda and Mercedes.
Ojjeh was a key player in the coup which ousted his former business partner and team principal Ron Dennis in 2016-17. The two former friends had fallen out some years before over a personal matter.
McLaren Racing chief executive officer Zak Brown said: “Mansour was a true racer in every sense. Ultra-competitive, determined, passionate and, above all, perhaps his defining characteristic: sporting. No matter the intensity of the battle, Mansour always put sport first.”
“Mansour was a titan of our sport, yet modest, unassuming and disarming to all he encountered. His easy manner, sharp wit and warm humour touched all those who were fortunate to know him.”
A statement from Mercedes CEO Toto Wolff and chair of parent company Ola Kallenius said: “Mansour was a business icon with a deep passion for racing. Together with Ron Dennis at McLaren, he set a new benchmark for how a Formula One team could be run, and Mercedes enjoyed iconic moments together with them over many years of partnership.
Ojjeh first became involved in F1 with Williams in 1983, before being convinced by Dennis to team up with McLaren, who went on to win the following years constructors championship. It was the start of a series of waves of success in which McLaren intermittently dominated the sport.
Prost went on to win the 1985 and 1986 championships, before the team switched to Honda engines from 1988 and started a new era of domination following the signing of Senna.
Further titles came in 1998 and 1999 with Häkkinen, and in 2008 with Hamilton.
Domenicali hopeful after four races without Covid case
F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali has good news as the sport marks its fourth Grand Prix without a positive test for Coronavirus, believing that the measures put in place to protect the sport are protecting the business.
In a wide-ranging interview with the BBC, he has spoken about his first six months in the job, which has been full of dramas off and on track. At the last four races one case has been reported, four in Monaco, of the virus which is encouraging as the pandemic continues.
He aims to keep the calendar at least twenty-three races, despite the cancellation of two races, because that has been promised. That remains a huge challenge with several races facing difficulties, currently two have been cancelled outright and China hasn’t yet been rescheduled for later in the year.
He told BBC News, “t is proving that what we are doing is really something unique, and if you consider the massive number of people involved in F1, it gives a sense of the dimension of the effort we are making to protect our business.
“We are proving that, despite the logistical complexities, we are moving around being safe, not creating any problems with the communities we are visiting, and guaranteeing the business we are involved in.”
F1 still reported one Covid case at each of the Portuguese, Spanish and Azerbaijan races, and four in Monaco.
The races which are most at risks are Japan, Mexico City, Sao Paulo and Australia, all due to take place in October and November. The options for replacing them are the postponed races in Shanghai and Istanbul and a second Austin race or somewhere in America.
Domenicali says Japan decision could come less than a month before October’s race after the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Whereas Melbourne will have more information at the end of the month, but there were serval options on the table.
F1 is still convinced, though, of the need to shake up the format in a bid to add new, younger audiences while not alienating established fans, Domenicali says.
Hence the introduction this year at three events of ‘sprint qualifying’, a shorter race on Saturday afternoons to decide the grid for the main Grand Prix. The first of these will be at the British Grand Prix next month.
If it proves popular and effective, Domenicali would like to expand the number of races run in a new way next year. The idea is to create a small number of events that can be, as he puts it, “highlighted or given more value”.
He suggested that these formats could only be used at races that reach the biggest global audience, and that historical races could have their own formats. But says there is no final decision on the formats, and no magic solution.