Leclerc wants to be a “problem” for Ferrari
Charles Leclerc says he is hoping that he can be competitive enough against Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel this year to give Ferrari a “problem” in the chase for there first titles in a decade.
Ferrari’s team principal Mattia Binotto has suggested that this season “if there are particular situations our priority will be Sebastian”, the team’s established lead driver of the last four years. Saying at the team’s launch, “I think it’s normal, especially early in the season, he is the guide with which we aim for the championship.”
Leclerc who earned a promotion to Ferrari following his impressive debut season at Sauber has always been realistic about his debut season for Ferrari but is hoping to be able to challenge Vettel early on. He told Sky Sports, “Obviously I will be happy if I get used to this car as soon as possible and that I’m straight on the pace.”
“I want to focus on myself, trying to improve every time I’m going in the car. It’s a top team and they are quite different to the team I was in before so it’s a bit of an adaption.”
Leclerc has naturally indicated that he wants to beat Vettel, but both have agreed that the common goal of ending the teams eleven-year title drought is there and the teams wider interest.
The four-times champion has already said he is not expecting any personal problems with his new young team-mate and Leclerc confirms they are already “working very well together”.
Leclerc added “Seb is a very nice guy and it’s not difficult to get on with him, so that’s good. We are working on different things with the car and it’s good to have Seb next to me during these days [at testing]. It’s good to see what are his strong points and what I can learn from him.”
Renault boosted by drivers on the same page
Daniel Ricciardo believes that Renault’s progress will be boosted this year because he and teammate Nico Hulkenberg are on the “same page” with what they want from the car.
The Australian joined the French manufacturer from Red Bull, and has made a decent start during the first test in Barcelona Ricciardo sees a huge positive in the fact that he and the German are demanding exactly the same things from the new RS19.
Speaking about how things were developing with Hulkenberg, Ricciardo said: “It has actually been good. We haven’t had much interaction because we have been splitting the days, so I did most of my work in the afternoon and he will do most of his in the evening, or vice versa. But it has been okay.”
Ricciardo says that they are both asking for the same improvements from the car.
Speaking about his first impressions of Ricciardo, technical director Nick Chester said the fact both the team’s drivers were wanting the same things made sorting the car easier. Saying “He’s been really good. He has got good feedback.”
“He is clear about what he wants from the car. He has fitted straight in, and his feedback is quite similar to Nico. So it makes it easy to set the car up.”
Chester says that it feels like Ricciardo already felt at home and that the team were already on the same page when it comes to improving the car.
Hamilton in “best shape” of his career
Lewis Hamilton believes that this seasons regulation changes and a revised winter training programme have put him in the “best shape” of his Formula One career.
The introduction of a minimum driver weight, 80kg once seat and race overalls are also taken into account, as part of revised car weight rules has given drivers more leeway to bulk up. Speaking last week at the first test, the five times champion, told Sky Sports “I feel stronger and fitter than I’ve ever been, all round.”
Mercedes F1 CEO and team principal Toto Wolff has also said that the five-time champion “is in a super mental state, the best I’ve seen so far. He looks physically and mentally in shape.”
Hamilton says that the regulations should allow him to do more weights. He explained that the previous regulations meant that drivers were missing meals and trying different methods to make sure they hit the right weight when combined with the car.
In recent years there have been reports and drivers saying that they have been taking ‘extreme measures’ to try and hit the weight target. This includes some resorting to staving themselves to reduce their weight and that has led to concerns over their health.
Hamilton says thought out his career he has had to be a certain weight and that has resulted in him not always having the best energy.
He added “You can be in a healthier state and I do feel in a healthier state than I’ve been for 12 years. You can eat more, you can maybe sleep better and have more energy. So I’m definitely happier.”
Williams embarrassed by delays
Williams deputy team principal Claire Williams understands how bad it looks that the team missed the first two and a half days of testing. The team lost a quarter of testing as the teams’ car did not arrive in Barcelona until Tuesday evening.
The team is looking to recover following a difficult 2018 season, where the team t finished at the bottom of the championship. It has also lost two of its biggest backers Martini and Lawrence Stroll, who led the consortium that now owns Racing Point.
The team only began running its car at lunchtime on Wednesday, but the reigning Formula 2 champion had only one lap to his name when Williams, who runs the day-to-day operations of the team, admits that it was not a situation they anticipated.
Ms Williams told ESPN, “This is not a situation that we anticipated. It’s certainly not a situation that we ever wanted to find ourselves in. We’re not just disappointed.”
“It’s embarrassing not bringing a race car to a circuit when everyone else has managed to do that, particularly a team like ours that has managed to bring a race car to testing for the past 40-odd years.” She says that the drivers have been fantastic and offered her apologies to drivers George Russell and Robert Kubica.
Asked about the reasons for the delay, she said she wouldn’t speak about that until after a full internal inquiry has been completed. However, she has no concerns about the mood of the team going into the new season.
“We have talked a lot about the culture at Williams. We are lucky we have a great team who have a great spirit. We lost one person from our race team last year.” She added.
Asked if she was satisfied with Lowe’s performance, Williams replied: “I’ve read a lot of speculation about his position. Right now all I am focused on and the team should be focused on is making sure the car is in the right place.”
The Week Ahead & Second test Prixview
Teams return to action for the second test on Tuesday in Barcelona, this week is about building on what they learned last week. Ferrari has been very strong and there have been suggestions that the pace and performance of the car is genuine.
The overriding headline last week was reliability for everyone, while there were a few break downs there was nothing major. Mercedes will want to keep up the mileage as the team has laid the foundations of the five titles early on in testing.
Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Honda is a story we continue to watch as the reliability has been very good as well as performance. However, the question remains can they keep it up as we get into the season and we know that Red Bull is good at aero.
We also must remain cautious as we know we don’t know the team’s setups and run plans. Watching last week, I have the feeling that from about 14:00 GMT, teams switch to the long runs as that is the time we race in Barcelona.
As we expected the midfield group, Haas-Renault-Sauber, remains very close and we are going to look at whether they can close that gap to the top teams. Sauber I feel has made the biggest jump again they could emerge as the Racing Point challenger for fourth place.
We need to hope that Williams can get some decent running after the shambles which cost the team most of last weeks test. There may be some pressure if they don’t get things working well and we have need to ask when will heads start to roll?
Off the track, either this Thursday or next Thursday is the monthly strategy group meeting this will be focused mainly on 2021 regulations as we reach a key point ideally finalised versions are needed soon to allow development and teams to sign contracts with personnel.
Also, F1 like everyone else is waiting for a Brexit deal, we know there are concerns about how the sport will operate if there is no deal. They need to start planning for the European season and import and exporting is a key element. There are no answers, so eyes will be on the UK and the EU as to what happens next.
Brexit could be an advantage to Haas
Haas team principal Gunther Steiner believes that Brexit could give his team an advantage. The comments come a week after Mercedes CEO Toto Wolff said that a no deal Brexit would hand a “massive advantage” to EU-based teams such as Ferrari.
Wolff said that the German manufacturer was already considering other options for their equipment and staff following the 29 March. While Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says “As a team, we do our due diligence, but whether there is a no-deal, any deal, we will have to deal with it, and life ultimately will go on.”
Steiner told a Finnish newspaper that whiled the team has concerns about Brexit but weren’t spending money on it. He told a Finnish newspaper “We do not make irrational decisions. The big teams have bigger investments than us. And it’s not decided what happens. I will wait to see how we respond”
The team bases its European operations in Banbury and Italy, with its main base in North Carolina.
Albon “exceeding expectations” at Toro Rosso
Toro Rosso’s technical director Jody Egginton says that Alexander Albon has “exceeded expectations” and “ticked all the boxes” during last weeks first test in Barcelona.
While Toro Rosso is used to dealing with rookies, Albon hadn’t driven an F1 car at all until the team’s filming day at Misano, just before the Barcelona test. Although last week proved frustrating for the British-Thai driver he finished both of his days within the top four and ended the week with the fourth fastest time overall, as well as being second on Thursday.
Asked by Motorsport.com, about Albon’s debut “He’d not driven a F1 car before. He’s done reasonable amount of simulator work, which you can imagine. We did a big simulator programme with him, and he spent a lot of time with us.”
“At the filming day he did a good job getting in, and here he’s been fantastic. I mean, the off he had on the install was partially engineering induced, it wasn’t directly his fault to be fair. And after that we’ve got into the programme, he’s been great.”
Egginton says that Albon has progressed already, but there were some areas where he has still to improve. He says that he is better than the team expected and has a fantastic approach, adding that they were excited to work with him.
Adding “He’s on a steep learning curve, but the young drivers’ capacity to learn quickly and move forward is fantastically impressive. So far we’re really happy.”
That’s all from this Testing Special, we will bring you full coverage of the second test here on F1Vault.co.uk and F1 Today will be back to normal from Monday 4th March.