Mercedes can no longer “bluff” – Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton says that his Mercedes team can no longer “bluff” this year’s title race and says that the team is concerned about Ferrari’s pace advantage heading into the final eight races of the season.
The Englishman has seen his lead in the championship cut to seventeen points following Sebastian Vettel’s dominant win in Belgium on Sunday. It is believed that Ferrari has made a bigger step in terms of their engine upgrade than Mercedes.
Despite Hamilton claiming back to back wins in Germany and Hungary, he now believes that there is a worrying up trend in the current race performance of Ferrari and says that his team needs to step up. Speaking after Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix, he said “Naturally, it is a concern. Everyone asks at press conferences, ‘who do you think is faster, you or Ferrari?’. They’ve had the pace, the upper hand on us, for some time.”
“Those last two races, before here, we just did a better job with it even though they had better cars. But if you’re playing with a deck of cards, and you’re bluffing, there’s only a certain amount of time you can do that before your opponent realises you are doing that.”
Both Mercedes and Ferrari brought upgraded power units to the race, but it was Ferrari who appeared to have benefited the most with better straight line speed which allowed Vettel to close up and pass Hamilton at Les Combes.
Mercedes CEO and team principal Toto Wolff says that Hamilton was “swallowed up” and defenceless against Ferrari’s “tricks.” Adding “defenceless against Ferrari’s “tricks”.
Hamilton added “We can still beat them at races, I just don’t know what ones they are going to be. Moving forward, we do have some performance coming, but I’m sure they’ll have some performance coming, so I really can’t predict what’s going to happen.”
This weekend F1 heads to Monza, Ferrari’s performance in Belgium means they have been tipped to be the favourites. Hamilton says that the next few races are going to show if Ferrari can maintain the high performance.
Leclerc given a taster of this years Ferrari
Charles Leclerc has already driven this years Ferrari during a filming day for the Italian team. Ahead of the teams home Grand Prix it has emerged that Monacan was given a test during one of Ferrari’s 100km filming days at Monza in July.
Leclerc’s strong debut season with Sauber has led to speculation that he could replace Kimi Raikkonen alongside Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari next season.
Though such days are done for marketing or promotional purposes, they can still be useful for teams as they can gain data from aerodynamic and engine parts.
There will also be benefits for Leclerc who has been given a taste of the 2018 car for the first time. Proper testing opportunities have been limited in the last decade as part of a push to lower costs and minimise the advantage of bigger teams.
Whiting explains why no ban for Hulkenberg
FIA race director Charlie Whiting has explained why Nico Hulkenberg hasn’t been banned from the Italian Grand Prix despite his involvement in Sundays accident at the start of the Belgian Grand Prix.
In 2012, Romain Grosjean was banned from the race at Monza following a similar incident at the start of the race at Spa. Whiting pointed out that the Frenchman had already had already been involved in a series of controversial incidents that season, and that’s what led the stewards to impose the ban.
The stewards were aware that comparisons would be made with Grosjean and took the unusual step of referencing the incident in the Hulkenberg decision. Whiting told the media, “I think they looked back at the similar type of accident that was caused with Romain in 2012, if I remember. The accident was in fact what gave rise to the penalty points system.
“I think it was clearly Nico’s fault, he said he was completely to blame for it, and he took three, arguably four cars out, or destroyed their races. I think that came into it. I think the points are exactly right, and I think the 10-place grid penalty is pretty much what he expected, he didn’t say too much after it apparently.”
Whiting says that in that 2012 race, Grosjean had already been in a number of incidents that season and the whole penalty points system came about as a result of that.
While Hulkenberg took responsibility, Whiting says that “I think it does play a part in the stewards’ decision but I don’t think it would have been any different had he said, ‘Well it wasn’t really my fault.’ I don’t think he could have done that to be honest.”
Haas frustrated by concessions to Force India
Gene Haas says he is frustrated with the concessions that have been given to the ‘new’ Force India team following the takeover by a consortium led by the Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll.
Ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix, it was announced by the FIA that the team had been excluded from the first half of the season. That means that where the finish in the constructors will depend on how the team performs in the remaining races.
But the contentious issue centres around the team being allowed to retain its ‘Column 1’ prize money in the championship despite that usually being reserved until a team has completed two full seasons.
Haas only joined the sport in 2016, thus this season is the first time that the team will receive a ‘Column 1’ prize. Hass, the team’s owner, signed up to that regulation willingly and as a result, invested a significant amount of his own money into the outfit.
However, the US businessman says he is happy that the team remains on the grid but is a little bit frustrated that Force India has been treated differently. He told ESPN “We feel that as a new team that we didn’t get treated the same and he seems to have gotten preferential treatment which we all think isn’t fair.”
“We just have to kinda really see how it all sorts out. Obviously, there’s a lot of disgruntled teams. We’ve been slighted somewhat. I think Lawrence has done a good job, he’s obviously preserved the team, preserved a lot of jobs.”
“But that still doesn’t still overstep the legal rights of everybody else too. I think it needs to be sorted out, we will see how it all comes out.” Haas’s team principal Guenther Steiner was seen having an animated conversation with Stroll and CEO and team principal Otmar Szafnauer on Saturday.
Steiner says that the problem is that if Force India are a new team they should be treated as a new team, he believes that the team should be treated as a new team.
Adding “My own opinion is that we feel like we were treated differently as a team then let’s say Lawrence Stroll is being treated as a new team if indeed he is a new team. They seem to think they’re not really a new team but from a legal standpoint it sounds like they are a new team.”
Force India defends its treatment
Force India has defended the preferential treatment it has been awarded, since the teams buyout by Lawrence Stroll it has been announced they will be allowed to keep its prize income.
Force India team principal Otmar Szafnauer has said he understands the frustrations that have been expressed by rivals, but thinks that it is correct that F1 chiefs treat his outfit differently. He told Motorsport.com “I understand why a new entrant needs to finish in the top 10 for two years in a row, to start getting Column 1. In the past when teams would enter, not really have the resources to enter and then they would be in for a bit and out, and in, Bernie [Ecclestone] didn’t want that.”
“He wanted 10 solid teams. So, Bernie thought, right, if you can survive for two years without money from me, then the third year you do get money from me then there is no question that you can survive. That is why he did it for new entrants.”
He pointed out that the team has been in the sport since 1991, and there is no question of survival going forward.
Asked whether or not he was concerned the Force India’s privileges could open a can of worms in the future if other outfits try to do the same thing, Szafnauer said: “I don’t think so. This has happened once in our lifetime. It ain’t like a precedent that next year the same thing can happen. It ain’t going to happen.”