F1 Today – 21/09/2021

F1 Today

Whitmarsh appointed as Aston Martin CEO

Former McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh is to return to F1 after being appointed as Group Chief Executive Officer of Aston Martin Performance Technologies. Whitmarsh was with McLaren for twenty-five years in various roles and was ousted as CEO in a 2014 coup.

Since leaving McLaren, he has been involved in various projects, including being chairman of technology start-up business BAR Technologies, and fulfilling a similar role at Offshore Wind Growth Partnership. He is also a member of the Lewis Hamilton Commission.

In his new role, he will lead the manufacturer’s Performance Technologies division, which aims to diversify the British sportscar manufacturers’ F1 and road car technology across key industry sectors. Owner and chairman Lawrence Stroll said the appointment of Whitmarsh was another step in turning the team into champions.

He explained, “Martin will enjoy senior leadership responsibility and will assist and support me in setting the new strategic direction for Aston Martin Performance Technologies and its subsidiaries.”

“Including the crucial objective of leading the transformation of Aston Martin into a F1 world championship-winning organisation within the next four to five years, and evolving it into a £1 billion business over a similar time period.”

“Martin has enjoyed a long, successful and high-profile career, spanning the motorsport, automotive, aerospace, marine and renewable-energy sectors. Moreover, he is a proven winner in F1.”

Stroll described Whitmarsh as the ‘ideal person’ for the job to lead and inspire our workforce to future success both on and off track.

Whitmarsh says he was attracted to Aston Martin because of Stroll’s vision, feeling that they can in the long term deliver championships. Adding “I have always respected ‘Team Silverstone’, if I can call it that, which has often punched above its weight under its various previous incarnations, and which now has the weight with which to punch harder than ever before.”

“Lawrence intends Aston Martin to win F1 world championships, plain and simple, and I would not have joined him in that endeavour unless I was utterly convinced that it was an entirely achievable aim.”


Honda’s “tough” return laid foundation for Red Bull’s title challenge

Honda says the “tough” experience they had when they returned to Formula One in 2015, was critical for delivering the breakthrough needed to make it a title contender now.

Despite withdrawing from the sport at the end of the year, the Japanese manufacturer is helping Red Bull in its fight with Mercedes for the world championship. That shows the progress they have made since returning to the sport with McLaren when they struggled for reliability and performance leading to them splitting in 2017.

Since joining up with Red Bull in 2019, they took their first win of the hybrid era in that years Austrian Grand Prix, the progress has continued to allow the team to challenge Mercedes seriously for this year’s championship.

Reflecting on the progress that Honda has made over its recent F1 history, technical director Toyoharu Tanabe thinks that the value of the difficult first years back cannot be underestimated in helping it become the force it is today. Speaking to the media, Tanabe said, “A lack of experience gave us a very hard time, with retirements, engine blow-ups, and we had many troubles on race weekends.”

“But we kept working very hard to achieve our desire, not only win the race, not only get the championship, but also improve the performance, and improve reliability. That was part of our important targets for engineers. We keep pushing, but still, it was not easy. We are competing against a champion team.”

While those early struggles were behind the spilt with McLaren and fuelled speculation that they could walk away sooner, Tanabe says that they always knew it would pay off in the end. Saying those struggles were seen as negative, but the team got good experience from it.

Tanabe also believes Honda’s willingness to deal with clear weaknesses in the past was very important for allowing it to make gains against the benchmark Mercedes power unit. He says there is little now separating Mercedes and Honda engines in terms of performance.

He says that one place they targeted was energy deployment, which has improved with the new power unit and ICE improved energy performance. The result has been Honda closing the gap to Mercedes both in performance and energy deployment, saying that the result has been the gap narrowing.


Alpine expects to bounce back – Budkowski

Alpine Formula One executive director Marcin Budkowski expects the Enstone outfit to bounce back in the next race in Sochi this weekend, after a blip in form at the Italian Grand Prix.

The French manufacturer had a poorer result in Monza, with Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon qualified only thirteenth and fourteenth, and eventually finished Sunday’s Grand Prix eighth and tenth, helped by attrition ahead. That result meant the team extended its lead by five points over Alpha Tauri, with it having ninety-five to Alpha Tauri’s eighty-four.

Budkowski said the team knew in advance that Monza will be a struggle for the A521. He told Motorsport.com, “Sochi will be better, not quite perfect for us, but better. I think we should be back to our level of competitiveness that we’ve had so far, which means qualifying in the top ten, and racing for slightly bigger points.”

“I think given our starting positions to be honest both cars in the points is a decent result. Monza is a circuit where we knew we’d suffer, as our package is not the most adapted to these kind of circuits. Honestly, coming out of here with five points in the bag, with AlphaTauri not scoring, actually it’s a pretty decent weekend.”

While Budkowski says the weekend was eventful, meaning it was really satisfying to get both cars to the end of the race. Budkowski would not elaborate on whether aero or the power unit was the primary reason for the car’s form at Monza.

Saying “I’m not going to get dragged into this because I don’t think it’s right. We have a package. We know what its strengths and weaknesses are, and knew this was a circuit that wasn’t really adapted to our strengths and weaknesses.”

However, Ocon’s race was compromised by a five-second penalty following contact with Sebastian Vettel. The Frenchman was deemed not to have left the Aston Martin driver enough room under braking for the second chicane.

While Budkowski says he doesn’t comment on stewards decisions, he believes Ocon was racing hard. Adding, “Whether there was just enough space or just not enough space I think it was he was a close call, but the stewards decided there was just not enough space. Fair enough, take it on the chin.”


Alonso calls for levelling up

Fernand Alonso has called on Formula One to do more to level out the performance between cars so the fight for podiums is more equal. While the aim of next years regulation changes is to create closer and more exciting racing, there are concerns the gap between the top teams and the rest could actually grow in the short term.

Alonso, who has raced through many different regulation eras in F1, believes it is critical that the sport’s focus more on trying to level the performance gap so the best drivers can show what they are capable of. He told Motorsport.com, “What we have to address, and probably next year is the first step, is the difference between cars.”

“Now, if you are lucky enough that you drive a competitive car, your only fight is with your teammate, not with another team, and you will finish on the podium in 95 per cent of the races you do in the year.”

The two-time champion says the sport needs to bJe more open for so anyone can have the inspiration to fight for podiums. Alonso’s frustrations about the difficulties of fighting regularly for podiums comes when he believes that the current quality of drivers is getting better.

Explaining that the development of skills needed to perform at the best in F1 should not be underestimated. Adding “When you get into the sport you see that there are some big differences compared to any other junior categories. For three or four years you keep learning about the system and how everything works.”


Cars must be designed better for the wet – Todt

FIA president Jean Todt says that the next generation of cars must be designed to race in the rain to avoid a repeat of the Belgian Grand Prix washout. Last month’s race at Spa will go down as one of the most controversial in the sport’s history, after it was abandoned after three laps behind a safety car because conditions were not good to race.

One of the issues for causing this problem is the current regulations, for the same reason, that following is difficult. The high levels of downforce generated by these current cars as well as wider tyres, means that more spray is thrown up in wet thus making visibility difficult.

Todt says that the matter must be addressed when the 2025 or 2026 engine regulations are overhauled, saying that wet weather running must be factored in. He explained to Motorsport.com, “There were many who criticised what was decided at Spa [by not racing], but what would have happened if, after the start, we had had an accident with 10 cars that resulted in injured drivers or worse.”

“We would have been massacred. And even without injuries, we would have been criticised. For the 2025 regulations, we must think about having cars that can be driven even in the rain. Do you remember [Niki] Lauda at Fuji in ’76? He was the only one of the drivers to give up racing in the rain.”

The race which wasn’t also caused controversy, one of them being that half points were awarded to drivers despite no racing laps were completed.


Tsunoda’s future was never in doubt – Tost

Franz Tost says there was never a doubt that Yuki Tsunoda would get a new contract with the team beyond the 2021 season. The Japanese driver made his debut with Alpha Tauri with high expectations, but his performance has been erratic, with several crashes and being overshadowed by teammate Pierre Gasly.

The Italian team announced they would retain both drivers last week, with Tsunoda admitting he was surprised to have his contract extended given his on-track performances so far. Saying, “To be honest, my first half of the season was quite inconsistent. From my side, I was a bit surprised I’ll be staying next year.”

But Tost insists Red Bull’s sister team was always committed to giving Tsunoda more time to develop. Asked by Motorsport.com if there was ever a doubt that Tsunoda would get a new deal, Tost said, “For me personally no, because nowadays if you bring a rookie into Formula One, you must give him time.”

“Formula One is really so complex, is so difficult. Yuki so far has done a reasonably good job. He was fast, he finished in Budapest in the sixth position, and his first race he was ninth in Bahrain. He had some crashes, but I always say the crash period is part of the education process. How will someone find the limit if he is not allowed to crash?”

However the Alpha Tauri boss said he hoped that  Tsunoda’s “crash period is finished now”, he recognises the remaining races of the season are also likely to be difficult. This is because he doesn’t places like Austin, Istanbul, Sao Paulo where Formula Two doesn’t go at the moment.

Tost says that means there is a lot of work to do to bring him to a good level, and believes that he will close the gap to Gasly, but added that constant improvement was important. He also believes giving Tsunoda a new contract relatively early will help him rebuild his confidence.

Adding “Of course, this helps, because he knows he is with the team,” he added. “And as I mentioned already before, the second half of the season will not become so easy as he is on race tracks which he doesn’t know.”

Saying that his performance was improving, he’s doing a good job and therefore, parallel to this, he will also improve his self-confidence.


F1 cannot ‘freestyle’ format changes – Wolff

Mercedes F1 CEO and team principal Toto Wolff believes Formula One has too much responsibility to “freestyle” changes to the regulations amid continued discussions about sprint races and the format of Grand Prix weekends.

The second 100km sprint qualifying was trailed at Monza to form the grid for the race, which then offered very little in terms of on-track action during the race. Recently, F1 managing director of motorsports Ross Brawn revealed consideration was being given to changing the sprint race format for next season, while Ferrari expressed its support for a possible introduction of reversed grid events.

Mercedes F1 boss Wolff made clear the team was unmoved in its opposition to reverse grids, and remained lukewarm about the success of sprint races, saying the current format “doesn’t give a lot of benefits” to teams. The third test event is likely to happen at Interlagos in November and could be expanded to more events next year.

Wolff said “We’ve resisted experiments in the past because they were too controversial and mainly also against what the sport stands for, and that’s real racing. We’ve got great personalities now, it’s broadcast in the right way, and people know that it’s a meritocracy: the best man and best machine wins.”

“You can see, this year, there’s just more cars that are really competitive and a really good fight at the top.” He also says that any decisions about continuing with the format need to be made with the sport needing to take more responsibility to freestyle with the regulatory changes.

Asked what F1 should do if sprint races were to be scrapped and any reverse grid format was ruled against, Wolff suggested running a traditional weekend format with one fewer practice session than usual.

Saying, “Start Friday afternoon with FP1, do a Saturday morning FP2, do a conventional qualifying like we do, and a fantastic Grand Prix on Sunday. Maybe you want to do some warm-up Sunday morning, to add a little bit more spectacle for the people. In any case, I would just shorten the free practice sessions so there’s more variability in the results, but keep the rest like it is.”


Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.