Hamilton better than ever – Wolff
Mercedes CEO and Team Principal Toto Wolff believes that Lewis Hamilton is driving better than ever, and would not be surprised if the Englishman continued to raise the bar next season.
Hamilton wrapped up his fifth title with fourth place in the Mexican Grand Prix, in what has been described as his most impressive season in Formula One so far. When asked by ESPN, if Hamilton was performing at his best, Wolff replied: “Yes, this is the best Lewis I’ve seen in the last six years.”
“He’s driven better, he’s been better out of the car. Very, very complete. But as we try to reach for more it’s never completely complete.” Mercedes have given Hamilton freedom away from F1 to work on his fashion and music interests, the British driver has said he feels invigorated by the opportunities he is allowed to pursue away from F1. Wolff thinks that is a formula which will keep creating success if it remains unchanged.
He believes that Hamilton has more to come as long as he is in a good car. Hamilton now equals the Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio, who won two of his five world titles with Mercedes in the 1950s before it withdrew from the sport.
However, Wolff refuses to compare Hamilton and Fangio, saying “I think that his ability of combining talent with hard work, intellect and emotional intelligence. All great champions have all four of them. If one is missing, you can still be a successful racing driver but you’re never going to achieve this greatness.”
Vettel says 2018 “definitely” most difficult
Sebastian Vettel says that in some ways 2018 has “definitely” been his most difficult season in F1, after losing the title to Lewis Hamilton. Vettel’s championship hopes formally came to an end after the Mercedes driver pulled over fifty points ahead in the championship with fourth in Mexico.
The German’s season started to derail at his home race where he crashed out while leading, that was followed by an number of errors in the second half of the season. Asked by Motorsport.com, if this has been his most difficult year in F1, Vettel said: “Maybe, I don’t know – I need to think about it but in some regards, definitely yes. It was definitely different to other years.”
“Nevertheless I think we shouldn’t neglect the fact that we had a very strong package, we were able to win races, we’re not in contention any more for the drivers’ Championship but we can fight for the constructors’.”
“So, even if it has been a difficult year, I think still it’s been a good year for us as a team. We’re still improving – but certainly, there were also things that became apparent that need fixing in order to do that final step that we are looking for.”
That mistake at Hockenheim, sliding off the track on slick tyres in wet conditions contributed to the biggest swing this season towards Hamilton. But spins in Monza and Suzuka, as well has a first lap collision in Austin all put him further behind.
However, the four-time world champion said the errors were not as significant as Mercedes’ ability to establish a pace advantage from Singapore onwards.
Asked if Germany or Italy was the defining moment of the season, “None of the two, to be honest, for me it was more Singapore. From Singapore onwards, we just didn’t have the pace to keep up with Mercedes for a couple of races, and then obviously some other things happened on top that didn’t help.”
Haas did due diligence over Rich Energy
Haas’s team principal Guenther Steiner has defended the teams’ sponsorship deal with the energy drink brand Rich Energy, insisting the Formula 1 team has done its due diligence.
Rich Energy failed in its bid to buy Force India over the summer, and in Austin CEO William Storey held a meeting with Steiner in the paddock on Sunday morning and was also seen in conversation with Williams and McLaren.
Last week, the team announced that Rich Energy would become the teams title sponsor for 2019 and confirmed its cars would be painted in the company’s black and gold colours. However, there are questions about the viability and Rich’s ability to finance the commitment.
Steiner, when asked by Motorsport.com, said: “Your due diligence you don’t do with the person there, there’s some other ways to do that. We did what we need to do. We needed to do it before we met him. Why do you doubt that?”
“Obviously we did what we needed to do, and our legal advisors were content with that.” Gene Haas, the teams owner, was also been reluctant to take on third party branding, as he uses F1 to promote his own machine tools company.
But Steiner believes that going into the teams fourth season in F1, that Haas was an established team and if they had done it sooner the team would have been if it had a title sponsor.
Steiner said the livery was not finalised but that Haas had “seen some schemes”, and would not be drawn on whether Rich Energy would provide “extra” funding or allow the team to scale down its own investment accordingly.
Kubica linked to Ferrari development role
Robert Kubica could join Ferrari from Williams as a development driver if he doesn’t get a race seat with the British team for 2019. The Pole hasn’t given up on what would be a remarkable return to a race seat in F1.
Kubica suffered career and life-changing injuries in a rally accident in 2011 and has not raced in F1 since. But his recovery has seen him test for both Renault and Williams, this season his financial backing secured him a test and reserve driver at Williams.
Kubica is believed to be on the teams’ list to fill the second seat alongside Mercedes backed George Russell, however, Williams needs to commercialise its second seat and while Kubica is believed to have access to more funding than before it is not enough to plug a gap.
According to Autosport, they have been told that Williams may need up to £20 million. While the Grand Prix winner has indicated that he is not willing to wait too long for Williams to make a decision, like this year.
Kubica is understood to have had discussions over a simulator position with Ferrari, which needs to replace Antonio Giovinazzi and Daniil Kvyat because its 2018 development drivers have secured ’19 F1 drives with Sauber and Toro Rosso respectively.
Kubica would not be a reserve driver at Ferrari because Giovinazzi would be called up from Sauber should either Sebastian Vettel or Charles Leclerc be unavailable.
Kubica was poised to replace Felipe Massa in 2012, before his accident.
Teams go for supersofts for Brazil
Pirelli has announced the driver’s tyre allocations for next weekend’s penultimate round of the season, the Brazilian Grand Prix. For the race at Interlagos, in Sao Paulo, they have nominated two of the softest compounds the supersoft and soft as well as the mediums.
Both Mercedes, Red Bull’s, Williams’s, Haas’s and Sauber’s have gone for nine sets of the supersoft tyres. With Lewis Hamilton, Daniel Ricciardo, Sergey Sirotkin, Pierre Gasly, Romain Grosjean and Charles Leclerc going for three softs and a medium.
Their respective teammates, Valtteri Bottas, Max Verstappen, Lance Stroll, Kevin Magnussen and Marcus Ericsson have gone for two of both the soft and mediums.
Ferrari has varied its selection between its drivers, Sebastian Vettel has nine supersofts, three softs and a medium. While his teammate Kimi Raikkonen has eight supersofts, three softs and two mediums.
Both McLaren’s have seven supersofts, four softs and two mediums. Both Renaults have eight supersofts, with Carlos Sainz going for four softs and a medium, and teammate Nico Hulkenberg going for three softs and two mediums.
Both Toro Rosso’s have eight supersofts, with Pierre Gasly going for three softs and two medium, and Brendon Hartley having four softs and a medium.