Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says his team will never consider a 1-2 finish as the norm, insisting the German squad came close to a defeat last weekend in Monaco.
Lewis Hamilton delivered to the manufacturer its 93rd Grand Prix win on Sunday, but a pitlane skirmish between Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas deprived Mercedes of a sixth consecutive 1-2 finish.
However, Wolff was expecting the team’s string of clean sweeps to come to an end sooner rather than later.
“I take full responsibility for not [getting] the 1-2,” said the Austrian.
“I think we need to keep our feet on the ground and we’re laughing about it, but what we can see is that teams stop winning once they had a scent of the title and once they believe it is completely normal.
“It is not normal. 1-2s, and even 1-3s are not normal for the highest competition in motor racing.
“That’s why we are constantly expecting to hit road bumps. That’s why we take the 1-3 and continue flat out for the next one.”
With Verstappen snapping at Hamilton’s heels in the closing stages of the race and the Brit struggling to defend his leading position while caring for his worn tyres, Mercedes was on the verge of suffering a resounding defeat in the sixth round of the F1 world championship.
And only avoided a beating thanks to Monaco’s specifics insisted Wolff.
“We were close to losing here,” he admitted.
“Considering that it’s a track where you can’t overtake, Max still tried and could’ve made the pass.
“I think going back to normal race tracks we need to accept that we, in terms of tyre life, we need to learn from Monaco and understand why that was.
“Because this situation in Montreal you lose the race.
“I think from a mindset, we must never be carried away. We’re just flying at the moment, but we were a bit lucky to actually win that race.”
Alfa Romeo team boss Frédéric Vasseur says the Swiss outfit’s Monaco Grand Prix was already done and dusted on Saturday after its botched performance in qualifying.
Both Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi failed to make the Q3 cut, leaving both drivers to contend with the pitfalls that typically threaten those racing down the order in Monte-Carlo.
Raikkonen’s reliance on a long opening first stint on soft tyres yielded a disappointing P17 at the checkered flag while Giovinazzi collided with Williams Robert Kubica early on and made up the rear thereafter.
In his latest column for Unibet, double Formula 1 World Champion Mika Hakkinen shares his views on the Monaco Grand Prix, Niki Lauda’s passing, Lewis Hamilton’s victory, Mercedes dominance, Ferrari turmoil and Max Verstappen on the attack.
Winning in Monaco is always special, but you could really sense Lewis Hamilton’s happiness when he took victory on Sunday after a tense race. He had to use all his experience to stay ahead of Max Verstappen’s Red Bull, so while this was Mercedes’ sixth consecutive win of the 2019 season there was nothing easy about it.
F1 needs heroes and Niki was one of them
In many respects this race win for Lewis resembled some of the famous victories by one of Formula 1’s most talented, analytical and tactical drivers – Niki Lauda. His loss to the sport is significant, not only as Chairman of the Mercedes F1 team, but the wisdom, experience and personality he brought to Formula 1.
It is not surprising that Niki was on everyone’s mind at the weekend, with lots of tributes being paid ahead of his funeral in Vienna this Wednesday. Every sports needs its heroes and superstars, and Niki Lauda was definitely one of them.
His last victory in Formula 1 came at the 1985 Dutch Grand Prix when he had to keep McLaren team mate Alain Prost behind him, positioning the car to defend at each corner, and then making sure he was fast enough on the quick sections.
Hamilton delivered Niki Lauda-style performance
This is exactly what Lewis had to do on Sunday in order to keep Max behind, because when the Safety Car cam out on Lap 11 and everyone stopped for tyres, Mercedes put both their cars onto the medium compound tyres. These tyres were typically only good enough to last 50 laps, but Mercedes hoped to make them last longer. They also chose this tyre in case light rain showers arrived.
In the end Lewis had to make those tyres last for 65 laps, and he was having to drive 2-3 seconds per lap slower the before. When you are faced with tyres wearing out you have to brake, steer and accelerate very conservatively, and it is not surprising that Lewis was really worried that he would be overtaken or suffer a failure.
In true Niki Lauda-style he did exactly what was needed, positioning his car in the middle of the track to defend from Verstappen, and then making sure he got the acceleration onto the two fastest parts of the track – the pit straight and the tunnel under the Fairmont Hotel. This was a mature drive, and a victory Hamilton really had to fight for.
I cannot blame Max for going for it
Monaco was another Mercedes’ track, and this will worry their competition because usually we would expect Ferrari and Red Bull to be quicker on a slower, twisty circuit like this. Lewis and Valtteri Bottas really battled for pole position, and it looks like the only Valtteri did not get pole position was that he was blocked by slower cars on his warming up lap in the final part of qualifying.
We saw another indication of Valtteri’s strength this year at the start of the race, when Max really challenged him into Turn 1 but the Mercedes defended well and held second behind Lewis. It is a real pity that Max then drove into Valtteri’s car during the pit stops, because otherwise I believe Valtteri could have held on to 2nd and helped to protect Lewis.
As things turned out the collision cost Valtteri a lot of time, as he had to return to the pits for a second pit stop, dropping him further back, behind Sebastian Vettel.
I cannot blame Max for going for it, but when a team makes an unsafe release in the pits it is up to the driver to make sure that you don’t hit anything. In some ways he was quite lucky to only have a 5-second penalty. It was fantastic to watch how hard Max was pushing Lewis during the final 20 laps of the race, with Sebastian just behind in third place and clearly waiting to see what would happen!
Max was really pushing flat out, and it was good that he tried to overtake Lewis, even if the timing of his overtaking attempt at the chicane was a little late. It kept the spectators entertained, but ultimately Lewis was always going to stay in front.
Ferrari’s day will come
Ferrari has work to do after Monaco – both the drivers made mistakes this weekend, with Sebastian crashing in practice and Charles Leclerc missing the car weighing instruction during qualifying, which contributed to him losing valuable time. The confusion in qualifying which saw Charles sit in the pits and watch his teammate knock him out of Q1 must have been painful.
I still believe Ferrari’s day will come, and that we will eventually see Sebastian and Charles win races this season, but the team really needs to pull together.
With Max pushed back to fourth place as a result of his 5-second time penalty, it was nice to see Valtteri joined Sebastian and Lewis on the podium, both of them wearing Niki Lauda-tribute helmets. I think Niki would have enjoyed that race, and I know we will all miss having him around.
Red Bull Racing has touched base with Nico Hulkenberg with a view of recruiting the Renault driver for him to act as a potential replacement in 2020 for the under-performing Pierre Gasly, according to F1’s rumor mill.
The Frenchman has yet to match the pace of team mate Max Verstappen this season, with the latter scoring more than double the points of the former in 2019.
But F1’s silly season is telling everyone that Red Bull would rather be safe than sorry, and has thus engaged with Hulkenberg just in case Gasly fails to significantly improve.
According to the Italian edition of Motorsport.com, Helmut Marko initiated talks with the Hulk in Monaco last week.
The Red Bull motorsport boss is apparently impressed this season with the German driver’s pace relative to Daniel Ricciardo, Renault’s high-profile recruit who earned his credentials with Red Bull.
It may not be too late for Gasly, but it’s definitely time for the Frenchman to perform in line with expectations.
However, the 23-year-old isn’t stressed about his current state of affairs or the future.
“There’s a couple of things that explains sometimes the lack of performance we have, that we know inside the team, and there’s no need to really get stressed or worried,” he said last weekend in Monaco.
“I think I need to stay focused on my job and extracting the best I can with the package I have and this is what I stay focused on at the moment.
“There’s surely things I need to improve and adapt to this package but that’s why I’m confident things are going better and better and we’ll be able to extract even more performance in the coming races.”
For Gasly, patience is a virtue when a driver joins a new team.
“For sure coming into a new team you want everything to be perfect from day one,” he added.
“But objectively it’s not possible and you’ve got to be patient and try and focus at improving every single detail to get the maximum out of it.
“For sure I would like the evolution to be faster than the rate we have now, but by staying focused on the work I need to do, [I need to] keep pushing the team and finding the direction with my engineer, who is also starting in Formula 1 now.
“Everything is taking a bit of time but we’re going in the right direction, progressing, and hopefully we’ll keep going like this and get even better results in the coming races.”
Racing Point team boss Otmar Szafnauer says the pink squad has identified the reasons behind its poor qualifying pace in Monaco and will apply a fix for Canada.
Both Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll were laggards in the Saturday afternoon grid-defining session, failing to exit Q1 and finishing just ahead of the familiarly slow Williams pair of George Russell and Robert Kubica.
From their lowly starting position, Perez made it up to P13 on race day, tagging on an extra place as a result of a time penalty handed to Kevin Magnussen, while Stroll could do no better than 16th.
Four-time Formula 1 World Champion and Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel is set to retire at the end of this year according to a rumour reported on by respected Formula 1 journo Joe Saward.
In the latest edition of his Business of Motorsport Newsletter, Saward wrote: “The most shocking rumour that started to spread in the paddock in Monaco is that Sebastian Vettel is considering retiring from F1 at the end of the season at the age of 31.”
“After winning four world championships with Red Bull between 2010 and 2013 he tried to bring Ferrari back to success, but he made several mistakes and is now under pressure after the arrival of Charles Leclerc, younger and apparently with more growth margin than German.”
“A choice that in some ways would follow that of Nico Rosberg, who left F1 after winning the title in 2016 aware of the fact that he would hardly succeed in the enterprise again. The big question, of course, is who would be Vettel’s successor.”
“The names that have been circulating, for now, are those of Sergio Perez, Kevin Magnussen, Romain Grosjean and Valtteri Bottas.”
The report, whether true or not, is sure to shake up the driver market and kick start a flurry of Silly Season speculation and while the drivers mentioned by Saward are probably candidates, one would expect Ferrari to make a serious bid for Lewis Hamilton.
Meanwhile, if the rumour has substance it would be fair to believe that Vettel has become disenchanted with F1 and is no fan of this era’s F1 turbo hybrid cars. Furthermore, the pressure of driving for Ferrari, making headline-grabbing mistakes and not delivering on the huge expectations could also be taking a toll on the German.
At the same time, he still has at least half a dozen good years in him, quitting now would be premature but at the same time he has achieved a great deal in the top flight and his legacy will be etched in history forever thanks to his four F1 titles.
Some F1 champions – Niki Lauda and Alain Prost spring to mind – have taken a sabbatical from the sport only to return stronger and wiser, going on to great success in the second chapter of their careers.
Big Question: Will Seb quit F1 at the end of this season?
Robert Kubica may be last at almost every race, but he says he has shown he can still race a Formula 1 car.
Due to his permanent arm injuries sustained in a 2011 rallying crash, some doubted the Pole would be able to handle the twistiest circuits like Monaco.
“I knew everything would work out,” Kubica, who drives for struggling Williams, is quoted by Globo.
“I think a lot of people thought I could not even turn the wheel. A lot of people also said the first corner of races would be a problem for me, but I think in all the races I went well in turn 1, or on the opening race when race instinct prevails,” he added.
More generally, 2019 has been a horror return to F1 for Kubica, as he trails the pace of his teammate George Russell and grapples with what is clearly the slowest car in the field.
“It’s not an easy situation, but I think I’ve been good and I can be happy,” said the 34-year-old.
“Of course the final result could have been better, but racing is like that.”
In the spur of the moment however, Perez laments that drivers aren’t hindered more by running straight through the chicane area, suggesting that the run-off space should be altered to significantly disrupt a car’s speed or trajectory.
“It’s very disappointing, you only have one move in Monaco, and you do it and the car ahead cuts the chicane, and then he’s aware that you’re there and there’s no more opportunities,” said Perez.
“It’s definitely something we’ve got to speak about. In all fairness to the car ahead he gives space but then he has nowhere to go.
“I think there has to be a little chicane for the people who cut the chicane to lose some time,” added Perez
“It’s something we have to review over the next couple of races.”
Monaco race winner Lewis Hamilton also cut the chicane in the closing stages of Sunday’s race as a result of a light contact with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, but the stewards rightly took no action.
Tributes and revelations have been in constant flow since Niki Lauda passed away last week, the latest insight provided by Formula 1 motorsport chief Ross Brawn in which he reveals that it was the racing legend who convinced Mercedes to dish out the money to lure Lewis Hamilton to the team.
It is worth recalling that from 2010 to 2013 Mercedes had only won one Grand Prix since their return with the takeover of Brawn GP. Thus Hamilton’s signature was a massive coup but it came with a hefty price tag of $25-million which only Mercedes could afford – convincing them to spend was Lauda’s crusade.
Brawn recalled his time as part of the founding fathers – Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda included – of the current generation of the Silver Arrows, “Our first common job was to bring Lewis Hamilton into the team. Niki was crucial in this process.”
“I convinced Lewis, visit us, but it was Niki who persuaded the Mercedes board to give us the money for Lewis. And that was no easy task.”
When Hamilton joined Mercedes in 2013 they had only won one race in three seasons, they were hardly a force. He only won one race with them that year but that changed a year after with the advent of the new hybrid-turbo era.
Since then the Briton has won 56 times for Mercedes and banked north of $200-million for his efforts, Brawn pointed out, “It turned out to be an important moment on the team’s current path.”
The former team chief recalled that with Hamilton in the fold, Lauda took an active interest in the day-to-day operations of the team, “He did not have to do that, but he wanted to understand the process in the team and he wanted to be an active part of it.”
“I have to admit that he had a rather relentless approach and that there were many situations in which we clashed. But I think we found a good working relationship during the Mercedes time that the team ultimately benefited from, and Niki’s advice has always been valuable – not on operational issues, but on the big picture.”
“His legacy is huge. He was an important part in the development of the team that currently dominates Formula 1 and could possibly be the most successful in the history of the sport,” ventured Brawn who left Mercedes at the end of 2013.
Former Ferrari driver Gerhard Berger is convinced that the iconic Italian team is in good hands with team principal Mattia Binotto at the helm, believing that the engineer is the right man for the hottest job in the sport but admitting that the Scuderia chief needs support.
Ahead of this season, Binotto was promoted to lead Ferrari while Maurizio Arrivabene was shown the door but results have not been forthcoming and the team is clearly lagging behind Mercedes and have been reeled in by Red Bull.
In a nutshell, from the outside, they appear worse off under the new boss than they were with Arrivabene, at least in terms of results and performance. Meanwhile, it has emerged that the winds of change are blowing through Maranello on the engineering front with demotions and promotions ongoing behind the scenes.
Speaking to Formula Passion, Berger remains optimistic but calls for patience, “The appointment of Binotto was correct. Ferrari had changed after the departure of Montezemolo and Domenicali, it was no longer the team I knew. Now with Binotto in charge, he has rediscovered the team’s DNA, but these things take time and they need to stabilize.”
Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc have yet to win a race this season, while Mercedes have yet to lose one. Many in Italy are writing the season off for the Reds, but Berger remains positive.
He continued, “I am convinced that a victory would be enough to take a bit of pressure and turn the season around for them. For what they showed in Baku I was convinced they can have a say in the world championship but then, beyond the mistakes, they didn’t have enough speed in Monaco.”
“I still can’t get an idea of their true potential. Certainly, if they want to fight for the world championship they must stop making these mistakes.”
Berger also suggests that Binotto leading the team, as a one-man show, could do with some help, “He is constantly responsible for everything with little support. At Mercedes, they have Toto Wolff, Niki Lauda and James Allison and Andy Cowell. Red Bull is similar to Christian Horner, Helmut Marko and Adrian Newey. But not so for Binotto who needs more support as he is the key to Ferrari success.”
When asked who will be the 2019 F1 champions, Berger ventured , “I would put my money on Ferrari.”
“It’s not about Mercedes destroying the championship because the team does a brilliant job, but rather the current regulations make it impossible for the others to catch up,” lamented the Austrian who is currently DTM chief.
Big Question: What does Mattia need to do to revive Ferrari fortunes?
McLaren boss Zak Brown says it’s unlikely the Woking-based outfit will enter IndyCar on a full-time basis next year, but the team could run in a few preparation races ahead of the 2020 Indy 500.
McLaren’s high profile return to the Brickyard this month with Fernando Alonso turned into a painful debacle, the team failing to qualify for the 33-car field and paying the price for a crucial lack of preparation and attention to detail
However, Indy remains unfinished business for McLaren, and Brown hopes to tackle the Speedway again in 2020 armed with this year’s hard-learned lessons.
While Brown has practically ruled out a full-time commitment to IndyCar next season, the McLaren executive isn’t dismissing an active preparation programme ahead of Indy.
“I think it’s highly unlikely we’ll be in IndyCar full-time next year,” Brown told RACER.
“As enthusiastic as I am for IndyCar, given where we are in Formula 1, given what we just went through at Indy, I’d like to see us go back to Indy and get that right as a next step instead of totally jumping in.
“So I think it’s highly unlikely we’re in IndyCar full-time in 2020.”
“Could we do races before Indy next year in preparation? Yeah, that’s something we’ve spoken about. So that will be all part of the thinking.”
IndyCar’s calendar typically doesn’t include an oval race before the Indy 500. But Brown believes a road race still offers a team a good opportunity to gel and refine its track operations.
“Had we got into the show, we missed all the pit stop practice,” Brown said.
“We were practicing over the months in the race shop and things like that, but Thursday was the pit stop practice day, and we missed that. So we would have gone into Indy cold.
“So one of things we’ve discussed, we’ve started to throw around that we should have done the road race.
“Even though it wouldn’t have taught us anything about the set-up of the car, operationally it was good practice.
“So definitely not this year, but probably if we go back to Indy, doing a race or two in preparation for Indy feels like good preparation.”
F1 managing director Ross Brawn believes Ferrari is losing its grip on the 2019 season after a Monaco weekend in which it was outperformed by both Mercedes and Red Bull.
Sebastian Vettel’s runner-up spot behind Lewis Hamilton in the Principality came courtesy of a time penalty handed to Max Verstappen who was second on the track at the end of the 78-lap race but classified P4.
While Vettel ended Mercedes’ consecutive runs of one-two finishes, Brawn was anything but impressed with the Scuderia’s performance.
“It was a difficult weekend for Ferrari, although it ended with their best result of the year,” said the Brit in his post-race debrief.
“However, Sebastian Vettel’s second place came at the end of a race in which he didn’t play a key role, sitting behind Verstappen throughout but unable to really worry the Dutchman.
“It reflected a weekend during which the Scuderia was the third strongest team.
“That was predictable given what we saw in Barcelona, where the car struggled, especially in the third sector of that track.
“The season seems to be getting away from the Maranello team, but it’s not the time to give up and it must learn from its mistakes if it wants to move forward.”
A major blunder on the part of Ferrari was its strategy error in qualifying that put Charles Leclerc out of contention at the outset in Q1.
Starting from a lowly P15 on Sunday, the Monegasque’s task was always going to be monumental, yet Brawn considered that Leclerc only had himself to blame for his early demise from his home race.
Blasting off the grid with the bit between his teeth, the 21-year-old immediately gained a few spots but stumbled on his own carelessness when he tried to overtake Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg at La Rascasse, a move that ended with a contact and a damaged floor for Leclerc.
“Leclerc for a handful of laps, he was truly spectacular. Then Charles went too far and paid a high price for his impetuousness,” added.
“His reaction was understandable, however. It’s his home race and his first attempt at it with a front-running team. It was supposed to be a special moment but it ended only in disappointment.
“After some problems on Thursday, Saturday morning’s final practice session offered a ray of light when he topped the timesheet.
“But then came the slap in the face of that Q1 strategic error – which Mattia Binotto fully admitted was a team miscalculation – and he dropped all the way down to 16th, a starting position that led to him overdoing it on Sunday.”
An oversight from Max Verstappen after the Red Bull driver’s pit stop in Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix forced the Dutchman to race in the wrong engine torque mode for most of the race.
Honda’s procedure required Verstappen to change from ‘Torque 12’ to ‘Torque 6′ as he exited the pitlane but an unsafe release by his team and the subsequent contact with Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas distracted the Red Bull charger who then forgot to switch settings.
The change could only be made in the pitlane, not when the car was back out on track running at full speed.
Honda’s Toyoharu Tanabe told Motorsport.com that a bit of remote tweaking of the engine’s parameters allowed to slightly decrease the negative impact of the mishap, but ultimately Verstappen’s performance was still hindered by the inability to revert to a standard engine mapping.
Verstappen’s contact with Bottas had obviously upset his immediate focus.
“Once on track you’re stuck with it and we only did one stop,” said Verstappen.
“Normally I would always go back, but of course with the touch, looking in the mirror all the time, and then I think the team were also a little bit shocked with the whole thing, they were also checking for damage.
Honda applied more parameter changes over the course of the afternoon, but Verstappen was left to contend with the issue on his own while battling race winner Lewis Hamilton for the lead in the closing stages of Sunday’s event.
“I had massive lag on the first couple [of laps], I can’t say the exact number, but quite a lot of percentage of going on the throttle,” he added.
“So I had nothing, and then the power kicked in. It wasn’t nice to drive but I managed to drive around the problem.”
Daniel Ricciardo says Renault left a big result on the table in Monaco because of an erroneous strategy call that the Aussie felt was wrong from the outset.
Ricciardo blasted off the grid from P6 and promptly dealt with Kevin Magnussen into Ste Devote to slot himself into fifth and behind the race’s top-four leaders.
However, the early Safety Car period decided Renault to call in its driver on lap 11, a move that pushed Ricciardo down to 13th while most of his midfield rivals stayed out to run a longer first stint.
Faced with a barrage of traffic for the remainder of the afternoon, the Honey Badger gained a few spots to finish 9th, but the result was a meager consolation as far as Ricciardo was concerned.
“In the strategy briefing there was quite a bit of emphasis on me getting Kevin at Turn 1 and quite a bit of pressure in a way but that was our target,” explained Renault’s 2019 recruit.
“Once we were fifth the top four were out of our reach. I got out of Turn 1 in fifth and I was smiling and the team gave me a bit of love after that.
“Then we got a late call on the Safety Car to box, and to be honest as soon as we came in, my gut feeling was that it wasn’t the right call, because the tyres were fine and we had the pace.
“Here it’s all about track position and giving up so much so early just felt wrong.”
Indeed, the call proved to be a big mistake for a team and a driver desperately in need of some good points.
“It’s so disappointing, we missed a very big opportunity today to get a fifth, at the very worst a sixth,” added Ricciardo.
“So yeah, sit down with the guys now and understand it, but yeah, certainly frustrated. We could have had a real big result.”
Circumstances and Renault’s strategy call notwithstanding, Ricciardo’s disappointment was also compounded by his belief that he was at the wheel of a that deserved far better than the result that came its way.
“That’s as well the frustration,” he explained.
“I think we had a pretty good car, in the race I had 50 something laps on the mediums and on the very last lap of the race I did my personal best.
“That just jumped me in front of Grosjean because I heard he had a penalty, so I had a few laps at the end to put everything into it and we had that pace to show.
“We were definitely better than ninth so we’ll figure it out and get better.”
Renault managing director Cyril Abiteboul believes the 2021 Formula 1 regulations are up to 90% complete and that any missed deadline in June will not be a major problem.
A meeting of the World Motor Sport Council on June 14 in Paris had been targeted to outline new sporting and technical regulations for 2021, with F1’s owners Liberty Media keen to introduce a cost cap alongside revised revenue distribution. Although many teams remain skeptical that deadline will be hit — with new agreements between the teams, F1 and the FIA required from the end of 2020 — Abiteboul says the progress that has been made should not be overshadowed.
“Will we have a signed contract by FIA, Formula 1 and all 10 teams by end of June or mid-June for the World Motor Council? No, obviously no,” Abiteboul said. “But in my opinion there has been a lot of groundwork already covered.
“I think it’s all about trying to agree what will be the key principles for 2021, from a commercial perspective, financial perspective, the key principles on the technical side and the sporting side. And in my opinion we are probably 80% or 90% from that point, from that milestone.
“So with enough faith and enough goodwill from all participants and probably a bit of a push from the key stakeholders, FIA and Formula 1, there is no reason why something cannot be presented at the World Motor Sport Council that will be advanced enough to give useful guidelines for the remainder of the year, so that we have a complete set of guidelines for the end of the year. That’s my opinion, obviously, but there is still some work to cover.”
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes whatever is released in June will still be open for negotiation and could change significantly during the rest of this year, but still sees the initial step as important.
“Look, I’m sure something is going to be presented,” Horner said. “It will probably be nowhere near what actually gets signed. I’m sure the regulations will change and evolve. Something will come out in June, it will change in September, October, probably in November, and there’s plenty of ground to cover; but there is a watershed where something will be put in front of us fairly shortly and then the fun really begins.”
With the embarrassment of failure at this year’s running of the Indianapolis 500 still fresh, McLaren boss Zak Brown revealed he is considering a foray to Le Mans as early as 2021 and has left a door open for Fernando Alonso to be part of the project.
Speaking to MN (Spain) about a possible return for the legendary 24-Hour race, Brown said, “It would be risky for our debut to be at Le Mans 2021, so we would have to be ready one or two races before that so we need to be ready to compete in April or May 2021, depends on how fast we can make a decision.”
The FIA and ACO trumpeted a hypercar based series for 2020 and beyond, releasing an overview of the series. But little has happened since then while manufacturers become increasingly frustrated with the lack of direction being taken by the organising and regulatory bodies.
Brown continued, “Once we understand what the rules are and how we are doing in Formula 1, we will take a position on whether to get involved or not and when, because the timeframe is very large, as well as all the different scenarios that are being negotiated. If everything suits what we want we would be a couple of years away.”
Meanwhile, after the Indy 500 debacle, some speculated that Alonso would walk away from Woking which has only given him pain. But not according to Brown who explained, “We were never going to do Indianapolis just for Fernando.”
“I think it would be a great story to win them with him, having already won Monaco already, maybe, in the future, we will race in France (Le Mans) together, but, of course, McLaren has been around for a long time and will continue to be around much longer, even after Fernando retires.”
“We have a great relationship with Fernando, he has had many ups and downs with us – probably lower in the last three, four seasons – and he really enjoys McLaren, the team enjoys him, I think we’re all disappointed, but it will not change the relationship between Fernando and McLaren,” added Brown.
Alonso has been tightly lipped since he announced earlier this month that he was done with Toyota after the WEC Super Season which he is favourite to win with Sebastian Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima, which would add the sportscar championship to his two F1 titles.
Between an epic grand prix, a small-but-potent dose of politicking, and a few noteworthy statements, the past seven days in the Formula 1 world have not disappointed.
Time to Kill the Veto?: A story I don’t think got anywhere near the attention it deserved, the implications of this report could be huge.
Getting Ferrari to give up their primus inter pares status has never worked in the past, but if F1 wants to develop as a sport in the bests interests of everybody, it’s absolutely necessary they do so.
That said, it’s a very dangerous game to play. Ferrari would need an excellent reason to give up their competitive advantage, which although outdated, has been allowed to persist because it is undeniable that they are the most valuable team to the sport. Is a more level playing field worth risking a civil war? That remains to be seen…
Cyril Blabs Again: A man who seemingly can’t help himself, Cyril Abiteboul was once again at it last week, pronouncing the Renault engine’s supposed with Mercedes and Ferrari under race conditions.
Unsurprisingly, the proclamation was roundly met with derision, and it’s hard to see how Abiteboul making such a statement helps a company that has consistently struggled since the switch to V6 turbos in 2014.
Maybe he thought he could get away with it knowing any disparity in engine power is masked by the nature of Monaco, but he can be assured that come Canada, he’ll definitely hear about it if they fall short of expectations.
A shakeup at Ferrari?: Sebastian Vettel may have scored Ferrari’s best result of the season, but unsurprisingly it’s done little to lift spirits around the team. Between Saturday’s screwup and the still inherent lack of pace to Mercedes, the voices of disdain have only grown louder, and now, it seems the Scuderia itself has decided to make changes.
Whether the removal of performance engineers Alessandro Cinelli and Giacomo Tortora from their posts (aero; chassis and tyres respectively) will actually change anything remains to be seen, but odds are it will have no effect on this year’s championship.
The Silver Arrows are too far gone, and if team principal Mattia Binotto is saying “The problem is not just to identify the problems, but to find a solution,” it tells me they don’t really know where to start in order to catch up. For the sake of the season, I hope I’m wrong.
Hamilton Only “Average” in 2019: If you had to pick a single quote to sum-up Lewis Hamilton, well… you could hardly do better than this comment from Monaco on Sunday. Now with four wins in the first six races the five-time world champion described his performances so far in 2019 as “generally quite average”, which, considering it’s equal to his career-best start in 2014, is quite the statement.
The way I see it, either Hamilton doesn’t know what “average” means, or this is the most ominous thing that could happen to the rest of the grid short of Pastor Maldonado coming back – for their sake, I hope it’s the former.
Farewell to Niki: Fresh off the back of a wave of tributes in Monaco, unfortunately the time has come for the F1 world to say its final goodbyes to Niki Lauda. As attested by both the permanent star on Mercedes’ car, and the throngs of mourners paying their respects today at St Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, the three-time world champion holds a special place in the hearts of this sport, and its hundreds of millions of fans. RIP.
The first Indianapolis 500 to be broadcast by NBC scored a 3.44 final rating and averaged 5.4 million viewers. That’s up from last year’s 3.08/4.9m on ABC and the best Indy 500 rating since 2016’s 3.88/6.0m.
Formula 1’s Monaco Grand Prix again had a double hit, scoring a 0.58/908,000 for the live telecast on ESPN, up slightly over last year’s 0.53/809,000 on the same network. Interestingly, the over-the-air replay on ABC Sunday afternoon fell short of ESPN’s number, at 0.49/705,000. That’s well down from last year’s 1.04/1.6m for the ABC replay that followed directly after its live coverage of the Indy 500.
NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 on FOX also enjoyed a modest increase in viewers, scoring a 2.58/4.3m. That’s up from a 2.33/4.1m last year.
The Xfinity Series race from Charlotte Saturday afternoon on FS1 scored a 0.57/863,000, a tick down from last year’s 0.59/900,000 on the same network.
Valtteri Bottas will bounce back from a Monaco Grand Prix result that left the Finn thoroughly disappointed insists Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.
Bottas was pipped to pole by Lewis Hamilton on Saturday and then circumstances conspired against the Finn on Sunday when an unsafe release by the Red Bull crew put Max Verstappen in his path and led to a puncture that ultimately undermined the Mercedes driver’s race.
From almost level in the drivers’ standings with Hamilton two races ago, Bottas has fallen 178 points behind his team mate.
Wolff however isn’t worried about his driver’s prospects.
“Valtteri ‘2019’ is going to get out of this stronger. I think he has shown huge resilience and determination in these last races,” said the Mercedes AMG F1 team boss.
“His speed was mind-blowing in qualifying and I have no doubt that this will annoy the hell out of him and he’s going to come back strong, very very strong, in Montreal.
“Max lost a position because of the penalty and because of the manoeuvre, and Valtteri lost the second place, 3 points more lost, and Mercedes lost the 1-2. “But then again, from the team’s point of view we are super happy with the 1-3. From Valtteri’s point, he will be gutted.
Mission Winnow branding will not be present on Ferrari cars or clothing for the Canadian and French Grands Prix, replacing the controversial sponsorship with the team’s 90-Year logo which they used in Australia.
At the time of the season opener, anti-tobacco organisations accused Philip Morris using Mission Winnow as a means to promote tobacco and was actually a way to promote their tobaaco products including Marlboro who have sponsored the Italian team since the mid-eighties.
Possibly to avoid bad press and protests in two countries where the logo’s presence would be challenged, Ferrari announced: “Scuderia Ferrari will once again be celebrating the 90th anniversary of its foundation, over the weekends of the Canadian and French Grands Prix.”
“Therefore, as was already the case in Australia, the SF90s in Montreal and Le Castellet will carry the logo celebrating the anniversary, as will the drivers and mechanics overalls. Mission Winnow remains the title partner for Scuderia Ferrari in 2019.”
Kevin Magnussen says the Monaco Grand Prix race performance ruined a perfect weekend for Haas after he failed to score a point.
An impressive qualifying performance saw Magnussen starting from fifth on the grid (pictured), gaining one place as a result of Pierre Gasly’s grid penalty. Although he dropped behind Daniel Ricciardo to run sixth in the opening stint, Magnussen was still on for strong points when he joined the rest of the top six runners in pitting during a safety car period on Lap 10. That relegated him outside of the points on a track where it is notoriously difficult to overtake, and limited him to 12th at the checkered flag.
“I don’t really know what happened,” Magnussen said. “I think we have done a very, very good job this weekend. The perfect weekend until the race. So it’s a shame — a big shame — but we’ll see what went wrong.
“I started fifth and finished 12th, so very disappointed with that. The car was flawless, so very disappointed with 12th.”
Team principal Guenther Steiner suggests luck played a part in the Haas result, with Romain Grosjean finishing ninth but being relegated to 10th by a time penalty for crossing the line at the pit exit after his pit stop.
“It was a challenging race for us — almost everything that could go wrong, did go wrong for us,” Steiner said. “It’s Monaco though — I think there were just circumstances that led us to only score one point here. I don’t even want to go into all that happened, otherwise you’d have to write a book about it.
“Obviously, we’re not happy about it, but a lot of people would have been happy getting away with one point. We’re pretty upset about that. What we’re not upset about is the performance of our car, the team and our drivers.
“We got into circumstances we didn’t want to be in, but we know the car is faster than it showed. That’s a good thing to look forward to, and I’m sure we’ll make up for it. Hopefully one day we won’t be unlucky, I’m not even demanding to be lucky — just not unlucky.”
Lando Norris’s performance was capped in Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix, compelling the McLaren driver to play the team game to protect the position of team mate Carlos Sainz.
Starting P12, Norris lost a couple of positions at the start but the McLaren rookie eventually found his way back into the top-ten but with the difficult task of having to manage his medium tyres for a long second stint.
Caring for his rubber meant a slight hit to Norris’ pace which in turn led to the Brit acting as a buffer between for Sainz who was running two spots ahead.
Mercedes expect an angry Valtteri Bottas to come back fired up after losing ground to teammate Lewis Hamilton in the Formula 1 world championship through no fault of his own at Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix.
The Finn is now 17 points behind the five-times F1 world champion after finishing third in Monaco following a pitlane collision with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen early in the race.
Verstappen was handed a five-second penalty for the unsafe release, a sanction that dropped the Dutchman from second to fourth.
Hamilton won, his fourth victory of the season, with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel promoted to second after Verstappen’s drop.
“Valtteri lost a second place, three points, and Mercedes [lost] a one-two,” said team principal Toto Wolff on Sunday evening.”
“From Valtteri’s point of view, he will be gutted. He had the pace on the weekend, he could have been on pole in terms of raw speed and today P2 (second) was the minimum I think. And that P2 was taken away from him.
“The Valtteri of 2019 is going to get out of it stronger,” added the Austrian.
Bottas has still finished on the podium in every race so far this season, with Mercedes taking five successive one-twos until Monaco, and has been a different driver to the man who failed to win anything in 2018.
He has two wins and three second places as well as Sunday’s third, which was still his first Monaco Grand Prix podium appearance.
“I think he has shown huge resilience and determination in these last races,” commented Wolff. “The speed [in qualifying] was mind-boggling yesterday and I have no doubt about it that it’s going to annoy the hell out of him and he’s going to come back very, very strong in Montreal.”
Bottas said his race had been ‘a bit of a Sunday drive’ after the impact with Verstappen left him with a puncture.
Big Question: Can Valtteri raise his game to beat Lewis in forthcoming rounds?
Sergio Perez described himself as “very lucky” to avoid hitting two marshals during the Safety Car period in the Monaco Grand Prix.
When the Safety Car was deployed to clear up debris that had been left on the circuit as a result of Charles Leclerc’s puncture, a number of drivers took the opportunity to pit for new tires. At the same time, marshals were cleaning the track at different points, and two on the pit straight were trying to cross the circuit when Perez emerged from the pit lane.
After this incident, I’m just very happy with the outcome of my day. That we all can go back home safe and sound with our families. For the safety of the marshals I hope it never happens again! 🙏 #MonacoGP#Checo11pic.twitter.com/PP8Me3Frlz
“I don’t know if you saw but during the Safety Car I had a marshal running into me,” Perez said. “I nearly ran him over, two of the marshals. It was under the Safety Car, coming out of the pits into Turn 1. That was really bad. They were running back and I was coming out of the pits. I had to brake and I was very lucky, they were very lucky that I avoided them.
“They are usually very good. It is a safety issue, and the most important thing at the end of the day is safety for marshals and drivers.”
Perez later tweeted footage of the incident, adding: “After this incident, I’m just very happy with the outcome of my day. That we all can go back home safe and sound with our families. For the safety of the marshals I hope it never happens again!”
The near-miss came in a race where Racing Point struggled compared to most of its midfield rivals, with Perez admitting the team has work to do after two uncompetitive showings.
“It was really as expected,” he said. “When you start P16, it means it was always going to be a really hard race, and there weren’t a lot of margins. The opportunity came with the Safety Car, and I think we did the right thing to box but then Lando (Norris) was very slow and dragged the whole pack back. That did hurt us quite a lot, and we lost track position to the people inside the top 10.
“Then I tried a move on (Kevin) Magnussen, which I think was all correct, but he cut the chicane so he just got a warning but it didn’t change anything. We only have one move in Monaco, and when you do it and then the car ahead cuts the chicane there is no more opportunity for it.
“During the race when (Antonio) Giovinazzi was ahead of me, he had contact with (Robert) Kubica and we stayed there for a couple of seconds and it was a bit of a chaotic race.
“We have been far from the points the whole weekend, so there is a lot of work to be done in the coming races. We are still fifth in the constructors’ championship, which is amazing. I think we need to pull ourselves together and try to maximize what we have in the coming races to see if we can score some points.”
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff says Lewis Hamilton’s driving saved his team after a strategic error left the championship leader on the wrong tires in the Monaco Grand Prix.
Hamilton had been leading from pole position when the Safety Car was deployed just 10 laps into the race, and Mercedes – along with the rest of the top six – pit both drivers. While Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were put on the medium compound, Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel switched to the hards, and Hamilton soon struggled with the softer of the two compounds and found himself under race-long pressure from Verstappen that culminated in the pair making light contact at the Nouvelle Chicane in the closing laps.
“I just had a chat with James (Vowels, chief strategist) and yeah it was obviously the wrong call,” Wolff said. “We thought the tire would make it to the end, and it didn’t. But he (Hamilton) saved us, his driving really saved us. Something which we really need to analyze.”
Bottas picked up a puncture when he exited the pits alongside Verstappen, enforcing an immediate second stop for hards, but Hamilton completed the rest of the race on the mediums. Wolff says Mercedes did not appear to be taking a significant risk in opting against the hard tire when the Safety Car was deployed – especially with rain in the air making a softer tire preferable – but insists Hamilton’s complaints about how hard his car was to drive were fully understandable.
“What we’ve calculated is that the medium would make it, if we changed through lap 15 or 16, it would make it to the end with the right management,” Wolff says. “Being in the lead, that was a pretty straight strategy. It didn’t even seem like a huge stretch.
“We realized, with 20 laps into the race (stint), that on the left front some graining appeared. He started to complain about the understeer from the graining, and it was clear that it would get very, very difficult to make it to the end.
“So we had quite some discussions about the tire lasting another 40 laps, and I was reminded that it was only 20 laps on a normal circuit. So, I calmed down a bit! But everybody knew that it’s going to be a huge stretch. I believe that probably 20 laps to the end, he had, like, zero percent rubber left on the tire. He had understeer in the low speeds – you could see it around Loews; the car wouldn’t turn.”
Max Verstappen was deservedly voted Driver of the Day for his performance during Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix, the Dutchman crossed the finish line in second place but five-second penalty demoted him to fourth in the standings after a drive that clearly impressed his Red Bull boss Christian Horner.
Verstappen was top value during the race through the impassable streets of Monte-Carlo as he relentlessly pursued the Mercedes of leader and eventual race winner Lewis Hamilton.
While the World Champion struggled on fast degrading Medium tyres, Verstappen was comfortable with his tyres and an expected overtake of the ‘ailing’ Merc was expected but never happened.
Nevertheless, Horner was impressed, “Max drove the wheels off the car today. He got away in grid position and had a look at passing Bottas into turn one but wasn’t quite far enough alongside. The mechanics did a great job with the pit stop and Max left the box before Bottas which, as per the rules, is fine.”
“Unfortunately, it all got a bit too tight resulting in the Mercedes making contact with the barrier and the stewards issuing Max a five-second penalty.”
“Max drove like a lion for the rest of the race and tried everything he could to pass Lewis. We had a better tyre strategy and there was only really one lap where he got close to making a move into the chicane.”
“Finishing second on the road, but with the top four so close, he was denied a podium. Finishing fourth is tough for Max today after a drive like that but as always, he didn’t give up until the checkered flag.”
While Hamilton complained bitterly over the radio about the wrong choice of tyres and his struggle to stay ahead, Verstappen had no answer because it later emerged that he left the pits in the wrong mode, having forgotten to activate the more effective mode as he left the pits. Once on track he was unable to revert to the ‘quicker’ mode which cost him substantial power loss according to Honda.
Verstappen explained, “Once on track you’re stuck with it and we only did one stop. Normally I would always go back, but of course with the touch, looking in the mirror all the time, and then I think the team were also a little bit shocked with the whole thing, they were also checking for damage.”
“Normally they remind me but obviously it’s my job to still do it. I also forgot with all the hectic scenarios,” added Verstappen after the race, confirming his oversight.
While fourth was an unkind reward for his efforts, the penalty he received was not his fault – he was released blindly into Bottas’ path – furthermore, his dogged chase of Hamilton, rattling the Mercedes driver as the Red Bull stayed planted within striking distance was top notch.
And when he did make his move late in the race, it was optimistic but there was no collision.
It is clear Verstappen has matured and become a far wiser racer than he was a year ago. Right now he is up there with Hamilton as one of the two drivers who are the class of the grid this season.
Big Question: Are Max and Lewis the two best drivers on the grid at the moment?
Ferrari team chief Mattia Binotto conceded that their updates package had failed in Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix, but pledged to work harder to ensure a fight-back against dominant Mercedes.
Binotto said the changes made to the Ferrari car had not worked after watching Lewis Hamilton beat Valtteri Bottas in Mercedes’ record fifth consecutive season-opening 1-2 finish.
“For us, it was a lesson, but also a stimulus to do better,” said Binotto. “It was not a good afternoon. Nor a good week. Congratulations to Mercedes who have worked a lot and well, but for us this must be a stimulus to work harder.”
“The updates we brought were not enough. It was a bad defeat that we will analyse in the next two days of testing. But, we won’t give up.”
After five of this year’s 21 races, Ferrari are already 96 points behind Mercedes in the constructors’ championship.
In Sunday’s race, a mixture of muddled team strategy, tyre issues and imperfect pit-stops left both Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc struggling to match the pace of Mercedes and third-placed Max Verstappen of Red Bull.
Four-time champion Vettel, widely expected to be a title contender, is 48 points adrift of Hamilton in the drivers’ title race and has yet to finish in the top two this year.
After Sunday’s race in which he made a strong start, but flat-spotted his tyres locking up at Turn One, he said he did not know what the team’s tactics were during the race, “We will talk about it internally, but inside the car we try to do our own race.”
“In the beginning, it was clear Charles was faster so when he was putting on more and more pressure I was happy to let him go. But, in the second stint, I wasn’t aware we were on different strategies for a long time.
“Then, once it was clear I was let go and I was obviously a lot faster. I tried to put pressure on Max, but with the safety car, in the end, it didn’t matter,” added Vettel.
Half a dozen races into the season and the consensus among the ‘wise folks’ in the paddock is that Ferrari have the better engine package but their aero is suspect while, of course, Mercedes have a strong engine package with the W10 strong on the slow stuff, the medium stuff and the fast stuff.
Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel was left lamenting the lack of grip in a tense and tough Monaco Grand Prix where he and his team flattered with second place but, in truth, it was inherited.
During the race, Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen touched while leaving the pits which forced the Finn to make an extra pitstop to sort out a puncture while the Dutchman was slapped with a five seconds penalty for the mistake made by his crew.
Hence Vettel was gifted second and he knows it.
Speaking after the race in Monte Carlo, the German told reporters, “It was not the luckiest race for us as a team, but I think the lesson from here is that we are not yet where we want to be, the pace isn’t there. I think today we sort of tumbled into second place.”
“So we did everything we could but certainly we didn’t have the pace to put the pressure on and go for a bit more. It’s just because overall we are lacking downforce, a weakness that we know.”
“I don’t think the car is as bad as it looks. The results should be better here and there but it’s very difficult for us to get the car in the window where it is happy. Certainly, when we get it in there we’re more competitive but still a way from where we want to be. That’s really the key lesson: we need to focus on trying to get the car short-term more in that window.”
“I’ve had some difficult moments this year where I’m fighting the car, I’m not really entering yet to the level where I feel a lot more comfortable and I feel comfortable to squeeze out more performance from the car but I think it’s linked to the fact that we struggle to put our car in the right window.”
“Once it is there, it is feeling better and you’re able to build-up on that but it doesn’t happen very often but it’s a combination of things. I think first we are lacking overall performance and that overall performance would help us probably to put the tyres more often in the window they would like to be in.”
“I think it’s not a secret, by now, after six races that these tyres this year seem a bit more critical to get exactly into that window…”
While ending the incredible Mercedes one-two streak is a huge feat, the reality is that Ferrari are lagging behind Mercedes and possibly even Red Bull and their ever-improving Honda package.
Looking ahead to the next rounds, starting with Canada in a couple of weeks, Vettel said, “Looking forward for the next three, four, five races, obviously make sure we improve the car, put more grip onto the car so that we can go faster, simple as that.”
“But that guy seems to hide fairly well. I don’t know exactly where he is right now, so if you find him, or if you’ve got his number, that grip guy, but we’ve been looking for him for a while. I don’t think there are any secrets we will be able to unveil.”
“We need to work hard and pay a lot of attention to small things, to details in order to get closer and once we are matched I think we can put a lot more pressure on them. I will have a lot closer races but currently, we are sitting too far away behind Mercedes and probably a match on average with Red Bull is not where we want to be,” added Vettel.
The four-time F1 World Champion lies third in the championship standings, trailing Monaco winner and championship leader Lewis Hamilton by 55 points. Ferrari are 118 points adrift of Mercedes in the constructors’ standings.
Flavio Briatore thinks one of the main problems in F1 this year is the tyres.
Indeed, many teams – including Ferrari – are struggling to understand the very different Pirelli tyres for 2019.
Former Renault boss Briatore, who was in Monaco, told Italy’s Automoto that there are too many compounds, with selections changed from race to race.
“From one race to another they change them and some teams understand them, others don’t. A total casino,” said the Italian.
“It would be better to give the whole field a soft tyre for qualifying and one for the race. Keep it the same for four years and then even those who do not understand how to make them work will get there sooner or later.
“In the commentary I hear always about the tyres, but no one cares,” Briatore added.
Briatore also had scathing comments about Ferrari, who fudged Charles Leclerc’s qualifying with another basic strategy error.
“Everybody knows that the track gets faster. Even in F3 the track gets 3 tenths per lap faster all the time and yet Ferrari keeps the driver in the pits?” he said.
Told that the decision-makers at Ferrari did not arrive in F1 yesterday and therefore should know better, Briatore said: “No, apparently they arrived on Thursday.”
Reports in Italy confirm that winds of change are blowing through Maranello as Ferrari restructure their engineering department amid a hugely disappointing start to the season, which has turned into a Mercedes walkover with the Reds powerless to reel them in.
Post-Barcelona testing the Scuderia were upbeat until reality sank at the season opener in which they were soundly trounced. Ditto the next four rounds.
Granted in Monaco, Sebastian Vettel broke the Mercedes streak of one-twos, but it was a fortuitous podium, and only as a result of the pitlane clash between Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen.
With turmoil on track, it appears upheavals are also taking place behind the scenes as performance engineers Alessandro Cinelli (aero) and Giacomo Tortora (chassis and tyres) are no longer in the posts they once held. Who will replace them is unknown at this point. Watch this space…
Team boss Mattia Binotto is on record saying that the Ferrari he leads is a new team, still growing into the role as title challengers. Hence more changes can be expected as the new man in charge lays the foundations for the future of the team.
“We need to optimise our performance, both on and off the track. I don’t fool myself, the situation is not easy but, I believe it is possible to catch Mercedes. I say we are not far away from our goal. The gap is not as big as it looks between victory and defeat.”
“The problem is not just to identify the problems, but to find a solution,” ventured the team chief.
Prior to their golden era in the noughties, Ferrari also went through a rebuilding process, which Binotto acknowledged, “I recognise parallels to the time around 1995-1996. That was before Ferrari became so successful.”
“At the time we also had to go through a learning and development process. Like today. There was the super package we all know about, but not yet.”
“It’s like today. Stability is important. Understanding the car and its technology. It was a maturing process. That gives me and everyone else at Ferrari hope for the future,” he added.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that Ferrari bosses John Elkann and Louis Camilleri have approved an extra budget to completely redesign the front suspension of the SF90, bearing in mind that little has changed on their system for a couple of seasons while Red Bull and Mercedes have evolved their suspension systems.
The Monaco result flattered the Reds, but Binotto was big enough to admit, “The updates we brought were not enough.”
Meanwhile, after six rounds the stats are stark for Ferrari and their tifosi: no wins this season; they trail Mercedes by 118 points; Hamilton leads Vettel in the standings by 55 points – time is fast running out on their campaign.
Big Question: Can Ferrari close the gap to Mercedes this season?
The late Niki Lauda would have loved Lewis Hamilton’s nail-biting Monaco Grand Prix victory, while praying all the time for divine intervention, according to Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.
Sunday’s race was the first since the death on Monday of the triple world champion, and Mercedes non-executive chairman, and was marked by tributes to the Austrian whose spirit hung over the pits and paddock.
Hamilton, withstanding tremendous pressure on worn tyres from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to hang on for a fourth triumph of the season, told reporters he had wanted to honour his departed friend.
“I really was fighting with the spirit of Niki — he’s been such an influence in our team and I know he will be looking down and taking his hat off,” said the five times world champion after his 77th career victory.
Hamilton wore a red helmet with Lauda’s design and name on it, while the silver car carried other tributes to the two times Monaco winner.
All 20 drivers and team members had stood for a minute’s silence before the race.
Wolff, who had recalled earlier in the week how Lauda had prayed to God on another occasion when Hamilton was in a tense race that decided one of his titles, agreed with that sentiment.
“Niki would have had another little pray; ‘Dear God, please just help me this once’,” he smiled.
“I think it was a world champion’s drive for a world champion that is not with us anymore. And he would have loved it because it was down to the driver and fending off another great driver behind.
“It was a battle among champions like we’ve seen in the past in Monaco, between Senna and Mansell and Prost and all these great names.”
Hamilton has now won three times on the streets of the Mediterranean principality.
Mercedes have won every race this season, the only blemish being the end of their run of five successive one-two finishes with Valtteri Bottas third, but they lived more dangerously than before.
Hamilton was sent out on medium tyres after his sole pitstop, the rubber faster but quicker wearing than the hards chosen by rivals, and made them last for 66 of 78 laps.
Wolff admitted Mercedes should have opted for the more durable compound. “We thought the tyre would make it to the end and it didn’t. But Lewis saved us.”
The champion said he had felt sure there was no way he could make it on the tyres and would have to make another stop, costing him the win.
“I was like, I’m not coming in whatever the case. I’m just going to drive with no tyres until they blow up,” he said. “I really tried my best to stay focused and not crack under pressure.
“It’s been such a hard week emotionally for us as a team. We just really wanted to do the job, to deliver on the word of Niki and I imagined him taking the hat off in support.
“When I was driving it was like ‘what would Niki do?’. So I just kept going.”
After his qualifying was messed up by his team on Saturday, Charles Leclerc had vowed to take risks in his home Monaco Grand Prix and the young Ferrari driver was at least true to his word on Sunday.
Unfortunately for the 21-year-old, they did not bring the reward he had hoped for. Leclerc ended up as the only retirement of the race, his involvement over before the field had completed a quarter of the distance.
“I wanted to take risks… I obviously had to take risks,” the disappointed youngster, who had been fastest in Saturday’s final practise, told reporters after starting in 15th place.
The lowly grid position was a consequence of a Ferrari strategy blunder on Saturday, with the Italian team deciding not to send him out for one more lap in the first phase of qualifying.
With Prince Albert watching events unfold, Leclerc was left in the bottom five and with no realistic hope of matching the only Monegasque to have stood on his home podium, third-placed Louis Chiron in 1950.
He was still in a feisty mood early on, passing McLaren’s teenage rookie Lando Norris on the inside of the hairpin and then muscling past French veteran Romain Grosjean’s Haas at Rascasse.
When Leclerc then tried to do the same to Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, the German left him less room and the Ferrari clipped the wall on the right side and picked up a rear puncture.
The tyre shredded, leaving the Monegasque limping home on a rim and damaging the Ferrari while scattering debris on the track, bringing out the safety car.
“It was impossible to drive at a normal pace. I think the damage was too big,” Leclerc said. “We tried to do a change with the front wing to try and compensate for the lack of downforce we had because of the damage, but it was just not enough.”
Despite a boyhood longing to race around his home circuit, the streets have not been kind to him. He crashed out last year on his home debut with Sauber (now Alfa Romeo) and retired in Formula Two’s 2017 race while leading.
“We didn’t start where we wanted to start, we didn’t end up where we wanted to end up,” he said of a race that Ferrari salvaged by having Sebastian Vettel finish second behind Mercedes’ winner Lewis Hamilton.
Asked how he would cope with the disappointment, Leclerc remained stoical, “I just get on with it. At the end I cannot change it any more so it’s just how it is. It’s a shame it happens at home and especially on a track like Monaco.”
Lewis Hamilton says that without Niki Lauda’s persuasiveness over six years ago, he would not have joined Mercedes and would still be a one-time world champion today.
A sense of joy and perhaps relief after securing his 85th pole position on Saturday in Monaco enticed Hamilton to finally open up and pay tribute to a man he described as his “partner in crime” at Mercedes over the years.
While Ross Brawn was the one who laid out the German manufacturer’s F1 plans for the Brit at the end of 2012, Lauda was the deal-breaker in convincing Hamilton to move from McLaren to Mercedes.
The reigning world champion was reluctant to express his feelings about Lauda earlier this week, no doubt seeking time to come to grips with the heavy loss.
After qualifying however, his allowed his thoughts to flow.
“I was just thinking because I was here at home in Monaco and down by the pool,” said Hamilton, remembering when he was informed of Lauda’s passing.
“I remember getting a call from Niki in 2012 and we had never really spoken before and he was on the phone and saying ‘you should come to Mercedes, this is where you need to be’ and I remember that was the first time we’d started talk.
“I always talked about how Ross was the convincing element in me coming to the team because when I sat down with him he explained what the team was doing and the plan for Mercedes and I truly believed in that vision, but Niki was the one that brought it to me and really got it across the line.
“All of these years he’s been my partner in crime, through all my negotiations and pushing for improvements on the car, he was just such a racer.
“He was always asking what needs to be improved with the car, whether its front suspension, downforce, whether the engine was OK and he’d come to the factory and would be giving them arseholes as he would say!
“Ultimately he was part of the process of changing my life and if I hadn’t had the call at that time I’d be a one-time World Champion now and probably 22 wins or whatever it was I had at McLaren.
“And now I sit here a five-time World Champion and I definitely feel like I owe him the lot.”
“It was very, very difficult at the beginning of the week, everyone was posting pictures and I don’t feel like I need to conform to how everyone operates,” he said.
“Again, coming here on Wednesday I didn’t feel it was the time to do that, but we all love him and miss him and it’s hard to think of never getting to see him again, or talk to him and have conversations.
“But I’ve got the greatest memories of him and he will live long in my memories.”
Mercedes’ Andrew Shovlin says the decision to switch Lewis Hamilton to the medium tyre during the Monaco Grand Prix was dictated by warm-up fears linked to the hard compound.
The deployment of the Safety Car in Sunday’s race after just ten laps enticed the front-runners to go for an early tyre change.
Among the leaders however, Hamilton was the only driver to head back out on track on a set of medium tyres, while followers Max Verstappen, Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas were shod with Pirelli’s hard rubber.
For 67 laps, Hamilton was challenged to make his medium tyres outlast the manufacturer’s recommended 50-lap lifespan while also dealing with the massive pressure exerted by Verstappen in the closing stages of the race.
The reigning world champion fortunately made it stick, but after the race he entered Mercedes’ debrief room and facetiously soaked race engineer Shovlin with champagne, saying “That’s for keeping me on those f…… medium tyres for 67 laps!”
“The Safety Car was earlier than we would have liked and with hindsight, we should have fitted the hard tyre, but we were concerned about the warm-up on the restart, which was why we took the Medium,” Shovlin later explained.
“That obviously made life difficult for Lewis and we’ll review our decision-making and the information that we had at the time.
“We’re grateful that Lewis was able to manage it so well to the end as he really had to work for the victory.”
Bottas was spared his team mate’s 67-lap ordeal on the medium compound, but only because the Finn was forced in to a second stop after enduring a puncture in the pitlane as a result of his run-in with Verstappen.
“Valtteri’s race was also compromised at the Safety Car,” added Shovlin.
“We felt the release from Red Bull was ok, but Max had room on the left to give Valtteri more space rather than putting him into the wall.
“That broke the front right wheel rim and caused a puncture, so we had to pit for a new set. From there his opportunities were rather limited.
“The car had good pace, but you simply can’t pass here and Valtteri had a frustrating race stuck behind Vettel.
“It was some consolation that Valtteri was able to get back on the podium after Max had the time penalty applied.”
The Ferrari driver’s blast through the speed trap and the tunnel was nearly matched by team mate Sebastian Vettel, but also by Daniel Ricciardo whose performance indicates that Renault is once again running its engines at full capacity.
Everyone runs high downforce levels at Monaco, a fact that also underlines the health of the Ferrari and Renault units.
Looking towards the bottom of the readings, Max Verstappen’s 316.4 km/h performance points once again to the efficiency of Red Bull’s RB15 chassis.
If there’s one man who can pull off an upset this afternoon and break the Mercs’ supremacy, it’s Max!
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has admitted that the team’s victory in the 2019 Monaco Grand Prix was mainly down to Lewis Hamilton.
Wolff acknowledged that the decision to switch Hamilton and his team mate Valtteri Bottas to medium compound tyres during an early pit stop on lap 10 behind the safety car had been a tactical mistake by the squad.
“We knew that the tyre choice was the wrong one,” Wolff told Sky Sports F1 after the race. “In hindsight we should have taken the hard.
“But things like this we rarely make strategic mistakes, or rarely make mistakes like this,” he pointed out.
“At the end, the driver made the difference and won us the race.
“Lewis did an incredible job out there. It was a really hard-fought race with Max [Verstappen].
“We know the tyre choice, in hindsight, was wrong with Lewis and we should’ve taken the Hard tyre at his stop,” he said. “But these things happen and at the time we thought the Medium was the right call.
“It was the driver who made the difference and managed the race.
“This one was a really hard fought victory,” he added. “With all the drama it had, I’m relieved it’s over now!”
Wolff explained that the team had been expecting to pit around lap 15 or 16 when the medium tyre would have been the correct selection, but that the safety car had advanced the timetable and changed the game – and not in Mercedes’ favour.
Bottas was oddly fortunate in sustaining a puncture when he clashed with Max Verstappen on pit road. He had to come back in, and this time he was fitted with the harder compound.
But there was no such opportunity for Hamilton. He couldn’t pit for different tyres without losing position, and so he simply had to tough it out on thne mediums all the way to the finish.
“Everybody knew that it was going to be a huge stretch,” said Wolff. “I believe that probably laps to the end he had zero percent rubber left on the tyre.”
Much of the team radio for the remainder of the race was full of Hamilton’s furious complaints about being put out on the wrong rubber. But Wolff said he didn’t blame Hamilton for needing to vent his frustrations over the air.
“I think you just need to accept that the driver somehow needs to have a pressure release value,” he said.
“If by talking with us, even it’s just vomiting the anger out, then that’s completely okay. We just need to support him.”
Wolff added that the spirit of Niki Lauda had been an important factor in Hamilton’s victory today
“It was a world champion’s drive for a world champion who isn’t among us any more,” he commented. “It means a lot and it couldn’t have been a more dramatic race.
“Now we have a couple of days that are going to be difficult with Niki’s funeral in Vienna before we set sail for Canada.”
Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg have praised Renault for its efforts to dial in a genuine qualifying mode into its engine and for the performance gains enjoyed by the unit.
Before the 2019 season got underway, Renault’s self-proclaimed target was to bridge the power gap with its Mercedes and Ferrari rivals, but the manufacturer’s performance has so far fallen short of its ambitions.
Renault F1 boss Cyril Abiteboul revealed earlier this week that a fundamental conrod issue detected after Bahrain had forced the team to reduce the output of its unit in order to preserve its reliability in recent races.
But tireless efforts from its Viry-Châtillon engineers to solve its problems now allow Renault to run its engine at full capacity, and with a qualifying mode to boot, much to Ricciardo and Hulkenberg’s satisfaction.
“[In the debrief] both Nico and myself complemented the Renault boys for our qualifying mode. It felt pretty strong,” said Ricciardo, quoted by Motorsport.com.
“My reference from last year, pulling an extra gear before some apexes – so definitely a year on it is a lot better.
“But even from China, that was our last little step, it is getting there. We actually have a real qualifying mode this year.”
Hulkenberg echoed his teammate’s sentiment, admitting to have been impressed by Renault’s improvements.
“They’ve really reacted very well, Viry, with the problems we had after Bahrain,” said the German.
“They found solutions very quickly, redesigned, re-engineered, and brought the fixes to the track.
“That was quite impressive, and this weekend you can feel again that the engine has come back to life and we can fight again. So that’s very positive.”
Hulkenberg’s only regret was that Renault’s progress had not come earlier.
“If we had that engine in the second half of last year we would have had a much easier life and been fourth everywhere easily,” he added.
“It’s a really big step, serious power there.”
Monaco is offering Renault’s drivers a mere sample of their power unit’s potential, with Canada set to provide a better environment in which to exploit the engine’s new-found qualities.
“I definitely feel it is the right direction now and the nice thing is that there is still more to come and they see that,” he said.
“Reliability is the thing that is going to hold us up from going that step further, but we could squeeze a bit more this weekend even on a low power circuit, you can feel it. So sure some little positives.”
Mercedes report from the Monaco Grand Prix, Round 6 of the 2019 Formula 1 World Championship, on the streets of Monte-Carlo.
For Niki: Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport win the Monaco Grand Prix
Lewis took his 77th career victory today – his fourth of the 2019 season and his third at the Monaco Grand Prix
Valtteri finished the race in P3, his first-ever podium finish in Monte Carlo
Lewis (137 points) leads the Drivers’ Championship by 17 points from Valtteri (120 points)
Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport (257 points) lead Ferrari (139 points) by 118 points in the Constructors’ Championship
Ron Meadows, Sporting Director, accepted the Constructors’ trophy on behalf of the team
Lewis Hamilton: “Today was one of the hardest races of my career, it was so intense. With 20 laps left I thought there was no way I was going to make it to the end. I thought I was going to crash, I was battling so much with the car. There was absolutely nothing left in the tyres and it was so tough to keep the car on the track.”
“I thought to myself, ‘what would Niki do’. I was trying my hardest – giving everything I had. I just tried to stay focused and make no mistakes. I know he was watching me today, but with Niki by my side we managed to do it. I wore his helmet colours today and I didn’t want to let him down. He was close to my heart, I really wanted to deliver for him this weekend and I was determined not to crack under the pressure. Today belongs to Niki.”
Valtteri Bottas: “My race was decided in the pits. We did a double-stacked pit stop under the Safety Car, Lewis first, then me. Vettel and Verstappen came in as well and when I left the pits, Max was released at the same time and was side-by-side with me. We touched, I hit the wall because there’s no space to go and I got a right-front puncture.”
“So I had to do another pit stop the following lap. At that point, I thought I’d be at the end of the field, but I only lost a couple of places, so I guess I was unlucky but lucky at the same time. It’s always disappointing if you finish the race lower than you qualified; however, my pace was really good all weekend long and I still scored valuable points for me and the team.”
“One of my first thoughts this morning was that I wanted to drive well for Niki, I wanted to win for him. Ultimately, I didn’t, but Lewis did, so I’m sure Niki would be proud right now.”
Toto Wolff: “That result means a lot. It was a World Champions’ drive for a World Champion that isn’t among us anymore. It couldn’t have been a more dramatic race, so I am relieved it is over. Lewis did an incredible job out there, it was a really hard-fought race with Max.”
“We know the tyre choice, in hindsight, was wrong with Lewis and we should’ve taken the Hard tyre at his stop. But, these things happen and at the time we thought the Medium was the right call. It was the driver who made the difference and managed the race.”
“Valtteri had a tougher time, losing ground with the pit stops and the clash with Verstappen in the pit lane, but he did a great job and will be determined to fight back. This one was a really hard-fought victory and now we have a couple of days that are going to be difficult with Niki‘s funeral in Vienna before we set sail for Canada.
Andrew Shovlin: “We wanted to win this race for Niki but winning in Monaco is always much easier said than done. There was a bit of a risk of rain early in the race and while it didn’t really turn into much, it meant that we were pushing a bit harder than we’d planned to build a bit of a gap to the midfield.”
“The Safety Car was earlier than we would have liked and with hindsight, we should have fitted the Hard tyre, but we were concerned about the warm-up on the restart, which was why we took the medium. That obviously made life difficult for Lewis and we’ll review our decision making and the information that we had at the time.”
“We’re grateful that Lewis was able to manage it so well to the end as he really had to work for the victory today. Valtteri’s race was also compromised at the Safety Car. We felt the release from Red Bull was ok, but Max had room on the left to give Valtteri more space rather than putting him into the wall.”
“That broke the front right wheel rim and caused a puncture, so we had to pit for a new set. From there his opportunities were rather limited. The car had good pace, but you simply can’t pass here and Valtteri had a frustrating race stuck behind Vettel.”
“It was some consolation that Valtteri was able to get back on the podium after Max had the time penalty applied. Well done to Lewis, we made life more difficult than we needed to for him today, but our thoughts are now with Niki and his family.”
“He has been such a big part of this team over the last few years, we have benefited so much from his wisdom and straight talking, and he is simply someone who cannot ever be replaced. All he would have asked of us is to give it 100% and race hard and that’s what we will do.”
Despite leading from lights to flag, it was a desperate struggle for Lewis Hamilton to clinch victory for Mercedes in the 2019 Monaco Grand Prix over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
Valtteri Bottas picked up third place, despite clashing with Max Verstappen in pit lane. The Red Bull picked up a five second penalty for an unsafe release that cost him a near-certain second place, despite a phenomenal effort from the Dutch driver.
It was another troubled day for local boy Charles Leclerc. The Ferrari driver hit the barrier while trying to work his way back up from his poor grid position, and he ended up retiring from the race with floor damage on lap 18.
Despite increasingly overcast conditions and a growing chance of rain, the glitz and glamour of the principality was undimmed as 20 drivers lined up in the grid for the start of Sunday’s race. With overtaking notoriously all but impossible on the tight and twisting street circuit, arguably the most important battle had already been waged in yesterday’s qualifying session; but the second most crucial moment lay ahead with the start of the race, when the lights went out and the cars plunged the short distance into Sainte-Devote for the first of 78 laps.
Polesitter Lewis Hamilton made no mistakes with his launch from the grid, leaving Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas to fend off Max Verstappen and keep the Red Bull in third place. That left Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel watching on from behind, with no room to make up positions into the first corner. However 2018 race winner Daniel Ricciardo had succeeded in jumping Kevin Magnussen for fifth, and Pierre Gasly has clawed back one of the positions he’d been penalised overnight and was into seventh ahead of Carlos Sainz and the Toro Rossos of Daniil Kvyat and Alexander Albon.
The start had been a clean one, although there was minor contact between Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen and Racing Point’s Lance Stroll at the Lowes hairpin. McLaren’s Lando Norris was falling backward after being passed at the same spot by the seriously out-of-position Charles Leclerc, the local hero proving true to his word about going for broke this afternoon after Ferrari’s fumbled qualifying effort 24 hours previously. He soon dispatched Romain Grosjean with a nice move at Rascasse, but then spun when he tried to repeat the move on Nico Hulkenberg next time around. He ended up clipping the barrier, which punctured his right rear tyre and sent him limping back to pit lane.
The flailing rubber had made a mess of the SF90’s floor and bodywork which scattered debris across the track, leaving race control no option but to deploy the safety car on lap 10 while track workers got to work cleaning up. The 20-second advantage that the top four had previously enjoyed over Ricciardo evaporated as the leaders scrambled to pit lane for a ‘free’ stop. Hamilton and Bottas opted for medium rubber, while Verstappen and Vettel were both thinking longer distance and went for the hard compound.
However the pit stops had came at a cost for Mercedes. The team had been forced to double stack their cars, a delay that ended up costing Bottas track position over Verstappen. The pair then made contact on pit lane as they headed back out, and Mercedes was instantly concerned that the Finn had suffered a puncture from the collision. They brought back him in for replacements – opting for hard tyres this time – and sent him back out now in fourth place behind both Verstappen and Vettel.
Racing resumed on lap 15 with Hamilton still in charge and Bottas instantly pressuring Vettel, but almost immediately there was a fracas in turn 16 when Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi tipped Williams’ Robert Kubica into a spin that briefly blocked the entire with of the track. Nico Hulkenberg, George Russell and the luckless Leclerc were forced to come to a temporary full stop while those ahead sorted themselves out. Eventually, everyone did get going with the whole situation neatly handled under local waved yellows with no safety car reprise required. Giovinazzi was subsequently handed a ten second penalty for triggering the mêlée.
Lap 18 saw the end of Leclerc’s race as the heavily wounded Ferrari was finally called in to the team garage to retire. Meanwhile Verstappen was having a better time of it, the investigation into his earlier pit lane unsafe release and clash with Bottas earning him a surprisingly mild five second penalty from the stewards. That kept him in the game, especially as his hard tyres gave him a shot of making it to the finish with no further stops while Hamilton was up against it trying the same on the mediums. While the race leader was trying to control the pace in order to extend the life of his tyres, Verstappen was soon turning up the heat and forcing Hamilton to go faster and faster.
Behind the pair, Vettel and Bottas had no trouble keeping up for ringside seats and a chance of their own to pounce. The rest of the field was also starting to claw back some time on the leaders, with the yet-to-pit Albon and Grosjean only around ten seconds behind Bottas followed by Gasly, Sainz, Kvyat and Norris, also yet to make his first call to pit road. By contrast, Ricciardo and Magnussen had dropped to 13th and 14th respectively after copying the leaders with an early stop under the safety car but with significantly less success.
By lap 47, Hamilton was telling the Mercedes pit wall that he was “in a bad way”. His task was made even harder by coming up upon the increasingly congested midfield battle. Eventually the leaders found their way past the backmarkers, Bottas coming off worse when he found himself stuck behind the stubborn Lance Stroll for an extended period. But the other frontrunners also had their issues, Verstappen being told to ‘lift and coast’ for overheating brakes, and Vettel also having to drop back due to overheating issues on the Ferrari.
At least the one headache they had been spared was the arrival of rain. Despite a few intermittent spots of precipitation, the race itself remained essentially dry leaving a tense run to the finish for the top four, with Hamilton growing increasingly desperate and disillusioned as his medium tyres approached end of life status. The team tried to keep his confidence up and encouraged him to carry on despite the problems, while Verstappen ended up throwing everything into his battle to pass the W10 before the laps ran out.
The situation reached boiling point on lap 76 when Verstappen launched an attack out of the tunnel, locked up and made contact with Hamilton’s left-rear at the Nouvelle Chicane which caused both men to miss the turn – an incident that the race stewards said that they would look into after the race. Both cars survived the encounter but Verstappen never had another chance to strike, leaving Hamilton to take the win.
Verstappen was second to the chequered flag but his five second penalty meant he dropped behind Vettel and Bottas in the classified results meaning he missed out on the podium. His team mate Pierre Gasly put in a solid drive to fifth, eking out enough of a lead over Sainz in the process to make a ‘free’ stop for fresh tyres in pursuit of the bonus point for fastest lap.
Kvyat and Albon picked up seventh and eighth respectively, with the final points going to Ricciardo and Grosjean. Just missing out on the top ten were Norris, Magnussen, Sergio Perez, Hulkenberg, Russell, Stroll and Raikkonen, with Robert Kubica managing to finish in 18th position one place ahead of Giovinazzi.
As the driver made their way back to the pits, the crowded doffed their (predominantly red) caps in homage to Niki Lauda as the Mercedes pit wall congratulated Hamilton and told him that Lauda would have been proud of this one.
Who was your driver of the day? Let us know in the comments!
All four Honda-powered cars advanced to the final part of qualifying for the first time this season with a strong showing at the Monaco Grand Prix.
Aston Martin Red Bull Racing were in contention for pole position throughout the session, with Max setting the fastest time of Q2.
Struggling to get temperature in his tyres for his final attempt, Max eventually backed off and had to settle for third place behind the two Mercedes cars. Pierre also seamlessly made his way into the top ten shootout and will line up directly behind Max in fifth place on the grid, just failing to beat Sebastian Vettel by less than 0.1s.
After displaying encouraging pace throughout the weekend, Toro Rosso executed a clean qualifying session to ensure both drivers reached the top ten shootout for the first time this season.
Daniil was only 0.2s off Pierre’s time but the competitive nature of the grid means that translates into eighth place on the grid, while Alex made his first Q3 appearance and will start one row further back in tenth.
Toyoharu Tanabe, Technical Director: “Today’s qualifying performance puts us in a strong position for tomorrow’s race. It was the first time this year that we have had all four of our cars in the top ten and, for Max it was also his best qualifying result of the year. Well done to all the drivers and to the teams for producing competitive cars.”
“On the PU side, we found the right settings in terms of driveability, which is one of the most important requirements for this track. It will be a long race tomorrow and anything can happen over the 78 laps of this tight street circuit, therefore we must make sure we are ready to deal with any situation that might arise.”
When John Elkann lost his ally with the sudden death of Sergio Marchionne last year, some questioned whether the softly-spoken scion of the Agnelli clan would be able to emerge from his shadow to ensure Fiat Chrysler’s future.
But New York-born Elkann, who became Fiat chairman in 2010, acted decisively to fill the vacuum left by the larger-than-life Marchionne and get closer to the big merger deal the legendary executive was unable to deliver.
At just 28 Elkann was thrust into the role of Fiat vice-chairman after the deaths of his grandfather and great-uncle “because there was really nobody else” to take the wheel.
For Elkann, who got his first taste of the car industry as an intern at a factory producing headlights in Birmingham, England, the first 18 months with responsibility for the family-owned carmaker and its long heritage were “terrible”.
But from that low point, Elkann, 43, is now trying to merge Fiat Chrysler (FCA) with French rival Renault to form the world’s third-largest carmaker and tackle new challenges facing the industry.
Elkann will become chairman of the merged FCA-Renault if the deal goes ahead, ensuring the Agnelli dynasty plays a central role in the next chapter of automotive history.
At an event in Milan on Monday, the usually-shy Elkann looked happy and confident.
His first big break came with an instrumental role in persuading Marchionne, who was running one of the businesses owned by the Agnelli family, to become chief executive in 2004 and give Fiat “a new start”, Elkann said in a “Masters of Scale” podcast last year.
Fiat was at the time almost on the brink of collapse.
This involved a “very long night … and many grappas” but proved to be a turning point in the fortunes of the Italian company founded by Elkann’s great-great-grandfather Giovanni Agnelli, which built its first car in 1899.
In 2005, Elkann backed Marchionne in negotiating the breakup of an alliance Fiat had entered into with General Motors in 2000, receiving $2-billion from GM in return for cancelling a deal that could have required GM to buy the remainder of Fiat Auto.
Marchionne then used GM’s money to fund a turnaround at Fiat, which involved taking the Italian carmaker into a transformation alliance and then full-blown merger with U.S. automaker Chrysler as Elkann agreed to the Agnellis loosening their grip.
If Elkann can deliver a deal with Renault – which will net the Agnellis about 725-million euros ($811 million) in a dividend payout – it will be partly thanks to his pick of new CEO.
Michael Manley was probably was not the obvious choice, but the transition to the post-Marchionne era has been smooth with no tensions or rivalries within the family or the FCA group.
The focus has been very much on the future as FCA, like its rivals, grapples with the challenges posed for the car making industry by fast-changing technology and regulation.
Elkann, who is also Chairman and CEO of the Agnelli holding company EXOR, appears to be taking a leaf out of his great-great-grandfather’s book.
“We must always look to the future. Foresee the future of new inventions. Be unafraid of the new. Delete from our vocabulary the word ‘impossible’,” Elkann quotes the Fiat founder’s mantra as being.
Elkann, whose French is better than his Italian, spent seven years at a lycee in France before studying Engineering at Politecnico, the Engineering University of Turin. He has often been portrayed more as a financier who has moved key elements of Fiat away from Italy.
His efforts to keep Fiat on the road, however, have not been rewarded with the popularity his grandfather, known as “L’Avvocato”, enjoyed even though he has maintained the family’s involvement with soccer club Juventus and chairs the Giovanni Agnelli Foundation.
Elkann has transformed EXOR’s portfolio during his time in the driving seat of the family empire. He diversified into insurance – winning a bitter $6.9 billion takeover battle for Bermuda reinsurer PartnerRe in 2015 – and into media assets through The Economist magazine.
Elkann, an admirer of Warren Buffett, also listed Juventus on the stock exchange, turning a hobby of Elkann’s grandfather into a serious business.
During his watch, Fiat has also spun off Ferrari and truckmaker CHNI, in line with his philosophy that companies need to adapt to survive in the long-run. EXOR is still the top shareholder in both companies.
After all these changes, Elkann is now at the top of a family empire less exposed to the cyclical and rapidly-changing auto industry yet with a potentially key role, with a stake of just below 15 percent, in a leading global carmaker.
This will mean Elkann has delivered on his promise of upholding the Agnelli family’s pledge to the auto industry, which still employs thousands of workers in Italy, while at the same time bringing taking FCA onto a new stage.
And if he can keep to FCA’s pledge not to shut plants, Elkann might yet become an Italian legend like his forebears.
Carlos Sainz believes he pulled off the best overtaking move of his Formula 1 career so far on his way to sixth place in the Monaco Grand Prix.
An impressive recovery after a tough final practice session allowed Sainz to reach Q3 and qualify in ninth place, but he looked set to lose a place to Alexander Albon at the first corner. A good exit from Ste Devote helped Sainz pass Albon on the run up towards Casino Square, and with that momentum he then drove clean around the outside Albon’s team-mate Daniil Kvyat at Massenet with a move that would prove crucial, as he finished directly ahead of the Toro Rosso pair in sixth.
“We got a good amount of points this weekend,” Sainz said. “It feels good. It feels particularly good as we just build it up, put in a good lap in qualifying when it counted. I got a really good start off the line and managed to pass the two Toro Rossos around the outside of Turn 3, which was probably the best move of my career in F1 until now. Then I put some good laps before and after the stop, we got the timing right, P6.
“We knew I had some pace left after the Safety Car which is why we didn’t pit. So we knew we had tire left. We put together a strong 10-12 laps after the Safety Car, opened the gap, pitted when we had to pit, it was tight, then I think I did the fastest lap after trying to defend against Kvyat. Great timing, great call, and just good pace when it counted.”
The result extended McLaren’s advantage in fourth in the constructors’ championship to 13 points over Racing Point, and Sainz was helped by team-mate Lando Norris, who was strategically used to help the Spaniard get clean air.
“They told me what I needed to focus on, lap time-wise,” Norris said. “Obviously trying to look after my tires at the same time, which cost a bit of pace, but they told me what I needed to do, and I did that, and allowed him to box cleanly ahead of me.
“If I didn’t do that I think he probably would have been passed by the Toro Rossos, because they were quite a bit quicker. So I think they did a very good job. We did our homework before the race because we thought this might happen, so we were well-prepared and thankfully that got us some good points.”
Additionally, McLaren, Toro Rosso and Alfa Romeo have all three loaded up on Pirelli’s red-rimmed softs, with each driver banking on nine sets.
Regarding Ferrari and Red Bull, both teams are on tyre testing duty this week, running at Paul Ricard today and tomorrow with Vettel, Leclerc, Pierre Gasly and Max Verstappen and putting Pirelli’s 2020 wet compounds through their paces.