Abu Dhabi Test – Leclerc makes Ferrari debut going fastest
Charles Leclerc ended the second day of the postseason tyre test in Abu Dhabi fastest. The Monacan making his debut as a Ferrari race driver, improved his teammates Sebastian Vettel’s time from Tuesday by three and a half tenths.
Pirelli had both 2018 and 2019 tyres on offer this week and each team had 22 sets to use over the two days. Fourteen of those sets were decided by Pirelli and included a selection of 2019 compounds plus two sets of 2018 hyper-softs for comparison
Leclerc went fastest during the morning to beat his teammate, before lowering it to 36.4, which was a second and seven-tenths off Lewis Hamilton’s pole time from Saturday. Pierre Gasly was the closest challenger to Leclerc, driving the Red Bull he was a second and a half off the pace.
Lance Stroll was third fastest driving the Force India, the team he is expected to join next year. The Canadian set his fastest set a 38.0 in the early part of the afternoon. Mercedes Valtteri Bottas set his fastest time during the morning going fourth fastest overall.
Carlos Sainz made his debut for McLaren going fifth fastest, a tenth behind the Finn but was second in terms of mileage. Renault’s test driver Artem Markelov was half a tenth behind the Spaniard.
Newly crowned F2 champion George Russell was also in action, the Williams driver going seventh before handing over to teammate Robert Kubica, who finished the day tenth.
Daniil Kvyat returned to the Toro Rosso, the Russian completed the most laps in the car a 155 getting his first taste of Honda power on his way to eighth.
Two other F2 drivers were in action, Louis Deletraz making his debut in ninth, managing 117 laps setting a 39.0 on a 2019 hypersoft tyre. He was eight tenths off fellow F2 driver Markelov.
Sauber driver Antonio Giovinazzi was slowest of all in eleventh, he also caused the only red flag of the day when his car stopped in the tunnel at the pit lane exit.
Bottas told to “disappear” by Wolff
Mercedes F1 CEO and team principal Toto Wolff has told Valtteri Bottas to “disappear” over the winter to help him recover from his disappointing season.
The Finn was the only driver of the top three teams not to have won a race this season, having been robbed by a late puncture in Baku and then having victory in Russia taken away from him through team orders.
Bottas has been open since the summer break, admitting that this season has been his most disappointing in F1.
Wolff, who also manages Bottas, was asked by Motorsport.com how Bottas could reset after the year, Wolff said: “He said to me that he just wants to disappear back home, recharge the battery. Forget, recover and recuperate, and then come back next year. I think it has just been very long. I can understand his frustrations.”
Bottas believes that he hopes that his month off will help him recover mental energy lost during the season. Saying “I will have four weeks to reflect on the season, and gather some mental energy which was lost this year.”
Wolff believes that Bottas’ season fell apart once it became clear that he was no longer in championship contention. Saying “Speaking with the drivers, once the championship opportunity has been taken away, there is a drop and I think we’ve seen that this year.”
Bottas has confessed that stages of this season were hard to deal with when incidents and bad luck robbed him of good results. Bottas added, “It was a pretty exhausting season, as I had big targets for the year in terms of result and goals.”
“Once those proved to be impossible at some point in the season there was many many failures for me, one after another, and it was just kind of building up. So it was difficult sometimes to deal with.
Haas decides not to appeal Force India verdict
Haas has decided not to appeal against the dismissed protest they made against Force India they made to the stewards in Abu Dhabi against the teams use of the VJM10.
The US team believed that the Racing Point Force India team was not able to score points as it acquired another teams car. The team was born from the collapse of the Sahara Force India team in August, Haas believed that RPFI is not a constructor because it used a design from a different company and team.
The stewards dismissed the protest, asserting that Force India’s entry is legal and that the current Racing Point team was allowed to race a car designed by the previous Sahara incarnation. Following the ruling, Haas announced it intended to appeal to the FIA Courts but has now dropped the case.
Though it was a sporting protest, at the centre of this was whether RPFI should be eligible for prize money. Under the terms of the Concorde Agreement, teams are not allowed for ‘column one’ payments, which teams need to finish in the top 10 in two of three seasons to be eligible for.
Haas argues that they had to wait for those payments after it joined the grid in 2016, the new Force India entry should have to do the same. Team principal Gunther Steiner explained over the Abu Dhabi weekend that he had received “no answer at all” from the powers-that-be, “so we decided to protest”.
The US team says it is “seeking equality for all the teams” but Force India team boss Otmar Szafnauer hit out at the “irony and hypocrisy” of that claim “when we are the definition of a constructor, and they aren’t”.
The two teams first started rowing at the start of the year, when Force India hit out at Haas’s relationship with Ferrari and its use of non-listed parts from Maranello.
The verdict is that the RPFI team is a “new team” and a “separate and different legal entity”, and therefore “cannot be considered the same team as the former Force India”.
However, it is not known if this could form the basis of any fresh Haas push to stop Force India receiving Column 1 payments or allow the American team to attempt to regain payments it missed in 2016 and 2017.
Teams worries about the impact of Brexit
McLaren’s chief operating officer Jonathan Neal has warned that a no deal Brexit could put the ability of the sport of to hold races in the EU.
Eight of the ten teams are based or have their European bases in the UK, and seven of the nine European races will be inside the EU next year. The UK is due to leave the EU on the 29th of March 2019, with or without a deal.
He says that McLaren was already working with partners within the sport in an attempt to ensure they are ready to deal with potential difficulties. If the UK Crashes out of the EU it would leave eight teams facing problems between there UK bases and moving to and from the EU, which they do multiple times a week.
He told The Guardian “The key issues will be border efficiency for both parts and people and administrative costs. McLaren F1 takes 40 tons and 100 people.”
“We pop up at an event every two weeks around the globe in 20 countries and five continents, through a variety of customs borders, to put the show on the road. Currently, there are well-trodden paths in how we manage customs and borders in order to move seamlessly.”
Neal says that the friction is with its supply chain, exporting and border checks. McLaren has expressed concerns about there about the impact of visa for both retention or for future recruitment. We want to be able to hire talent on the basis of right person for the job.
Mercedes F1 CEO Toto Wolff says he has concerns about the 1,800 staff employed by the motorsport division in the UK. While the French manufacturer Renault faces problems, it engine is built in France and the car in Oxfordshire.
Neale added that “An F1 car has about 14,000 parts and the carry-over between the last race of this year and the first of next year will be less than 10%.”
“Many of those materials are sourced from a number of small-to-medium enterprises in the UK and across Europe. Some complex sub-assemblies will cross many borders before they arrive here.”
I won’t be made to “look like an idiot” – Verstappen
Max Verstappen says that he will not be made to “look like an idiot” when he carries out two days of ‘public service’ for the FIA. The Dutchman was given the punishment for a post-race altercation with Esteban Ocon at the Brazilian Grand Prix.
During the altercation, Verstappen confronted the Frenchman pushing and shoving Ocon because he felt that their collision while Verstappen was leading the race, he believes that incident cost him the win at Interlagos.
Asked by Sky Sports if he would accept an offer to look after 1996 world champion Damon Hill’s rubbish bins, Verstappen declined, before offering his serious opinion on the matter and stressing that he wants to do something “suitable”.
He added “I’m definitely not going to look silly. I think anyway I’m already very hard-treated by that, so we’ll find something suitable because I’m not going to look like an idiot.”
Earlier in the weekend, Verstappen said he did not yet know what the FIA had planned for him. “We’ll discuss, between the team and the FIA, what we’re going to do,” he said.
Speaking about the punishment, he said “If I agree [with the punishment], it doesn’t really matter, does it? What can you do about it? I find it a bit harsh but yeah… we’ll find a solution.”
At the post-race press conference, he confirmed to five times champion Lewis Hamilton he had finish fourth meaning he did not have to attend the FIA Awards Gala.
Verstappen joked “We calculated that I’m sorry. Unless I can do it as a community service day, and then I will go! I’ll do some PR stuff before – how great the whole venue is. I’ll do a special speech in the evening!”
Verstappen ready to challenge for titles
Multiple world champions Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel believe Max Verstappen will be ready to challenge for titles next season, should he be given a package by Red Bull and Honda give him a car which is capable of winning.
The Dutchman recovered from a catalogue of mistakes in the first six races, including incidents with both Hamilton and Vettel to finish the season in fourth. In the nine races since the summer break, Verstappen was the second highest points scorer behind Hamilton, finishing the season with two wins and eleven podiums.
When asked by Motorsport.com, if the youngster was ready to push for a world championship. Hamilton said, “Max has been driving very well throughout the year and has shown his consistency and has been up here many, many times with us.”
“So, if his team does the job and delivers a platform with which he can compete even closer with us, then, of course, he’ll be in the fight.”
Vettel, who won all four of his titles with Red Bull, said: “On the track, I don’t think he needs any advice. I think he’s got all the ingredients. There’s a couple of guys out there who have these qualities and Max is certainly one of them.”
Vettel says he believes that his former team has this season added the most in terms of performance. Verstappen overhauled Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas to steal fourth in the championship and was only two points from beating Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.
However, third may have been in his grasp if it wasn’t for the incidents in the early part of the season. The crash with teammate Daniel Ricciardo in Baku, and the fracas with Esteban Ocon following the race at Interlagos.
In response to the comments by Hamilton and Vettel, Verstappen said “I always find that a really difficult question, because you’re so dependent on the package in Formula 1.”
“When I was watching back in the day, it seemed like Lewis was ready for the title in his first year . You can always do things better but I think that’s every year. Even if you win the title, there are always things which you can do better.”