Hamilton reflects on 2020
Lewis Hamilton has given his first interview to Sky Sports after surpassing Michael Schumacher’s ninety-one wins, and to mark Black History Month. Victory at Imola this weekend could allow him to secure a seventh title in Istanbul in two weeks.
He said, “You want to look back and say I was a part of something much bigger than myself, than my team, than the sport, and I did it with a whole group of people and a lot of force against us, but also a lot of force because there was many of us pushing in the same direction”
This year has been one where racial equality along with the pandemic has been high on the agenda, Hamilton has made it his aim to make F1 a more diverse place into the future.
As Hamilton, F1’s first and only black driver, explains: “If I stop talking about it, if I stop taking a knee at the forefront, at the pinnacle of motorsport, if I stop wearing this mask (Black Lives Matter) reminding that this is still an issue, then it will just go back to normal and this will be in 10, 20 years the same layout that it’s always been.”
The Englishman says that we need to make a stand, as well as being part of the solution in shifting it for the future. He believes that winning more races than any other driver in F1 means nothing, unless you can do something with the platform.
Speaking about the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis by police officers in May which sparked global protests, he said, “brought a lot of emotion that I had suppressed since the age of five.” Hamilton then attended a protest march in London, despite a government ban.
Since the start of the season in July, he has been one of sport’s most prominent and passionate voices in the fight against discrimination but insists it was only natural. Hamilton says “I’ve never been afraid of standing up for what I believe.”
Hamilton says at times in his life he has been forced to keep quiet, and that doesn’t inspire anyone.
Speaking about the bring attention to other instances of police brutality and racial violence, and added: “For me, when I felt those emotions, I don’t want my niece and nephew to feel what I feel, as mixed-race kids, growing up.
Verstappen apologies for ableist language
Max Verstappen has apologised for using ableist language over the team radio at the Portuguese Grand Prix. The Red Bull driver used words which are seen as offensive about disabled people at Racing Point’s Lance Stroll after the two crashed.
Verstappen struggled off the comments, but in his press briefing ahead of Verstappen shrugged it off, but has now issued a public apology before this weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
The incident happened in FP2 when the Dutchman let Stroll past him at the end of the previous lap and then tried to pass the Canadian at the start of the next as the Red Bull driver was beginning a flying lap. Verstappen dived for the inside of Stroll at Turn One but the Racing Point driver turned in and they hit each other.
Verstappen said, “It happened in the heat of the moment. I know the words I used were not correct. I never meant to offend anyone.”
“Of course I was swearing at Lance but then I saw him straight away after and that’s what racing drivers are, we can be angry with each other but five minutes later and we look each other in the eyes, it can be forgotten.”
“Things get heated up from the outside. I never meant to hurt anyone. I also know it was not correct but I cannot change it but of course, you learn from it and we will do better.”
Verstappen has been spoken to by both team principal Christian Horner and motorsport adviser Helmut Marko. He added on German television that the team had advised Verstappen the remarks he used were not acceptable.
Horner said during the press briefing, “They were made in the heat of the moment when emotions were running high. Max did not mean to cause offence.”
Ferrari against engine freeze
Ferrari has made clear it is ‘firmly against’ the idea of an engine freeze from the start of 2022, despite Red Bull pushing for the plan. Red Bull is pushing for the freeze after Honda decided to quit at the end of 2021, indicating it not to look elsewhere for a replacement power unit.
Red Bull wants to do a deal with Honda to allow it to take over its engine programme, maybe in partnership with someone else, and then run the power units itself until new rules come in to play by 2026 at the latest.
However, for Red Bull to able to take on the engine programme, the team wants a complete freeze on development because it cannot afford the huge expense of improving its performance against the might of manufacturers like Mercedes and Ferrari.
For that to happen, it would need support from all the teams and Ferrari could veto that change because of its technical veto overrules as part of the new F1 Concorde Agreement.
While team principal Mattia Binotto would not comment on the freeze last week, company CEO Louis Camilleri has emphatically ruled out any support for the plan.
He believes that with the FIA pushing for a greater use of biofuels over the next few years, it will be impossible not to allow engine development to take place.
Camilleri told Gazzetta dello Sport, “I think it is important to emphasise that the current rules already provide for freezing in 2023. Plus, F1 has ambitious goals in terms of sustainability”:
“Already from 2022, the regulations provide for the introduction of a fuel with a 10 percent ethanol content, but the FIA wants to reach 100 per cent as soon as possible: ideally the following year. This inevitably involves the development of some engine components.”
He says that he is not convinced that Honda walking away is a warning sign that the sport needs to change direction with its power units, risking other manufactures walking away.
Adding, “I do not believe that it will happen, but it will accelerate the need to define the main characteristics of the power unit of the future.”
Alfa Romeo confirms unchanged line-up
Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi will remain at the Alfa Romeo team for the third consecutive year in 2021. Raikkonen, who at forty-one this year broke the record for the number of Grand Prix starts, will be going into his 19th season in F1.
Giovinazzi has done enough to convince Ferrari, who control one of the Alfa seats, to keep him in a drive. He is also Ferrari’s reserve driver. Alfa Romeo said the line-up highlighted the team’s “commitment to continuity”.
On Thursday it was announced, Alfa Romeo name will remain in F1 next season after the Italian car company extended its deal with the Sauber team by one year. Team principal, Frederic Vasseur said: “I still see the passion and motivation in Kimi every time I see him at work.”
“He can be trusted to deliver 100% of what the car can produce and he is a true leader for the people working around him. Antonio finished last year’s campaign strongly and he picked up where he left off and kept improving throughout 2020.”
Vasseur says that Giovinazzi has played a key role in the team and deserved a new contract for 2021, adding “His work ethic, commitment to the team and contagious enthusiasm are a huge asset.”
Alfa Romeo are eighth in the constructors’ championship with five races to go this season and have spent much of 2020 battling towards the back of the field with Williams and Haas. Supplied by Ferrari, they have also struggled to get performance from the engine.
Giovinazzi added, “The team has put a lot of faith in me and I have done my best to repay this confidence with hard work and commitment: we have achieved some good results and I feel I have done my part to make the team progress, but the road ahead is still long and there is much more we want to achieve together.”
Gasly “surprised” not to be considered
Pierre Gasly says he is “surprised” not to have been considered for a return to Red Bull’s senior team for 2021 following his Monza win, but insists he is “not disappointed”.
On Thursday it was announced the Frenchman would remain at Alpha Tauri for a second consecutive season in 2021, he also raced with the team for five races in 2017 and in 2018 before his promotion to Red Bull for what turned about to be a difficult half-season with the team alongside Max Verstappen.
Following his maiden win at the Italian Grand Prix, where he became the second driver to win in the team’s history after Sebastian Vettel, Gasly said he was ready for a Red Bull return.
When asked by Motorsport.com if he was disappointed not to have been promoted back to Red Bull for next season, Gasly said: “I’m not disappointed, I will say I’m just surprised. In 14 years, Seb won a race with Toro Rosso, I’m the only other driver who won race.”
“Seb got promoted to Red Bull and won four titles with the team. So I’m just surprised I was not really considered. I’ve had two podiums with Toro Rosso, I think this season is going alright and, on my side, the only thing I can do is try and put some strong performances to give to me opportunities in the future.”
Gasly says that all he can do is perform, and his focus was on this weekend and trying to get the best result I can here.
Williams sorry for confusion and confirms drivers
Williams has confirmed that both George Russell and Nicolas Latifi will remain with the team next year, ending speculation the team’s new owners could make a late move for Sergio Perez.
Both drivers were under contract but following a change of ownership after the sale to Dorilton Capital, there had been speculation that one of them could be released to make way for the Mexican. Perez himself was released from his contract with Racing Point, to allow them to sign Sebastian Vettel.
Earlier in the week, Russell accused Perez’s management of fuelling reports of him losing his seat, with Simon Roberts, Williams’ acting team principal, who said at Portimao “I’m not going to say anything about either of our drivers.”
Roberts speaking in today’s press conference ahead of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix apologised for causing confusion and re-confirmed both drivers.
He said, “I probably caused a bit of confusion last week, I’m sorry about that. We didn’t really want to comment on the driver position but we made the announcement earlier this year, nothing has changed and this is our driver line-up for this year and next year.”
The announcement ends the rumours that Perez could be replacing either Russell or Latifi. It means in theory Red Bull is his is only real option, as they are yet to confirm Max Verstappen’s team-mate, and pressure is growing on Alex Albon.
Rising coronavirus cases forces F1 behind closed doors
This weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola will now take place behind closed doors as Italy sees rising cases of Coronavirus. It had been hoped to allow 13,000 spectators into the track on Saturday and Sunday but the rise of coronavirus cases across Italy has forced a U-turn.
The government has banned crowds at events among a raft of other measures to slow the spread of the virus. F1 said it “understands and respects the decision taken by the authorities”.
The Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari is externing to the F1 calendar for the first time since 2006.
It held twenty-seven consecutive races from 1980 until 2006, first as a one-off stand-in for Monza as the host of the Italian Grand Prix and then from 1981 as a second race in the country with the title San Marino Grand Prix.
As an experiment, the weekend will be over two days, with a ninety-minute FP1 session on Saturday morning before qualifying in the afternoon.
F1 reports nine new Covid cases
F1’s latest Coronavirus update for the period Friday 23rd October and Thursday 29th October, 4,281 tests have been performed on drivers, teams and personnel. Of these, nine people tested positive, that is a rise of one on the last few weeks.
Racing Point today announced that so far this season seven people have tested positive, including drivers Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll as well as co-owner Lawrence Stroll.
Asked how many Covid-19 cases the team have had, he said: “We had no engineers, I said that last week and will say it again – I don’t know where, why and how people think we had a positive test with an engineer – no engineer has tested positive.
Bad governance to change penalty points mid-season
FIA race director Michael Masi says the stewards have not ignored the request to review of the penalty points system. He believes that to change the system mid midseason be bad governance.
Points hit the headlines in Russia when Lewis Hamilton gained two for his pre-race practice starts offences, temporarily putting him on 10 for the past year. However, the steward rescinded the points after accepting it was Mercedes mistake which caused Hamilton to start where he did.
At Portimão on Sunday, Lance Stroll, Daniil Kvyat and Romain Grosjean each earned a penalty point in addition to a time penalty for logging more than three track limits offences in the race. Drivers are calling for a review saying that penalty points should only be given for driving offensives.
However, he stressed that a review will take place over the winter, leading to possible changes in how the points are awarded next year. The stewards operate from a “menu” of points allocations that are automatically triggered when drivers are found guilty of certain offences.
They have significance because a driver who gains 12 in a calendar year will be subject to a one-race ban. Masi insisted that the Portimao track limits points were not a sign that the stewards have ignored the pleas to focus on safety issues, he told Motorsport.com, “No, I don’t think that is fair to say firstly.”
“Secondly, and this has been discussed with all of the drivers involved, is that at the start of each year the FIA and all of the team sporting directors actually sit down and review the penalty table, and the penalty guidelines that the stewards actually use, and generally come to a consensus on the penalties and the associated penalty points.”
Masi says they are always get reviewed annually, and have been discussed at drivers’ meetings and said we will do the same review again for 2021. He admitted that track limits are something that’s been ongoing for a while, and there was not a simple solution.
The weekend ahead
Formula One heads to Imola for the first time since 2006, this will be interesting we only have one practice session on Saturday morning and that doesn’t give a lot of time to learn the circuit.
Everyone expect Kimi Raikkonen is heading into there first F1 race at Imola, many have been racing here in the junior categories. We have a ninety-minute session, this is being viewed as a test event a model we could be the future as we look to more races around the world.
Mercedes can wrap up the constructor’s championship this weekend if Lewis Hamilton wins it means he could mathematically win the drivers title in Istanbul. I think they are likely to be the favourites; this is a high-speed track where overtaking is difficult.
I think while this is high speed its not like Monza or Mugello, which could allow Ferrari to build on the strong weekend in Portimão. But the question remains about how much downforce the team has and power on the long straights.
The midfield battle will be again lead by Racing Point, they have performed well throughout this short season, but we know on track the battle between themselves, Renault and McLaren has been close. This is a very important battle financially for them.
You can join us for LIVE coverage of this weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix via Twitter @FormulaOneVault with Qualifying 12:45/13:45 and race coverage on Sunday, 12:40/11:40 lights out 13:10 / 12:10