Reporters – 02/12/2018

Features Reporters

Sauber has been one of the stand out performers this season and went into the final race of the season fighting for fifth. This season the team has been one of there best in recent years, but what was behind it?

Sauber progress not because of upgrades – Leclerc

Charles Leclerc says that Sauber’s progress in the second part of the season is due to set up work rather than upgrades because the team stopped developing the C37 early.

Sauber started the year at the back, but has managed to move itself towards being a regular top ten threat. That has allowed the team to fight in the constructors with both McLaren and Force India, and goes into this weekends Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in the position to fight for fifth mathematically, but more realistically sixth.

Speaking to Motorsport.com, the Ferrari bound Leclerc said, “The baseline of the car this year is good, I just think in the first three races we didn’t use the full potential.”

“Once we understood how to balance this car we really did a huge step up. Then we made some improvements during the season also that made it even better. The car is very impressive compared to last year, you can see that in the results.”

“We have stopped the updates on the car since quite a bit [of time ago] and we are still keeping the same performance, as are the teams that are trying to push a little bit.”

 

Could the popularity of Max Verstappen really drive the return of the Dutch Grand Prix? But what is driving renewed popularity of racing in Holland and the ‘Verstappen factor’?

Verstappen factor key to Dutch GP

Formula One is hoping that the popularity of Max Verstappen could help with bringing back the Dutch Grand Prix. Speaking at the weekend, commercial managing director Sean Bratches said “We are very interested in racing in Holland.”

Local media reports have suggested a deal for 2020 could be on the table. Verstappen is seen as a future world champion, has a huge national following as the country’s most successful Formula One driver. Bratches told Reuters “We are very interested in racing in Holland.”

“We are having productive conversations there and I am cautiously optimistic we can do something to surprise and delight fans in that territory and take advantage of the Max factor,” he added.

Zandvoort last held a race in 1985, and a return to the circuit would alleviate fears about the sport distancing itself from its European past, with other ‘heritage circuits’ facing an uncertain future.

Liberty Media, recently announced Vietnam will host a grand prix in Hanoi for the first time in 2020 and is aiming to expand the calendar beyond the current 21 races.

However financial concerns mean that fears remain about the British, German and Italian Grand Prix’s, as the contract expires at the end of 2019.

Those were put into sharper focus when Formula One chairman Chase Carey told a Liberty Media investor meeting last week that “we expect to replace a few existing races where we inherited unattractive agreements, with new events or agreements that are better for racing and provide more value.”

 

Punchgate was one of the talking points after Brazil, the altercation between Max Verstappen and Esteban Ocon continued to be talked about in Abu Dhabi. But why does Sebastian Vettel believe emotional rollercoaster of a grand prix make it hard to judge?

Emotions hard to judge after races – Vettel

Sebastian Vettel believes that it is hard for non-racing drivers to judge the emotional rollercoaster of a grand prix weekends following the off-track altercation between Max Verstappen and Esteban Ocon after the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Verstappen tracked down Ocon after the race and repeatedly shoved him in the chest before storming off. The incident was investigated by the stewards of the race and Verstappen was given a penalty of “public service”.

Asked by ESPN, Vettel initially said “I mean, I have an opinion and I’m not sure I should say what I think. I think in the end it’s very simple.”

“I think we have emotions, we are human beings and emotions go both ways. They go full of joy when something good happens and you’re happy and they probably swing the other way if you’re not happy or upset.

Vettel was the subject of an FIA investigation last year after he drove his Ferrari into the side of Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes under a Safety Car in Baku.

Pushed to give his opinion on the events in Brazil, he said it is hard for those who do not race to understand the emotions at play during and after a race. Vettel says that the drivers are only human and they are full of joy when it goes right and in the other way if you’re not happy or upset.

He added, “There’s a lot at stake and I think that explains the emotions and, as I said, I think emotions are a part of sports I think they will always be.”

 

Honda has made a big step forward this season, while McLaren hasn’t made the step forward they were hoping for. Despite McLaren’s woes and Honda’s progress to allow Toro Rosso to fight, McLaren’s chairman Sheikh Mohammed bin Essa Al Khalifa says he doesn’t regret it, but why?

McLaren has no regrets about splitting from Honda

The chairman of the McLaren Group Sheikh Mohammed bin Essa Al Khalifa says he has no regrets about splitting from Honda and switching to Renault for this season.

However, Al Khalifa did admit  admitted it was “an expensive decision” but added: “It was in the long-term interests of the company.” Despite switching to Renault, which proved to be a race winning engine in the Red Bull, McLaren finished last of the Renault powered cars.

Red Bull believe the Honda engine ended the season with more performance than the Renault and are hopeful of a step up in competitiveness for 2019 which will allow them to challenge world champions Mercedes, and Ferrari more closely.

McLaren went into 2018 believing that their chassis was on par with Red Bull, however, the team’s chassis made them unable to challenge the top three. On average they had the second slowest car on the grid.

They managed to finish sixth in the constructors’ championship largely thanks to Fernando Alonso’s driving. But the team has recognised their car and design team were not as good as they thought they were.

Sheikh Mohammed is the chairman of the McLaren Group, and the representative of its majority and controlling shareholder, the Mumtalakat investment fund of the Bahraini government.

He told BBC News “On the one hand, (it was) frustrating. On the other, we are committed to this. The way we were heading, the change was bound to come. Tremendous respect for Honda but the relationship wasn’t working and so we had a civilised discussion and we decided to part ways.”

The decision cost the team £78.7m, which includes the loss of Honda investment, as well as paying Renault for engines. That is an ongoing cost, only a small part of which has so far been recovered by attracting new sponsors.

CEO and team principal Zak Brown said he was “confident we have identified our personnel and structure that ultimately led to our technical issues”. This season, the three man technical team Tim Goss and directors of engineering and racing Matt Morris and Eric Boullier have all resigned within four months.

McLaren has signed James Key from Toro Rosso as their new technical director but the Englishman cannot start work until an unspecified date next year. Former IndyCar driver Gil de Ferran was appointed in July as sporting director.

 

2018 has been unluckily and difficult for Valtteri Bottas, while his teammate Lewis Hamilton sealed his fifth title, he has failed to win. But why does Mercedes boss Toto Wolff believe that Bottas “disappearing” will help him?

Bottas told to “disappear” by Wolff

Mercedes F1 CEO and team principal Toto Wolff has told Valtteri Bottas to “disappear” over the winter to help him recover from his disappointing season.

The Finn was the only driver of the top three teams not to have won a race this season, having been robbed by a late puncture in Baku and then having victory in Russia taken away from him through team orders.

Bottas has been open since the summer break, admitting that this season has been his most disappointing in F1.

Wolff, who also manages Bottas, was asked by Motorsport.com how Bottas could reset after the year, Wolff said: “He said to me that he just wants to disappear back home, recharge the battery. Forget, recover and recuperate, and then come back next year. I think it has just been very long. I can understand his frustrations.”

Bottas believes that he hopes that his month off will help him recover mental energy lost during the season. Saying “I will have four weeks to reflect on the season, and gather some mental energy which was lost this year.”

Wolff believes that Bottas’ season fell apart once it became clear that he was no longer in championship contention. Saying “Speaking with the drivers, once the championship opportunity has been taken away, there is a drop and I think we’ve seen that this year.”

Bottas has confessed that stages of this season were hard to deal with when incidents and bad luck robbed him of good results. Bottas added, “It was a pretty exhausting season, as I had big targets for the year in terms of result and goals.”

“Once those proved to be impossible at some point in the season there was many many failures for me, one after another, and it was just kind of building up. So it was difficult sometimes to deal with.

 

That’s all from this edition of Reporters, goodbye

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.

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