Ferrari ruled out upgrades for Imola
Ferrari says they will not bring upgrades for the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix at Imola because of complications caused by it being a sprint race weekend. The first European race of the season normally sees the team bring major upgrades, and none of the top three teams have brought significant updates since the Sakhir Test a month ago.
However, the start of the European-North American season at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix should in theory offer the perfect chance to introduce the first major changes. The complication of a sprint weekend means there is only one-hour of practice before qualifying, which means there is not enough time to understand the impact.
Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto says major upgrades will wait for subsequent races, as the team instead wants to concentrate on eradicating the kind of porpoising behaviour it encountered in Australia last weekend.
Asked by Motorsport.com about its upgrade plan for Imola as it was a sprint weekend, Binotto said: “I think it will be a difficult weekend in respect of bringing updates and trying to evaluate them in the Friday practice, because you need obviously to focus yourself on the quali of the afternoon.”
“If we will look at ourselves, there will not be much in Imola because again, we believe it will not be the right place. But we will try to mitigate the issues we have got still so far. I’m thinking of the porpoising and the bouncing that has affected our performance over the weekend. But, for the upgrades and more, let me say significant ones, it will be for later on in the season.”
Charles Leclerc’s wins in Sakhir and Melbourne with his main rival Max Verstappen’s retirement has given the Monacan a thirty-four point lead in the championship. Binotto admits that things have gone better than he anticipated, Ferrari had put a lot of work into these regulation changes.
Although Ferrari’s wins in Bahrain and Australia have been helped by Max Verstappen retiring, at both events the Italian team was quicker than Red Bull. Tyre management and a better-balanced car Mattia Binotto believes also played a role, explaining “I don’t think that the downforce level was an element because, if I look at the speed on the straights.”:
“If I look at our direct competitors, I think that finally they ran a higher downforce level compared to what they had, for example, in Jeddah, and they were a lot closer to us.”
Verstappen “no reason to believe in the title
Max Verstappen believes there is “no reason to believe” in the title at the moment after suffering two retirements in the first three races of the season. The Red Bull driver was forced to retire from second following a fuel system issue in the closing stages, like in Bahrain.
Although a similar issue played out it Sakhir, Red Bull believes the cause was slightly different. Verstappen’s hopes of defending his title may have already been dented, he is now forty-six points behind Leclerc in the championship. Verstappen acknowledged it was still a long season with twenty races remaining and joked he thought “we need forty races”, but said Red Bull had to find more pace to get ahead of Ferrari.
Verstappen said, “Being already so far down in the championship, I think it’s 46 points, from now on we need to be ahead. We need to quicker, which we are not at the moment. And we need to be reliable, which we are also not. So there’s a lot of things to work on.”
Asked what chance he had of the title this year, Verstappen replied: “I don’t even think about it. At the moment, there is no reason to believe in it.” Verstappen has twenty-five points thanks to his win in Jeddah behind Leclerc leading Mercedes George Russell by thirty-four points behind.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was reluctant to dwell on the damage the retirements had done to Verstappen’s title hopes. He told Motorsport.com, “We’re only just over 10% of the way into the championship. So I think there’s still a huge amount to go. The encouraging thing is we’ve got the basis of a quick car.”
Horner also expressed his confidence Verstappen would bounce back from the disappointment of the Australia DNF. Adding “He’s obviously frustrated when he initially got out of the car, but he knows we’re all in it together as a team.”
Second place in Melbourne “crazy” – Russell
George Russell has described his second place in the driver’s championship as “crazy” after finishing third in Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix. While Mercedes has struggled for outright pace this season being effectively in ‘no man’s land’ fighting for fifth and sixth.
But Mercedes reliability has been key in allowing them to stay in touching distance as both Ferrari and Red Bull have not finished with both cars in the opening races, while Mercedes has had three races with both Russell and teammate Lewis Hamilton finishing in the points.
Russell told BBC News, “It doesn’t matter how fast the car is, if you don’t make it to the end then you are not there to pick up the pieces. It is just crazy to think [I am second in the championship]. Someone told me and I didn’t believe them.”
The Englishman believes that Mercedes are not only behind Red Bull and Ferrari on pure performance, but McLaren and Alpine. Russell warned that if they wanted to stay in third they need to find more performance in the car.
Lewis Hamilton followed three seconds behind his teammate in fourth to push Mercedes up to second in the constructors’ championship – in between leaders Ferrari and Red Bull.
Hamilton had been set to finish ahead of his teammate after moving up to third following a strong start, but he lost out when Russell was able to take his pit stop during a safety car period. During the race, Hamilton had seemingly took his frustrations out on the team radio, saying he had been put in a “very difficult position”, but later said that was in reference to an engine issue.
He said after the race, “We definitely didn’t expect to be third and fourth. George did a great job today. We’ll take these points and keep pushing. While we haven’t improved the car, we’ve extracted the most from the car so to come away with the result is great.”
Hamilton remains hopeful that Mercedes can get back in the fight, while accepting the gap is big there is a long way to go this year.
Wolff accuses Masi of “disrespecting” drivers
Mercedes F1 CEO and team principal Toto Wolff has accused former race director Michael Masi of “disrespecting” drivers by acting like he always knew better. Today marks four months since the controversial title decider where Max Verstappen was able to take the title following Masi’s mistakes on the restart.
The inquiry into the final stages of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was critical of how Masi handled the process of letting only five lapped cars – the drivers between Hamilton and Verstappen – overtake before bringing the safety car in for the final lap, allowing the Red Bull driver to pass for the lead and claim his maiden world championship.
Masi was replaced by the FIA for his role in the 2021 finale, with new race directors Niels Wittich and Edoardo Freitas replacing the Australian on a shared basis and already stamping their authority on the grid with a series of regulation crackdowns.
In an interview with the Press Association, Wolff said he had told Masi on the Wednesday between Jeddah and Abu Dhabi, “I really want to tell you, without patronising you, that you need to take criticism on board and develop from there. Lewis does it every day, but you are a guy who always seems to know better.”
Explaining what he meant, Wolff added, “It wasn’t about influencing him but really giving my honest feedback that he shouldn’t block outside opinion as simply being wrong. You hear from the drivers and how the drivers’ briefings were conducted [by Masi] and some of the guys said it was almost disrespectful how he treated some of them.”
The Austrian accused Masi of being immune to feedback and says to this day he hasn’t properly reflected that he did something wrong. He described him as a liability for the sport, as everyone should not be talking about the race director, who job it is to follow and enforce the regulations.
George Russell currently leads the team in the driver’s championship with thirty-four points behind Charles Leclerc.
Hamilton and Russell appear to be bonding and went surfing together ahead of the Australian Grand Prix.
Asked if he was surprised how well the two Britons are getting on, Wolff replied: “Yes because they are both so competitive whilst still being able to work together. The effort they are putting into showing respect.”
Italy seizes Mazepin’s properties
The Italian government has seized properties worth around £100m from Nikita Mazepin and his father Dmitry. Both men have been placed under scansion by the EU and UK following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as the target wealthy Russians linked to President Vladimir Putin.
Mazepin was sacked by Haas at the start of March, both men have been included in an EU sanctions list along with his father, Dmitry, who the European Union’s official journal described as a member of president Vladimir Putin’s closest circle.
Over the last weeks, Italian police have sequestered villas and yachts worth over €900 million from wealthy Russians who were placed on a European Union sanctions lists following the Ukraine conflict.
The most valuable asset seized so far is a superyacht owned by billionaire Andrey Igorevich Melnichenko, worth around 530 million euros, which was impounded in the northern port of Trieste.
Mazepin’s PR manager has been approached by Reuters for comment.
Aston Martin development compromised by crashes
Aston Martin team principal Mike Krack admits that the team’s nightmare weekend in Melbourne could compromise plans to get new developments onto the AMR22. In FP3, Sebastian Vettel crashed heavily and teammate Lance Stroll went off too, both drivers went on to have crashes, Stroll colliding in Q1 with Nicolas Latifi and Vettel crashing again in the race.
After the race, the team completed an inventory of usable bodywork and suspension components in Australia and back in the factory, and calculated what now needs to be made so that it has a decent stock of current spec parts for Imola.
The team’s resources will thus have to be focused on replacing damaged parts rather than on readying new spec items for Imola, although the team hopes to still get some of the planned updates to the car. Krack told Motorsport.com, “We had a very difficult weekend because we had a lot of car damage. It started already on Friday, we had a small problem with the power unit, which we had to change.”
“So we didn’t get so much time. And then obviously, the on-track incidents that were visible to everybody led to a lot of work. I think when we came here, we thought we will have been a little bit better than we have been before.”
He says that the team needed to find out what they have, admitting they were running low on spares, and that would compromise plans to bring updates to the car Krack conceded that it might.