Floor damage hampered Hamilton’s race
Mercedes believes that a kerb strike caused the damage which broke Lewis Hamilton’s floor during the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, rather than the result of debris.
Hamilton struggled for pace during the season opener as damage to the floor cost him downforce and also affected the balance of his car. Mercedes has revealed a new close up image of the broken floor, and the team’s chief strategist James Vowles said Hamilton did a “fantastic” job to manage his car to the end considering the impact of the lost parts.
While Hamilton believed the damage was caused by on track debris on lap four, Mercedes believes that the cause was a kerb strike. Speaking in the teams Pure Pit Wall video, Vowles explained “On inspection of Lewis’ car after the race, we noticed some damage over what we call the tyre seal area.”
“If you look at this image [of the floor], you will see the broken carbon just in front of that rear tyre on that floor region. That area is quite sensitive aerodynamically – it’s both for downforce and also for balance of the car. And we believe we sustained it during the course of the race while riding over some of the kerbs”
Vowels also says that the balance issues were exacerbated because he was already needing to do an extra long stint on the medium following an early stop to prevent the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel undercutting him.
He added, “Lewis already had a very long stint on that medium tyre after covering off the threat of Vettel’s undercut, so he was already having to manage those tyres quite significantly, hindering his progress through the race and really had to look after that.”
While Hamilton’s damage hindered his race, Vowles says that nothing should be taken away from Bottas’s flawless performance. Saying “Valtteri was on it all weekend.”
Correa handed a development role at Alfa Romeo
Alfa Romeo has announced that they have signed Juan Manuel Correa as the team’s development driver for 2019. The American driver will make his Formula Two debut with the team’s junior team at the Bahrain Grand Prix next week.
Correa moves up from GP3 where he finished twelfth in his debut season. However, he struggled in GP3 with the Jenzer team, but was ahead of his teammate David Beckmann, before the later switched teams and immediately began winning races with Trident Racing.
American driver Correa partners Ferrari Academy racer Ilott at the Sauber Junior Team this year, and the 19-year-old called the deal a “privilege”. He said, “To have received this opportunity, and to be a part of such an iconic team and brand in motorsports, Formula 1 in particular, is a privilege for any driver.”
“I will do my best to honour the opportunity I have been given and want to thank Fred [Vasseur] and the entire Alfa Romeo Racing Team for having me.”
Managing Director team principal and CEO of Sauber Fred Vasseur added “Juan Manuel will be taking on a new challenge with our Team as our Development Driver and we look forward to further advancing his skills in support of his progress as a racing driver.”
Alfa Romeo already has fellow F2 racer Tatiana Calderon on the books as test driver.
Russell “not interested” in an exclusive battle
George Russell says that he is “not interested” by an exclusive battle with his Williams teammate Robert Kubica at the back of the grid. The difficult winter the team were firmly at the back during the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
Russell trailed Kubica in first practice but was ahead in every session after that, going on to finish a lap up on the Polish driver, who had broken his front wing at the start.
After the race, Russell said “From a personal perspective, you’ve only got your teammate to compare against. Obviously, I’m not disappointed to have come out on top, but at the end of the day I’m not interested in fighting him [Kubica] for last.”
He finished the race sixteenth and two laps down. But, his two-stop strategy meant he found himself chasing a group of midfield cars in the end, although they had been a lap ahead.
“At the end of the race I was kind of also stuck behind [Lando] Norris and [Sergio] Perez because I was on fresh tyres,” Russell said.
Teams need clarity on regulations
Haas team principal Gunther Steiner says that teams need clarity on the next set of regulations which will be introduced in 2021. The Strategy Group are due to meet and discuss the changes ahead of a final vote on the changes on Tuesday.
This will then be followed by a meeting of the F1 commission, where votes are undertaken involving all stakeholders. FIA president Jean Todt has indicated that progress has been made on the 2021 regulations and said that will be appearing at the meetings.
Speaking to Motorsport.com, Steiner said “We need clarity, because there is a lot of talk going on. I think now Chase [Carey, F1 CEO] is ready to present something to us, and let’s see what he presents, and go from there.”
“I don’t know what is in there. We all talk between each other’s backs, so I don’t know in the end what F1 has come up with.” Asked if it was ‘frustrating’ he says he doesn’t know if that was the right word to describe it. Steiner says that everyone needs to understand the direction soon or it will not be possible to develop the cars.
He says that the meeting has a busy agenda and there are a number of things needing to be discussed including governance, the budget cap, the technical regulations.
Asked if teams were being informed about some elements of the technical package – the recent gearbox cassette tender is one of the few details in the public domain – Steiner said: “Yeah, but we are hearing about it. It’s not a done deal.
Albon impresses Toro Rosso
Toro Rosso technical director Jody Egginton says that the team has been impressed by the ‘methodical’ approach shown by Alex Albon on his F1 debut at the Australian Grand Prix.
The British-Thai driver had not driven an F1 car before last month and put in an OK performance in Melbourne. He started thirteenth and finished fourteenth despite suffering with overheating brakes early in the race. Despite finishing outside the points, the team was pleased with how he tackled his first weekend.
Egginton told Autosport, “He did a really solid job. He’s good, he’s methodical, he’s not emotional, and he’s learning so quickly. I’m really impressed so far.”
“At the start of the race he had to manage his brakes for a while, but he bounced back from that. He learned a lot in terms of tyre management, and how to run the race. It’s probably the first time he’s experienced blue flags as well.”
He says that Albon did a tidy job and he is sure that the Londoner can carry on with moving forward, Egginton does expect another step forward in Bahrain.
Team principal Franz Tost has also been delighted with his performance in his first race, saying he did a good job. He added, “He nearly managed to come into Q3, because he was only a few hundredths behind.
“In the race, he made a very good start and had a good first session with the option tyres. He drove the race without any mistakes, and that’s also very promising for the next races.”
Albon says that his biggest lesson from Melbourne was tyre management saying that following cars closely causes the tyres to overheat when you try to overtake.
New TV deal for the Middle East and North Africa
F1 has confirmed a new television deal for the Middle East and North Africa after previous broadcaster BeIN Sports deciding against renewing its contract over piracy issues.
Race footage was illegally being broadcast by BeoutQ has been an ongoing issue in the region, with grand prix racing’s chiefs vowing to do it all it can to stop the activity taking place.
But while BeIN Sports lost patience, F1 has now concluded a deal with MBC Group, which is the largest media company in the Middle East and North Africa. MBC will exclusive free-to-air rights 21 grands prix this year on its free-to-air channels.
Ian Holmes, Director of Media Rights, Formula 1, said: “We are delighted to have concluded this agreement and very much look forward to working with MBC Group and exploring the many different opportunities, where they are in a unique position to help grow F1 throughout the region.”
The sport has also signed an extension with Polish arm of British broadcaster Eleven Sports to show the sport from 2020 until 2022. The channel had shown F1 since 2016 and its new deal comes off the back of the full-time return of local hero Robert Kubica.