Verstappen’s best test in F1
Max Verstappen says that Red Bull’s pre-season test was “definitely” his best in Formula One, but the Dutchman and team boss Christian Horner have both dismissed suggestions that Mercedes are no longer the favourites for the title.
The team had an impressive weekend test in Sakhir, where the RB16B proved rapid and reliable, leading to many predicting that Red Bull are the team beat when the opening race takes place at the same circuit on 28th March.
In recent years following testing, Red Bull has often been playing catch up, but the test proved smooth for the team. Verstappen said on Sunday “Definitely I think it has been the best. But it doesn’t give you any guarantees, so we’ll find out through the first race weekend where we are.”
Red Bull are expected to be the closest challenger to Mercedes, who had uncharacteristically struggled throughout pre-season testing. Verstappen is uncomfortable with the narrative being built putting Mercedes behind Red Bull following testing.
He told Sky Sports, “I don’t think we are the favourites. If Mercedes wins that many championships in a row, I think it’s still the same as before we came to the test.”
Verstappen’s view was shared by team principal Horner, who added, “They come into this year as absolutely the favourites. They’ve been so strong in the last six, seven years and it’s the same car as last year, more or less, just an updated version.”
“There is a change to the technical regulations which obviously may have an effect on things but I don’t think you can read too much into their testing.”
Another suggestion for the aforementioned regulation changes, while minor, have played into Red Bull’s high-rake car design. ‘high rake’ means that the rear of the car is higher than the rear while Mercedes have gone for ‘low rake.’
Horner admits, “a subtle regulation change can sometimes have a big effect”, but is refusing to overlook Mercedes at the first race. He says that past experience says that Mercedes can struggle in testing before going on to dominate the opening race.
Vettel “very wise” says Stroll
Lance Stroll says that his new teammate Sebastian Vettel is “very wise” with his feedback after their first test session together in Bahrain last week. The Canadian has been joined by the four-times champion following his departure from Ferrari at the end of last season.
For Stroll it is the first time that he has worked with an F1 drivers’ championship winner, with Vettel previously saying that he is happy to offer guidance and serve in a mentor role. Vettel has appeared to adapt very quickly to life with the team, making a positive impression.
Stroll and Vettel started their working relationship last week across three days of pre-season testing in Bahrain as Aston Martin gave the AMR21 car its public debut. Asked by Motorsport.com about his first experience working with Vettel during testing, Stroll said he could already note his experience through his feedback about the new car.
He said, “He’s very knowledgeable when it comes to the behaviour of the car, what he wants from the car, and just his comments are very wise. He has a lot of experience and is a very talented driver obviously. It’s still early days though.
“I’m sure I’ll get to know him much better in the next few weeks when we start to go racing and we’re on the track at the same time doing similar programmes. We’ll probably be able to relate to each other’s comments and give our feedback and have a much better idea about what we’re both talking about.”
But Stroll found that the feedback and experience worked in the opposite direction as well, given his experience within the team and with the RP20 car that this year’s AMR21 has evolved from.
He added that Vettel was “still getting up to speed with a lot of things and learning a lot about how this team operates and how this car operates, a lot of new buttons, a lot of new things going on for him.”
Still division on cost of sprint races
Formula One teams remain divided on the extra costs of trailing sprint races this year, with the sport’s new budget cap now getting dragged into the debate. Liberty Media have suggested experimenting with the idea at least three races Silverstone, Monza and Interlagos are likely to be approved, but some other venues have also been pushing for the format.
Under the plans, a normal qualifying session will take place on the Friday, with a 100km qualifying sprint on Saturday then deciding the grid for Sunday’s main event. The shorter sprint is set to offer a small number of points too, with three on offer for the winner, two for second place and one for third.
Teams have agreed the broad details like parc ferme regulations and tyre rules, however the outstanding issue remains the damage being caused in the race meaning there is extra damage. This means that there could be potential financial consequences that teams could face because of the increased likelihood of there being car damage through having an extra race on a weekend.
The added chance of first lap front wing damage or other components being broken in other accidents could have financial consequences over the course of the season if more new parts are needed. The sticking point remains the added cost with the budget cap.
According to Motorsport.com, sources suggest that some competitors are pushing for the payment to be dramatically higher. Some big-spending outfits have even suggested that the current F1 cost cap be increased by more than three times what is on offer (up to an extra $1 million) to cover the added expense that could come from sprint race damage.
The idea of doing this has not universally supported because of the benefit to it being lifted for their bigger money rivals. They also feel that the $1 million figure is well in excess of what is realistic extra expense.
There are also concerns that extra leeway in the budget cap to the scale of $1 million could actually end up being used by bigger teams to allow more spending on performance gains rather than ever being needed to pay for car damage.
The counter idea is for something like F1 to pay an ‘insurance payout’ to cover damage caused in the race, paid fairly to each team meaning no one can exploit the budget cap limits.
The lack of consensus so far on the costs issue means a vote on the matter could be finely poised, especially with F1 needing a supermajority of 28 votes out of the 30 on the F1 Commission if it’s to go through this season.
F1 and governing body the FIA get 10 votes each, while the teams have one vote apiece. How the vote sways could prove to be an interesting litmus test for the influence of team partnerships on the F1 grid too, with manufacturer teams potentially calling on their customers to back any plan that they prefer.
The financial impact F1 and governing body the FIA get 10 votes each, while the teams have one vote apiece.
How the vote sways could prove to be an interesting litmus test for the influence of team partnerships on the F1 grid too, with manufacturer teams potentially calling on their customers to back any plan that they prefer.
Pirelli says cars should be just as fast as 2020
Pirelli says it’s expecting that cars are going to be just as fast as last years despite aero rule changes aimed at slowing them down. Following tyre failures and the pandemic, the FIA brought in new measures over the winter aimed at slashing downforce to put less strain through the tyres.
The changes include cutting away a section of the floor ahead of the rear tyres, outlawing holes and slots in this area, plus reducing the size of rear brake ducts and diffuser strakes. However, looking at the analysis over the weekend it suggests as expected to clawing back the downforce losses, plus the speeds are already pretty close to 2020.
Max Verstappen’s test topping time of 28.960, was pretty much on a par with practice pace from last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix and would have been good enough for P11 on the grid in the actual event. However, with the normal caveat that teams do not show their true performance in testing.
Pirelli’s head of F1 and car racing Mario Isola says what he saw over the testing weekend suggests that lap times will be the same as 2020. He told Motorsport.com, “The difference compared to last year is very, very, very small. I’ve tried to make some calculation on the lap times compared to last year.”
“I’m telling you that, if we consider that probably the track was not in perfect condition, plus the reduction in downforce, and the fuel level, so considering fuel corrected lap times, I believe that we are not going to see a delta lap time or a difference in reduced performance compared to last year.”
Isola says the analysis from car performance and the forces being put through the tyres last weekend, Isola estimated that teams had recovered around half of the downforce lost from last season.
However, Pirelli remains confident that the tyres will be able to withstand the forces being put through the tyres last weekend, Isola estimated that teams had recovered around half of the downforce lost from last season.
Despite the pace being quicker in Bahrain at the weekend Pirelli is confident that Pirelli’s 2021 rubber is robust enough to cope with the forces without needing to drastically increase the minimum pressures. In fact, on day two of testing in Bahrain, Pirelli was comfortable enough with the situation to lower the rear pressures by a further 1.5 Psi.
F1 pays respects to Schmitz
F1 has been paying respect to Sabine Schmitz, the only female winner of the Nürburgring 24 Hours, who has died aged fifty-one. The German who was widely known as ‘Queen of the Nürburgring’ and became a presenter on Top Gear, said last year she had been diagnosed with cancer in 2017.
She won the German circuit’s endurance race, which takes place in part on the fearsome original banked Nordschleife, in 1996 and 1997 for BMW. the German circuit said in a statement, “The Nürburgring has lost its most famous female racing driver.”
Adding “Sabine Schmitz passed away far too early after a long illness. We will miss her and her cheerful nature. Rest in peace Sabine!”
F1 paid tribute to her on Twitter, saying, “Pioneer, champion, Queen of the Nürburgring. Sabine Schmitz was a unique, much-loved and cherished member of our sport’s family, and a force of nature for inspiring a new generation of motorsport enthusiasts”