Leclerc believes Ferrari made jump in analysing weaknesses
Charles Leclerc says the way Ferrari has made a ‘jump’ in how it analyses weakness has given him confidence they can keep up in the development war this season. The Monacan has won two of the three races allowing him to open up a thirty-four point lead over Red Bull’s Max Verstappen
Ferrari has not been involved in a development battle since 2018, when they learnt the hard way not to give up after being out developed by Mercedes. But despite the huge challenge it faces, Leclerc has faith that his Maranello squad is in much better shape to attack things than it has been before.
He told Motorsport “To keep up with Red Bull in terms of development is going to be difficult, but it’s the same team that did this car that will work on the development for this year’s car, so I am confident. There is no reason for us to be on the back foot because we’ve done a great job, or the guys at Maranello have done a great job.”
Leclerc says there are developments coming and he is confident that they are going in the right direction, he also says that he was not focusing on other teams saying they need to focus on themselves. The key to moving forward, says Leclerc, is Ferrari having a much better databank of knowledge about areas it needs to improve.
He says over the last two years he has seen a jump in the way the team analyses everything, identify weakness and were they are struggling and need to improve.
Leclerc has found himself leading the F1 world championship for the first time, but feels confident enough in his own abilities not to let the pressures get to him. Speaking about that he says his mindset has changed, as they don’t need to do something special to get a result.
Mercedes put title hopes at 20%
Mercedes F1 CEO and team principal Toto Wolff has put the team’s chances of retaining the constructors’ championship and regaining the drivers at twenty per cent, but says there may be improvements for this weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
The German manufacturers’ position in ‘no man’s land’ lacking the pace to fight with Ferrari and Red Bull, has been one of the main stories of the opening three races. However, despite the lack of pace, Mercedes have managed to maximise their points with two podiums and are currently second in both championships.
Its results have effectively have papered over the cracks of a huge deficit in pace, often around a second per lap. The gap to the top two has made Wolff pessimistic about their title hopes. Speaking to Sky Sports in Melbourne, before Red Bull’s retirement, Wolff said, “I think we are on the back foot. If I look at it from a mathematical standpoint and probability, I’d probably say that the odds are 20/80.”
“But this is motor racing and in motor racing, anything can happen. Teams can DNF and if we unlock the potential of the car we are right back in the game. So as a motor racer I’d maybe say 40/60, as a mathematician the odds are worse against us.”
But says the team are not going to write off this season.
In the same press briefing, Wolff says the team would not be focusing on immediate upgrades for their car, which has violent ‘porpoising issues’ and is struggling through high-speed corners compared to their rivals. Both Ferrari and Red Bull have brought upgrades using them to positive effect.
Wolff explained, “it doesn’t make any sense to bring updates, because you’re confusing yourself even more. Maybe the more updates, the worse the bouncing gets? We are still learning. Is curing the bouncing the miraculous unlocking of a second? For sure, no. But there are many other improvements we can make along the way.”
However, in Mercedes’ official preview for Imola, Wolff pointed to “improvements” on the car for the “next race”.
He says over the easter weekend the factory has been working hard to bring improvements to the car and get it ready for Imola. But he warns they need to be realistic, it will take time to make the gains we want.
A big test of Alpha Tauri’s prospects – Gasly
Pierre Gasly believes that Alpha Tauri’s planned upgrades for this weekends Emilia Romagna Grand Prix will be a big test of its prospects this season. The Frenchman has scored points in two of the opening three races with it being encouraging for the team heading into their home Grand Prix at Imola.
With teams now ready to unleash car developments that could shake up the order, Gasly thinks that the progress Alpha Tauri makes with its own updates will offer a true indication of what its prospects are like for the rest of the season. Last season, he qualified fifth, but going into this weekend he says they need improvements to return to the front of the midfield.
He told Motorsport.com, “We should have a couple of new parts on the car and it’s not like we are dead slow. I don’t think we are missing much, but we need to come up with some development if we want to keep up with the other guys.”
“So personally, I’m very excited to see what it brings. It’s a new car, new regulations. We know that this season is all about development. The teams that manage to develop their cars faster than others will have a better season. I think it’s a big test for us, and hopefully, it brings the performance we expect.”
The start of the European/North American season is traditionally the place where teams bring upgrades. However, the compactions of the sprint race and only an hour of practice at Imola and the flyway to Miami between Imola and Barcelona may see teams wait until Barcelona in mid-May.
AlphaTauri is currently eighth in the championship standings, ahead of only Williams that scored a point in Australia and Aston Martin, which has not yet had a top ten finish in 2022.
Asked if, with teams like Alpine and Haas showing decent pace, he feared the season was going to be a difficult one, Gasly remained optimistic of there being potential to move forward. Adding, “Obviously the car is going to develop over the next few weeks, but I trust the team and I trust the upgrades they are going to bring.”
Judge calls for evidence of harm from Miami GP
A judge has told a group of Miami Gardens residents that they must produce evidence of why the upcoming Miami Grand Prix would mean they’d “suffer actual injury” from noise levels.
Last month a group of residents brought a lawsuit trying to stop the race from going ahead, saying the race would “cause severe disruption and physical harm” to Miami Gardens residents, the city in which the Hard Rock Stadium venue is situated.
According to a report in the Miami Herald, Judge Alan Fine has called on these activists, led by former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Betty Ferguson who has opposed the race for several years, to file evidence in court today that might then lead to an emergency hearing ahead of the event on May 8. He has scheduled another Zoom hearing on Wednesday at 15:30, when a decision would be expected.
The residents have cited an engineering firm’s report which claims that noise produced by the cars will be up to 97 decibels, similar to that produced by a chainsaw, and would be heard at homes within 2.5 miles of the stadium.
Judge Fine questioned whether “unavoidable harm” would be caused and is considering whether residents could simply stay inside their homes or wear ear plugs during track activity.
He said “There are a number of different ways to avoid the potential harm, one of course is to wear ear plugs, that’s one. Two, to leave.”
The races prompter South Florida Motorsport, has taken action to limit the noise, installing PVC sheeting against the debris fencing to baffle sound levels produced on the north side of the circuit that is closest to residential areas.
Lawyers for the stadium and Miami Gardens City Council, which approved the race last April, have argued that the case should be dismissed, claiming that it’s up to the city’s own noise ordinance as to whether the special events permit is issued for the race.
That could be issued a matter of days before track activity begins on May 6. As a result, the judge admitted this case is currently in a “limbo state”.
Williams tweaks livery to save weigh
Williams says it introduced in Australia was the result of a weight-saving push it is making with its FW44. Most of the teams have struggled to hit the new 798kg weight limit, because of the new safety requirements and the shift to eighteen-inch tyres.
One of the talking points since the start of the season is the extremes that some teams are going to in a bid to try to save weight because they fear they are giving away too much lap time. Aston Martin has removed some of the green paint to save 350g, McLaren has also stripped back orange paint from its airbox for the first race of the season.
Now Williams has joined the group of teams that are running large areas of their car in raw carbon fibre, after stripping down some painted areas around the sidepods and airbox that were previously in dark blue or gloss black. Speaking about the changes, head of vehicle performance, Dave Robson, said that it was quite a tough task for everyone to get near the weight limit this year.
He told Motorsport.com, “You’d always like the car to be lighter and I don’t know how obvious it is, but the paint scheme is different. That is in part about lowering the weight of the paint on the car.”
“I don’t know where we fit in the overweight category up and down pitlane, it’s very hard to know, but it is absolutely a challenge on these cars to get them below the weight. It’s something else we can continue to work on.”
Williams scored its first points of the season in Melbourne, Alex Albon’s long stint on hards saw the British-Thai driver finish tenth. Robson says the main thing holding Williams back at the moment is in finding a good balance with the car.
Saying “If we get it a little bit wrong, we risk damaging the floor, so that’s probably our limit. But we are pretty close to where we want to run it.”
Alfa Romeo to bring revised floor
Alfa Romeo will introduce a revised floor at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola as it aims to stay in the thick of the midfield fight. The Swiss team is currently sixth in the constructors thanks to Valtteri Bottas finishing twice in the points in the opening three races with Guanyu Zhou finishing tenth in Melbourne.
Team principal Fred Vasseur acknowledged that Alfa Romeo has to keep up in the development race if it is to carry the fight to its rivals over the season. Vasseur told Motorsport.com on the team’s performances at the start of this season, “I’m perfectly happy with the results of the first three events.”
Adding, “I know also that now the development is starting from Imola and Barcelona, and so we have to be there at the right moment. We have some updates in the pipe, as everybody does, but they have to work, and they have to work as planned.”
Alfa Romeo appears to be an outlier as several teams have opted not to bring upgrades for Imola because of the sprint format. Vasseur says the team’s strategy is to introduce updates as soon as possible rather than worry too much about the intricacies of the particular venue.
Vasseur, explained “You have perhaps two different approaches between the teams. Is it easier to bring a big package each four events, or to try to introduce one component every single event? We did like this three years ago, because two years ago, and last year, we didn’t develop the car.”
He believes that was very successful for the team, who would continue to push for as long as possible. But, Vasseur acknowledged that the sprint format made it harder to introduce changes to the car, but he insisted that the team can cope.