Hamilton still loving F1
Lewis Hamilton says that he still loves driving and has no plans to retire from F1 any time soon because he has “more to achieve” in the sport. The fives times champion leads the championship by sixty-two point over Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.
But is closing in on a sixth title which would put him one behind Michael Schumacher, and he is also nearing the German’s F1 wins record. He told Sky Sports “One day I will have to stop, but right now I feel fantastic physically and mentally”
“I don’t currently have any plans of stopping soon. There’s more to do, there’s more to win, there’s more to achieve together, inside and outside of the car.” The comments give further hints that he is looking to extend his contract beyond the end of next year.
He added, “It’s been a phenomenal journey [at Mercedes]. I think right now I’m just excited to see what more we can do together and what’s next. I honestly don’t know why some people decide to stop at the times they decide to stop, but I love driving. I really, really love the challenge.”
Hamilton heads into next weekends Belgian Grand Prix with a sixty-two point lead, the biggest lead starting the second half of the season since 2011, and eight victories in twelve races is the best start to a season since 2002.
However, Hamilton as always still believes there is room for improvement, as well as predicting a tougher remaining half. “Ferrari have had a good package, they’ve obviously come with a certain philosophy this year that doesn’t work everywhere.”
“Red Bull, I don’t know what changes they’ve done to their car but they seem to really be able turn it round, I think the engine has really made a big step for them as well which is great.”
Although he has eight wins in twelve races Hamilton says the question is how the team did not win the other races, and why they were able to beat Ferrari even though they were quicker in some races.
Only something “drastic” to take me from Williams – Russell
George Russell says there is “no reason” he won’t stay at Williams in the medium term, believing that only something “drastic” would prise him away from the team.
In his debut season amid Williams difficulties he has performed well and consistently beaten his teammate Robert Kubica. Although backers Mercedes have ruled him out for next season alongside Lewis Hamilton, he continues to be linked to the manufacturer.
Russell told Motorsport.com: “The matter of the fact is as Claire [Williams, deputy team principal] said, I signed a three-year contract with Williams. So, unless anything drastic happened, I see no reason why I wouldn’t be here for the following couple of years.”
Russell has been with Williams for almost a year, in the latter part of last season at non-F2 weekends he was able to work behind the scenes. While he remains committed to Williams, he has an insurance policy should he deliver he could in the medium to long term join Mercedes.
He added, “know in Mercedes, as long as I’m performing, they will support me and it does relax as you as a driver because you can fully focus on the job at hand.”
Mercedes F1 CEO and team principal Toto Wolff has already ruled Russell out in the short term, saying it will be either Valtteri Bottas or Esteban Ocon who partners Lewis Hamilton. But, Russell called on Mercedes to take a risk, arguing it has proven successful.
“[Max] Verstappen won in his first race with Red Bull, Charles [Leclerc] is giving [Sebastian] Vettel a run for his money in his first year.” Russell says he believes in himself, but admits he wouldn’t expect to beat Hamilton straight away.
Ferrari impressed by Leclerc
Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto says that Charles Leclerc’s progress since he joined the team this season has been a surprise for the team. The Monacan has made a good impression and has been able to fight with Sebastian Vettel.
Leclerc was brought in following his brilliant debut season with Sauber, swapping with Kimi Raikkonen. While he trails his four-times champion teammate Sebastian Vettel, he has delivered five of the teams eleven podiums and has not qualified behind Vettel since Canada.
Binotto told Motorsport.com “If I look at the first half of the season, I think [it’s] very positive, the way how Charles is growing. Because there was a lot of expectations at first, a lot of pressure on him, on his shoulders, because obviously driving a Ferrari is driving a Ferrari.”
“[especially] while you are so young. He’s a talent, we knew it, but I think he’s really learning from mistakes and that’s more important.” He says that the way he has worked with the team has been positive, allowing them to improve the car race by race.
Binotto says Ferrari knew he was very strong from GP3, now F3, and F2 when it came to attacking and defending. But the biggest surprise has been how much he is improving race by race.
He added, “I think race after race, his weekend is becoming more solid and solid, and I think he can even do better than what’s he’s doing.”
While the media presented Leclerc’s move to Ferrari as a risk, the Italian believes the Monegasque is a good fit for his “young team”. He also emphasised, however, that the way Vettel responded to Leclerc’s arrival has also been positive.
Saying “He’s dealing well with Charles, they are two good teammates. He is very smart, he is very motivated, and I think that even for him it could’ve been a lot more difficult, that start to the season, but overall I think he knows how good he can be, and he’s smart enough to understand the entire situation.”
Verstappen “very important” for Honda
Honda’s F1 managing director Masashi Yamamoto says its “very important” for the team to have a driver like Max Verstappen as part of its project.
The Dutchman took Honda’s first win since Hungary 2006 and since it returned the sport in 2015 in Austria, which has boosted the chances of more wins in the second half of the year and the Japanese company’s chances of remaining in grand prix racing beyond next year.
Yamamoto believes Verstappen’s “great” driving is one of the key factors behind Red Bull and Honda scoring such impressive results prior to F1’s summer break, including another win in Germany and a first pole in Hungary.
Yamamoto told Autosport, “He’s very important for us. It is very important to have a driver like him. First, he’s very good at driving itself. He’s very good at communicating with the engineers.”
“He’s very good at analysing the data, and also his driving. He can give accurate feedback in terms of chassis and engine, so he’s excellent.” Verstappen remains the outsider in the drivers’ championship currently third, he has seventy-six more points than at the summer break last year. He is only seven points off Valtteri Bottas in second.
Verstappen has not been a critic of honda in public with Yamamoto believing that from the good first impression Honda made when Verstappen visited its Japanese headquarters as part of a Red Bull visit.
asked if he believes Verstappen has fully bought into the Honda project, Yamamoto added: “Yes. The other thing that is important and a great thing about Max is he’s loved by the media and fans. That’s very important for a driver.”
Alfa “improving drastically” – Vasseur
Alfa Romeo team principal Fred Vasseur says the team is “improving drastically” and has made a “huge” step with its potential this season. Last year the former Sauber team ended the season fighting for top ten finishes but had a small slip in performance at the start of this year.
Kimi Raikkonen, who re-joined the team this year, has led the team’s progress to the head of the midfield battle again, and Alfa only trailed McLaren in the races leading into F1’s summer break.
However, Vassuer believes that splitting the midfield and backmarkers is where Alfa is really is in the midfield. He told Motorsport.com, “I’m much more focused on the level of performance. We are improving drastically. Last year we were 2.5s off, we are on average 1.5 and the [most recent races] we were 1.2.”
“For us it’s huge. Then we have to translate it in points, and that’s another story. At least in terms of potential, we made a huge step forward.” The Swiss team’s stable finances have seen it make good progress from the few years at the beginning of the hybrid era.
Vasseur, who joined as team principal and CEO halfway through 2017, thinks one key area to improve will be how it prepares for the start of 2020.
“We did a small step back between last year and the beginning of the season. Perhaps not [right at] the beginning but we had a part of the season, maybe May, that made it more difficult. I think it’s the life of the development,” he added.
He said that the team looking at the bigger picture has made one to one and a half per cent gains, Vasseur described it as “huge”.
The Week Ahead
Formula One returns from its summer break next week and that will start two busy weeks of news as we head to Spa and Monza. The big talking point going into next weekend is going to be the swap at the start summer between Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon.
The question is whether that starts the driver market, and I believe the next month will be key as we have four races before October. We know Max Verstappen will stay, but who is alongside him next year? And can Albon make a good impression to gain that seat next year?
I honestly see no change for Ferrari, I think they need to use the remaining races as an opportunity to build for next year. They need to change the operational errors, I think that has to be the teams focus to allow them to fight Mercedes next year.
Next week, the keyword will be upgraded, all the teams will bring ‘spec 3’ or the bigger teams ‘spec 4’, I doubt it will change much at the front but the big impact will be that midfield group and that could shake up the fight for fourth in the constructors.
Also, you have to believe with the 31st of October deadline getting nearer for the 2021 regulations getting nearer another informal round of talks will take place between the teams and Liberty. We will also then get the next Strategy Group and Commission in the first or second week of September.