F1 Today – Portuguese Prixview – 29/04/2021

F1 Today

Russell admits to “bad judgement” following Bottas crash

George Russell says his conduct following the race-ending crash with Valtteri Bottas at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix was a “very bad judgement call” and “not my true self.”

The collision between the Mercedes backed drivers causing the red flag when Russell tried an ambitious high-speed overtake on the Mercedes on a damp track. Immediately afterwards, Russell went over to remonstrate with Bottas, slapping his race helmet – while he then told the media that he asked Bottas “if he was trying to kill us both”.

Russell issued a statement in the following days apologising for his actions and explained why he was upset with how he handled the incident. Speaking in the press conference in Portimao, he said, “I think the incident is one thing, it’s part of racing and these things do happen. I think the actions I did afterwards were not my true self.

“I sort of went against my own instinct to walk away, and showed a bit of emotion which was probably a very poor judgement call in the heat of the moment, which led on to a few more things later that afternoon.”

The Englishman felt the statement was necessary because he is a role model and his actions were not leading by example. But says the emotions following the crash have never been higher and the big lesson he has learned is to walk away to judge the situation and look at it from all angles and look at it rationally.

Adding “The impact was one thing but how you conduct off yourself off track is a very different matter.”

Russell is in his third season in F1 as a Williams driver and defacto reserve driver for Mercedes having nearly won in Bahrain in December, he still hopes that he can gain a seat with Mercedes in the future. But his manager and Mercedes CEO s Toto Wolff was critical of Russell after the crash with Bottas, stressing that the 23-year-old has “lots to learn”.

Russell said he “spoken extensively” with Wolff since the incident and that he had been “very supportive and very constructive”. Saying “Our relationship has not been damaged at all since the incident. If anything, quite the opposite.”

Mercedes have not placed ‘rules of engagement’ on any of the drivers, but Russell admits the first rule of racing was ‘never crash with your team-mate.’

Adding “We should not be coming together on track whether it’s my fault, his fault or a racing incident. Emotions were high for all of us and I agree that we shouldn’t have come together.”

 

Mercedes partners with AFBE to increase opportunities

Mercedes have announced a new partnership with the Association for Black and Minority Ethnic Engineers UK (AFBE-UK) to help increase accessibility to careers in engineering.

Earlier this year the German manufacturer committed itself to increase diversity in its workforce with their Accelerate 25 initiative, said the partnership will focus on five strategic areas: advisory, recruitment, education, work experience and events. Paul Mills, Mercedes-Benz GP’s chief people officer, said “We are delighted to have joined the Association for Black and Minority Ethnic Engineers UK,” said

AFBE was launched in 2007 to inspire people of Black and minority ethnic origin to study engineering, to support those who aspire to be engineers, it wants to increase diversity in the UK’s engineering sector.

Mercedes’ Accelerate 25 programme, launched last December, is a five-year scheme with the aim of ensuring at least 25 per cent of all new employees at the team come from under-represented groups in each year up to and including 2025.

Mills added, “As part of our Accelerate 25 programme and commitment to improving diversity within our team and our sport, we have begun to identify organisations who can provide valuable knowledge and support as we raise our efforts on this journey.”

He says that AFBE-UK has wealth of experience in working with organisations and engineering professionals, to get BAME people into engineering, which suited the teams appeal and increase the diversity of the talent within our team.

 

Sign of how intense things could get – Verstappen Sr

Max Verstappen’s father and former F1 driver Jos, believes the shoulder brush between his son and Sir Lewis Hamilton in qualifying at Imola could be a sign of how intense things could get between the title rivals. Following qualifying, the two appeared to brush shoulders in parc ferme during the TV interview.

While the moment did not appear to be the result of deliberate tension between the pair, Jos Verstappen thinks that it offers a glimmer of how things could pan out as the title battle intensifies. Speaking on the Instagram of Dutch broadcaster Ziggo, he said he was relishing the rivalry.

Verstappen said, “You don’t know how it will go, of course, but if I look at the shoulder nudge they gave each other after qualifying at Imola, I think we can expect something this year.”

“They are both men that don’t want to be outdone by the other. Neither of them will let the other push them aside, especially if it will be more and more about the title this season. I think it’s going to be an intense and great year.”

It is believed Verstappen Jr is in the best position he has had in his career to mount a full on challenge to Hamilton, but his father believes the situation has both positives and negatives.

He added: “The fact that we can win every single race, in theory, gives more peace of mind I would say, as we know that Max is in the right place at Red Bull. But yeah, at the same time it does bring extra pressure.”

Verstappen believes that there was nothing to choose on pace terns between the Red Bull and Mercedes cars, with their form likely to fluctuate depending on track characteristics.

 

News in Brief

Hamilton boycotting social media

Sir Lewis Hamilton says he plans to support this weekend’s social media boycott and has called on the social media companies to do more to combat online abuse.

From midnight on Friday until Monday English football plans to boycott social media aimed to combat abuse and discrimination. Hamilton said: “100 per cent, and I think I’m going to be supporting it this weekend also. There’s no reason not to.

Saying “You’ve seen what’s happening around the world, you’ve seen a lot of the talk that happened last year, but this year is a year of action.” He also says the backlash following the European Super League proposal in football last week had shown what was possible when people unite so powerfully.

Alonso similar to MotoGP champion Mir

Alpine racing director and former Suzuki team boss Davide Brivio says talking with Fernando Alonso is “not very different” to reigning MotoGP world champion Joan Mir.

Brivio who joined Alpine in January shocking sport, says the two times champion was “not very different.”

 

Sainz believes he can match Leclerc

Carlos Sainz says that he can match the one-lap pace of his Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc if he can string together all his fastest sectors into one lap. The Spaniard, like all the drivers who have changed teams this year has struggled to match his teammate as he adapts to a new environment, with progress not helped by the lack of pre-season testing.

At Imola Sainz was only eleventh in Q2, while Leclerc started fourth. However, the Spaniard says that his best individual sectors were as good as Leclerc’s and it was a matter of perfecting the whole lap. He said that his teammate was a “qualifying expert.”

He told Motorsport.com, “I know he’s a qualifying expert, and particularly in the Ferrari he looks to be really at home and knowing exactly what to expect from the car when it comes to Q2 and Q3 high grip conditions, and he’s an expert, he’s very, very good driver.”

“But at the same time if there’s something that I’ve seen during these first two races it’s that I’m not slower than him in any of the corners, really. So I know that if I put the laps together, I can be up there. It’s now a matter of focusing on how to put those laps together, what does he do, and what can I do to get better at putting those laps together”

Sainz says it might be the case he needed more experience with the Ferrari, but he was encouraged by the data meaning it was a matter of time. At Imola, he says he struggled knowing where to place the car, and was caught out sometimes by the chicanes and knowing how the car would handle.

 

FIA Circuit Changes

The FIA have announced they will be policing track limits at Turn One (Primera), Turn Four and Fifteen (Galp). The race directors notes say drivers who gain an advantage at these corners will have two warnings before being deleted.

At Primera, the Race Directors notes sate “A lap time achieved during any practice session or the race by leaving the track and cutting behind the red and white kerb on the exit of Turn 1, will result in that lap time being invalidated by the stewards.

“A lap time achieved during any practice session or the race by leaving the track and cutting behind the red and white kerb on the exit of Turn 4, will result in that lap time being invalidated by the stewards.”

At Fifteen “A lap time achieved during any practice session or the race by leaving the track on the exit of Turn 15, will result in that lap time and the immediately following lap time being invalidated by the stewards. A driver will be judged to have left the track if no part of the car remains in contact with the track.”

During the race, on the third time of going wide at these corners, the driver ‘will be shown a black and white flag, any further cutting will then be reported to the stewards. For the avoidance of doubt, this means a total of three occasions combined not three at each corner.’

 

Aston Martin can’t complain about regulation changes

Aston Martin’s rivals believe there were no grounds to dispute the process in framing new aero regulations for this year, amid its complaints they had favoured the high rake cars.

In the opening two races of the season, the team said I believed the changes to cut downforce had excessively punished the low rake concept cars the most. Team principal Otmar Szafnauer said he believes the performance swing between the high-rake and low-rake cars could be as much as one second per lap.

He has called on the FIA to tweak the rules to level the playing field, and did not completely dismiss the idea of legal action if a positive response was not forthcoming. But there was not support from the other teams who believe the FIA followed the right procedures in coming up with the floor solution.

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said: “There is a governance in place and if you need to change aero rules, you need to go through that governance. As Ferrari, we believe what was said on the safety reasons was the proper choice.”

“But more than that, that choice was discussed at the time, with all technical directors, in the Technical Advisory Committee. We all converged to that regulation, and no one was raising at the time any concerns.”

McLaren boss Andreas Seidl added: “I think from our point of view it was a clear transparent process how these regulations came into force for this year. So I don’t see any reason or also anyway for a [rule] change now for this year.”

Seidl explained when the put forward, there was no clear answer as to whether they would favour one rake concept over another, which meant they could not have been formulated to hinder anyone in particular.

He says the teams went into the winter with the regulations making it not possible to do a big change.

Aston Martin itself has backed away from talk of a major conflict with the FIA over the matter, with Szafnauer saying after the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix that he was more understanding of the rule change situation.

 

Questions for Portimao

Going into the third round of the season one topic remains at the centre who favourite? Both Mercedes and Red Bull are claiming that each other are the favourites, it’s a draw in terms of race victories so far this year with the evidence suggesting a very close fight between the two.

Portimao last year saw Mercedes take victory Sir Lewis Hamilton’s record-breaking ninety-second career win, at a circuit that favours downforce and speed. Six months on things have changed with Red Bull fighting Mercedes hard, however, the belief is the margins are incredibly small.

Verstappen was 0.4s clear of the fastest Mercedes in Bahrain qualifying and would have been up to 0.3s clear had he not made mistakes on his Imola qualifying lap.

There are questions about the performance of Bottas and Perez, twenty-eight and thirty-four points behind their teammates. They will know that although it’s still early in the season, it so easy for the rot to set in and their season begins to fall apart as serious title contenders.

Bottas 4.0 started of showing a similar level to those of Hamilton and Verstappen, but he was let down by a slow second pit stop. It’s very unlikely he would have come out on top in that battle, but in terms of pure pace, he wasn’t far off. But at Imola, the strong form in Sakhir appeared to vanish.

He was in a mid-pack fight and that became a contributing factor behind his collision with George Russell, as he should never have been in a position where his Mercedes was at risk of tangling with a Williams. The poor form was blamed on tyre temperature, which has also been a factor before like in Istanbul last November.

Portimao is another very different track, and we are at the start of May when the weather in Europe starts to warm up, which only adds to the uncertainties. But one thing is certain, talents of both Verstappen and Hamilton will be as important this weekend.

One of the other topics high on the minds of people is the performance of the five drivers who have changed teams this season, Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo, Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz, and one driver who returned to F1, Fernando Alonso, have all made mistakes and/or failed to match the pace of their new teammates.

Vettel hasn’t delivered, Ricciardo has not been on the same pace as his teammate Lando Norris, Perez has not been consistent against Verstappen and Alonso hasn’t been grabbing the headlines at Alpine. While Sainz has admitted he is not at the level he wants to be at yet.

Perez admitted that he messed up at Imola, but the opening two races have seen the Mexican make uncharacteristic mistakes.

There are lots of things which would explain these slow starts. Modern F1 cars are complicated beasts and track time is key to getting up to speed quickly. Pre-season was just three days this year, down from six in 2020. That’s also a misleading way of putting it, because it was effectively three eight-hour days split between two drivers.

 

More in the Prixview

 

The weekend ahead

This weekend the story as we have been saying all week is going to be about Mercedes v Red Bull, this was a very strong circuit for Mercedes last year and one which favours high speed and downforce. We have not been to this type of circuit this year, Bahrain being a night race, so we don’t know how these cars will perform at this type of circuit.

The thing to watch is how long it takes the teams to get the tyres into the right operating window, it took two laps in October. This could be a key factor in qualifying and the race, after two exciting and strategically interesting races I think this is likely to remain a factor this weekend.

The battle between Ferrari and McLaren I think is going to continue, I believe this is more a McLaren circuit because Ferrari is still in my view a little bit behind on power. McLaren also has the Mercedes engine which gives them more performance, Lando Norris is also performing quite well at the moment and that progress the team will continue to want to see.

Aston Martin and Alpine have potential to join that fight if they get their act together following a lower key start than we might have expected. Pressure is also on Sebastian Vettel following his downward continuing spiral, his reset hasn’t paid off and we know the team has been the one most affected by the tweaking of the regulations over the winter.

 

You can join us for LIVE coverage of this weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix via Twitter @FormulaOneVault starting with FP1 Friday from 11:15  WEST / BST, Qualifying 14:45 and race coverage 14:30 lights out 15:00
Jack

Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.