F1 Today – 23/07/2021

F1 Today

FIA warns of penalties for lobbing stewards

The FIA has warned the teams that they could face penalties if they visit race stewards without an invitation. The move comes following lobbying by both Mercedes and Red Bull team principals following the opening lap collision between Sir Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen at the British Grand Prix.

FIA race director Michael Masi has written to all teams warning them that visiting the stewards was only permitted with prior approval or an official summons. He warned that transgressions could be considered a breach of F1’s rules.

He cited article 12.21.1.I of the FIA’s international sporting code, could range from a reprimand, through a fine, points deduction or even disqualification. Wolff visited the stewards during the red flag period, after being concerned about the contents of a discussion between Horner and Masi about the crash, in which the Red Bull boss squarely blamed Hamilton.

Wolff asked Masi if he had seen some emails he had sent to him containing diagrams in the stewards’ overtaking guidelines that dealt with when a driver has the right to commit to a passing move.

Masi said: “I suggest if you want to, Toto, feel free to go upstairs and see the stewards directly.”

Horner also then went to see the stewards. He said afterwards: “I don’t think the stewards should be interfered with. I went to see the stewards because I heard Toto was up there presenting a case and you want it to be fair and balanced.”

However, in the last few days, the Red Bull boss admitted it was not right that team principals should be able to go and lobby the stewards, believing they should be influenced.

Hamilton was adjudged to be “predominantly to blame” for the crash on the first lap of the British Grand Prix and was given a ten-second penalty. He recovered to win the race and cut Verstappen’s championship lead to eight points from thirty-two.

Verstappen was taken to hospital after an impact measured at 51G but was released later that evening unharmed.


Bottas linked to Alfa Romeo for 2022

Valtteri Bottas has been linked as the leading candidate to join Alfa Romeo if he is not retained by Mercedes next year. The German manufacturer is set to decide who will partner Sir Lewis Hamilton next year, with the decision set to be between Bottas and the team’s junior driver George Russell.

Mercedes are insisting no decision has been made yet, and Bottas is fully focused on convincing his bosses to hand him a fresh contract. But if Mercedes does opt for Russell, then Bottas has been clear that he wants to remain in F1 rather than go and race in another category.

There has been speculation that he could return to Williams, in what is effectively a seat swap between Bottas and Russell, as the team continues to enjoy a lift in performance under new owners Dorilton Capital. However, high-level sources have revealed to Motorsport.com that he is a key target of the Alfa Romeo team, which is looking increasingly unlikely to retain Kimi Raikkonen beyond the end of this season.

Bottas would bring speed and experience to the team, as well as profile. While it is understood that talks regarding a possible deal have not begun, it is believed there have been brief contact regarding Bottas’ potential availability for 2022.

The website says the door is not closed on a tie-up for next year, but nothing will move forward until Mercedes has decided what it wants to do.

Team principal Fred Vasseur is understood not to be in a hurry and are waiting for both Mercedes and Red Bull to decide on their second driver. He told reporters at Silverstone, “We will see how the market is evolving. I think that as usual, the system will fulfil the places at the top.”

“It means that Mercedes has to take a decision and then Red Bull has to take a decision. Then, like a domino, at one stage, we will have some opportunities on the table and we’ll take a decision at this stage.”

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says that Bottas continues to deliver for his team, having played a role in helping Hamilton at last weekend’s British Grand Prix. Wolff added, “Valtteri has speed, Valtteri has character and Valtteri is a team player, which is very important in the dynamics of a team. I feel that for the last few races he is very much positive in his approach and you can see that on track.

Wolff believes that Bottas could have been on pole, and finished a few seconds behind the leaders at Silverstone. Asked if Budapest was Bottas’ last chance to prove a point, Wolff said: “It is not about proving a point, it is about us sticking our heads together here, and with Mercedes, to draw out the future of our driver line up.”


Mercedes needs to “look at itself”

Mercedes says they believed that they would need a “long hard look at itself” if its upgrades failed to deliver at last weekends British Grand Prix did not deliver. The German manufacturer went into Silverstone having lost the lead of both the drivers and constructors championship.

Mercedes knew it was under pressure at a track that should better suit its package to turn the tables on Red Bull and get itself firmly back in the title fight. But Sir Lewis Hamilton still managed to take victory, going into the race weekend, the team felt under pressure.

Director of trackside engineering Andrew Shovlin, told Motorsport.com “I think the big one for us was really that we brought an update kit to the car, we’re going to a circuit that’s historically suited our car very well – certainly suited Lewis very well – and the bit that was quite frightening coming in was, if we didn’t perform well here, we were going to have to have a long, hard look at ourselves.”

“I think the big one was just that we were absolutely desperate to see the car perform well, and the team perform well. So it’s hugely reassuring to have been able to demonstrate we’re still in the fight for the championship.”

Mercedes upgrade at Silverstone was extensive, featuring modifications to the wheel areas, the bargeboards and floor. Chief technology director, James Allison says the aero package definitely saw an improvement in performance which they are very happy with.

He added, “You could see that just relative to the field we had moved forward this weekend, we were able to close some ground on Red Bull and we were able to have a more competitive weekend as a result.”

Allison confirmed that this was the last ‘big’ upgrade of the season, but there would be minor upgrades this season without “distracting us from the big effort that is now going into next year’s car.”


Ferrari cures tyre issues – Binotto

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto believes his team has cured most of its tyre problems but admits his cars need clean air to be able to show their true pace. The Italian manufacturer has shown flashes of progress this season with Charles Leclerc taking pole in Monaco and Baku.

However, in races this season it has often struggled with overheating the rubber on its tyres as it tried to keep up with its midfield rivals. Following a poor French Grand Prix out of the points, the team managed to outscore McLaren in Styria and again at last weekend’s British Grand Prix, suggesting the Italian squad has at least partially got on top of its most critical issue.

At Silverstone, Leclerc led most of the race following the high-profile clash between Max Verstappen and Sir Lewis Hamilton but ultimately had to settle for second behind the resurgent Hamilton. Binotto says the team’s analysis suggested that running in clear air was the biggest difference.

He explained, “I think if you look at the Austria comparisons, [Lando] Norris has been on the podium doing a fantastic race. But if we analyse his race pace in Austria was very similar to ours but we were simply stuck in the traffic. And I think being ahead from the start of the race is key somehow.”

“Here Charles was ahead and in front, and we could do our own pace. If you compare our two drivers, one of the two is stuck behind them and the other, they have clean air.”

“When Carlos was in clean air he had the pace of Charles. So, I think that’s not our pace. I still think in front of us Lewis and Max have great speed. But I think we have recovered since France and that’s the most important.”

Leclerc leading most of the race didn’t help mitigate any tyre issues the team still faces, but Binotto added that even in traffic the SF21’s performance has improved after curing the front tyre problems that plagued Ferrari at Paul Ricard. He said following Paul Ricard the team to address it, but now the pace issue has returned.

Binotto said he is more pleased with the progress the team are making.


Schumacher to sign new Haas contract

Haas team principal Gunther Steiner says that Mick Schumacher will sign a new contract soon, adding there just “need to be a few t’s crossed and a few i’s dotted.” The German won last years Formula Two title, before making his debut with the US-owned team.

But due to the uncompetitive car, he hasn’t made an impact, however he is showing to get the better of his teammate. Schumacher made it through to Q2 for the first time in Le Castellet with his best race result being thirteenth in Baku. Haas is happy for both drivers to continue in 2022. Mazepin is already signed up, with team principal Steiner confirming “everything is signed there, everything’s fine.”

Schumacher’s career is managed by Ferrari, with talks about renewing the deal not progressing as quickly. Speaking last weekend, Steiner said, “There are a few things which just need to be sorted out. It’s a three-way contract, obviously, because he’s got one with Ferrari.”

“There need to be a few t’s crossed and a few i’s dotted, and then we will get there. But Mick is not… he is [not] trying to say he’s not signed, but there are agreements in place. But because of [the contract being] three-way it’s always more difficult than when it is a straightforward one-to-one contact.”

Schumacher said he was focused on his upcoming races rather than his long-term future, but added he aims to resolve his contract over the summer break following next week’s Hungarian Grand Prix.


Monza to host second sprint qualifying

The Italian Grand Prix has officially been named as the second venue where the Sprint Qualifying will be trailed. The Monza circuit, also known as The Temple of Speed, was widely expected to host the second test event this season on the weekend of 10 – 12 September.

The weekend format will be the same which debuted at last week’s race at Silverstone, with qualifying on Friday evening ahead of the 100km sprint on Saturday afternoon. The Monza weekend will end with the usual 53-lap Grand Prix on Sunday.

The third sprint trail will take place at a flyway race, with Austin being rumoured as the venue.

Designed to increase value for fans and create more unpredictability for select events, the format could be rolled out at more events in 2022 if the three-race trial in 2021 is deemed to have been a success.

Following the first test event Ross Brawn, motorsport and technical managing director, told Sky Sports that he had been pleased to see “pure racing”, with no pit stops or tyre strategy involved across what were 17 laps and 25 minutes of racing at Silverstone.

He said, “No major things but a lot of things we need to take away from this weekend and think about with, time, and see if we can fine-tune them. But I’m really pleased with the overall concept.”


Russell puzzled by why Williams is getting into Q3

George Russell says Williams has the ninth fastest car and can’t understand why he is consistently managing to get into Q3. The Englishman insisted that the team’s data suggests on paper, that their car is only faster than the Haas except when it comes to qualifying when the Englishman regularly makes Q3.

Russell has been one of the best qualifiers this season, and had his best qualifying in a Williams when he took eighth for the sprint qualifying at Silverstone. He finished the event in ninth place, but a three-place grid penalty saw him start the Grand Prix from twelfth, and he finished in the same position.

Russell suggested that his struggle to stay ahead of faster cars was further proof that it’s hard to repeat his one-lap form over longer stints. He told Motorsport.com, “Ultimately, I don’t think we really deserved to be any higher than where we finished. I don’t know how we keep managing to qualify so high.”

“You know, we still on paper have the ninth quickest car in every single session except qualifying. FP1, FP2, FP3 and the race, we’re the ninth quickest. then somehow come qualifying we manage to put it inside the top 10 or top 12. So come Sunday, when you have eight faster cars, or whatever it is, starting behind you, it’s so difficult to keep them there.”

Russell believes that the cars they are managing to out-qualify are three, four or five tenths quicker than us. Saying “When you’ve got that sort of pace advantage it’s easy. He says they are also better on the tyres, which means that in the race they are always trying to keep other teams behind in the race.”

Russell accepts that he should be pleased with the results the team are getting, being in the top twelve in all but for races this year and fighting for points at four races this season. Adding twelfth “is a fair result. And we probably didn’t really deserve to be any higher than that is. It always seems to be the case, we’re going backwards on a Sunday.”

“I don’t think it’s because we’ve done a bad job on a Sunday. It’s just because we’re somehow doing an excellent job in qualifying. So that’s a little bit tricky.” Russell dines that Williams are putting extra effort into qualifying at the expense of long run form, and suggested his one-lap performances are down to getting everything right and making few mistakes.


The week ahead

Next weekend is the final race before the summer break in Budapest, this is as I’ll go into more detail in the Prixview is a bit of an odd circuit in terms of results. The main story will remain the same Sir Lewis Hamilton v Max Verstappen, which has I think heated up since the collision in Silverstone.

We have seen a war of words develop over what happened, the questions will continue to be asked as we get nearer to next weekend, but the answers may not come in terms of its impact on the championship. The questions will also be about the second Mercedes seat, the topic I think is not going to be settled before Spa.

The midfield battle I think will be talking about coming back at Spa strongly, the second half of this season sees eleven races in fifteen weeks. Rest is going to be about momentum, some of the teams will be stopping development with the 2022 regulation change.

There is a lot of questions I think as we go into the break around getting an idea of how the second half of the season is going to play out in terms of the calendar with the pandemic. I think this season we have gone several races without covid-19 cases which will strengthen the sports case.


Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.