No issues with Hamilton speaking out
Mercedes F1 CEO and team principal Toto Wolff says there is no issue with Lewis Hamilton being polarising in speaking out about important issues and use his platform.
The Englishman wrapped his seventh world title in Istanbul last weekend to equal Michael Schumacher’s record with three races to spare in the 2020 season.
Off the track, Hamilton has been using his voice and platform to raise awareness of issues such as racial equality and improving diversity within motorsport, something he said is more significant than his on-track achievements.
He has also set up the Hamilton Commission to improve diversity in racing, and regularly uses his social media platforms with over 27 million followers to highlight issues.
Although it has led to criticism from some fans that Hamilton should focus more on racing, Wolff said it was fine for the British driver to polarise people if it meant he spoke out about important messages. Wolff told Motorsport.com, “What I always say is that not only as a racing driver he has developed but also as a strong personality.”
“There are topics that are very close to his heart, and because of his large audiences, he has realised he has a voice and he wanted to utilise his voice to support the topics that are close to his heart. I think that is absolutely acceptable, and he has gained more profile through that.:
Equalling Michael Schumacher’s seventh title was the latest achievement in a record-breaking year, where Hamilton surpassed Schumacher’s ninety-one wins.
With stability next season, Hamilton is the favourite for an eighth title and over a hundred poles and wins, when he finally signs a new contract. Wolff said that Hamilton’s on-track success would only help his platform to grow and allow for him to speak to a wider audience about important issues.
Wolff added, “He is always very aware that through success in Formula One and as a racing driver with outstanding records, he will grow his audiences and his credibility.”
Murray joins chorus for Hamilton knighthood
Sir Andy Murray is the latest public figure to join the growing chorus of sports stars, parliamentarians, governing bodies and others for Lewis Hamilton to be knighted in the New Year Honours List after becoming F1’s most successful driver of all time this year.
The three-time Grand Slam winner was knighted in 2016 for services to tennis and charity. The Scotsman told ITV News, “I’m not necessarily all for sportspeople being given knighthoods for what we do.”
“As a sportsperson, he’s one of the most successful sportspeople in the history of the country. He’s an amazing driver. He supports some great causes as well away from the racing track, so yes I would say he definitely deserves it in terms of his success.”
Already Motorsport UK chairman David Richards and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Formula One have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling for Hamilton to be given the honour. Questions have already been put to the Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg and Johnson.
Hamilton has combined his record-breaking sporting achievement in F1 this year with being a powerful voice in the Black Lives Matter movement, while the Mercedes driver is also a long-time supporter of children’s charities and environmental issues
Sir Jackie Stewart, Britain’s most successful F1 driver before Hamilton who received his knighthood in 2001, 28 years after he retired from the sport, told Sky Sports that “certainly Lewis deserves it”.
Sticking with hybrid engines long term
Formula One’s director of strategy and business development Yath Gangakumaran says that F1 will stick with the long-term bet on internal combustion engines.
This comes at a time when governments around the world look to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars from 2030, F1 has decided that it will stick with internal combustion engines and re-engineer the fuel to demonstrate a more practical solution for the 99% of the world’s current vehicle owners who don’t have an electric car.
In an interview with James Allen, Gangakumaran defended the move saying F1 “believes that there will be several routes to a lower carbon automotive industry, and we want to be associated with one we think will not just have a major impact positively on the automotive industry, but also will support our objectives as a sport that’s looking to entertain fans around the world.”
He says that the sport did look at it for the 2026 engine regulations, but concluded that it wouldn’t deliver the speed and distance required to cover the distance of a Grand Prix. F1 already has the most efficient hybrids in the world, but F1 plans to work with the oil giants to develop 100%, advanced sustainable fuels.
Gangakumaran says the reason for going with the current engines is to show what is possible when you have a very efficient ICE with sustainable fuels. This is because the billion vehicles on the planet 99% of them will be ICE powered and that means despite the 2030 ban it could take two decades to get them off the roads.
The key to the strategy is that the sustainable fuels developed in F1 need to end up in the forecourts for everyday motorists to use.
“That will not only have a positive impact for us in terms of our CO2 emissions but also have a positive impact in terms of the wider automotive industry,” says Gangakumaran.
‘Difficult’ to work remotely
Williams Dave Robson believes it will be ‘phenomenally difficult’ for team principal and engineers to do their jobs remotely. The ever-growing calendar and twenty-three race 2021 calendar has prompted questions about the strain on staff which attend all the races.
Both Toto Wolff and Mattia Binotto have already made it clear that they want to try to skip races from next season, and senior engineering staff are also considering if they should take on a less taxing schedule.
However, Robson, head of vehicle performance, believes that while technology allows remotely from factories over Grand Prix weekends, some things are missed by not being present at tracks. Robson missed the Turkish Grand Prix and felt that some unexpected complications came from not being a part of the garage team.
He told Motorsport.com, “I can do everything remotely, I am all geared up [at the factory] but it is phenomenally difficult. You realise how much of the nuance and how many conversations you miss, and how difficult it is to tie things together.”
“It is not easy – especially when the conditions are like they [were in Turkey]. If it had been a straightforward and dry weekend, I think it would have been a lot easier, partly because I wouldn’t have felt the need to get involved, and partly because I think it would have been easier with fewer unusual things to worry about.”
Wolff said recently that the growing number of races would prompt teams to rotate staff more, to avoid burn out.
The mechanics are often working away for a typical weekend from either Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning until the early hours of the Monday after the race, and with double-headers it means they can be away from their families for up to half a month.
Wolff added, “You need to question how long that is sustainable and whether you implement a different system by having a second crew that can take over these toughest roles. This is something we are looking at at the moment.”
The calendar expansion is encouraging more staff to work from factories rather than constantly travel, but F1 has been considering a ban on the ‘remote garages’ that teams have set up at the factories for those who don’t want to travel.
Few drivers could beat Hamilton – Sainz
Carlos Sainz believes that few drivers currently in Formula One drivers would be able to beat Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes, but that they would be able to win races with the car in the absence of the seven-time champion.
The Englishman wrapped up his seventh title in Istanbul, his sixth in the turbo-hybrid era when Mercedes have been unbeaten. There have also been questions about whether the role both car and driver have played in Hamilton’s record-breaking success.
Paddy Lowe who has been Hamilton’s technical director at McLaren and Mercedes, previously told Motorsport.com that Hamilton’s success is predominantly “down to his driving”, praising the Briton’s consistency and endurance across his career.
Sainz agreed with Lowe’s assessment, but added “As teammates, with that car, very few people would be able to beat Hamilton during a 20-race season. But if you remove Hamilton, of the grid, any of the current F1 drivers would win with the Mercedes.”
“That describes a lot what happens with current F1, but also that Hamilton, even if he has the best car, is one of the best or the best for a long time.”
Sainz says he follows Hamilton closely to try and learn what sets him apart from others but has no answers to why the seven-times champion was able to find small margins.
The Spaniard added, he “would have to be Hamilton’s teammate” to truly understand what sets the 35-year-old apart.
“Without driving the same car, it is impossible for a driver to know how good another [driver] really is. Hamilton seems to me to be one of the best drivers in history, and I know that without having been his teammate.”
Perez more prepared for a top team
Sergio Perez says he is more prepared for a top drive in Formula One that he was for his unsuccessful season with McLaren in 2013. The Mexican finished second in Istanbul but is currently without a seat for next season, he has been linked with Alex Albon’s Red Bull seat. Albon is yet to be confirmed for another year with the team and has struggled to find form throughout 2020.
Perez’s current stint with Racing Point, formerly known as Force India, started after he was dropped by McLaren after one season with the team. He believes he is a better candidate for a front-running seat now.
Speaking about his season with McLaren, Perez told ESPN, “Going there, there were things that didn’t work. Then being seven years with a different team, being in the sport, the level of [maturity], the level of knowledge, experience. I’m such a different driver, definitely much more ready to make it work than last time.”
Perez missed two races this season at Silverstone after testing positive for Coronavirus despite that he is fourth in the drivers title.