Hamilton vows to finish on a high
Lewis Hamilton says he wants to finish his season on a high at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, saying needs to “put things right” after a disappointing last race in Brazil.
Following a season of many highs and winning his sixth world title, Interlagos appeared to be his worst race of the season. Following an intense battle with Max Verstappen, he crashed into Alex Albon in the other Red Bull and was handed a rare podium-losing penalty.
Hamilton arrives in the Middle East in a relaxed mood, he is also “striving for perfection,” and so is eager to bounce back after Brazil and learn from his mistakes.
Hamilton told Sky Sports, “Brazil definitely wasn’t a great one. But I think it’s really important to often acknowledge the good parts of the weekend rather than just always focus on the negatives.”
“Naturally the negative of it, not finishing in the position I should have, second or third, plus the failures and the mistakes – it’s good to acknowledge those also, but it’s good to take away the positives. There were plenty of positives to take from the weekend but I don’t want another weekend like that.”
Hamilton can break his own record of the number of points scored in a season, and match his own record for the number of wins in a season this weekend.
Although Mercedes have been outshone over the course of the last three months, 2019 has been another dominating season as the team secured there seventh back to back constructors. Hamilton says they should be “very proud” about.
“It’s crazy to think this is the last race. It’s quite a long season and it’s definitely been an incredible season for us. When we look back at our performances, which we’ve not done just yet, I think we’ll be very proud of what we’ve done collectively as a team.”
The Englishman says the team remains focused on what they can improve, saying they are not perfect.
Williams confirm Latifti
Nicholas Latifti will replace Robert Kubica at Williams next season alongside George Russell. Kubica announced in September that he would walk away from the sport.
The Canadian has spent this season as the team’s reserve driver and has taken part in a number of practice sessions. He has already secured second in Formula Two going into this weekend season finale at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Latifti said; “I am thrilled to be stepping up as Race Driver for 2020. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the team this year, supporting them with the development of the car.”
“I look forward to the journey ahead with the team, and I am excited to make my Formula One debut at the Australian Grand Prix in 2020.”
Deputy Team Principal, Claire Williams, commented; “I am delighted to announce that Nicholas will be stepping up to the role of Race Driver to partner George in 2020.”
“Nicholas has become an established and well-respected member of Williams, and we look forward to him stepping up into this new role, as we look to fight our way back to the midfield.”
The Canadian has also raced in Formula Renault 3.5 Series and FIA Formula 3 European Championship.
Leclerc regrets Vettel clash
Charles Leclerc says Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel knows he should not have made the move that triggered their crash in the Brazilian Grand Prix.
But Leclerc added that he shares some of the blame for the collision that took them both out of the last race. Following discussions following the race the two teammates have agreed to be “less aggressive with each other.”
Leclerc said, “We will be able to race. We are both very competitive and want to win. We need to find the right compromise – we both race for the same team. We need to give each other a bit more space.”
He added, “Seb probably shouldn’t have gone to the left and he knows it, and I could have done a better job of avoiding him going to the left.” Speaking in the official press conference, he says they have both spoken about the incident and agreed both could have done more to avoid it.
The collision between the two teammates happened when Vettel was trying to re-take fourth place approaching Turn Four after Leclerc had passed him into Turn One with five laps to go.
Vettel moved over on Leclerc and his left rear wheel hit Leclerc’s front right, breaking his suspension and giving the German a puncture.
Pressure has been building between the two since Spa when Leclerc established a general superiority through the mid-season and out-qualified Vettel nine races in a row.
Vettel has also refused to follow team orders, and in Sochi refused to let Leclerc back into the lead as part of a pre-arranged plan to ensure the two Ferraris were running one-two.
Vettel’s wife has a third child
Sebastian Vettel has missed Thursday’s media day at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix because he is on paternity leave following the birth of his third child, a boy. The four-time champion and his wife Hanna already have two girls and the family has now been joined by their first son.
Vettel is expected to head to the Middle East overnight ahead of Friday afternoon’s first practice session. Vettel had been due to appear in the Drivers’ Press Conference alongside Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc, two weeks on from the clash between them in Brazil.
Ferrari’s team principal Mattia Binotto says they have drawn a line under the incident ahead of 2019’s season finale. He told the media, “We discussed together, all three together, individually, and I think that they understand what happened was not acceptable, and we know how to move forward.”
The four-times champion can still finish ahead of Leclerc in this year’s Drivers’ Championship but must either win Sunday’s race or finish second with the fastest lap to have any chance to avoid his first season defeat to a team-mate since joining Ferrari in 2015.
Verstappen 50/50 2020 title challenge
Max Verstappen believes there is a fifty/fifty chance in Red Bull and Honda mounting a championship challenge. The dutchman has already established himself as one of the sports biggest stars aged twenty-two.
However, Red Bull has produced the winners of races rather than title challengers since the dawn of the Mercedes-dominated hybrid era in 2014.
But finishing their maiden season with Honda engines strongly, with Verstappen claiming his first F1 pole-victory double last time out in Brazil, has raised expectations about the threat Red Bull may carry next season.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Verstappen said, “We learned a lot throughout the whole season. We’ll try to work over the winter, of course, to try and make everything better, the whole package.”
“You can clearly see throughout the end of the year now [Red Bull have been strong], of course, in general, we have always been like that, but I really have a lot of confidence that it’s not just now. I think we can really transform that into an early start next year. That’s at least the target.”
Verstappen has credited his win two weeks ago to a “very ballsy” strategy call from the pit wall and fast pit stops, one of which was the quickest-ever in F1 – represented his and the team’s third of the season.
Honda extends Red Bull and Toro Rosso deal
Red Bull and Toro Rosso will continue to be powered by Honda until at least 2021. Honda has rebuilt its reputation over the past two years after a horrid spell with McLaren.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has taken three wins as well as podiums this season, while Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly scored podiums for Toro Rosso in Germany and Brazil. The partnership between the two started with sister team Toro Rosso last season.
In a Tweet, the team said, “We’ll be #PoweredbyHonda in 2021! 👊 The Team are delighted to confirm that we have extended our partnership to use Honda Hybrid power. @HondaRacingF1”
Red Bull switch engine suppliers ahead of this season, having carried out a year with sister team Toro Rosso in 2018 as a precursor to the current campaign.
The news comes a month after the publication of Formula One’s extensive 2021 rules package, which outlines the next set of technical and sporting rules.
Mercedes is expected to stay, there have been rumours the world champions might leave at the end of 2020, having recently committed to the all-electric Formula E series.
Renault’s future beyond next season is increasingly hard to predict, with its board of directors including F1 in a comprehensive review of its commitments and activities going forward.
The weekend ahead
This weekend is the final race of the season, we should see the drivers racing very freely. This could create some brilliant action on the track, Yas Marina is a circuit which is made up of long straights and a street style section around the hotel.
Mercedes have dominated here in the hybrid era, I think unless there is a major surprise in FP2 they could be on course to dominate once again this weekend. You, however, cannot count Ferrari out, but we need to see what impact the collision between Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc in Brazil will have.
The midfield battle is going to be one which is close, the task for Renault is to hold on to fifth in the constructors. While it is unlikely that they will be passed if Racing Point has a really good weekend. Abu Dhabi will be one where we reflect on a very hard season, deaths of Charlie Whiting, Niki Lauda and Antoine Hurbert.
Formula One Vault will bring you LIVE and full coverage of the final race of the season, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from 08:45 UKT on Friday with the first practice on our LIVE Twitter account @F1VaultLive. We will bring you race coverage from 12:40 on Sunday with the race starting at 13:10 UK time. And to our readers in America, happy thanksgiving