Leclerc still has “a lot to learn”
Charles Leclerc admits that he still has a lot to learn from his Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel, despite his strong first season against the four-times champion.
The Monegasque driver took more pole positions, wins and points than Vettel during a 2019 season, but there were some controversial moments between the pair, including their collision in the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Speaking at Autosport International on Sunday, Leclerc said that having Vettel alongside him was a positive though because of the way the German had opened his eyes. We were working well together. Obviously, we’ve had our moments on the track, in which we’ve learned together, and hopefully, it won’t happen again things like in Brazil.”
Leclerc believes that they are mature enough to out of the car to try and develop the car in the right way. He says that he still has a lot to learn, and sometimes listening to the engineers is very interesting.
Ferrari struggled in the early part of last season, but he says going into this year ambitions remain high, and the foundations laid this year will be crucial for 2021 and beyond. Adding, “I think 2020 will be a very important year, where teams are going to invest a lot obviously because then the budget cap is coming in 2021.”
Leclerc wants to be as ready as possible for what he described as a big year in 2021, he hopes that the team will be working properly to build the right car which is able to win the championship.
Consistency “final step” to beating Hamilton
Valtteri Bottas believes that the “final step” in beating Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton is improving the consistency of his performances. The Finn finished as runner up to his teammate last year, but his mid-season dip in form is to believe to have cost him the championship.
Asked by Motorsport.com, what he needs to do to finally get ahead of Hamilton in 2020, Bottas, who scored four wins, five poles and eleven other podiums in 2019, said, “It’s quite clear in my mind. We’re definitely [working] with the engineers and with the team on my development programme.”
“Things we’re really focusing on [is] the race week and for my performance that final step I need is consistency. Still more adaptability to different circumstances [as well] but the main thing is minimising mistakes.”
He admitted that there were some qualifying mistakes which compromised his race, Bottas says Hockenheim was an example of that. He believes there is a lot of fine details around driving style which he can improve.
Adding, “Minimising those mistakes, being able to find [the right] mental state that [means] I will be able to perform at my best every single weekend – that’s the tricky part. Like in any sport.”
Bottas says he still has to dig very deep to find anything from his side, questioning himself “how I can be a better driver, how I can perform better, how I can work better with engineers.”
He says that Hamilton won the title because he was better over the course of the season, and he beat him fair and square.
Norris ‘accidentally’ announces McLaren launch
Lando Norris has ‘accidentally’ announced that McLaren will launch their 2020 car, the MCL35, on Wednesday 13th February. During a live walkabout on YouTube the Englishman walked in on a meeting at the McLaren Technology Centre.
In the stream, he said, “I heard it was on the 13th of February. Zak [Brown, McLaren CEO] told me it was on the 13th…” Cue awkward responses from those in the meeting, before the stream, was swiftly ended.
Later on, the team ‘officially’ announced the 13th as the car launch, with Norris recording a video on Twitter when he also announced a competition for fans to attend the launch.
McLaren enjoyed their best season since 2014 in fourth place, this suggests the team could be on the way back to the top of the sport. As well as building a strong team behind the scenes, which developed a strong chassis to go with an improving Renault engine, McLaren also has two young, impressive drivers in Carlos Sainz and Norris, the twenty-year-old is the youngest man on the grid.
speaking at the Autosport International Show, said about his rookie season, Norris said “I think – and I can now say – that I was very happy with how I did. I did better than I thought I would do.”
“I’m not saying that’s because it was easy at all, but just because as a team we worked so well. My engineers helped me to settle in, to get comfortable and to be able to do the best I can.”
McLaren could not have finished higher without making a big step forward to challenge the top three, they will be hoping that next years regulation changes allow them to make that step.
Haas believes it can avoid “big negative spiral”
Kevin Magnussen believes that Haas can bounce back from its poor 2019 and avoid the kind of “big negative spiral” that occurred at McLaren and Williams.
The American team went into last season looking to challenge in the midfield, its season unravelled dramatically, and it ended up taking the ninth in the constructors’ championship. Haas finished closer to Williams’ points tally of one than Alfa Romeo’s total of fifty-seven in eighth place.
Magnussen accepts it’s been “a difficult time” for Haas, he stresses that 2019 marked “the first time that the team has gone backwards. The first three years we took big steps forward.”
“Maybe it doesn’t look so big, but actually going from P8 in the constructors to P5 in three years is pretty good. Toro Rosso, for example, have never finished in the top five.”
“They’ve won a race. They’ve got the podium a few times, and they’ve never been in the top five. [Haas’] third year, top five, so that’s bloody impressive. And nobody seems to notice this.”
Magnussen says that Toro Rosso has never finished in the top five, but has been on the been on the podium a few times, he believes that their achievements are not noticed. But believed that Haas was on the up and that was a pleasure to be with a team who are on the up.
Adding “This year, we’ve taken a step back and you get that sense of the same feeling happening, people are starting to doubt themselves. But I think there’s no reason to. It’s hard to expect to only go forward all the time.”
He says it is important that the team doesn’t get trapped in a negative spiral like some of the big team and spend many years going backwards. Magnussen says that being a smaller newer team means its quicker to get back on track.
team-mate, Grosjean believes Haas can take its disappointing 2019 in its stride, as long as it is honest about its shortcomings. He added, “We all need to be frank with ourselves and say: ‘Look, what can we do better? Where can we improve?’ ‘[What] was the area [that was] not the best – the drivers, engineers, management, communications? The kitchen?’”
Honda aiming to close differences
Honda is looking to eliminate the variances in engine performance between circuits to allow Red Bull to be contenders at each venue. The Japanese manufacturer made a big step forward last season following four difficult years.
The progress helped Max Verstappen to victories at the Red Bull Ring, Hockenheim and Interlagos, three circuits that all feature long straights. Red Bull and Verstappen, who has extended his contract with the outfit through 2023, are hoping to mount their first proper title challenge in the hybrid era this year, and Honda is aware of this ambition.
Asked by Motorsport.com, if Red Bull should be aiming for its 2020 car to start the season second only to reigning champion Mercedes, Honda’s F1 managing director Masashi Yamamoto told Motorsport.com: “We agree with this view. And in order to make it come true, as Honda, we have to prepare a good engine.”
“This year it was, we don’t say ‘unstable’, but we had a preference in the circuit. We shouldn’t have that kind of thing. So we can tell to Max ‘we are here’, good everywhere, in every race. We have to provide that kind of engine, doing good development.”
At some races last season Honda appeared to have the edge on power over Mercedes, but it remains convinced it ended the season “still behind Ferrari and Mercedes”.
2019 was the best season for Honda given its struggles with McLaren, they clearly made a step forward both with power and reliability. The step forward allowed Verstappen to finish fourth in the championship.
Stewart’s race against dementia
Sir Jackie Stewart believes that F1’s ability to find quick solutions is hastening the race to find a cure for dementia. The three-times champion set up the charity Race Against Dementia two years ago, after his wife Lady Helen was diagnosed with the disease.
His wife has limited short-term memory and impaired mobility, requiring round-the-clock care, and he had become dismayed at the speed of progress in medical research. Stewart’s organisation has given PhD students Formula One team experience.
Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland, the three-times champion said, “Our PhDs go to Red Bull and McLaren and see how things are done more quickly.”
“For 30 years, billions have been spent to try and get a cure for dementia and it’s failed, not only for preventive medicine but for corrective medicine.”
Sir Jackie says that billions have been spent to try and find a cure for dementia and it’s failed both for preventive medicine but for corrective medicine. He described the situation as “simply unacceptable in today’s world in my opinion. We’ve got to do it a different way.”
“The systems are different in F1, the motivation is faster, the fear of being beaten is absolutely amazing. I think we’re going in the right direction in that respect.”
Stewart who led the campaign in the 1960s and 70s to improve safety in Formula One described Lady Helen’s dementia as “the biggest (challenge) I’ve ever faced.”
Stewart was also a champion at clay pigeon shooting and is still involved in F1 sponsorship but admits: “Helen’s challenge for me now is the biggest one I’ve ever faced.”
“Helen and I have been married for coming up to 58 years. She was my timekeeper, my lap charter as well as being the mother of two very successful young men and we have nine grandchildren.”
He says they are lucky they can afford round the clock home care around that clock but admits that it hurts very badly.