Bottas in “no rush” to agree a new deal
Valtteri Bottas says he is in “no rush” to discuss a new contract with Mercedes beyond the end of this year. The Finn is entering his fifth season with the team who he helped to win the constructors championship.
Bottas has always been re-signed on a one-year rolling contract and with teammate Sir Lewis Hamilton also out of contract at the end of the year, Mercedes has maximum flexibility when it comes to drivers for next year.
Following a protracted negotiation period over his 2019 contract, Bottas said last year that he wanted a quick resolution to talks, with a new deal for 2021 being announced in early August. Going into this season he says he is in no hurry to renew the deal knowing Mercedes
Going into the new season, Bottas said he was in no hurry to open talks over a deal for 2022, acknowledging the advantage the team has by keeping two seats free. Speaking at the team’s launch last week Bottas said, “I’m honestly in no rush for that.”
Adding, “I kind of get it. If the team has the opportunity for the big change coming in 2022, to have options, to choose both of their drivers, I think it’s good for the team. But yeah, honestly, from my side, no rush really. I’m just full gas for the season, and trying to get to my goals. Eventually, it will be a talking point. Not quite yet.”
Bottas’s future is set to be one of the sub-plots in the 2022 driver market as Mercedes considers its driver line up. Bottas, Hamilton and junior driver George Russell, who filled in for Hamilton at the Sakhir Grand Prix after he contracted coronavirus.
The Finn has failed to beat Hamilton in the four seasons they have been teammates, he admits that it would be “disappointing” if he never got the better of his teammate over a season.
Saying, “Of course, in a way, it would be disappointing, because I’ve been teammates with Lewis now several years, and obviously every year that is the goal. But what would be more disappointing is if I look back and realise things that I could have done better or I should have put more effort.”
Bottas says he doesn’t want to leave at the end of the year, but if he maximises his results this season he would be happy. But that doesn’t necessarily mean beating Hamilton, his focus will be on this season.
Leclerc says he completely recovered from coronavirus
Charles Leclerc says he has spent more time with Ferrari preparing for this season and is completely recovered from coronavirus. In January while on a trip to Dubai the Monacan revealed he had caught the virus but managed to recover by the end of the month.
The Monegasque driver is entering his third season with Ferrari after leading its campaign in 2020, scoring two podium finishes and close to triple the points of team-mate Sebastian Vettel. He still believes he has plenty of room for improvement and has spent a sizeable amount of time with Ferrari at its Maranello base during the off-season to work on those areas.
Leclerc told Autosport, “I think I’ve never been as in Ferrari as much as this season before the actual start of the season. We’ve also been doing quite a bit of tests with the old car, so I feel very ready. I’ve been working in a similar way as I’ve done in the past, trying to understand what were my weaknesses last year.”
“I still believe that tyre management is something I shall push. I’ve improved massively last year, and I hope that will be another step this year. That’s what I’ve done basically, trying to look at past races, trying to understand what could we have done better as a team, as myself, in the car, and yeah, try to improve on [tyre management] especially.”
Leclerc also took part in tests using the 2018 car as well as a Pirelli tyre test using a 2019 mule car to test the eighteen-inch tyres to help develop the new tyres for 2022.
He will get a first extended run in Ferrari’s new car, the SF21, at the start of pre-season testing in Bahrain later this week, two weeks before the start of the new season.
The Ferrari driver is one of six drivers who has contracted the virus since the start of the pandemic last March. The severity of the virus has differed between the group, with some being harder hit than others.
Leclerc believes that he has fully recovered from the virus, after undergoing tests to ensure his fitness was at its regular levels ahead of the new season.
Lance Stroll said last week that he “underestimated” the impact COVID-19 had on his season last year after becoming ill ahead of the Eifel Grand Prix, and that it took time to get completely over it.
Alonso is in his “best shape” and “completely fit”
Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi says that two times champion Fernando Alonso is in his “best shape” and “completely fit” for testing this weekend despite the injuries he suffered in a cycling accident last month.
The Spaniard is returning to the sport following a two-year break to the team where he won both his titles. However, his preparations suffered a set back in February when he was involved in a collision with a car while training in Switzerland, hospitalised with a fractured upper jaw.
Alonso missed the team’s launch last week, with the team and himself insist he is recovering well from his surgery and will be ready for a crucial three days of testing in Bahrain, starting this Friday.
In a video message Alonso said, “I feel great and in the best shape I’ve ever been before both physically and mentally,” said Alonso, 39, who appeared at his team’s launch via video link.
Rossi then confirmed to reporters: “Fernando is doing very well. He had a bad accident. A bike accident is rarely something that goes easy, but he was lucky and he ended up only suffering from his jaw. So besides the necessary surgery and care, the rest is totally fine. Fernando is completely fit. He is totally operational.”
Throughout his career, Alonso has been described as “extremely motivated” and “quite demanding” ahead of his return to the sport. The timing of his return co-insides with next years regulation changes, with Alpine racing director Davide Brivio, says Alonso “could have had a golden series, but he wanted to get back to the most competitive environment and compete against some of the new talents coming up”.
Brivio says that in the conversations he has had with the Spaniard he comes across as a very normal guy, who is extremely motivated and willing to put it all together to get the best out of the car and team. He admits Alonso can be demanding, but that was the type of driver the team needs.
Saying “yes he’s quite demanding, but that’s what I like. We need this type of driver that’s really keen to put everything together to try to get the maximum.”
Renault welcomes engine freeze but fast tracks upgrades
Renault’s engine director Remi Taffin has welcomed the engine freeze which will be introduced next year, saying they can fast track some of its original plans for 2023. Last month the teams agreed to freeze engine development on the current power units are introduced in 2025.
That decision allowed Red Bull to set up its own power unit division and purchase the intellectual property of its current engine supplied by Honda ahead of there departure at the end of the season.
Renault, Ferrari and Mercedes have welcomed the move as it cuts cost but they are busy working now finalising there plans ahead of the freeze which comes into force at the opening race of next season.
Speaking to Motorsport.com about the impact of the freeze on its plans, Taffin revealed it was able to bring forward its 2023 changes to the start of next year when the freeze comes into force.
Taffin said, “The ’21 engine was not actually driven by what’s happening in ’22 or ’23. The decision we have made back in 2020 was driven by the fact that we would actually put everything on ’22, having in mind that we would have another revolution in 23.
“We could make the best out of the new baseline we had for ’22, which is now not the case anymore, because we haven’t got ’23. But actually we’re quite happy. We can have actually a big push for ’22, so we are even pushing further forwards some of the evolution we had in ’23 into ’22.”
A few weeks ago it was revealed that the French manufacturer was considering a switch to Mercedes’ concept of a split turbo and compressor on its power unit for 2022, which has delayed the introduction of a new design to next year.
Only Alpine will race with Renault power units this year after McLaren’s switch to Mercedes engines at the end of last year.
This year’s upgrade is the developments intended to be introduced during last year, however because of the pandemic teams were banned from introducing them.
Taffin added “So it’s more of an evolution that we would have in season at races rather than over winter. And obviously, we had then put our focus on ’22, but at the same time we did over the winter the validation of our ’21 engine, which is an evolution of last year one.”
Vettel says he has nothing to prove
Sebastian Vettel says he feels he has nothing to prove to critics who wrote him off after a difficult final year with Ferrari, saying he is “not interested in what people think.”
The four-time world champion had a disappointing 2020 season with Ferrari where he finished thirteenth in the championship, scoring barely a third of teammate Charles Leclerc. Ferrari had informed Vettel before the delayed start to the season that he would not be retained for 2021, prompting the German driver to sign with Aston Martin.
Vettel’s performance last season led to more questions over his ability compared to his championship-winning years, the rest of the current F1 grid, and whether he still had what it took to compete at the highest level. At the launch of Aston Martin’s 2021 car last week he made he said he was not interested in how he was viewed or what his legacy would be, instead preferring to focus on his own performances with his new team.
Vettel said, “I’m not interested in what people think. It’s more about making a point to the team, to myself, rather than the people. Our world is moving very fast, and the world has to move on fast and quickly, which is healthy and good.”
“Otherwise you will always be stuck in the past and you will still say Juan Manuel Fangio is the lord and saviour of all racing drivers. No doubt he was very, very special. But if you ask a 15-year-old now who is Juan Manuel Fangio, I don’t think they know.”
The German says that time will move on and that Fangio probably will have a longer legacy than anyone. Vettel also believes that when he does retire the will be “forgotten very quickly, and that’s OK. I think that’s healthy.” This is why he believes there isn’t a not a need for him to prove a point.
Aston Martin has expressed confidence in helping Vettel rediscover his best form, believing the AMR21 car can suit his driving style. The team is already impressed with how he is gelling with his new crew and surroundings.
Vettel’s driving style less extreme than Perez
Aston Martin has no concerns that it can get its 2021 car to suit Sebastian Vettel’s driving style as they believe he has a less extreme driving style than Sergio Perez. The four-times champion is replacing Perez following his difficult final season with Ferrari.
Vettel finished thirteenth in the championship for Ferrari, scoring just one podium and barely one-third of teammate Charles Leclerc’s points total. Recurring errors by Vettel in recent years led to questions about how much Ferrari’s cars suited his driving style, which has been said to be dependent on a stable rear end or whether he was simply passed his best.
The teams technical director Andrew Green told Motorsport.com there were no concerns about accommodating Vettel with its new AMR21 car, believing his driving style is not as extreme as that of Perez.
Green said that Vettel “does have his own personal driving style, but that’s no different to the driving styles that we’ve seen from other drivers. I’d say [it’s] not as extreme as the driver he is replacing, who had a very extreme driving style which was very difficult to get right at all tracks. It shone at certain tracks and didn’t at others.
“I think Seb’s style is a lot less extreme. And we have the tools and capability to tune the car to suit him for sure. We’ve already started working on that. We’ve been working on that for the last month in the simulator. And he seems very happy with the directions that we’ve taken. So, yeah, no problems there.”
Vettel had his first taste of the car in a shakedown at Silverstone last week, ahead of the start of testing on Friday in Sakhir.
While Vettel was curious to see the concept of Aston Martin, he moved to dispel the myth surrounding his need for a stable rear end. Vettel said, “I think the whole rear end thing has got a little bit out of hand. If you look at the cars that I had when I was at Red Bull, or the beginning of Ferrari, I think there’s always been times where the rear was nervous, and that’s OK.”
“I don’t think I’m more vulnerable than the others in this regard. If anything, I don’t like when the car is really just understeery, because at least with the oversteer, you can do plenty of things.”
He says that he prefers a car that is a bit looser and has understeer because there are more driving techniques.
Williams wont sacrifice brand for sponsorship
Williams CEO Jost Capito says the team will not sacrifice the brand of the team to chase the “last drop of sponsor money” following its takeover by Dorilton Capital. Last week the team unveiled a striking new livery adopting different shades of blue along with orange and white.
The design of the FW43B, however, did have a reduction in visible sponsors on the car, leaving a significant amount of blank space on the car. Capito has now reviled that decision was deliberate with the team wanting to strengthen its own identity and display new owner Dorilton’s commitment to the brand.
Capito Explained, “It gives a flavour of our new direction and our long-term ambition, and it also signals that the Williams brand will be a focus going forward. Williams Racing is one of the most famous and recognisable names in F1, or indeed in motorsport worldwide, and we believe it is one of our most valuable assets.”
“Over the coming months, you will see how we will develop and invest in the Williams brand for the long term. It is an approach that has the full backing of Dorilton and takes preference over chasing the last drop of sponsor money.”
He says that the future is the team only partnering with brands that share the same vision, and that strategy was already attracting partners and negotiations going forward. Capito says there will be announcements in due course.
US investment fund Dorilton completed its takeover of Williams last August, helping secure its finances and bring a much-needed injection of cash to the team. The team has finished bottom of the constructors for the last three seasons, but 2020 saw an upswing in performance.
Capito explained how Dorilton was already fully supporting Williams’ required expansion for the future, even going beyond his expectations.
Saying “I can confirm that Dorilton has already invested a lot since they started and since they got the ownership, and they are continuing to do this. If we come up with potential performance improvement measures, what we can do, we get the full support from Dorilton and this is absolutely fantastic.”