Not a perfect record – Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton says he does not have a perfect record this season, despite him making his strongest season winning eight of the twelve races in the first half of the season.
While his teammate Valtteri Bottas has won two of the other races. It has put Hamilton on course for his sixth world title. Should if the momentum carries into 2020 the chance to pass Michael Schumacher’s all-time win record early next year and equal his seven world titles.
Asked by Autosport to reflect on his eight wins from 12 races, Hamilton admitted it was an “exceptional” start.
He added “But I look at those races and 8 out of 12, there’s still some missing. So how did we miss those? How were we not perfect on those weekends?”
“We’ve also had races where we were quite fortunate, Ferrari were quicker but through sometimes team error and sometimes driver error, it’s put them in the position of not winning.”
Hamilton admits that they have had two lucky wins because Ferrari was on the edge and had a car failure in Bahrain, which he believes shows how on the limit everyone is and that you can’t anything for granted.
His team-mate Valtteri Bottas scoring two wins and lying second in the championship. It means Mercedes is on course for yet another title double, having scooped every championship since 2014, making the team the first to score seven back to back drivers and constructors’ championships.
He added, “The majority of the time we don’t get complacent. We always arrive with the same mentality. We’ve had all this success, everyone continues to work just as hard, nobody’s better than the other and we all lift each other up.”
Through tweaks to regulations, the German manufacturer has remained the team to beat, and that critics of the team according to Hamilton don’t know how hard it is to achieve this performance. He says that it still about delivering week in, week out.
“No differentiation” anymore for unsafe releases
The teams and FIA have agreed that time penalties will be awarded for unsafe releases even if a driver doesn’t gain a competitive advantage.
The debate around how a deterrent for teams came into the spotlight at Hockenheim, when Ferrari was handed just a fine for Charles Leclerc being launched into the path of Haas driver Romain Grosjean, who had to brake hard to avoid a collision and duly lost positions.
The £4,600 fine has been seen has not a big enough deterrent. Following discussions in Budapest between race director Micheal Masi and the teams, it was agreed that in the future only time penalties would be handed out for unsafe releases.
Masi has now also clarified that a rules breach will be deemed to have happened even if the release has had no impact on the competitive order.
He explained, “We had quite a good discussion and it was agreed that from this [Hungarian GP] weekend effectively, forget about what has happened in the first part of the year and during the race”
“If there is a judged unsafe release then it will be a time penalty regardless of if there is or is not a sporting advantage, so there will be no differentiation. Teams were all quite happy to effectively start from this weekend onwards and all the teams and team principals were made aware of exactly the same thing.”
While that is the current position, Masi says that he is open to change if the teams can agree with the approach they want to take.
McLaren eyes halving the gap
McLaren are setting their sights on halving the gap next season as it looks to move closer to the top three and build on the progress they have made this season.
Following the restructure and appointments of Andreas Seidl and James Key, the focus has now shifted to make sure they can carry the current momentum and lifts it gave even more next season. This has made the team switch more resources to next years car.
Its aim is breaking free of the midfield pack and close down the advantage that Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari have. Seidl told Motorsport.com “Our ambition is that next year we can go somewhere in-between the gap we are having at the moment, between the top three teams and us.”
“If you look at the lap times we are somewhere between 1-1.5 seconds away from the top three teams, and our target is to jump somewhere in-between that.”
Although Key only joined the team this season, McLaren believes that there is no reason why he can evolve this year’s car. The team sees no reason for a change in concept, believing they are in a good place and know what the weaknesses are.
He added “We started straight after winter testing with an initial concept phase of next year’s car, which is different to previous years, and that fact together with having a clear technical director in place gives me a lot of hope. I am optimistic we can make the next step.”
Seidl says that the team needs to be realistic and the gap to the front remains huge, that’s why they are switching focus soon to 2020. He says results like Budapest helps them to make that decision.
Vassuer confident of challenging McLaren
Alfa Romeo team principal Fred Vassuer is confident that the team’s consistency means that the team can take the fight to McLaren in the second half of the season.
Following a disappointing run of non-scores in Spain, Monaco and Canada, Kimi Raikkonen has finished in the top ten in the last five races, although along with teammate Antonio Giovinazzi he dropped out of the points in Germany due to a clutch infringement.
Those penalties are now under appeal and will be heard following the Singapore Grand Prix. However, Vassuer believes even without the appeal the team can climb up the order from its current seventh place.
Vassuer told Motorsport.com “Consistency is important in the middle of the pack. I think McLaren is always there also, but I hope we are able to fight with McLaren in the second part of the season.”
“We have to be consistent. We have to get the cars into the points every single weekend and try to do it with two cars. I think we can be optimistic. If you compare with Barcelona, we were far away, and we’ve improved consistently from that stage of the season.”
He says that the team are pushing hard and stay on the same path during the last half of the season. Vasseur says Budapest was an example of the team’s current strong form, as the track wasn’t expected to suit the car.
Raikkonen finished seventh and second to McLaren’s Carlos Sainz in the midfield battle and even managed to hold off the Mercedes of countryman Valtteri Bottas in the closing laps.
He said “I was not very optimistic before Budapest, because I think it’s not our best layout. But Kimi did a fantastic job in the race. The pace was there from the beginning. The key for us was to have a good start and be in front of Grosjean.”
Vasseur says keeping Bottas behind for five or six laps was a good step forward again and a great feeling before the break for the whole team
Correa gets Alfa test
Juan Manuel Correa will be taking part in a private test with Alfa Romeo next Saturday at Paul Ricard. The American driver has been racing in Formula Two with sister team Sauber this season.
Correa will drive the Sauber C32, which was the last of the team’s V8-powered cars before the V6 turbo powertrains were introduced in 2014.
He will target the limit of 300km in the car with the main aim of getting used to F1 machinery and working with an F1 crew of mechanics and engineers.
Correa said “To say I am excited is an understatement. A test and a career in Formula One has been something that my partners and I have been working on for quite some time. I will take it all in stride, listen and learn all while gaining as much experience as possible.”
He was born in Ecuador but moved to Florida at an early age, he has worked his way up to F2 over the last four years.
This season, he has worked alongside Alfa’s test drivers Marcus Ericsson and Tatiana Calderon to develop his own racing skills. He is currently the highest-placed American driver in the European junior categories under F1.
He was the first American to win the Rotax Junior World Championship, he was recruited by the Lotus F1 Team’s junior programme and, at the age of 14, started racing go-karts in Europe.
He will work alongside race drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi and test drivers, Ericsson and Calderon.
Wolff warns against changes to weekends
Mercedes F1 CEO and team principal Toto Wolff says that DTM’s experiment with shorter race weekends is a warning against a “radical” change to the race weekend format like cutting out Friday practice.
One of F1’s proposals for future seasons is to shift Friday practice so it runs later, but it appears to have opted against a considerable reduction of track time or eliminating pre-weekend running entirely. The belief is that by limiting practice, the races are more entertaining races because teams have less data and are less prepared.
However, Wolff believes that the 2013-14 DTM experiment didn’t work as it was not spectacular and special anymore
He told Motorsport.com, “If it’s cut short to two days it takes some value out of a race weekend and Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motor racing, and it’s the world championship among engineers, drivers and the best teams. Therefore, that is a thing I wouldn’t change – I would leave it on Friday.”
Another example of the loss of Friday being limited and the racing being great was in Austin last year, that race ended with three cars from three different teams using different strategies and finishing just a couple of seconds apart.
Wolff admitted it was possible that the amount of running on Friday directly correlated with the spectacle on Sunday.
Though Wolff is in favour of retaining practice sessions on Friday, he is not against amending the format. “What we can think about is cutting a session short on Friday or reducing the running time to 60 and 60 minutes rather than 90 minutes,” he added.