Mercedes believes unrealistic to claim clean sweep
Mercedes believes it’s unrealistic for them to win all twenty-one races this season, despite the team starting the season with five consecutive one-two finishes.
The German manufacturer has won the last five drivers and constructors championship and has responded well to the aero tweaks this season as well as the threat from Ferrari. Following last weekends Spanish Grand Prix, the team is nearly a hundred points ahead in the championship.
Asked by Motorsport.com, if was realistic Mercedes could win all twenty-one Grand Prix’s this year, team principal Toto Wolff said, “No. First of all, I think you need to stay humble and keep both feet on the ground. We’ve had five fantastic performances now and five one-twos but we don’t take it for granted.”
“It’s not just saying it, it’s really the mindset that we have. The next two weeks are going to be a tremendous challenge for us. We’ve not had the performance in Monaco in the last years.”
“Remember how strong [Daniel] Ricciardo was last year in the Red Bull? They were in a league of their own. We need to take one step at a time. The next race weekend looks challenging on paper.” However, two of the Mercedes one-twos have come because of Ferrari’s mistakes.
Charles Leclerc should have won in Bahrain if it wasn’t for the engine failure, he could have been in a good position to take pole in Baku if he hadn’t had crashed out of qualifying.
Asked if he feared Mercedes winning every race this year, Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said: “We will never give up. Our ultimate objective is to do better than in Barcelona. Each circuit is different, already Monaco will be a different circuit to Barcelona. Our car has got some strengths and certainly weaknesses.”
The closest Mercedes have come to a clean sweep was 2016, however, Hamilton crashing into teammate Nico Rosberg in Barcelona and his engine failure in Sepang arguably cost them a clean sweep of wins.
Red Bull appears the likeliest immediate threat to Mercedes’ 100% record because of its form in Monaco, the next race on the calendar.
Team boss Christian Horner does not think Mercedes will win every grand prix. He said: “I doubt it: 21 races to achieve 21 victories. Never say never but it’d be a hell of an achievement. It’s very much a Mercedes championship. You can see that after five races that they’re three points off of maximum score.”
McLaren has “positive momentum” – Seidl
McLaren’s new team principal Andreas Seidl says that he has joined a team with “a lot of positive momentum” but admits they may not be able to close the gap to the top three until F1’s next technical overhaul in 2021.
The German who masterminded Porsche’s recent WEC success has been brought in to try and lead the team back to the front, following four difficult years where McLaren has been at the lower end of the field, and haven’t won a race in seven years.
In the opening five races, there has been a resurgence in its performance and currently sits fourth in the constructors. Its technical team of James Key and consultant Pat Fry have been happy with the progress. Speaking to Sky Sports, Seidel said “Of course my personal ambitions are high but the case is the same for every single member of the team.”
“At the same time, we need to be realistic. There is some hard work ahead of us at McLaren. The positive thing is that there is a lot of positive momentum and I think a lot of the changes Zak made last year are paying off already.”
“Now it’s down to me, together with the team, to keep going in that direction and, step by step, getting closer to the top guys.” The sports second most successful constructor has been falling behind for the last six years, and that accelerated when it teamed up with Honda in 2015.
Although they are making ground in their second season with Renault power, the team are more often than not still over a second-a-lap slower than the fastest car.
Seidl, therefore, is realistic about McLaren’s fightback, claiming the new regulations in 2021, which could be confirmed in June this year, give them the best chance of making a big jump towards the front.
He added, “I think the discussions we are having with F1 and the FIA are very good and of course there will be challenges ahead looking towards the new regulations in 2021.”
CEO Zak Brown believes that it’s going to be a short term battle in the midfield, but when the problems of big budgets are resolved that McLaren are able to come back.
He added, “I think as that Formula 1 moves into its next phase, I think that plays to McLaren’s strengths so we needed to start the rebuilding the process.”
Brown, while saying Seidl will have full control of the F1 team, also said that “ultimately, the buck stops with me” but is optimistic about McLaren’s future – insisting the team will be successful again in the next decade.
African race a priority
Formula One’s commercial director Sean Bratches says it’s a priority for Liberty to get a race on the African continent, saying that the Moroccan Grand Prix could be revived in Marrakech seventy years after the race was last held.
In recent years the country has hosted both Formula E and the WTTC on a street circuit. The last race on the continent, the only one without at least one Grand Prix, was held at Kyalami in South Africa in 1993. There has however been a number of attempts to revive the South African race, without success.
Speaking in London, Bratches said “We race on five continents and the last habitable continent that we don’t race in is Africa. We’ve been having very productive conversations in South Africa and to a lesser extent in Morocco about bringing a grand prix.”
“We raced there before. I’ve been told that due to political considerations historically, that ceased. We’re on it, and it’s really important to us.” He says that the region is a key market place and would make the sport truly global.
Kyalami would be seen as the best option as it is believed it would need limited upgrades. He, however, admitted he was unfamiliar with the status, suspecting it’s not a grade one circuit, but says there is a high degree of interest.
Bratches suggested that it was inevitable that public funding would be involved in a Morocco project. Adding “Wherever you go in the world [our races] are economic engines for these countries, states, cities, principalities, municipalities.”
FIA begins tendering standard parts
The FIA is to begin the tendering process for the supply of standardised parts from 2021 as it continues to push for reductions in costs for the teams. The process has been complicated by the June deadline for publication of the technical regulations.
The sports governing body has been prioritising the major component’s and has thus far issued four invitations to tender. The first, for a common gearbox cassette for the 2021-2024 seasons, closed in March.
The submission deadline for the subsequent three invitations for wheel rims, brake friction material and the brake system (brake-by-wire, callipers and master cylinder) is May 22, with a result promised by June 14.
Speaking to Motorsport.com, the FIA technical boss for single seaters Nikolas Tombazis said “The gearbox was the first one to be launched, it was launched in February.”
“We got the bids in and we’re now into the phase of making a report to the World Motor Sport Council. The other three the deadline is [coming up] and the bids haven’t come through yet, so we’ll see what happens.” He added
He confirmed that more tenders will be launched in the coming months for smaller parts, and there will be clear understanding on what teams need to make.
Although the deadline is only six weeks away, he says the teams know what they will need to make themselves and that any issued after June will not be for major components. One of the areas being looked at is sensors with Tombazis believing that could have an added benefit to regulation.
Tombazis says the 2021 rules will allow for cases where a tender is launched but ultimately the FIA decides not to award a contract.
Adding “In the rules, there will be provision for certain things to be standard supply, there will also be exact provisions for what happens if that standard supply does not succeed, what happens then for these pieces, how do we achieve cost reduction if the standard supply fails.”
Renault plans no change to targets
Renault says there is no plan to “renegotiate” its targets for 2019 despite the team’s disappointing start to the season. The French manufacturer went into this season hoping to pull clear of the midfield battle and close the gap on the sport’s top three teams.
However, rather than pulling away two races without points has left the team eighth in the constructors. While it knows it may face a tough battle for fourth, F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul says that there is no thought of it revising its ambitions – as he remains convinced it can still deliver.
He told Motorsport.com, “We want to come back to the performance level we need to have at this point of our journey – to stick to our target which frankly is absolutely not changing. We are not renegotiating our target at this point of time.”
The teams’ car has proved a strong midfielder, but its reliability including a double retirement in Bahrain has proved costly. Abiteboul is aware that delivering to its maximum should yield good results, he thinks the same is true of other midfield teams too.
Saying “I am sure if Haas does everything correctly, if Toro Rosso does everything correctly, if McLaren does everything correctly they could be doing the same.” He admitted that any small deviation in that can change the midfield dramatically.
The teams target ultimately is to get in amongst the top three, but its short term target is regaining fourth in the constructors. The midfield remains as tight as ever, giving Abiteboul confidence that they can close the gap by the end of the season.
Adding “I think it is extremely open and I think until probably two-thirds of the season it will remain the situation. So that will give us the opportunity to regroup, do what we need to do, address the early season issues and P4 in the championship is completely achievable.:
Barcelona should continue as a test venue
Red Bull’s team principal Christian Horner says Formula One should continue to use the Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya event if the Spanish Grand Prix drops off the calendar.
It is understood of the four races which don’t currently have a contract for 2020, Barcelona is the most at risk with its slot being taken by the Dutch Grand Prix which is returning after a thirty-five-year absence.
F1 has raced at Barcelona since 1991 and the venue has also been a regular pre-season host. Horner told Motorsport.com, “It would be a great shame if we don’t come back racing in Barcelona, but we certainly should continue to test here. I think, being European based, it’s far enough south to have sensible weather.”
“From a cost point of view it’s cost efficient for the European-based teams to come and test here and it’s a good track. It has a combination of high-speed, medium-speed and low-speed corners so it’d be a shame if it doesn’t get utilised for at least testing duties.”
Barcelona has hosted testing every year since 1991, expect 2014 when it was replaced by Sakhir. Horner believes Barcelona is a good reference for the teams and he will be a good reference point.
Drivers have largely expressed disappointment that Barcelona could fall off the calendar. Racing Point driver Sergio Perez admitted that has F1 has been using the track for “a long time, I’m sure everyone would like to see a change.”