F1 Today – 17/11/2021

F1 Today

Mercedes request review of Hamilton-Verstappen incident

Mercedes has requested a right of review of the Max Verstappen-Lewis Hamilton incident in the Sao Paulo Grand Prix after citing new evidence, almost certain to be the newly released onboard video from the Red Bull.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the German manufacturer said they had requested a review of the lap forty-eight incident “on the basis of new evidence unavailable to the stewards at the time of the decision.”

Race Control ‘noted’ the near-miss between Verstappen and Hamilton at the time but chose not to launch a full in-race investigation after being satisfied with replays available to them at the time that the Red Bull driver, who was defending the lead, had done nothing wrong.

The decision not to investigate was because they did not have the real-time footage from Verstappen’s on-board, which was released on Tuesday. In the hours following the release of the footage, Mercedes announced they were initiating their right of review.

That means the stewards will now need to decide whether that request is permissible and the ‘new’ evidence warrants another look at the incident. The key in that is deciding whether this new evidence is “significant and relevant” before deciding whether to re-examine their decision.

If the ruling goes in favour of Mercedes, the worst Verstappen should really expect is a five-second penalty. That would drop the Dutchman to third behind Valtteri Bottas as well as cut his lead over Hamilton in the driver’s championship to eleven points, him losing points in the driver’s championship.

In that scenario, Red Bull would likely contest that Verstappen, who finished three seconds ahead of Bottas, could and would have driven faster if he knew he had a five-second penalty before the end of Sunday’s race.

As of going to publish the team have been called to the stewards at 17:00 AST (14:00 GMT) on Thursday


Mercedes believes title bid boosted by Sao Paulo

Mercedes director of trackside engineering Andrew Shovlin says the team’s victory in the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, has boosted their belief of winning both championships. The team had back to back defeats in both Austin and Mexico City allowing Max Verstappen to open a nineteen point lead over Lewis Hamilton in the drivers.

Going into last weekend Hamilton feared he would lose yet more ground on Verstappen in Brazil, only to fight back from being excluded from qualifying on Friday to win the race with a comfortable advantage. One of the things Mercedes have struggled with is warmer conditions.

They will be hoping that the way they dominated at Interlagos has now served as a boost for its title hopes. Shovlin said in his regular post-race debrief, “The car was working well on a single lap and we had good pace in the cooler conditions in the sprint race.

“We are keeping the tyres in a really good region, and part of being able to mount a recovery like that is to be able to stop the tyres overheating, because that tends to just neutralise your advantage, and it pulls everyone to the same pace.”

“In the race it was a really strong performance but on a really hot track. We were up at 50ºC and it is an aggressive circuit and the car was still working really well. So to have performed over the various sessions in such a range of conditions has been really encouraging when you look at the challenges we are going to get over the next three tracks.”

The final three races over the next four weeks take place in the Middle East, starting in Doha this weekend and all will have challenges for the teams. Hamilton closed the gap to Verstappen to fourteen points, while Mercedes lead Red Bull by eleven points going into the final three races.

Shovlin added, “The impact on the championship [of Brazil], the fact that we have got that penalty out of the way and managed to outscore Max and outscore Red Bull gives us a lot of confidence. The fact that we have managed to get the car to work well on a track that is aggressive on the rear tyres in hot conditions gives us a lot of confidence.”


Red Bull seeking answers to Mercedes pace

Red Bull says they will be looking for answers as to why Mercedes were fast in a straight line during the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, as intrigue continues over its rear wing. Lewis Hamilton pulled off one of the greatest wins in the history of the sport, going last to tenth in the sprint, then fifteenth to victory in the race.

Mercedes looked to have the edge over Red Bull, which has prompted intrigue about whether the German manufacturer has found some clever way to increase top speed. It does have suspicions about the Mercedes rear wing flexing, which prompted Max Verstappen to inspect the flaps in parc ferme on Friday after qualifying.

This was a breach of the ruled and earned him a 50,000 euro fine.

While at Interlagos there was some speculation that Red Bull could bring matters to a head with a protest, it elected against doing so at Interlagos. However, the Milton Keynes-based squad says it wants to gather more analysis and evidence about the situation.

Team principal Christian Horner told Motorsport.com, “Obviously they had a new engine here. They are running Monaco levels of downforce, and when he passed Max he was close to 30km/h quicker on that lap.”

“So it is just something that we need to understand. It is down to the FIA to police the sport and to govern it, so we trust in them and their tests and their investigation.”

Horner said Verstappen was powerless in Brazil to do anything about Hamilton because of the straight-line speed situation. He added, “It [the Mercedes] was unraceable. We put up as big a defence as we could. Max did his best, he raced hard, but there was just no chance.”

During the weekend there were tensions between Mercedes and Red Bull, following a protest on Friday and Hamilton’s exclusion from traditional qualifying. In the race there was also a controversial moment between Hamilton and Verstappen on track.

Mercedes CEO and team principal Toto Wolff said it was up to Red Bull if it wished to take its concerns further, but was clear that all that mattered to him was his team coming out on top in the end.

He added, “This sport is also about not leaving anyone to gain an advantage. If they want to protest, they can. And being sceptical about performance of your competitor is also okay.”


Sainz renews calls for gravel traps

Carlos Sainz says the incident at Descida Do Lago between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton during Sunday’s Sao Paulo Grand Prix, is the perfect example of why F1 needs more gravel traps instead of its prevalent tarmac run-offs.

In the gripping race at Interlagos, Verstappen tried everything he could to try and keep the faster Mercedes of Hamilton at bay as the pair continued its hard-fought 2021 title battle, which is set to go down to the wire.

On lap forty-eight, Verstappen pushed Hamilton off the track at Turn Four as the Briton attempted a pass around the outside. The pair both took to the painted run-off area before re-joining the track at speed. The incident was noted but not investigated by the stewards.

The decision prompted controversy as similar incidents were previously punished with a five-second penalty, most notably Lando Norris’ defensive move on Sergio Perez in Austria. Mercedes has since called for a review of the incident now that the onboard footage from Verstappen’s car has been released.

Ferrari’s Sainz, who also used the Turn 4 run-off area on a scrappy first lap, believes the whole ordeal could have been avoided by installing gravel traps instead of Interlagos’ tarmac run-offs. The Spaniard told Motosport.com, “I personally think that this issue would be solved with a gravel trap on the exit of Turn Four. I think you also saw at the start today a few cars – including ourselves – going wide in Turn Four. If there had been a gravel trap, we wouldn’t have gone there.”

“Instead of actually it being an issue for the stewards, if you put a gravel trap there, it wouldn’t be an issue for the stewards, for Michael [Masi, FIA race director], for Lewis, for Max or for us.”

Sainz has regularly pleaded for more gravel traps, as the sport continues to debate the best way to police track limits.


Zhou becomes China’s first full-time driver

Guanyu Zhou will replace Antonio Giovinazzi parting Valtteri Bottas next season at Alfa Romeo. The highly-rated Chinese driver will be the countries first full-time driver, and will give the team a wholly new line up for next season.

Bottas is the team’s big signing for 2022 from Mercedes, with Kimi Raikkonen’s record-breaking F1 career heading into its final three races.

Earlier on Tuesday, it was announced that Giovinazzi would leave the team and thanked Giovinazzi for his “extraordinary contribution” over three years, but he did not do enough to prevent the team opting for the 22-year-old “trailblazer”, who has tested for Alpine as a reserve driver and will be the only rookie on next year’s grid.

Zhou said, “To be the first ever Chinese driver in Formula One is a breakthrough for Chinese motorsport history. I dreamt from a young age of climbing as high as I can in a sport that I am passionate about and now the dream has come true.”

Team principal Frederic Vasseur added, “He is a very talented driver, as his results in F2 have shown, and we are looking forward to helping his talent flourish even more in Formula One”

Giovinazzi joined the team backed by Ferrari in 2019, with the team showing improvement but without the same effect as Charles Leclerc who he replaced.

Giovinazzi has out-qualified Raikkonen this year but has still scored fewer points than the veteran Finn and, in his fifty-seven races in F1, has finished in the top-10 only eight times with a best of fifth at the 2019 Brazilian GP. His departure leaves F1 without a Italian driver.

By signing Zhou, it’s another sign of faith in the new generation of drivers coming into the sport. He has been racing in F2 for the last three years and is currently second in the driver’s championship with the Saudi Arabian and Abu Dhabi Grands Prix remaining.

He has won four races in that time, three of which coming this year. His arrival also completes the grid with all ten teams having confirmed their two-driver line-up for a season which will welcome brand new rules and all-new cars.


Qatari organisers confident of overtaking

The executive director of the Qatari Motor & Motorcycle Federation Amro Al-Hamad is confident the Losail International Circuit’s inaugural F1 race will offer “a lot of overtaking” despite concerns that passing could be difficult.

The circuit will host its first race this weekend as a replacement for Melbourne, which was cancelled due to the pandemic. The country will also host a race at a newly-built circuit from 2023.

Losail has been a mainstay on the MotoGP calendar since opening in 2004, but has not hosted a major single-seater championship since GP2 Asia raced there in 2009. The track is expected to require a high downforce set-up due to its technical middle sector, leading to concerns about the amount of overtaking that will be possible.

But Al-Hamad is confident that the lack of track data and the flowing layout would create an exciting on-track spectacle. Al-Hamad told Motorsport.com, “Nobody has any data here, nobody drove here before, so that is going to add a lot. Every single minute in practice is going to make a difference because they still don’t know what type of set-up they need for all their chassis.”

“The strategy is going to be completely different when it comes to tyre wear because it’s a very fast track, or a flowing track with a couple of opportunities for overtaking. I know from a competitive driver point of view that there is a lot of overtaking that is going to be done, that this is a straight-line kind of circuit, which it’s not.”

Al-Hamad described the circuit as very technical, believing that there would be a lot of strategies possible as well as high tyre wear.

To prepare the Losail for F1, several updates have been made in collaboration with the FIA to ensure all safety measures are met and up to the Grade 1 track requirements.

He says mainly these were positioning of the tecpro barriers and a minor change to the pit entry being extended more towards turn fifteen.

Al-Hamad was hopeful that hosting the F1 race would help put Qatar in contention to bring other major motorsport championships to the state in the future. Adding “Formula 1 being here is definitely going to attract a lot of attention, and put us back again in the spotlight,” he said. “So there’s a huge possibility that we’re going to host a lot of other motorsports events in the state.”


Races in Doha & Jeddah can progress Human Rights

F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali believes the new races in Qatar and Saudi Arabia can help drive progress on human rights. The gulf states have been criticised by human rights groups since being announced, but the Italian that “shutting countries off” would have a negative effect.

Qatar holds its maiden Grand Prix in Lusail this weekend followed by Jeddah in a fortnight. These are just the latest in a series of international sporting events to be held in the fossil fuel-rich Middle Eastern countries. These include the FIFA World Cup in Qatar next year and boxer Anthony Joshua’s heavyweight title bout with Anthony Ruiz in Saudi Arabia in 2019.

Speaking to BBC News, Domenicali said, “Such an important change cannot happen overnight. It is a cultural change that will take time. But the timing will be accelerated by the fact big events are there. And Formula 1 will play an important role in that respect.”

He says that the contracts with the two countries contain guarantees that the countries must respect human rights in all aspects of their association with the sport. If they do not comply, Domenicali said, F1 has the right to break its contract with them.

The Italian says the countries were already taking actions that backed up their claims to be serious about making changes in their societies.

He says that he believes the spotlight the sport will bring will be beneficial for the wishes of change. But Domenicali believes that is wrong to shut off countries and saying that F1 doesn’t want to be there will help the situation to improve. Actually, it will be the opposite.

F1 has put in independent auditors to monitor the building of the new track in Saudi Arabia to ensure workers’ rights were fully respected.

Amnesty International has since both races were announced have accused the countries of sports washing, saying both governments have extremely troubling human rights records.

Saying, “F1 should ensure that all contracts for these races contain stringent labour standards across all related supply chains and infrastructure development projects, and its spokespeople – from Stefano Domenicali down – should use their influence to push for human rights improvements in both countries.”

A statement from the promoter of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix said: “One of the main aims of hosting this event is to leverage the power of F1 to empower all men and women in the Kingdom and to use it as a means of promoting further progress to unlock the talent and potential of all our people.”

A Qatari official said: “As with other international sporting events hosted in Qatar, the partnership with Formula 1 will support economic diversification, encourage local participation in sport and serve as a catalyst to accelerate reforms.

Domenicali denied claims that these deals were about recovering lost revenue over the last eighteen months caused by the pandemic. He says it’s about developing the business and showing how strong is the F1 platform at the moment.

F1 is said by insiders to be on course to make more money this year than in 2019. Domenicali refused to confirm that, saying that because it is a listed company he “can’t anticipate the results”.


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.