McLaren boss Andreas Seidl believes Spielberg’s scorching temperatures could lead to an incident-packed Austrian Grand Prix which Lando Norris will start from fifth on Sunday’s grid.
Norris qualified P6 after a flawless but hard-fought session, but the McLaren rookie will gain a spot thanks to Kevin Magnussen’s scheduled five-place demotion.
It initially appeared like the Brit would line up fourth, taking into account the 3-spot penalty handed to Lewis Hamilton for impeding Alfa’s Kimi Raikkonen.
However, because of how the various penalties are applied, Norris will launch his race from fifth, the best position enjoyed by McLaren on the grid since since Jenson Button’s P3 start in… Austria in 2016.
“It was a good quali,” said Norris. “We knew it was going to be a tough and it turned out to be closer than at Paul Ricard.
“But we can all be pleased with starting P5 for the second race in a row – a great job by the team here and back at Woking.
“We didn’t attempt any quali runs in Q2 for Carlos in order to save the car, and, at the same time, to be sure not to make it through to Q3, which wouldn’t have allowed us free tyre choice for the race start tomorrow.
“Another excellent performance from Lando, who starts P5 again as in France last week.
“Congratulations to the entire team and both drivers who executed two clean sessions in challenging hot conditions today.”
Seidl agreed with Norris that Sunday’s high temperatures could throw a spanner into the works of a few contenders
“As always, our heads are down now and we’re remaining focussed, as points get distributed tomorrow,” added the McLaren chief.
“We’ll prepare for a long race in hot conditions which is likely to feature many incidents. So I guess we can look forward to an exciting race.”
Valtteri Bottas says he is in no pain despite registering a 25G impact when he crashed during second practice for the Austrian Grand Prix.
Shortly after Max Verstappen had caused a red flag by crashing at the final corner, Bottas overcorrected at Turn 4 and went into the gravel at high speed. Unable to collect the car from that point, Bottas hit the tire barrier on the outside of the circuit head-on.
After being checked and released form the medical center, Bottas said: “Yes, it was pretty big, but it’s all OK. No pain.
“This morning we had a bit of an issue with the engine, so we had to swap back to the old one for first practice, so that compromised first practice a little bit, but we still found a clear direction on the car set-up and where to go, and made pretty big changes for FP2 and felt a lot better until I had the shunt. But before that it was feeling quite nice. So, overall, a good feeling, but other teams are quick as well.”
With a mixture of hot and windy conditions in FP2, Bottas said the Red Bull Ring was unforgiving on Friday afternoon.
“It is going to be super-hot, especially on Sunday, so that will put cars definitely to the limit in terms of cooling and the brakes, and engine,” he said. “But there were some gusts this afternoon, and I think I managed to find one of them as well. It made it quite tricky, and these corners here, they penalize a lot if you make a small error, as you saw.
“Even though I crashed, I do prefer to be penalized for the mistakes. It makes it more exciting. I think that is how it should be, and definitely mistakes here cost a lot, with aggressive curbs and minimal runs-off and everything.”
“After the first three, four races, in which he stumbled a little – well he didn’t stumble, but he just needed a period to get used to it – that was the time where I always had technical problems in qualifying,” explained Hulkenberg.
“A few [good results] slipped through my hands. They went to him.
“He does a good job in qualifying, you have to say that and acknowledge it. Somehow there’s a bit of a worm [jinx] in it for me in qualifying this year.
“Somehow there’s always something – sometimes it’s my own fault, sometimes small unfortunate circumstances in the background, but nothing serious,” he added.
“For example the wind. Suddenly I will have a head wind on the straight and I will lose one and a half tenths.
“The numbers speak for themselves and sound very clear – and I don’t like them either. But it is what it is.
“We’re the same when it comes to points. I’ll try to turn the statistics around a bit now, but he already knows what he’s doing in qualifying.”
Hulkenberg insists his teammate’s edge on Saturdays hasn’t altered the good relationship they share at Renault.
“It’s similar to all the other teammates before,” he said.
“It’s already a competition, but there is open communication between both sides.
“We have the same views about the car and where we want to go with the development, it’s all going quite well.”
A performance clause in Max Verstappen’s contract with Red Bull Racing has ignited once again speculation that the Dutchman could leave the Milton Keynes-based outfit at the end of the season.
Verstappen’s current deal with Red Bull extends to the end of 2020, but according to Spain’s Marca, should the 21-year-old fail to win a Grand Prix by the summer break, that shortfall would allow Verstappen to part ways with his team at the end of this year.
Verstappen’s manager, Raymond Vermeulen, confirmed the existence of the performance clause in his driver’s favour.
“We confirm that there is a performance clause in the contract,” Vermeulen told Dutch publication Formule 1.
“But we will not make any further statements about its content. Red Bull and Verstappen know exactly what the agreements entail.”
Vermeulen insisted however that Verstappen remained committed to Red Bull, regardless of whether the performance clause is triggered or not.
“We want to become world champion with Red Bull,” he added.
“We started with Red Bull in 2015 with the plan to become the youngest world champion ever and we want to continue to follow that plan.
“We are not only concerned about next year, but also the years afterwards. What will happen to Red Bull and what will happen to Honda? All elements are important.”
Needless to say, speculation is rife in Austria regarding Max’s future.
Many believe Mercedes is ready to pounce if Verstappen suddenly becomes available.
The opportunity for the Silver Arrows outfit to secure the Dutchman’s services would likely force Valtteri Bottas’ out of his seat.
But pundits in the media are also projecting who would replace Verstappen at Red Bull, kicking around the idea that Sebastian Vettel could return to his old team while Ferrari would slot in none other than Fernando Alonso into the German driver’s seat!
Charles Leclerc continued to set the pace for Ferrari at Red Bull Ring ahead of qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix later this afternoon, the 21-year-old young gun signalling his intent in the hot sunshine of the Spielberg hills.
Leclerc was the only driver to dip below 94 seconds with the best time of 1:03.987 around Formula 1’s shortest venue, which was a tenth and a bit better than Lewis Hamilton in second.
Valtteri Bottas was a tenth further back with Sebastian Vettel fourth and a quarter of a second down on his teammate in top spot. Max Verstappen fifth quickest, the top five within half a second which sets the scene for an intriguing qualifying duel in the afternoon.
As is becoming tradition at McLaren, Carlos Sainz had the edge over Lando Norris on day one of practice, but by Saturday the teenage rookie finds the sweet spot and raises the bar as he did in FP3 today. He was sixth and three tenths up on the Spaniard who was good for eighth.
Splitting the pair on the timing screens was Pierre Gasly who reported power issues early on in the session. The Frenchman was seventh, half a second shy of the Dutchman in the sister car.
Antonio was quicker of the Alfa Romeo pair with the ninth best time, a couple of tenths up on teammate Kimi Raikkonen in 13th.
Toro Rosso duo Danill Kvyat and Alexander Albon were 10th and 11th respectively, with sixth to 18th covered by a second, ample proof that it is very tight in the belly of the midfield.
Carlos Sainz admits his pace during practice for the Austrian Grand Prix was bittersweet due to a grid penalty he will take on Sunday.
McLaren has opted to fit an upgraded power unit in Sainz’s car, but as it exceeds the number of components he can use in a season he must start the race from the back of the grid. Coming of a sixth-place at Paul Ricard, Sainz was fifth in FP2 in Austria and said the pace shown by McLaren makes the penalty an especially painful one.
“Thanks for reminding me!” Sainz said of his penalty. “It makes the feeling of today very sour. When you have good pace on Friday without really wanting to be quick because we are preparing the run plan and the car for Sunday, and still when you attempt one push lap suddenly the pace is there, it makes me feel disappointed by the penalty. But it’s a price that we need to pay right now.”
Sainz admitted that he wasn’t expecting to be so quick at the Red Bull Ring, which gives the penalty an additional sting, albeit one that carries some cause for optimism.
“I’m surprised not to be happy about the pace,” he said. “But it could be such a good weekend without the penalty. Disappointed by that, but really proud of how we’re starting to move quickly.
“I think it’s my third consecutive Friday inside the top six, so it just shows that we are doing our homework when we arrive to races very well-prepared. The car is adapting to three different tracks now, and I am happy with that.”
While he stopped short of identifying a specific reason for McLaren’s recent good form, Sainz said he is pleased with the consistency the team is showing as it sits fourth in the constructors’ championship.
“It’s very difficult to tell race-by-race, but for sure every race we are doing we confirm ourselves inside the top 10, and sometimes on a Friday inside the top seven or top eight,” he said. “So we are doing a good job.”
Less than a week after a French Grand Prix that saw little punishment for drivers running outside track limits, the Red Bull Ring proved significantly more unforgiving on an eventful Friday.
A twelve-hour drive may be all that separates Le Castellet from Spielberg, but for F1 purposes, they might as be a world away.
From the glorified car park of Paul Ricard, to the various sausage kerbs, small dips and gusts of wind at the Red Bull Ring, F1 was once again at its knife-edge best on Friday.
Whether it was Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas in the wall, Sebastian Vettel’s nearly joining them, or the various bits of carbon fibre donated by Lance Stroll, Nico Hulkenberg and others, drivers in Austria were actually forced to reckon with immediate and significant consequences for their missteps.
Taking place in the midst of a particularly spirited discussion about the state of F1 – particularly after the snooze-fest in France – it goes to show a proper track, with proper deterrents for F1 cars goes a long way in adding some intrigue to proceedings, even if the cars themselves still have problems that need addressing.
Of course, you can’t just go adding something like a sausage kerb to every corner of every track, but when placed as well as they are here in Spielberg, “ambition versus adhesion” actually means something, and that means that maybe, just maybe, this weekend will produce some honest-to-goodness excitement.
0.078 seconds. Advantage Charles Leclerc (eight laps) held on average over Lewis Hamilton (9 laps) on soft tyre runs, which is a very good sign for Sunday’s race.
€150000. Costs to produce a front wing, courtesy of AMuS’ Tobias Gruner after nine were lost in first practice.
1:05.701. FP2 time for Romain Grosjean, good enough for P6. If there’s anyone in the grid who needed a positive session, it was him.
Per Tobi Gruner (a big day for him!), a minor bombshell dropped on Friday with Max Verstappen reportedly able to leave Red Bull before next season. Certainly, it would be unsurprising for him to be exploring his options, but I wonder if Mercedes or Ferrari would deem him worth the personality clash.
Long live Rich Energy’s “Stag” Logo, now officially dead come July 18. On the positive side, I hear they’ve already got their new logo ready to go, and this time it definitely doesn’t infringe copyright.
Everyone took to the track for the final dress rehearsal before qualifying hoping for a less disruptive session that Friday’s FP3 which saw Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas inflict considerable damage to their respective cars.
Track action was scarce in the first 15 minutes however, with McLaren’s Carlos Sainz putting the first time on the board, followed by Toro Rosso’s Alex Albon.
The usual suspects were quick to overall the mid-field runners, with Bottas going fastest on softs with a 1m05.510s before Leclerc overhauled the Finn, with Vettel slotting in third.
Over at Red Bull, Pierre Gasly radioed in to report a sudden loss of power, the Frenchman nevertheless succeeding in bringing his car back to the pits for a full diagnosis.
Meanwhile, Leclerc continued his charge at the front, lowering his benchmark time to a quick 1m04.275s that edged Bottas by 0.364s, the Mercedes driver followed by Vettel, Verstappen and Hamilton.
As the session entered its final quarter, Bottas sprung to the top but Leclerc responded with a 1m04.120s, with Hamilton then snapping at his heels just 0.143s behind.
The Monegasque further advertised his ambitions for pole this afternoon by shaving another couple of tenths off his fastest time and breaching the 1m04 barrier, proof that there may very well be a genuine Mercedes-Ferrari battle this afternoon, and hopefully also tomorrow.
The positions among the top-five remained unchanged in the closing stages of the session.
McLaren’s Lando Norris put in another solid performance to clock in P6, ahead of Gasly and Sainz while Alfa’s Antonio Giovinazzi and Toro rosso’s Daniil Kvyat rounded off the top-ten.
Albon was P11 in front of Kimi Raikkonen who had the upper hand over Racing Point’s Sergio Perez, Haas’ Romain Grosjean and Lance Stroll.
Kevin Magnussen’s session was curtailed by a suspected oil leak on his Hass VF-19, and Williams George Russell and Robert Kubica continued their routine of making up the rear.
Sergio Perez has come out and joined the chorus in the Formula 1 paddock singing the hymn that Formula 1 is too boring and predictable in an era in which Mercedes have utterly dominated and have virtually wrapped up the 2019 season before the halfway mark.
Ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix weekend, Perez told Sportsmail, “Formula 1 is far too boring, you turn on the TV and you know who is going to win the race.
“We want the best possible cars we can drive but we also want everyone to be able to be in with a chance so it becomes more competitive. Right now F1 is far too predictable.
“You don’t have to be a genius, you just have to be able to create the F1 that you have in the midfield and if you can provide that, you will have a better show right to the last race and to the last lap. That’s what F1 should be about.
“Now, you turn on the TV and you know that Mercedes will be the winners, Ferrari will be second and Red Bull will finish third. If there is one thing I would change about F1 it would be providing the equality.
Perez added during the F1 drivers’ press conference at red Bull Ring on Thursday, “I wouldn’t say the sport is in crisis but it’s certainly losing interest from a lot of people. You have some races that are incredibly boring at the front of field but when you look at the midfield.
“I mean when you look at the last race, what happened at the midfield until the last lap, they decided who won the battle, so I think that was incredible. I think the problem is more with the top teams, the difference that there is.
“I think the whole pack has to be a lot closer together, give equal opportunity to everyone and have more teams capable of winning. The way you do that is by making the rules a bit more complex and not so much gap between teams. That will be the best way to create interesting races,” ventured Perez.
The Mexican is not alone, even the man doing the bulk of the winning – Lewis Hamilton – acknowledged after he romped unchallenged to victory in France last week, “If you say that it’s boring… I totally understand it.”
Meanwhile, there are many who believe the sport at the highest level is over-regulated to the detriment of racing, the seasonal complaints fired up again recently in the wake of Sebastian Vettel’s controversial penalty during the Canadian Grand Prix which denied fans what was panning out to be a cracking final 20 laps.
Perez himself was a victim of a marginal call on Sunday in France when the FIA race stewards who gave him a penalty for gaining an advantage when he went wide in the opening lap melee on the eye-sore Circuit Paul Ricard.
The Racing Point driver explained, “I looked back at the video and saw I gained an advantage, but at the time during the race you do not know where you are, so they could have told me to drop places. I stuck to the rules.”
‘We have far too big run-offs and there is too much advantage in going off the track. I think a solution for that would be to put in grass instead of run-off,” added the veteran of 163 grand prix starts.
Haas’ Kevin Magnussen will be demoted five spots on Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix grid following a gearbox change on the Dane’s car.
Haas discovered a suspicious oil leak in the transmission of Magnussen’s VF-19 in Saturday’s final free practice session, with a further investigation leaving no other choice for the US outfit but to replace the car’s gearbox.
Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens are all right and well, but having a positive start to a race weekend beats most entries in the list of our favourite things.
No points are ever given on Friday, nor is it safe to assume that the pecking order in the first two sessions will reflect the rest of the weekend. We’ll need our A-game tomorrow and on Sunday to come home with the results we want. But, given the choice, we’ll take having a car in the top ten over not having it, no matter how early the session.
Having said that, we know the road ahead is long. We keep working hard, we keep refining our package, ready to climb every mountain in our way. That’s what we do – and whatever the rest of this baking hot weekend holds, we’ll be ready to take it on.
1st practice: 17th / 1:06.729 (23 laps)
2nd practice: 7th / 1:05.728 (37 laps)
“It was a bit of a stop-start day, especially in the afternoon with the red flags, but it goes like this sometimes. It’s the same for everyone and we have to make the best of it, whatever the situation. The car felt better in FP2 but let’s not get carried away. It is way too early to say where we stand compared to our rivals, that is something we will only find out tomorrow and in the race. For sure, we have work to do to improve things ahead of qualifying.”
1st practice: 16th / 1:06.708 (30 laps)
2nd practice: 14th / 1:06.119 (37 laps)
“I was quite happy with the balance of the car, even though it was difficult to put everything together this afternoon. The two red flags came when we put the soft tyres on and I feel we couldn’t use them to their fullest. However, tomorrow is when it matters. We have to focus on improving ahead of qualifying and do the best possible job in the rest of the weekend, but I hope we can reach Q3 again.”
Kimi❄️ “The car felt better in FP2 but let’s not get carried away. It is way too early to say where we stand compared to our rivals, that is something we will only find out tomorrow and in the race” 🚗
For a guy without a full-time drive, Pato O’Ward has certainly been keeping busy. This time last week he had no plans for this weekend; today, he finished qualifying for his Formula 2 debut in Austria with MP Motorsport. RACER spoke to the Mexican about adapting on the fly.
Q: How do you feel after your first experience of qualifying, the F2 car and the Red Bull Ring?
PATO O’WARD: First impressions of the circuit is that it’s beautiful! I know it doesn’t look good on paper that we’re 17th, but we are 1.0s off from pole. I don’t know the car, I don’t know the tire and I don’t know the circuit. I’ve had maybe eight flying laps to really push the car and see what it can do. So I don’t really think we’re that bad. What also shows me that I’m not that far off is that my teammate and I are about a tenth off each other. It just shows we have to work a bit more.
The issue for me right now is I need to learn how to find a way to extract the time from a new set of tires. I looked to be a lot stronger on a race run or on multiple laps, but to get that peak lap for a qualifying lap I haven’t found my way around it yet.”
Q: You mentioned your teammate, Jordan (King). Have you had to lean on him a bit, has he helped or have you had to find out on your own?
P O’W: Obviously I asked him a couple of questions. He’s driven the IndyCar so he knows the differences, but there’s a lot of things you just can’t explain until you experience it. I got to experience it this morning, and we were 1.5s off, now we’re 1.0s off, so we’ve got half a second better. There’s been improvements, but there’s just such little track time that it’s made it so hard to be very competitive in qualifying. But I think for someone who’s never driven the circuit, the tire and the car, I really don’t think it’s that bad. We can only improve from here.
“It’s been nice to have someone who has driven what I’ve driven beside me. Especially in debriefs, if I’m feeling something he can say ‘Oh it’s this car’, or ‘No, it’s a problem’. But it just looks like this car is quite different to all the other ones that I’m used to, so it’s just going to take some time to get used to. We are a work in progress, for sure.
Image by Portlock/LAT
Q: You’ve only had today so it’s not a lot of time in the car, but what are the similarities and differences between this and IndyCar?
P O’W: There is quite a bit of turbo lag in the Formula 2 car. In the IndyCar you can’t even feel it. In everything like the drive and the gearbox, the IndyCar is a lot quicker. In this one it’s kind of jumping back into an Indy Lights feeling, to be honest, where the gearbox is clunky, the turbo delivery is a lot more violent than the IndyCar, and everything is not as smooth.
But power-wise, it’s quite close to the IndyCar. I think downforce-wise it can probably go around a quick corner very similar, if not a bit quicker. The more input you give it, the more the car turns, which is very different to IndyCar because it’s like responding, responding and then it starts to go away and understeers. It’s because it’s a heavy car. But it drives very different, the way you brake and the way you can coast into the corner is completely different. So right now I’ve only had a matter of laps to do it, but it’s going to take some time to really get it down. Once I figure out how to extract the time from a new tire I should be fine.
Q: You shouldn’t have to worry about that so much in the feature race, tomorrow you’ll have one stop…
P O’W: Exactly, tomorrow we’ll have one stop, and I think it’s just in the back of my mind that I’m going to have to save the tires. Don’t destroy them. Just the fundamental things of, don’t get a lot of wheelspin, don’t go sideways, just have a tidy number of laps to really just take care of the tires as much as you can. From what I’ve heard, it’s pretty savage whenever they go off.
Q: You probably want to move forward in the race because your long runs were stronger, but how do you balance that with learning and getting experience, especially with the Pirelli tires?
P O’W: Yeah I think tomorrow I’m going to have to feel it out whenever everything starts. I haven’t done a standing start in five years, so that’s going to be something different as well! I’ve kind of been thrown into a dark room and don’t really have much way. I’m just kind of feeling out the walls and finding my own way, but it’s about enjoying it. So I’m going to try and learn as much as I can, and then going forward it will be a positive overall. I’m trying to treat this more of like a testing session or a test day, because you can’t just expect to go into something you have no clue about and go straight to the top. Especially with a car that is completely different to everything else you’ve driven.
So it will take some time, and I think it’s shown in the category. I mean, there’s guys who have been in this series for four or five years, and some struggled a bit even last year with the new car. So it does look like it takes a while to get up to speed, but I think with some more running and really finding the best way and what this tire really likes with this car, I think is going to be the key point and I should just keep improving.
Q: So are you hoping Sunday’s sprint race will be the day where you can show your progress over the weekend and have a bit more fun?
P O’W: I hope we just continue progressing, and I’m sure we will. We progressed half a second in qualifying. In the race it’s going to be hard to see obviously in times, but seeing how competitive we are compared to the top guys is going to be the main focus. If we’re quite close to them there, then the next time we get a chance to do this it will be about finding out what the best thing to do in qualifying is.
McLaren report from day one of the Austrian Grand Prix weekend, Round 9 of the 2019 Formula 1 World Championship, at Red Bull Ring in Spielberg.
FP1 1m05.502s (+0.664s) 34 laps 7th
FP2 1m05.545s (+0.459s) 44 laps 5th
“Another good Friday. It’s always good news to finish again in the top 10 – today top seven – cars, even though it is only practice. My run plan has been more race-biased than normal today, as obviously we’re trying to prepare for the race knowing that I’m going to take a penalty for Sunday.
“Even so, the only short run I did looked competitive, which I guess today only makes the penalty feel a bit more painful. However, it is what it is, and there’s no point losing energy on that. My focus is on the race and our long runs also looked decent, so I prefer to look on the bright side and keep preparing for Sunday.”
FP1 1m06.125s (+1.287s) 27 laps 10th
FP2 1m05.952s (+0.866s) 48 laps 10th
“On the whole, a reasonable Friday. It could’ve been a little better, and it wasn’t the cleanest of days with a few red flags here and there which changed everything around a bit. But we got a good understanding of the car: where it’s weak, where it’s strong, areas we need to improve. Overall, that’s the main thing.
“I focused a bit more on long running today, something I didn’t really do at Paul Ricard, and that helped me to get an understanding of the race balance for Sunday. We’re going to have look over things tonight and see how to improve the car for tomorrow.”
Andrea Stella, Performance Director: “We had a busy couple of sessions, at what is a very interesting and challenging track, with a mix of aerodynamic set-ups and tyre tests to go through. Despite some delays during the sessions, we completed our programme. Ambient temperatures are quite extreme this weekend, causing a hot track and an intense and gusty wind, which made driving quite challenging as we saw today with yellow and red flags.
“Carlos’ run plan was oriented towards race preparation, as we have to start from the back of the grid for the PU penalty. Lando’s run plan was more normal. Hot conditions are likely to continue and we will review what we’ve learnt today, optimise the package and finalise our preparation for qualifying and the race. We expect another very tight midfield fight.”
Red Bull report from day one of the Austrian Grand Prix weekend, Round 9 of the 2019 Formula 1 World Championship, at Red Bull Ring in Spielberg.
First Practice Session: 1:05.260, Position: 5, Laps: 30
Second Practice Session: 1:05.879, Position: 9, Laps: 13
“My feeling in the car was good and we looked quite competitive. Of course, you always want to do better but my laps were looking quite good before the crash. I had traffic on my fastest lap so we would be a lot closer than my lap time shows.
“The car was working well, we still need to find a bit of a compromise between the corners and the straightline speed but we will look at that tonight. It was very gusty and the wind wasn’t consistent which caught me out in the middle of the last corner. I lost the rear and hit the barrier pretty hard. Luckily, everything is fixable and it’s Friday so we’re not running all the race material yet.
“It’s just a shame for the Team as they have a lot on tonight now. It’s hard to say where we are in terms of overall performance as Mercedes didn’t do their performance laps, so I am of course a bit cautious, but from my feeling the whole car was working well today which is a positive.”
First Practice Session: 1:05.378, Position: 6, Laps: 30
Second Practice Session: 1:05.487, Position: 3, Laps: 33
“From this morning in FP1, I felt good with the car and I was able to push, so today was positive. I felt a lot more comfortable than in France and I think we have a good direction. There was quite a lot happening in FP2 but we still managed to complete all the tests we wanted to.
“The conditions are really hot and it’s quite windy which makes things tricky, and I think the rising temperatures are the main thing we need to keep on top of looking ahead to Sunday. The kerbs are also proving quite expensive as they’re breaking a lot of the cars!
“We look quite good on the timesheet with third, but we’re still four tenths off Ferrari so we need to stay focused and try to find some more pace from our package for tomorrow. Looking at our long runs, they were a bit messy and not that clean, so we will look at that a bit more closely and decide what is the best strategy for Sunday.”
Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport experienced a disrupted opening day of free practice in Spielberg, completing the afternoon session in P2 (Valtteri) and P4 (Lewis).
Both drivers ran the Soft compound tyre through Free Practice One, analysing cooling levels and completing set-up work.
For FP1, Valtteri had to swap back to PU1 after an oil leak was discovered on PU2; he then swapped back to PU2 for second practice after the problem was resolved.
In second practice, Valtteri suffered a 23G impact at Turn 6 on his Soft tyre run and did not take further part in the session. He nonetheless finished P2 on the Medium tyre.
Lewis completed a busy 43 laps in FP2, including long runs on the Soft and Hard compounds; he did not complete a flying lap on low fuel with the Soft, so his best time was set on the Hard.
Valtteri Bottas: “It was pretty big hit for me in second practice but I’m all okay with no pain. There were some gusts out there this afternoon and I think I managed to find one of them – the corners here are very tricky and very penalising if you make even a small error.
“But I must say I prefer this kind of circuit which penalises mistakes – it’s how I like it and it makes it even more exciting. Before the shunt, I had an issue with the engine this morning which meant we swapped to the old one for FP1. That compromised me a little bit but we found a clear direction on car set-up.
“We made some pretty big changes for FP2 and it felt a lot better until the accident. So overall, a good feeling on the car performance but other teams are quick as well. It’s going to be very hot this weekend, especially on Sunday, and will put the cars to the limit in terms of cooling the brakes and the engine. I think it’s going to be very close on the time sheets and it should be fun in qualifying.”
Lewis Hamilton: “It was a clean day for me with no major issues, although I broke a couple of front wings on the kerbs like a lot of other drivers. We are flat out for a large portion of the lap this year – even corners like Turns 6 and 7, Turn 9 and the last corner are seriously quick in these cars – and we have been tickling the set-up all day to improve it.
“Ferrari and Red Bull look quick, particularly Ferrari, and it will be interesting to see how it pans out tomorrow. This is one of those circuits where the times are always very, very close and small margins make the difference; that’s a positive because it means we will have our work cut out. But that’s okay: we will keep fighting and this is a circuit where you can follow other cars, so hopefully the tyres will be durable as well.”
Andrew Shovlin: “It hasn’t been an easy day. Valtteri’s crew were into a power unit change before running after we found an oil leak. We fitted his spare power unit for the morning and, while the session was running, the issue was fixed so the race power unit went back in for the afternoon.
“The balance wasn’t great in the first session, we were struggling to balance the low and high speed together, but we made good progress over the break and both drivers were happier with the car in the afternoon. Valtteri’s session unfortunately ended early after his crash which meant he couldn’t run the medium tyre on the long run. Lewis’s session was more straightforward. He was working on the Soft and Hard tyres and managed to complete the planned programme.
“We don’t seem to be as competitive here as in France but that’s not a big surprise; we’re missing the kind of cornering sequences that the car likes, so it’s hard to pull back all the time that they are finding on the straights. We’re expecting the weather to get even hotter, which isn’t easy for the car or the tyres but hopefully it will make for an interesting race for the fans.”
Charles Leclerc found some welcome pace to claim the fastest lap in the second free practice session of the Austrian Grand Prix weekend, the Ferrari driver blitzing around the ultra-short Red Bull Ring on an afternoon when the leading lights were caught out.
The morning session was expensive with many teams suffering broken front wings thanks to the sausage kerbs that pockmark the circuit, but that was child’s play compared to the damage inflicted on Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas both crashed to bring out red flags, while Sebastian Vettel also ran off the track and failed to post a time on the soft tyre.
Verstappen inadvertently was the first to in a series of unfortunate events, losing his car in the middle of the tricky Turn 10 he spun out and hit the barriers backwards, crunching the rear and launching a flurry of expletives in the process. The session was red-flagged.
But, shortly after the restart, Bottas got it wrong in Turn 6, came on the power too early and lost the rear spearing through the gravel and pounding the barriers and tearing off the tethered front wheels.
Bottas said afterwards: “I just lost the rear end suddenly into Turn Five. Very unexpected, made a correction, but it was a bit too late. This afternoon is a bit more windy and the track is very penalising on making mistakes. It can happen I guess.”
Fastest in FP1, Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton also didn’t get to set a representative time and ended fourth fastest.
Leclerc’s best effort, on Pirelli medium tyres, of 1:05.086 was slower than the best time in the morning session, no doubt the incidents played a role in slowing the times down as did the blistering heat suffocating the surrounding hills.
Next best was Bottas, three tenths off the top pace before his prang followed by Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly in third and Lewis Hamilton fourth.
With two key rivals out of the running, Carlos Sainz was fifth best on a day he has been very strong for McLaren, again Best of the Rest as he was in the morning and only half a second shy of the top time. The Spaniard, who survived a Bottas-like moment, was four tenths up on his teammate Lando Norris in tenth.
The out of sorts Ferrari customers found some handy horses with Haas driver Romain Grosjean fifth fastest and Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen in seventh.
Vettel was ninth and Verstappen tenth when the flag waved to end the 90-minute session.
Not a sight we like to see… Fortunately VB is all ok 👌
Valtteri Bottas crashed his Mercedes W10 heavily during the second free practice session of the Austrian Grand Prix weekend, on a day in which the shortest track on the Formula 1 calendar proved to have a mean streak.
“Sausage kerbs” were the buzz words after the morning session in which several cars lost or damaged their front wings or put another way, big money turned to carbon shards in the 90-minutes of incident-packed track action.
The afternoon got worse and substantially more expensive as the track, set in a deceptive ‘Sound of Music’ backdrop, proved how treacherous it can really be when first it caught out Max Verstappen who crumpled his Red Bull which prompted a red flag.
Then shortly after the session resumed, Bottas had a ‘big one’ when he got on the gas too early through Turn 6, the back surprised him with nasty little a side-step, the snap made the Merc its own boss as it speared over the gravel and nose-first into the barriers at speed, the front wheels broken and dangling off their tethers when the dust settled.
Thankfully the Finn was unhurt and reported afterwards, “I just lost the rear end suddenly into Turn Five. Very unexpected, made a correction, but it was a bit too late. This afternoon is a bit windier and the track is very penalising on making mistakes. It can happen I guess.”
“It was pretty big hit for me but I’m all okay with no pain. There were some gusts out there this afternoon and I think I managed to find one of them – the corners here are very tricky and very penalising if you make even a small error.”
“But I must say I prefer this kind of circuit which penalises mistakes – it’s how I like it and it makes it even more exciting. Before the shunt, I had an issue with the engine this morning which meant we swapped to the old one for FP1.”
“That compromised me a little bit but we found a clear direction on car set-up. We made some pretty big changes for FP2 and it felt a lot better until the accident. So overall, a good feeling on the car performance but other teams are quick as well.”
“It’s going to be very hot this weekend, especially on Sunday, and will put the cars to the limit in terms of cooling the brakes and the engine. I think it’s going to be very close on the timesheets and it should be fun in qualifying,” predicted the Mercedes driver.
🚩 Valtteri is OK after going into the barriers at Turn 6. He will be taken to the medical centre as a precaution.
It looks like he corrected a snap and then the car gripped up. We will check the data to find out exactly what happened. #AustrianGP#FP2
Max Verstappen is seeing the positives from a big shunt he suffered during FP2 on the opening day of the Austrian Grand Prix weekend, the Dutchman wrecking the rear-end of his Red Bull when the car snapped on him as he powered through the final turn.
The damage was substantial and will have his crew burning the midnight oil to have the car ready for Saturday’s running at Red Bull Ring.
Speaking at the end of an incident-packed day on the picturesque Spielberg hills, Verstappen explained, “I was happy in the car, but I was already complaining all my laps about the wind being really tricky.”
“In some places… just losing the rear. I got into that corner and suddenly, you can see in the data, the rear turned around, so that definitely didn’t help.”
Shortly after the red flag period required to clear the wrecked RB15, Valtteri Bottas also suffered a big shunt as the shortest circuit on the calendar is up there with the meanest.
On the day, most of the top guns had moments of differing degrees, Sebastian Vettel lucky not to suffer a similar fate to Verstappen, while wings were flying around as the sausage kerbs took their toll on track limit transgressors.
“Crashes can happen, unfortunately, but maybe it’s a good thing because they’ll take the whole car apart so a few new parts on it. This year, the cars, in general, are more sensitive to the wind, as you can see as well with Valtteri, at one point, he just lost it,” added the Red Bull driver.
Friday’s second free practice session kicked off with a bit of frantic activity in the Ferrari garage where crews were seen working on the front-end of Charles Leclerc’s SF90.
It was but a slightly belated start to the afternoon for the Monegasque who put the changes to good use to set the first benchmark time of FP2 in just a handful of laps.
Austria’s sausage kerb saga which started this morning continued at the outset for Racing Point’s Lance Stroll who ran wide at Turn 8, damaging his car’s front wing.
As everyone gradually got up to speed, Bottas shot to the top of the timesheet, outpacing Leclerc by just 0.141s to lay down a 1m05.417s.
Hamilton and Vettel however were close behind, with both drivers running on Pirelli’s hard compound while their respective teammates preferred the medium rubber. On a charge, the Brit change found more speed to slot in behind Bottas
Meanwhile, Max Verstappen was gearing up for some quali sims. Before building up his momentum the Dutchman retreated to the pits for a bit of fine tuning.
When he emerged and resumed his running, the Red Bull driver lost it at the apex of the final corner, hitting the wall backwards and severely damaging the rear end of his RB15.
It was clearly a proper mistake by Verstappen. A brief red-flag period ensued while the track was cleared and the driver jogged his way back to his team’s garage where Christian Horner was likely adding up the day’s hefty repair bill.
No sooner had the action gone green that it was back to red, courtesy of Bottas who had veered off the track at Turn 6, heavily clouting the barrier and destroying the front end of his W10.
Fortunately, the Finn emerged unscathed from the mishap which appeared – like Verstappen – to have been crosswind induced.
But once again, when the racing resumed, as if to even out the incidents among the top-three teams, Sebastian Vettel lost it at Turn 10, where Verstappen had crashed shortly before!
However, while the German veered off course he did not make contact with the wall. Vettel nursed his car back to the pits for a general inspection and a new set of tyres.
Amid the commotion, Leclerc popped to the top of the timesheet where he led Bottas, Gasly and Hamilton.
Once again, McLaren’s Carlos Sainz was the fastest mid-field runner, outpacing Haas’ Romain Grosjean and Alfa’s Kimi Raikkonen while Vettel and Verstappen rounded off the top-ten.
As the session entered its final 30 minutes, it was time to pull out the red-rimmed soft compound to evaluate its speed and endurance for race day.
Race simulations were the norm in the closing stages of the session which remained surprisingly incident-free, the order at the top remaining unchanged.
Full transcript from the Friday press conference on day one of the Austrian Grand Prix weekend, Round 9 of the 2019 Formula 1 World Championship, at Red Bull Ring in Spielberg.
Featuring: Mario Isola (Pirelli), Andrew Green (Racing Point), Paul Monaghan (Red Bull Racing), Toyoharu Tanabe (Honda) and Andreas Seidl (McLaren).
Q: Mario, if we could start with you please, you had a meeting this morning with the 10 team principals. Please can you explain what that meeting was about and what conclusions were drawn? Mario Isola: It was mainly to understand if there is anything we can do to improve the show. We know the dominance for Mercedes is not helping the show at the moment and we had a discussion of the opportunity to reintroduce the 2018 tyres but after analysing the positive side and the negative side the conclusion was that we want to stay on the current… well, there was a vote from the teams and the decision is to stay on the current tyres. The meeting was quite productive; there were new ideas, new proposals for maybe the end of the season. Obviously we have to analyse that. At the moment they are just ideas. Let’s see. We will continue the discussion in the next days and maybe we come with a proposal for Silverstone or something like that. I don’t know yet because it was discussed two hours ago.
Q: Thank you. Can you also tell us what the plan is for next week’s tyre test here at the Red Bull Ring? MI: We continue our development for 2020. As I already said, the main target is to have a wider working window for next year’s compounds. So, both in Austria and after Silverstone we will test new compounds, new philosophy, new types of compounds in order to achieve this target, in order to finalise the new construction for next year – because the current cars are really faster and faster, so that means they are putting more energy into the tyres and we have to cope with this energy and all the modification of the construction is to make them work better, and the compounds to have a wider working range and no issues with the aero map, and no blisters and overheating. Obviously the target is always to reduce overheating because it’s something the tyres don’t like, so I would say the two main targets are keeping that… safety is a target that is always there, we cannot consider a tyre that is not safe for Formula One. The targets are to have a wider working range and less overheating for next year.
Q: Andreas, if we could come onto you. Welcome, your first FIA press conference. You’ve been team principal of McLaren for a couple of months. Can you just tell us how it’s going and what you found when you arrived at the MTC? Andreas Seidl: Well, what did I find? Still early days, to be honest. It’s a big organisation. I got a very warm welcome from the team from the beginning. It also helped to get started that, compared to last year, the team has made a huge step forwards with the car. So all the changes that have been initiated last year already are paying off. I’m still in the period of really analysing in detail what’s going on inside the team, to find the strong and the weak points inside the team in order to then work out a clear plan how I want to, let’s say, approach the future with the team. Obviously Zak and the shareholders gave me the clear task to work out, as quickly as possible any deficits I see, also on the infrastructure side. So, I was very happy to announce last week that we got this positive decision on the wind tunnel, which was a quite obvious deficit compared to the top teams. So, very happy, it’s good to see that we are making steps, race by race now at the moment. It’s important for me to keep this positive journey going.
Q: As you say, McLaren is a team on the up at the minute. What is the mood in the camp? AS: It’s obviously very, very positive. As I said before, results help; it’s good to see that the car is reacting to developments, different to last year. We are still bringing bits also for the next races, so we better and better understand the car. Also, we have a great working environment also together with the drivers. They perform very well on track. They have a great interation in terms of car development, also with the team at the track and the guys at home. All pretty positive. At the same time, the battle in the midfield is very, very tight – so it’s also no reason to get over-excited. It’s just important now to keep our heads down and keep pushing day and night.
Q: You have a great result in France last weekend, sixth and ninth – but how concerned are you about a repeat of the hydraulics issue on one of your cars this weekend? AS: We obviously disassembled the car afterwards and found an issue on a single part. We think we have identified the root cause of the issue and hopefully it was a one-off.
Q: Paul, can we start by talking about this year’s RB15. What were your expectations coming into the 2019 season and has the car met them? Paul Monaghan: I suppose form a team point of view, no we’re not walking off into the distance and winning every race, so there’s an element of frustration rather than disappointment. Don’t forget, we were the ones that changed power unit and then picked up the bodywork changes, so we probably took more on in the winter than some of the others. These cars don’t stand still. They’re prototypes, aren’t they? So every race it’s changing, sometimes by larger amounts, other times by smaller amounts. Our friends at Honda are upgrading as and when they can. So, as a package we’re trying to move forward. The target is clear and yeah, it’s improving all the time and the rate of improvement relative to our opposition that will see whether we can catch them?
Q: Well, how do you rate your chances of catching the two teams ahead of you? Do you think it’s possible within the current season to do that? PM: Yes, I think you have to, otherwise you sort-of say ‘we’re going to look at next year’s’. We’ll try and learn and move on at every stage we can and if the closer we get to them, the better off we are for next year, if we catch them, great. It’s really a case of making our own progress. The only thing that’s within our control is the performance of our car. We can’t influence the others, they’ll do what they’re going to do and it’s heads down and get on with it really, isn’t it?
Q: And can we talk about drivers. We’ve seen tremendous consistency from Max Verstappen this year – but it’s been a bit up and down for Pierre Gasly, although he appeared to have a good morning this morning. What have been Pierre’s issues with the car? PM: Pierre finds it a little bit more difficult to drive in certain sections of the corners – I think – than Max from his comments but he’s a quick, young driver. Let’s not forget that. And he’s up against a very strong team-mate. He’s much happier this weekend, straight away. He’s on the pace, so his confidence is on the up again. He’s part of our team. We’ll support him as best we can with every bit of energy we’ve got and I think he’ll come good.
Q: Tanabe-san, Paul says that you’re bringing upgrades as fast as you can and three of your cars run the new spec-3 power unit in France. All four cars are running it here. Did it perform at Paul Ricard as you expected? Toyoharu Tanabe: Basically yes. We could see some improvement in the data when we ran the lastest spec at the track. And then, we compared to the dyno data and we see improvement trackside as well. But, on the other hand, the improvement is not significant, so as I mentioned before, when we introduced spec-3, there was a reliability and then a performance improvement – but the performance is not huge, which means we still keep pushing to perform well.
Q: You talk about pushing to perform well. It’s quite early in the season to have introduced your third upgrade. Will there be another new spec this season and, if that’s the case, can you tell us when that might be? TT: Yes, so as you are thinking, just before halfway in the season, we already apply third PU and we are planning to introduce another spec sometime this season – but I don’t tell you exactly when and how much improvement we will have. We will announce later.
Q: You’ve said development of this spec-3 involved working closely with Honda’s jet division. Can you just tell us how that worked? TT: So, we have a Honda R&D, so the one division is Honda Sakura R&D which takes care of the Formula One racing project. Then we have a big technical centre including many types of technology. The we use that resource and collaborate very closely. Not only jet engines but also other parts. As a result, we introduce at the last race the new turbocharger using… from the collaboration between Honda Racing technology and jet engine technology. So, we tried to make performance better, not only from the small Racing group but also the all the resources of Honda R&D.
Q: Andy, very tight midfield this year. Checo was 12th for the third consecutive race last weekend. Can you tell us about the performance of your car, the RP19, its idiosyncrasies and where do you see your main opportunities in the next couple of months. Andrew Green: Yeah, you’re absolutely right, the midfield is incredibly tight. It only takes very small margins to move you from one end of the field to the other. The car has got some balance issues that we started the season with and really I think that’s a bit of a legacy of where we finished off last year and where we were as a company, position-wise. We’ve got a lot of changes coming ahead in the next few races and beyond, after the break as well. So, I think we’re making progress and, as Paul alluded to, it’s all a relative game really: we’ve got to make more progress than our competition – which is hard to do. It’s very hard to do. We’ve got a lot of work to do but the atmosphere in the team is incredibly buoyant. The team’s future is incredibly bright. We’re looking a long way forward with the team now, that we’ve never been able to do before, and so the fact that we’re in a bit of a tight scrap at the moment is not distracting now from things that we’re looking at much further down the road – so it is an exciting time for the team, it really is, like I’ve never seen before. So, we’re really looking forward to not just fighting this season but, from what we can do and what we can achieve going forward as well into the season beyond. It’s an exciting time.
Q: And what about Lance Stroll? He’s raced well this year – three points finishes – but he’s been struggling in qualifying. What have been his issues and how can his engineers help him find a solution? AG: Yeah, there’s no denying his Saturday afternoon performance, he’d say the same, he struggles on a Saturday afternoon but we have to put it in perspective. He’s in a very early part of his career and he’s up against a very mature, experienced driver on the other side of the garage and he’s learning a lot. In each race and in each session we give him targets and what to look for and how to improve and it’s small margins every time – but he understands it. He’s an incredibly talented driver. We’ve seen that numerous times – and it’s a case of just getting the experience. And once he gets the experience and gets the confidence, we’ll see him close the gap to Checo and potentially take a leap ahead of him. So, we’ve got every confidence he can do it – it just takes a bit of time.
Questions from the Floor
Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) To the three-team representatives please. We started the press conference talking about changing the tyres mid-season. Can you just give us your thoughts on the decision not to change tyres and the prospect of a change later in the season? Obviously there wasn’t a change now, so why would it change later on? AG: Really, we listened to the arguments and we especially listened to this man on my left; Pirelli are the experts in this area. And from what we could tell, it wasn’t clear cut at all that a change, reverting to last year’s compound gauge thickness was going to be a positive change. It sounded like a significant risk to us. From our perspective it’s too late for this season and I think the decision to focus on trying to do something and trying to improve the tyres and the show for next season is the right thing to do. And I think to try and not distract from the testing that’s going on post this event and post-Silverstone as well is the right decision and focus on next year, and try to do something for next year, rather than a kneejerk reaction in the middle of this year.
Thank you. Paul, your thoughts? PM: It’s difficult isn’t it. It puts Pirelli in a slightly difficult position. They’re doing a decent job, they’re going to win every race, the tyres are surviving on the cars, and as Mario points out, they’ve got to maintain their safety record. At the risk of being slightly controversial with regard to Andy’s comments, we would quite happily accept the 2018 tyres to come back. I don’t think the risk is as great as some perceive. But it is about creating a show and I think we almost have to take a step back and take a slightly less team-centric position and turn around and say ‘well, if it would be better for the show, could the teams cope with it’ and our opinion is yes, we could. We accept there has been a majority vote not to do so but we hold a slightly different view to the majority then.
And Andreas? AS: Well, I think first of all it’s important in all fairness to Pirelli to mention that we don’t have a tyre issue in general here. I think Pirelli, the product we have this year is matching all the requirements we set out last year, as Formula One, for what we want to have. I think in the end the reason why we have this discussion at the moment is that we have three top teams with the same resources and one team is doing a significantly better job than the other two. So that’s that situation we are facing. There is nothing we can really influence as McLaren. I think it’s down to the three top teams, with the FIA and Formula One to see if there is anything that can be done short-term to fix that issue. I think in general we have a far bigger issues which is this big gap we have between the top teams and the midfield. That is also where our focus is on. This is something also that cannot be solved in the short term, so we have big hopes for all the changes that are on the table on the financial side, technical side, sporting side, regarding the regulations in ’21 and hopefully F1 and the FIA with all the experts which they now have onboard, which is a unique situation, pull through. We full support the changes that have been sent out some weeks ago and that is our focus to be honest.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines / Racefans.net) Mario, the vote, 5-5, do you take that as a vote of confidence in your product or a vote of no-confidence in your product? And if your product was in line with the target letter then should the target letter just be scrapped? MI: No, I don’t think so. The target letter is fixing some parameters in terms of delta lap time and degradation and characteristics of the tyre. That means we can change the target letter for the future and we can put numbers that are better for the show. As Andreas said, we made a product in line with the requests coming from F1. Don’t forget what happened last year: the drivers were complaining about overheating, and if we go back to 2018 tyres we go back to overheating, to blistering, and all the different stuff, where basically we were working on to make a better tyre for this year. So what is clear to us for next year is to develop a wider working range in order to have more teams that are able to use the tyres better. I am very confident that for the second half of the season most of the teams will learn how to use the current tyres, because it’s always a learning curve. Every year it was the same. Going back to last year’s tyres on the technical side was not the right decision and I’m happy that five teams recognised that and voted against the change. On top of that we are very happy to work together with the teams, the driver and FIA and FOM to find a better solution for the sport as we did in the past and as we have always done. Provided that safety and the image of the company are protected we are here to do something good for Formula 1. If this is not the right direction then let’s change the direction, but we need to agree what is the direction, because at the end of the day we make one tyre for everybody, not get customised tyre for any car.
Q: (Ian Parkes – New York Times) A question for Andreas. Andreas, you talked about the positivity within McLaren, but you’ve come into the sport at what appears to be quite a negative time, primarily due to the dominance of one team, as you mentioned, Mercedes. Can I just get your thoughts as to what your perceptions were of F1 before you joined McLaren, what your perceptions are now that you have been with the team for a couple of months, and what you would like to see going forward, primarily from 2021 onwards? AS: Well, I’ve been following Formula One the last 10 years as a fan and I think it hasn’t lost anything. It is still the platform, which works. It does not change compared to 2009 when I left Formula One. Of course there is an issue, as I mentioned before, with this big gap between the top teams and the midfield teams. Simply the resources these teams are having, let’s say, went out of control compared to what we, for example, can do. It’s not possible for us to be competitive and sustainable at the same time. Again, this should not hide that we have, in general, some work to do inside the team, independent of, let’s say, the boundary conditions we are in at the moment. So I think it’s very, very important to get this right for 2021. I think the objectives are clear for everyone involved and there is also huge agreement regarding the objectives. First of all I think the biggest, or most important topic, is to introduce the budget cap, because that is the only guarantee really to have somehow a level playing field between the teams. We would prefer that is even lower than the numbers that are under discussion at the moment. But we also understand that it needs to be a compromise in the end. Then I think it’s simply important to get the technical and sporting regulations right. It’s important to be a bit more restrictive in terms of the freedom on the development side, which then allows to have the field closer together. At the same time we are up for still having some freedom as the better team should still be able to make a difference. I think everything is on the table and it’s just important now that Formula One and the FAI is pulling through and the whole regulations that are in discussion at the moment don’t get softened again by, let’s say, the agendas of the teams, their own agendas.
Q: (Julien Billotte – Auto Hebdo) A question to Tanabe-san and Paul. Max Verstappen said yesterday in this press conference that he is keen to evaluate the updates that are coming on your package over the next few races. How confident are you that you can give him the equipment he needs to continue to trust the Red Bull-Honda project and stay with the team longer term? PM: To answer your question directly: we are confident that we can give Max a car that enables him to challenger for race wins and beyond. The time scale is not within our control, because you have to catch the others and pass them to achieve this. There are a number of update on both, as Tanabe-san said, with the engine and on the chassis side to improve our performance. We will deploy those as and when they are ready and we know that, or believe that they are right and will make a reasonable difference to the car and if we can make some progress towards that it’s really all on the cars for the start of next season and who rolls out the door fastest then. TT: Yes, so we both work very hard to achieve our objectives or our target. I understand the feeling from the cockpit, so we try to deliver performance, not only PU but also chassis. So as Paul said we keep working very hard to keep our driver, so Max, in the confident car. That’s our goal anyway. So we are working very hard. We understand there is a space or a gap to achieve that top level also the period to improve our performance.
Q: (Péter Vámosi – Racinglines.hu) Andreas, Bernie Ecclestone confirmed yesterday that four years ago he was in talks with Volkswagen Group and Porsche and Audi that they can come to Formula 1. Can you confirm this and could you imagine that in 2021 we can again have a marriage between McLaren and Porsche? AS: Well, obviously I have a new shirt on, so I can’t comment on what happened at my previous employment. I think in general it’s very difficult for a new engine manufacturer to come in. This is why I think also that from ’21 onwards it makes sense at the moment to really keep the regulations as they are, because we see at the moment already that with keeping the regulations stable all the power trains are coming closer together. And then, I think as far I can see at the moment, we simply have to wait for the next cycle of the regulations and we have to see then also how the automotive industry is going, in which direction, to see if then there is any chance to create any interest for another manufacturer to come into this sport.
Q: (Maria Reyer – Motorsport-Total.com) Mario, Toto Wolff said after the meeting today that we could see at the end of this season already 2020 tyres being used, maybe in practice, to be tested. Do you see this is possible from a protection side and do you think this maybe could be the case at the end of the season? MI: Yes, it is possible because the current regulations allow us to do that. So we can supply two additional sets of prototype tyres for evaluation during Friday. And there was also the discussion to slightly change the regulations to understand if different tyres can be used during the race weekend, not just in free practice. This is, as I said, a completely new idea and it has to be evaluated and discussed and the FIA should come with a wording to propose but we are open to evaluate that and we will continue our development test for the next weeks, but if we also have the opportunity it is a good opportunity to test the product for next year during the season.
Q: (Sam Collins – RaceCar Engineering) To Andreas and Paul: just following on from one question back, Andreas you’ve worked with a number of technical working groups in different championships and you mentioned that you wanted to see the new engine regulations in future that will attract new manufacturers to the series. What rule changes would it require, what would the new power unit need to be to attract a new manufacturer to the series in your opinion? And Paul, as a team that has relationships with two automotive manufacturers, from Red Bull’s point of view as a team, what do you think is needed from the engine regulations in ’25 to bring new manufacturers into the sport? AS: First of all, obviously there are a lot of changes ongoing at the moment in the automotive industry with the powertrains, electrification and so on, so I think for the next cycle of regulations you simply have to make the next step of hybridisation, definitely. This is the technical aspect but in order to be attractive as a sport for a manufacturer to enter again, I think it’s also very very important to make sure you can enter this sport with an investment which is a lot smaller compared to what you have to do now with budgets that are a lot smaller, because again, if you want to enter this category at the moment, then the investment you have to do for the infrastructure and the budget you have to use in order to get to the point where the established manufactures are, you have to be realistic. Pretty difficult to imagine that anyone would invest that money at the moment. PM: It’s an interesting question for 2025. I suppose I will answer it by saying that – if you asked me what would I presently do, I would try not to upset the four that are there at the moment, to find ourselves down to two, one of them being new, just as an example. So if you take that point of view, the four that are currently investing and developing engines are supplying them to all ten teams, you could argue on a complete clean sheet of paper but then it rather negates all the work that they’ve currently done. And taking Andreas’s point that you don’t want the new rules to be intimidating to anybody else wanting to come in, you clearly have to strike a compromise somewhere and where that lies I wouldn’t want to comment at the moment. That’s my thought for 2025.
Q: (Daniel Majet – GPHirek.hu) When there is talk about the spectacle of Formula One, it is often compared to IndyCar. Do you see in it from a technical aspect, chassis, engine, whatever, that can be considered, which is now in IndyCar, for the future of Formula One? MI: I believe that we should look at any other series that’s providing the show, not just IndyCar. If we look at the other series with an open mind, we can find solutions also for Formula One, keeping in mind the DNA of Formula One because it is clear that we cannot have a Formula One that is a standard series like Formula Two or something like that. There are a lot of dedicated aspects to consider but observing the rest of motorsport with a critical view can only be positive. AG: I think the regulations moving forward in 2021 do take some of other formulas technology, I think with moving towards more of a ground effect car going forward. I think that definitely comes from the north American series, which, if we’re looking at, trying to have the cars race closer together then I think that’s the right thing to do, that makes complete sense. But I think the same, I think we need to keep Formula One at the pinnacle, it needs to be a technological amazement really. That’s where I think the sport needs to be, it’s not just about having cars that are close, it’s about a bit more of a Wow factor and we need to make sure we don’t lose any of that. PM: To answer your question directly, yes, I think you can learn from other series. Your specific question of IndyCars Andy has partly answered I think in that the way they generate their downforce is of interest to us. The question becomes can they run closer, can we still maintain differentiation between the cars as opposed to stock bodywork as they would call it over there? So I think you keep an open mind and you look and you learn and you don’t assume that you have perfect knowledge. I think that open-mindedness will serve us well. AS: Yeah, same from my side. I think we all do – Formula One, FIA and the teams should also currently look at what’s going on in other categories, on the technical side and also on the sporting side which has a big impact as well, the sporting regulations of how the show is actually happening on track. I think some aspects of the ’21 regulations like standardisation and so on, limitation of the freedom regarding the aero development and so on, they’re going in the direction we see already in other categories. There’s a lot of work going in to also to allow this closer racing so I think we are not far off with the proposals that are on the table. As I said before, we just need to pull through now. TT: Yes, IndyCar and Formula One are sports and also entertainment. I think there is a big differences between the two series and also the spectator characteristics are different. But it’s good to learn from each other or share the idea which enforces the Formula One, which enforces IndyCar and then supplies much more until the spectator is good, I think.
Q: (Carlo Platella – F1ingenerale.com) A double question for Mr Seidl: McLaren introduced a new front suspension in France. Is the introduction of such an important component in the middle of the season a result of the new organisation of the team? And have you noticed a significant improvement in performance thanks to it? AS: Well, I think with the limited testing which is available in Formula One nowadays, which we all support also, you simply have to use the Fridays also to try let’s say adventurous stuff, which we did in Paul Ricard. It’s nothing we follow up at the moment. It was – let’s say – an engineering exercise, a learning exercise for the engineers and we have to see now what we do now with the conclusions of that test, regarding future developments we want to bring to the car this year or next year.
Q: (Ian Parkes – New York Times) Andreas, can I just get your thoughts on the season Lando is having so far, his plus points, what he’s done? Well, he’s obviously had a bit of bad luck but his plus points, what he’s done well, where you feel he needs to improve? He needs to learn in his first year, at the end of the day, and also get your thoughts on his obsession with his home simulator and how much that is helping improving him as a driver? AS: Well, first of all, I was obviously very very impressed, straight from the beginning, even during the first races when I was still watching the races from home, with what Lando was doing on track. If you come into Formula One and you go into your first qualifying in Melbourne with a car that was maybe somewhere between – in terms of performance – ten to 14 and you score P8, it’s an impressive achievement and it was not just a one-off, he did that now several times which is great to see, also how he handles the races, I think it’s great. He had some bad luck in terms of results but I think that’s nothing which is too worrying at the moment, so we are very very happy inside the team, also how he interacts with the engineers regarding the development of the car, with the guys here at the track and also back home so very encouraging to see and I think he will have a great future in Formula One and obviously with the McLaren team as well, long term.
Q: And his home simulator? AS: Yeah, I think that even here in the motorhome there’s a big competition going on between Carlos and him each day, battling each other on the simulator so he’s obsessed with that, he’s convinced and we can see that also that it helps him to prepare the races, to be sharp when he’s arriving here, in addition to the simulator work he’s also doing with the guys back home in Woking. It’s great to see, this new generation also how they prepare themselves for this challenge in Formula One, and again, very excited to work together with him and the same for Carlos, I think we have a great driver line-up and they will be the future for this team.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines / Racefans.net) To Mario and the three team representatives: if one has a single tyre supplier, surely it’s inevitable that some teams are going to be marginalised by this. If we are looking at tyres to improve the show, should we not be looking at multiple tyre suppliers in Formula One in future when the current contract expires? MI: You know everybody is talking about the budget cap and multiple tyre supplier means a lot of cost more. Don’t forget when we had the multiple tyre supplier, the top teams had a specific test team just for tyres and introduction of new tyres, new prototypes every race so it’s a bit against the philosophy of having a cap on the budget. But if this is the decision of the sport, we will evaluate that as we told you in the past and obviously with a different approach, it’s a lot more about the performance and other stuff rather than the same product to everybody and with the characteristics which are decided by the famous target letter. Or we can try to find different values in that document to enhance the show. Maybe it is possible. We are working with the FIA and FOM in order to have different numbers for the future. AG: Yeah, I think multiple tyre suppliers goes against the whole ethos of trying to compress the grid and improve the show. You are going to end up with the haves and have-nots with respect to tyres. Currently we all have the same tyre and we can all do the same job, up and down the grid. I think the team that does the best job with the tyres should be rewarded for that so I don’t think that’s the right way to go for the show, to be honest. PM: In the current generation of Formula One then multiple tyre suppliers don’t really fit with the model. We don’t go tyre testing every week and tyres per se are not a prime performance differentiator so at the moment our current working philosophy, if you like, is to have a single supplier. It would change everything that is on the table now and I believe plans for the future if we were to bring in multiple suppliers and I don’t if you would close the field up or spread it out in that circumstance. At the moment, we’re not really equipped to go down that route. AS: Well, I think we should also not forget that even in the years of the biggest tyre war, sometimes we had a total dominance of one team throughout the entire season so I’m not convinced that this is the solution. I think it’s simply important now that between the teams, together with the FIA and FOM that we have, let’s say that we take our time to really define clearly what is the target letter for the tyres for next year and for ’21 and I think that’s the way to go, to be honest.
Unfortunately, the Spaniard’s power unit swap involves the renewal of all six elements, putting Sainz above the limit for each component and therefore maximizing his penalty tally and sending him to the back of Sunday’s grid.
Over at Toro Rosso, Albon gets his hands on Honda’s Spec-3 unit and its new ICE, MGU-K, MGU-H and turbo, but only the first two elements exceed the Thai’s current limit.
The change will equate to a 15-spot grid drop which will likely put Albon right ahead of Sainz on the Austrian Grand Prix grid.
There was also an engine swap in the Mercedes camp on Friday, with Valtteri Bottas reverting to the manufacturer’s old-spec unit following the discovery before FP1 of an oil leak on the Finn’s French Grand Prix engine.
However, after undertaking authorized repairs, Bottas’ W10 was fitted once again with its more recent race engine.
Valtteri Bottas believes the unsteady wind swirling around the Red Bull Ring on Friday likely caused the Mercedes driver’s crash in FP2.
Just minutes after the session was red-flagged following Max Verstappen’s heavy impact with the barriers at the final corner – a mishap the Dutchman also pinned on the windy conditions – Bottas brought the proceedings to another halt.
The Finn had lost control of his W10 at Turn 6, tried to correct but head across the gravel trap and into the barrier, enduring a massive 23G impact, fortunately with no consequences for himself but with some big damage to the front of his Silver Arrow.
“It was pretty big hit for me in second practice but I’m all okay with no pain,” said Bottas.
“There were some gusts out there this afternoon and I think I managed to find one of them – the corners here are very tricky and very penalising if you make even a small error.
“But I must say I prefer this kind of circuit which penalises mistakes – it’s how I like it and it makes it even more exciting.”
Teammate Lewis Hamilton completed a busy 43 laps in FP2, setting the fourth fastest lap of the afternoon, but on the hard tyre.
The leader of the world championship had no specific complaints about his day at the office but noted the tight running order.
“It was a clean day for me with no major issues, although I broke a couple of front wings on the kerbs like a lot of other drivers,” said Hamilton.
“We are flat out for a large portion of the lap this year – even corners like Turns 6 and 7, Turn 9 and the last corner are seriously quick in these cars – and we have been tickling the set-up all day to improve it.
Rich Energy have three weeks to remove all logos depicting a stag which courts have ruled is a copy of the Whyte Bikes logo and infringes their copyright.
Since this matter exploded onto the scene, Rich Energy have gone on a rabid attack on Whyte Bikes on social media citing today’s ruling as redemption day for Peter Storey’s shady fizzy drinks venture that bought black & gold back to the Formula 1 grid.
But on the day the law did not see it their way and apart from an almost immediate order to desist using the stag logo on their products and they have no right to appeal. In other words, the courts have had enough of the runaround.
The whole ill-advised fiasco, consisting of bullying and belittling Whyte Bikes, has made Rich Energy and their bearded boss William Storey few friends but admittedly garnered tons of publicity, mainly negative which supposedly adheres to the ‘no publicity is bad publicity’ marketing ethos.
Adding insult to injury is the fact that Rich Energy have been “ordered to disclose to ATB the total UK and global sales to date of cans of Rich Energy drinks sold and ” the total sums received from such sales” as well as paying costs to Whyte Bikes’ parent company.
This is what the court ordered today:
SUMMARY OF MAIN POINTS OF COURT ORDER MADE ON 27 JUNE 2019 IN ATB SALES LIMITED -V- (1) RICH ENERGY LIMITED, (2) WILLIAM STOREY, (3) STAXOWEB LIMITED
An Injunction been granted preventing Rich Energy from infringing Whyte Bikes’ copyright in their stag logo. The effect of this is that Rich Energy will not be able to use the stag logo on energy drinks or on any other products; the injunction takes effect on 18 July 2019;
Rich Energy’s request for a 3 month stay of the injunction was refused, they have been allowed a 3 week stay only;
Rich Energy’s request for permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal was refused. They can ask the Court of Appeal for permission to appeal. Any application for permission to appeal and/or for a continuation of the stay will have to be made by 18 July 2019.
Rich Energy have been ordered to deliver up all infringing Rich Energy products to Whyte, or, at Rich Energy’s option, to destroy the items or render them non-infringing by 1 August 2019.
A declaration has been made that Rich Energy’s stag’s head logo UK trademark is invalid; this provision will not take effect until 18 July 2019.
Rich Energy has been ordered to disclose to ATB the total UK and global sales to date of cans of “Rich Energy” drink bearing the Rich Energy stag’s head logo and the total sums received from such sales;
Rich Energy has been ordered to pay costs of £35,416 to ATB Sales (Whyte) within 14 days.
Damages for copyright infringement, if not agreed between the parties, will be assessed by the court at a later hearing.
Lewis Hamilton performed a U-turn on Thursday and said his Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff would be the right man to run Formula 1, days after saying the next person to do the top job should be an outsider.
The sport is run by American chairman Chase Carey, representing commercial rights holders Liberty Media, whose future at the helm after 2020 is the subject of paddock speculation.
Carey has said nothing about stepping down, while Wolff has tried to distance himself from the chatter by saying he is not contemplating a move from a team chasing a sixth successive constructors’ and drivers’ title double.
Five times world champion Hamilton told reporters at last Sunday’s French Grand Prix that those running the sport should be neutral.
“I’ve been a bit conflicted the last few days,” he said at the Austrian Grand Prix on Thursday. “I made a comment but I don’t feel like I probably got out exactly what I was meaning.
“Over these past couple of days I was thinking to myself, you know, bringing someone in that doesn’t know much about F1 is not necessarily the right decision.
“I think Toto could do a pretty special job.”
The question of who runs the sport post-2020 is a sensitive issue to teams, who are working with the governing body and other stakeholders on major rule changes aimed at making the sport more equal and improving the racing.
Hamilton had alluded to the Ferrari past of Jean Todt, president of the governing FIA who previously ran the Italian team at a dominant period in their history, when he spoke on Sunday.
“I know Jean is level, but the fact is he’s been with the red team for so long, surely when he wakes up, if there’s a red T-shirt and a silver T-shirt, surely he goes for the red one,” said the Briton.
“Just like when I get out of bed and see 44 (his racing number) or six (former teammate Nico Rosberg’s). I will go for 44. Toto has been Mercedes through and through for such a long period of time.
“I think the best is someone from outside who is neutral, if that is possible,” he had earlier said.
Big Question: Would Toto be a good choice as F1 big boss?
The all-electric Formula E motor racing series will make a profit for the first time next season despite its biggest ever marketing spend, founder and chief executive Alejandro Agag revealed this week.
“We are going to have our biggest ever marketing expenditure, many tens of millions. But even with that spend we are going to show a profit,” the Spaniard told Reuters in an interview.
“It’s sponsors, city fees for some cities that are starting to get significant and media rights are starting to go up,” he added.
Formula E posted losses of €26.4 million ($30.00 million) in season four ending July 31, 2018 after being 20.8 million in the red a year earlier.
The city-based street series, whose 13-race fifth season ends in New York on the weekend of July 13-14, has Liberty Global and Discovery Communications as major shareholders.
Agag told Reuters in 2017, after Formula E reported an operating loss of 33.7 million euros to end-July 2016, that the series would have broken even already without a decision to invest significantly in marketing and promotion.
Agag said the series had come through early financial difficulties and the precarious years were now over, “Now this is like a rocket.”
The series has attracted a list of major carmakers, with Mercedes and Porsche set to enter the sixth season that starts in December to compete against the likes of Nissan, Citroen, BMW, Jaguar, Audi and Mahindra.
The cars remain a way off Formula One pace but can accelerate from 0-100kph in 2.8 seconds and hit a top speed of 280kph.
Season Five saw the introduction of a new ‘attack mode’, a new level of strategy with drivers going off the racing line in certain sectors to collect more power as in the video game Mario Kart.
The series also features ‘Fanboost’, an online vote by fans to give a limited spell of extra power in the race to the most popular driver, but Agag indicated that could be dropped in future.
“We may eventually not continue with Fanboost but focus everything on attack mode,” he said. “Just not to have too many things to confuse the fans and the fans are really now focusing on attack mode.”
Speculation around Sebastian Vettel’s future continues, and the Ferrari driver continues to deliver the same answer to those who question him about his plans for 2020.
A disappointing season so far for the Scuderia coupled with the frustrations linked to events of late – his controversial Canadian Grand Prix penalty – have left Vettel disheartened.
The German recently said that Formula 1 was no longer “the sport I fell in love with”. But ahead of this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix, Vettel clarified his comments and moved to dispel any doubt about his future.
Lewis Hamilton could help Mercedes match a 31-year Formula 1 record at the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday, but don’t think it’s high on his priority list this weekend, the five-time World Champion said Thursday.
Hamilton and fellow Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas have combined to win all eight races this season. Dating back to last year, Mercedes’ winning streak consists of 10 races, leaving the team one short of the all-time best mark set by McLaren more than three decades ago.
Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost won the first 11 races of 1988, the season that would see Senna winning his first of three F1 titles.
For Hamilton who has always played down his record-breaking achievements, however, matching that milestone won’t be on his mind for Sunday’s race.
While he said he’s proud to help Mercedes set new benchmarks in the sport, the old McLaren record “is not anywhere near the top 50 of the list of priorities for me on the race weekend.”
Hamilton said that the heatwave in Central Europe is more of a concern, with temperatures around the high-altitude track expected to rise to 33 degrees Celsius (91 F).
“That’s going to be a problem all around,” Hamilton said. “For sure all the engineers are on the edge of their seats, a bit nervous because it is very hot here … The cars are always on their limit with the cooling. They have to open up the car to create cooling.”
Last year Max Verstappen won the race against the backdrop of the Austrian Alps. While Red Bull has not really threatened any of the Mercedes wins this season, Ferrari came tantalizingly close when Sebastian Vettel crossed the line first at the Canadian Grand Prix, only to lose his victory due to a five-second penalty which handed runner-up Hamilton another victory.
After winning the French Grand in Le Castellet last Sunday, Hamilton said “I totally understand” when people call Formula 1 boring. Hamilton led from start to finish in the race and Mercedes is heading for its sixth straight drivers’ and constructors’ championship.
And Hamilton wasn’t expecting an exciting race on Sunday, either. While the track with just 10 turns and the shortest lap time of all circuits usually offers limited possibilities for overtaking, it might become even harder this time.
“Having to cool your car, (you have to) pull back from the car in front of you,” Hamilton said. “I hope it’s still a good race.”
Pierre Gasly is aware of his performance shortfall this season, yet the Frenchman does not feel under pressure with Red Bull.
Gasly was promoted this year to the senior bull outfit after a solid apprenticeship in F1 with Toro Rosso in 2018.
Racing alongside the blistering fast Max Verstappen was always going to be an arduous challenge, but the 23-year-old’s deficit to the Dutchman is wider than expected and has led to speculation that Gasly could be replaced by Daniil Kvyat.
Red Bull Motorsport boss Helmut Marko denied that a switch was in the cards, but the French driver’s seat appears to be getting hotter with each passing race.
Last year’s surprise Austrian Grand Prix winner Max Verstappen does not believe he can pull off the sensational victory he did 12 months ago at Red Bull’s home track, the sweetest of victories that seems aeons away from the relentless, albeit dull, domination by Mercedes that currently prevails.
Patience and Verstappen are not synonymous, understandably so because the Dutchman has established himself as the challenger apparent to the reign of Lewis Hamilton but they are sending him to a gunfight with a slingshot.
In a car that could sniff, let alone match Mercedes, the Honda-powered Red Bull driver would, without doubt, be a victory contender and title candidate.
But when asked, ahead of this weekend’s race in Spielberg, what would lead to a repeat of his 2018 triumph, Verstappen quipped, “We need quite a bit of luck for that!”
While Mercedes is even more dominant than last year at this point of the F1 World Championship, a more mature and rapid Verstappen is also enjoying a very consistent season — but mostly just off the podium.
In eight races, the Red Bull lead driver has never been worse than fifth but also never better than third, and he cynically commented “great!” on his total of five fourth-place finishes.
“I wouldn’t call it frustrating, it’s not that I am miles off,” he pointed out. “I always have a Ferrari in front or a Mercedes but I am not that far away.”
With two third-place finishes this season – in Australia and Spain – Verstappen has only marginally added to his career total of five wins and 24 podiums.
It has prompted speculation that he could move to another team even before his current contract with Red Bull expires at the end of the 2020 season.
“It is more important to just see what the team will bring in the outstanding races,” Verstappen said. “I am not too worried about what is going to happen next year, or even beyond that.
“At the moment I just want to focus on this project as I think there is still a lot of potential and we are just getting started,” he added, referring to the team’s switch of engine manufacturers for this season from Renault to Honda.
“Of course I’m not here to be fourth, I want to win races. It’s not nice to be at this fourth spot always just missing out on the podium,” added Verstappen, not for the first time and probably not the last.
Lewis Hamilton admits he now feels “conflicted” over comments he made last week about excluding former F1 team bosses from running the sport.
Last month, speculation emerged that Mercedes boss Toto Wolff was being lined up as a potential successor to Formula 1 CEO Chase Carey.
Wolff however has denied the cogitation, insisting he had not contemplated such a move and was 100 percent committed to his employer, Mercedes Benz.
Quizzed after the French Grand Prix on the current state of Grand Prix racing and its future, Hamilton said he viewed Wolff as a brilliant manager, but believed the sport should be managed by an individual whose neutrality could not be called into question.
“You’ve got Jean Todt, I know Jean’s level, but the fact is he’s been with the red team for so long, so surely when he wakes up if there’s a red T-shirt and a silver T-shirt, he probably goes for a red one,” said Hamilton.
“You know what I mean? Just like I get out of bed, I see 44 or I see number six, I will go for number 44!
“And Toto has been Mercedes through and through for such a long period of time. I don’t know if there’s anything in that.”
Since last Sunday however, Hamilton has given the idea a second thought, realizing the benefits of nominating an insider to the helm
“I’ve been a bit conflicted the last few days after Sunday night,” admitted the Brit, speaking on Thursday in Spielberg.
“I haven’t spoken to Toto or to Jean [Todt] but I’ve got a great relationship with Jean.
“When we did this meeting at the FIA [last week in Paris] he was so welcoming to us as drivers, to the GPDA and really took on board. I think he’s done such a great job since he’s been in position.
“I’m sure someone else will need to take that role and I was thinking after the race, the best person I know for managing a business, I don’t know anybody else better than Toto.
“So, I felt a bit conflicted because I made a comment but I don’t feel like I probably got out exactly what I was meaning.
“Over these past couple of days I was thinking to myself, you know, bringing someone in that doesn’t know much about Formula 1 is not necessarily the right decision and if you look at people like Toto for example, he’s been in two different teams, he’s also been in a different business before.
“If you could see how this company is managed from the top down, I don’t know how he does it. I could never do his job and it’s a good thing he could never do my job as well!”
Once earmarked for Formula 1 with Toro Rosso, Dan Ticktum was unexpectedly ditched from the notorious Red Bull junior driver programme with immediate effect thus ending his season in the Super Formula Championship with Mugen.
Speedweek report that Red Bull motorsport director Helmut Marko confirmed to them that Dan Ticktum “is now no longer a member of our program.”
He also added that it was not a voluntary quit, in other words, he was pushed out of what has traditionally been a ruthless programme to ‘develop’ up-and-coming race drivers for F1, Ticktum just one in a long list of victims.
Earlier this month he was very much in the team, starring for the team during a show run in Copenhagen where the team released a ton of media collateral featuring the young Briton.
Although no official reason has been supplied (as yet) it appears Ticktum was not cutting it in Japan relative to his benchmark Red Bull colleague Lucas Auer who already has a podium in the first three rounds of the premier Japanese single-seater series.
In contrast, Ticktum has struggled and only has one point to his name after three rounds. The 20-year-old also made some ill-advised comments about Mick Schumacher last year that went down like a lead balloon.
Nevertheless, after the Bahrain Grand Prix in April, he was handed an F1 test drive at the wheel of the Red Bull RB15.
A vote between F1’s ten teams on a mid-season return to 2018-spec tyres did not garner enough support for the provision to pass.
Teams came together in Austria on Friday morning to decide on a potential return to the thinner-tread structure used by Pirelli at the majority of the races last year.
The process came about as a result of Mercedes’ dominance and 100 percent win record so far in 2019, with the German squad among the rare teams for which this season’s thinner tread tyres are working to its benefit.
However, the vote required that at least seven of the ten teams vote in favour of the change, a quota that was not reached.
Lewis Hamilton topped the timing screens at the end of the first free practice session of the Austrian Grand Prix weekend, Round 9 of the 2019 Formula 1 World Championship, at Red Bull Ring in Spielberg.
The Mercedes driver’s best effort of 1:04.838 was a tenth and a bit up on the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel is second around the shortest track on the Formula 1 calendar.
Third was Valtteri Bottas in the second Mercedes, 0.161 down on his teammate but the Finn was one of the busiest of all in the morning session with 35 laps covered.
Three-tenths down on the benchmark time was three tenths adrift the top timer in fourth ahead of the Red Bull duo of Max Verstappen, a tenth shy of the Ferrari driver, and Pierre Gasly a further back a the big three teams rounded out the top six.
McLaren’s form continues in Spielberg as Carlos Sainz ended Best of the Rest in seventh, six tenths off the top time on the short track and almost four tenths up on Daniel Ricciardo in the Renault.
It was a session of high attrition with Nico Hulkenberg losing a wing on the vicious sausage kerbs four minutes from the end which prompted a red flag.
Others to suffer similar damage included with Red Bull team boss claiming his team broke three wings during the 9-minute session, Mercedes broke two and Racing Point binned one.
Kevin Magnussen was ninth in the Haas finding a quarter second his teammate Romain Grosjean could not, the Frenchman ending 11th
Lando Norris split the black & gold cars in his McLaren in tenth, half a second shy of Sainz in the sister car.
Honda’s latest Formula 1 engine upgrade was inspired by its successful jet technology, as the company aims to help Red Bull close the gap to Mercedes and Ferrari.
Honda brought its ‘Spec-3’ upgrade to last weekend’s French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard, earlier than expected, in a bid to carve out its place at the sharp end of the grid and remain ahead of Renault, which also made progress last time out.
Scott Mitchell joins Edd Straw to discuss exactly what technology Honda has introduced across and why, as well as offering an insight into what it means in the wider picture of the 2019 engine battle.
Pierre Gasly knows he has to up his game after being well shown up by his Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen, the Frenchman acknowledged to Sky F1 in Austria that he is not happy with his form but at the same time is not worried.
With rumours mongered in recent weeks that he was on his way out of the Red Bull team, Gasly was asked ahead of the Grand Prix weekend at his team’s home race if he was concerned about his future, to which he replied, “No not really.”
“At the moment clearly no one is happy and I’m the first one not happy with the performance. As a racing driver I feel really far from showing the potential that we have and that’s not pleasant.”
“It’s never easy, but you need to find the solution. At the moment there are a couple of things we can do better, my side as well, that I can do to suit that car better. It’s all about working together.”
Eight races into the season, the stats for the #10 car are not pretty as Gasly trails his younger teammate by 63 points, and the score is 7-1 to Verstappen in qualifying and has yet to finish ahead of the #33 car this season.
Gasly continued, “If you’re up against the best drivers in the world in the best cars in the world you have to have everything at 105 per cent. You cannot leave one per cent on the table, everything has to be perfect.
“There are several areas where I can improve and we are all working towards the same goal and same direction. Is it going to pay off this weekend, two weekends or three weekends? I don’t know. But for sure we want to perform better and be as fast as possible.”
After a reasonably impressive season with Toro Rosso, last year much was expected from the 23-year-old but he has struggled to be comfortable in a car that is tricky to drive.
He explained, “There are a few things you can do in the cockpit to go around it and I still have a few things to do better. We are working because no one is happy with the result.”
“I’m the first one not being happy because [he] can’t extract the full potential for different reasons, but we are all pushing in the same direction and hopefully it’s going to pay off this weekend and in the next few races.”
While wild rumours have linked Nico Rosberg to Gasly”s seat, the more believable option for the fizzt drinks brigade is to promote Daniil Kvyat back to the senior team as the Russian seems to be a transformed warrior, calmer and more mature.
But the Russian was not drawn into speculation when asked about the possiblity of a promotion, “I just do my job. I’m the driver and I drive the car. Right now I drive a F1 car for Toro Rosso and that’s the job they hired me to do right now. If things will change that we will react accordingly.”
Famously Kvyat – a hotshot with a bright future not long ago – was himself demoted from Red Bull when he underperformed four races into the 2016 and then booted from the programme a year and a half later.
He was offered a simulation driver role with Ferrari which he embraced and appears to have taken a crash course in maturity a his results show in this his second, or is that the third, shot at the top flight.
Asked to compare his situation at the time with Gasly currently, he said, “Things were different for me back then. It’s hard to say how every driver feels, they’re different situations… it’s very hard to compare these kinds of things.”
Big Question: How long do red Bull give Pierre to raise his game?
It was business as usual for Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton in Friday’s opening practice session for the 2019 Austrian Grand Prix, the brit leading the field from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and teammate Valtteri Bottas.
Hamilton clocked in with a fastest lap in 1m04.838s that edged Vettel by 0.144s. Bottas however, joined the FP1 session lateafter Mercedes detected an oil leak on the Finn’s engine and was forced to swap power units.
Threats of rain falling on the Styrian mountains subsided overnight, allowing drivers to head out onto a pristine and ultra-dry Red Bull Ring.
However, the mighty Mercedes squad kicked off its Austrian GP weekend with a setback, as Valtteri Bottas’ W10 underwent a last-minute engine change after an oil leak was found on the Finn’s unit.
Mercedes’ plan was to revert to Bottas’ first engine of 2019 for FP1 and inspect the current unit more thoroughly.
The first real benchmark time came courtesy of Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly although the Frenchman was quickly overhauled by Leclerc, the Monegasque followed by Vettel to put the medium-shod Ferrari cars in charge during the session’s first 20 minutes.
Shortly after however, Max Verstappen, also on the medium compound, sprang into action, laying down a 1m05.938s that put the Dutchman ahead.
Bottas finally joined the proceedings after 30 minutes, while Gasly – a man out to prove himself following his disappointing campaign so far in 2019 – clocked in second, hot on his teammate’s heels.
The Red Bull 1-2 was short-lived though with Hamilton splitting the pair and Bottas then slotting in second behind Verstappen.
Leclerc took advantage of a new set of mediums to put himself back ahead.
The Mercedes, now running on softs, would have none of it however, with Bottas and Hamilton snatching back the top spots, the latter fastest in 1m04.838s.
Ferrari was provided with another encouraging sign when Vettel moved up to second, 0.144s behind Hamilton, but doing so while using medium rubber.
In the closing minutes of FP1, the red flag was brandished after Nico Hulkenberg lost a big chunk of his front wing on the main straight, with replays showing the German hitting the sausage kerbs at Turn 9.
Behind the top-six front-runners, McLaren’s Carlos Sainz confirmed his team’s ambitions as ‘best of the rest’, the Spaniard edging Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo, Haas’ Kevin Magnussen and teammate Lando Norris running on the hard tyre.
One will note however that regarkless of where he qualifies, Sainz will start his Austrian GP from the back of the grid after a complete power unit change on his MCL34.
Formula 1 teams should have no say in the governance of the sport because they follow their own agenda and are an obstacle to change, Formula E founder and chief executive Alejandro Agag said on Thursday.
The Spaniard compared the ongoing and extended debate between F1 teams and stakeholders over the post-2020 rules to his all-electric series’ ability to make quick decisions.
Five-times F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton said last Sunday, after winning a processional French Grand Prix, that the sport was in a mess and teams should leave the decisions to the governing FIA.
Agag agreed: “The only way for F1 in the future to have a healthy championship is to get the teams out of the governance completely. That’s it. The teams should let the FIA make the decisions, together with the promoter.
“We have the same interest, which is the championship. The teams have their own interest, which is completely legitimate, but they shouldn’t be allowed to introduce that interest into the equation.
“What happened in F1 is the fault of the teams. It is not the responsibility of the FIA or the promoter,” added the Spaniard.
Agag sympathised with Formula 1 chairman Chase Carey, who was appointed by commercial rights holders Liberty Media after they ousted former supremo Bernie Ecclestone in 2017.
“If I were Chase, I would be looking at this saying ‘Oh my God, how do I fix this. I own the circus but I cannot change the order of the show,’” said Agag, whose series has Liberty Global as a shareholder.
“You’re actually unable to really alter the rules because you have the teams… that block everything. Here in the governance of Formula E we have only the FIA and us, and we have a great governance with the FIA.”
He cited the example of Saturday’s Swiss ePrix in Bern, which had a long stoppage after a first lap pile-up and saw little overtaking due to the tight circuit layout.
“I was talking yesterday with (FIA president) Jean Todt about it. We have to fix that,” he said. “Probably it’s a one-off (race). It’s too narrow. You couldn’t get past.
“We can make tweaks because it’s us deciding,” he said of potential measures to improve the racing.
Agag is due to hand over this year to a new and as-yet unannounced chief executive, leaving him as Formula E chairman and head of a planned Extreme E series due to launch in 2021.
He has also been mentioned in paddock speculation as a possible replacement for Carey, if he were to stand down at the end of 2020.
Agag said there had been no talks and he was ruled out anyway by non-compete clauses with F1 written into his Formula E contract.
“Even if they were nice enough to offer it to me, it’s something I could not do,” he said. “Contractually I could not do it.”
Toto Wolff, Hamilton’s boss at dominant F1 champions Mercedes, has been linked to the job with some senior team sources telling Reuters that Liberty were actively pursuing the Austrian.
Wolff has publicly played down the likelihood of a move while Liberty have a policy of not discussing such issues in public.
“Toto would be great, he would be my candidate,” said Agag. “But I don’t know if Chase is going anywhere.”
Big Question: Should teams have a say in the direction of the rules?
Max Verstappen admitted on Thursday that it’s not nice to be continually missing out on podiums so far in the 2019 season.
In the eight races to date the Red Bull Racing driver has been in the top three on only two occasions, in Australia and Spain.
But with a dominant Mercedes invariably locking out the top spots, and Ferrari usually on hand to pick up the remaining podium place, he’s been left mired in fourth place on five occasions, and was fifth in Canada.
“I’m not here to be fourth, I want to win races,” he complained to the media on Thursday ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix. Inevitably, the Dutch driver is also fourth in the current drivers championship standings.
“It’s not nice to drive around in this fourth spot, just always missing out,” he continued. “But that’s how it is at the moment.
“I wouldn’t call it frustrating. it’s not that I’m miles off,” he added. “I don’t know if it’s a Ferrari in front or a Mercedes, but they’re not that far away.
“We just need to keep pushing hard to try and get more performance out of the car [and] out of the engine at the moment.
“When you look to Paul Ricard, we’re clearly lacking top speed. But also maybe two, three corners where compared to Mercedes we are lacking just cornering speed.
“If you compare to Ferrari, they are like a rocket on the straight,” he continued. “But in the corners, we are a bit more competitive.
“We’re clearly lacking a bit of pace from both sides, so we’ll just try to get the most out of it.”
With Honda rolling out new specification engines in France, it means that Verstappen is close to incurring grid penalties with any further power unit changes in 2019. That could impact his championship position and see him slide down the order in the second half of the season.
If that were to happen, there have been suggestions that the 21-year-old might grow restless with the limitation of his current team and start to look around for a more competitive package.
“I’m not too worried about what’s going to happen next year or even beyond that,” Verstappen responded when asked if he was looking at offers from other teams.
“At the moment I just want to focus on this project because I think there is still a lot of potential, and we’re just getting started,” he added. “To be honest I think it’s more important just to see what the team will also bring in the upcoming races.
“But of course, I don’t want to keep driving until I’m 35 in fourth,” he warned. “So we’ll see.”
Maybe this weekend will prove to be the lucky charm. Verstappen won at Red Bull’s home race last year and could well pull off a shock victory again this time around.
“It’s always good for the team to be in Austria as it’s a home grand prix and there’s a really good energy,” he said. “I think there will be a lot of adrenaline flowing this week.”
As Formula 1 owners try to map the future of the sport while trying to pacify and accommodate a myriad of interests – the teams being paramount of these – progress has inevitably been sluggish and apparently packed with compromises.
The sport is cursed by the monotony of dominance by Mercedes, through no fault of their own but rather because their excellence has made their rivals look amateur.
Whatever the case facts are that the sport is boringly predictable, at least last year Ferrari and Red Bull had a rare appearance on the top step of the podium but this year in eight races Mercedes have won everything and it seems nothing will stop them piling up victories and titles for the foreseeable future.
Bernie Ecclestone, the man who built the F1 to become one of the most high-profile of sports and then milked it mercilessly to make himself the multi-billionaire he is today, has popped up from his fazenda in Brazil to weigh in on what exactly is wrong in the top flight of motorsport.
“Firstly, I wouldn’t be talking to the teams. It’s like having a committee and you don’t need that when making decisions like this.
“I would be saying: We’re going to have two championships. They’re both world championships; one is the Constructors’ World Championship and the other is the Teams’ World Championship. The Drivers’ World Championship would not be affected in any way.
“The Constructors’ Championship is for the teams that manufacture the engine and the chassis; teams such as Ferrari and Mercedes.
“For the Teams’ Championship, I’d build a car — like a very sophisticated F2 car. If Honda decided they weren’t going to be in F1 — or if Renault decided not to be a constructor — I’d do a good deal for one of them to supply everyone. These would be engines similar to those we have today. But one engine has to last a full season, with one spare engine only to be used if the original one has a failure.
“So if you want to start a team, here’s your chance. I’d give you a complete car and a spare engine. And I’d give you $30-million a year. That way we can forget all this cost cap nonsense. You’ve got to run the team as best you can. You’ve got $30m to get you going, so you need to go out and find some sponsors.
“People would then say: Wait a minute! Even with a good driver, there’s no way we’re going to beat the constructors. How are we going to beat Ferrari?
Don’t worry, you’re going to be okay. We’re going to balance things out by doing a couple of things to help the Teams’ Championship.
“Firstly, if you want to, you can refuel. You have just one set of tyres but, if you want to stop and refuel, you can also change tyres. Then maybe we’d have to change the weight of the car. If we found the team cars weren’t quick, we’d make sure the constructors’ cars were a bit heavier. That way, you could easily find two seconds.
“With a refuelling strategy and change of tyres, you’d find another, say, second a lap. But only if you want to do that. It’s up to you. And one more thing; the teams could enter just one car, if they wanted.
“The rules governing the design of the constructors’ cars would be as they are today. That way, they couldn’t complain. The only thing I’d do with the rules is point to where the weight is stated and say we may need to change that a little.
“This may make people currently outside F1 think: We can do that.” I know for a fact that Volkswagen — through Audi — very nearly did it four years ago because I had come close to an agreement with them. But then they had all that trouble with emissions in America. They’re confident their engineers are talented enough to design a car and engine that would be competitive within two years.
“You’d have the Constructors’ World Championship and the winner could go out and say: We’re World Champions.” The team people could say: We won the Teams’ World Championship. You’d have a sponsor for each championship.
“The guy in the grandstand isn’t going to say: That’s not fair, because this team is spending $350-million a year and that one is spending $70-million. All he wants is good racing. And we’d get that. In my opinion, it would be bloody good. The idea is to balance up the two types of car and the teams spending $70-million may have a chance on some occasions to be on the podium.
“Some people will say: “That’s all very well, but what about the investment that teams such as Racing Point have made with their facilities, and the redundancies that might follow?
“The answer to that is Racing Point would have had to close their doors had Lawrence Stroll not made his investment. There’s other small teams in a similar situation. If they want to stay in F1, this is a way to do it.
“It’s something that’s brand new. Saying that, if you think back, Stirling Moss beat Ferrari and everyone else to win a couple of grands prix in a single car entry for Rob Walker, with what were then customer cars (Cooper and Lotus). The idea of ‘brand new’ is because we’ve moved forward technically, but who’s to say we can’t go back to a single entry?
“Obviously, the constructors have more chance of winning races than the teams. But that’s not new because when Moss won for Rob Walker, it was at a time when the factory teams [constructors] usually had the best chance of winning.
“By having two championships — aside from the drivers’ — in this way, we’re helping the small teams while letting the manufacturers race the way they want. But if Ferrari want to stop, they can stop. Or they can join the team people if they want to. The choice is theirs.
“It’s the same for the engine manufacturers. If you’re Renault, you would be looking at being a constructor and spending $350-million. Or being an engine supplier — and I’d make them supply the engines free to all — but in return there’s a big space on the car saying it’s a Renault engine. They would gain more publicity than they get now, and it would cost them less.
“F1 has to get people’s attention again. If you’ve got four friends going to a race, you want to have a situation where none of them can agree on who is going to win. This is all about Ferrari and Mercedes racing up front, but other teams having a chance to be in among them for about a fifth of the budget.
“Everything is up for discussion. But the bottom line is having affordable entertainment rather than very expensive technology,” concluded Ecclestone.
Daniel Ricciardo has spoken out against the double penalty he received at the end of the French Grand Prix.
The Renault driver gained a position late in the race after making an opportunistic move on Lando Norris, whose McLaren was suffering from hydraulic failure. He also made a challenge on Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen.
But he went off the track in the process, and stewards subsequently handed him two separate penalties – one for failing to rejoin the track safely when making his move on Norris, and another for leaving the track and gaining an advantage during his challenge on Raikkonen.
With a five second penalty for each offence, it meant that Ricciardo lost his eighth place finish and fell out of the points altogether in the final classification.
“I certainly feel two was harsh,” Ricciardo insisted on Thursday ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix. He explained that both incidents were all part of a single move, and should have been treated as such by the stewards.
“To drop me out of the points I thought was too harsh. With the one I would have already dropped to 10th. Give me one point for trying!”
Ricciardo’s penalty promoted his Renault team mate Nico Hulkenberg up to eighth, and Norris back up to ninth. It also enabled Pierre Gasly to steal an opportunistic point for Red Bull in tenth.
“Nothing against Gasly but he was not in our battle at all, and he kind of steals the points,” Ricciardo grumbled.
Given the furore over a similar penalty handed to Sebastian Vettel in Canada which cost him a race victory to Lewis Hamilton, Ricciardo admitted that it was inevitable that the stewards would take some sort of action against him at Paul Ricard.
“I get why they needed to do one [penalty],” he acknowledged. “Otherwise it is like, well, he is off track so everyone is going to complain what are the rules for?
“Whether I feel it in light of the race or not, the one was slightly inevitable, if I am really honest,” he said. “I know that I was off track so again at some point I really could not argue with that.
“But I would treat it as one incident, not two separate ones,” he insisted.
In particular he felt it was incorrect to say that he had gained an advantage by exceeding track limits when overtaking Norris.
“The Lando one is the one I don’t necessarily agree with,” he said. “If anything, it kind of slowed us all down and I don’t think I gained an advantage with what I did with Lando.
“The Kimi one you could say, sure – I went off the track to make a move,” he conceded. “But with Lando I don’t think it was like that. If I was in Kimi’s position or if I got passed off the track, then I’d say, ‘Hey what is going on?’
“I just don’t know why it was treated as two separate incidents, that’s all. The rules have to be there, but…”
Ricciardo added that part of the problem was the design of modern tracks like the Circuit Paul Ricard which offered no natural penalties for running off, leaving the stewards to step in.
“Put gravel, something, there and it automatically stops us. It does stop us,” he said, “[It] creates the penalty for us as opposed to then being handed it after the race. That is why I am not really a fan of the big open tracks
However, he quickly admitted: “I think I’d still try if there was gravel there…”
Raikkonen agreed with Ricciardo that the track was partly to blame for the incident arising.
“If he wants to go on the right-hand side he has the space,” said the Finn. “If there is a wall then he wouldn’t go past us, it’s as simple as that.
“We all know the rules,” Raikkonen added. “We think about the rules all the time and try them out. But you make a decision and for sure at some point when he got past he probably thought, ‘Let’s see what happens’. That’s the result.”