Reporters – 04/04/2021

Features Reporters
Pierre Gasly wrote a very powerful piece reflecting on the rebirth at Monza last year following the death of friend Anthoine Hurbert at Spa in 2019. He speaks in his own words about the emotional roller-coaster around that weekend but how has he managed to be reborn?

Spa 2019 in Gasly’s own words

Pierre Gasly has written an article for Players Tribune about the 2019 Belgian Grand Prix and the death of close friend, Anthoine Hurbert. The French driver says there was a lot he wanted to say about that weekend which changed his life forever, saying “the day my old life ended, and a new one began.”

Going into that weekend the Frenchman had been replaced by Red Bull and swapped seats with Alex Albon. He says he had arrived back in the garage after the round of interviews to watch the first few laps of the Formula Two race, saying “I always make sure to keep an eye on one of my best friends, Anthoine Hubert.”

Watching the start and on the second lap the images cut to a mess of debris at the top of Eau Rouge, seeing those image he said “I knew right away it was bad. I just knew. There were car parts all over, and I knew that on that part of the track, those cars would have been going over 250 kmh. If something goes wrong at that speed, it goes very wrong.”

He says that his first thought was this was bad and whoever was involved would be out for the rest of 2019, but then seeing the red flag he then tough the driver was seriously hurt. But “In my heart, though, I could feel something was deeply wrong — my body just knew.”

“So, I asked our team manager to let me know as soon as he heard who’d been involved. As our debrief began, I tried to focus on gear ratios, braking points and strategy, but my mind couldn’t process any of the information.”

“I just wasn’t there. That’s when our manager cut in. O.K., it looks like it was Hubert and Correa who were involved in the crash. We don’t know anything else right now.” Gasly described Hurbert as the quickest kid in France, the two had grown up together through the junior formulae since 2005.

They went to school together leaving home aged thirteen to a school run by the French national governing body, base at Le Mans. He says that was a big commitment but “Basically my whole life, all I ever wanted to be was a Formula 1 driver. I knew that that was what I wanted to do. And I’m an all-in type of guy. You need to know that about me. I either do something 100% or I don’t do it at all.”

Gasly also says that Hurbert’s strict self-discipline was there from an early age, which taught him self discipline, and together after spending most of our time together. We’d push each other to be better.

The two were the only two boys who wouldn’t go home on the weekend, but their peers would go home. But the acceptance that French boys just don’t make it. And it seemed like everyone around the sport just had to remind us at every step that we weren’t going to get there.

“Their doubt and our belief bonded us. We both knew what sort of sacrifices we had made, that our families had made, to get us to where we were. If I’m being completely honest, I think, deep down, Anthoine and I both thought we weren’t going to make it. The odds truly were not in our favour.”

At Spa, Gasly believes that he was beginning a new chapter and felt he was “on my upward trajectory and eventually become world champion. But being put back in the middle of the pack at Toro Rosso, I felt like I was evolving out of the old Pierre”

 

Read the full article by Gasly

 

Mick Schumacher made one of the most anticipated Formula One debuts in history last weekends in Bahrain. Going into that weekend he spoke to the BBC, saying that it was a journey full of possibilities.
Schumacher prepares for anticipated debut

Mick Schumacher makes one of the most anticipated Formula One debuts in history this weekend. The twenty-two-year old’s debut has long been seen as a question of when not if, the son of seven times champion Michael has had an impressive junior career.

Mick will have the eyes of the world on him this year like perhaps no other debutant in F1 ever has before. But if that adds weight as he embarks on the most difficult challenge of his life, you will not know it.

In an interview with the BBC broadcast on Monday, he was asked how he handles carrying the legacy of his father back into F1, he said, “It is motivation and pride. I am happy to be here; I am happy to have brought back the Schumacher name into F1.”

“I have done it with championships on my back so we have proven I am able to drive a race car. So I don’t feel a blink of pressure from it.” Schumacher seems optimistic ahead of a life long dream, and a journey full of possibilities.

Adding “It’s an amazing feeling being with the team and knowing this is it and I’m getting close to my first race in F1. I got my pass – you know, the proper red F1 pass – and I was like, ‘Woah!’”

“I remember seeing my dad having one and I was always, like, I wanted one, but obviously I didn’t get one. I have one now and it’s amazing and I am really looking forward to it.”

Mick is seen as a mix of his father and mother Corinna, an accomplished horse rider and breeder. While his sister Gina-Maria followed her mothers’ footsteps as a non-professional rider.

Thirty years on from his father debut at Spa with Jordan, now Aston Martin, Mick makes his debut with a similar team Haas at the back of the grid. It also marks the start of the fourth decade that the Schumacher name has been on the Grid.

Mick sees himself as continuing his father’s legacy, at last years Eifel Grand Prix he hinted he would like to regain the records equalled or broken by Sir Lewis Hamilton if he gets the opportunity.

Schumacher embraces the legacy of his father and sees himself continuing a family journey is underlined by the fact that he asked F1 to alter its usual practice of using the first three letters of a driver’s surname as his shorthand on the timing screens.

Mick describes his father as his idol, and he decided he wanted to follow in his footsteps from a very early age – or “right at the beginning,” as he puts it. His early karting career started in 2008 and was overseen by Michael up until the skiing accident in December 2013.

Mick added “As I grew older and grew in the categories, I understood how much sacrifice it takes. It was when I was around 12, 13 years old when I understood I really wanted to do this on a professional level.”

Since the accident in 2013, the family has been keeping the condition of Michael a private matter and Mick says this area is off-limits. The last details of the seven times champions condition emerged in a court case in 2018, when Schumacher’s sued newspapers when the lawyers for the family revealed he “cannot walk”.

Unconfirmed reports last year in the Italian press reported, while Michael’s condition continues to improve, he was said to have muscle atrophy and osteoporosis from six years of bed confinement.

It will be harder for Mick to do the same, just because the team he is racing for Haas finished ninth last year, and were often slowest of all. Asked what successful season from his point of view would mean “an improvement from the beginning to the end of the year.”

 
McLaren signed its youngest driver since Sir Lewis Hamilton last week, American Ugo Ugochukwu so what do they see in him?

McLaren sign thirteen-year-old Ugochukwu

McLaren announced on Monday they have signed the thirteen-year-old American karter Ugo Ugochukwu to support him through racing’s junior categories. The British team has signed an agreement giving him an option for the future race seat.

McLaren describes the deal as a multi-year contract with Ugochukwu, within which there is an option they can choose to take up which would tie him to a further multi-year racing deal. This could be in F1 or in other categories. Many of the teams have young driver programmes, one of the teams most successful drivers is seven-time champion, Sir Lewis Hamilton.

CEO of McLaren Racing Zak Brown said, “We’ve been watching Ugo’s progress with interest. So when the opportunity to sign an agreement with him became available, we had no hesitation moving on it.”

Ugochukwu was born in New York to a Nigerian mother, if he makes it into F1 he would be the first black American to race in the sport. last year’s FIA OK Junior European championship and has graduated to the senior class this season.

He said, “I’m honoured to be signed by such an iconic team as McLaren Racing so early in my career. To have the support of McLaren is fantastic and what any young driver dreams of. I’m focused right now on developing as a driver and racer, so having McLaren by my side can only help me on and off the track.”

F1 has not had an American driver since Alexander Rossi took part in five races for the Marussia team in 2015. The last American to win a Grand Prix was 1978 world champion Mario Andretti,  at that year’s Dutch Grand Prix.

McLaren F1 team principal Andreas Seidl said: “Ugo is a promising young talent with strong development prospects. While he is still early in his career, it is clear he has the ingredients to be successful in the sport. This signing reflects our refocused approach to identifying and supporting new talent, away from a formal young driver programme to a more tailored basis.”

 

Ten years since the Arab Spring reach Bahrain, the race in the country remains controversial. Before this years race, British MPs called for the FIA to begin an investigation to find out whether there are human rights abuses related to the race, saying the sport is failing to live up to its human rights commitments.

MPs and Human rights group calls for investigation into Bahrain

British MPs, human rights and unions have written to Sir Lewis Hamilton, Liberty Media and the FIA calling for an inquiry into allegations of human rights abuses associated with the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Ten years since the start of the Arab Spring and the suppression by the regime the race has been controversial. The letter requests the establishment of a “commission of independent experts to investigate the human rights impact of F1’s activities in Bahrain” and cites among others the case of an 11-year-old boy who was arrested for joining protests against the November’s.

The Letter demands the sport lives up to its public commitment to a human rights policy it adopted in 2015 and notes that since 2011 when the race was cancelled amid protests at the suppression of Bahrain’s Arab Spring movement. They say the situation has deteriorated over the last decade.

They say “The situation in the country has only worsened,” the letter reads. “Any semblance of democracy has been abandoned as the government outlawed opposition political parties, forcibly closed Bahrain’s only independent newspaper and severely curtailed freedom of assembly, forbidding unlicensed gatherings of more than five people.”

An F1 spokesman said in response to the call: “We fully believe that sport has always had a unique role in bringing different cultures together and crossing borders, being a force for good. We believe that shutting countries off from sport is not the right approach and engagement is far better than isolation.”

Meanwhile, The Guardian says it has learned that F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali has rejected the calls for an investigation into the human rights abuses.

Sir Lewis Hamilton who has been the sports moral compass over the last year was moved when at last year’s race he received a letter from 11-year-old Ahmed Ramadhan, a Bahraini whose father Mohammed wrote to Hamilton telling him he had been arrested after supporting Bahrain’s pro-democracy movement and then allegedly framed in a murder case and who is now facing execution. “Lewis, Please save my father,” read his son’s plea on the drawing.

“I think the saddest thing for me was that there’s a young man on death row … and when his son writes me a letter it really hits home. All lives matter,” Hamilton said at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last year.

Hamilton’s meeting with the crown prince Salman bin Hamand al-Khalifa was cancelled last year after he caught coronavirus. The Bahraini government have always denied claims of mistreatment or human rights abuses, saying all cases are investigated independently.

In the press conference, Hamilton said he was committed to address those issues in private, and educate himself on the human rights abuses in Bahrain. But he added it was not in his powers to decide where he races and say “human rights I don’t think should be a political issue. We all deserve equal rights.”

A government spokesperson said, “Bahrain has a zero-tolerance policy towards mistreatment of any kind and has put in place internationally recognised human rights safeguards.”

“A range of institutional and legal reforms have been implemented in close collaboration with international governments and independent experts, including the establishment of a wholly independent Ombudsman – the first of its kind in the region – which will fully and independently investigate any allegation of mistreatment.”

 

Williams has appeared to have made a step forwards, despite not scoring points in Bahrain they believe they are heading in the right direction and have hopes for Imola.

Reasons for optimism at Williams

Despite not scoring a point since 2019, Williams’s drivers George Russell and Nicolas Latifi believe the opening Bahrain Grand Prix gives them optimism. The team over the past fortnight appears to have made a step forwards, with the Englishman getting through to Q2 in qualifying and finishing fourteenth in the race.

Russell told reporters, “I think it was a pretty well-executed race, to be honest. I think we toughed it out one lap too many in the middle stint – that’s when I had that little battle with Kimi [Raikkonen] – you know what it’s like when he’s on fresher tyres and we lost three or four seconds or so due to that, which was a bit unfortunate, but it wouldn’t have changed our outcome.”

He says given the pace and conditions it was probably the best they could expect. The team has already said they are expecting a ‘yo-yo season’, with Russell believing that the weekend was the ‘worst-case scenario.’

Russell added, “think given the pace of the car, given the conditions, I think it was a very well-executed weekend and that was probably the maximum we could have expected. As I said, it’s going to be a bit of a yo-yo season, and I do think this is probably the worst-case scenario so fingers cross it gets better from here.”

Russell says that Imola could be suited to the Williams, saying they were at different ends of the extremes.

Although Russell had a competitive season-opener on Sunday, his teammate Nicholas Latifi was hit by a reliability issue that eventually forced his retirement, but not before some encouraging signs.

Latifi added, “Straight away from the first laps, even on the laps to the grid, I felt like we were getting some quite big oscillations in the engine on power and it seems like we had a suspected boost leak which is why we had to retire in the end.”

The Canadian says he was surprised by how the car felt because he was expecting something more tricky to handle.

 

And that’s all from Reporters for this week, we are back on the 25 April
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.