F1 Today – 16/09/2020

F1 Today

Latifi doubts Mugello pile up could have been avoided

Nicholas Latifi doubts that Formula One would have avoided the Tuscan Grand Prix restart pile-up even if the safety car lights had turned off earlier. Sunday’s race at Mugello had to be red flagged when several cars, were eliminated after crashing into each at the first safety car restart.

The accident was blamed on the cars at the back accelerating to try to get a good getaway, while those ahead had to brake because race leader Valtteri Bottas held off on his restart until the last moment.

Following the race, several drivers suggested that one of the trigger points for the incident was that the lights on the safety car had turned off so late, leaving Bottas with no option but to delay his restart until the last second.

But Latifi, who joined Carlos Sainz, Kevin Magnussen and Antonio Giovinazzi in being eliminated in the chain reaction incident, thinks that the timing of the safety car lights had nothing to do with it.

The Canadian told Motorsport.com, “When the safety car lights go out too late when you’re the leader, you always want it to come off as early as possible so you can just start controlling your pace.

“At the same time, with Valtteri in the lead. I’d be very surprised if he went earlier if the safety car lights went off earlier. For me, he would have waited to still be as late as he did because you want to minimize the slipstream effect.”

Latifi believes a way of avoiding a repeat incident in the future is to perhaps make special arrangements regarding restart procedures at tracks which have the potential to be troublesome because of their layout.

Saying, “Going forward, I think maybe on a case by case basis on certain tracks, so mainly here, if we come back, and a track like Baku, maybe they just have to think about implementing something a bit different.”

“It’s a difficult judgement to make. But definitely, I think there has to be, let’s say, a bit more discipline from all the drivers in situations like that, too.”

Gravel traps not a solution everywhere

FIA race director Michael Masi says that the gravel trap solution to track limits like Mugello cannot be applied at all circuits, despite finding favour with drivers.

Unlike modern circuits, Mugello has gravel traps lining much of the circuit, to the extent that in his race directors’ notes issued to teams Masi formally noted that “track limits at the exit of Turns 3, 5, 9, 11 and 15 will not be monitored as the defining limit at each of these locations is the gravel trap.”

The debate about run-off areas and track limit have been debated this year following the decision to remove kerbs at certain tracks to help prevent damage. This was because of fears of the condensed season wouldn’t allow the teams to produce spare parts.

At the Belgian Grand Prix, Carlos Sainz Jr suggested that the balance of risk and reward was wrong after artificial grass was removed from the edge of the track to help Spa earn an FIM licence.

As a result, there was even less of a penalty than previously for any F1 drivers who ran wide. Sainz was one of many F1 drivers who preferred the gravel arrangement at Mugello over asphalt run-off areas.

He told Autosport, “I think it’s great to see the gravel traps back, and it’s probably going to give the FIA some confidence that these kinds of run-off areas work to protect from track limits and all those issues that we’re having in other tracks, so it was nice to see.”

However, Masi says that while gravel traps could be used more widely, they cannot be used everywhere saying that it is not a one sizes fits all solution. Work is continuing between circuits, the FIA and the drivers to find the best solutions.

GPDA director Sebastian Vettel suggested that one possible option could be a strip of gravel between the track and an asphalt run-off.

Saying, “I think as a driver you prefer the fact that if you go off, it gets penalised. I think it makes things a lot more straightforward. But I think you have to balance also the gravel against the asphalt in terms of if things go wrong.

“Maybe we can have an intermediate solution where you have a gravel strip initially, and therefore there is no point to go wide, and after that have asphalt for the benefit of having less run-off, bring the spectators closer to the track, and make it safer for us, so the cars slow down if you lose control or whatever.


Albon’s biggest weakness he’s ‘too nice’

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes Alex Albon’s biggest disadvantages is that he is ‘too nice.’ This season has been frustrating for the British-Thai driver, and he has now delivered a podium in a chaotic race at Mugello.

Horner says that Albon will take a huge boost in confidence following the podium, against the backdrop of the recent debate about whether or not Red Bull should bring back Pierre Gasly after his Italian Grand Prix victory.

With Albon having made a point on the team radio after the race of thanking the team for sticking with him, Horner is optimistic about where his driver goes from here. Horner told Sky Sports, “The disadvantage is, if anything, he is too nice. But once he puts the helmet on you can see there is a real racer there.”

“I think there is a big difference between thinking you can do it and knowing you can do it. I think this podium for him will give him a boost of confidence and self-belief. I think he really will build from here quite nicely.”

Albon needed to fight hard for the podium, including pulling off a move on Daniel Ricciardo which Horner believes proves what a strong racer he was. He added “His placement of the car is really good and I think Daniel is a hard guy to pass. So to make that move around the outside and to make it stick, all credit to him.”

Horner says that one of the key qualities of Albon Red Bull sees but which is not obvious to the outside world, is his approach to technical matters. Horner said that Albon had won over the team with the detail he offers about the car.

He says Albon’s feedback is “very good,” with him having sensitivity for the car allowing him to win respect with engineers which has started to come through on the development side.


W Series discussing becoming support event

The W Series is in discussions about becoming a regular support category at Formula One in 2021 if plans that are currently being discussed come to fruition.

The all-female championship’s 2020 season, which was canned in June due to the Coronavirus pandemic, was already supposed to visit the United States and Mexican Grands Prix.

Up to now, W Series has supported DTM events, but with the German tin-top series facing an uncertain future following the withdrawal of Audi, it has had to look elsewhere. According to Motorsport.com, plans are in the works to split F2 and F3 in 2021, with only one of the feeder categories appearing on any given Grand Prix support.

A closer relationship between W Series and Liberty Media would help to boost diversity, as well as the possibility of getting a woman into F1. In July, W Series CEO Catherine Bond Muir suggested that the championship was already looking elsewhere for alternatives to DTM support slots.

Bond Muir, told Motorsport.com, “The message that I would want to give is that if DTM is racing we’d love to continue the partnership but if it doesn’t then we have back-up plans. We’re considering everything at the moment, we don’t operate in a microcosm.”

F1 Managing director motorsport and technical Ross Brawn, says that the W Series has had an incredible impact on motorsport, and they were excited to have them this season.


Stroll crash harms Racing Point’s upgrades

Racing Point says that Lance Stroll’s crash in the Tuscan Grand Prix has left it in a battle to ensure that both cars can run its latest upgrade package. The Canadian was not involved in the collision leading to the red flag.

In the closing stages of the race, Stroll’s car went across the gravel trap and slammed into the tyre barriers on the outside of the track, because of a suspected puncher. The damage to the car was extensive and a lot of the new parts will have been destroyed in the impact.

The team had brought new upgrades, including, new shrink-wrapped sidepods, new floor, new front wing, new engine cover and new brake ducts. These upgrades were the teams first of the season and were destroyed when making an impact with the barriers.

It means that, if Racing Point wants both Stroll and Perez to get use of the upgrades in Sochi, then it will need to ramp up its production processes to get everything turned around so they can be flown to Russia in time.

Team principal Otmar Szafnauer told Sky Sports, “We’ll have to do a lot of work to get enough parts together for both of them to have the upgrade in Russia.”

Stroll’s ability to be in the battle for the podium in the Tuscan GP has left Racing Point confident that the new parts did deliver the step forward in lap time hoped for.

Szafnauer said about the lap time difference, “It is hard to know [exactly],” However our upgrade was meant to be a couple or three tenths, and that is exactly what the performance difference was.”

Racing Point is currently fourth in the constructors, fourteen points behind McLaren.


Ricciardo joined McLaren because of personnel changes

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown said the changes made to the operational side of the company’s Formula One team were ultimately enough to convince Daniel Ricciardo to join for 2021.

The team came close to signing Ricciardo for 2019, instead, the Australian driver chose to sign for Renault who he decided to join. But since that decision, the French manufacturer has been overtaken by McLaren with key personnel changes.

Last year the team signed highly-rated technical director James Key from Toro Rosso and added Andreas Seidl, a key part of Porsche’s domination of World Endurance Championship in the last decade, as team boss. Brown believes those changes were fundamental.

When asked by the Australian Grand Prix podcast, In The Fast Lane, what the difference was between then and now, Brown said: “A couple of years ago we were coming off a horrific season, one of our worst in McLaren history. Really all I could do at that point was promise, or make claims, to Daniel on what my intentions were.”

“But at that point it was just words, I’m going to get a great team principal, I’m going to get a great technical director, we’re going to get the resources we need, we’re going to invest in CapEx. It was a lot of promises.”

He says that the fact the team had just had one of the worst seasons in their history was one of the reasons he didn’t join.

Ricciardo is one of several drivers switching F1 teams next year. Sebastian Vettel is leaving Ferrari for the Racing Point team ahead of its Aston Martin rebrand. Vettel is being replaced by McLaren’s Carlos Sainz, whose place is being taken by Ricciardo.


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