Mercedes learnt importance of back up plan
Mercedes say they will ensure they will always have a backup plan following the sudden retirement of Nico Rosberg. The German team were caught out when Rosberg signed a contract last August, but after he won the title announced he was retiring.
Currently, the team only has Lewis Hamilton under contract for 2018 and have yet to confirm who will drive alongside him next season. Hamilton himself is out of contract at the end of 2018, but team boss Toto Wolff says he will no longer be taking that for granted following last year.
Speaking to Autosport, Wolff said “There is certainly a component that in F1 you need to have a fallback solution, a plan B. Even having a contract doesn’t necessarily mean that everything is going to be like it is. There could be a change of circumstances.
“What we have now is a plan A, and then there is obviously various possible plays afterwards because the driver market changes a lot in 2018 and 2019. It is important to consider plan B and C.” The problem for not only Mercedes but all of the top teams is that nearly all the top drivers are out of contract either this season or next season.
Wolff has admitted that the team was lucky to sign Bottas from Williams but says that Pascal Wehrlein was a backup, though the team thought he was too young.
Saying “Valtteri was our primary candidate, but obviously Williams was keen to keep him. And it wasn’t the only factor. It was multi-faceted – there was also if we could agree on a financial compensation with Williams.”
“Who would they take? What would happen to Pascal? At the same time undoing the Nico contract.”
Horner warns Vettel will get stronger
Sebastian Vettel’s former Red Bull boss Christian Horner has warned that the Ferrari driver only gets stronger towards the end of the season.
For the first time since 2013, the German goes into the second half of the season with a chance of taking a fifth world title, which would be the first for Ferrari in a decade.
Horner who oversaw all of Vettel’s championships warned that his mental strength will be a key weapon as the title race heats up in the second half of the season. The Red Bull team principal told Sky Sports “Sebastian is a very focused individual so he handled pressure extremely well.”
“It was almost the more pressure that came on, the better he would respond to it. Particularly when you got to the business end of a championship, he was remarkably strong in his head and his approach.” Horner says that his approach, application and his attention to detail were things which allowed him to win those titles.
In the four seasons from 2010 to 2013, Vettel won sixty-four percent of Grand Prix’s following the summer break.
Horner added: “Of course, two [title battles] in 2010 and 2012 went to the wire – ’12 in particular. He’d won one race by the time we left Europe and then he won four on the bounce as soon as we went to Singapore onwards.”
Hamilton doesn’t want Vettel to be his team-mate
Lewis Hamilton says that his championship rival Sebastian Vettel does not want to be his team-mate. The German is still yet to sign a contract for next season, though he is expected to remain with Ferrari.
Mercedes are yet to confirm that Valtteri Bottas will remain Hamilton’s team-mate next year. But Hamilton does not see himself and Vettel being in the same team in the future. He told Sky Sports “I think it’s highly unlikely that [Seb] will be here. I don’t think he wants to be my teammate.”
The British driver says he would never seek a preferential status over a teammate and made a point of stressing the equality of his union with Valtteri Bottas. Saying “I’m always game to race whoever it is. The team is in a very, very good union. The last race shows just how good the team is.”
“It works [with Valtteri] so I don’t think any of the bosses or any individual in the team is unhappy with what is currently in place so I find it hard to believe they would change that.” He says if Vettel was his team-mate he would not be in the same position he is now.
Hamilton is yet to lead the championship this season but says he is looking for ‘blood’ in the second half of the season. He is currently fourteen points behind Vettel, and ahead of his 200th Grand Prix says he still has the passion and the desire to win is stronger than ever.
Halo fitting will cause arguments
Renault engine technical director Nick Chester says he is expecting a debate over how teams fit their own fairings to minimise the aerodynamic implications of the halo cockpit protection device.
Despite opposing from the majority of teams, the FIA has used a veto to force the introduction of the device. However, while the overall structure of the Halo will be a standardised part, teams a degree of freedom with fairings.
Race director Charlie Whiting has said teams are allowed “non-structural fairings around the upper part, which can be no more than 20mm from the main structure”.
Chester says that the Halo will have “very little” impact on the aerodynamics and the relative freedom with fairings will help minimise that. He told Autosport “There’s a bit of wake into the airbox which is slightly painful, but the regulations allow a fairing which will help I’m sure that’ll get debated into how much we can do with the fairings.”
“We’ll be allowed a little bit of fairing, so we’ll fair the front junction in, fair the top edge around the driver’s head a bit. We can’t change too much otherwise we’ll be changing loading so it’s fairly fixed.
Recently Force India’s chief operating officer Otmar Szanfnauer has suggested that teams could miss the start of pre-season testing next season. Chester agreed that the timing has caused headaches.
“It’s a little bit painful as we’re right into that process of trying to finalise our chassis schemes and the loadings from it are quite big so it affects all the structure in the chassis. It has quite a big impact.”
McLaren set for engine upgrade
Both McLaren drivers Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne are set to receive upgrades to their internal combustion engine for this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix.
Honda is hoping the latest upgrade to the power unit will deliver a small increase in power. All the new parts without the need to change the ICE component and therefore escapes penalties.
Vandoorne will take a 35-place grid penalty because he had reached the point where Honda had planned to give him a fresh engine. McLaren-Honda has taken the opportunity to change all six components. This should also give the team a small reliability update, thou that require a component change that Honda is not disclosing, with Honda calling it ‘spec 3.6’.
In a bid to avoid Alonso getting penalties at Spa, Honda has opted not to give him the same updated component for this race, and he is, therefore, running ‘spec 3.5’.
Alonso will not be running the upgrade in a bid to avoid grid penalties, he will get the upgrade next time he is due to an engine change.
Honda boss Yusuke Hasegawa said “Both Fernando and Stoffel will be running upgraded power unit’s this weekend. Unfortunately, Stoffel will receive a grid penalty at his home Grand Prix, but it is important for us to introduce updates as soon as they are ready.”
“It is positive that we have been able to introduce this next step forward so quickly, and we will continue to introduce updates throughout the remainder of the season.”
This may not be the last penalty Vandoorne receives because of upgrades to his power unit, as Honda is planning several upgrades during the rest of the season.
Ericson grid penalty
Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson has been awarded a five place grid penalty for Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix, because of a unscheduled gearbox change.
After the Hungarian Grand Prix, Motorsport.com learnt the team had found damage to the gearbox which has forced the team into a precautionary change.
The regulations say gearboxes must last six consecutive events, with the driver incurring a five-place grid drop for an earlier change.
Perez frustration about title fight
Sergio Perez says it’s “frustrating” that there are only one or two teams which are able to compete at the front of Formula One.
The Mexican driver is looking to get into a top team, however, Ferrari confirmed that they are retaining Kimi Räikkönen next season meaning its highly likely that Mercedes will retain Valtteri Bottas for 2018. This means that the top three teams are going to retain the same driver line ups.
Asked by Autosport, if he was frustrated by the lack of options for him to progress his career, he said “I think it’s always the same case. If there is an opportunity in a top team, it’s very rare. Look at Bottas, how he ended up at Mercedes [after Nico Rosberg retired].”
“What is frustrating for me is the way the sport is at the moment, with a team or two teams being able to compete for the top and then there is a big margin behind you.”
“If you’re not in those two teams, it’s very difficult. You’re in the same position as everyone else around you.” The Mexican is in his fourth season with Force India, he said before the summer break he hoped to have a new deal in place by this weekend.
That hasn’t happened for the Mexican, but he says that there has been progressing over the summer, however, Perez remains hopeful that a deal can be put in place soon with his sponsors
“There has been a lot of development. Obviously, during the summer break, everyone takes a break and it’s been very difficult to be in touch with the people, including myself as well.”
“[There is] not a lot of news to report on that. Soon I can give you some more information but right now, there is nothing new.”
“Suck my balls” no need to apologise
Haas boss Guenther Steiner believes that Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg have moved on from their “fun” spat at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
After the race, the two had a spat on TV in which went viral online, in which Magnussen told Hulkenberg to suck his balls after the German congratulated the Haas driver for being “the most unsporting driver on the grid” following an incident which had seen him pushed wide late in the race,
That’s all from F1 Today this week and we will be bringing you full coverage of the Belgian Grand Prix this weekend, with commentary of every session @F1VaultLive on Twitter. F1 Today returns next week. Preview here