Russell believes it is his time
George Russell has issued a warning to his fellow drivers following his move to Williams for 2019, declaring that “this is my time.” The Mercedes backed driver will make his debut with Williams next season, alongside Robert Kubica.
Russell has been highly successful over the last two years winning both the Formula Two title in 2018 and the GP3 title in 2017, and believes that he is ready for another step up. Asked which drivers he fears ahead of his F1 debut, he told Sky News “No-one to be honest. I feel confident. I’ve come off the back of two amazing years and I’m ready for the challenge.”
“Obviously I’m a rookie, I’m not going to go out there and do anything stupid. But I feel like this is my time and I’m ready to do the business. It’s a huge step up, not only in the speed aspect, from Formula Two to Formula One.”
Russell will go from working with thirty people to seven hundred and thirty people, and he believes that will create much more pressure on drivers beyond driving the car. Russell has been mentored by five times champion Lewis Hamilton, throughout the last two years.
Speaking about how he looks to Hamilton he said “I’ve been in a very fortunate position in the last two years, being part of Mercedes and having the opportunity to be in the debriefs and the meetings alongside Lewis.
“It’s very surreal to be honest. The past couple of years, since joining the Mercedes programme, have been a step-by-step process. It almost felt like a natural step to get this opportunity.”
Renault surprised not to fought McLaren
Renault says that it was surprised its main rival in 2018 was Haas rather than McLaren. After McLaren signed an engine deal to switch from Honda to the French manufacturer for 2018, many expected that the two teams to be fighting each other.
However, early on a fundamental aero problem left the team struggling for performance and the team soon started dropping down the field. That allowed Haas to emerge as the main challengers to fourth in the constructors.
Reflecting on 2018, F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul says that the teams own progress was something to be proud of, even if who it was battling against caught him on the hop. Abiteboul told Motorsport.com, “Frankly, there were some surprises, and there were some frustrations. I am a bit surprised having to fight against Haas for most of the season when I was expecting it to be against McLaren.”
“Let’s remember last year, when we announced McLaren, everybody told me ‘you are crazy, you are going to be beaten by your customers’ and [in the end], we were very close to being beaten by a team that is a very new team, a young team, younger even than us, with a very different set-up”
He says it was a good season and the team can be sure of the progress it is making and says that the efforts made have not been undervalued.
Hamilton apologies for calling home a slum
Lewis Hamilton has apologised to the residents of his hometown of Stevenage a slum at BBC Sports Personality of the year.
Speaking on Sunday, where he finished second in a public vote, behind Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas, he said “It really was a dream for us all as a family to do something different. For us to get out of the slums. Well, not the slums, but to get out of somewhere and do something. We all set our goals very, very high but we did it as a team.”
The remark sparked a backlash and prompted the leader of Stevenage Borough Council to say it was “disappointing” and that people felt “very offended”.
In a post on Instagram addressed to the people of Stevenage, he said “I’m super-proud of where I’ve come from and I hope that you know that I represent in the best way that I can always and nobody’s perfect,” he said.
“I definitely make mistakes quite often and particularly when you’re up in front of a crowd trying to find the right words to express the long journey that you’ve had in life. I chose the wrong words.
“But I didn’t mean anything by it and those of you who know me know that I always mean love so God bless you. Have a great day.”
Hamilton had faced controversy earlier this year, after a post where he filming himself saying: ‘I’m so sad right now…look at my nephew.’ Lewis then turned the camera on his nephew, who looked over the moon waving a wand and wearing a purple and pink dress with a tulle skirt.
Hamilton later took down the post and tweeted an apology, however, he was criticised further after he liked replies which said there was no need to apologise and give into the “PC brigade.”
2018 biggest stories off track
The biggest story off the track was the negotiations around the next set of technical and engine regulations, these are still on-going but it. Looks as if we are heading to a deal on the technical side, however, we still haven’t got to the commercial agreements, Concorde Agreement, with Liberty to start.
What Liberty want is better control of costs and a more even field, as we always say this is a big political issue. The top teams and manufacturers want to have unlimited spending to allow them to develop, while the medium/smaller teams want cost control. That debate will continue into 2019.
I think one off the challenges this year has been what’s gone on at Ferrari, we like all the media have struggled to report since Sergio Marchionne’s death what’s been going on because they weren’t talking outside race weekends.
Ferrari we know had the stronger car, but we don’t fully understand where it went wrong for the team. If they want to tell us what went wrong they are more than welcome to.
On the other hand the Honda recovery, I didn’t expect them to start the season so strongly with Pierre Gasly’s fourth place in Bahrain. While the engine has performance has been better this year, reliability hasn’t always been there.
Red Bull say they are going to take a different approach to the one taken by McLaren. I think next year, realistically will be a building year and I think Red Bull’s focus is more on 2021 as is Honda’s.
Szafnauer refused to leave despite better offers
Racing Point CEO and team principal Otmar Szafnauer says he turned down the chance to leave the former Force India team when it went into administration in the summer.
The new owners, a consortium led by Lawrence Stroll, named Szafnauer as team principal and CEO. Despite Szafnauer having opportunities to leave during the uncertainties, he decided to stay as he thought it would have been hypocritical to tell people to stay, only to leave himself.
He told Motorsport.com, “I never entertained the thought of going somewhere else unless this, for sure, wasn’t going to go forward. I’d rather be known as the guy who performed a little bit like Captain Sully [Chesley Sullenberger] on the flight that landed in the Hudson.”
“Rather than the guy [Francesco Schettino] who was on the Costa Concordia that tipped over in the Med – he was the first off the ship. I don’t like that, better to stick with it. In the end it was the right decision.”
Force India entered administration at the Hungarian Grand Prix, prompting the sale of the team. The process was complicated by the takeover turning into an asset sale, which forced the need to dissolve the Force India F1 entry and lodge a new one under the Racing Point name.
Speaking about the challenge of keeping the team together “wasn’t insignificant” during this time, with technical director Andy Green already understood to have been approached earlier in the season.
Szafnauer added, “With uncertainty, and people’s livelihoods at stake, they’ve got to make decisions ultimately what’s best for them. Not knowing, with good offers on the table from other teams, it was difficult for sure.”
He said that he saw the future of the team is better than the past, and he took everyone on board and kept the team together.
Ericsson leaving after strongest season
Marcus Ericsson believes that he is leaving Formula One at the end of his strongest season in Formula One. The Swedish driver is switching to IndyCar next season after Sauber opted to go for an who new line up for 2019.
Next year Sauber will have an all-new driver line-up of Kimi Raikkonen and Antoine Giovinazzi. Ericsson believes that the reason he was beaten by Charles Leclerc was because of his performance in Qualifying. However, he believes that this season has been “definitely been my strongest”, with 17th place making his best championship finish.
He told Autosport, “It’s the race pace that has been very strong this year, I’ve had some really strong races. Qualifying has been the problem, I’ve been too far back compared to Charles and that’s made it difficult to keep up with his points tally.”
“On tyre management, I’m one of the strongest out there at the moment in Formula 1. That’s been my biggest strength this year.” The nine points scored by Ericsson this year matched his best career score from 2015, and he enjoyed his best career start in Brazil.
Team boss Frederic Vasseur said: “The last part of the season he is consistently in the same lap time like Charles – in front of Charles in Sao Paolo, just behind him in Austin. It was very helpful for Charles also to have someone as a reference like Marcus.”
Vasseur says that Ericsson has given very good technical feedback, adding “he helped us a lot at some stages of the season to take decisions on technical side.”
Leclerc ended the year with a run of three consecutive seventh-place finishes to finish on 39 points, enough to have earned Sauber eighth in the constructors’ championship by himself.
The Year Ahead
Can Ferrari come back and win titles, that is the biggest question next year and have they learnt from the mistakes they have made this season to bounce back stronger? You have to say that Ferrari wants and need to challenge, and beat Mercedes next year.
Mercedes are the king of the v6 hybrid era, they will be looking to possibly dominate the next two years before the 2021 regulation changes. Mercedes will want commitment and to learn from where it went wrong this year and try to be stronger.
With a 100 days to go, teams, I think will be more vocal about Brexit, we know F1 depends heavily on freedom of movement of goods and people. We know there is a transition period, but will British people working for teams need visas to travel to and from races?
As well as EU citizen’s living and working in the UK? Will moving in and out of the EU require border checks? Teams need answers as does Liberty. This all could see cost rise for all the UK based teams, F1 and broadcasters in the long term.
The other pending ‘Brexit drama’ is the future of Silverstone, we know that no deal is currently in place for 2020. I think we will see a new deal in place by the end of 2019, it’s impossible I believe to see F1 go into its seventieth season without Silverstone where the first race was.
One thing we will be watching is how Red Bull – Honda works out, there have been moments of surprise this season for Honda. But they still need to make another step over the winter I believe if they are not going to be on a level to challenge the top two for 2019 anyway.
This is the last F1 Today of 2018 to allow us to prepare the content which will be going out over the next two weeks. We will return Wednesday 2nd of January, but big breaking news will be covered on the website. Keep your eye out for the season review and Reporters over the next week!
From the team, we wish you a very happy Christmas and we will be back in January.