Albon joins Williams as a replacement for Russell
Alex Albon will replace George Russell at Williams, following the British driver’s promotion to Mercedes. The British-Thai driver lost his race seat with Red Bull at the end of 2020 when he was replaced by Sergio Perez, this year he remained the team’s reserve driver.
The team have also announced that Canadian Nicholas Latifi will stay with the team for a third consecutive season. Albon, made his debut with Red Bull’s second team Toro Rosso in 2019, before being promoted to the senior team mid-way through the season in a swap with Pierre Gasly.
However, he was replaced for 2021 by Perez before spending a year racing in DTM. Albon said: “I am really excited and looking forward to returning to a Formula One race seat in 2022. When you take a year out of F1, it’s never certain you will make a return.
“I’m extremely thankful to Red Bull and Williams for believing in me and helping me on my journey back to the grid. It’s also been great to see all the progress Williams have been making as a team this year and I look forward to helping them continue that journey in 2022.”
Latifi, who is in his second season in F1, said: “The team is moving in a more competitive direction with new owners, management and people on the technical side. I’ve felt at home here since the day I arrived, and I think I’m in the right place to continue with my positive trajectory.”
Williams team principal Jost Capito said, “Alex is one of the most exciting young talents in motorsport. Yet he comes with a large amount of F1 experience from his time at Red Bull.”
Horner believes there is a tenth between Red Bull & Mercedes
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes there is currently one-tenth of a second separating title rivals Red Bull and Mercedes’ outright performance as both prepare for the championship run-in.
Max Verstappen’s victory at the Dutch Grand Prix returned him to the top of the driver’s championship, which he currently leads Lewis Hamilton by three points. Less than four-hundredths of a second between the two championship contenders in qualifying.
Red Bull have won seven of the last nine races, while Mercedes has scored just one victory in the same period, coming at the British Grand Prix in July following Hamilton and Verstappen’s first-lap crash.
Hamilton said after the race that Red Bull appeared to be “a step ahead” at the moment, but Horner felt it was still “massively tight” with Mercedes. Speaking after Zandvoort, Horner told Motorsport.com, we’re “qualifying within a tenth. We seem to have a tenth, maybe two-tenths advantage in the race I would say at this venue.
“There are going to be circuits that suit Mercedes and there’ll be circuits that suit us I think over the next phase of this championship. So we need to make sure we grab every opportunity. Today we did that, under massive pressure but it was great to get our eighth win of the year.”
Mercedes CEO and team principal Toto Wolff agreed that the margins with Red Bull are fine, pointing out Verstappen, Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were the only cars to finish on the lead lap.
He added “You can see between the teams, there is just nothing in-between. The first three cars lapped everybody else, and that shows the level that is necessary to deploy in order to win these championships.”
Wolff thought the advantage between Red Bull and Mercedes would swing back and forth “circuit by circuit” through the remainder of the year. Saying “We just need to be on our A-game all the time.”
Kubica to race at Monza for Alfa Romeo
Robert Kubica will race for Alfa Romeo once again at the Italian Grand Prix after stepping in at Zandvoort after Kimi Raikkonen tested positive for coronavirus. Alfa Romeo announced on Saturday morning ahead of final practice for the Dutch Grand Prix that Raikkonen had tested positive, ruling him out of the remainder of the weekend.
Reserve driver Kubica replaced him for the rest of the weekend and finished fifteenth. Raikkonen has returned home to Switzerland but has not been given the go-ahead to return to racing.
A statement released on Wednesday evening said, “Alfa Romeo Racing can confirm that reserve driver, Robert Kubica, will continue to deputise for Kimi Raikkonen at this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix.
“Kimi missed last week’s race in Zandvoort after testing positive to COVID-19 and has not yet been cleared for a return to racing. As per health authority requirements, he is still isolating in his home.”
For the Polish driver, it will mark his first full race weekend since Abu Dhabi 2019, when he ended his comeback season with Williams before linking up as Alfa Romeo’s reserve for the following year.
Kubica also scored his first F1 podium at Monza back in 2006 with BMW Sauber, the team that has since evolved into Alfa Romeo. The Pole said after the race at Zandvoort last Sunday that he would be “much better prepared” for Monza if he got the call to replace Raikkonen again.
However, he faces a difficult challenge with only an hour of practice ahead of qualifying on Friday evening because of the sprint qualifying weekend format at Monza.
Kubica said last Sunday. “I was told yesterday that I’m also a bit unlucky, because it’s a different format. What I need is a time in the car before going to quali and if I have to race in Monza, there will be one hour free practice. So again, in case if it’s happening it will not be easy one, but I think I showed today that I use my head.”
Ricciardo says he nearly triggered an aborted start
Daniel Ricciardo says he learned a lesson when a clutch issue on the grid at the Dutch Grand Prix, nearly caused him to trigger an aborted start. The Australian had a problem with the right-hand clutch paddle that he normally uses, and was only able to get going after the team told him to switch to the unfamiliar left.
The McLaren driver says the incident will lead him to practice more with the left paddle in case a similar situation happens again. All F1 steering wheels have a twin-clutch paddle system, with the drivers always using one side except in exceptional circumstances.
Onboard footage from Sunday’s race shows that after he stopped on the grid and realising that he had a problem Ricciardo frantically tried various controls on the wheel before waving his left arm to warn officials that he had a problem, a signal that could have led to a delayed start.
Ricciardo “I can’t get first gear…it went into anti-stall.”
Tom Stallard “left-hand launch, left-hand launch.”
Having stopped waving Ricciardo was then able to get away safely when the lights went out. Speaking to Motorsport.com, the Australian described it as “stressful.
Explaining, “We have two clutch paddles, and you have your preferred one, and obviously if you’re right-handed, you probably choose the right hand to do a start. And that one chose not to work. So I was on the grid stressing because it wasn’t engaging.”
“So I thought I had a gearbox problem. I was waving my hands thinking I’d have to get pulled off the grid. And then I tried the left one, pulled first and it worked. So I was trying to figure out how to do a start with my left hand. I was prepared for a pretty poor start.”
Ricciardo admitted that maybe he needed to practice it more, saying he is used to doing it with his left hand.
Todt takes responsibility for Spa controversy
FIA president Jean Todt has taken personal responsibility for not ensuring there are not “clearer protocols” in the regulations when races are cancelled. The debate follows the Belgian Grand Prix, which ran for two laps behind the safety car following a lengthy delay due to bad weather, then was abandoned with pole man Max Verstappen the winner.
The top ten finishes were given half points after the minimum distance was met within the regulations, however, it’s not specified that they have to be under green flag conditions. The only change from the top ten on the original grid was the absence of Sergio Perez, who dropped to the back after a pre-race crash.
The awarding of points divided opinions across the sport and is now set to be reviewed and discussed at the next F1 Commission meeting currently scheduled to be held in Istanbul on 05th October.
Todt admits that the FIA should have been better prepared for a race lost to bad weather, despite Spa being the first time in the history of the sport that this situation has arisen.
The Frenchman told Motorsport.com, “I mean, the only thing I blame myself for is that we knew it will happen. So as we knew, maybe we should have had a clearer protocol. But otherwise, why did it happen? Because the cars are wider, more downforce, probably not enough testing with extreme wet tyres. And then perception [visibility].
“It’s impossible in a circuit like Spa. Can you imagine if we would have said, ‘OK let’s go.’ First, second or third lap we would have taken the risk of having fifteen cars hitting each other, and we don’t want that. We want racing with rain, but at the moment we don’t have the ingredients to race under those conditions.”
Todt stress there was a genuine attempt to try to run a race and says the weather forecast made them think that there could have been a race, the two laps behind the safety car were not to qualify the event for points. Saying “The second attempt was because we had a weather forecast which could allow us to think that it could be possible.”
Regarding the points controversy he said: “So it’s still a race weekend, and as it is a race weekend, we must distribute points. So what is the way? You follow the regulations. Maybe we need to think that in such a case, then you will take different consequences from the result of qualification. So that we will see what to do.”
Vettel speaks about LGBTQ+ rights stance
Sebastian Vettel has opened up on his decision to wear a Pride shirt in support of the LGBTQ+ community at the Hungarian Grand Prix. The four-time champion stood on the grid ahead of the race in protest of new anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.
Speaking to the BBC alongside Aston Martin’s communications director Matt Bishop, who is gay, Vettel said he hopes the gestures help change mindsets in Formula One. He said, “If I can be an inspiration, that’s great, but in the end, the whole environment has to be inviting. So if small things like what I did help to raise awareness and express support, that’s great.”
“But we have to stop judging people on what they like to do and who they love. We should be seeing the people first, and everyone is different and everyone has a beauty about them. Let’s just treat people the way we want to treat them, equally, and not based on who they love.”
Ahead of the race Vettel and Lewis Hamilton had condemned the actions saying “Everyone is free to do what they want and that is the point. We have had so many opportunities to learn in the past.” While Hamilton called the laws “unacceptable, cowardly and misguided.”
Speaking about the “Same Love” message he wore on the shirt, Vettel said: “It’s the name of a beautiful song by Macklemore, and I think it explains in a nice way some of the wrong perceptions people have.
Vettel says that it doesn’t matter your skin colour, background, where you come from and who you fall in love with, everyone wants equal treatment.
Speaking about the strong political statement ahead of a race until Vettel in Budapest. The Aston Martin driver said he was pleased to do it and told the media he would happily do it again. Adding “I wasn’t nervous or embarrassed by the rainbow colours, or of what people think. I wanted to send a message, and I was very proud to do it.”
Mazepin has “no problems” with Schumacher
Nikita Mazepin says he has “no problems” with Haas teammate Mick Schumacher after tensions flared between the two drivers at the Dutch Grand Prix. Mazepin and Schumacher had run-ins on both Saturday and Sunday as they fought for track position, team principal Gunther Steiner to plan talks ahead of Monza this weekend.
The Russian was annoyed with Schumacher, claiming that he broke the team’s agreement by passing him on-track ahead of their final qualifying laps on Saturday, spoiling his session. Schumacher said he had received permission from the team to overtake Mazepin.
On Sunday, it was Schumacher who felt aggrieved after Mazepin made a late defensive move on him on the main straight at the end of the opening lap, forcing Schumacher to back out at the last moment, but he still picked up front wing damaged.
Schumacher said Mazepin “ruined my race” and admitted afterwards that his relationship with his team-mate had “room for improvement”. But Mazepin felt the incident at Zandvoort would have no bearing on his relationship with Schumacher, as it had “been the same exactly from the beginning of the year”, recognising there “has been some tension”.
Following the race, the Russian told Motorsport.com,” “But for me, I really don’t care so much who I’m fighting with. I’m doing it respectfully, and I’m not going to give any more than I should.”
Asked if there were any problems between him and Schumacher, Mazepin replied: “No problems, but I want to be in front.”
Steiner met with Schumacher and Mazepin after the team’s post-race engineering briefing to talk about what happened, and said they would “meet before Monza to see what we need to do to avoid this in future”.
The team has always been open about this year being what they describe as a ‘transition year,’ opting to focus on next years regulation changes can see the team return to the midfield, and allow its all-rookie line-up to settle into F1.
But Steiner disagreed that it was a good thing the tensions between his rookie drivers were arising now, saying there was “never a good time to go through this”.
Adding, “But I’ve been there before, we will sort it and I think the timing, I’d rather have it now than next year, to be honest. We are in a position where at least we’ve got a little bit of time to sort it still.”