Hamilton wants intense battles
Lewis Hamilton says he wants the intense battles for race wins in recent races to continue so his Mercedes team is regularly challenged by Ferrari and Red Bull.
The Englishman has built a lead of sixty-eight points over teammate Valtteri Bottas, following his strong run in the first half of the season. However, in the last few races, he has been under increasing pressure from Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who showed Ferrari has the advantage at high-speed circuits by winning at Spa and Monza.
Prior to the summer break, Hamilton had to overcome Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to win in Hungary, while Verstappen won two of the three Grand Prix’s prior to that race.
Asked by Motorsport.com, if the next few races will favour him and Mercedes after two ‘Ferrari circuits’, Hamilton said: “I’m not thinking that way. I’m not looking to the next race thinking it’s going to swing our way.”
“I’ll go to the factory next week and go through the same process, hoping we can improve our car and improve our method on a weekend and do a better job. I hope I can do a better job in the next race. If they are as competitive in the next race, great.”
Hamilton says personally he hopes a competitive battle between Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari continues. However, Singapore should suit Mercedes and Red Bull more than Ferrari, despite it being historically a circuit where Mercedes have struggled.
Bottas added, “Singapore on paper is better than us compared to Ferrari and we’re very close to them [at Monza]. So it should be good. We have to see, it’s a special track, very hot conditions, unique in what it needs mechanically from the car.
Don’t write Vettel off – Wolff
Mercedes F1 CEO and team principal Toto Wolff says that Sebastian Vettel is to go to be written off yet, following another difficult weekend for the four-time champion at the Italian Grand Prix.
Vettel’s teammate Charles Leclerc took a Ferrari home win at Monza, while the four-times champion had another frustrating afternoon as he spun early in the race and then was handed a penalty for re-joining in an unsafe manner and colliding with Lance Stroll.
While some believe Vettel’s struggles and the rise of Leclerc is the beginning of the changing of the guard at Ferrari, Wolff is not so convinced.
Speaking to Motorsport.com, after Vettel’s latest troubles, Wolff said “I’m just saying, don’t write him off. He’s a four-time world champion, and the difference between the great ones and the good ones is that the great ones are able to get up again. And I have no doubt that he can do that.
“He’s had a spell of bad races, and now it will be about the ability to get himself back into where he deserves to be, and [Italy] for sure is a bad day for him.”
While Vettel was disappointed with Monza, he maintains it was ultimately good for Ferrari. Asked to reflect on what happened, he said “It’s good for the team, on my side I’m not happy, certainly not with how it went today, with that spin. After that obviously our race was pretty much lost from there, but at least the team was still going.”
“Last year it was close with Kimi [Raikkonen], this time it was certainly good that Charles sealed the victory at the end for the team.”
Williams agrees five year Mercedes engine deal
Williams has agreed a new five-year extension to 2025 with engine supplier Mercedes. The current contract was due to expire at the end of 2020, but the deal now means that secures the Grove team well beyond F1’s next rules revolution in 2021.
Williams has had Mercedes engines since 2014 but had been linked with Renault, who they won five of their nine championships with. Deputy team principal Claire Williams said, “We have enjoyed a wonderful partnership with Mercedes-Benz over the past six years of what was originally a seven-year agreement.”
“So we are delighted to be continuing working with them for a further five years from 2021. Mercedes-Benz has been one of the sport’s most successful engine suppliers and we believe that they will continue to have an extremely competitive engine package going forwards.”
At the start of the hybrid era in 2014, Williams beat Red Bull for two back-to-back third-place finishes in the championship in their first two years with Mercedes engines, but finished tenth last year and have only scored one point in the current campaign.
Mercedes F1 CEO and team principal Toto Wolff added “Williams is one of the iconic brands in Formula 1 and we at Mercedes are proud to count them as part of our motorsport family.”
“They have been through some tough times recently but that has only served to demonstrate their resilience and strength of character as they battle back to where they belong on the grid.” Wolff, a former shareholder, says he believes that the team has a bright future under the 2021 financial regulations
Wehrlein approached Haas about 2020
Pascal Wehrlein has approached Haas team principal Gunther Steiner has confirmed but said the German’s time out of the sport ultimately counted against him.
The German who raced for Manor in 2016 and Sauber the following year, has spent the last two years competing in DTM and Formula E. Despite his role at Ferrari keeping him close to the sport after being dropped by Mercedes, according to Steiner, approached Haas to see if there was a chance, he could be considered for an F1 return next year.
But Steiner, speaking to German F1 podcast Starting Grid, explained that Haas’ preference for experienced current drivers meant he could not be put on the shortlist.
Steiner explained, “He’s been out of Formula 1 for two years now. He was at the track a few races ago and he came to visit me and asked me if there was a possibility.”
“I said: ‘unfortunately not.’ For the reason that he wasn’t in Formula 1 for two years. We want someone who has experience and has been in F1 for a long time.” Wehrlein is expected to stay with Mahindra after Mercedes didn’t sign him back to their works FE team.
While Haas has confirmed Kevin Magnussen for next year, they are looking at whether to retain Romain Grosjean or replace him with Nico Hulkenberg. A decision could come before the next race in Singapore next weekend.
Steiner added “It’s between Nico and Romain. We haven’t made the final decision yet, but it will happen soon.” It appears to be a choice between Hulkenberg’s consistency and Grosjean’s lack of consistency
Renault’s mixed financial results
Renault F1 made more income in 2018 than in 2017 but still made a significant loss. The teams overall turnover rose from £136.3m in 2017 to £146.6m last year.
The rise was because it moved from ninth in 2016 constructors championship to sixth in 2017, resulting in increased prize money and sponsorship. However, despite the increased turnover, a modest profit of £1.1m in 2017 became a loss of £7.4m last year.
The reason for the loss the French manufacturer has blamed on the weak pound versus the euro and all of its almost all turnover is denominated in Euro and US dollar, whilst the majority of costs are sterling denominated. But, the team is not affected by the trade war between Washington and Beijing.
However, Brexit uncertainties remain a concern as the prospect of no-deal remains. Adding “the company continues to monitor Brexit developments and to put plans in place for different scenarios, including whether the impact can be mitigated by utilising the operations the group has in the European Union.”
The accounts gave an idea of where they are in the five-year plan to rebuild the team, following the buyout of Louts in 2015-16. Employees rose from 606 in 2017 to 676 in 2018, resulting in a £9.4m rise in staff costs.
In another sign of the team’s expansion, £10.6m of fixed assets – reflecting improvements to the Enstone factory infrastructure – were added, on top of the £34.6m already invested under Renault ownership in 2016-’17.
The company says that such spending is not yet over, noting that “whilst the major investment required initially is now complete there are major projects in the pipeline for 2019, and beyond, to achieve Renault’s long-term aim of winning the constructors’ championship.”
Pirelli gives a look at 2021 tyres
Pirelli has given a look at the first version of its 2021 at a test at Paul Ricard on Thursday. As part of the rule changes, the cars will run 18-inch wheels and low-profile tyres. This year’s F1 cars feature 13-inch rims and balloon-style tyres, which have been synonymous with the top level of motor racing for decades.
The test was done with last years Renault which has been modified to simulate the expected downforce levels for 2021. After the two-day test this week, two more tests are scheduled with low-profile tyres in Paul Ricard this year, with McLaren due to test in October and Mercedes in December.
The switch to low-profile tyres are due to technical and financial reasons, as well as for aesthetics. A lower-profile tyre will not flex and distort to the same extent, and that should help smaller teams with fewer resources more accurately simulate the impact of tyre behaviour on aerodynamics.
The ban on tyre blankets as well means that the will need to be heated before going on the car. One of Pirelli’s aims is to have compounds with a wider operating window so that performance is not so closely linked to tyre temperature.
Next season, Formula 2, which is also supplied by Pirelli will switch to 18-inch tyres next year to help Pirelli gain an understanding of how the change in dimensions will affect tyre behaviour.
At last weekends Italian Grand Prix, F1 director Mario Isola said “The test will be more on construction. That is what happens usually when you have a new size, a new challenge. I have not got a clear idea what to expect.”
“We started already the F2 tests with 18-inches. That is going quite well, so hopefully, we have the same result with Formula One. I don’t want to call it a ‘shakedown’, because we are going to test for two days and we have a programme that is quite big. We want to test different solutions to have a better idea.”
Rossi honoured to have ‘very strong’ F1 fans
Seven times Moto GP champion Valentino Rossi says he is honoured to have ‘very strong’ F1 drivers like Lando Norris and Alex Albon as fans of his.
The two English born drivers have admitted to supporting Rossi as they grew up. Norris ran a tribute helmet and boots that were painted in the nine-time champion’s colours, at Rossi’s home race at Monza.
The Yamaha rider said that he can’t wait now swap helmets with Norris, as he said that the youngster’s exploits in F1 this season had turned him into a fan of the McLaren racer.
Asked for his reaction ahead of this weekend’s San Marino Grand Prix, Rossi said, “I’m very happy, I’m very proud, for me, it’s an honour. At the beginning of the season arrive new drivers like Lando or also Albon, they said that they grew up following MotoGP, following me, that they are my fans – and it’s something good.”
“I like the feeling, especially because they are two drivers very very strong. Lando did a great job, it was a great pleasure. Now we swap the helmet as soon as possible.”
Norris and Rossi met at last months British Grand Prix, where Rossi gave the Bristolian the idea and support for the helmet.
Norris added “It was an opportunity to make this race more special and more of a one-off and something to remember it by, and that was by having more of a connection with Valentino, the guy I’ve always looked up to, my hero. So it is more of a dedication to him than anything else.”
Rossi says that Norris is a good guy, very clever and aged nineteen looks to have more experience than he did at that age.
The week ahead
Next weekend F1 heads to Singapore for one of the showcase races of the year. This is a very important weekend for the business of the sport, as its where not only driver deals are done, but business announcements are made. It’s a race where the sports big sponsors come to do deals.
It is also a key race in terms of the driver market, after this race, it should be clearer who is going where. However, it may be stalled by Red Bull’s experiment with Alex Albon. There are ever limiting options around, but I don’t expect a major surprise, so more confirmations.
We also have weeks to go until October 31st, so expect more negotiations on the 2021 regulations. The teams are now at the crunch point, if they aren’t agreed soon, it could have major ramifications as they need to start designing cars for 2021.
The questions in the build-up to the race is about what business deals can be done. It is an important weekend, as the key players in F1 and the business world mix together.