F1 Today – Monaco Prixview – 21/05/2021

F1 Today

Hamilton’s passion for diversity

Sir Lewis Hamilton insisted he is happy to have the difficult discussions and prioritise the need for greater diversity in Formula One. The Englishman is chasing his eighth world championship this season, having already taken the most pole positions and wins in the history of the sport.

Meanwhile becoming an increasingly vocal campaigner for diversity. He launched his own commission to look into the reasons for under-representation for those from minority backgrounds in motorsport last year, while Mercedes has pledged to improve the diversity of their own team.

Speaking to the Spanish newspaper AS, the seven-time champion said his top priority remains on greater diversity being the only black driver in F1. Hamilton said, “My dad, my brother and I we were always the only people of colour, it was just normal for us. But we were always aware of it. It became normal for us, but at the beginning, it was very obvious to us that we weren’t always welcome.”

“So, I have this commission, which shows you the challenges and barriers Black people in particular face, that white people perhaps don’t. It’s not about dividing, it’s about bringing people together, it’s about holding people accountable.

“For me, I’m comfortable having conversations with my boss, with Mercedes, with partners. We have to have those uncomfortable conversations. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. ‘What can we do together to make it more diverse?’ All the businesses need to be more reflective of the world around us.”

Hamilton says being a multiple world champion doesn’t change anything, saying he knows where he comes from and is capable of. Saying the thing he would be most proud of this season would be Mercedes hitting their five per cent diversity target and continuing to increase that in the next few years.

Hamilton also discussed how he feels the type of drivers coming into the sport has changed since he broke onto the scene. The Englishman is one of few drivers coming from a working-class council estate in Stevenage, while three drivers have billionaire fathers.

He says there would be “no way” he could have fought against that money. Saying that the sport needs to be more accessible to everyone from all backgrounds.

 

Ferrari’s pace “too good to believe” – Leclerc

Charles Leclerc says that Ferrari setting the pace in practice for this weekends Monaco Grand Prix saying it “too good to believe.” The Monacan lead a Ferrari one-two in FP2 on Thursday after edging out his teammate Carlos Sainz by a tenth.

Ferrari was the surprise in the session after finishing one-two on a race weekend in any session since Interlagos FP2 in November 2019, causing a surprise on a weekend where it was expected Mercedes and Red Bull would be leading the pace. But both Sir Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen believe Ferrari can join the fight at the front.

Leclerc felt he had left “still a bit of margin” through Thursday’s running, meaning Ferrari had more time to find, but was confident Mercedes and Red Bull would make bigger strides forward.

He said, “I’m sure that Mercedes and Red Bull have more margin than we have. So we shouldn’t get carried away too much. We’ll have one day tomorrow to work hard, and then let’s see where we’ll end up.”

Asked if he felt as optimistic as the P1 time suggested Ferrari should be, Leclerc replied: “Not yet, I want to wait for Saturday for now. It’s looking good. For now, it’s looking a bit too good to believe it.” Leclerc believes that Ferrari will know where we are where they are after qualifying tomorrow.

Leclerc topping FP2 was a surprise after he was forced to sit out FP1 because of a gearbox issue, leaving him low on mileage for the day. Adding “I was quite surprised that it ended that way [in FP2], because Monaco, here especially, it’s quite important to do as many laps as we can.”

The difficulty of Monte Carlo meant he had to rely more on Sainz’s data to build his confidence up through the day. But says that he couldn’t find references and he needed his own references.

 

Red Bull “need to improve a lot” – Verstappen

Max Verstappen says that Red Bull “need to improve a lot” before a crucial qualifying day at the Monaco Grand Prix after describing the team’s start to the weekend as “very weak”.

The Anglo-Austrian team arrived in Monte Carlo as one of the favourites to take the fight to Mercedes, following their competitive start to the season. But while Sergio Perez topped Thursday’s first practice, Red Bull finished the day with an alarming 0.4s gap to surprise pacesetters, Ferrari.

Verstappen finished Thursday’s two practice sessions in third and fourth respectively, behind his main title rival Sir Lewis Hamilton. The Dutchman said following practice, “We are too slow. Not just a little bit, I think quite a bit. We have to really find some pace because everyone has traffic, so you have to look more to optimum lap times, optimum sectors, and we are quite off.”

“It also didn’t feel great to drive. Normally I’m quite comfortable in the car, quite easily get to a pace but it all takes too long and just not how I like it. So far it’s the most difficult weekend.”

Verstappen agreed with Hamilton’s assessment of Ferrari, saying he was “surprised by how competitive Ferrari is” after Charles Leclerc led a one-two for the team who are currently fourth in the constructors’ standings.

But, says Red Bull are very weak this weekend and that Ferrari are doing very well this weekend.

 

FIA’s flexi-wing clampdown ‘a joke’ – Vasseur

Alfa Romeo team principal Fred Vasseur has blasted the FIA’s flexi-wing clampdown as a ‘joke’, after claiming it is going to cost his team a fortune in redesigns. The sports governing body the FIA has announced new tests designed to ensure that wings aren’t flexing too much giving some teams a straight-line speed advantage on the straights.

But Vasseur is unimpressed at what has happened, as he says the new test procedure has effectively changed the regulations and hurts teams who had fully complied with the rules as they were written. He says for smaller teams like Alfa Romeo the tweak is hugely unfair, and he does not understand why such an expensive change has been introduced mid-season.

He told Motorsport.com, “We will have time to do it [change the wing], but it will cost us a fortune. We are all fighting to try to save money, to speak, to reduce having one person at a track, and then we have these kinds of things that… it’s just a joke. A joke for me.”

Vasseur believes that the impact on lap time will be minimal, and he is concerned that the way the Flexi-wing saga has been handled means other areas of the car could face mid-season changes too.

Asked how much time difference there was between the wings, he said: “Honestly, it will be marginal. We did the back-to-back a couple of times, and the difference was not huge. But it’s not about this, my concern. It is that why next week we won’t change the weight of the car also? Because one team is not able to reach the limit…”

He accused the FIA of acting unfairly because several teams had created wings that complied fully with the rules as they were written at the time, but they are the ones who now face expensive changes. Saying that Alfa Romeo was at the maximum of the deformations.

Adding “Everybody was sticking to the limit, and the FIA decided to change the limit. It’s a bit surprising, but they changed the load and the deformation, and in the course of the season.”

Vasseur says the issue was not the test itself but the fact that if you’re on the limit you will need to produce new wings.

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner estimated that the wing saga will cost teams that are forced to change wings around $500,000 (USD).

 

Reutemann discharged from hospital

Former F1 driver and Argentine senator Carlos Reutemann has been discharged from Rosario’s Sanatorio Parque hospital after having been treated for internal bleeding for the past two weeks.

Reutemann was admitted to intensive care in his home town earlier this month after suffering a digestive haemorrhage. Four days later doctors decided to transfer him via helicopter to a different facility in Rosario because of a new episode of internal bleeding.

Following several procedures his condition improved with him moving to a general wards d for another six days while his progress was continually monitored until he was finally released on Friday, seventeen days after his original admission.

In a statement on Friday morning, the Sanatorio Parque hospital said Reutemann “was discharged to continue with his recovery in the city of Santa Fe”.

Reutemann contested 146 races between 1972 and 1982, during which he scored 12 victories, six pole positions and 46 podiums. He was handed his debut at the 1972 Argentinian Grand Prix by then-Brabham chief Bernie Ecclestone alongside two-time world champion Graham Hill, and he went on to race for teams including Ferrari, Williams and Lotus.

He missed out on the 1981 drivers championship by a single point having lead most of that seasons championship, he also finished third three times in 1975, 1978 and 1980.

After his retirement from driving, having also made two World Rally Championship starts, Reutemann turned his attention to politics and has served in Argentina’s senate since 2003.

He also served two terms as governor of his local state of Santa Fe and was even offered to run for the Argentinian presidency in 2003 but rejected the candidacy.

 

Aston Martin “realistic” about what they can achieve

Aston Martin CEO and team principal Otmar Szafnauer says the team needs to be “realistic” about what they can achieve this season now that third in the constructor’s championship is out of reach.

The team, then Racing Point, finished fourth in the championship and this season set their sights on third in the constructors. But they have appeared to be the team who have been affected the most by the twenty percent cut in downforce meaning they have fallen behind midfield rivals McLaren, Ferrari, Alpine and Alpha Tauri.

The team has scored just five points in the opening four races of the year, all courtesy of Lance Stroll, leaving it seventh in the standings and ahead only of the point-less trio of Alfa Romeo, Williams and Haas.

Going into this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix, Szafnauer admitted that third was probably a step too far. But told Motorsport.com, “We will fight hard in the midfield to see how high we can go. But yeah, we’d like to be in the top half by the end of the year.”

The Aston Martin name returned to the grid for the first time in sixty-one years after Racing Point owner Lawrence Stroll invested in the British car brand, laying the foundations for his ambition to turn the team into a championship winner.

Szafnauer said he did not feel there was additional pressure coming from Stroll or the other shareholders because of the team’s 2021 struggles, saying the whole team was realistic of its current position. He says that no one was happy with the current the situation they are in.

Adding “For sure there’s always pressure when you’re not achieving where you thought you were going to achieve. But like I said, we all have to be realistic and do what we can, without compromising the 2022 programme.”

Asked by Motorsport.com if the difficult start to the year had allowed Aston Martin to switch more of its resources to 2022 earlier than expected, Szafnauer said it had not changed its original plans, Szafnauer said “Not really, we had a plan that we haven’t deviated from.”

 

Confidence not translating into pace for Ricciardo

Daniel Riccardo appeared to struggle in Thursday’s practice sessions for the Monaco Grand Prix finishing down in fifteenth in both FP1 and FP2. The Australian couldn’t hide his frustration of not being able to find more pace from the McLaren.

Ricciardo who has taken two pole positions around the streets of Monte Carlo was a second and a half off Charles Leclerc in fifteenth only ahead of the two Haas’s and Williams’s, as well as the Alpha Tauri of Yuki Tsunoda, after he crashed out.

Reflecting on the day, he said, “I feel like I had confidence, it was just not translating into lap time, and honestly, from behind the wheel, that’s quite frustrating because I’d cross the line and be like, ‘Yeah, that was probably a decent lap’ and they were like, you’re P12 or P15 or even at one stage P17.”

Adding, “So it’s frustrating because it’s a long way off and there’s a lot of time to find. Luckily we’ve got [Friday] off, but right now it’s like trying to figure out where all the time is.”

Ricciardo’s teammate Lando Norris spent much of the day in the top seven. Ricciardo believes that sensitive was the most frustrating thing, and the car feels like it requires a certain type of driving style.

He believes his weakest section of the circuit is between Mirabeau-Hotel Hairpin-Mirabeau, (Turns Five to Seven), saying he was surprised how much time was lost.

 

The weekend ahead

This weekend it appears as if we could potentially have a three-team fight between Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari, but we know that Mercedes turn it up on Saturday. But this circuit can see marginal gains between sessions in qualifying, there will also be an amount of time which can be gained in each session being about a second between FP3 and Q3.

The other question is what Mercedes hasn’t not shown yet, but on street circuits, we know its harder to find lap time and this season we have seen not much time gains or improvements on drivers second runs. We need to remember street circuit can throw up surprises.

Ferrari, have their best opportunity of the season to get a good result here, they looked very competitive with Charles Leclerc topping FP2 ahead of teammate Carlos Sainz. But the central question is can they match Mercedes and Red Bull at the end of the session when it really matters?

This is one of the most important qualifying sessions of the season, we know that overtaking is going to be difficult. But they need to be warry as we can get yellow and red flags as drivers push for the best lap, that likely hood decreases throughout the session.

The teams need to be on the ball, we have seen drivers be knocked out by not getting a banker lap in early on because of later disruption if we get yellow and red flags. This tends to mix things up and we have in the past seen smaller teams get it right in qualifying while bigger teams get it wrong making for a mixed-up grid.

The midfield battle, as we say every weekend for the past eighteen months has been tight, they could gain a lot if the front runners slip up in both qualifying and the race. I don’t think we have seen everything from McLaren, they had a bit of a low key Thursday, their battle this weekend I feel is with Alpha Tari and Alpine.

 

You can read our Monaco Notebook and join us for LIVE coverage of this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix via Twitter @FormulaOneVault continuing on Saturday with FP3 from 11:45CEST / 10:45, Qualifying 14:45/13:45 and race coverage Sunday 14:30 / 15:30 lights out 15:00 / 14:00
Jack

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