Vettel open to Red Bull return
Sebastian Vettel says he would be open to returning to Red Bull should an offer be made, and revealed he held talks with Renault before it opted to sign Fernando Alonso instead.
The four-time champion is currently without a seat for the 2021 season after Ferrari decided not to make an offer to extend his contract beyond the end of the year. Vettel now faces an uncertain future, as Mercedes appear unlikely to sign him.
Speaking in today’s press conference ahead of the Styrian Grand Prix, the German said “Yes I did, but obviously at no point concrete enough, or fundamental talks or real talks. As you’ve seen as well, they’ve gone a different direction. It doesn’t change much for me.”
“It really depends on my decision, which I’m not pressured to take in the next couple of days. I want to take the time that I need to decide.” Asked if he was considering a sabbatical or retirement, he says that everything is on the table while stressing he remains hungry to do more in the sport with a competitive team.
Red Bull has been playing down the chances of Vettel returning to the team where he won all four of his F1 titles with between 2010 and 2014 – which would be the only front-running outfit realistically able to offer him a seat for 2021.
The speculation of Vettel potentially returning to Red Bull when he appeared on the brand’s in-house TV channel earlier this week. While Vettel said this appearance had “nothing to do” with any possible future move, he talked up Red Bull’s credentials to deliver a race-winning car.
Saying “They are a very strong team, I know how strong they are from the past. I know why they were strong back then, and they are still a contender. It’s a car that you can win races in, so for sure that would be interesting.”
Gloves off in Red Bull Battle – Wolff
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff thinks it’s a “gloves off” battle with Red Bull now, as the teams squared up on the track and off it in Austria. While the German manufacturer took victory last weekend, it was difficult as rival protested its DAS, forced a review of Lewis Hamilton’s yellow flag infringement and then pushed it hard in the race.
Reflecting on the weekend, the Wolff said he did not think there was anything unusual about what Red Bull did, but he sees no quarter being given from now on.
Asked by Motorsport.com if he sensed a bit of raised tension with Red Bull now, Wolff said: “I found that the protest on Friday was actually fair play, but not on Sunday, so I recognise that. And fair enough, if you want to have a clarification you can do that.”
“Coming back on Sunday morning, turning around a decision [on yellow flags] from yesterday, if you have new evidence, that is what the rules allow. And as I said before, you have to take that on the chin. I think that in the race, putting all these things together, the [Hamilton] penalty was too harsh. But coming back to your questions, the gloves are off.”
Red Bull has been unhappy with the Dual Axis Steering for some time, so there was no particular hidden agenda behind what it did this weekend. Wolff says the system has been ruled as legal and has no other purpose than heating the rear tyres.
World champion Hamilton, who was moved three places down the grid for ignoring yellow flags after the Red Bull request to review, did not sense any particular bad blood. Saying “I don’t really think too much of the negative battle that goes on in the background. That’s all political. It’s ultimately a power battle in the back, I would say, between a few individuals.”
Bottas & Leclerc defend trip to Monaco
Valtteri Bottas and Charles Leclerc have defended their decision to return home to Monaco. This year’s coronavirus regulations say that teams and are required to stay in designated ‘bubbles’ to minimise potential exposure to the virus and risk of bringing it into the paddock.
Bottas said he sought approval before returning home to Monaco with his partner, who was with him at the track last week. He said, “Obviously I found out if it’s allowed, to go back, and yes, it is. Of course it doesn’t really make a difference if I stay with the same people in the same bubble whether I’m here or back home in Monaco.”
“So I decided to go back home as, in the end, we are in Europe and travelling is pretty short distance so there’s no stress really from the travel.” He says that there was no different between returning”
The Code of Conduct does not prevent F1 attendees from travelling away from venues between races, it is strict about them staying within their own social bubbles and not mixing with anyone outside them.
The FIA has responded by writing to both teams about the breach reminding them they must stick to the code. This is Ferrari’s second warning in under a week, after Sebastian Vettel having spoken to Red Bull’s Christian Horner and Helmut Marko last week without a mask, means the FIA will likely treat the matter more seriously.
The amended regulations relating to Coronavirus states, that drivers are not allowed to interact with other teams bubbles or travel beyond a defined area as well as observing two-metre distancing where possible. Also are not permitted to go to restaurants or other enclosed public spaces.
Red Bull retirements due to electrical problems
Honda says that both Max Verstappen and Alex Albon suffered unrelated electrical problems at last weekends Austrian Grand Prix with the Japanese manufacturer has introduced “countermeasures” to address the issues for this weekends Styrian Grand Prix.
Verstappen was forced to retire after eleven laps, while Albon was forced to stop on track in the closing laps, having suffered an earlier collision with Lewis Hamilton. Technical director Toyoharu Tanabe says both units have been checked and will be used again this weekend.
He told Autosport, “The problems on the two Aston Martin Red Bull Racing cars in the last race were both electrical, but caused by different issues. We have been analysing both these matters together with the teams and we have put countermeasures in place for this weekend.”
“As our power units do not have any damage caused by those issues, Max and Alex will use their same PUs this weekend. This weekend, we must aim to finish the race with all four cars and achieve a good result with them.”
Tanabe underlined that having two races at the same venue was useful, explaining the data is relevant and the forecast is the only variable going into the weekend.
On Sunday, Verstappen failed to grab his third back to back win in Styria, but he and teammate Albon can still ensure the team can take their third win in three years at there home circuit.
Ferrari looks to new front wing
Ferrari has brought an updated front wing as part for this weekends Styrian Grand Prix, the Italian manufacturer wanted to bring its spec two-car to next weekend’s race in Budapest.
Having struggled in testing, Ferrari’s weakness in downforce and straight-line speed was exposed again exposed in qualifying last weekend when Charles Leclerc was the only car in Q3. Although Leclerc captured second in the race, Ferrari lost 0.9s in qualifying compared to the Monegasque’s pole time last year.
Having planned a swathe of upgrades for Hungary to overhaul the performance of the car, Ferrari has accelerated its front wing development programme to have the new design ready for the second round in Austria.
They pioneered the squarer footplate tunnel last year, has reverted to a rounder geometry for this round. However, this flattens out as the air progresses further back, releasing the rotating airflow produced by the tunnel sooner.
Ferrari has flattened this rear section out further on the new wing, allowing the fin placed on top of the footplate to be larger in size. The lip at the trailing edge remains the same to trip the airflow upwards and outwards.
The images of the upgrades appear to show a more gradual transition to the endplate, with a reduced amount of twist.
A continuation of the inboard-loaded aero philosophy, where Ferrari aims to generate the majority of the downforce on the front with the inner part of the wing, the outboard section can be shaped to encourage air to pass around the front wheels.
Vettel’s relationship not as bad as thought
Kimi Raikkonen believes that the relationship between Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel is not as bad as some think, and is “certain” the team will give him equal treatment to Charles Leclerc.
The German will leave Ferrari at the end of the season after the team opted against offering him a new contract beyond 2020, signing Carlos Sainz Jr. from McLaren. Last weekend, Vettel said that he was “surprised” to not receive an offer from Ferrari, with his story contradicting the initial explanation offered by the team regarding his exit.
Raikkonen raced alongside Vettel at Ferrari between 2015 and 2018 before being dropped and joining Alfa Romeo. The Finn is known to have a good personal friendship with the four-time world champion.
Asked by Autosport, if he felt Vettel was being treated unfairly by Ferrari since his exit was confirmed, Raikkonen said he did not think relations had soured as people may think.
The Finn said, “Honestly, I spoke to him last weekend, quickly when we saw each other, I think it was before the start, and that’s all that I know. I don’t know what is going on there, it’s none of my business. I think it’s unfair to comment if someone is treated badly or not, because I don’t know what is going on.”
He says that he doubts the relationship is as bad as it is made out to be in the media.
Raikkonen’s exit from Ferrari was confirmed after the 2018 Italian Grand Prix, with the team announcing Leclerc as his replacement with seven races still remaining in the season.
But Raikkonen said he was not treated any differently by Ferrari once his departure had been confirmed. Saying, “No, absolutely not. I’m certain that they get exactly the same treatment, both of them. It’s in their benefit to try to get the best result on both cars, so I don’t see why they would do anything else.”
Russell to take new power unit
Williams George Russell will have to take new Mercedes power unit elements at the Styrian Grand Prix this weekend. Although this has no impact on his grid position for the Red Bull Ring race, it means he is a step closer to receiving penalties.
The Englishman retired on lap forty-nine of the race, with what has been described at the time as a fuel pressure issue, and which led the team to tell him to switch the engine off. His power unit was returned to HPP in Brixworth and, after investigations, it has been deemed that it suffered a gear drive failure.
Mercedes believes that the failure was unit specific and thus there are no concerns about the other Mercedes units used last weekend.
Racing Point’s Lance Stroll retired in Austria when his Mercedes engine started to lose power. That issue has been deemed to be caused by another issue not related to the power unit.
Mugello expected to be announced
Formula One is expected to announce the next batch of 2020 race dates in the coming days with Mugello set to be the first new event on the updated schedule.
The Italian circuit is expected to host the Tuscan Grand Prix in September replacing the Singapore Grand Prix, that followed the cancellation of this year’s Moto GP race in May which will not be rescheduled. The Japanese Grand Prix is expected to be replaced by the Portuguese Grand Prix in early October.
China may only be the only Asian race unless Hanoi is given the green light soon, or there could be no races in Asia for the first time in three decades. It had been suggested that organisers of the Vietnamese Grand Prix were prepared to wait until 2021 to hold their inaugural race rather than run two events within five or six months of each other, but the government recently expressed its support for the race.
On Wednesday, plans for the Chinese Grand Prix were placed in doubt when the country’s general administration of sport this week, which indicated that “in principle” there will be no major events in the country except those run as a preparations for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
While races in the Americas, currently the eppy centre of the Coronavirus pandemic are expected to be cancelled. As expected the plan is to end the season with two races in Bahrain on 27 – 29 November and 04 – 06 December, before the Abu Dhabi finale on 11 – 13 December.
The Weekend Ahead
This weekend you have to say again is a Mercedes weekend, Valtteri Bottas was on fire and the team proved to be the car to beat. But they had several issues throughout last weekend, if they have resolved those issues they could again remain in front. I think Lewis Hamilton will be fired up; he normally goes well after tough weekends.
Ferrari has in response fast tracked some of its ‘spec-2’ car for this weekend, I don’t expect a major leap forwards this weekend, but I think they could be safely through to Q3. They need to deliver as this is a short season which could harm them financially.
All the teams as well as us are in a unique situation where we can directly compare to last weekend, however they need to be careful not to over analyse last weekend as what looks good on paper doesn’t always translate on track.
The other story flying around is what happens after Monza, today we heard stories that the European season will be extended by a month as China and Vietnam are likely to be cancelled. Fernando Alonso’s return also likely to be a talking point too.
There will be updates and reports throughout the weekend from the Styrian Grand Prix and next weekends Hungarian Grand Prix. F1 Today is taking a break as we head off on holiday for two weeks, we will back on Monday 27th July.