Mercedes will not allow deterioration in driver relations
Mercedes F1 CEO and team principal Toto Wolff says that the early domination of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton reminds him off previous inter-team battles. But says the team will not allow their relationship to “deteriorate” in the same way Hamilton and Nico Rosberg’s did.
The German manufacturer has equalled the record of four consecutive one-twos in the first four races, with both drivers tied on wins and second places. Meanwhile, the preceded threat from Ferrari has failed to become a reality.
Mercedes have not had an intense internal battle since 2016 when Nico Rosberg beat Hamilton to the title after their friendship turned sour as they battled each other over three seasons clashing on and off the track. It is a situation Mercedes are keen to avoid with Bottas, who is bidding for his first crown, and Hamilton, their five-time world champion.
Mercedes team boss Wolff told reporters about Bottas and Hamilton’s start to the season. Saying “It reminds me a little bit [of 2014, ’15 and ’16]. You have two drivers that have the ambition and the ability to win a championship and it’s up to us.”
“Together with them, to be very aware of that situation and remember that very quickly [Sebastian] Vettel or [Charles] Leclerc could be back into the game. We mustn’t be carried away with the four first results.” Wolff insisted that the relationship is what matters.”
Bottas was the clear winner in Baku, with Mercedes teammate Hamilton went wheel to wheel into Turn One at the start of the race with the Englishman claiming he was “too friendly”, but both drivers were also happy with how “fair” the encounter was.
Hamilton told Sky Sports, “I can’t tell you what’s going to happen further in the year – I can’t judge if one’s character will change or not. But drivers in the past didn’t stick to the rules of engagement that we have as a team, and Valtteri and I do.”
Mercedes consistency is “boring” – Vettel
Sebastian Vettel has called Mercedes consistent success “boring.” The German manufacturer has taken for one-twos in the first four races and currently leads the drivers and constructors championship in the best start for a team since 1992.
Vettel told BBC News, “Boring, isn’t it. So boring. It’s not just four races. It has been four years, more or less.” But the German believes Ferrari has the potential to challenge Mercedes this year.
“[We have to] work harder, work better. We are pushing as hard as we can. But you need to respect that they are doing phenomenally well and getting their cars most of the time in the right place.” Vettel, who won four titles between 2010 and 2013 has continuing confidence in the car.
He believes that the team hasn’t managed to get the car where it belongs, but is sure that Ferrari can turn it around. Vettel described it as a Rubik Cube and says they just need to solve it.
The former champion added “We just need to solve it. We have a lot of people who can do the Rubik’s Cube in a couple of minutes. We have really clever people but we are working on a large-size Rubik’s Cube.”
Team boss Mattia Binotto added: “Obviously four races into the season, no win for Ferrari, four wins for Mercedes, no doubt they are very strong. Certainly, they have got a slightly better car, but I think that the gap is not so big and the points are not reflecting the true potential of the cars.”
Binotto who is also the technical director says that the pace shown by Charles Leclerc in qualifying, before crashing out, is evidence of the potential of the team.
Leclerc looked on course for a dominating win in Bahrain, when he suffered an engine problem that dropped him from the lead to third in the closing laps.
The 21-year-old, who finished fifth in Baku on Sunday after starting eighth on the grid, said: “The performance was there to do pole position but it was my mistake. I need to work on these things. I am only on my second season in F1.”
“I think on performance we are not so far [away], in qualifying especially. In the race, they seem to have more for now but we will work and come back stronger.”
Tendering begins standardised parts contracts
The FIA has begun the tendering process for the introduction of standard brake systems and wheel rims which are due to be introduced in 2021 as part of measures to reduce the cost of the sport.
As the sport prepares for new regulations in two years there have been discussions about reducing the cost of areas which only give minimal performance gains. A tender for standard gearboxes was launched, and now two separate invites have been opened for parties interested in supplying brake parts and wheel rims.
The contract is from 2021 until 2024, but this depends on the outcome of the commercial or Concorde Agreement. The tender for brake discs have been split into two, one involves brake pads and friction discs, while the other involves a brake hydraulics systems that comprises of the front and rear brake callipers, a master cylinder and brake by wire components.
The wheel rim tender is for 18-inch rims, with scope for the wheel width to change slightly for 2021. The idea is that each team will be supplied with a minimum of 60 sets for the year.
All tenders must meet the performance currently expected in F1, and that all teams be provided with equal specifications. The submission date for all the tenders is May 22, with the decision of the FIA set to be made on June 14.
F1 managing director Ross Brawn has suggested that the scope for standard parts will extend much further than what has currently been put out for tender.
the FIA has until the end of June to finalise the 2021 technical regulations, although there is some discussion among teams about potentially delaying this move until later in the year.
Monza reaches deal ‘in principle’ until 2024
F1 has announced a deal to secure the Italian Grand Prix at Monza until 2024. A statement from Liberty Media says it has reached an “agreement in principle for a new five-year deal” and it hoped to reach an agreement “as soon as possible”.
Race organisers Italian Automobile Club (ACI) said it had agreed the “economic aspects of the contract”. The length and cost of a new contract have been agreed but the deal has not yet been signed.
The news is what the sport needed saving one of the oldest and most important races which have hosted the race six-eight times since the formation of the world championship in 1950.
Earlier on Tuesday, the organisers of the British Grand Prix denied reports that it had secured a new three-year deal for the race to remain at Silverstone.
Silverstone managing director Stuart Pringle told BBC Sport that “speculation” about the track agreeing on a deal was “premature” but that he was “still in negotiations in the hope of getting one”.
Should a deal be agreed with Silverstone and reports that Zandvoort is nearing a deal, plus the addition of Hanoi next years calendar could feature twenty-two or three races.
No deal reached for Silverstone yet
Silverstone has denied reports that it has agreed on a new deal to keep the British Grand Prix after this year. The Northamptonshire circuit triggered a break clause in 2017, as the BRDC said that it could no longer afford the deal.
On Tuesday, various media outlets in the UK reported that a new deal had been agreed which would see the British Grand Prix stay at Silverstone beyond 2019 are premature, the venue has said, but negotiations continue.
A statement from Silverstone said “Unfortunately there is unsubstantiated news circulating this morning regarding the agreement of a new deal for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. At this time we can confirm that we have not agreed a contract however talks are still progressing.”
They added, “unless a new contractual arrangement can be reached with Liberty, 2019 will be the last year that the British Grand Prix takes place at Silverstone – the only viable venue for a British GP.”
Russell relieved to see back of bizarre Baku
George Russell says that he was relieved to see the end of the difficult weekend at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. The weekend saw the Englishman struggle with illness and the difficulty with his Williams car, as well as an accident in FP1.
Russell arrived in Baku suffering from a respiratory infection, then hit a dislodged drain cover in first practice which caused major damage and forced him to miss FP2 as well. Although he once again out-qualified and outraced teammate Robert Kubica for the fourth race in a row, they were both lapped on a circuit where the team has performed well at in the past.
Russell told Motorsport.com, “t was as good as it could be. We knew coming into this weekend that it would probably be the hardest weekend for us.”
“Put that on top of me being really ill since last week, and then the manhole cover on Friday really ruining all day, and then the guys having to work all day through the night to get the car fixed.”
Teammate Robert Kubica also suffered a difficult weekend, thanks to a combination of his own error and a mistake by the team. Kubica crashed heavily in the first part of qualifying, and Williams opted to start him from the pitlane so it could make suspension set-up changes and fit a different specification of rear heave spring.
However, Kubica then left the garage too early to head to the pitlane exit, which earned him a drive-through penalty. He said, “I was nearly in the wall already in the first braking area. It was a good warning.
“Unfortunately I suffered all weekend with some issues on the braking and on the brake pedal, the car was pulling to one side. I got this big warning, which was kind of a wake-up. And I tried the bring the car home.” Added the Pole.
Zandvoort could return in 2020
Motorsport.com says it has learnt that the Dutch Grand Prix will return to the calendar replacing Barcelona next season. The success of Max Verstappen has seen interest in bringing the race back, with Zandvoort emerging as the best location.
A senior source told Motorsport.com in Baku last weekend that a contract has been now agreed between the F1 organisation and the Zandvoort promoter, but it has not yet been signed, as final details are still to be sorted out.
If as expected Spain drops off the 2020 calendar it would allow Liberty to put Zandvoort into the early May slot, ahead of the Monaco GP. Barcelona is one of five races whose contracts expire after this season, along with Silverstone, Hockenheim, Monza and Mexico City.
Barcelona hasn’t been a race which has been targeted to remain on the calendar. It has also lost government backing and with the retirement of Fernando Alonso, ticket sales have fallen.
It’s understood that the calendar will run, Australia, Bahrain, Vietnam, China, Azerbaijan, Dutch, Monaco, Canada for the early races. Chase Carey is understood to have discussed possible solutions to the logjam in a meeting with team bosses in Baku.
Zandvoort first hosted a World Championship race in 1952, and was a regular fixture on the calendar until 1985, missing only four seasons during that time.
While the circuit facilities requires some work it’s understood that the circuit itself requires little work to meet modern standards for fans and teams.
Asked recently about Zandvoort, where he raced in F3, Lewis Hamilton described the track as “awesome” – but conceded that passing was difficult. Adding “It was an awesome track when I was younger. There wasn’t any overtaking there, so I don’t know how that will be different.”
Haas tyre woes not surprising – Grosjean
Romain Grosjean has described the repeat of Haas’s tyre struggles at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix as “not too surprising” but “f***ing annoying”. The team started the season with the fourth fastest car.
However, the US-owned team has failed to score points since Kevin Magnussen finished sixth in the opening race in Australia, as it failed to convert strong one-lap pace into race performance in Bahrain and China.
In Baku, neither car made it into Q3, with Magnussen finished a distant thirteenth and Grosjean fell out of the points before retiring with a brake problem.
Asked by Motorsport.com, if it was not surprising to struggle in Baku, where Haas had predicted a difficult time, Grosjean said: “Yeah, but f***ing annoying. Somehow not too surprising, but we need to sit down, really have a strong think about what we can do.”
“Barcelona may be warm so that should be fine, but then we have Canada and Monaco and again if we want to fight for fourth or fifth in the constructors’ championship we’ve got to be able to be good in all circumstances.”
The Frenchman says that they need to look into the issues and try and resolve them. Grosjean was running well until he locked up and ran down an escape road, which cost him several positions, he is one of four drivers yet to score a point in 2019, said he “couldn’t really trust the front tyres” during the grand prix.
He added “The pace on the medium was a bit better than maybe what we thought, and I could play a little bit with the guys around,” Grosjean said. “But then I locked up in Turn 15, went straight and came back, but I had to do a pitstop.”
Teams pick tyres for Barcelona
Pirelli has announced the driver’s tyre allocations for the Spanish Grand Prix, for the race in the Catalan capital Barcelona they have brought the harder end of its tyre compounds. The C3 is the red, C2 the medium yellow and C1 the hard white.
Both Mercedes have gone for eight sets of softs, while Lewis Hamilton has gone for three mediums and two hards. Teammate Valtteri Bottas has four mediums and a hard. Ferrari, Renault and Alfa Romeo have gone for nine softs.
Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen have three mediums and a hard. While teammates Charles Leclerc, Nico Hulkenberg and Antonio Giovinazzi have two of both the mediums and hard.
Red Bull and Williams have chosen seven softs for both its drivers. With Max Verstappen, Pierre Gasly and Robert Kubica having four mediums and two hards, while Kubica teammate George Russell had five mediums and a hard.
Haas has gone for eight softs, with Romain Grosjean going for three mediums and two hards, teammate Kevin Magnussen has four mediums and a hard. Both McLaren’s and Racing Point’s have eight softs. The McLaren’s have two mediums and three hards.
Both Toro Rosso’s have eight softs, with Daniil Kvyat having four mediums and a hard. Teammate Alex Albon has three mediums and two hards.