Leclerc not only rival – Verstappen
Max Verstappen believes Charles Leclerc is not the driver he will be fighting in F1, despite the “amazing” opportunity to fight with his karting rivals again.
The Red Bull driver beat Leclerc in a hard and tight battle during the Austrian Grand Prix, following which a video emerged of the two of them disagreeing over a similar incident in karting seven years ago, with their roles reversed.
At the next race at Silverstone, the two twenty-one-year-olds engaged in another battle, with them both considered by many to be the future of F1. Verstappen said he gets on “really well” with Leclerc but thinks there are others in less-prominent situations who will come to the fore in future seasons.
Verstappen told Autosport, “We race each other really hard, and of course, we had our moments in karting. But I think you all grow over that, and we are both in F1 now, we are both living the dream.
“We are both racing where we wanted to be, and when we were in go-karting that was our dream. If you can be there together it’s, of course, amazing, and I have a lot of respect for Charles. He is a great driver, but I’m not expecting to only fight him.”
But Verstappen added that Lando Norris, potentially George Russell and maybe Alex Albon. He says that all these talents have the potential to do a great job as well if they get a good seat.
Verstappen’s comments were made earlier this month and published on Tuesday before it was announced that he would be partnered by Albon for the rest of the year.
Many of the next generation of F1 stars raced one another in karting or in various junior single-seater categories. Russell, Norris and Albon fought for the F2 title last year, while Russell and Albon were team-mates with Leclerc in karting.
Russell added “Myself, Alex and Charles were all team-mates in 2011 and we used to get up to a lot of mischief. At some races, I was team-mates with Max in 2012, I’ve raced Alex for a number of years.”
He says that between the three of them they always were pushing each other to be better.
While Norris added the closer relationship between F1’s younger drivers “makes it much better. It’s more fun. It’s not like you’re in your own world or whatever.”
People underestimate team difference – Sainz
Carlos Sainz says that teams are “a lot more different than what people imagine”, believing that the value of team continuity for a driver is underestimated.
In his three seasons in the sport he has raced for three different teams, starting at Toro Rosso in 2016 he switched in the latter part of 2017 to Renault. However, was unable to secure a long term seat this year and moved to McLaren.
The Spaniard says the early period of adaptation for Ricciardo at Renault and Charles Leclerc at Ferrari, as well as Pierre Gasly’s frustrating stint at Red Bull, have served as evidence of the particularities of each F1 outfit.
Speaking about the three teams, Sainz told Motorsport.com, “They are very different, a lot more different than what people imagine. And the cars behave a lot more different than what people think.”
“That’s why I think you’re seeing that every driver needs a few races to adapt to a team, to a car. We’ve seen it with Ricciardo this year, with Pierre, with every driver that has changed teams… Leclerc at the beginning of the year.”
He believes that you need more than just time to find the performance, and people underestimate how much performance you can extract from a package when have been there more than one year.
“The performance that I was extracting from a Toro Rosso, that for me was not the midfield leader at any point, and sometimes being good with the Toro Rosso like I was in 2016, 2017, I only achieved it because of knowing my package.”
Sainz is currently the midfield leader, with a twenty-seven point lead over Kimi Raikkonen, and he is currently on a run of five top-six finishes in the past seven races.
The Spaniard had faced a strong challenge from rookie teammate Lando Norris, and the Spaniard says he is not yet completely in tune with the car. But says there is still room for improvement from himself.
Renault needs bigger steps – Ricciardo
Daniel Ricciardo believes that his Renault team will need to make “bigger steps” with its car if they are to reach their target of challenging for podiums next season.
The French manufacturer returned to the sport with a five-year plan to return to the top of the sport, and last year finished fourth in the constructors’ championship. However, this season they have slipped behind McLaren.
This season they had set their sites on fourth which attracted Ricciardo to the team, however at the summer break they have half the points of customer team McLaren and only sixth in the constructors.
Ricciardo has maintained he had no regrets about leaving Red Bull, which has won two races this year. While the Australian says the start to his initial two-year deal with Renault has so far been on par with expectations, he admits the team now needs to kick on.
He told Motorsport.com, “I don’t want to say [it’s been] in line [with expectations], because obviously I hoped for more, but I knew it wasn’t going to happen like this.”
“So if I look at Canada, the qualifying, I’d actually say that exceeded probably some expectation in the first few races, but then obviously some other races like Austria, that was lower than our expectations.”
He says at the halfway point in the season the team needs to do better if they are going to challenge for podiums next season they need to make bigger steps in the second half of the season.
Ricciardo added, “Up until now, let’s say I’m somewhere in the middle with expectations, but I would now expect the second half of the season to have some more regular, whatever it is, top-six finishes.”
Renault hoped to pull away from the midfield battle with its Paul Ricard updates but only has scored four points in the last four races.
Asked whether he was expecting the RS19 chassis to be improved over the summer break, Ricciardo said: “I think it can – we won’t have another, let’s say, proper update until well after the summer break, but I would expect some developments.”
Williams makes ‘bigger gains than anticipated’
Williams deputy team principal Claire Williams says her team has made “bigger gains” than they expected this season. The teams start to the season was set by delays to pre-season testing and an uncompetitive car.
At the two races before the summer break and following upgrades in recent races, there has been some encouraging progress. In Budapest, George Russell fifteenth place in qualifying was the teams best of the season and only lost one place in the race.
Asked by Crash.net, if Williams’ aim is to catch the midfield by the end of the season, Williams replied: “That’s the goal, that’s the ambition from the start of the season which was to close the gap to P9 and get into the midfield.”
“Of course we’ve got to have some level of ambition and target and not fall further back. I think from the start of the season we needed to close that gap.” But says it was unrealistic for the team to close a second and a half gap over the season, with the aim of it not going backwards.
Williams is pleased that the team has made bigger gains than expected, that she hopes will propel them forward and continue the recent fights with Haas. She added, “We want to be in the mix and in the midfield. It is about slowly trying to find two seconds of performance.”
Williams’ progress has been boosted by recent successful updates, including new bargeboards, turning vanes and floor in a push to find performance. She says that the bargeboard updates shows the team are going in the right direction, and have a fantastic correlation between the track and the tunnel.
Adding, “The work they’ve done has really helped move the dial forward in that area. I think George [Russell] has explained it as taking five steps back to move 10 steps forward, it definitely feels like that and it has been a long wait to see the benefits.”
Haas rules out a rookie driver
Haas is yet to announce who will drive for the next season, but team principal Guenther Steiner has appeared to rule out taking a rookie. At the halfway stage, the team continues to scratch its head as to why they have slipped back this season.
One of the reasons is the team has struggled to grips with Pirelli’s tyre compounds and intra-team rivalries. With that in mind, there’s little room for the team to take on a rookie. He told F1.com, “These decisions are actually very difficult to make.”
He “It’s an opportunity but it comes at a high-risk rate, so it’s more like as a team we could do it, but do we want to do it? Because I think again this year if we had two rookies or a rookie, it wouldn’t help us, because we are a little bit lost where we are with the tyres and a rookie doesn’t help you.”
One of the options the team has should it chose to change its line up, a name considered would be test and Ferrari Driver Academy member Pietro Fittipaldi, grandson of two-time champion Emerson Fittipaldi.
But the Brazilian hasn’t taken part in a practice session this season, as Steiner and the team have more pressing priorities. Speaking about Fittipaldi, he says he cannot promise anything to him. Also, he doesn’t have a super licence, which holds him back from racing an F1 car, although Free Practice participation will count towards a driver’s super licence in 2020.
“That’s one of the problems of all young drivers at the moment. There’s not many people with a super licence around and to get one is pretty difficult at the moment. There is now a super licence that a team can get points for by putting a driver into FP1, and he’s missing four points. We’ll see what we can do.”
Steiner concedes that the risk in taking a rookie can work, as McLaren has proved this year with Lando Norris having taken 24 points so far in his debut season.
He added “This year I would say McLaren took the risk and did it very go. Lando is doing a good job, I think he’s very fast – but it can go wrong as well, and then it’s difficult to get out of that mess.”
Haas has, however, have had a difficult first half of the season, Grosjean has retired six times and reverted back to an Australian Grand Prix-spec car while Magnussen has continued to take on upgrades – it’s fair to say that Haas could do with avoiding a “mess”. Nine races left, and they trail eighth-place constructors Racing Point by five points.
Alonso sets sights on Dakar Rally
Fernando Alonso is to test Toyota’s Dakar rally car on three different continents over the next few months as he prepares for his next major target in motorsport.
Alonso retired from F1 at the end of 2018, pursue new challenges and is about to embark on perhaps his toughest yet as he prepares for entry to the 2020 Dakar Rally.
The Dakar Rally is one of the worlds most dangerous and challenging races, and next year will take place in Saudi Arabia. The last Paris-Dakar race took place in 2001, with the last race to end in Dakar was in 2007. His entry has yet to be officially confirmed.
Starting on Tuesday, he will take part in a four-day test in the deserts of Namibia before a non-competitive first outing at the Harrismith 400 in South Africa, the fifth round of the South African Cross Country Series, on September 13 and 14.
He told ESPN, “I’m really looking forward to the next few months of training, getting to know the Hilux and working with the team. I’ve always maintained I want to pursue new challenges in different disciplines and I’m at a great team to do that.”
Toyota team principal Glynn Hall added: “In March this year, we completed a successful two-day evaluation with Fernando in our Dakar-winning Toyota Hilux in southern Africa which proved to be a valuable learning experience.”
“Not only did Fernando thoroughly enjoy the experience, but we could see him adapt and improve every time he got behind the wheel.”
This year has been mixed for Alonso, he told a second Le Mans win, and a third world title in WEC, however a second attempt to win the Indianapolis 500 in May ended with not qualifying, but he still has his sights set on winning the race to complete motorsport’s unofficial triple crown.