F1 Today – 08/12/2020

F1 Today

Hamilton on track for Abu Dhabi return

Mercedes CEO and team principal Toto Wolff thinks Lewis Hamilton is “on the right track” to return in Abu Dhabi, but confesses he is in a “pretty ugly” situation.

Since the seven-times champion tested positive for Coronavirus little has been revealed about his condition, but he has to stay in self-isolation for at least ten days in the Kingdom before he will be allowed to travel to Abu Dhabi.

Although Hamilton has said nothing about his progress, his team boss Wolff has offered some insight into what the world champion is going through, as he suggests he is not having a great time being trapped in his hotel.

Hamilton needs to test negative tests in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi before having any hope of being able to return to the F1 paddock, but Wolff is optimistic that there is still time for that to happen.

Wolff during a media event hosted by Sky Germany. “It’s pretty ugly what he has gotten into.”

The imposition of strict coronavirus restrictions in Abu Dhabi this weekend, with the whole of F1 being put into a biosphere lockdown, makes the logistics of Hamilton travelling there much harder

Hamilton has a ten-day isolation in Bahrain which lasts until Thursday unless a wavier is given he faces a further forty-eight hours in Abu Dhabi. That would mean he could not be in the car until FP3 on Saturday morning.

Wolff also said that it was clear that Hamilton was far from happy about his situation, having been trapped well away from home.


Hamilton’s health improving

Lewis Hamilton has posted his first video message since he tested positive for coronavirus, saying he is back in training in the hope of returning for this weekend’s final race of the season in Abu Dhabi after experiencing one of his “hardest weeks”.

It is understood that the seven-time champion needs to test negative Covid-19 test to have a chance of participating. Hamilton, who was replaced by George Russell for last week’s Sakhir Grand Prix, remains in a period of isolation in his hotel in Bahrain, which ends on Thursday.

In a video posted on Twitter Hamilton said “I know I’ve not been in touch this past week but it’s definitely been one of the hardest weeks that I’ve had for some time. Just been focusing on recovering and trying to get back in shape so I can get back in the car and race the final race in Abu Dhabi.”

“I know I’ve not been in touch this past week but it’s been one of the hardest weeks that I’ve had for some time. Just been focusing on recovering and trying to get back in shape so I can get back in the car and race the final race in Abu Dhabi.”

Hamilton’s video message did not say he has tested negative, but he says he is feeling great and got back into training today. He became ill last Sunday and was retested on Monday.

Extensive protocols are being operated around F1’s Abu Dhabi race, with a ‘biosphere’ effectively in place on the Yas Island where the track is. As long as he takes part in qualifying he will be allowed to take part in the remainder of the weekend.

If Hamilton test positive on Thursday it has been confirmed Russell will replace him for the whole weekend, should Hamilton test negative by Thursday evening Stoffel Vandoorne will replace him for FP1 and FP2 with Hamilton returning for FP3 onwards.


Russell puts Mercedes in “difficult position moving forward”

George Russell says his near-perfect debut at the Sakhir Grand Prix has put Mercedes CEO and team principal Toto Wolff in a “difficult position moving forward” as he aims a full-time race seat, while the world champions’ boss said “a new star is born” and the “sky is the limit” for the young British driver.

Russell’s first race for Mercedes which he should have won, unravelled when the team accidentally fitted the wrong tyres on his car before a puncture cost him victory. he sent a powerful F1 message in Bahrain, dominating experienced team-mate Valtteri Bottas and twice getting himself into a race-winning position.

At the moment it appears that Hamilton will be returning in Abu Dhabi as he recovers from Coronavirus. Russell, telling Sky Sports F1 about “crying it out, hugging it out” and the “wise words” he had from family and Wolff after an emotional evening, is proud he has at least showcased his ability to Mercedes.

Russell added, “My mum couldn’t speak because I think she was probably in tears. So she put my dad on the phone and he was just like, you’ve got so much to be proud of, that was yours today. Likewise from Toto, he said you drove like a champion.”

“I think we all feel it, to be honest, it was almost a fairy tale. Hopefully, it puts Toto in a difficult position now moving forward… so if I’ve managed to achieve that that’s a little victory in itself.”

Bottas finished one place ahead of Russell, only because of his teammates double misfortunate. Russell has put himself in pole position for a Mercedes victory, before the team fitted Bottas’s tyres to his car, which is illegal, so they had to correct it.

Mercedes’ team principal insisted this was just the beginning of Russell’s journey.

Wolff said “It’s not going to be his last attempt to win a race, it’s just the beginning of a fairy tale that didn’t work out today. I would say a new star is born. I think Lewis is the absolute benchmark, that is what his record says. Nobody is anywhere near him, I believe.


Perez dream win

Sergio Perez says it felt like a dream after winning his first race in the Sakhir Grand Prix.

Having dropped to last on the first lap after contact with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, Perez found himself leading the race ahead of a Safety Car restart in the closing stages. Perez has benefitted from a huge mix-up by Mercedes at its pit-stop which took both George Russell and Valtteri Bottas out of contention.

When Russell suffered a puncher in the closing stages, Perez was able to cruise to his first win setting a new record a hundred and ninety races before taking a first win.

Perez said “I’m speechless. I hope I’m not dreaming because I’ve dreamt for so many years of being in this moment, ten years it took me – incredible.”

“I don’t know what to say. After the first lap, the race was again gone, same as last weekend. But it was about not giving up, recovering, going through it, just making the best we possibly could.”

The Mexican said that 2020 had not been lucky for Racing Point but finally luck had swung there way, Perez also believes on merit he had the pace to beat Russell.

Perez had been worried he might have to pit out of his leading position. “I made a big mistake during the safety car, I locked up my front left tyre badly.


Vettel has big shoes to fill – Brawn

Formula One motorsport and technical managing director Ross Brawn says four-times champion Sebastian Vettel now has big shoes to fill next season after Sergio Perez won Sunday’s Sakhir Grand Prix for Racing Point.

The German who has struggled this year will replace Perez next year, who Brawn believes is in the form of his life, the Mexican is fourth in the drivers’ standings after his first F1 win. He has no seat lined up for next year, however.

In his post-race debrief for F1.com, Brawn repeated his is view that it will be a ‘tragedy’ if Perez is not racing next season. He said, “The team must be thinking about the decisions they have made, losing him when he’s driving so well.”

“His replacement Sebastian Vettel I’m sure will come back stronger, as he’s in a bit of a trough at the moment, but Checo (Perez) is a guaranteed deal. So that’ll be interesting to see how that develops. In a way, Seb has some fairly big shoes to fill now, even if he’s a world champion.”

Brawn also praised George Russell who stood in for Lewis Hamilton, echoing his successor as Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, “I always thought he was a good Grand Prix driver.”

“But you never know if he has that last little bit of speed that marks you out as a brilliant driver. George demonstrated that he has got that extra little bit – and a star is born. There is now no doubt that he’s F1 world champion material.”


Sainz robbed of podium by safety car – Seidl

McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl says the late safety car in the Sakhir Grand Prix robbed Carlos Sainz the chance of a podium. Seidl says the Spaniard was “on the hunt” on fresh tyres and was not able to use the potential of the car over the last part of the race.

Sainz used the two-stop strategy to get through the race making a pit stop under the virtual safety car, which then was converted to a full safety car following Jack Aitken’s crash. Aitken’s crash helped those who had stayed on older rubber, and on long stints to the flag.

Seidl told Motorsport.com, “Obviously, how the race played out, it worked out for Esteban (Ocon) and Lance (Stroll). But I think they probably benefited also from the way the safety car came in, because this is where Carlos was on the hunt with the last set of tyres.”

“So I think it’s difficult to judge. We still need to analyse, if that would have made a difference in a normal race.”

Seidl doubts that Sainz would have been able to catch Sergio Perez, who he said was flying. He says the Mexican has shown what he can do when the car comes together and believes that McLaren’s race was with Stroll and Ocon.

He added, “Carlos did a great job, and together with the team, and I think we maximised everything we had in our hands, keeping Daniel [Ricciardo] and [Alex] Albon behind us.”

Seidl says McLaren doesn’t regret the strategy chosen as they could see the tyre degradation was lower than expected. But the two-stop strategy was the faster, and without the safety car, McLaren could have been in the hunt for victory.

From a back-of-the-grid start, Sainz’s teammate Lando Norris could not improve on the tenth place he reached on lap one on a day when big points were available.

On Norris’s race he said, “We still need to analyse why where I think after a good first lap when he was in P10, he simply couldn’t go the same pace as Carlos did.”

“So we’re still investigating what the reason for that was. In the end, obviously disappointing for us, especially with our main competitors being able to score that many points.”


W Series to support eight races

W Series has announced it eight-race support calendar for 2021 starting with the French Grand Prix at the end of June and all the races until the Dutch Grand Prix in September, as well as the United States and Mexican Grands Prix.

The Coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of its 2020 season. W Series aim to help women progress up the motorsport ladder and eventually break into Formula One where no female has raced in 44 years.

Six of the races provisionally scheduled are in Europe before the final two rounds at the United States and Mexico City Grand Prix. The European leg includes the French, Austrian, British, Hungarian, Belgian and Dutch Grands Prix.

The Spa and Austin races are provisional as they clash with Extreme E for races in Greenland’s Arctic and Brazilian Amazon. The F1 calendar also remains provisional due to the pandemic and has not been signed off by the World Motorsport Council.

Founder and chief executive Catherine Bond Muir in a statement “W Series’ mission will always be to further the interests and prospects of female racing drivers, and to inspire girls and women everywhere.”

“Our 2021 race schedule in partnership with Formula One will significantly increase our global reach, impact and influence by placing W Series on motor racing’s greatest stage and taking us to new audiences and territories.”


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