Hamilton believes this is his strongest season
Lewis Hamilton believes that he is having his strongest ever season in F1, but admits he would like the gap to close right up. The Englishman heads into this weekends German Grand Prix with his biggest lead of his career.
Speaking ahead of this weekend, where he won from fourteenth last year, he said “My first season was pretty strong…but since then, I don’t recognise another season being as strong as this one. Of course having the seven wins.”
“I was just reminiscing about my McLaren days and I think the most I had in a year was five wins. Over all the years here, I think we’ve maybe had 10 in a season but never seven in the first 10, so it definitely is an outlier and something we are really proud of.”
Hamilton is the first driver since Michael Schumacher in 2004 to win this many races after the season’s opening 10 grands prix. The German won all but five of the eighteen races that season.
Despite that strong performance, Hamilton insisted that Mercedes has to just “keep our head down and keep pushing. We generally do as a team get stronger as we go through the year, and as a driver.”
In fact, Hamilton cited qualifying as one area he can improve upon. Unusually, the Englishman’s seven wins have come from just three pole positions. Team-mate Valtteri Bottas leads that particular table in 2019 with four poles.
He last year won the qualifying battle with his teammate, but Hamilton insists he needs to still work on that.
A concern for Mercedes will be the weather, they lost out three weeks ago in the warm Austrian race. Hamilton however praised the two stars of that race Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen lit up the race with a string of thrillingly close but clean wheel-to-wheel battles.
Hamilton “absolutely “expects the two 21-year-olds to get stronger – progress he hopes their respective teams can replicate.
Mercedes mark 125 years of racing
Mercedes have unveiled the one-off commemorative white livery for the German Grand Prix. The German manufacturer had teased the livery all week, but finally revealed the look in the Hockenheim paddock, with Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas set to run in the colours throughout the weekend.
Mercedes are marking two milestones this weekend, 125 years of its involvement in motorsport as well their 200th Formula 1 start as a manufacturer team in the championship.
The front of the W10 has been tweaked as a nod to its original racing origins with a predominantly white approach, red numbers, and old-style sponsor logos.
All the silver has been removed, but they have retained the black and blue colours.
CEO and team principal, Toto Wollf said “In 1894, the world’s first car race was held from Paris to Rouen and the winning machine had at its heart an engine manufactured to the design of Gottlieb Daimler.”
“It was the start of a great motorsport tradition that continues to this day and we are incredibly proud to write the next chapter in this legacy.”
Ferrari in “strong position” to challenge
Sebastian Vettel believes that Ferrari has made progress and challenge Mercedes at this weekends German Grand Prix, admitting it would be special to win his home race after agonisingly missing out last season.
The Ferrari driver returns to the circuit which derailed his bid for a fifth title last year, and that has led to a series of mistakes which has left him further behind. His most recent came at Silverstone last time out, costing him points.
He is currently a hundred points behind Hamilton in the drivers’ standings, insists he is looking forward to the weekend and is optimistic about Ferrari’s chances of finally ending their 2019 win drought. Vettel told Sky Sports, “I think it’s special to have the opportunity to race in your home country. Obviously I was very close last year, let’s see if we are close again this year.”
“I think we are in a strong position to start the weekend but then again, I think we’ve seen some recent races in which we’ve been very strong in terms of qualifying and race pace. I’m fairly open-minded, let’s see where it goes.”
Vettel believes Ferrari has made progress, but admits they are not where they want to be. He thinks the understanding is there and that they are going in the right direction.
Asked if he “badly” needed a victory this weekend, Vettel replied: “Not badly… obviously I want to win but also I’m realistic.
The German still faces the questions about the crash last year while he was leading the race, but he remained calm and collected during the press conference as he spoke about dealing with F1 pressure. Adding “I always put myself under pressure so I can’t be happy if things go wrong.”
He explained, “For sure if I get something wrong and do a mistake, I can’t be happy with that but I think the pressure I put on myself after that is bigger than any external factors. This has been the same as long as I can remember.”
Verstappen sets sights on closing the gap
Max Verstappen says that Red Bull are firming sighting Mercedes hoping to close the gap and challenge regularly for wins next season. At Silverstone it was likely that the dutchman would have finished on the podium if he hadn’t been hit by Sebastian Vettel.
During that race the two teams were “very close” in the fight for third behind the Mercedes. Asked what the challenge will be over the next ten days before the summer break, he said “Closing the gap to Mercedes. We want to win so that’s our biggest challenge ahead to try and close that gap.”
“Further than I would like [away]. We are getting closer, it’s not good enough but we know that so we’re working hard to try and close that.” Verstappen is ahead of both Ferrari drivers in the championship, but both Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc have more than double the points of Pierre Gasly, Red Bull’s other driver.
Meaning Ferrari hold a fifty two point over their rivals for second in the Constructors’ Championship, with eleven rounds to go and four hundred and eighty four points to play for. Verstappen stressed “At the end of the day second is always better than third, but we’re here to win.”
“Of course we want to be in front of Ferrari but we want to be even more in front of Mercedes. This year at the moment we are trying to get the most out of the engine as we’ll and learn from what we did wrong in the beginning of the season, or not as good compared to Mercedes and Ferrari.”
He will be hoping to continue his run of results this weekend, as he leads Vettel by thirteen points.
Leclerc no longer “intimidated” to adapt the Ferrari
Charles Leclerc says he is no longer reluctant to adapt the Ferrari to suit his driving style, after being “a little bit intimidated” at the start of the year. The Monacan joined Ferrari from Sauber for his second season, currently leading the charge with four podiums un the last four races.
Ahead of the German Grand Prix, Leclerc said he had made a change to the way he worked with the Ferrari SF90 around the time of the Paul Ricard race, and believes this allowed him to extract more performance.
Leclerc explained, “I think before France it was more myself that was adapting to the car, after that I think we change a little bit the approach and I think I adapted a bit more the car to my driving. So then I could drive a little bit more naturally, which helped me.”
He say that its was a little intimidating arriving at a big team, which he believes it would have been wrong to have started saying ‘I want this, this and this.’ Leclerc’s first aim was to understand the car as much as he could.
Adding “At one point, I managed to do good things adapting my driving style, but then I felt that there was more performance by trying to put the car a little bit more into my direction, and this has helped the performance since then.”
Leclerc’s recent run of results has allowed him to close within three points of his teammate Sebastian Vettel. He has out qualified and raced Vettel in the last three races.
Renault plan “substantial changes”
Renault’s F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul says “substantial changes” are on the way as the team works towards next years car. The team has often been fighting for “best of the rest” this season, but has also had poor weekends where it has been off the pace.
Experiments with set-ups at Silverstone, where Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg took different routes early in the weekend, helped the team to clarify what areas it has to improve with the RS19.
Speaking to Motorsport.com, Abiteboul said “It’s very clear where we are competitive, it’s very clear where we are not competitive. We need certain tracks where on balance it’s going to be OK, like Silverstone, Montreal or Paul Ricard. Certain tracks it will not be OK.”
“That’s why we need to come with fixes. It’s not just fixes, it’s big changes to the car. We understand the problems, the problems are visible and clear.” He admits that fixing the problems will take a bit of time, but to really remove their problems they need substantial changes.
The problem appears to be that they strong in medium speed corners as well as with the heat. Silverstone saw the team be very competitive in sector one, straights, low speed corners, high speed corners are the areas where they are strong.
But the issues appears to be the medium speed corners, particularly where they are long and they are lasting for a lot. Soultions to the issues appear unlike to come this year, with Abiteboul saying much of the focus for the rest of the season will be learning for 2020.
“Changes are coming, but not an awful lot will done before the break. I would prefer to have some substantial changes, when that will be possible, and also a long-term plan, including next year, rather than trying to rush something into the next race which is not going to make a difference.”
The Weekend Ahead
This weekend marks the start of the final two races before the summer break and it’s a big race for Mercedes. The team are marking 125 years in motorsport at their home Grand Prix, they certainly have the speed and downforce on paper.
However, the question will be cooling as the European heatwave returns, its going to be hot with a risk of thunderstorms through out the weekend. This poses a lot of variables when it comes to the set up of the cars, and how the tyres handle the changeable conditions.
It needs to be a good race for Sebastian Vettel, last year he crashed out of this race in those changeable conditions, we are now almost a year since he last won a race. This is a race where anything can happen like Silverstone this is an old circuit where overtaking is possible.
But Ferrari has performed better in these warmer conditions which could be there saviour, practice will give us some answers.
This again could create another tight mid field fight, that is where the real action has been this season. We have seen some brilliant battles here, but I believe it will be hard for them to close the gap given the gap to the leaders.
You can join us for LIVE coverage of this weekend’s German Grand Prix via Twitter @F1VaultLive starting with FP1 Friday from 10:45 CEST / 09:45 BST, Qualifying 14:45/13:45 and forward race coverage 14:40/13:40 lights out 15:10 / 14:10