“Doesn’t feel real” says Hamilton nears Schumacher’s record
Lewis Hamilton admits it “doesn’t feel real” that he is on the brink of equalling Michael Schumacher’s ninety-one wins, as soon as this weekends Russian Grand Prix.
The Mercedes driver took his ninetieth career win at Mugello which has put him just one behind the German, a record number that was considered untouchable when the Schumacher won his final race in Shanghai in 2006.
Hamilton who is also closing in on Schumacher’s seven world titles has dominated the sport since 2017 and with six victories at the halfway point in the season, it’s looking to be another record-breaking year.
Speaking to Sky Sports, he said, “It just doesn’t seem real,” said Hamilton after winning at Mugello. Obviously it’s ultimately a privilege to be in a position and have such a great team and a car to be able to deliver weekend in, weekend out.”
“But I just feel forever grateful to the people that continue to work hard, I’m just a link in the chain but getting the wins is not easy when you have a great driver in Valtteri [Bottas] pushing you the limit, weekend in, weekend out.”
Schumacher, who Hamilton replaced at Mercedes in 2013, has been top of the all-time wins list for nineteen years. The German than retired again after an unsuccessful stint with Mercedes, but some believe he built the foundations which has allowed Hamilton to win the title in six of the last seven years.
He has also won sixty nine times for Mercedes in 149 races
Despite the inevitably of the record, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says the world champions have not been getting ahead of themselves in planning celebrations.
F1 CEO and team principal Toto Wolff added, “We believe very much in karma and you need to be able to let things happen and, certainly, who would have ever imagined that somebody is going to break that record of 91 wins.”
Hamilton leads his teammate Valtteri Bottas by fifty-five points at the halfway stage, he is also firmly on course to equal Schumacher’s haul of seven world drivers’ titles.
Jordan calls on Wolff to get out now
Former team principal and Channel 4’s Eddie Jordan says that Mercedes F1 CEO and team principal Toto Wolff should “get out” of his role at Mercedes right now while the German car manufacturer is at the top.
The Austrian is currently negotiating a new contract at Mercedes that is expected to move him into a new senior role. According to Motorsport.com, Wolff is likely to remain as team principal, but with less of commitment for travel and time.
The change in Wolff’s position has prompted speculation over his future, with Jordan claiming recently that Mercedes sponsor and partner Ineos is about to buy the team outright. However, the story was shot down by Wolff, even though it remains possible that Ineos may take a minority stake in Mercedes.
Jordan, speaking to Dutch broadcaster Ziggo, believes there is some movement around Ineos, as he also makes clear that now would be the right time for Wolff to step away.
Jordan said: “The only thing that I was really sure about is that Ineos will buy the team and for sure in that package, with the people of Mercedes and particularly the new Chief Executive, it’s a well-known fact that Ola [Källenius], who is the new CEO and the chairman of the group, he’s had some issues with Toto in the past.”
The Irishman believes that with Mercedes on course for its seven consecutive world championship title double, Wolff will never have a better moment to sell his interest in the team. He believes that Wolff is getting tired of the situation.
Saying, “In life, you’ve got to remember that there is a very good time to get out and there’s a very bad time to get out. And a very good time is now for Toto.”
“If it was me, and I was his advisor, I would say: ‘Get the hell out of there. Please, Toto. Take the money off the table, it will never get as good as this in the future’.”
More downforce could have been cut
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes that the FIA could have trimmed even more downforce from the cars than has been specified in the 2021 regulations.
As part of a package of measures to reduce costs due to the pandemic, teams agreed to help Pirelli to run the same tyres for a third season by reducing loadings. At Silverstone, several tyre failures have led to minor changes to the technical regulations to reduce downforce by 10%.
Horner says that the reduction could have been bigger as teams will inevitably claw the lost downforce back with development, while admitting there was always a financial loss. He told Motorsport.com, “I think it’s a bit of a tricky one. I think the teams will get back all the downforce that it perhaps takes off.”
“Maybe more could have been done because the rate of progress in F1 is such that if there are concerns about the load of the tyre maybe more should have been looked at.”
Horner says whenever you change things you also create cost, which means it is about finding a balance.
Alpha Tauri team principal Franz Tost is also expecting the lost downforce to be recovered. He added “ For sure it will have a big impact on the downforce. I don’t want to speak about points, but it will be huge, and it’s also probably necessary for the tyres. I think it was the right move from the FIA.”
Nürburgring plans for 20% capacity
Organisers of the Eifel Grand Prix at the Nürburgring have announced that 20,000 spectators will be allowed to attend next month’s race. The circuit will run at 20% capacity to ensure social distancing.
The grandstands will be divided into individual sections, in which there will be designated seating blocks to allow for social distancing. Ticket purchase is contactless and face masks are mandatory around the site.
“The permission for 20,000 fans is within the decision of the state that allows up to 20% of stadium capacity for major sports events if infection figures are inconspicuous and the public infrastructure allows for social distancing rules to be met,” Ahrweiler district council said.
Germany has been one of the best countries in dealing with the coronavirus only reporting 9,481 deaths with 276,000 cases since the start of the pandemic.
FIA doing what it can to avoid Le Mans clash
FIA president Jean Todt says the governing body will do what it can to avoid a calendar clash in 2021 between the 24 Hours of Le Mans and a Grand Prix.
Before the Coronavirus pandemic ripped up the sporting calendar, Le Mans had been scheduled to be the same weekend as the Canadian Grand Prix.
Le Mans will be the highlight of a reduced six-round World Endurance Championship (WEC) season in 2021 with the race scheduled for June 12-13 on a provisional calendar published last Friday.
Todt told the media “Clearly, we will do as much as we can to avoid a clash between WEC and Formula One. But of course, it can also depend on where Formula One will be located because the time zone has some importance. So we will do the best effort but that’s the maximum I can tell you.”
F1 is yet to announce a provisional 2021 calendar but has hinted that the plan was for a normal season. CEO Chase Carey told Sky Sports, “We’re certainly planning on a 2021 that may not be completely business back to normal, but it’s pretty close.”
This year was supposed to have a record twenty-two rounds but now has only seventeen, the majority of them in Europe, with some new circuits brought in to replace those whose Grands Prix had to be cancelled.
Formula One drivers have competed at Le Mans and Grands Prix in the same season, Nico Hulkenberg winning in 2015 and Fernando Alonso in 2018 while with Force India and McLaren respectively.
Hulkenberg was unable to defend his title in 2016, as the race clashed with the inaugural race in Baku.
Alonso begins preparing for return
Fernando Alonso has begun preparing for his third stint at Renault with a visit to the manufacturers Enstone base. The two times champion has re-signed for the team he drove for across two stints in the 2000s, winning both his titles and the majority of his victories.
Renault says the thirty-nine year old met with the team’s engineers to look ahead to 2021, while the visit would have been Alonso’s first look at the team’s redeveloped UK base.
Alonso Tweeted, “An incredible thrill to go back to the factory. I came to Renault in 2002, when I was 21 years old, I know every corner of this place, every corridor, every door. It has been a very special day. We [have] started.”
Although the images show the Spaniard wearing Renault’s team kit, the team will be rebranded as Alpine, when they will also take on the Renault-owned sportscar maker’s French blue colours.
Ford v Ferrari sprit at Renault
Renault CEO Luca de Meo is installing a spirit inside the team has similarities to the story behind the ‘Ford v Ferrari’ movie, reckons team principal Cyril Abiteboul.
The ambition of Ford in the 1960s has been recently turned into a film telling the story of how the American manufacturer built the Ford GT40 to take on and eventually beat the then-dominant Ferrari team at Le Mans.
Meo became CEO in July and has recently unleashed his vision for the company, including renaming of the Renault F1 team as Alpine in a bid to build up the small French sportscar brand.
With a clear enthusiasm for F1 which has ended any doubt about Renault’s commitment to Grand Prix racing, team principal Abiteboul says that the outfit has received a huge boost from the new spirit coming from its CEO.
Abiteboul in an interview with Motorsport.com, said “It’s huge. It’s huge, and frankly, even if he is not going to interfere on a day-to-day basis, it’s a game changer for me to know that I have someone in the back expecting that the team delivers, which is absolutely fundamental, but who is also here to help at any point in time.”
“He has got a good knowledge of sport, and a good knowledge of the people. Also his knowledge of the sport means he values and he appreciate the difficulty and the competitiveness of this sport.”
Meo says it not about approaching the team as purely a business, but with the emotion and determination that Ford had.
Renault is currently sixth in the constructors, locked in a tight battle with Racing Point and McLaren. Despite the clear progress the team has made, with the outfit challenging for podium finishes this season, Abiteboul still is not satisfied with where things are at right now.
Adding, “It is a sport where only the result of lap time and ultimately the championship matters, and in that, it is still not that not good enough. But if there are some good sign of progress that is good.”