Ferrari to bring “few upgrades” to Baku
Ferrari is bringing their first “few updates” to the car for this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix as the team looks to close the gap to Mercedes. The Italian team has scored a best finish of third across the opening three races of the season because of a combination of set-up problems, poor reliability and mistakes.
While title rivals Mercedes have already taken three one-two finishes in the first three races, establishing a fifty-seven-point lead in the constructors’ championship. That has led to questions about its aerodynamic philosophy has been questioned after its poor start to the season and the absence of external upgrades, compared to the Silver Arrows.
In the teams’ preview for this weekend’s race, team principal Mattia Binotto says Ferrari is “bringing a few updates to Baku, as the first step in the development of the SF90. Coming off the back of three races that definitely didn’t go the way we wanted.”
“This GP is another important moment for us. We have prepared for it very well, analysing all the data we have acquired up until now, looking at areas where we can improve.”
Sebastian Vettel has already admitted that this period was important for the team to establish its mid-term development direction. However, the upgrades Ferrari has in Baku will be the result of work that started before it fell behind Mercedes in the championship battle.
Mercedes ambassador Nico Rosberg believes that Ferrari has pitched its 2019 car in “the wrong place”. He cited the team’s low-drag philosophy that has given it a straight line speed advantage but cost it too much cornering performance.
If his belief is correct, Ferrari could struggle in Baku, with the long, flat-out sections in the first and final sector of the lap, but tight and twisty corners in the middle.
Steiner prepared for a “disappointing” Baku
Haas team principal Gunther Steiner says he is already preparing himself for a “disappointing” weekend in Baku, with the track’s characteristics worse for his car than recent venues.
The Anglo-American team has struggled to get the heat into its tyres which have left the team vulnerable on tracks with long straights and tighter corners like in Azerbaijan. With a solution to its problems unlikely to be found quickly, Steiner believes that the best approach is to adjust expectations accordingly.
He told Motorsport.com, “We just need to find a solution to this problem because we didn’t have this obviously in winter testing because the [Barcelona] track is completely different to tracks like Bahrain and China and Baku.”
“Baku is even worse. I’m readying myself for the disappointment. I hope we find something before Baku because in these race tracks we cannot get energy into the tyre.” Steiner believes Haas and partner Dallara will be able to get on top of its problems, as he doesn’t believe it is a problem with the concept of the car.
He says that it’s a combination of issues with the car, Steiner refused to call it a concept problem.
Haas is more hopeful that Barcelona will suit its car, with the high-speed corners and relatively short straight better suited to what is needed. Steiner added, “We didn’t have the problem there in winter when it was pretty cold, so why should it come back?”
“I cannot foresee that one, also, the track has got high energy corners, so we should be able not to have it there.”
Verstappen does a “remarkable” job for Red Bull
Christian Horner believes that Max Verstappen is doing a “remarkable” job for Red Bull, as the team continues to close the gap to both Mercedes and Ferrari.
Verstappen is third in the driver’s championship after the opening three races, that is despite Red Bull and Honda not being able to perform at the same level as both Mercedes and Ferrari. Horner told Sky Sports, “He’s done a remarkable job. During the course of last year, he really selected another gear and pretty much since Montreal onwards.”
Horner believes that the Dutchman is enjoying being at the top of his game and his current position. In China, he said Verstappen had driven three very strong Grand Prix’s this year.
He added “It’s about points accumulation at this stage. It’s still not that big a gap to the guys ahead, he’s still third ahead of both Ferrari drivers in the championship at the moment, and there’s a still long, long way to go. it’s important you don’t give away too much ground at this stage.”
Verstappen is now in his fifth season of F1 but is just 21 years old, and Horner added: “The exciting thing about him is that he will only develop and get better from here.”
Horner believes that it is an exciting time for the sport, as we see Verstappen and Charles Leclerc emerge, he is hoping that Pierre Gasly can join that group too.
Speaking about Honda’s relationship with Red Bull as the team has become the effective works team, he said “It’s a totally different relationship. With our previous supplier, it was very much a customer-driven scenario where we were allowed to look at two candidates a year for fuel upgrades.”
“This is constant evolution and development. ExxonMobil working with Honda are making great gains.”
Vital weeks for Ferrari – Vettel
Sebastian Vettel says his Ferrari faces a vital few weeks where it must establish how it will develop its own car during the middle of the season. The Italian team emerged in testing with a slight edge over Mercedes, but in the first three races, they have been beaten by Mercedes.
It has been suggested that the teams aerodynamic philosophy is compromising the performance in the corners as the team goes after straight-line speed. In Shanghai, Vettel admitted that he was happy within the most recent Chinese Grand Prix, staying Ferrari must quickly decide what it wants to do with its SF90.
He told Motorsport.com, “We have a very strong car, there’s nothing wrong with it, but I think we’re not able to yet put it in the window. Especially for myself, here and there.”
“I’m not entirely happy yet compared to where we started off. Obviously, the three tracks we’ve been to now are quite different. The conditions we had are different.” Vettel believes that a pattern is developing and they are beginning to understand how to unlock the car.
Ferrari and Mercedes have taken a different approach with this year’s aero regulations which has affected the aero performance of each car, with Mercedes superior in the corners and Ferrari quicker down the straights, that has influenced the first three races of the season.
Ferrari was behind Mercedes at the opening race in Melbourne, before dominating in Bahrain before technical problems cost Charles Leclerc victory. While in Shanghai, Mercedes had the quicker package but Ferrari was not as far off the pace as in the season opener.
Team principal Mattia Binotto believes the competitive edge will continue to fluctuate based on different circuits. He believes at circuits like Sakhir and Barcelona that the gap will be closed, while at others it will be bigger.
He said “We know where are the limits of our car, and these limits might be emphasised in some circuits compared to others. The key will be to develop the car as such that we are making it even stronger in the future.”
Berger ranks Hamilton alongside Senna
Former F1 driver Gerhard Berger says that Lewis Hamilton now ranks alongside his hero and three times champion Ayrton Senna. Speaking ahead of the twenty-fifth anniversary of Senna’s death, he told reporters his friend still led as a personality and the legend that surrounds him.
In purely sporting terms, however, the similarities were clear. He explained, “Everybody asks me ‘How do you see this driver against Ayrton?’ and I always, in all the years, say ‘I don’t see anybody near to Ayrton’. But Lewis is (now) the first driver I put on the same level as Ayrton.”
Berger believes that statistics were only one way of measuring greatness. “I go more by feeling and watching, and for me — and there were great champions like Nelson (Piquet), like Niki (Lauda), like (Alain) Prost, like Michael (Schumacher) – there has always been one above Ayrton,” he said.
“And now Lewis I see in the same league.”
The Englishman who has won four of his five titles with Mercedes in the last five seasons. He is leading the championship into this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
The 34-year-old Briton holds several records, including most pole positions (84), and his 75 wins are second only to seven times champion Schumacher’s career haul of 91.
Berger said Hamilton was “outstandingly fast”, made fewer mistakes than rivals and knew when to be patient. Adding “It looks like he’s just running the game in such a good way that he’s unbeatable at the moment. Yes, he’s in the best car and best engine, but he also is the best. By far the best man at the moment.”
He says that Hamilton has a good chance of breaking Schumacher’s records.
Malaysian PM to bring back Grand Prix
Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohammad says that he is intending to bring back the Grand Prix to the country, saying that there is still much interest in the sport. However, did not mention exactly when the race could make a return to the country
Dr Mahathir, however, did not mention exactly when the race could make a comeback in the country. The Prime Minister, also the former race promoter oversaw the construction when was Interior and Finance Minister.
Speaking at the American Malaysian Chamber of Commerce luncheon here Thursday, he said “We intend to bring back the Grand Prix, but I don’t know if it’s next year or the year after.”
“But the interest in Grand Prix is still very big and we want to bring back the race here because it has stimulated many Malaysians to go into the automotive industry.” Dr Mahathir says Malaysians have become “addicted” to motor vehicles and buy all kinds of new motor vehicles.
Dr Mahathir said that despite not hosting the international race, Sepang is still bustling, as many go to the racetrack there. Adding “Lots of people come, race there, (they) have motorcycle races there, and a lot of people buy expensive cars, especially in Singapore.
The race at Sepang was cancelled after 2017, as the country struggled to appeal to its more exciting and business-friendly neighbour Singapore. At the time former prime minister, Najib Razak, said: “The Cabinet has agreed to end the contract after considering lowering returns to the country compared to the cost of hosting the championships.”
He argued that in Singapore they don’t have the chance to drive there, but in Sepang, they can push to the limit and if the race returned Dr Mahathir also felt that by having the Grand Prix again, there will be many spectators.
“We will be able to get spectators, more than 100,000 people and that will be worthwhile for us. When we have the Grand Prix, the television stations will broadcast this all over the world, bringing about 200 million viewers,” he said, adding that it was good advertisement for Malaysia.
Sainz has a good impression of Seidl
Carlos Sainz says that McLaren’s new F1 managing director Andreas Seidl has made a “very good” first impression and is “impatient” to start working at the team. The former Porsche boss is joining the team, as they look to return to the front of the grid.
Seidl will join the team formally next Wednesday, with Sainz saying he was left enthused by the first meeting with him last month in Bahrain, where Seidl attended the grand prix as a guest. Speaking to Motorsport.com, he said “We had our first chance to say hello and have our first conversation. I was happy to meet him and I could see he was impatient to join the team, which is something I like.
“I like seeing people fired up and ready to roll so it was good fun having our first conversation. He gave me a very good impression in general.” The Spaniard believes that Seidel is very switched on, and ready to go.
His arrival follows that of new technical director, James Key, who has finally joined the team from Toro Rosso. Sainz worked with Key at the Red Bull junior team, and spent “quite a lot of time with him” during Key’s first working weekend in Bahrain.
Sainz added “I was in the factory with him on Monday [afterwards]. [On Thursday in China] I got to spend some time with him. I think little by little he is just getting to know more and more of the team and we just need to give him time and he will keep that experience going.”