Vettel insists he is at the top of his game
Sebastian Vettel is insisting that the possibility of walking away from Formula One at the end of the year has not been entertained as he believes that he is still driving at the top of his game.
The Ferrari driver missed out on last years title fight in a straight fight with Lewis Hamilton, and his mixed start to the season has left him behind teammate Charles Leclerc.
Ferrari team showed great promise in pre-season testing but has not fulfilled that potential in races and has been criticised for a series of team orders that favoured Vettel over his emerging teammate Leclerc.
F1 chairman emeritus Bernie Ecclestone has suggested that the four times that the four-time world champion could quit the sport to spend more time with his family. But Vettel, whose Ferrari contract runs to the end of 2020, says he is not considering hanging up his helmet just yet.
Speaking about Ecclestone’s comments, Vettel told ESPN, “I’m not going to be in Formula One as long as he was, that’s for sure. But I hope I’m going to be as fit and as sharp as he is today when I’m hopefully that old.”
“At the moment I feel on top of my game, I feel that I know what I’m doing and yeah, I’m very, very self-critical, very ambitious and I put a lot of expectation on to myself.”
The German says that he loves the sensation of speed, fighting with the other drivers, and if he was to walk away there would be a lot of things that at the moment I really like and I’ll miss.
“So that’s why it’s not an option to quit tomorrow, I’m quite happy to race. And then, yeah, I’ve got the contract but that’s a piece of paper and then we see what happens.” He added
Ferrari wrong to use team orders – Berger
Former Ferrari driver Gerhard Berger says that the team is wrong in using team orders to help Sebastian Vettel, over his teammate Charles Leclerc. Berger had two spells at Ferrari during a career in which he won 10 races, said the team should be allowing the drivers an “open game”.
The Austrian told BBC News “Much as I like Sebastian and rate him, here is a boy [Leclerc] who is capable of winning the championship.” Ferrari has been open with the fact that they will be favouring the four-time champion in ’50-50’ situations.
They have made that decision based on the belief that Vettel, a four times champion, is more likely to emerge as the title challenger. Although team principal Mattia Binotto has hinted that it may change.
Berger, who was team principal of Toro Rosso when Vettel scored his maiden victory at the 2008 Italian Grand Prix, added “I don’t think it’s enough to say, ‘Well this one is experienced, this one is not experienced so we take the card of the experience’. I think let it run.”
Leclerc is one point behind Vettel in the drivers’ championship, that is despite the team telling him to stay behind the German in the closing stages of the Australian Grand Prix and ordered to hand over third place to Vettel in the last race in China.
But he ignored team orders in Bahrain after regaining the lead following a poor start, only to lose out with ten laps remaining. Even so, he still beat Vettel, who harmed his own chances by spinning after being passed by Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, who went on to win after inheriting the lead as a result of Leclerc’s problem. Leclerc salvaged a third place while Vettel was fifth.
Berger said Leclerc had not been promoted to a big team too soon. Saying “Not at all. In all cases, Ferrari always put the two quickest guys in the car and made sure that the lemon was squeezed to the maximum. For me, that’s also the right way to do it… I think it was just the right timing and the right decision.”
Later in the season, if Vettel continues to make mistakes whether the prancing horse has backed the wrong horse to end the decade’s long title drought.
Wrong to suggest Horner “suspicious” of Ferrari fuel
Red Bull’s team principal Christian Horner says it is wrong to suggest that he is “suspicious” with what Ferrari is doing with its fuel. In Shanghai, he suggested there was something strange going on with Ferrari’s fuel, because of the way it smelt funny.
Speaking to the German newspaper Auto Motor und Sport, Horner said, “The fuel from Ferrari smells like grapefruit juice.” Those comments have been interrupted by some as suggesting that Ferrari and Shell are pushing the limits of the regulations. But Horner insists that he has no doubt that everything is perfectly legitimate.
He also pointed out that fuel development was not a key performance driver and that is why they are pushing both Honda and ExxonMobil harder. Asked about the comments he made regarding Ferrari’s fuel, he said, “Suspicious is probably the wrong word.”
“They [Ferrari] are obviously doing a good job because they have been, particularly in a straight line, the stand out competitors this year. Obviously, fuel is part of that performance and I think they are doing a good job. ExxonMobil are seeing some good gains on our side as well, and they are working very hard in partnership with Honda.”
Fuel is one of the biggest areas where teams and suppliers can get the most gains and performance, as it is largely unregulated compared to other areas of the car.
Shell says that its analysis shows its products contributed to 21% of Ferrari’s engine performance gains in 2018.
Racing Point needs patience for upgrades
Racing Point’s technical director Andrew Green says that the team needs “to be patient” as the team waits for its first major upgrade of the season in Barcelona.
In Shanghai, Sergio Perez scored the teams best result of the season rising from twelve to eighth after being beaten by Daniel Ricciardo in the midfield battle. But, Green says he was happy that the team has maximised its potential in Shanghai, real progress will be seen after Barcelona.
The team’s 2019 programme was hindered when it went into administration at last years Hungarian Grand Prix, but the sale and fresh finance by Lawrence Stroll will pay off this year, as new parts come through the system on a regular basis.
Green told Motorsport.com, “The updates that we’ve put on, we’re getting closer to optimising them. The Bahrain test helped us a lot to understand where the sweet spot of the car is.”
“Baku has always been strong for us, and hopefully it will be strong again this year. We’ll just have a Baku specific downforce kit. And then we’ve got updates coming thick and fast after that.
“Spain is where things start to happen. We’re still a long way off where we want to be, that’s for sure, and it takes time to build the team up to challenge where we want to be challenging, while other teams have made big steps.”
Green says that it will take time to build up the team and move forwards, which they need to be patient.
Ghosn to be charged with new charges
The Japanese broadcaster NHK is reporting that prosecutors are to formally charge the former Renault chairman Carlos Ghosn on and an additional charge of aggravated breach of trust as early as Monday.
Ghosn is currently being held in custody for the fourth time on a charge of trying to write off personal debts of millions, through parent company Nissan. He is also awaiting trial on other charges of financial misconduct and aggravated breach of trust.
He denies the charges and was originally released on bail in early March, before being rearrested. Ghosn denies all allegations against him. His defence team has launched a public battle against the prosecutors, calling the latest arrest “illegal” in documents seen by Reuters.
Once celebrated as the saviour of a near-bankrupt Nissan 20 years ago, Ghosn has been ousted as chairman of Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi since his arrest, threatening the stability of the auto-making alliance he masterminded.
Hulkenberg sure of trouble with Ricciardo “very soon”
Nico Hulkenberg believes that his Renault teammate Daniel Ricciardo will be giving him trouble “very soon” once the Australian is comfortable with his new car.
Ricciardo enjoyed his best weekend for the French manufacturer in Shanghai, as he avoided a third retirement and managed to out-qualify the German by four-thousandths of a second to start seventh. Ricciardo has already admitted to having to “get out of old habits” from his time at Red Bull, and Hulkenberg is expecting more stern tests in races to come.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Hulkenberg said, “Daniel still needs to get used to the car, to the team. It always takes more time than you think, especially when you come from a better car to a slightly worse car because things are different.”
“It’s a different kind of mindset and battle in the midfield than up the front. He’s still getting used to it, finding his feet but I have no doubt he’s going to give me some trouble very soon.”
In Shanghai, Hulkenberg had another difficult race as an MGU-K problem forced him to retire early on. F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul has already labelled the engine problems “increasingly frustrating and unacceptable”.
Hulkenberg has also said they really need to get on top of the issues as they are costing the team results, points and experience. He admits there is work to do and fixes are needed sooner rather than later.
However, the German is happy at the French team and remains optimistic they can close the gap to F1’s Big Three teams in the coming seasons.
He added, “I’m in a good position with Renault and hopefully we can collectively improve this car and as a team really get to the front by next year or two years’ time.”
Speaking about his first points of the season, Riccardo said “It’s good obviously to get on board and to finish the race, we were looking for that for the last couple. Obviously, we’ll take the positives from that and try and build on that. There’s obviously still a lot of work to do.”
He also aggreged that there was still work the team needed to do.
The Week Ahead
Formula One heads to Baku next weekend, the biggest questions will be on Ferrari as the team continues not to have delivered a win in the first three races of the season. Ferrari needs to make a decision going forward, do they stop favouring Vettel? Unlikely, and go chasing after points.
Baku is the last Asia-Middle East leg, but we know it’s regarded as a European race so for the bigger teams expect the first upgrades to come through with a bigger package in Barcelona. This week and the week after, we will be assessing the pecking order.
Mercedes will be trying to play down their lead and advantage, but you need to believe that they hold the edge over Ferrari. Mercedes need to remain in control and not let Ferrari steal the advantage, as any slip up could allow them into the title race.
The big story going into the weekend may also be about the teams setting red lines for the strategy group meeting between Baku and Barcelona. The teams need to according to rumours need to get serious and bring forward a plan or back Liberty’s.