Verstappen frustrated by Baku retirement
Max Verstappen says his retirement from the Azerbaijan Grand Prix was frustrating because Red Bull enjoyed a clear advantage at the last two street circuits. The Dutchman believes the team didn’t maximise Mercedes being weak as he expects the world champions to bounce back at Paul Ricard.
That means that Red Bull failed to take full advantage of Mercedes failing to score and the driver’s championship remained unchanged, however, Sergio Perez’s victory meant that the team did extend their lead in the constructors.
Having won in Monaco, Verstappen was leading comfortably in Azerbaijan when a left rear tyre failure sent him into the wall on the pit straight as he approached the end of lap 46.
Sir Lewis Hamilton’s subsequent trip up the escape road at the restart meant that the Mercedes driver also failed to score. However, that did little to allay Verstappen’s frustration as his retirement meant that he lost the chance to gain another ten points on Hamilton, who had been destined for third place.
Speaking to Motorsport.com, Verstappen said, “I am still upset and disappointed because we should have opened up that gap more in the championship. Yeah, it was unlucky for me, and then of course I had a bit of luck that Lewis then didn’t score points.”
“But nevertheless, of course, it’s not what you want today. We should have just had a comfortable win here. Because I think especially it seemed like on the street circuits compared to Mercedes we had a bit of an edge on them, which is good.” He says that was the reason why he wanted to out score Mercedes, knowing they will be tough and difficult to beat at traditional circuits.
Verstappen says that during the race he was going three to for tenths faster and wasn’t even pushing his tyres which made him really comfortable. On the restart, he opened up a four-second gap and cruising to victory without taking risks, which made it even taking risks.
He says that makes it even more disappointing as he believes that will not happen at normal tracks, with Mercedes being back at the front and there be back up there.
Verstappen did not want to be drawn on the suggestion that the pressure of the title fight is forcing Hamilton into making mistakes. Adding, “I mean, everyone tries to do their best, right? I’m not gonna say that he’s making mistakes because he feels under pressure. Everyone tries to do the best they can. And I did I do that as well.
Perez doing better than expected – Horner
Red Bull says that Sergio Perez is doing better than they expected him to do but are in no rush to agree a new contract with the Mexican. Perez took his first win for the team in Baku after being signed as am strong number two to challenge Mercedes in the championship.
Although Perez struggled to adapt to the characteristics of the Red Bull mainly in qualifying, before taking victory in Baku there were already some signs of progress. That has earned him praise from team principal Christian Horner, who described his race pace in Baku as particularly impressive.
He told Motorsport.com, “We knew he was good around here but we didn’t know he was that good. He was quick all weekend, and he’s been bang on the pace. The only one lap where he made a mistake was Q3 run one.
“His race pace was phenomenal. Had he not been long at the first stop, he would have been right on top of Max for the overcut at that point as well, such was his pace in clean air. So phenomenal for him. The way he was defending Lewis [Hamilton] and controlling, that was a class act.”
Perez joining Red Bull has given the team their strongest driver line up since Daniel Ricciardo left the team in 2019. Although his win means Red Bull will not need to look elsewhere for its 2022 line up, Horner says the team has plenty of time to decide.
Horner did accept, however, that having Perez right up there in the mix for wins was a huge benefit for Red Bull. Adding “It’s great to have both cars up there obviously, and I think that it’s an added string to our bow on a day when you lose your lead car.”
He says Perez is right there to deliver the win and says that he was pleased for the team for the amount of effort that’s been going on behind the scenes.
Mercedes make changes following Hamilton error
Mercedes is to introduce changes on their car to avoid a repeat of the switch mistake which sent Sir Lewis Hamilton went straight on at the restart of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
The seven-times world champion looked on course for victory at the restart, before making a mistake when he went straight on at Turn One after accidentally reactivated a button on his steering wheel – which is referred to as ‘brake magic’ at Mercedes – which changes brake bias settings and is used to heat the front tyres.
That caused him to lock the brakes and go straight down the escape road at the restart, dropping him down the field and out of the points. Explaining in detail what happened in their latest post-race debrief video, Mercedes technology director Mike Elliott said Hamilton had put the W12 into all the correct settings as usual for the start before knocking the ‘magic’ button when Sergio Perez moved right to try and defend the lead.
The ‘brake magic’ moves the brake balance proportion of braking energy to the front of the car to get more heat into the front tyres.
He explained, “Lewis had done all the right things, he got the car to the grid, he switched off the various buttons and settings he needed to switch off, switched on the ones he needed to switch on, it was all set to start the race properly.”
“He made a fantastic start, he got himself up alongside Perez and as he and Perez were sort of shuffling position Lewis swerved and in the process of swerving he just clipped the magic button and unfortunately he didn’t feel he had done it. So, he had completely no awareness he was going to have a problem.”
“The point he then braked, which was the normal point for him to brake, he was in the position where he got all of the brake balance shifted forward, which put all of the load through the front tyres and as a consequence they locked and from that point there was nothing that he could do than go wide.”
Hamilton took responsibility for the mistake which cost him the chance to regain the lead of the driver’s championship, following his tyre failure. Elliott says it was Mercedes responsibility to ensure that this doesn’t happen easily again. He says the team has a duty to give the drivers a car which is more difficult to make mistakes.
Ferrari appoints Vigna as new CEO
Ferrari has appointed Benedetto Vigna as its new chief executive replacing acting CEO John Elkann. Following the resignation of Louis Camilleri in December due to personal reasons, Ferrari chairman Elkann took over as interim CEO.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Italian manufacturer announced the fifty-two-year-old would join on 1st September. Vigna is currently the president of STMicroelectronics’ Analog, MEMS and Sensor Group, and is a member of the company’s executive committee.
Ferrari said that Vigna’s “unique knowledge gained over 26 years working at the heart of the semiconductor industry that is rapidly transforming the automotive sector” could help “accelerate Ferrari’s ability to pioneer the application of next generation technologies.”
Outgoing CEO Elkann added “His deep understanding of the technologies driving much of the change in our industry, and his proven innovation, business-building and leadership skills, will further strengthen Ferrari and its unique story of passion and performance, in the exciting era ahead.”
Vigna described joining Ferrari as CEO gave him an equal sense of excitement and responsibility.
Adding “With a profound sense of responsibility towards the extraordinary achievements and capabilities of the men and women of Ferrari, to all the company’s stakeholders and to everyone around the world for whom Ferrari is such a unique passion.”
He joins the team at a time where Ferrari are starting to turn things around after a tough 2020, having taken poles in Monaco and Baku.
Roberts leaves Williams in restructure
Williams team principal Simon Roberts has left the team following an internal restructure. Roberts joined the team as managing director in June last year before being promoted to acting team principal when the Williams family sold the team to Dorilton Capital last September.
Jost Capito, Williams’ CEO, will assume the responsibilities held by Roberts while Francois-Xavier Demaison, who joined as technical director in March, is in charge of trackside and engineering.
Capito said, “Simon has played an integral role in managing the transition over the last 12 months and I would like to thank him for his great contribution during that time,” said Capito.
Roberts said: “It has been a pleasure to take on the role of team principal following the departure of the Williams family from the sport. However, with the transition well underway I am looking forward to a new challenge and wish everyone in the team well for the future.”
Not a failure to be pointless – Russell
George Russell says it would not be a failure if Williams were to finish the season without scoring points. The team hasn’t scored a point since Hockenheim 2019 which was thanks to time penalties post-race for the Alfa Romeo’s because of clutch setting offences detected during the race start.
That year marked the lowest ebb of Williams’ slide to the very back of the F1 pecking order but, although it has improved its car performance relative to the rest of the field in 2020 and particularly in 2021, it remains without a top 10 finish since that Hockenheim race.
The British team is currently tenth in the constructors after losing out to Haas in Baku. Last season, at Mugello Russell, dropped out the points when running tenth on the final restart while at Imola he crashed out in the closing stages. This year’s race at Imola saw him crash with Valtteri Bottas when fighting for ninth.
when asked if so far not scoring a point for Williams bothered him, Russell outlined his belief of why such a scenario would not be so bad for his current squad, even if it ends a second consecutive season with zero points.
Russell told Autosport, “It doesn’t bother me, no, but it’s certainly a goal. That is the target. If we end this season point-less – I would not have seen this season as a failure. If we end the season with some points, I think it would have been a great success. Points for us is, effectively, a win for McLaren, [with] sort of the deltas.”
“If McLaren go this whole season without winning a race, we’re not gonna see that as a failure. If they do have a victory, that would have been a massive success. And that’s a really good way to look at it.”
He says that recognising they did the maximum was the goal.
McLaren enters Extreme E
McLaren has announced they are to enter Extreme E becoming the tenth constructor in the electric series which aims to tackle climate change and environmental issues. The series has nine teams, including four backed by world champions Sir Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Jenson Button and Mario Andretti.
McLaren CEO Zak Brown told BBC News, “Our attention was immediately drawn by the innovative format of this motorsport platform. It gives us the ability to accelerate and boost our own overarching sustainability agenda, which shares the same priorities of decarbonisation, waste reduction, diversity and equality.”
Extreme E’s first two X-Prix’s took place in AluLa, Saudi Arabia and just outside the Senegalese capital Dakar. So far both races have been won by RXR – a team entered by 2016 F1 world champion Nico Rosberg.
The Woking-based McLaren team were behind all of Ayrton Senna’s world titles in the late ’80s and early ’90s, as well as Lewis Hamilton’s first F1 title win in 2008.
It is not yet clear who McLaren want to drive the car next year – in which a male and female driver share the role across race weekends – but Brown said: “We are looking to replicate our F1 and Indycar programmes. We want to find the two fastest and most exciting drivers out there.
The week ahead
Next week F1 heads to Paul Ricard for the French Grand Prix, the big question is whether Red Bull is able to cerement their leads in the drivers and constructors following the poor performance of Mercedes in the last two races. I think Mercedes will be stronger on track, but the fact is the fight is going to be closer.
We need to see if the last two Grand Prix’s were on street circuits and we don’t really know if this was the reason why Red Bull had such an advantage. Tyre failure for Max Verstappen will be at the back of everyone’s mind and we know we are again going to get another failure.
Ferrari are going to be about managing expectations they expect that Paul Ricard isn’t going to be a strong race as it is high speed and downforce. I believe McLaren will be slightly ahead because they have the Mercedes engine.
I believe over the coming weeks we will get more certainty about the back end of this season, but we are still in this pandemic so anything is possible and we could see drivers miss races. But we know the COVID protocols are working we gone a month without an on site case.