Mercedes warn Ferrari about team dynamics
Mercedes CEO and team principal Toto Wolff has warned his Ferrari counterpart Mattia Binotto that the dynamic between Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel has the potential for “a rivalry and an escalation” within Ferrari.
Vettel took the win in Singapore after Ferrari went against its usual policy of the lead car stopping first. Leclerc was unhappy with the team over the radio but cooled after the race, and Vettel said that a driver would be “very misled if you ever think that you are bigger than this team”.
Mercedes have a much stronger driver line up than the civil war between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg pairing that fought for world titles between 2014 and 2016 and descended into animosity at time.
Wolff told Motorsport.com, “I think always two alphas competing for position has the potential for a rivalry and an escalation within the team. We’ve been there and I think today as a team we’re very strong with a clear philosophy.”
“On the positives, they [Leclerc and Vettel] keep taking points away from each other, which is an advantage, but I don’t want to look at points at that stage.” Wolff believes its about optimising what they have, winning races and doing there best.
Vettel’s status as number one has been under pressure from Leclerc all season, the twenty-one year old has scored five poles and two wins in his first year with the team and is four points ahead of Vettel in the championship.
Neither driver has expressed concerns about Ferrari’s communication over its strategy was the biggest cause of Leclerc’s angst.
Asked about the quality of communication inside Ferrari, Leclerc said: “The level of how much we speak in the team is very good. There will always be situations that you don’t speak about, otherwise, the meetings will be eight hours longer and I don’t want that, they’re already very long!”
Gasly feels he is driving more naturally
Pierre Gasly feels he can drive more naturally following his third weekend with Toro Rosso, after being demoted from Red Bull. The Frenchman has admitted it was taking him time to adjust to a different car after making the switch before Spa
In Singapore, Gasly had a strong weekend finishing eighth after running as high as second behind Antonio Giovinazzi for several laps after the leading group pitted. He told Motorsport.com, “I didn’t really manage to drive the way I would have liked before and now I just feel like I can do more what I feel, which is something natural for me.”
“Especially with the work we’re doing with the engineers and the whole team. After one race there are things to improve, after the second there are always things to improve but I feel like we making a step every weekend”
He says that he has a better feeling in the car and is happy with the steps the team has made. Gasly enjoyed Singapore because he managed to have some on-track battles and recover positions, although the race didn’t come towards them.
Gasly also was not paying too much attention to the inevitable comparisons with teammate Daniil Kvyat. Adding “It is not something I want to focus [on] so much, because I know on my side, I know my performance will just keep improving.”
“With more weekends and once I get the feeling that OK, I know 100 per cent when I do this with the car this will happen, and this and that.” He says they are happy with the level and the direction the team is going in.
He also insists he isn’t distracted by a suggestion from Red Bull’s Helmut Marko that he’s in the frame for a return to Red Bull if he performs.
Mercedes needs to learn from Singapore
Valtteri Bottas says Mercedes will need to learn, forget and quickly move on from a Singapore Grand Prix weekend in which he was compromised by a qualifying mix-up.
While Ferrari resurgence continued in Singapore, Mercedes had a difficult weekend. Bottas’ qualifying efforts compromised by teammate Lewis Hamilton, and then both drivers missing out on podium chances thanks to strategy calls in the race.
The Finn says that its important that during his time at the factory the team looks at exactly what went wrong to ensure there is no repeat, but then must focus on getting things spot on in Russia. Bottas told Motorsport.com, “We’ll have a good review of the race.”
“As a team we’ll be again, as always, very open about everything that happened strategy-wise. Obviously, with such a quick turnaround you can’t do much with the car. The only thing is pretty much with the set-up and maybe some small bits here and there.”
“But it’s mainly taking the points to learn from this weekend and it’s going to be a weekend to learn and then forget and move on.” Bottas says in Sochi they start again and needs to find the same flow that he has before in Russia.
Asked if Mercedes needs to change qualifying procedures, Bottas said: “Well we have a clear procedure and I was supposed to be ahead, but it didn’t happen.”
The qualifying issues is one area where Mercedes can improve, that was something he says they can work on but said every session is different.
Mercedes F1 CEO Toto Wolff is confident, however, that the qualifying matter can be easily resolved, and thinks what happened in Singapore came down to a confusing situation.
“I think the out-lap incident is something that was due to a miscommunication and is something we need to manage better in the future. The miscommunication was that Valtteri was held up by [Alex] Albon, that Lewis didn’t see.
A disconnect between driving and technical penalties
Renault’s F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul says there is “disconnect” between the move to relax penalties for driving offences and the lack of leeway when it comes to technical infringements.
Daniel Ricciardo was excluded from qualifying after a kerb strike led to a power spike over the MGU-K limit of 120kW. When called to the FIA, Renault pointed it out that it hadn’t occurred on the lap that got the Australian out of Q1, and that the time benefit was just one microsecond.
However, the stewards ruled it was not necessary to demonstrate that there was an advantage and that the precedent for any clear technical offences was an exclusion. Ricciardo lost his eighth place and had to start from the back of the grid.
Abiteboul believes that some margin should be built into the system and that for the good of the show less draconian penalties could be applied. The Frenchman told Motorsport.com, “It’s a bit sad because we all know the fans want less penalties, that’s obvious.”
He added, “It’s strange because on the one side you can see that on the race track Michael Masi is coming with a new doctrine, the black and white flag, a sort of yellow card, so we’re trying to be sensible about the regulations and the impact on the sport and the show.”
“On the other side we have this, and for me, there is disconnect between the two that we can only regret because we were on the receiving end, and obviously you can’t expect anything else from me.”
He added to the calls from some in the sport to focus more on track action rather than strict application based on machines. Abiteboul believes that they are trying to be a bit less black and white on track. There are other precedents.
Masi, however, dismissed Abiteboul’s suggestion, stressing that technical infringements are regarded as black and white. he said “When it comes to technical infringements, Martin Brundle put it best, you’re either pregnant or you’re not.”
McLaren considers concept changes
McLaren says it is considering concept changes to next years car. The British team is s currently fourth in the constructors’ championship ahead of the works Renault squad by 22 points after a step forward compared to 2018 in which it was sixth.
The team has traditionally favoured aero efficiency over downforce, with technical director James Key has said McLaren could change its philosophy in 2020. It also worked to overcome a low-speed weakness as early as Bahrain, and a significant upgrade package for Barcelona played a part in its development through the 2019 campaign.
Asked by Autosport, if he planned to change the concept, Key said, “I think there are some conceptual changes we need to look at, just because we’re looking forward. Even though there’s a reg change [in 2021] on the horizon potentially.”
“We are looking forwards, and we want to see how we can begin to generate the performance that allows us to take genuine steps towards those at the front. Everyone around us is doing the same thing, so I think you need some conceptual changes for that.”
Key says that the numbers are not that bad, and Singapore proved that McLaren are still pretty quick in a straight line. Meaning the numbers surrounding it, but conceptually it will change a little bit.
He added, McLaren faces a challenge in splitting its development across this season, 2020 and ’21.
Another Schumacher’s F3 debut
David Schumacher will race at this weekends Russian Grand Prix in Formula Three, the first time that two Schumacher’s will take part in a race weekend since the 2006 Brazilian Grand Prix.
David is the son of Ralf and has been brought in to replace Alex Peroni who was injured when his Campos Racing car was launched into the air by a kerb during a race at Monza earlier this month. The Australian driver suffered fractured vertebrae in the incident and is currently in a period of rest.
His cousin Mick, took his first win in F2 at the Hungarian Grand Prix, as a member of the Ferrari academy he has been considered an outside chance for a seat with Alfa Romeo.
David and Mick’s fathers are the only siblings to have recorded race wins in F1 and were the first brothers to finish one-two in a race, they first did so at the 2001 Canadian Grand Prix, repeating the feat on four more occasions.
We will be back Tuesday evening, due to commitments tomorrow we will not Prixview the Russian Grand Prix. But you can join us for LIVE coverage of this weekend’s race via Twitter @F1VaultLive starting with FP1 Friday from 10:45 MSK / 08:45 BST, Qualifying 15:45/12:45 and forward race coverage 13:40/11:40 lights out 14:10 / 12:10