F1 Today – 16/02/2021

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McLaren launches the MCL33M

McLaren was the first team to launch their new car on Monday evening with the team hoping to close the gap to Mercedes and Red Bull. This year the team has returned to Mercedes power and signed Daniel Ricciardo.

The team gave the first glimpse of their MCL33M at an online event from there Woking headquarters, with the Australian Ricciardo formally presented in team colours for the first time. The seven-time Grand Prix winner joins Lando Norris in a strong line-up.

At the launch CEO of McLaren Racing Zak Brown, said “Our goal is to close the gap to the front. We are not focused on any one particular team or who has got what power unit. We’ve got one target in mind and that is closing the gap to the front of the field.”

Team boss Andreas Seidl added: “We want to get closer again to Mercedes and Red Bull because these steps are key to get back to the front again at some point in the future.”

Although large parts of the cars have been frozen and only limited upgrades are allowed, McLaren has faced the challenge of integrating a Mercedes engine into this year’s car.

McLaren’s partnership with Mercedes was one of the most iconic and successful, winning titles with Mika Häkkinen and Lewis Hamilton, but split at the end of 2014 with the Woking team subsequently being powered by Honda and Renault.

Technical director James Key said he was “pleased with what we’ve seen so far” from the 2021 Mercedes unit.

The car feature papaya orange and blue livery which the team has used in recent seasons. The car will hit the track on Tuesday at Silverstone.

Norris said, “It’s a beautiful car. Small improvements compared to last year in as many areas as we could. I’m excited, and the whole team are.”

Ricciardo joins McLaren in May last year before the season began after Carlos Sainz was signed by Ferrari. Regarded as one of F1’s fastest and most complete drivers, Ricciardo believes he has joined McLaren at the right time.

He said, “To be here at the MTC wearing the colours it feels real. I was really impressed with what the team had done over the last couple of years and wanted to be a part of it.”

 

Ricciardo “excited” by McLaren prospects

Daniel Ricciardo says that he is “excited” about his prospects at McLaren. The Australian was formally unveiled as a McLaren driver on Monday, after signing a three-year contract with the team last year.

Ricciardo, who won seven races for Red Bull between 2014 and 2018 before deciding to leave for Renault, to join McLaren before the delayed start of last season, after just one season with the French car manufacturer.

He told the press conference, “Everything I have seen excites me about where McLaren is heading. I really believe in the personnel. They are doing what it takes to be a real contender in the championship.”

Ricciardo said he believed McLaren was his best option for the advent of a major technical rule change Formula 1 is introducing in 2022. Saying “We don’t have a crystal ball,” he said. “Leaving Red Bull or Renault, it is what I feel is right.”

“Do I know how it will turn out? I don’t. But I certainly feel McLaren have done the right things to set themselves up in particular for these rule changes coming in 2022.”

Ricciardo joins Lando Norris, who was part of the team finishing third in the constructors’ championship last season, winning a close fight with Racing Point and Renault behind dominant champions Mercedes and closest rivals Red Bull at the final race of the season.

He believes that battle to be tough in 2021, saying that the battle towards the front was getting more intense. For the rest of us, we are trying to close on Mercedes.

Ricciardo says the team signing Andreas Seidl as team principal and James Key as technical director, had convinced him that the team was on the right track. They have gone from ninth to fourth in the constructors in the last three years.

Seidl said it had been “a great achievement” to secure third place last year and that there were “a lot of positives” heading into the new season.

 

Norris fully recovered from Coronavirus

Lando Norris says he feels “fully recovered” after contracting Coronavirus in Dubai, which left him “very drained” for a couple of weeks.

Norris announced in early January that he had tested positive for COVID-19 while taking a holiday in Dubai ahead of a planned training camp, forcing him to complete a ten-day self-isolation before he could return home to the UK.

Norris is one of six drivers who have tested positive for the virus. All the drivers who have had the virus have had different side effects, Stroll said last year that it “wasn’t an easy recovery,” while world champion Hamilton lost 4kg due to the virus.

Asked by Motorsport.com about how COVID-19 had impacted him over the winter, Norris was upbeat, saying it had not affected his preparations for the new season too greatly.

He said, “I think luckily for me, COVID wasn’t too bad. It was a few days or so of initially having no taste, no smell, the normal really, and just feeling very drained and tired for a couple of weeks.”

“Since then, [I’ve] basically fully recovered, everything is back to normal. I wouldn’t say that it really affected me too much, [apart from] a bit of the training.” During his self-isolation, he wasn’t allowed outside his room meaning he had to do basic workouts.

Norris goes into 2021 looking to build on a successful 2020, which saw him help the team finish third in the constructors’ championship, as well as scoring his maiden podium finish.

Norris explained how he felt more confident going into the new season with the additional experience under his belt, having also finished last year strongly.

Norris said, “I’m just that little bit more confident. I can go into the season, I can go into the winter test and the first race knowing what I really want and what I want in the car from my engineers.

 

Red Bull gives strongest hint of producing own engines

Red Bull has given its strongest indication yet that it will look to produce its own power unit when the new power unit regulations come into force in 2025. On Monday, the team announced it had reached a deal to take over the Honda engine project and run the power units itself from 2022.

The team had already given the go-ahead for the formation of a new company, Red Bull Powertrains, now the signs and language from the team suggest that this could be a long term project.

In a media round table, Christian Horner is clear that the most logical thing for Red Bull to do would be to lay the groundwork for the construction of its own engine when new rules come in for 2025.

Horner explained, “It needs to be a long-term view because obviously, the investment into the facilities to gear up for this are quite significant. You’ve both got a short-term scenario of the existing regulations, and then of course whatever the new regulations are.”

He added “We need to be in a position to take that on as well. We will have a facility capable of designing and operating the next generation of engines with a facility that will be invested within here.”

Red Bull has already said that they plan to call the power unit Red Bull, while its long term plans could trigger it bringing in a fresh manufacturer to F1.

With its own facilities up and running to prepare the engine, it could be enough to entice a carmaker that does not have its own F1 infrastructure ready to go.

Horner said that a tie-up with a manufacturer would not be essential if Red Bull was to produce its own engine from 2025, but it was open to the idea. Saying it would take a “very seriously, whether that be an OEM or another type of partner, a battery manufacturer or whatever. It really depends what the engines are.”

The negotiations about the new engine regulations from 2025, with the sport committing to a new hybrid concept, have already begun. Red Bull says it will understand the regulations before committing to developing its own engines

 

Verstappen at top of Mercedes list – Red Bull

Red Bull believes that Max Verstappen would “at the top of the list” for Mercedes if Sir Lewis Hamilton quits after 2021, confirming the Dutchman’s contract includes a performance clause.

Mercedes announced last week that the seven times champion had only signed a one year contract which has led to speculation about his future beyond the end of the season. If Hamilton walks away at the end of 2021, Verstappen has been seen as the natural successor.

Verstappen’s contract runs to the end of the 2023 season, it has been common in the past for drivers to have performance-related clauses in their contract. For the first time on Monday at a media round table team principal, Horner hinted that such a clause may exist.

He said, “All drivers have safeguards within a performance, and the reality is that as there has always been there is an element of performance-related to Max’s contract. I’m not going to go into what that is.”

“It doesn’t relate to the power unit in any way, it’s just a binary performance at a certain measurement in time. As with all these things, though, to force a driver that doesn’t want to be there, it’s more about relationships than contracts.”

Horner says that the relationship with Verstappen is very strong, with the Dutch driver believing in the project as well as the power unit. This has made him confident that they will not need to refer to clauses because of the need to deliver a competitive car.

Asked if he was at all worried that Mercedes could approach Verstappen if Hamilton were to leave, Horner said it was logical he would be at the top of its shortlist.

Horner said, “I’m sure that should Lewis decide to stop then Max would have naturally be the driver at the top of the list. But they also have George Russell. They’ve also got other drivers obviously available to them. And I think again, as I say, it’s all down to relationships and us forming a competitive car.”

There are no guarantees however in 2022, the regulation changes are designed to bring the grid closer together, Horner believes the new regulations will see a significant mix up of the order.

Verstappen signed a new long-term agreement with Red Bull at the start of 2020, committing to the team for the following four seasons.

 

Alpine set out launch plans

Alpine has confirmed they will launch there 2021 car on Tuesday 2nd March online. The team which has been rebranded from the Renault team announced the date on social media along with a video of it firing up the A521 for the first time.

It makes the French team the seventh team to confirm its launch plans ahead of the new season, leaving only Red Bull, Haas and Aston Martin still to finalise a date to unveil their cars.

Alpine will enter the new season with a fresh image and a fresh driver line-up as two-time world champion Fernando Alonso joins the team for a third stint at Enstone. He will partner Esteban Ocon, who scored his first podium in Sakhir in December the teams first in nine years.

There have also been some notable changes at management level for the team, with former Renault F1 boss Cyril Abiteboul leaving in January.

Former Suzuki MotoGP boss Davide Brivio has joined in the role of racing director, while it is anticipated that existing executive director Marcin Budkowski will step up to become team principal.

Laurent Rossi has also taken up the role as CEO of the entire Alpine operation, reaching across to its road car division as well.

Last week, Alpine completed its first fire up ahead of its launch on the same day as Mercedes.

An interim Alpine livery was revealed last month at a Renault Group event but will be replaced by the full season colour scheme that is set to be unveiled at the launch event.

 

Aston Martin to launch in March

Aston Martin will unveil its new care on Wednesday 3rd March, the team in recent weeks as undertaken a rebrand of the Racing Point. The team has now revealed details of its launch plans at the start of next month.

The team will launch virtually at 15:00GMT with fans being invited to be part of the event by registering to ‘Unlock The Vault’ for the new car through its website.

2021 will mark the first time a car has raced under the Aston Martin name in F1 since the British manufacturer last entered a works effort in 1960. The renaming of the team comes after Lawrence Stroll made an investment in the car manufacturer.

The launch will be Sebastian Vettel’s first public appearance for the team following his switch from Ferrari. The four-time champion will partner Lance Stroll, the Canadian looking to build on his breakthrough 2020, which saw him m score his first F1 pole position and two podium finishes.

The team is set to undergo a significant rebranding, moving away from the bright pink colours the Racing Point squad was known for and adopting the classic British racing green that is synonymous with Aston Martin.

Aston Martin has also welcomed a new title sponsor, Cognizant, ahead of the 2021 season, acting as another big change under the rebranding. Red Bull and Haas as teams yet to confirm plans to unveil their new cars ahead of the new season, with the rest of the grid having set their unveilings.

Jack

Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.