Ferrari “evaluating new concepts”
Ferrari has begun “evaluating new concepts” for its car after determining the extent of “different mechanical and aerodynamic settings” required to work Pirelli’s 2019 tyres better.
Following fluctuations in the car’s performance and Mercedes five consecutive one-two finishes, Ferrari has undertaken a detailed analysis of its problems getting the most out of its SF90.
Team principal Mattia Binotto, admitted during testing after the Spanish Grand Prix, that that Ferrari needed to establish if its 2019 car concept was wrong.
Its 2019 car design prioritised managing outwash and improving aerodynamic efficiency while Mercedes opted for a higher-downforce solution. Ferrari will have upgrades for this weekend, while it has “already working on evaluating new concepts” for the future.
Last week during testing the team worked through a number of setup changes, making it clear that the thinner-gauge Pirelli tyres being used in 2019 are proving a major factor.
Binotto told Motorsport.com, “Last week’s testing in Barcelona and analyses carried out in Maranello confirmed just how much this year’s tyres, which are very different to those we had in 2018, require different mechanical and aerodynamic settings to work properly.”
The Italian says that the team is already evaluating new concepts and is bringing further updates this weekend. Ferrari’s upgrades for Barcelona made little difference to its performance, qualifying and finishing well drift of Mercedes.
This weekend because of the importance of qualifying is the highest of the season, as grid position makes it easier to get good points because of the limited overtaking opportunities. Binotto added, “It’s a very different sort of race, where the track characteristics that can shake up the order could be jumbled up still further this weekend.”
Ferrari is ninety-six points behind Mercedes in the constructors, while its highest driver, Sebastian Vettel, is forty-eight points adrift of Lewis Hamilton in the drivers’ standings.
A meeting took place at Ferrari’s Italian headquarters last week, attended by company chairman John Elkann.
As well as backing Binotto, who assumed the team principal role for 2019, it has been suggested that one outcome was a decision for more budget to be committed to the 2019 car.
Bottas’s clutch removed to avoid a repeat of Barcelona
Valtteri Bottas says that Mercedes has taken a number of measures, including removing the clutch he used in Barcelona from his pool, to try and avoid a repeat of the problems which has cost him at the of races this season.
The Finn has lost out when starting from pole this season, losing the advantage in Barcelona and Shanghai to his teammate Lewis Hamilton. The issue at the last race was believed to be more down to an inconsistent clutch.
Bottas says that the team has decided to remove his Spanish GP clutch from the pool that he will use this season, as well as making some changes to its systems to avoid further troubles. According to the media, its believed that Mercedes replace clutches at every even-numbered race.
Speaking to the media, he said: “For sure that clutch physically is out from the pool, but there were also things on the control side in that unfortunate moment.”
“With just being on the grip limit allowed some hesitation and variation on the clutch torque. We have taken measures to prevent that. Hopefully, it will not happen again and we move on.”
Should Mercedes continue to lead this weekend, it gives him a chance of his first podium and win, at a circuit which has been one of the least successful for him throughout his career. He has finished only fourth and fifth on his two previous Monaco outings with Mercedes in 2017 and 2018, having qualified third and fifth.
He said, “I feel never in my F1 career I had a good car in Monaco. It’s such a unique track. You need a very special car in terms of how it works mechanically in Monaco, with all those the walls and bumps and everything. So it’s a question mark how we are going to perform there.”
But Mercedes will be looking to try and have a good weekend, following the death of their chairman and three times champion Niki Lauda.
He says that he hopes the team has “a good car there because it would be such a unique race to be fighting for the win, or win it.”
Hamilton excused from media duties
Lewis Hamilton was excused from media duties on Wednesday ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix, following the death of Mercedes chairman and three times champion Niki Lauda.
The Austrian died late on Monday, with Mercedes asked the FIA for Hamilton to be withdrawn, with the world champion replaced in the five-man line-up by team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
Last year in Budapest, both Ferrari drivers were excused from media duties after their president Sergio Marchionne died.
Hamilton posted a heartfelt message on social media on Tuesday evening paying tribute to Lauda, who acted as a close confidant to him since his arrival at Mercedes in 2013.
In a tweet, Hamilton said “I’m struggling to believe you are gone. I will miss our conversations, our laughs, the big hugs after winning races together. God rest your soul. Thank you for being a bright light in my life. I’ll always be here for your family should they ever need me. Love you man”
Mercedes has confirmed that the cars will carry a tribute, while team members will wear black armbands from Thursday when track action begins.
More tributes to one the sport’s most influential drivers and team bosses expected throughout the weekend.
Lauda tributes planned for Monaco
Formula One has continued paying tribute to Mercedes F1 Chairman and three times champion Niki Lauda, who died late on Monday.
Five times world champion Lewis Hamilton, who paid an emotional tribute to the Austrian on Instagram, made a paddock appearance but was exempted from a scheduled FIA-organised news conference.
A team spokesman said they had asked for Hamilton to be excused on the grounds that he had “lost a very close friend in Niki.”
Finnish teammate Valtteri Bottas took the Briton’s place instead and said Hamilton seemed OK when he saw him earlier. He added “(Lauda) meant a lot to me but was a key member of ours in the race team and factory, a big part of the Mercedes family and was a massive motivation for everyone and myself as well.”
Ferrari, where he won two of his titles with the Italian team in the 1970s and came back from severe burns in a fiery near-fatal 1976 crash, will have something on their cars.
McLaren, with whom the Austrian won his third title in 1984, said they would have something on their cars too.
Mercedes backed George Russell, who races for Williams, recalled how he and Lauda used to watch MotoGP races together. “He just loved everything racing really,” he said.
“I remember at Silverstone when I won my first or second GP3 race and he was down at the podium with Toto and I couldn’t believe it really. I’d only been part of Mercedes for half a year and there’s Niki Lauda congratulating me at the podium. He was just an amazing person.”
Former Mercedes boss and F1 managing director for motorsport and technical director, Ross Brawn said “Niki’s loss is of huge significance to Formula One. Ours is a sport that revolves around larger than life personalities and Niki was one of racing’s most formidable characters.”
“His presence in the paddock was a reminder that Formula One is a sport of heroes, an arena for competitors who push past common limits of fortitude and endurance and find an elevated plane beyond the ordinary.”
Renault difficulties not stopping Ricciardo
Daniel Ricciardo is insisting that he is enjoying life at Renault despite the teams’ disappointing start to the season, hoping that this weekends “special” Monaco Grand Prix.
The Australian has proved himself to be one of the strongest drivers in recent years around Monaco, taking two pole positions and claiming a sensational victory last season. However, joining the French manufacturer has taken him out of race-winning contention for this year.
He went to Renault with the minimum hope of leading the midfield, however five races into the season having struggled for both pace and reliability and are ahead of only Toro Rosso and Williams in the standings.
Ricciardo told Sky Sports, “I’m enjoying it, I really am. I’d love to get better results but as an environment, I am enjoying it. So hopefully a little special weekend here will kick things off nicely.”
Speaking about the weekend ahead, he added “You’ve got to use that confidence wisely because it can bite you as well. I’ve certainly always enjoyed coming here.”
“I feel I’ve always come here with a bit of that [swagger], and up until last year a bit of a chip on my shoulder. I got rid of that last year.” He says he is aware of the bigger challenge this year, but is confident and hopes wisdom around here to my advantage.
His Renault team has failed with its target of challenging the top three, in fact, they have been battling towards the back of the midfield and only securing two points finishes all season.
Ricciardo added “It’s still certainly a process. I wouldn’t say I’m surprised by anything. Obviously, we would have hoped for better results than what we’ve got – we all want that and are honest enough to admit that.”
Brown not stepping back from F1
McLaren CEO Zak Brown is insisting that he will not be taking a step back from his involvement with the F1 team, despite the arrival of its new team principal Andreas Seidl.
Seidl, who joined the team from Porsche’s WEC programme, started work with the team earlier this month, and his first race was the Spanish Grand Prix. The German has been given responsibility for running the racing team, Brown says that does not mean that he will be lessening his own involvement in the outfit.
Asked by Motorsport.com, how Seidl’s arrival changes his role, he said “No, no, no, I definitely don’t take a step back.”
“It has always been the plan to bring in dedicated, exclusively focused leadership on the F1 racing team. We need someone waking up every day and making sure that the car can go as fast as possible.” Brown added.
Brown said that is job is to run and grow the business and that he now feels that the team has the right personnel in place. It is his belief that once Seidl gets stuck into it he “will make his mark. I’m really pleased with the team we have on the field.”
Brown is also clear that Seidl has been given a mandate to do what he thinks is needed to move McLaren forward. The American added, “I think it is his racing team to run. He is a consultative team member type of individual, so he has got free reign to do what he wants.”
He also believes that Seidl’s arrival as well as new technical director James Key that quicker progress should follow soon. Adding “I think last year when we started making change that was the step forward, and Andreas joining is just another big step in that process.
Confidence up and down
Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi has admitted that his confidence is “going up and down” during his debut season. The Italian is the only driver apart from the Williams drivers who are yet to score points, while o teammate Kimi Raikkonen is ninth in the championship with 13 points and the best finish of seventh.
Qualifying eighteenth and finishing sixteenth in the previous race in Spain marked Giovinazzi’s worst results of the year. Asked about his confidence heading into this week’s Monaco Grand Prix, Giovinazzi said, “It’s going up and down, to be honest. We had a good weekend in Baku, we struggled in Barcelona.”
He added “It’s quite tough. But I have the support of the team and I believe in my team as well. This is important. The car is there. Sometimes we have the issues, sometimes not.” However, he is hoping that when they get it all together results will come.
The Alfa Romeo driver hasn’t raced in Monaco since 2016 but says that it is important to keep your confidence up as one mistake can push confidence down.
In Barcelona, Alfa’s performance as a team dipped during the previous race weekend in Spain, where Raikkonen finished outside of the points for the first time this season. The team will be hoping that it was a one-off and that the team will bounce back.
The action begins in Monaco tomorrow, while we will look ahead to the weekend Friday. Tomorrow’s practice session is one which is one which drivers need to build themselves into and just find the limits of the car, crashes can be expected.
The big question is Mercedes, this weekend has been a difficult one for the team in the past despite there recent dominance. However, we as always need to remember this is only practice and teams can go wrong after practice especially in Monte Carlo.
The watchword not only tomorrow but all weekend, are red/yellow flags and traffic. Its common for drivers to trip over each other and impede each other’s laps, so communication is key. No driver wants to carry penalties from Thursday into the rest of the weekend.
We need to be careful, as do the teams going through Friday not to over analyse the practice sessions as they can be hugely wrong throughout the weekend.
We will Prixview the weekend properly on Friday in ‘The Weekend Ahead’
You can join us for LIVE coverage of this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix via Twitter @F1VaultLive starting with FP1 Thursday from 10:45 CEST / 09:45 BST, Qualifying Saturday 14:45/13:45 and forward race coverage 14:40/13:40 lights out 15:10 / 14:10