Ferrari should have focused on downforce
Ferrari team principal and technical director Mattia Binotto says that the team should have placed more emphasis on downforce when designing its 2019 car.
The Italian manufacturer went into the season as the favourites following a strong showing in winter testing, however, was unable to stop Mercedes from winning nine of the first twelve races, and establishing a sizeable points lead that has been maintained heading into the summer break.
While the SF90 has benefitted from superior straight-line speed, its downforce deficiency has left Ferrari exposed at circuits dominated by low and medium-speed corners. This has made adding more downforce a priority for the team.
In hindsight, Binotto admits he will have placed a greater emphasis on downforce because this will have helped the car work the 2019-spec Pirelli tyres.
Binotto told Motorsport.com Ferrari’s current balance between downforce and drag was “not a question of philosophy” or car concept, and that extra horsepower from its engine was also a factor in its superior top speed.
However, he added: “As we said, certainly these tyres require more downforce just to heat them up, to make them work.” He says if he could go back and change the concept he would have placed more focus on downforce, now a clear objective for next season.
Binotto said Mercedes’ performance gains late in pre-season testing meant Ferrari was aware that its rival had assembled a formidable package. Nevertheless, the team expected its SF90 to be, on average, a match for the Mercedes W10.
Saying “I think we’ve been surprised by our poor performance at the start of the season because maybe we were not thinking to be ahead, but at least as fast as them, and it has not been the case in Australia.”
He says not living up to the form during the race weekend in Barcelona, where the team had been strong pre-season performance, was particularly “discouraging”.
Renault needs more confidence – Ricciardo
Daniel Ricciardo believes Renault should have more confidence in themselves and their car, as the team bid to turn around their season after the summer break.
The French manufacturer has slipped from fourth to sixth in the constructors’ championship, in a season when they had hoped to take a step towards the top three. So far, the team in the first half of the season are forty-three points behind customer team McLaren.
Ricciardo told Sky Sports, “Everyone I feel has just been executing a bit more frequently than us. I still believe that we have got all the tools and the car underneath us to be getting the results that, say, McLaren are getting.”
“I think at the moment they can probably execute on a few more tracks than we can, but I feel like when we start the weekend on the front foot we are normally ending there,” he added. He believes it was a better understanding and a bit more confidence.
Ricciardo cited qualifying in Hungary when he was knocked out in Q1 as an example of how the team can collectively be more decisive.
However, Renault was the only team not to score points in the doubleheader after both races were compromised in different ways. He adds, “After a weekend like this part of me is like when it does come good you’ll remember these weekends and remember this feeling.”
Honda’s difficult penalty decision
Honda is facing a difficult decision in the second half of the season, whether they should introduce a new engine which will trigger grid penalties for Red Bull, is “very complicated”, according to the manufacturer’s technical director Toyoharu Tanabe.
The Japanese manufacturer has already brought two engine upgrades during the season, which its aggressive development programme presenting the opportunity to introduce a third update the next time it gives Red Bull and Toro Rosso fresh engines.
However, when it introduces the Spec 4 or replaces the power unit in the next few races both teams will face grid penalties. But, it will want to avoid doing it for Singapore, which is expected to be the teams strongest race in the second half of the season.
Singapore is traditionally considered as a race where downforce is more important than straight-line speed, which will put Red Bull in the mix with Mercedes.
However, Tanabe said a decision had not been made prior to F1’s summer break. He added, “We are discussing all the time with the teams and we will decide when we apply a new engine or updated spec.”
“no decision has been made yet. It depends on the situation and timing and the result of the discussions with the teams. It’s very complicated.”
Singapore will be a priority because it represents a significant opportunity for Red Bull to take another win this season. But, Honda will also want to avoid penalties for its home race in Suzuka, that leaves them with either Spa, Monza or Sochi to make the change.
If Red Bull’s drivers take a grid penalties at Spa or Monza and does not take another fresh engine before Suzuka, they will race at Honda’s home grand prix with a unit that is several races old.
Polish fans “little hurtful” – Russell
George Russell says it is a “little bit hurtful” to receive negative comments from the most outspoken fans of his Williams team-mate Robert Kubica. The Englishman stepped up to F1 this season, after back to back GP3 and F2 titles.
Russell has beaten Kubica in every qualifying session so far, while Kubica’s struggles have led to constant suggestions – mainly from his home country in Poland – that he is not receiving the same treatment or equipment as Russell.
Asked if it is easy to ignore that reaction on social media, Russell told Autosport: “It’s a little bit hurtful that 50% of the comments on my posts are hate from Polish supporters, whereas the other 50% is complete support for me.
“I mean, I do truly only care about the view from inside what Williams think of me, what Mercedes think of me. But you also want to be respected from outside.”
He says he has not come across anyone who’s disrespecting him or giving any hate to me, who are not from Poland. But he understands the situation and hopes that one day he can have fans that passionate.
Williams’s struggles, Russell’s comparison to Kubica has often been the only way to judge his rookie season.
Kubica scored a fortunate point in the chaotic rain-hit German Grand Prix but Russell completed his qualifying whitewash in the first part of the season with comfortably Williams’s most competitive 2019 performance in Hungary before the summer break.
Russell added “But, every experience I wouldn’t change at all because from those bad events I also learned a huge amount. I’ve had people ask me, knowing what I know now and if I could do the first 10 races again, ‘what would you change?’.”
McLaren’s “insane” operation – Norris
Lando Norris says the scale of McLaren’s F1 operation is “pretty insane” and added to the pressure to his rookie season, particularly in the early stages.
The Bristolian stepped up into F1 this season after finishing second in F2 last season, racing alongside Carlos Sainz. On his debut he qualified eighth and in Bahrain scored his first points, he has admitted to feeling more “relaxed” about what is expected of him as time has passed.
Asked by Motorsport.com how impressive the size of McLaren has been as an F1 rookie, Norris said: “It’s pretty insane. Especially McLaren, how nice everything is and how many people are there. It’s at the higher end compared to the majority of the teams.”
He says that talking to people at the factory was awesome, and was always interesting to find out something more. Norris admits it does ad pressure knowing that these people are relying on him and Sainz to do a good job.
Saying “It’s the same now, but I’m more relaxed on that side, and more confident in my own driving, that I can do a better job and I won’t disappoint them.”
Norris is tenth in the championship after twelve races this season, with a pair of sixth-place finishes his best results. He has progressed rapidly four seasons from MSA F4 to F1, he has never spent more than one year in a category or in a series that permits car development and he said he finds “quite a bit more” responsibility in F1.
“Everything I say now, a lot of it together with Carlos, and complain about is stuff they might have an upgrade for in three, four or five races time,” Norris said.
McLaren’s position not based on pure performance
McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl believes the teams’ current position as the midfield leaders is not only because of the performance of the car. The British team has eighty-two points, already passing the total number of points they had last year and has double the number of points of their closest rival Toro Rosso.
Although Toro Rosso and sixth-placed Racing Point have had better individual results, McLaren is proving to be more consistent with double the number of times that both its drivers managing to finish in the points.
Seidl to “We are in P4 which is great at the moment, but it was not just down to car performance. The car performance on average was between P4 and P6-P7.”
“But we have other categories also where we are quite competitive like race starts, pit stops, good strategy calls, good drivers, which made us score good points, whereas other teams are struggling a bit more in the midfield.”
Stella says that the team is one of five cars that fit into a “very narrow” pace range and that Racing Point’s recent updates have allowed it to join McLaren, Renault, Toro Rosso, Haas and Alfa Romeo in that range.
“When you do the performance assessment, which is not the championship points, it is not the result at the end of the race, it is what you think your performance potential is,” he explained.
The German says on pure performance it is a very narrow band, he estimated that it was around two tenths, which Seidl believes makes it clear how other factors contribute to scoring championship points.
Seidl says that while McLaren is “absolutely clear” in its desire to secure fourth place for the season, setting the team up for continued progress is a bigger priority. He believes it is more important to make a step year on year for the future.
Adding “it is important for me that we make the next step with next year’s car because again compared to last year’s car, this is a car that is somehow back into the normal timing in terms of putting a car concept.”