Mercedes to be pushed to the limits
Mercedes F1 CEO and team principal Toto Wolff says he is expecting that his team will be “pushed to our limits” by this year’s championship fight. The German team goes into this week’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix expecting to be on the back foot after Ferrari were faster in testing.
Speaking to BBC News, Wolff said “Judging from the performance in Barcelona, it looks like we will have a proper fight on our hands. But an F1 season is not just about who comes out of the blocks quickest.”
He believes that the new regulations designed to increase overtaking would mean that the 2019 season would be about “who is able to adapt best to the new rules and the new tyres and all the challenges we will have to master during the year.”
“The most adaptable and agile team will come out on top this season. We have shown in the past that we are fast and flexible and that we can handle every curveball thrown at us. We’re ready for the fight and look forward to the crazy rollercoaster of a new F1 season.”
Last year, Mercedes consistency led to the German manufacturer sealing a fifth consecutive drivers and constructors championship, that was despite Ferrari having the faster car. Wolff says that Mercedes will be pushed to there limits and need to give it “absolutely everything to come out on top.
Adding “From what we have learned so far, this year will be even tougher. It will push us to our limits – and that’s an exciting prospect for every single one of us.”
Teams approve point for fastest lap
Formula One teams have unanimously approved plans to award a point to the driver who set the fastest lap. Last week, it was announced the World Motor Sport Council but will still subject to an e-vote by the F1 Commission and Strategy Group.
This was a change from the normal procedure as it normally goes through the Commission and Strategy Group before being put to the WMSC for final agreement. A vote on Monday backed the plan to introduce the initiative from this weekend’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
A driver must be classified in the top 10 in order to be awarded the additional point, which will count towards both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships. In the event of a driver who sets the fastest lap being classified outside the top 10, the point will not be awarded.
Managing director motorsport and technical director, Ross Brawn says that the introduction of the point was a result of research carried about by the championship and would add an element of interest to Grand Prix.
Brawn said “Together with the FIA we have been committed to evaluating ideas and solutions that can improve the show whilst maintaining the integrity of our sport. We felt that the reintroduction, after 60 years, of a point for the driver of the fastest lap in the race goes in this direction.”
Bonus points were last awarded in 1959, and helped settle the ’58 drivers’ championship in Mike Hawthorn’s favour. But it could prove controversial if it decides this years championship.
Liberty blames Ecclestone for race contract issues
Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei has blamed chairman emeritus Bernie Ecclestone for creating some of the problems they are facing when it comes to renewing contracts with race organisers.
While the sports owners have agreed on some new deals with newer races, it has struggled to renew deals with the historic Grand Prix, such as the German, Spanish, Italian, Mexican and British GPs are all coming to an end, and no renewals have been agreed as of yet.
In addition to the inevitable differences of opinion over fees, Mexico and Spain both have issues with the public funding that has hitherto supported the races.
Maffei says that former CEO and chairman emeritus Ecclestone had not helped by suggesting that races were paying too much under the very deals that he originally put together.
Maffei told a Deutsche Bank conference, “Bernie had done a very good job, arguably too good a job, and had drained the promoters, and we got a lot of blowback, partly because we’re public now and they can see the prices.”
“Also partly because Bernie suggested to a lot of them that they were overpaying. That didn’t help the cause. Exacerbating that are governments trying to pull back subsidies, in Mexico, other places – Spain. So that creates some challenges.”
Asked about potential new events, Maffei said “We remain working on Miami, but there are obstacles to a lot of that.”
He also says that they were looking at races in the US including Las Vegas, and in Africa, F1 has not raced on the African continent since 1993. But he accepts it’s a balancing act between the historic European races and expansion in Asia.
But added “We’re not yet prepared to announce any, but there’s a careful mix or blend of where you want to grow and where you want to solidify.”
Regarding the already confirmed for 2020 Vietnam GP, Maffei said it “will be more exciting and a positive improvement over Malaysia, which was not differentiated enough from Singapore.
Red Bull brings forward China upgrade
Red Bull has fast-tracked an upgrade it was planning to introduce at April’s Chinese Grand Prix to this weekends season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
The Austrian team has been bullish about his the team has worked flat out since testing to get the updates ready early. Red Bull’s motorsport advisor Helmut Marko told the company’s TV channel ServusTV that a “fully motivated” Adrian Newey had pulled out all the stops to get the new parts ready early.
He said “Parts that were planned for the third race were brought forward, thanks to all the pressure he [Newey] could provide to get them on to the car for Melbourne.”
Marko said that Red Bull is full of confidence about the competitiveness of the RB 2019 prospects following the switch to Honda power. He says that the teams optimism isn’t unfounded and that the 2019 car was the best the team has produced.
Marko added “The RB15 is certainly the best and most expensive car in the history of Red Bull Racing if you take efficiency and the technical perfection of the parts.
“[It was only possible] because in every phase every employee was convinced: Now we are back on track. Now we have another chance to drive for victories on our own.”
Marko also hit back at cynics who suggest that too much has been made of Honda’s progress – as he said the ambition was for Red Bull to win at least five races this year.
Steiner warns about early conclusions
Haas team principal Gunther Steiner has warned that it is too early to jump to conclusions about the success of the aerodynamic changes because he believes that the Australian Grand Prix will not set the tone for the year to follow.
This year the teams have tweaked the aerodynamic rules relating the front and rear wing designs in a bid to make it easy for cars to follow and thus increase the amount of overtaking on track. However, because of the difficulties overtaking at Albert Park, Steiner believes it will not be a fair reflection of whether or not the new rules for 2019 have worked.
Steiner said in the preview of the race, “The aim of the regulation change was to make passing easier, but the proof is in the pudding. We’ll only really see after three or four races how it works out.”
“Australia, in general, is a very difficult track to pass at – probably one of the most difficult ones. If it doesn’t work there, we shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that it will not work for the whole year. We need to see if it works or not, and you only really find these things out in race situations.”
Haas will be hoping to avoid a repeat of last years race, when a fourth and fifth place were lost after mistakes in the pit stops lead to a double retirement.