Mercedes reshuffles technical department
Mercedes has announced a reshuffle of its F1 technical department, with technical director James Allison set to move into a new role and step away from day-to-day responsibilities. Allison will move into the role of Chief Technical Officer from 1st July and will take charge of longer-term strategic planning.
Allison will be replaced as technical director by the team’s current technology director Mike Elliot who joined the team in 2012 as head of aerodynamics before moving to the technology director role in 2017.
Elliot has previously worked for Renault and McLaren, before joining Mercedes as head of aerodynamics before becoming technology director. The German manufacturer has made it clear this change is part of its long term plan ahead of the regulation change next year, rather than being anything related to the performance of its current car.
CEO and team principal Toto Wolff said that the team was happy to keep Allison on board with his contract as technical director was due to come to an end this year. Saying, “Since joining Mercedes in 2017, James has been an exceptional technical leader for our team, and he has made an enormous contribution to our performance: he combines huge passion and determination with detailed expertise and exceptional moral character.”
“We have known for a while that his time as technical director would be coming to an end this year and I am delighted that we have been able to shape this new role to keep him within our motorsport family; he will be an important sparring partner for me in the next years and I know that we still have much to achieve together.”
Allison added that he felt it was the right time for him to move into a new position, rather than stay on and prevent others being able to grow. Adding, “I firmly believe that people have a shelf life in senior roles in this sport, and I have chosen to step away from my role as technical director in order to pass on the baton at the right time for the organisation and myself.”
McLaren “not miles away” from Mercedes
Lando Norris believes that McLaren is “not miles away” from Mercedes and Red Bull and expects a season-long battle with Ferrari and Alpha Tauri for third. The British team finished third in the constructors and has set itself the target of retaining third in the constructors’ championship.
While Norris and teammate Daniel Ricciardo qualified sixth and seventh respectively in Bahrain, behind a Ferrari and an AlphaTauri, Norris worked his way up to fourth as the highest finisher not driving for one of the two top teams.
Asked by Motorsport.com, if he thought the opening race of the season confirmed McLaren as midfield leaders, Norris said it’s “hard to say” if the team is best of the rest but was encouraged by the fact that McLaren is closer to Red Bull and Mercedes than last year.
He told Motorsport.com, “We’re close, we’re not miles away from Mercedes and Red Bull comparing to last season. I think we’ve closed the gap quite a bit and hopefully at some tracks close it even more. It’s hard to say if we’re easily best of the rest, I don’t know what the pace of the AlphaTauri was like, but I think the car is good.”
Norris qualified behind Fe Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, but after a two-lap tussle in the opening stages, he managed to pass the Monegasque driver into Turn One and then comfortably drove away. However, Ricciardo’s collision with Pierre Gasly on the opening lap means the pace of the two teams is unknown.
The Englishman expects McLaren’s battle with Ferrari and AlphaTauri to “go backwards and forwards” all season but was confident McLaren’s race pace would be superior to Ferrari’s in Bahrain.
He added, “Yeah, I think we kind of knew that from the runs in FP2 and the test we did here. I think we’ve got an understanding of what [Ferrari] can do. Even last year Charles was ahead of us in qualifying and the Ferrari can be very quick in qualifying. During the races they seemed to struggle.”
Norris says the team is clearly on the pace and there were probably where they can look after the tyres better and be much quicker.
Gasly believes Alpha Tauri can fight at “all tracks”
Pierre Gasly believes that Alpha Tauri can fight in the midfield against McLaren and Ferrari at “all tracks” following the promised pace they showed at the Bahrain Grand Prix. The Frenchman qualified fifth in Sakhir, behind the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc and both McLaren’s of Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris.
Gasly’s rookie teammate Yuki Tsunoda also showed pace, but was shuffled out of qualifying in Q2 starting thirteenth before finishing the race in ninth being the first rookie to score points on debut since the 2016 race. Alpha Tauri’s qualifying pace has given Gasly confidence that the Faenza team will be in the mix at the head of the midfield for the entire 2021 season.
Gasly told Motorsport.com, “I think [with] the pace we’ve shown all weekend we are in the mix with the Ferrari and the McLaren and that’s the positive. I think we’re clearly going to fight with them and on all tracks.”
Tsunoda’s ninth place followed a steady race working his way up from thirteenth, while Gasly was forced to retire. The Frenchman hit the back of Ricciardo on the opening lap damaging his front wing, but while he re-joined he eventually retired from the race with further damage, was disappointed that Alpha Tauri’s promising pace wasn’t converted into a big haul of points.
He added, “When I had the contact with the McLaren, after that the race was pretty much over. I broke the front wing; I damaged the floor and then that was it pretty much. We had some more issues towards the end of the race, which meant we had to retire the car.”
Gasly says he was disappointed not to have a good fight with McLaren and Ferrari, believing the team missed out on good points. The team are bringing small upgrades for both Imola and Portimão, before a bigger update in Barcelona.
Reflecting on what he learned in Sakhir, he says the pace both in qualifying and race runs looked strong with Gasly believing their upgrade for Barcelona will give them a boost with smaller upgrades at both Imola and Portimao, where he believes they could be fighting Ferrari and McLaren.
Cars more difficult to manage on entry – Leclerc
Charles Leclerc says that the twenty per cent cut in aerodynamics has made this years cars more difficult to manage on corner entry. To help protect the tyres this year several changes have been made to cut downforce, with a section of floor has been removed ahead of the rear wheels, plus new restrictions have been imposed on brake ducts and diffuser dimensions.
The ten per cent cut in downforce have slowed down the cars, with Leclerc has noticed a change in approach even if the 2021 challengers do not require an all-new style. He told Motorsport.com, “In terms of driving [style] there were no changes, but there is something different. You have to push a little less when entering corners because the rear of the car is more difficult to manage due to the modified floor.”
Leclerc is a driver who likes the rear end of his cars to be loose, as it allows him better rotation in the corners. It was believed to be a factor in why he struggled much less with last year’s Ferrari than then-teammate Sebastian Vettel.
He believes that the reason why he had the edge over Vettel because of driving style but admitted he “like a rear that moves so that I can use it to turn the car. Other drivers suffer from this aspect.”
“The SF1000 had a rear that wasn’t very stable, and that was never a problem for me, but I can’t answer for Seb. It’s just a characteristics that suits my driving style.” Another thing Leclerc has changed through his short career is how he gauges the level of aggression against other drivers in battles.
Following the 2019 Austrian Grand Prix where he banging wheels with Max Verstappen, Leclerc responded by vowing to race harder after then. Thanks to a subsequent response by F1’s stewards to let drivers race more, Leclerc says his approach remains the same today.
Saying, “I think it was good for our sport, and I said that straight away at the end of that race despite being disappointed with the result. I always thought that if they had allowed us to race with fewer constraints, we would have been able to offer more spectacular races.”
F1 remembers Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
Formula One has been playing its respects to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh who has died aged ninety-nine. Prince Philip’s death was announced by Buckingham Palace on behalf of the Queen on Friday lunchtime. He was the longest-serving consort in British history, had returned to Windsor on 16 March after a month in hospital.
F1 press office tweeted “The whole of Formula 1 wishes to pay tribute to Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, who dedicated his whole life to Great Britain and served his country with pride and devotion.
McLaren added, “All at McLaren are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. We join with people around the world in mourning his loss, and our thoughts are with Her Majesty The Queen and The Royal Family.”
Williams added “We are saddened to learn of the passing of HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. His life was dedicated to the service of his country, which he did with an unwavering devotion. Our deepest sympathies go to The Queen and the rest of the Royal Family.”
Aston Martin “Everyone at Aston Martin is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Our thoughts are with Her Majesty The Queen and the Royal Family at this time.”
Red Bull “Our entire team is saddened to hear of the passing of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. Flags will fly at half mast at our Milton Keynes Campus in remembrance of his devotion to Great Britain.”
Alpine added, “All at Alpine F1 Team – a team anchored in the UK – wish to extend our deepest condolences to Her Majesty The Queen and The Royal Family at this sad time.”
The BRDC, organisers of the British Grand Prix, added, “Members of the BRDC join the nation in mourning the death of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh KG KT. The Club sends its sincere condolences to Her Majesty The Queen and their family.”
Hulkenberg announced as Aston Martin’s test and reserve driver
Nico Hulkenberg has joined Aston Martin as the team’s reserve and test driver. The German drove for the team, formerly Force India full time between 2012 and 2016, before taking part in three races in 2020 for Racing Point when both Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll had coronavirus.
Hulkenberg told BBC News, “The team knows it can rely on me to step in and do an excellent job and I’m fully prepared for that challenge.” The German role will include time at the teams Silverstone base developing the car.
“I’m really pleased to once again work with this team – with whom I have driven many times during my career. It will also be interesting to help develop the team through the season, and I’m really looking forward to pulling great lap times out of my arm sleeve.”
Last year he proved his ability to jump in and score points, although he failed to start the British Grand Prix because of a technical issue he qualified third for the Anniversary Grand Prix finishing in seventh. While at his home Grand Prix at the Nürburgring he finished eighth after starting twentieth.
Team principal Otmar Szafnauer said: “In these difficult times, the requirement for a capable and experienced reserve driver is especially important. Nico proved last year that he could jump in the car and perform superbly at a moment’s notice; now, with additional scope for preparation and integration, we know that we can rely on Nico to do an excellent job.”
Four-time champion Sebastian Vettel has joined Stroll at Aston Martin for 2021, and Hulkenberg said he hoped both would “enjoy uninterrupted seasons this year”.
Common sense over F1 future – Brundle
Former F1 driver turned journalist and commentator Martin Brundle believes “common sense has broken out” among F 1’s leading players and rule makers, which has left motorsport’s top tier in really good shape.
Brundle who raced in the sport between 1984 and 1996 in recent years has been worried that the spiralling costs threatened the existence of several smaller teams and the viability for manufacturers to commit and complete. He believes that the introduction of a cost cap, the signing off of new cars for 2022, and radical regulations designed to level the playing field have not only safeguarded its future but made F1 more attractive.
Brundle told Motorsport.com, “Common sense has broken out really. That is how I see it because you just can’t keep spending hundreds of millions of pounds a year to run two racing cars. It needed sorting out.”
“I think the pandemic focused a few important people’s attention as well in that respect, and they have got the job done. I think it is any number of things and I think it is now more attractive to sponsors and manufacturers with a credible cost base.” He says that Chase Carey did a very good job over the last couple of years.
Brundle believes that when Liberty understood the sport when they took over the sport were quite shocked, and believed they thought they could change a lot of things very quickly.
Liberty has overseen the introduced a number of fundamental structural things that make the racing more exciting, so you can have an AlphaTauri and Racing Point win a race again as they did last year. The sport looking to reinvent itself by creating closer and less predicable racing, Brundle believes that Bahrain has underlined his viewpoint that F1 is on the right trajectory.
Adding “I’m as a confident about F1 and its future as I have been for five or six years now.”
Brundle says he would be really concerned if Renault pulled out for example or Red Bull pulled out because Honda were going, and you had Williams on the rocks. But they have got new funding and are turning around.