Ferrari struggles mean nothing – Wolff
Mercedes F1 CEO and team principal Toto Wolff believes that the layout of Spa could lead to a “totally different conversation” compared to the form shown by leading teams last weekend.
The German team has won ten of the twelve races this season, after Lewis Hamilton overhauled the Red Bull of Max Verstappen, while the two Ferrari’s finished more than a minute behind. Meanwhile, Ferrari who was expected to be Mercedes biggest challengers this season remains winless.
However, Wolff says that the characteristics of the Belgian and Italian Grands Prix that follow the shutdown could lead to a completely different picture. He told Motorsport.com, “It’s a track that probably doesn’t suit them very well.”
“They have a very strong engine and less drag, and that’s why we will see a very strong Ferrari in Spa and in Monza. I have no doubt that the conversation could be totally different than the one we’re having right now.”
Wolff says that Mercedes can’t rest entirely because the layout and power sensitivity of the tracks will suit Ferrari. He believes it will be difficult and the team are working to resolve the issues.
Wolff’s Ferrari counterpart Mattia Binotto said his outfit’s one-minute deficit was a legacy of its downforce deficiency being exaggerated in the race.
While Sebastian Vettel told reporters, “Obviously we are very competitive on the straights – [in qualifying] 6km/h or 7km/h faster at the end of the straight compared to Red Bull and also Mercedes. But we are losing quite a lot in the corners.”
Bottas looking for back up plans
Valtteri Bottas says he has already started to look at other options should Mercedes choose not to retain him next season. F1 CEO Toto Wolff has already confirmed that it will be between the Finn and reserve driver Esteban Ocon, with a decision due to be made during the summer break.
The Finn says he knows he has to have at least one alternative plan in place, should the decision go against him. He told Motorsport.com, “Of course when you’re in that kind of situation and when you still want to race in F1, you need to have Plan B, possibly Plan C. So for sure I’ve been thinking about stuff and talking about stuff. It’s good to have different plans, so now we wait.”
Bottas has admitted that the uncertainty about his future means that it is not easy for him to judge how much risk to take in recent races, citing the moves he made on the first lap in Hungary.
He added, “For sure it’s not easy, that’s the thing in this sport, finding the limit, calculating the risks just enough, pushing hard and trying to take the opportunities but not to f*** up, like today. That’s how it goes.”
Bottas once again admitted that he is a driver who doesn’t perform well under pressure, but he wasn’t nervous about losing his seat.
Speaking about what happened in Budapest, he simply said it didn’t go to plan.
Asked if he was nervous about losing his job he said, “Not really nervous. For sure it would be nice to hear some news when the team decides what they want to do. What can I do?”
Hamilton dismisses Rosberg claims
Lewis Hamilton has dismissed suggestions by his former teammate Nico Rosberg that his ability will lessen with age. The Mercedes ambassador said in his vlog ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix to suggest that Max Verstappen had overtaken Hamilton to become “the best driver out there.”
Speaking about Hamilton, Rosberg said “the best age for racing drivers is 30, 31, 32 – and that’s because your ability as you’re getting older slightly decreases, but experience counts [for] so much in this sport. So experience will outdo the small decrease in your natural ability as a human as you get a bit older.”
Asked about those remarks, Hamilton responded by saying “I’ve never seen the blog, I don’t know who follows it, but it has no bearing on anything that I do. I don’t care, everyone has their own opinion.”
“Whether he’s right or wrong, I don’t really care. All you have to do is look at my tally of results over the years and they kind of speak for themselves. So naturally, there will be people that have not had the success that I’ve had and might want to talk it down, but that’s OK.”
Hamilton says there is an element where you don’t take things personally, and he says when people say things it is not actually about you, it’s how they feel about themselves.
He added “I’m 34 years old, but I feel like I’m driving better than ever. Hopefully today you can see that I’ve not lost any speed. Qualifying is not always going to go great, you just have to move on. Races are not always going to go great, the last one [in Germany] sucked.”
Hamilton said he couldn’t be more proud, because of the way he drove and that’s how he always wants to drive.
Hamilton once again repeated he has no plans to retire, in June he said that he could “definitely” race for another five years in F1. He again confirmed he is not planning to retire anytime soon.
Saying “One day I will have to stop. But right now I feel fantastic physically, generally, this year, and mentally, so I currently don’t have any plans of stopping any time soon.”
Williams needs to be more “dynamic”
George Russell believes that his Williams team must be more “dynamic” in its thinking to repeat the uplift in form which caught attention at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
The English driver nearly made it into Q2 for the first time this season, following a stand-out performance in qualifying at Hungaroring, as Williams’ new update package appeared to pay dividends.
He told Motorsport.com, “I’m not convinced but I think we just need to be more dynamic to the situation and have less preconceived thoughts of how we need to approach something – and try more across the weekend.”
“We haven’t really tried enough different things, purely on the tyres, than we should have and that’s something I regret slightly.” Russell believes while the team unlocked the pace in qualifying, it did not translate into race pace.
He added “So we need to keep going like that but we definitely need to make a step in the race. In qualifying it was a mixture of things [that helped]. More downforce, and a lot more mechanical grip from the tyres. We really nailed the tyres. In the race, you can tell there is more downforce but still not enough.”
Russell says that the performance in Budapest highlights how critical tyres are to the ultimate performance, as he says that there is too much resource having to be devoted to them.
He believes that too much work goes into getting the tyres to work, but his focus on his side.
McLaren enters IndyCar
McLaren has announced it will enter the full IndyCar season in 2020 as they expand their motorsport activities and bid to learn the lessons from this year’s bruising Indy 500 experience.
The programme will be separate from its F1 programme with the team partners with the Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports squad, which is based in America. The team has previously attempted the Indy 500 in recent years with Fernando Alonso.
However, CEO Zak Brown says Alonso will not be one of their two drivers for the full season but is not ruling out a third attempt at the Indy 500 with the Spaniard in future.
Brown told Sky Sports, “We are very excited. We’ve got a great history, we’ve won Indy before a couple of times. We competed in the Indy 500 in 2017, with some pretty good success. 2019 unfortunately not so much but that doesn’t deter us, we’re racers.”
Alonso’s first attempt at Indy saw him qualify fifth and lead the race before retiring with an engine failure ended his chances. However, going it alone for 2019, McLaren endured embarrassment as Alonso failed to qualify for the race after a succession of problems for the outfit in the build-up.
Masi backs continued use of cement dust
F1 race director Michael Masi says there is still not a better way of soaking up oil on a race track than the cement dust solutions used today. Ahead of FP3 in Budapest, there were frantic moments to clean up oil slick which was left by the F2 race.
Although the amount of dust put down appeared excessive, Masi is clear that it remains the quickest and best way to ensure cars can run again. Asked by Motorsport.com about if there were alternatives out there, Masi said: “At the current point it is a fantastic solution and works really well, particularly when you have got the big brushes pounding in the bitumen, it just works.”
“It is something that is used the world over and has been done for a very long time. At this point, I haven’t seen another solution that works.” Masi admitted they knew that the first few laps were going to be dusty. The TV images showed Masi looking a bit agitated at what was happening, he insists that was because he was eager to get the matter sorted as quick as possible so practice could start.
He added, “There was probably a car’s width of an oil slick from the entry, all the way through and then on the kerb and everything else. It was not a small one to clean and that is why I was more animated in terms of getting as many resources there as possible to deal with it.”
Masi wanted to check there was enough dust and oil soak to clean up the mess. He says there was a significant amount of oil between the track and then the kerb.
Spa tyre allocations
Pirelli has announced the driver’s tyre allocations for the Belgian Grand Prix. For the race at Spa, it has nominated the C1 as the hard, the C2 as the medium and C3 as the soft.
Both Mercedes have gone for eight softs, four mediums and a hard. While both Ferraris, Red Bull’s, Renault’s and Haas’s have ten softs, two mediums and a hard.
Both Racing Point’s, Alfa Romeo’s and Toro Rosso’s have nine softs, three mediums and a hard.
McLaren has varied its drivers, Carlos Sainz has nine softs, three mediums and a hard, while teammate Lando Norris has eight softs, four mediums and a hard.
While both Williams have nine softs, George Russell has split his remaining tyres to have two of both the mediums and hards, teammate Robert Kubica has three mediums and a hard.
The Week Ahead
As Formula One shuts down for the summer silly season will enter full flow, as speculation will begin about drivers future and the next big move. I feel we are waiting for that big surprise, like Daniel Ricciardo last year I believe the driver in the top three most at risk is Pierre Gasly because though Mercedes hasn’t committed to Valtteri Bottas I see his future is safe.
Teams will be closed for the next two weeks this means the news agenda is likely to be lighter. Although now is time for the negotiations about 2021 to be hammered out, the teams are on holiday as is FOM I don’t see much progress coming until September’s commission meeting. Bear in mind the October deadline is eighty-three days away.
The thing at the moment is cutting through the spin and getting to the heart of the story. As we enter August, we know business slows and we won’t get Q2 results until later than normal. We will see how teams are doing compared to FOM results on Thursday.