Bottas will not suffer another slump
Mercedes F1 CEO and team principal Toto Wolff trusts Valtteri Bottas will not suffer another confidence slump this season, despite another weekend where a good result slipped away.
The Finn looked strong during practice for last weekends Monaco Grand Prix, but lost out in the fight for pole position when dealing with traffic on his out-lap in Q3 meant his tyres were not in the best shape. While the chance of fighting for the win was over, after clashing with Max Verstappen in the pits and suffered a puncture.
Having slipped to seventeen points behind Hamilton in the title standings, the momentum of his championship campaign has begun to slow – and it was that scenario last year that triggered a drop away in his form. But Wolff believed that Bottas is a changed man and there was no danger of him losing the confidence.
Asked by Motorsport.com, how Bottas would deal with the Monaco disappointment, Wolff said: “Valtteri 2019 is going to get out of it stronger. I think he has shown huge resilience and determination in these last races.”
“The speed was mind-boggling [on Saturday] and I have no doubt about this, that it’s going to annoy the hell out of him, and he’s going to come back very, very strong in Montreal.” While Bottas was disappointed about the puncture, he was worried that another stop would put him to the back of the field.
The Finn added “So, unlucky but lucky at the same time. It could have been a lot worse. Still, important points, obviously disappointing going backwards from where you start from – but sometimes it goes like this.”
Hamilton’s “average” form
Lewis Hamilton has warned that his form this season has only been “average”, despite leading the championship. The Englishman has made his best start to the season since 2014 as he chases down a sixth world title.
Although team-mate Valtteri Bottas has matched Hamilton in qualifying so far this season. Speaking to Sky Sports following his win in Monaco, he said, “I definitely feel that it’s been quite an average performance from myself, maybe above average, but generally quite average for the first six races.”
“I feel like I’ve got the best I could get. I’ve arrived prepared – the best prepared I could be – but in terms of extracting the true performance from the car, I feel like I’ve struggled a little bit in these six races.” Monaco was also Hamilton’s first pole since Melbourne.
The combination of 2019’s new cars and tyres have made fine-tuning set-ups difficult across the field so far this season and Hamilton says he still has work to do.
He added, “I guess that’s kind of similar to other seasons but without doubt it’s going to improve as the knowledge you gain over the season race by race, particularly with the tyres this year, where the window is even smaller.”
Hamilton does hope that things will get better and the issues he had will not prevent him from returning to form.
Honda confident of step forward to a title challenge
Honda is optimistic that its latest engine is capable of lasting seven races, an important step in its attempt to produce a title challenging power unit. The Japanese manufacturer introduced a second power unit in Baku, after successfully bringing forward a reliability upgrade.
In the three races since, no issues have been reported by Red Bull or Toro Rosso, giving Honda’s technical director Toyoharu Tanabe the believes this engine is now capable of making it through seven races. That means they would hit the target for three engines for twenty-one races and get through the season penalty free
Although the early introduction of Honda’s Spec 2 engine means Red Bull and Toro Rosso are poised for grid penalties, as they will not be able to complete the season with only one more engine.
Asked by Motorsport.com Tanabe said, “if this engine could complete seven races. I think, yes I hope yes. We will see. It always depends on how you use it.”
“If you use it very easily you can achieve high mileage. If you push hard, it’s shorter mileage. We’re looking for a balance. We try to achieve the mileage, a range of 5,000km or 6,000km. It’s not simple, it’s very complicated.”
To put that into context both Mercedes have managed around 4,500km each during the first six weekends with one engine. The germane manufacturer is expected to introduce a second engine in June.
Tanabe admitted that as far as Honda making it to the summer break without another change “unfortunately it looks like no”. That means Honda will either need to supply its drivers with a fresh Spec 2 engine or bring forward its second upgrade.
Tanabe said he is hopeful the next change would tie in with an upgrade but said that “depends on when”. He says that could be sooner if there were to be an engine failure.
Toro Rosso got the result it deserved – Albon
Alex Albon says that Monaco was the first time that Toro Rosso finally fulfilled its potential. The British-Thai driver made it through to Q3 and finished the race eighth, behind his own teammate Daniil Kvyat.
Both drivers beat the team’s previous season best of ninth, and it was also the first time this year that both made the points. The result allowed Toro Rosso to overtake both Renault and Alfa Romeo in the constructors’ championship.
Albon says that following recent frustrations that in Monaco the team got everything right. He told Motorsport.com, “Top 10 for us, that’s pretty much all we can ask for.”
“I think this is the first weekend where we’ve come away with the points we deserve as a team. As a team effort from the beginning of the weekend to the end, we did everything we were supposed to, and it went very well.”
Albon had been sixth in FP2 on Thursday and believes he could have started higher up the grid. He added, “The weekend started off well, and then I just lost the rhythm a bit in qualifying.”
“Like most teams, I found it just felt different out there, with that day in between. It just took a while – maybe inexperience – to adapt my driving to the track.” But says not scoring points was a same, because the team looked strong.
Racing Point has a “good fix”
Racing Point’s team principal Otmar Szafnauer says that the team will have a “good fix” for its qualifying issues for the upcoming Canadian Grand Prix, following the struggles in Monaco.
In Monaco, both Sergio Perez and teammate Lance Stroll failed to make it out of Q1 in Monte Carlo, finishing sixteenth and seventeenth quickest. Szafnauer says the team now understands the problem was related to the tyres and is optimistic it can bounce back.
Speaking to Motorsport.com, Szafnauer said, “We know what went wrong in qualifying, and hope we’ll have a good fix for it in Canada. It’s all in the tyres.”
“We just have to learn. Even Mercedes, as you saw, they almost lost it due to the tyres. We’ll get there, I have no doubt. We’ll recover, that’s what we’re good at.” Racing Point made a strong start to the season, however, since the update in Barcelona has not scored points.
Szafnauer says the team lost its chance of scoring points in Monaco with a poor qualifying session. Saying “Our expectations were definitely higher, and once we got it wrong in qualifying, it was very hard to recover.”
He says that the team’s race pace was decent, but the lack of overtaking opportunities held up the team, with Perez losing around six seconds in the traffic jam at Rascasse.
Lauda “very good friend” to Hunt
Freddie Hunt says that his father James, and three times champion Nikki Lauda were “very good friends” and “far closer” than what was portrayed in the film Rush. The Mercedes chairman and three times champion was laid to rest in Vienna on Wednesday.
The film depicted the 1976 season as an intense and unsavoury battle between the two as they fought for the title. However, Hunt insisted the rivalry was overplayed and that Lauda remained friends with his father until his death following the 1993 Canadian Grand Prix.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Hunt said, “The reality was they were far closer friends than what was portrayed in the movie. They were very good friends – I think they even shared a flat together at one point during their F3 days.”
“They were two young guys growing up through the racing ranks together. They maintained their friendship for the rest of my father’s life.” Freddie who is racing at Le Mans in a few weeks time, says that Lauda was always supportive and gave him good advice.
He added, “It’s very sad to lose him, very sad indeed”
Lauda’s funeral took place in the Austrian capital Vienna on Wednesday, with several of the F1 paddock in attendance. It was a chance for F1 to say farewell to one of its leading lights.