Albon ready to grasp Red Bull opportunity
Alex Albon says that he is ready to grasp the “surreal” opportunity presented by his mid-season move from Toro Rosso to Red Bull. The British-Thai driver has been prompted in place of Pierre Gasly, who drops back down to Toro Rosso after a disappointing start to the season.
Albon has impressed in the first half of the season, scoring points on five occasions, with the best result of sixth in last month’s thrilling German Grand Prix.
In a Tweet, he said “Surreal to have been given this massive opportunity @redbullracing! Can’t thank you enough for believing in me and making this possible. It’s a big jump into the deep end, but I’ve got my swimming shorts on!”
“Thanks to all the guys at @ToroRosso, especially Franz Tost for the massive opportunity in F1 and never-ending support throughout my first year! Now to focus for my first race with the team in Spa.”
Although he has been employed by the team for a number of years, he will be the least experienced driver to race for the team since Robert Doornbos at the 2006 Chinese Grand Prix.
The London-born Thai driver only tested an F1 car for the first time in February but has made an accomplished start to his career at the top level.
Gasly returns to Toro Rosso, where he raced in 2017-18, to team up with Daniil Kvyat, who himself was relegated in the Red Bull in 2016 when Max Verstappen was promoted.
No silver bullet for Ferrari – Vettel
Sebastian Vettel admits that Ferrari has not been the fastest car this season and is not optimistic of finding the “silver bullet” to catch Mercedes. The Scuderia went into this season expecting to challenge Mercedes, but at the halfway stage are yet to win a race.
But at the summer break, the team are still yet to take a win this season and have Red Bull chasing Ferrari down in the constructors. Budapest highlighted Ferrari’s weakness, Vettel was over a minute behind race winner Lewis Hamilton on the twisty track and admitted the deficit was a fair reflection of what the team are missing.
Vettel told Sky Sports, “I tried everything but obviously I can’t be happy as we weren’t fast. There’s a lot of homework for us, but it wasn’t really an eye-opener for us as we knew it before.”
“We know that in the corners we struggle, and the nature of race tracks is that they have corners in them so we’d like to build a car faster in the corners.” He says that the aerodynamic upgrades have not been enough and there was not a silver bullet, but they will keep looking.
Team principal Mattia Binotto believes that the solution was a more medium and long term objective, but that didn’t mean that every circuit would be like Budapest.
He added, “How is it possible that a week ago [in Germany] we have the fastest car and here we are not the fastest? It’s very track dependent. We know that our car is lacking maximum downforce. A track like Budapest where maximum downforce is required, we are certainly suffering.”
Ferrari is a hundred and fifty points behind Mercedes and forty-four ahead of Red Bull. Vettel has described his season as “a bit up and down”, and repeated that they know what needs to be addressed on the car.
it is not just Ferrari’s form that Vettel has been disappointed with. The four-time world champion, who made big mistakes in Bahrain, Canada and Great Britain, rated his own performances as a ‘5/10’ in F1 2019.
Vettel added “Not happy with the first half. I think I struggled here and there to really get on top of the car.”
Leclerc looks to be less aggressive on tyres
Charles Leclerc says he is prepared to drive less aggressively so he can stop being harder on his tyres than his teammate Sebastian Vettel. In Budapest, the Monacan suffered more with tyre issues than Vettel, losing pace at the end of his stints.
Leclerc was third for most of the race until the German caught up and passed him in the closing laps to take the final podium spot, leaving Leclerc fourth.
Speaking to Motorsport.com, Leclerc said, “It was a difficult one in general obviously. I was struggling quite a lot of with my rear tyres, from mid-race onwards. It was tyres going off.
“We pitted quite early on the first stint, mostly because I was struggling with tyres, and then on the second stint towards the end I’ve been struggling with tyres again, so there’s definitely something that Seb is doing better than me in the long runs, when there’s degradation.”
He believes that it was something with his driving style which has made him struggle with tyre degradation, saying he might be struggling more than Vettel.
Adding, “I need to understand what I can do with my driving style to help that, or with the car balance to have a little bit of a compromise between the two, because at the end it’s the race when you score points.”
Mercedes will not save German GP
Mercedes F1 CEO and team principal Toto Wolff says that the manufacturer will not intervene to try to keep the German Grand Prix on the 2020 calendar, despite helping to ensure that this year’s race took place.
The race is looking as if it will be dropped from next years calendar after the additions of Vietnam and the Netherlands took the total number to twenty-two. Hockenheim subsequently signed a one-year deal with an option on F1’s side for 2020, but that has not been taken up, with Liberty viewing the fee involved as insufficient.
Speaking about the deal, Wolff told Motorsport.com, “Last year’s deal came up pretty spontaneously. We had a meeting on Sunday morning with Chase and Sean, and they said would you be able to help us bridging the gap?”
“In half an hour, we bartered out a deal in order to make the German GP happen. But this is not something which we are in a position to continue because I believe that we shouldn’t really be interfering in the business of Liberty and F1 – it is up to them to decide which tracks are on or off.”
Wolff stressed that despite its value to Mercedes it didn’t want to get involved in pushing for its home Grand Prix, despite its obvious value to the company.
Adding “I believe it’s really encouraging that there is lots of interest in hosting a race. Liberty has the great problem of having more demand than supply, and that is good, and also good for the teams, because fundamentally we share a large part of the prize fund.
Haas problems easier to solve with a slower car
Haas team principal Gunther Steiner believes it would be easier for the team to solve the issues with the car if it had a slower car. Despite being the midfield leaders on pure performance, the Anglo-American team has struggled to grips with how the VF-19 uses its tyres.
Steiner labelled the car the “strangest” he has ever worked with, admitted that finding solutions for its shortcomings has been harder than if the car was always uncompetitive. He told Autosport, “We’ve got a lot of work to do, and we know that for the rest of the season that we need to learn to manage the car and the tyres better.”
“If you have a bad car you get a big problem, but if you think with the car which sometimes performs the problem is smaller, you know, it is even bigger. Because it is somewhere, and you just need to find it, and it is difficult.”
Steiner believes it is vital for the team to resolve these issues soon with tyre management to avoid “falling in this trap” with next year’s car.” He also has no idea what the team’s realistic target was. But it is important to understand the way the tyres and car interact, which will help next year he hopes.
Steiner says the challenge for next year has been more difficult by the situation with the current one, but added the team has no choice but to start working for the future.
About next years car, he added “You have to do it, because you cannot just live day by day. You need to see the bigger picture as well, and that is part of what you need to do.”
Consistency key to unlocking performance
Robert Kubica believes consistency is the key to being able to unlock more performance for Williams on Grand Prix weekends after a “complicated” first half of 2019.
The Polish driver returned to the sport following a nine-year break after a life-altering rally crash in 2011 and has struggled to match his rookie teammate George Russell.
Asked by Motorsport.com to describe the first half of the season, Kubica said: “It has been complicated. Overall there are a few things that we have to get on top of apart from the performance of the car. I think once we fix them or we have more consistency it will be much easier.”
“Hopefully the second part of the year we’ll get on top of it and then at least we’ll be able to have consistent performance every weekend, which will be much easier.” Kubica says you can always improve, but says while Williams remains at the back they do have consistency.
He says that consistency is important from drivers to allow them to work on the small details and this is in the end what it comes down to in F1.
Russell, meanwhile, put in the teams strongest performance of the year in Hungary, the final race before the summer break. The Englishman managed to out-qualify and beat two non-Williams cars on Sunday, but Kubica believes it’s too early to tell if Williams has made an actual step forward.
He added “We have to wait and see. For sure George had a much better performance but the car was the same as in Hockenheim and in Hockenheim, it was not looking like we made big progress.”
Kubica accepts that while the gap is still big, the team has made progress and are hopeful of continuing the trend.