Halo “dreadful” addition – Wolff
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has described the halo cockpit protection device as “dreadful” addition to the sport as the team looks at the best way of adding the device to their 2018.
From next year, the device which is designed to deflect debris from the drivers heads will become mandatory on all cars. Research by the FIA into accidents where drivers have been hit by debris proved the device would have been beneficial in fifteen out of seventeen accidents.
However, Wolff believes that the debate should be around finding a more elegant solution which he says needs to be found as soon as possible. He told ESPN “It’s a dreadful piece. We’ve had it in the staff briefing and we’ve shown it. It’s a huge piece of metal, much too heavy, it feels completely alien and I’d like to saw it off if I could!”
“But then we need to look after driver safety and if there is a device that helps to protect lives, then we need to put it on the car. Maybe in the future, we can find a solution that is a little bit more aesthetically pleasing than the halo.”
The minimum weight of the car has increased by five kilograms next year to allow for the introduction of the Halo, but Wolff says that the actual weight of the Halo is ten kilograms. He added that will make it difficult for the team to bring the car in underweight which is the target.
Wolff added “With all the bolts and nuts it’s probably 10 kilos that you have up at the highest point in the car. So the centre of gravity moves up a large chunk and you need to compensate for that. So it’s all wrong!”
Red Bull rushed Verstappen deal – Lauda
Mercedes non-executive director Niki Lauda says that Red Bull needlessly rushed into locking Max Verstappen into a long-term deal.
Speaking alongside the Dutchman on Austrian TV, the three times champion said “never talked” to Verstappen about switching teams, and that Red Bull’s haste to get the Dutchman to commit caused it to pay more than it needed to.
Red Bull signed Verstappen after rumours surfaced about Mercedes trying to lure the Dutchman away after talks between his father Jos and Mercedes boss Toto Wolff at Monza. Wolff says that those conversations were purely social but admitted Verstappen was “on the radar” at Mercedes.
When asked on the TV show what had transpired, Lauda said: “We never offered him a contract.” Red Bull motorsport advisor Marko replied: “Officially, yes.”
“I have a good relationship to Helmut, we usually share an airplane. But when he is getting stubborn, and thinks that something could be taken away from him, he immediately signs a contract. He went to Austin with [Verstappen’s] father and signed.” He added
Directing his words towards Marko, Lauda added: “I tell you, if we had talked before, you would have saved money. We never talked to him about money.”
Marko responded: “Let’s put it this way: No offer. Thanks. Thanks for trying to help us save money. We don’t help you.” He then pointed out to Lauda that “you have no alternative for [Lewis] Hamilton, you have to pay him what he demands”, to which Lauda replied: “Alright, I have no objections.”
Marko says he has outlined the teams medium-term vision to Verstappen, which includes “an alternative engine supply.”
Wolff’s advice helped Ocon
Esteban Ocon says he asked Mercedes boss Toto Wolff for advice on how to deal with is Force India teammate Sergio Perez after a number of on track collisions in 2017.
The duo came together twice at Spa, with the Frenchman accusing the Mexican of trying “to kill me” but Perez’s response was he was trying to defend himself.
That prompted the team to enforce team orders and now Ocon has revealed he spoke to Wolff, because of his experiences dealing with Lewis Hamilton’s and Nico Rosberg’s difficult relationship when they were teammates at Mercedes.
Ocon told Motorsport.com “It was probably the first thing I did was to call him [Wolff] and see how they dealt with Lewis and Nico back then. Definitely, I asked for advice and they [Mercedes] were there to help me. I had their point of view, I had Force India’s point of view.”
“It’s always helpful to get different point of views, but especially from Mercedes. They are world champions so they know what they are talking about.” He added he can’t say what the advice was but it was good advice.
Ocon added that he and Perez had put the incidents behind them and moved on. Saying “It’s important we have respect for each other and it’s important for the team that there is a good atmosphere and we work together to develop the car correctly.”
Editor reflexion on 2017
2017 will be for me the season where we saw the battle we have wanted for a long time between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. We knew before this year they are the greats of their generation, but they have never had the cars at the same level to fight.
The early part of the year they were evenly matched, my feeling Baku changed everything in the dynamics of the championship. Hamilton and Vettel crashed into each other, which cost them, both the win. Hamilton just recovered stronger than Vettel taking more points over the next few races.
However, Singapore, Malaysia and then Japan where I believe the final nail for Vettel because of the crash and then the retirements because of technical issues at the next two races. Hamilton was the better man in the latter part of the year and how he recovered saw him win the title.
Sirotkin worthy of Williams seat
Renault team boss Cyril Abiteboul says that Sergey Sirotkin would be worthy of a race seat should Williams choose to put him alongside Lance Stroll next season.
The Russian is now the favourite to replace Felipe Massa following a successful test with the team after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. That is because of the suggestions that he outperformed Robert Kubica who was the leading candidate before the test.
Sirotkin has been Renault’s test driver for the past two years taking part in six grand prix free practice sessions and two test days with the team, and Abiteboul says his performances merit a race chance.
Abiteboul told Motorsport.com “Frankly we have always been very impressed by Sergey. We have not always been impressed by the luck he has, because I think on two or three of his FP1s he performed for the team we had some mechanical issues with the car completely unrelated to him.”
“But when he was capable of driving he was really capable of showing that he had some pace and also a very strong understanding of the car.” Abiteboul says given his moderate experiences of Formula One, his feedback of technical information was always extremely helpful.
Abiteboul said Renault deserves credit for helping mould Sirotkin into a serious candidate for a race seat that was widely expected to go to Kubica.
Williams had decided to wait until January to confirm who will drive alongside Stroll.
Further clamp down on trick suspension
The sport’s governing body the FIA is to clamp down on teams using steering angle to gain aerodynamic advantages by using clever front suspension systems.
A technical directive from Charlie Whiting last week made it clear the FIA believed that some teams designed their front steering systems to lower the ride height of the cars to try and gain an aerodynamic advantage by gaining more grip.
While Whiting acknowledges that a ride height change under steering lock is normal, but he says that from now on, it cannot exceed 5mm – and that it’s up to the teams to provide proof that the systems of their 2018 cars will comply.
The issue was discussed at the last meeting of technical directors where there were conflicting opinions on what influence suspension should have on the car. Its understood that Red Bull wanted to retain the freedom to develop suspension under the current regulations, while Ferrari was supportive of tighter restrictions.
Mercedes is understood to have suggested that active suspension should be allowed, with FIA-prescribed software and hardware. In a technical directive, Whiting wrote “It became clear during the season that some teams were designing the suspension and steering systems in an attempt to change the front ride height of the car.
“Whilst some change is inevitable when the steering wheel is moved from lock-to-lock, we suspect that the effect of some systems was a far from incidental change of ride height. We also believe that any non-incidental change of ride height is very likely to affect the aerodynamic performance of the car.”
He referenced 1993 ruling by the FIA International Court of Appeal ruling on suspension, which says “any car system, device or procedure which uses driver movement as a means of altering the aerodynamic characteristics of the car is prohibited.”
Whiting concludes that Trick suspension would break that ruling, saying cars need to comply with it. Adding “Any change of front ride height when the steering wheel is moved from lock-to-lock should be wholly incidental.
“We will therefore be asking you to provide us with all relevant documentation showing what effect steering has on the front ride height of your car and, in order to satisfy us that any effect is incidental.”
However, the effect of the directive won’t become entirely clear until the stewards make a decision on how they understand the rulings and technical directive in Melbourne.
That leaves teams with a dilemma, can afford to take a risk and carry on with their intended designs, or build their cars to the new interpretation.
The stories in year ahead
Mercedes will be going into next year a bit more on the edge given how close it has been this year with Ferrari. Mercedes have won the drivers and constructors championship for the past four seasons, but if Ferrari comes out the box strongly without the reliability woes they could be in the fight.
We have over the past two years seen the debate about the halo rumble on, we know it’s being introduced but I expect the debate not to go away. Also, we will I think to see Liberty’s first major row with the teams and/or engine manufacturers as they look at the next Concorde Agreement and engine regulations for 2021.
The driver market will be interesting, as Mercedes have no drivers contracted for 2019. Lewis Hamilton will be the teams priority and I expect a two-year deal, Valtteri Bottas I believe should he continue to deliver be re-signed too. Kimi Raikkonen has a one year deal, there’s a feeling that Charles Leclerc could get that seat should he deliver next year.
Sauber could become a midfield force because of the deal with Alfa Romeo, maybe back to the 2008 form in the long term. Also, the team has had more than a year of financial stability so that should help them move forward.
Also, what will McLaren be able to do with Renault power and do their claims add up to them having the best chassis on the grid. Red Bull are the teams benchmark really how do they compare.
Off the track, UK based teams need to think about how they operate post-Brexit and how that will affect them. In addition, what about this Sky deal, is it totally exclusive or not expect news on that too.
That’s all from F1 Today this year, we will be back on Tuesday 2nd of January. Over Christmas, our review of the year will continue to go out as well as special editions of Reporters, from us a very Happy Christmas and New Year