Renault’s peaky car for an unpredictable season
Renault’s F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul says that the teams “peaky” car characteristics could make for a more unpredictable season. He stressed that the best of the rest race between the midfield teams are so close that that teams will have to get everything right in order to be on top.
Abiteboul told Motorsport.com, “It was extremely tight, and it’s going to be extremely tight all season. So I think it’s going to be fascinating. It’s very difficult to get it right or easy to get it wrong in terms of tyre management, tyre choice, set-ups.”
“We were also not perfect in that respect [in Melbourne], so it’s also another area where we need to learn and progress.” He believes that the performance of the teams will depend on what team gets into the right window.
Abiteboul says he “think it’s super easy to get it right or wrong for some reasons which are not necessarily within our control. It will be interesting to learn what happened to everyone because maybe we can learn from the difficulty of everyone.”
“That can make the season interesting, but as far as we are concerned we just need a better execution. We have a car that’s capable of doing better, but we need to eliminate all the small issues that we uncovered this weekend.”
Norris drove like a veteran
McLaren’s sporting director Gil de Ferran believes that the teams new signing Lando Norris “drove like a veteran” on his Formula One debut at the Australian Grand Prix.
The Bristolian qualified eighth for his debut at Albert Park, but during the race went backwards after his first stop. This allowed Lance Stroll, Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly to jump him, meaning he finished the race twelfth.
Speaking to Autosport, de Ferran said “he managed himself really well and frankly drove like a veteran in many ways. He had both to attack and defend during the race, had to manage his pace and the tyres and I think he did that very well.”
De Ferran says that he is not disappointed by Norris being stuck behind the Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi stayed ahead for so long, despite Norris believing it would have been possible to pass the Alfa Romeo more quickly faced with the same situation in the future.
He says one of Norris’s “great attributes, his ability to think through his own performance and analyse very carefully what he’s doing inside the car, his decision making and so on. That ability to be self-critical and open-minded, in my summation, is something that’s going to serve him well.”
De Ferran says that the result of his debut weekend shows that he belongs in F1 even if the race result doesn’t show it, believing that it was a good performance.
Hamilton braced for close Red Bull battle
Lewis Hamilton says that Mercedes are braced for a close battle with Red Bull throughout this season following the teams’ strong start with Honda following the strong start they made at the Australian Grand Prix.
Max Verstappen gave the paddock a surprise when they took a surprise podium and managed to overtake the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel, which was stronger on the straights. Red Bull who were previously powered by Renault, hadn’t stepped on the podium at the season-opener since 2013, while it was Honda’s first top-three finish since Silverstone in 2008.
The five-times champion told Sky Sports “It’s great to see the improvement that it’s had for the team. They were with Renault for such a long time and he [Verstappen] was able to pass the Ferrari. It’s awesome.
“The Red Bulls are there with us and I think we’re going to have a really great battle through the year between the three of us. remember growing up watching Ayrton [Senna] drive the Honda [at McLaren] and they were a formidable force back then and it’s great to see them back up there.”
The result was a boost for Honda after five years struggling at the back, with reliability and performance issues building on a step forward from last year.
Mercedes CEO and team principal Toto Wolff agreed that Honda has made another huge step forward. Saying “If you look at the speed trace it looks a different Red Bull than before. They are very fast on the straights and that’s good to see. We want them in the mix and we want to have a great fight.”
Hamilton says that he believes that Red Bull will be part of a really great battle this season.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner admitted the team exceeded expectations by securing a Melbourne podium and said it was a “dream start” with a new power unit.
Measles warning to attendees
The state government in Victoria has issued a health warning to attendees of last weekend’s Australian Grand Prix goers after a person with a confirmed case of measles visited the race.
The woman is currently being treated in hospital after acquired the viral infection in the Northern Territory. Authorities are warning health providers that she spent Saturday and Sunday at the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park, sitting in the Jones stand on Saturday and the Fangio stand on Sunday.
She also visited the Gate 2 entrance and food areas at Gate 1.
A statement said “Anyone who presents with signs and symptoms compatible with measles should be tested and notified to the department,” read the statement from the health department.
“There should be an especially high index of suspicion if they have attended any of the areas stated above and are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated for measles.”
Stroll a “gusty racer” – Szafnauer
Racing Point team principal Otmar Szafnauer has described the team’s new driver Lance Stroll as a “gusty racer” who will eventually get recognition for his performances.
The Canadian joined his father’s team from Williams, where he had two mixed seasons. In Melbourne, Stroll proved himself to be a match for his new teammate Sergio Perez and scored the team’s first points of the season.
Szafnauer said it was no surprise to see Stroll get up to speed quickly in new surroundings. Speaking about Stroll, Szafnauer told Motorsport.com “He can pedal a car. It will be interesting because he’s a gutsy racer too like Checo [Perez], so I’m sure there’ll be races where it’s one versus the other.”
“But that’s what we need, we need two good drivers, and we got them both.” Stroll won Italian F4, European F3 and Toyota Racing Series titles in his junior career, and scored a podium in Baku in his rookie F1 campaign.
However, when he was at Williams he played second fiddle to Felipe Massa and struggled to assert himself over Sergey Sirotkin the following season as the Grove-based team slipped down the order.
Asked whether Stroll, whose arrival at Racing Point meant the highly-rated Esteban Ocon was left off the grid, was not getting the recognition he deserved, Szafnauer said: “I think over time that will change. He’ll get the credit because he’s good. He’s very good.”
Start lights blocked by higher rear wings
The FIA is working to find an immediate solution to help drivers see the start lights better, following complaints in the Australian Grand Prix about views of the gantry being blocked by the higher 2019 rear wings.
Williams driver Robert Kubica who started last on the grid in Melbourne says that his vision of the lights was blocked by the car in front. Kubica said, “When I stopped [on the grid] I couldn’t see the lights.”
“The rear wing of the McLaren [of Carlos Sainz] was hiding it, so I could see the first block [of lights] and not the rest. So I had to move to the left – and it was a bit of a panic moment.”
Gasly added: “With the new bigger rear wings, I couldn’t see the lights on the grid so I had to react with the cars around me and I lost a couple of places.” Following the complaints, the governing body’s investigation concluded that rather than it being a one-off, the issue has arisen as an unintended consequence of the new larger rear wings this year.
For 2019, as part of the aerodynamic rule changes aimed at helping improve overtaking, the rear wings have been made wider by 100mm. The wings are 70mm taller, which was partly influenced by a push to lift the rear wing endplates from blocking what drivers could see in their rearview mirrors.
It is understood that the FIA is now working with the F1 Group on a permanent solution that can be in place from the next race in Bahrain. One possible answer would be to have an extra set of repeater lights situated halfway down the grid so it is visible to the cars at the back.
Extra or repeater lights were removed in 2010 after the new lower wings from 2017 meant they were no longer necessary.
Meet Daniel Avocado
Lewis Hamilton has joined in with a meme which began about Daniel Ricciardo which began at last weekends Australian Grand Prix.
The meme came about after a local news channel asked a young fan, Louis Pope, who his favourite driver is. Pope responded with “Danny Avocado.”
That inevitably prompted a range of photoshopped images of Ricciardo’s face inside an avocado. Pope then met the Renault driver in the Melbourne paddock during the week, and the pair had a humorous exchange, where the youngster still referred to his hero by the wrong surname.
Now the joke has been picked up by other drivers including five times champion Lewis Hamilton got in on the action. The Mercedes driver posted a picture of him and Ricciardo walking through the Melbourne paddock with the caption “Avocado and ham” with a laughing emoji afterwards.
Ricciardo responded with a picture of ham and avocado on toast.
The Week Ahead
Next weekend F1 heads to Bahrain, normally ahead of this race we get criticism of the governments’ treatment of anti-government protestors and human rights. We know this has no real impact on the weekend, but you still need to cover that as it is important that you don’t ignore the issue and F1 normally puts out a recommitment to uphold human rights.
Ferrari will be under pressure to answer questions and to prove where they really are following the bad weekend in Melbourne. The team need to up their game and I don’t see how if it keeps going wrong how they will mount a serious challenge.
Eyes will be on McLaren, in recent years the home race of the team’s owners hasn’t gone well but they go into the race in the strongest position they have been in recent years. But they are still not delivering as we expect the team too.
The midfield teams will be trying to underline that they are strong, that battle in the media could be hard as teams try to spin it towards them. The question remains how far behind the top three teams are the midfield teams, but we know that the scrap will be good!
We may hear more about the FIA plan and consultation on the succession plan to replace Charlie Whiting, who died last week. This is going to be a big debate about whether one person or which people replaces his many different roles.