Renault ‘devastated’ by loss of academy driver Hubert

Renault’s Formula 1 team says it is “devastated” at the loss of Renault Sport Academy member Anthoine Hubert, who was killed in a Formula 2 crash at the Belgian Grand Prix.

Hubert was involved in a high-speed collision with Juan Manuel Correa and succumbed to his injuries on Saturday evening at Spa-Francorchamps. Having been an affiliate driver with the Renault academy last year, Hubert’s GP3 championship victory paved the way for him to receive full academy support for his move up to F2 this year, where the 22-year-old won two races for BWT Arden in Monaco and France.

“Renault Sport Racing is devastated at the loss of one of its brightest young talents, Anthoine Hubert, who passed away today following an accident involving several cars at Circuit Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium,” a team statement read.

Managing director Cyril Abiteboul says Renault will race for Hubert at Spa on Sunday, with the Formula 1 race expected to go ahead as planned following the cancellation of the second F2 race.

“Our thoughts are with Anthoine’s friends and family at this tragic time,” Abiteboul said. “Anthoine was a bright young man. His performance and conduct on and off track was that of a true gentleman and it was a pleasure and honor to have had him within our Academy. He will be sorely missed by our teams at Enstone and Viry. His spirit will remain with the team and we will race in his memory.”

Correa remains in a stable condition at the CHU Liege hospital in Belgium, where he is being treated.

Anthoine Hubert (1996-2019): Tributes to F2 star flood in

Anthoine Hubert (1996-2019): Tributes to F2 star flood in

Tributes have been flooding in from around the world of motorsport following the death of Formula 2 racer and Renault junior Anthoine Hubert in a devastating accident at Spa-Francorchamps on Saturday, aged 22.

“Our thoughts are with Anthoine’s friends and family at this tragic time,” said Cyril Abiteboul, managing director of Renault Sport Racing.

“Anthoine was a bright young man. His performance and conduct on and off track was that of a true gentleman.

“It was a pleasure and honour to have had him within our Academy. He will be sorely missed by our teams at Enstone and Viry.

“His spirit will remain with the team and we will race in his memory.”

“God rest your soul Anthoine,” Lewis Hamilton wrote on social media site Instagram after hearing the news. “My prayers and thoughts are with you and your family today.

“Anthoine is a hero as far as I’m concerned, for taking the risk he did to chase his dreams,” he added. “All these drivers put their life on the line when they hit the track and people need to appreciate that in a serious way because it is not appreciated enough.”

“Very sad news today here in Spa,” Valtteri Bottas said on Twitter. “Tragic day. My deepest condolences to the family and friends of Anthoine.”

A tweet from the Mercedes team added: “The entire Mercedes family sends its deepest condolences to the family and friends of Anthoine Hubert, and his Arden and Renault teams on this tragic day.”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen also left a message on Twitter in which he said: “Absolutely shocked by the tragic accident of Anthoine Hubert. Terrible. My thoughts are with him and his family, friends, team and loved ones.”

Red Bull boss Christian Horner also paid his respects: “The tragic death of Formula 2 driver Anthoine Hubert at Spa today is a reminder of just how cruel motorsport, the sport we love, can be sometimes,” he said.

“In his rookie season, Anthoine was demonstrating to be a star of the future having already won races in Monaco and France this year.

“On behalf of Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, our thoughts are with Anthoine’s family, Renault and the BWT Arden team, which is close to my heart.”

Honda’s F1 racing manager Toyoharu Tanabe added: “We are deeply saddened to learn of the death of Anthoine Hubert. On behalf of the Honda Motor Company, I offer our sincere condolences to his family and friends.”

Haas F1 Team said that it “sends its deepest condolences to Anthoine Hubert’s family following this evening’s tragic news. Our thoughts go out to them as well as Arden, Renault and the FIA F2 community at this time.”

Anthoine Hubert (FRA) ART Grand Prix 3rd place in the race1 and 2018 GP3 series champion. 24.11.2018. GP3 Series, Rd 9, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Saturday

“Can’t believe it,” said Esteban Ocon. “We are the same age, we started racing together and battled on track for years. All my thoughts goes to his family. Repose en paix Anthoine.”

McLaren also sent its heartfelt condolences, and also its thoughts and best wishes to Juan-Manuel Correa who was also involved in the shocking accident.

“I’m deeply shocked & saddened by the loss of such a young talent today Antoine Hubert,” posted former F1 driver Felipe Massa. “Sending love and strength to his family and friends.”

“I can not believe it,” Williams driver George Russell said. “RIP my friend.”

“No words,” contributed McLaren driver Carlos Sainz. “My deepest condolences to Anthoine’s family and friends. Rest in peace.”

“Awful, terrible news,” said Marcus Ericsson. “All my thoughts with his family and friends. Rest in peace.”

“Terrible news that we lost a talented driver in Anthoine Hubert here at Spa today,” said Sky Sports F1 presenter Johnny Herbert. “My heart goes out to his family and friends at this difficult time.”

“Awful news about Antoine Hubert,” wrote fellow former F1 driver turned presenter Karun Chandhok. “A great talent taken away too young. My deepest condolences to his family, the Arden-HWA team & everyone at Formula 2 at this time.”

And 2009 world champion Jenson Button tweeted: “Devastating news from Spa today, the super talented Anthoine Hubert succumbed to his injuries after an accident in today’s F2 race. rest in peace Champion.”

Particularly poignant were the words from Stefan Wilson, whose brother Justin – a former F1 driver – died in an IndyCar accident in 2015. “So sad, thinking of everyone in Spa and Anthoine’s family, friends and fans. Heartbreaking.”

And of course, everyone at F1icom would also like to take this opportunity to send our thoughts, deepest condolences and best of wishes to Anthoine’s friends, family and colleagues. We can’t express just how much we wish that we’d had the chance to see him shine in Formula 1.

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Ricciardo buoyed by overnight improvements and solid qualie

Ricciardo buoyed by overnight improvements and solid qualie

Overnight improvements which led to a good performance in qualifying from Daniel Ricciardo have left the Renault driver optimistic for Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix.

Ricciardo clocked in sixth at the end of the afternoon’s top-ten shootout session and ‘best of the rest’ behind F1’s usual suspects.

A solid result preceded by the Aussie’s equally strong run in this morning’s FP2 session.

“We actually made a few improvements overnight and that really helped and kind of put us clear in that midfield,” Ricciardo told Sky F1.

“Obviously, Perez had the pace on us yesterday, but I think today from the morning and the afternoon, I was kind of the guy to beat in our little midfield pack.

“We certainly improved the car and Nico as well, he’d been struggling a bit more, but it looked like he found some rhythm in the last part of qualifying. Sixth and seventh is all we can ask for.”

Unfortunately, Ricciardo’s impressive qualifying will be partially negated by a five-spot grid drop, the result of Renault introducing its new Spec-C engine at Spa.

Asked whether he could carve his way through the field thanks to his R.S.19’s pace, Ricciardo said: “Yes, I am, it’s been solid. I think even the long runs yesterday felt pretty good.

“We’ve got some decent cars around us but I think we will be able to get inside the top-ten and do something from there, but how far we can go who knows?”

The seven-time Grand Prix joked that the Belgian Grand Prix was like a fresh start for everyone, with drivers raring to go after the summer break.

“Spa is a bit like race 1 of the year, it’s always a little bit hectic,” he said.

“After the break everyone is a bit excited. There’s still a bit of alcohol in everyone’s system, so Turn 1 can always produce something!”

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Verstappen focused on Mercedes with Ferrari out of reach

Verstappen focused on Mercedes with Ferrari out of reach

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen is confident he can fight Mercedes in Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix, but the Dutchman believes Ferrari’s straight-line speed has put it out of reach.

It’s been anything but a clean weekend for Verstappen, the Red Bull charger’s efforts regularly hampered by small issues.

Saturday’s qualifying session was more of the same with an issue preventing his Honda engine from delivering its full power and forcing the team to run in a conservative mode, a restriction that still allowed Verstappen to secure a fifth-place spot on tomorrow’s grid.

Leclerc reassured Ferrari that ‘it’s under control’

“In general, I would say a tricky weekend,” explained Verstappen.

“All the time we wanted to up the power, it didn’t work. So we had to run conservatively in qualifying. That’s not what you want around here.

“We were losing quite a lot on the straight. But on a positive note, we were still quite close to the Mercedes cars. For us that is quite important. We’ll try to fight them tomorrow.”

The Red Bull charger, who is expecting less engine trouble on Sunday, admitted that Ferrari was in a league of their own, helped mainly by the SF90’s sheer power and top speed which have come into their own at Spa.

“I think our race pace yesterday was really good,” he added.

“I expect it to be close, and Ferrari it looks like made a step forward with the top speed they have. Even if you have more speed, you will not get by.”

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Renault hopeful Anthoine Hubert killed in Spa F2 crash

Renault hopeful Anthoine Hubert killed in Spa F2 crash

The FIA has confirmed that F2 racer and Renault Sport hopeful Anthoine Hubert has died from injuries sustained in Saturday’s massive accident at Spa-Francorchamps.

The cancellation of Saturday’s Formula 2 feature race in the immediate aftermath of the crash was unfortunately an ominous sign as everyone awaited news of the drivers’ condition.

The horrendous crash occurred on the second lap of the  race and started when Giuliano Alesi lost control of his car on the entry to Raidillon.

Drivers rushing up the hill were forced to take avoiding action, with Hubert unfortunately hitting the right side of the tyre wall before rebounding on to the track and into the path of the oncoming car of Sauber Junior Team’s Juan Manuel Correa. The impact was devastating.

Both drivers were immediately taken to Liège’s CHU Hospital, where Hubert succumbed to his injuries over an hour later. Correa was described as being in stable condition while Alesi, who had retired and exited his car at Les Combes, was released after a brief check-up at the track’s medical center.

The talented 22-year-old Hubert who was supported by Renault had won twice in F2 this season, at Monaco and at Paul Ricard, and was seen as the next French hopeful in line for a seat in F1.

A laureate of the French F4 championship in 2013, Hubert raced in Formula Renault, in European Formula 3 and in GP3, winning the title in the later series in 2018 with ART, an achievement that earned him the full support of Renault.

Hubert was racing this season with BWT Arden, which is allied with the SportPesa Racing Point F1 team.

“It’s almost impossible to find the right words at moments like these,” said Racing Point team principal and CEO Otmar Szafnauer in a press statement released after Hubert’s passing was confirmed.

“We are all devastated to hear the tragic news from today’s Formula 2 race. Anthoine was a wonderful person and a tremendous racing talent who had already enjoyed great success in the sport.

“We extend our sincere condolences to his family, friends, and supporters.”

Following today’s tragic events, the FIA Formula 2 series has cancelled Sunday’s sprint race.

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Hamilton still hoping to challenge Ferrari on Sunday

Hamilton still hoping to challenge Ferrari on Sunday

Lewis Hamilton had little option than to concede Charles Leclerc’s superior pace at Spa-Francorchamps on Saturday, following the qualifying session for the 2019 Belgian Grand Prix.

The Mercedes driver found himself 0.763s off the Monegasque’s stunning pole time, and was also forced off the front row by a late flier from Leclerc’s Ferrari team mate Sebastian Vettel.

It leaves Hamilton starting tomorrow’s race from third place on the grid alongside his Silver Arrows team mate Valtteri Bottas.

“Congratulations to Charles, he’s been so quick all weekend,” Hamilton acknowledged after the end of qualifying.

“Ferrari have done a great job today. Charles did an exceptional job. I hope we can bring the fight to them tomorrow.”

Leclerc was able to use clear air and Ferrari’s straight-line speed to gain an advantage over his rivals. Hamilton and the rest of the field tripped up jockeying for position, trying to pick up a slipstream effect down Spa’s superfast, high-speed straights.

“That was a bit slow,” said Hamilton of his Q3 warm-up lap, which saw him almost run into the back of Bottas at one point which forced him to slow to a crawl.

“Obviously he was trying to keep the tow of the car in front, so I was trying to hold behind him and everyone was behind me. It was really tricky.”

Hamilton added he was uncertain whether the expected overnight drop in ambient temperatures would be in Mercedes’ favour in tomorrow’s race, as has proved the case in the past.

“I don’t know, I’d have to ask my engineers. Either way I’m going to give it everything, hopefully give these guys a good race.

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W10. 31.08.2019.

“In the long run I’m hoping we can at least give them a bit of a challenge tomorrow.

“I think a bit of their straight speed – which is where generally all the speed is – it’s usually not there so much in the race.

“Hopefully we’ll be there or thereabouts with them tomorrow and maybe put in some interesting strategies. We’ll see.”

Hamilton acknowledged that he had been lucky to even be in the running in qualifying today after seriously damaging his car in an accident during free Practice 3 just two hours earlier.

“FP3 was a terrible session for me,” he sighed. “It’s painful because you know how many people work so hard to build those parts, and how hard the guys work to put the car together, and I knew that was going to be a tough challenge.

“My guys are just faultless. They always work and give 110 per cent and I’m so grateful for that,” he continued. “I was really just trying to pay them back with a good qualifying session.

“Considering I missed all of FP3 – and a lot of FP1 actually – I’m grateful to be up here.”

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Belgian GP: Saturday’s action in pictures

Belgian GP: Saturday’s action in pictures

Looking for a recap in pictures of Saturday’s action from the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps?

Feel free to dig in to our massive gallery.

Leclerc reassured Ferrari that ‘it’s under control’

Leclerc reassured Ferrari that ‘it’s under control’

Charles Leclerc may be one of the youngest drivers on the Formula 1 grid this season, but when it came to qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix it was the 21-year-old who oozed cool, calm confidence.

“He’s massively motived,” Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto told Sky Sports F1. “I knew before the qualie that he should be careful, no mistakes – I just told him, don’t overdrive.

“He said, ‘No, Mattia, stay calm, it’s under control!’ And he’s showing that he’s under control and very fast.”

With everyone trying to exploit the slipstream advantage for their flying laps down Spa’s famous superlong high-speed straights, it was Leclerc who made the decision to simply ditch the strategy and go it alone.

“At first I really targeted the perfect slipstream,’ he said later when reviewing the events of the final top ten shoot-out round on Saturday afternoon.

“But after that I felt the tyres were not ready for Turn 1 and I actually lost quite a bit of time.

“So for the second run in Q3 I asked to be sent whenever the car was ready, to be alone and try to do the job alone without slipstreams.

“In my opinion, on my car, it felt better to have tyres in the right window than having the slipstream so we went as soon as possible.

“It felt good. Obviously the first sector was not exactly what I wanted, especially in the first corner.

Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari SF90 celebrates his pole position in qualifying parc ferme.

“We had to go very slow to prepare the lap because there was a lot of traffic,” he explained. “I struggled quite a bit but after that from the second corner onwards we were strong and it felt amazing.

“That’s what I asked in the garage, actually – not to not really care about the slipstream. It was too much of a mess to prepare the tyres and the lap overall, so I wanted to be alone and it worked out so I’m very happy.

“The start of the lap was always very, very messy, because there was quite a lot of traffic with all the cars around.

“But at the end I managed to do the full lap correctly, and I’m very happy. I definitely did not expect to be that much ahead but very happy with my lap anyway.”

However Leclerc is aware that Ferrari is unlikely to enjoy the same sort of advantage over Mercedes and Red Bull in tomorrow’s race.

Straight line speed is less of a factor when it comes to race conditions, and Ferrari’s long distance runs on Friday during practice also confirmed that things will most likely be a lot closer in the Grand Prix.

“We were struggling a little bit more for the race pace yesterday so we need to work on that,” he acknowledged.

“But yeah, looking at the pace today, I’m pretty sure we’ll be strong.”

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Sensational Leclerc beats Vettel by 0.75s for Spa pole

Sensational Leclerc beats Vettel by 0.75s for Spa pole

Charles Leclerc pulled out a sensational performance to beat teammate Sebastian Vettel by three quarters of a second as Ferrari locked out the front row at the Belgian Grand Prix.

Ferrari was first and second in all three practice sessions but looked under some pressure from Mercedes in qualifying, with Lewis Hamilton a threat despite his crash in FP3. But the pressure was all on Vettel as Leclerc topped all three parts of the qualifying session, dominating Q3.

Leclerc’s time of 1m42.519s was in a league of its own as Vettel struggled to get his lap together, leaving him 0.75s clear of his teammate. Vettel needed his final attempt to jump Hamilton and secure second spot, beating the lead Mercedes by just 0.015s.

Hamilton’s recovery was a strong one after a crash in FP3 left Mercedes with a race against time to prepare his car for qualifying. It wasn’t ready for the start of Q1 but Hamilton managed to get out on track after a red flag period and duly beat Valtteri Bottas by a little over 0.1s.

Max Verstappen will start from fifth place after posting a 1m43.690s, and he was ahead of the two Renaults but both Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg will take five-place grid penalties from sixth and seventh respectively. That will promote Kimi Raikkonen who was eighth in qualifying, as well as Sergio Perez and Kevin Magnussen who ended up ninth and 10th.

A somewhat surprising elimination was Lando Norris, who dropped out in 12th place. Although McLaren had not looked competitive over one lap all weekend, it still marked the first time the team did not have a car in Q3 since the Spanish Grand Prix. Romain Grosjean also dropped out in 11th place, just 0.059s slower than his teammate Magnussen at the flag.

There were two red flags that interrupted Q1, the second of which brought a premature end to the session. First, Robert Kubica had to stop on the run to the Bus Stop at the end of the lap when the new specification Mercedes power unit in his Williams appeared to let go spectacularly. After leaving a trail of smoke, Kubica’s car caught fire as he climbed out in much the same manner Perez’s had on Friday afternoon.

 

Kubica flames out. Image by Zak Mauger/LAT

That delay came just four minutes into the session and caused an 11-minute delay that gave Mercedes further time to prepare Hamilton’s car. Then with just one minute remaining, Giovinazzi pulled to the side of the track with a similar issue to Kubica. Although there was less smoke, Giovinazzi suffered a failure exiting La Source and stopped on the run to Eau Rouge with fire also emerging from his exhaust, resulting in the session ending early.

Only Verstappen had completed his final lap at that time — needing to get one in early after a power unit concern early in the session — and the red flag meant Pierre Gasly dropped out on his return to Toro Rosso, while it also caught out Carlos Sainz. Daniil Kvyat was a less surprising casualty as he has a power unit penalty that will force him to start from the back of the grid, while George Russell and Kubica were also eliminated.



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Ferrari’s Leclerc blows away rivals to take Spa pole!

Ferrari’s Leclerc blows away rivals to take Spa pole!

Charles Leclerc will start from pole position for the third time in his Formula 1 career in Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps.

The Ferrari driver was on stunning form throughout the afternoon, and out of reach of anyone including his team mate Sebastian Vettel who will start tomorrow’s race alongside him on the front row.

Lewis Hamilton bounced back from his FP3 accident to secure third place on the grid alongside his Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas. Max Verstappen overcame early glitches on his Red Bull to claim fifth ahead of Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo.

The session saw two early red flags in Q1 for apparent engine issues for Robert Kubica and Antonio Giovinazzi.

Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Renault F1 Team RS19. 31.08.2019.

Spa was sparkling in the summer sunshine, the Ardennes forest shimmering in the heat haze, as the cars emerged on track for the first qualifying session following the annual two-week shutdown. The big question was whether the extended break had made any major changes to the fortunes of the ten teams.

Q1: Leclerc on stunning form amid red flags for Kubica and Giovinazzi

George Russell was the first to set off when the track went green, followed a few moments later by his Williams team mate Robert Kubica. Alfa Romeo then dispatched Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen, but it was almost four minutes into the 18-minute round before everyone bar Lewis Hamilton and Daniil Kvyat made their move.

However before anyone could actually set a time, the session was red-flagged for a major issue for Kubica. The Pole’s FW42 was billowing plumes of smoke out of the back of the newly installed Mercedes power unit, followed by tell-tale flames from the exhaust. Even before this emergency, Russell had already abandoned his installation lap and returned to the Williams garage with a problem of his own, reporting that “the dash is going a bit mental – it keeps alternating from white to black.”

Robert Kubica (POL) Williams Racing FW42.

When the session resumed, there were 13 minutes remaining on the clock and a long line of cars waiting to go out and set times. The ten minute delay in proceedings had helped Mercedes complete repairs to Hamilton’s car after his FP3 accident, and Russell’s issues were also now sorted out, but there had been signs of consternation in the Ferrari garage around Charles Leclerc’s car and the Monagasque was among the last of the drivers to head out.

The first time on the leaderboard was set by Max Verstappen, but the Red Bull’s time was significantly off the expected pace and the Dutch driver was on the radio complaining of problems. By the time everyone completed their first push laps, Verstappen’s 1:51.843s put him eight seconds off the top time of 1:43.587s subsequently set by Leclerc, a spectacular effort that instantly shrugged off any concerns about the reliability of his SF90.

Leclerc was even half a second faster than his team mate Sebastian Vettel, with Valtteri Bottas a full second slower still in third just ahead of Hamilton. Alexander Albon carried Red Bull’s colours in fifth ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, followed by Giovinazzi and the two Haas drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen sandwiching Sergio Perez’s Racing Point to round out the top ten.

Verstappen found himself at the bottom of the remaining 19 cars still in the session, and at risk of elimination along with Russell, Kvyat and McLaren’s Carlos Sainz who already had a grid penalty for new engine parts. Once the Red Bull mechanics had got to grips with the RB15’s problems, Verstappen was back out for a second run and this time he did enough to go third fastest despite hitting traffic along the way.

He was fortunate to complete the lap, because seconds later Giovinazzi’s car crawled to a halt at exit of La Source with an apparent engine issue. It triggered a second red flag which prematurely terminated the session, catching out everyone who had been on their final push lap. Verstappen’s last-gasp leap to safety had ironically plunged his former team mate Pierre Gasly into the drop zone along with Sainz, Kvyat, Russell and Kubica.

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W10. 31.08.2019.

Q2: Ferrari stay top, Norris and Albon fail to make it through

There was a slight delay to the start of the second round as track workers took care of Giovinazzi’s stricken Alfa, which would clearly take no further part in the session despite finishing Q1 in a strong eighth place.

With Spa presenting the longest lap of the season, there was little time to waste as drivers headed out on soft tyres for their initial flying laps. First on the timing screens was Raikkonen with 1:44.140s which was good enough to hold on to the top spot until Verstappen finally managed to shave off eight thousandths of a second to dethrone the Finn.

The two Mercedes drivers were then faster, Hamilton pipping Bottas, before the Ferraris emphasised their domination once again with Leclerc’s 1:43.376s proving to be 0.130s quicker than Vettel. The good news for the Silver Arrows was that Hamilton was only a little over two tenths off Leclerc’s pace, much closer than in previous sessions.

The front runners then cruised back to the pits, careful not to put any more wear on their tyres than necessary given that they could prove to be the set they would start Sunday’s race on. Also provisionally through to the final round after the first runs were Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo and Racing Point pair Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll. Kevin Magnussen held the final transfer spot for Haas ahead of Nico Hulkenberg, Romain Grosjean, Lando Norris and Alexander Albon who all faced elimination.

Verstappen decided there was no need for him to come out to play again in Q2, while Stroll and Albon also remained in the garage as engine penalties meant they would be starting near the back of the grid anyway. Everyone else came back out again – still on softs – with even the two Ferraris feeling the need to cover off the possibility of any major big improvements from their rivals.

Leclerc eked out a little more time to post a new effort of 1:42.938s with Vettel also improving to stay just within a tenth. Once again Hamilton and Bottas ended up uncomfortably far off the pace in third and fourth, but still ahead of Ricciardo who pushed past the absent Verstappen for fifth place. Raikkonen remained in seventh despite a late improvement from Hulkenberg to eighth, putting him ahead of Perez and Magnussen.

Grosjean was 0.059s behind his team mate and duly joined Norris, Stroll, Albon and the sidelined Giovinazzi in the elimination zone as the chequered flag flew.

Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari celebrates his pole position in qualifying parc ferme with team mate Sebastian Vettel (GER) Ferrari.

Q3: Leclerc proves unstoppable, Vettel helps Ferrari to front row lock-out

With drivers seeking to get into the slip stream of the cars ahead, traffic ended up proving the biggest headache of the final round. The cars packed up heading into Stavelot, forcing Hamilton to slow to a crawl to avoid running into the back of Bottas on their warm-up laps.

Raikkonen took advantage of a clear track ahead of him to set a benchmark of 1:44.978s, which was quickly bettered by Ricciardo. The earlier congestion seemed to affect the pace of Hamilton, Bottas and Verstappen; however there was no stopping Leclerc, who flew to the top with a dazzling 1:42.644s. It put him once again more than six tenths ahead of Hamilton, but the big surprise was Vettel only managing third quickest ahead of Bottas and Verstappen which pushed Ricciardo down to fifth.

After a brief pause, the second push saw the outbreak of another cat-and-mouse game as the cars tried to find strategic track position among their rivals. Hamilton attempted to shadow Leclerc, only for the Ferrari to dismiss any ideas of gaining any slipstream advantage itself and quickly disappearing down the road on the way to clinching pole with 1:42.519s, over seven tenths clear of the field.

Vettel once again started well only to fall off the pace in the second sector as he tried to pick up the draft from Bottas. However he still managed to do enough to narrowly pip Hamilton for second place and make it an all-Ferrari front row, with Hamilton and Bottas set to line up behind them on the grid on Sunday.

Verstappen was fifth fastest ahead of Ricciardo, followed by Hulkenberg, Raikkonen, Perez and Magnussen.

©Ferrari

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2019 Belgian Grand Prix – Qualifying results

Full results from qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, round 13 of the 2019 Formula 1 season.

2019 Belgian Grand Prix – Qualifying results

PosDriverTeamQ1Q2Q3
1Charles LeclercFerrari1:43.587s1:42.938s1:42.519s
2Sebastian VettelFerrari1:44.109s1:43.037s1:43.267s
3Lewis HamiltonMercedes1:45.260s1:43.592s1:43.282s
4Valtteri BottasMercedes1:45.141s1:43.980s1:43.415s
5Max VerstappenRed Bull1:44.622s1:44.132s1:43.690s
6Daniel RicciardoRenault1:45.560s1:44.103s1:44.257s
7Nico HülkenbergRenault1:45.899s1:44.549s1:44.542s
8Kimi RäikkönenAlfa Romeo1:45.842s1:44.140s1:44.557s
9Sergio PérezRacing Point1:45.732s1:44.707s1:44.706s
10Kevin MagnussenHaas1:45.839s1:44.738s1:45.086s
11Romain GrosjeanHaas1:45.694s1:44.797s
12Lando NorrisMcLaren1:46.154s1:44.847s
13Lance StrollRacing Point1:46.000s1:45.047s
14Alexander AlbonRed Bull1:45.528s1:45.799s
15Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo1:45.637s
16Pierre GaslyToro Rosso1:46.435s
17Carlos SainzMcLaren1:46.507s
18Daniil KvyatToro Rosso1:46.518s
19George RussellWilliams1:47.548s
20Robert KubicaWilliams

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Belgian Grand Prix Qualifying: Leclerc blows them away

Belgian Grand Prix Qualifying: Leclerc blows them away

 

Charles Leclerc was untouchable on Saturday afternoon as he powered to pole position for the Belgian Grand Prix, Round 13 of the 2019 Formula 1 World Championship, at Spa-Francorchamps.

The Ferrari driver has been unbeaten this weekend since FP2 and claimed his third pole position in F1 with a couple of scintillating laps around the daunting Spa-Francorchamps, his final run six tenths better than Sebastian Vettel’s effort as the pair painted the front row red for tomorrow’s race.

Ahead of the session, Ferrari were favourites as they were able to stretch their legs with Leclerc beating his older teammate for the sixth time in a row and establishing himself even further as the fastest bloke in red on Saturdays.

Leclerc would’ve done the business with his first effort, but went a tenth better with the pole-winning time of 1:42.519 which was a whopping three-quarter of a second upon next best. It was an emphatic display that sets him up for a first win in the top flight tomorrow.

The kid from Monaco summed up his afternoon: “It felt good. Obviously the first sector was not exactly what I wanted, especially in the first corner, we had to go very slow because there was a lot of traffic.

“I struggled quite a bit but after that the second corner we were strong and it felt amazing. I asked in the garage not to bother with the slipstream as it was a bit of a mess, so to prepare the tyres for the lap overall, and it worked out so I’m very happy.

“We were struggling a little bit more for the race pace yesterday so we need to work on that but looking at the pace today, I’m pretty sure we’ll be strong,” he added.

Vettel cursed the traffic afterwards but took it on the chin, “At the end of the day it’s good that we secured the first row. To fight pole I was in a queue it doesn’t help – no excuses.

“I’m looking forward to the race. The car should be better, it was better today, temperatures should drop overnight, I don’t know but it’s the same for everyone,” added the four-time F1 World Champion.

In the two hours between sessions, Lewis Hamilton’s crew did a supreme job to fix the Mercedes he wrecked in FP2 and as he tends to do under adversity, dug deep to claim third place. He was a tenth and a bit faster than teammate Valtteri Bottas in fourth to make it an all-silver second row.

In retrospect, it was a clumsy session by the champs, their cars tripping up during Q3 with #44 car almost ramming #77 at one point. In retrospect, the whole weekend has been niggly for the Silver Arrows.

Hamilton was typically magnanimous in his summary,  “P3 was a terrible session for me and of course, it’s painful because you know how hard people work to build those parts, and how hard the guys work to build the car, so I knew that was going to be a tough challenge.

“My guys are just faultless and always give 110%, so I’m really grateful for that and was just trying to pay them back with a good qualifying session. Considering I missed all of P3 and a lot of P1, actually, I’m really grateful I’m up here.

“Ferrari have done a great job today – Charles did an exceptional job – and I hope we can bring the fight to them tomorrow,” added Hamilton who has DNFed on four occasions at Spa, more than at any other venue on the calendar.

Next up, Honda simply did not have the horsepower on tap or party mode to match the pace-setters.

Max Verstappen had to settle for fifth, but over a second shy of the benchmark time and will be hoping they reel some of that in with race pace and strategy. But their engine did them no favours at the power-hungry strip of ribbon in the Ardennes, they still have work to do.

His new Red Bull teammate, set to start from the back of the grid anyway, ran his own programme and settled for 14th on the timing screens, from where he won’t be starting on race day.

Alth0ugh still an age behind the Big-Three, Renault found the sweetspot in their package as Daniel Ricciardo headed Nico Hulkenberg in the Best-of-the-Rest battle, the Australian fifth fastest but 1.7 seconds shy of the pace; he German was three tenths adrift of his teammate.

Kimi Raikkonen defied a muscle injury to deliver the eighth-best time in the Alfa Romeo, while his teammate Antonio Giovinazzi was forced to park on the trackside with the Ferrari PU billowing smoke. He was classified 15th.

Racing Point driver for the next three years, Sergio Perez was ninth fastest with teammate Lance Stroll 13th, three-tenths down on his more experienced teammate.

The Haas pair were 10th and 11th with Kevin Magnussen a few hundredths faster than Romain Grosjean in the sister car.

Misery was compounded at Williams when Robert Kubica was forced to park his car with flames licking out of the Mercedes power unit. He did no laps as a result while his teammate George Russell was slowest of those who set times.

Neither Toro Rosso made it beyond Q3, their cause not helped as they were caught out by the red flag situation that took place to clear Kubica’s burning car.

Carlos Sainz was also a victim of the red flag stoppage, having to scupper his effort on a disappointing afternoon for McLaren who, on the day, never looked like Q3 candidates. Lando Norris was 12th  and admitted he had extracted all he could from his car.

Worth mentioning was the pandemonium during Q3 as cars tripped up as they jostled for track position ahead of the flying laps. It was jaw-dropping stuff out of an arcade game.

At one point it was reached a state of lunacy, as cars on out laps hit the brakes as queues developed on track while some drivers, on flying laps, somehow dodged and weaved to avoid the crowding. It was a sham and that there were no tears at the end of it all was a minor miracle.

One highlight though was an unbelievable display by Verstappen as he carved his way through a minefield of cars as if they were not there. Daring stuff from the Dutchman whose every move was roared on by his fans, whose orange colours were splotched over large sections of the grandstands.

Shades of the red rolled out in the Michael Schumacher era and the yellow of Ayrton Senna’s reign. But were they ever as well supported as the Belgian born 21-year-old with the bright orange helmet?

In closing, be warned that a mountain of confusing engine penalties will be taken by several drivers this weekend, thus expect a decidedly different grid to the qualifying results list below.

NB: A report on making sense of the chaos will be published before the race tomorrow it should be quite different what is seen below, but won’t affect the top five.

Report in progress…

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Strategy dictates return to older-spec engine for Renault drivers

Renault works drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg, as well as McLaren’s Carlos Sainz, have returned to the manufacturer’s older-spec unit for the remainder of the Belgian Grand Prix weekend.

Renault introduced its latest Spec-C engine at Spa, with Ricciardo, Hulkenberg and Sainz using the updated unit on Friday, which entailed a grid drop for Sunday’s race for all three drivers.

While many speculated the switch-back had perhaps been done for reliability reasons, Renault insisted its decision was strategic and planned from the beginning.

Indeed, the move allows both Renault and McLaren to add the Spec-C unit to the teams’ pool of engines at a venue where the effects of a grid drop are relatively minimized.

“The plan is to take penalties at a track where there is a possibility to overtake, while entering a needed extra ICE into our pool for the rest of the year,” explained a Renault spokesperson.

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Anthoine Hubert killed in Spa F2 crash

Anthoine Hubert killed in Spa F2 crash

Renault F1 junior Anthoine Hubert (22) has died after sustaining injuries in a horrific accident during the Formula 2 Feature Race at Spa-Francorchamps.

Frenchman Hubert – the reigning GP3 Series champion – was involved in a five-car pileup on lap two of the race at Spa-Francorchamps as the mid-pack roared through Eau Rouge and Raidillon.

Hubert’s car appears to be hit by Sauber Junior Team driver Juan Manuel Correa exiting Raidillon corner. The race was stopped and then cancelled as medical tents were set up on track to treat the drivers and usher out spectators in range of the area

The FIA confirmed that Hubert succumbed to his injuries at 18:35 local time, over an hour after the accident. Correa was also hospitalised and is described as being in a stable condition. Alesi has been released from the medical centre.

Statement:

The Hubert’s single-seater career began in 2013, claiming the French Formula 4 Drivers’ Championship, winning 50% of the races on the way. After that he spent two seasons in Formula Renault Eurocup with Tech-1 Racing, finishing fifth in his second year.

He graduated to the highly-competitive European Formula 3 Championship in 2016, ending the year eighth with one victory to his name at Norisring, in round five.

Anthoine took on the streets of Macau later that year with 2017 commencing his maiden season in GP3.

In 2018 he stepped up with Renault Sport Racing, going from Affiliated Driver in 2018 to Academy Driver for 2019.

The Frenchman earned the graduation having clinched the 2018 GP3 Series title. Consistency proved critical for Anthoine last season, finishing on the podium eleven times, including two wins.

He sealed the championship in the penultimate race of the season in Abu Dhabi. The win meant Anthoine added a second crown to his name having won French Formula 4 in 2013.

Report in progress…

Spa F2 Feature Race abandoned after horrific crash

Spa F2 Feature Race abandoned after horrific crash

The Formula 2 Feature at Spa-Francorchamps has been abandoned after a serious crash appearing to involve Anthoine Hubert, Juan Manuel Correa and Marino Sato on the second lap of the race.

The incident took place at Raidillon exiting the notorious Eau Rouge – and appeared to involve or affect at least five cars – and was serious enough to force the race to be stopped, then cancelled. After which the medical teams set to work under tents to treat the drivers.

Correa was seen moving in the cockpit of the upside-down #12 car, while Hubert appeared to have suffered the biggest impact with his car apparently split in half.

Sato was seen on the world feed broadcast walking away from the accident, while the other cars in the race were called back to the pitlane where it was immediately decided not to restart the race.

A Reddit user at the scene posted a photo with the caption: “Tons of emergency personnel on place, huge f2 crash. This looks really really bad. There are tents around the cars.”

Mick Schumacher and Nicolas Latifi had a coming together in the Turn 1 hairpin which forced the latter to pit as a result of a puncture, while Guiliano Alesi and Ralph Boschung’s were among those damaged when running over the scattered debris.

All the above information is subject to confirmation and based on reports garnered by sources at the track as well as through respected media channels.

Report in progress…

Report in progress…

Formula 2 feature race cancelled after massive shunt

A massive multi-car accident on the second lap of Saturday’s Formula 2 feature race at Spa has compelled organizers to cancel the event.

The crash took place as the field was negotiating the daunting Raidillon sweep and involved Alfa Romeo F1 junior Juan Manuel Correa, Arden’s Antoine Hubert and Campos Marino Sato.

A driver appeared to lose control on the entry of Raidillon, which in turn set off a chain reaction behind.

Hubert’s out of control car was hit at the top of the hill by Correa, an massive impact that cut the BWT Arden machine in half, leaving its driver stranded in the survivor cell while Correa’s car was sent upside down before grinding to a halt.

Sato was able to extricate himself and walk away from the crash.

The race was immediately red-flagged and drivers returned to the pits where it was later decided to call it a day.

No information has yet been released regarding the conditions of Correa and Hubert.

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Kubica’s car smoking like Snoop

Kubica’s car smoking like Snoop

Two red flags during Q1, one for Kubica whose car was smoking like Snoop Dogg and one for Giovinassi.  After Racing Point’s engine issues on Friday, it’s not looking great for the Mercedes power units.  At least for them, at least one of the Ferrari power plants has also had a problem.

 

In not so shocking news, Pierre Gasly is out in Q1 after being demoted from the Senior Red Bull team this past week.  Carlos Sainz also out which actually is a bit of a shock.  He’ll have a tough battle on his hands Sunday afternoon.

 

The boys in Red continue to look good, but we’ve seen this before in 2019.  They have yet to convert good practice and qualifying sessions into actual race wins.

Ferrari still in charge in FP3 as heavy crash sets back Hamilton!

Ferrari still in charge in FP3 as heavy crash sets back Hamilton!

Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel kept Ferrari at the top of the timesheet in FP3, but the final dress rehearsal before qualifying for this afternoon’s Belgian Grand Prix was marked by a nasty crash for Lewis Hamilton.

The Mercedes driver lost it on the entry to Les Fagnes and sped into the tyre barrier. The Brit emerged unscathed from his damaged W10, but a lengthy repair job awaited his crew just two hours before the start of qualifying.

2019 Belgian Grand Prix Free Practice 3 – Results

Spa’s not so typical gorgeous weather was the norm once again on Saturday, but the action was slow to unfold at the outset, with drivers only undergoing installation laps in the first 15 minutes of running.

Williams’ Robert Kubica was the first runner to put a time on the board, but the Pole’s 1m50.877s benchmark was quickly beaten by Leclerc by over six seconds.

Gradually, the times started to come in, with Vettel overhauling his teammate while Bottas and Hamilton – also on soft tyres – got up to speed, followed by Racing Point’s Sergio Perez and Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo.

At the back, a soft-shod Alex Albon was over six seconds off the pace but the Red Bull made clear yesterday that FP3 would be all about race preparation as the British-Thai racer will start his race from the back of the grid following an engine change from Honda.

The uneventful start to the day suddenly got a shock when Lewis Hamilton was seen planted in the wall at the Fagnes chicane, with a replay showing the Mercedes driver putting a wheel on to the outside kerb then battling his car as it veered off course and in to the tyre barrier.

There was no harm to the five-time world champion, but a crushed front-end on the Brit’s W10 guaranteed a hive of activity in the Mercedes garage and a set-back for Hamilton, just a couple of hours before qualifying.

©Formula1

After a 15-minute red flag halt during which the stricken Mercedes was evacuated, the session resumed with 13 minutes left on the clock.

The track was bustling with activity but that didn’t hinder Leclerc who cloked in with a 1m44.206s

While the order remained unchanged at the front, with Vettel preceding Leclerc that comfortably edged his teammate by 0.451s.

Bottas sat third while Ricciardo popped up to fourth, just ahead of Verstappen. Behind, Perez, Hamilton, Alfa’s Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi, and Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly rounded off the top ten.

But the session concluded with one big question: will Mercedes be able to repair Hamilton’s damaged car in time for qualifying.

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Mercedes in frantic race against time to fix Hamilton’s car

Mercedes crews are in a frantic race against the clock to get Lewis Hamilton’s car repaired in time for Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session.

Half-way through this morning’s FP3 session, Hamilton lost control of his Silver Arrow after putting his left-hand wheel on a kerb on the approach to the Les Fagnes chicane.

The Brit hopelessly battled his car in a series of rapid tank-slappers but veered off course and into the outside wall, heavily damaging his car’s left front end.

It was initially feared that the crash may have damaged the Mercedes’ chassis, but a spokesman for the German outfit said that barring any hidden damage, the repair work would only involve component changes.

“We will be replacing both front corners (suspension and wheel assemblies), nose, barge boards and floor,” said the Mercedes rep.

“Barring unexpected nasty surprises, we believe we can complete all of the work in time for the start of qualifying.”

Hamilton’s mishap was a rare mistake on the part of the reigning world champion, and one that comes on a weekend in which Ferrari has a clear edge over Mercedes, at least on pure pace.

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Hamilton crashes as Ferrari one-two again in FP3

Hamilton crashes as Ferrari one-two again in FP3

Lewis Hamilton crashed out of the final practice session for the Belgian Grand Prix as Ferrari once again finished first and second at Spa-Francorchamps.

Already appearing to be on the back foot compared to Ferrari, Hamilton’s weekend was made even more difficult when he crashed on just his fourth lap. Hamilton lost the rear on turn-in at Turn 13 — the sweeping right-left chicane known as Les Fagnes — and had two attempts at catching the car. The first correction saw him run wide into an expansive run-off area, but then the car was still unsettled and Hamilton ran out of space with little grip, hitting the brakes late but burying the left-front corner in the tire barrier.

The session was red flagged as Hamilton’s car was removed and the barrier repaired, with significant damage leaving Mercedes with a race against time to prepare the car for qualifying. While the championship leader should be fine to take part in Q1 — he did not need to visit the medical center — it remains to be seen if his gearbox needs replacing, which would carry a grid penalty. Initially, the team didn’t expect that will be necessary:

Hamilton’s crash will still have been a welcome sight for Ferrari as Mercedes appeared closer in the final practice session than at any stage this weekend. Charles Leclerc again set the pace with a 1m44.206s, with Sebastian Vettel 0.451s off his teammate, but Valtteri Bottas was only 0.046s adrift of Vettel at the end of FP3.

The red flag period interrupted the run plans for all the teams and led to different schedules, with Daniel Ricciardo the only other driver to get within a second of the Ferraris. Ricciardo was fourth quickest on a 1m44.974s, leaving him 0.4s clear of Max Verstappen in the lead Red Bull.

Verstappen was clearly unhappy as he complained of brake balance problems — saying it was very easy to lock the inside wheel — and also voicing his dissatisfaction at traffic on his final soft tire run as he eventually aborted his lap.

Wolff: If I panic like a headless chicken it wouldn’t be good

 

Although showing solid pace, Gasly had a strange issue when he lost the glass from his left wing mirror early in the session. The glass fell out as he approached Pouhon and left the Frenchman relying on team radio for traffic updates as he completed his run.

Gasly was nearly a second clear of teammate Daniil Kvyat as the Russian focused on race pace with a back of the grid start for power unit penalties confirmed. Kvyat also took a new gearbox ahead of FP3 as a result.

Alexander Albon similarly only carried out high fuel running in the final session due to his grid penalty and was over six seconds off the overall pace, finishing slowest behind the Williams cars.

 

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Wolff: If I panic like a headless chicken it wouldn’t be good

Wolff: If I panic like a headless chicken it wouldn’t be good

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff is purposefully staying out of the Mercedes pit garage as the team mechanics repair Lewis Hamilton’s heavily damaged car in the two hours between FP2 and qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix.

Hamilton lost control of his W10 during a highspeed 200kmh plus run through Fagnes at the unforgiving Spa-Francorchamps half an hour into the final free practice session at noon.

Mercedes reported: “We will be replacing both front corners (suspension and wheel assemblies), nose, barge boards and floor. Barring unexpected nasty surprises, we believe we can complete all of the work in time for the start of qualifying.”

Meanwhile, Wolff told Sky F1, “Hopefully it’s not the engine or the gearbox, and it doesn’t look too bad at the moment. I think if I would run around and panic like a headless chicken it wouldn’t be good for the guys fixing the car so we need to be calm.”

It will be a race against time for the mechanics in silver to ready the car for qualifying where Ferrari are likely to have an edge on a back to work weekend that has been niggle-packed for the champs.

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Spa FP3: Leclerc leads Ferrari charge as Hamilton crashes

Spa FP3: Leclerc leads Ferrari charge as Hamilton crashes

Charles Leclerc continued to hog the top of the timing screens by going fastest of all in the final FP3 practice session of the Belgian Grand Prix weekend, as world championship leader Lewis Hamilton crashed halfway through the session at Spa-Francorchamps.

Leclerc again had the better of Sebastian Vettel, the 21-year-old nearly half a second quicker than his Ferrari teammate with a best time of 1:44.206.

Mercedes turned up the wick after a below-par Friday, with Valtteri Bottas in third within half a second of the top time suggesting that the silver cars may not be as bad as it appeared on the evidence of what we saw yesterday.

But the big headlines were triggered by Lewis Hamilton’s crash on the half-hour mark. It was a big impact after he got it wrong at Fagnes and speared the wall. The world champ hopped out of the car unscathed. He ended the session seventh.

Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo surprised all with a stonking lap that was good enough for fourth, Renault’s new-PU apparently finding legs.

Oddly all the other Renault powered drivers were nearly a second shy of the Aussie, suggesting a massive tow of sorts during his hit lap or a massive step by the French outfit who were only seven tenth’s shy of the top time with that effort.

Max Verstappen was fifth but over a second adrift of the top time while Red Bull kept new boy Alex Albon focussed on race pace (but six seconds down on the pace was very odd) and as a result he was slowest of all.

It was a mixed bag for Racing Point with Sergio Perez sixth, albeit 1.3 seconds down on Leclerc but eight tenths up on Lance Stroll who was only good for 16th.

The Ferrari customers were also enjoying a surge of form with Alfa Romeo duo Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinardi, eighth and ninth respectively ahead of Haas’s Romain Grosjean (11th) and Kevin Magnussen (13th), only three-tenths separate the quartet on the timesheets.

Report in progress…

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2019 Belgian Grand Prix Free Practice 3 – Results

Full results from Free Practice 3 for the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, round 13 of the 2019 Formula 1 world championship.

2019 Belgian Grand Prix – Free Practice 3 results

PosDriverTeamTimeGapLaps
1Charles LeclercFerrari1:44.206s9
2Sebastian VettelFerrari1:44.657s+ 0.451s12
3Valtteri BottasMercedes1:44.703s+ 0.497s11
4Daniel RicciardoRenault1:44.974s+ 0.768s10
5Max VerstappenRed Bull1:45.312s+ 1.106s11
6Sergio PérezRacing Point1:45.521s+ 1.315s12
7Lewis HamiltonMercedes1:45.566s+ 1.360s4
8Kimi RäikkönenAlfa Romeo1:45.659s+ 1.453s13
9Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo1:45.688s+ 1.482s13
10Pierre GaslyToro Rosso1:45.752s+ 1.546s15
11Romain GrosjeanHaas1:45.806s+ 1.600s15
12Nico HülkenbergRenault1:45.855s+ 1.649s11
13Kevin MagnussenHaas1:46.004s+ 1.798s15
14Carlos SainzMcLaren1:46.017s+ 1.811s14
15Lando NorrisMcLaren1:46.270s+ 2.064s13
16Lance StrollRacing Point1:46.379s+ 2.173s11
17Daniil KvyatToro Rosso1:46.642s+ 2.436s13
18George RussellWilliams1:47.858s+ 3.652s14
19Robert KubicaWilliams1:48.350s+ 4.144s14
20Alexander AlbonRed Bull1:50.681s+ 6.475s14

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Hamilton: I’m in the wall, guys. Sorry.

Hamilton: I’m in the wall, guys. Sorry.

World Championship leader Lewis Hamilton crashed his Mercedes heavily half an hour into the final free practice session ahead of qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix.

The unforgiving Spa-Francorchamps circuit claimed Hamilton when he lost the back end of the W10 after hopping the kerb at Fagnes as he started to turn right, spearing him off track and out of control into the wall with a hard metal bending thump.

BBC pundit Jolyon Palmer observed: “He’s hit the wall at a bizarre angle and a bizarre place. That’s a high-speed impact and even the rear of the car would have had a big jolt.”

With regards to the damage, Sky F1’s Karun Chandhok reported on the scene: “It should be OK in terms of gearbox damage,” says Karun as he gets a good look at that Mercedes. It’s more about the front. But it looks like cosmetic damage.”

The incident triggered a red flag as he alighted his car as it was retrieved by marshals.

After the impact, a disappointed Hamilton said over the team radio: “I’m in the wall, guys. Sorry.”

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Teams awarded extra MGU-K for boosted 2020 season

Teams awarded extra MGU-K for boosted 2020 season

Formula 1 teams will see their MGU-K limit increase from two to three elements in 2020 to help engine manufacturers cope with next year’s record 22-race schedule.

Save for the energy store and control electronics component limits which remain at two, all other elements – ICE, MGU-H and MGU-K – will enjoy a three-component limit next season.

Some teams and manufacturers argued for an across-the-board increase of all elements for 2020 while others were against any raise. In the end, the compromise including only a third MGU-K was agreed.

Perez reverts to older-spec Mercedes engine after FP2 blowup

Renault’s Cyril Abiteboul, who strongly defended the idea of adding an extra MGU-K, said the compromise would implement a decision already agreed upon in principle for 2021.

“Obviously it makes sense,” Abiteboul told Motorsport.com.

“It was planned for 2021, so we are applying the principle that was agreed for 2021 to 2020, even though it wasn’t in the regulations for 2020.

“Despite that common sense doesn’t always apply in F1, and indeed it was a bit of a struggle.

“We reached that compromise in Budapest. I understand it was a bit difficult to get people to stick to their word [in the summer break vote], but eventually this is what happened.”

Abiteboul underscored the fact that allowing a third MGU-K would also lighten the burden for mechanics as changing the component without swapping a unit’s other elements is a complicated and time-consuming affair.

“At the moment there is a discrepancy between the number of internal combustion engines and the number of MGU-Ks, three and two,” he added.

“And that can create a chaos for the mechanics. The MGU-K is mounted on the ICE, so it makes an awful lot of sense to get the same allocation for both.

“Some people in F1 don’t care about that, but we do.

“It was important for us to get exactly the same number, and especially with the season getting longer and more flyaway races, and more back-to-backs.”

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Perez reverts to older-spec Mercedes engine after FP2 blowup

Perez reverts to older-spec Mercedes engine after FP2 blowup

Racing Point’s Sergio Perez will return to a previous-spec engine for the remainder of the Spa weekend after his brand-new Mercedes unit suffered a massive failure on Friday.

Perez’s productive afternoon session in which he set the fifth fastest time came to a premature end when smoke and flames were seen pouring out of the back of his Racing Point on the run down to Rivage.

Unfortunately, the ominous signs left no doubt as to the origin of the issue and Mercedes later confirmed that new-spec engine’s failure.

Perez gets new three-year deal with Racing Point!

With all Mercedes-powered drivers running the new-spec unit, the incident was a worrying development for the German manufacturer, whose HPP power unit base in Brixworth was set to conduct an overnight investigation into the rupture.

“I just got off the power and I saw a little bit of smoke and noise coming out of the exhaust, so not looking good,” he said.

Perez will revert to an old-spec engine and thus sidestep any grid penalties on Sunday.

It’s but a short respite however for the Racing Point driver who will likely start next week’s Italian Grand Prix from the back of the grid as a result of taking on another new unit.

His engine mishap notwithstanding, Perez was happy with his day’s work which included trialing a new front wing on Racing Point’s RP19.

“Up until that point, things were looking good,” he added. “The car was strong in both sessions and the new parts we introduced here made an immediate difference.

“We’ve brought a front wing and new things that suit us, a couple of new pieces that I think are helping the whole balance of the car.

“There are still lots of areas to improve before tomorrow, but I’m feeling positive.”

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Verstappen: I don’t expect to beat Ferrari

Verstappen: I don’t expect to beat Ferrari

After a somewhat low-key Friday, Red Bull star Max Verstappen was optimistic about his chances but felt he did not have the firepower to take the fight to the pace-setting Ferrari duo, after the first day of free practice of the Belgian Grand Prix weekend.

However, the Dutchman believes he has the package to take the fight to Mercedes, at Spa-Francorchamps.

In FP1, Red Bull were quick out the boxes with Max Verstappen and new teammate Alex Albon ending the first session on Friday third and fourth, albeit a second or so down on the benchmark time set by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in the afternoon session.

FP2 was a more subdued affair as the Blues focussed on race pace rather than hot lap times, which gave little indication of what they have in their arsenal, perhaps preferring to keep their powder dry for when it matters in qualifying.

Verstappen summed up his first day back at work after the summer break, “The car actually didn’t feel too bad. We were quite competitive in the second sector but the whole day I couldn’t use my normal power.

“We had to drive bit on the low-power the whole day to what we normally use on a Friday, so that was not ideal around here, and that’s why I think we’re a bit further off at the moment, but it should be better tomorrow when we put the other engine in.”

Ferrari were relishing the opportunity to set their horses free at the legendary power-appreciative venue, a fact Verstappen acknowledged, “I think this track definitely suits them a bit better than us.

“They are very strong. They gain a lot of lap time on the straight here, but I think that’s not a surprise. We’ll just try to do the best we can from our side.

“I don’t expect to beat Ferrari, but hopefully we can be a bit closer to Mercedes because it seems they were also a bit off compared to Ferrari,” added the Dutchman who resumes the second half of this season with the momentum of two wins in four races.

Big Question: Can Max spoil the Ferrari party at Spa?

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Inside Line: Have Mercedes broken F1 summer shutdown rules?

Inside Line: Have Mercedes broken F1 summer shutdown rules?

On Friday night, the FIA began investigating whether Mercedes broken Article 21.8 of the Formula 1 sporting regulations amid comments made by their driver Lewis Hamilton as well as post-Belgian Grand Prix quotes attributed to the team 

This coupled to self-incriminating comments made by Mercedes boss Toto Wolff in his preview of this weekend’s race in Belgium, may have triggered alarm bells among the rulemakers.

Ahead of the race weekend at Spa-Francorchamps, championship leader Hamilton revealed that he had been in communication with Mercedes during the summer break, “We had a bit of dialogue with the team which we generally don’t usually have during the break, just trying to see what else we can do to improve.”

“Whether it is communication, whether that means arriving one minute earlier to a meeting, or whatever it may be. We are just looking at all areas,” added the World Champion.

But Article 21.8 deems that “competitors must observe a shutdown period of 14 consecutive days”, forbidding “any work activity by any employee… engaged in design, development or production.”

FIA race director Michael Masi, whose officials asked the questions, accepted Mercedes’ explanation that the contact Hamilton referred to was immediately in the aftermath of the Hungarian Grand Prix, before the factory shut down in compliance with regulations.

In the light of Hamilton’s comments, Wolff might need to explain comments he made in the team’s Spa preview: “Our team members in Brixworth worked straight through the F1 summer break to improve the performance and reliability of our Power Unit; in Brackley, we used the relatively quiet days to do some work on our factory.

“Summer shutdown was a welcome break after some very busy weeks in July and early August, but now we’re excited to go racing again. While the majority of our colleagues in Brackley had the chance to recharge their batteries for the second half of the season, other team members were carrying the baton over the past weeks.”

Again, this would need explaining, if not to officials, to fans and media as the statements appear in defiance fo the opening para of article 21.8: “All competitors must observe a shutdown period of fourteen consecutive days during the time that two consecutive Events are separated by at least twenty four days during the months of July and/or August.”

If this is the case Mercedes have been approached for comment upon publishing of this piece.

Be assured Mercedes are not alone in keeping their knives sharp during the summer break, as Ferrari ace Sebastian Vettel inadvertently revealed ahead of the summer holidays: “It will be a busy break for us and nobody’s mind will rest in the next few weeks.”

Whatever the case, summer shutdowns – like budget caps – are packed with grey areas which make monitoring team activities (or expenditures) nigh impossible.

It’s all clever smoke-and-mirrors by the teams, begging the question: Why implement rules that cannot be policed?

Article 21.8 of the Sporting Regulations states:

Big Question: Have Mercedes broken the summer break rules?

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Morning After: Ferrari Back in the Mix?

Morning After: Ferrari Back in the Mix?

Just as the first half of the season started with so much promise for Ferrari, so has the second half after a strong showing in practice at Spa on Friday.

If someone had told you six months ago that Ferrari would come to Spa still searching for their first win of the season, you probably would’ve looked at them like they were in favour of re-introducing 2016-style elimination qualifying, and yet here we are, with the Scuderia still winless. Fortunately for them, they took a small step towards ending their drought this weekend in Spa.

One-two in both sessions, their closest competitors over eight tenths off their fastest time, the Scuderia seem to have a legitimate pace advantage over their rivals once more – well, over one lap, at least.

And therein lies the wrinkle. As good as the SF90 was on the short runs, the same can’t be said for its pace on the long runs. Indeed, that eight-tenths advantage in FP2 became a two-tenth deficit on soft-tyre race sims, with Lewis Hamilton’s session-best eight-lap stint averaging a 1:50.761 to Sebastian Vettel’s team-best 1:51.700 with the same tyre and amount of laps, while Valtteri Bottas averaged a 1:50.236 on the mediums (also eight laps) to Charles Leclerc’s 1:50.827 (six laps).

Even taking the usual grain of salt that comes with Friday practice, that’s not a great sign for the Scuderia’s chances in the race. They might be the clear favourites for qualifying, but all the straight-line speed in the world won’t help them if they can’t keep it up over 44 laps. For their sake, I hope they have something extra still up their sleeve, otherwise the podium could once more have a very silver sheen to it come Sunday…

Friday Figures

0.377 seconds. Gap between Max Verstappen and Alex Albon in FP2. Not bad for a first day in the car, I suppose.

One. Number of Renault-powered cars in the top-10. You sure you want that engine freeze, Cyril?

Three. More years for Sergio Perez at Racing Point, a good move for them, not sure it will quite work out the way he wants it to, though.

Quick Hits

Not a great start for Pierre Gasly back at Toro Rosso, slower than all but Kevin Magnussen and the Williams’. He’s probably still reeling from his demotion, and really, could you blame him?

I wouldn’t say it was surprising, but interesting nonetheless to see Nico Hulkenberg already being discussed as a potential hire for Guenther Steiner and Haas. Could we see him signed before the end of the season, or will they wait to see whether Romain Grosjean or Kevin Magnussen comes out on top in the championship?

Liberty might be trying to add a bit more “sex appeal” to F1, but I’m not sure this is what they had in mind…

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Red Bull sheds light on Gasly’s struggles and demotion

Red Bull sheds light on Gasly’s struggles and demotion

Christian Horner says Pierre Gasly’s difficulties in dealing with pressure at Red Bull ultimately forced the French driver’s demotion to Toro Rosso, where he will be allowed to rebuild himself.

Promoted to the senior bull squad at the start of 2019, Gasly’s struggled to perform from the outset, failing to measure up to teammate Max Verstappen.

Red Bull motorsport boss Helmut Marko and Horner both vowed to be patient with the Frenchman, but Gasly’s significant under-performance in the Hungarian Grand Prix, where he was lapped by his teammate, incited Marko and Horner to rethink their position.

Albon enjoys smooth first day, but relying on ‘baby steps’

“We took a bit of time to reflect after Hungary,” Horner told Sky F1 on Friday.

“Hungary was obviously a tough weekend for Pierre.

“We came to a conclusion that it was almost fairer for Pierre and from a team perspective to say ‘we’re in a unique position where we’ve got four cockpits in Formula 1, let’s take the pressure off him.’

“He was obviously struggling with that pressure. The situation was getting worse and worse and compounding itself.

“[We decided] to give him time to rebuild himself at Toro Rosso, and to give Alex the chance.”

Horner also elaborated on why the Milton Keynes-based outfit opted for Albon over the more experienced Dany Kvyat as Gasly’s replacement.

“We know Danny Kvyat, we know him very well, we see his potential,” Horner explained.

“But with Alex we’ve seen his potential, as well with the simulator running he’s been doing and so on, and decided to take these nine races to evaluate him between now and the end of the year to decide who’s going to be Max’s [Verstappen] team-mate for next year.”

For 2020, Red Bull will be looking to choose a driver from within its pool of contenders, meaning Albon, Kvyat and Gasly.

But Horner wouldn’t dismiss looking eventually outside the Red Bull family for the man that will partner Verstappen next season if circumstances dictate such an option.

“The ideal is we will select the driver to be alongside Max next year from that pool of drivers that we have under contract,” he added.

“If we feel that none of the drivers within the pool can get the job done then of course we will look external to that.

“But I am confident that the talent we have within the group will be sufficient.”

Horner admitted Red Bull was keeping an eye on Nico Hulkenberg following Renault’s decision to part ways with the German driver.

“Obviously we monitor the situation externally but it is unlikely we will take a driver from outside our own development programme.

“But as I said, [Red Bull will look elsewhere] if we feel we don’t have a driver who can get the job done – like we did with Mark Webber, he was taken from externally.”

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Stroll’s Racing Point strips itself on track

Stroll’s Racing Point strips itself on track

Lance Stroll loses a large section of the engine cover of his Racing Point when it blew off at the end of the Kemmel straight, scattering debris across the track during FP1 for the Belgian Grand Prix.

The bodywork that peeled away was reminiscent to those Terminator robots whose ‘skin’ disintegrated to reveal the computerised internals of each killing machine.

It was far less dramatic at Spa-Francorchamps on Friday morning, when the pink car lost a substantial section of its side engine cover speeding down the Kemmel straight, revealing a neat array of Mercedes PU bits in the bright sunshine on the day.

The young Canadian drove the car, with internals exposed, back to the pits to sort out the issue.

Stroll played down the incident in his end of the day report and said, “One of the better Fridays we have had this season so that is promising. We did some consistent running and the pace of the car is looking good, which is what we expected here in Spa.

“We suffered some heat transfer issues behind my seat so we will look into that overnight but overall I am feeling positive. It is a shame we have an engine penalty but it is what it is.”

Racing Point were buoyant heading to Spa with substantial upgrades and indeed their cars were at the sharp end of the midfield pack, but niggles such as the ‘strip-show’ and a problem with Sergio Perez’s new Spec-4 Mercedes PU late in the day hampered their progress.

On the positive side, after Friday’s free practice the team confirmed Perez will remain with the Pinks for another three years, meaning he and Stroll will be teammates until at least the end of 2022.

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Renault: Mercedes will have no right on Ocon for two years

Renault: Mercedes will have no right on Ocon for two years

Renault F1 Team managing director Cyril Abiteboul has made clear that there will be no Mercedes strings attached to Esteban Ocon for the duration of the Frenchman’s contract with his new team.

Renault announced on Thursday a two-year deal with the Mercedes reserve driver, and while Ocon remains under the management of the German outfit, the latter will have no right call to him back to the team in the near future.

“He is a Renault driver, that is very clear. Mercedes will have absolutely no right on him for the duration of his contract,” said Abiteboul, speaking to the media in Spa on Friday.

“The small difference is that his management company happen to be a racing team and that is Mercedes.

“But it is a slightly different set-up from the set-up that we had with Carlos [Sainz] last year. That was on a loan and not a contract with Red Bull, but he [Ocon] will be a fully-fledged Renault driver.”

Ocon joins Renault in place of Hulkenberg from 2020

The opportunity for Renault to hire a talented French driver is seen by many – including outgoing Nico Hulkenberg – as a deciding factor in favour of Ocon.

But Renault advisor Alain Prost dismissed that notion, insisting instead that Ocon’s youth weighed more heavily in the balance.

“To be clear, of course the fact that he is French is a plus, but it is not the determining criterion, otherwise it would not be very logical,” he told French broadcaster Canal Plus.

“There were discussions with Nico, someone we really appreciate, but he wanted a two-year contract, we wanted one year plus an option.

“Without going into too much detail, he is someone who has done an extraordinary job for the team, but of course after three years he realizes, and he is right, that we are not progressing very quickly on the chassis.

“I think we needed someone to look a little further into the long term, with freshness, enthusiasm.

“He has that of course, but things are going to happen, we’re going to have to change the team a little bit too, so it’s more to look to the future.

“Esteban, with his Mercedes experience, age and youth, will bring us some of the dynamism we need in the team today.”

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Bottas: My target is to be Formula 1 World Champion

Bottas: My target is to be Formula 1 World Champion

Valtteri Bottas’ 30th birthday celebrations, ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix weekend were made even sweeter by Mercedes giving him a new contract for next year.

The dominant German team gave the Finnish driver a one-year-extension, making 2020 his fourth season alongside world champion Lewis Hamilton. The relieved Bottas signed the paperwork last weekend and then celebrated in style.

“I turned 30 on [Wednesday]. I didn’t have a party yesterday, but the day before I had one. It was a good one,” Bottas said Thursday at Spa-Francorchamps. “I knew by then everything was done, so it was actually nice to celebrate with close people.”

Hamilton backs decision to retain ‘formidable’ Bottas

Since joining as a sudden replacement for Nico Rosberg, who retired days after winning the 2016 title, Bottas has had mixed fortunes.

He won three races in 2017, but none last year. He started this season strongly, winning two of the first four races and even leading the championship ahead of Hamilton.

But he has not won any of the past eight races, prompting speculation before the mid-season summer break that he could be replaced by Frenchman Esteban Ocon next year.

Bottas, who has secured 10 pole positions with Mercedes, is second in the world championships but is a distant 62 points behind Hamilton and only seven ahead of third-place Max Verstappen.

Still, Bottas believes he can win the world title next year.

“My overall target is to become Formula One world champion,” he said and added of the job at hand, “My goal for the second half is to be as strong as I ever can. I know what I can do. How we get there is the tricky part of our sport.”

Mercedes head of motorsport Toto Wolff said Bottas’ impressive performances in the early races this year, and his exemplary relationship with Hamilton, proved the deciding factors in him earning a new deal.

Still, the decision may come as a surprise to Ocon, tipped by some observers to get the Mercedes seat after Wolff publicly said last month that Bottas needed to do better.

Bottas crashed out of the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim when chasing a podium finish, unable to get past the considerably slower Racing Point car of Lance Stroll. He then finished only eighth at the Hungarian GP — although he was perhaps unfairly nudged out of position by Hamilton as they challenged for track position at the start.

So Bottas knew he needed options in case Mercedes chose Ocon.

“It was very openly spoken about the situation between me and Esteban … For sure I was thinking about other options just in case,” Bottas said. “You never want to be left between two chairs in this sport, so I was beginning to make a plan for something else (and) then things started to go the right way. I don’t need to worry now.”

Bottas would not reveal which teams he spoke to, “It’s very private, all the conversations. I wouldn’t ever say the name of a team or a person I’ve been talking to, because I want to keep their trust — and they can trust me.

“I was waiting first for Mercedes to decide, (when) still knowing other teams could be possible if for some reason we didn’t continue. But it turned out good.”

As it did for Ocon, who will be back in F1 next year with Renault after sitting out this season.

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Belgian Grand Prix Friday Press Conference

Belgian Grand Prix Friday Press Conference

Full transcript from the team representatives’ press conference on day one of the Belgian Grand Prix weekend, Round 13 of the 2019 Formula 1 World Championship, at Spa-Francorchamps.

Featuring Cyril Abiteboul (Renault), Franz Tost (Toro Rosso), Otmar Szafnauer (Racing Point), Guenther Steiner (Haas) and Toyoharu Tanabe (Honda).

Q: Cyril, big change on the driver front for you for 2020 with Esteban Ocon joining the team. First, can you tell us why you made that call?
Cyril Abiteboul: First, I’d like to say it’s been a difficult call to make. Obviously Nico’s contract coming to an end at the end of this season, a decision had to be made as to whether we wanted to stay put with our driver line-up, or include a bit of a change. It’s been difficult because we all love Nico in the team. He’s been instrumental to the progress that we’ve made. We have struggled this season but last year he’s been instrumental in securing P4 in the Championship. He had a good seventh place in the Drivers’ Championship, which is clearly the best that we can targets but, you know, frankly, when you make a decision like that, you don’t just look at pure pace, you also need to look at the collective dynamic. And there is a dynamic we need to restart, reset into the team. And probably, we need to project ourselves into the medium to long-term future. So not just 2020 but also 2021, and what’s happening to his team-mate and so on and so forth. So that’s all of that but in particular the collective dynamic and what Esteban can probably bring to the team. Probably starving for racing, being super-happy to come back into racing, by nature, by construction because also he’s been out of a seat for a year. It’s all of these elements that we factored into the equation. Plus, also it’s important to say that we have, not a certainty because you can’t be certain of anything, but very high chances that Nico will be able to continue his racing career. So, just like it counted for us with Carlos last year, it’s also counted for us this year with Nico.

Q: And will Ocon retain any ties with Mercedes from 2020?
CA: No. He’s a Renault driver, that’s very clear. Mercedes will have absolutely no right on him for the duration of his contract. So, small difference is that his management company happens to be a racing team, and that’s Mercedes – but it’s a slightly different set-up from the set-up we had with Carlos last year, where that was on loan and not under contract with Red Bull – but he will be a fully-fledged Renault driver.

Q: Guenther, Cyril mentioned there that he’s hopeful that Nico Hülkenberg will stay in Formula One next year. Is he a driver that you would be interested in hiring?
Guenther Steiner: I mean sure. As Cyril said, and I think he’s right, sometimes you have to look at the whole dynamic of a team. It’s not all about the speed of a driver and if people like Nico’s on the market, for sure we need to look at that. We haven’t taken a decision as you all know. This is a thing you need to do as a team. To look what is around, how you can bring the team forward. I mean, we are not at our best this year, we were better last year, so we need to see where we can make improvements. If good people are on the market – in every area of the team, not only drivers, we look around and see if we can better the team and with that, can we better the performance of the team?

Q: You say you haven’t taken a decision yet – when can we expect a decision from you?
GS: I hope, honestly, in two to three weeks – because it’s good for everybody; it’s good for the team; it’s good for the drivers. It Romain stays, it’s good for him to know so he doesn’t have to worry. If Nico comes, it’s also good to give people a chance to make other decisions or to look around, so our aim is to decide in the next weeks.

Q: Franz, Alex Albon has switched to Red Bull for the remainder of the season. What is your reaction to that change? Do you feel he’s ready for it?
Franz Tost: The future will show. Don’t know yet. Alex did 12 really good races with us, he’s got 16 points and I must say, from the very first test onwards, I was surprised by his performance. If you remember right, I said after the first test that maybe he could become the surprise of the year. He is on a good way and I think that Red Bull will provide him with a fantastic car and therefore I expect good results from his side.

Q: And it’s difficult for Pierre Gasly who’s coming back to Toro Rosso. You’ve been there before with Daniil Kvyat, who took a similar route. How long will it be, do you think, until Pierre gets over the disappointment of returning to Toro Rosso?
FT: I don’t hope it’s a disappointment to return to Toro Rosso, he is welcome with us. It was only a short time he was not with us. He came to my office, I said to him: “ah, it looks like you were here yesterday.” No, he is really welcome and we have a really good relationship together, also between the engineers and if we provide him with a good car, Pierre will be back soon, I am convinced about this.

Q: He spoke yesterday about being disappointed. Do you think there will be any problems with his motivation?
FT: No, I don’t hope so. A Formula 1 driver must always be motivated and must always push the car to the limit and he knows that’s his chance, and therefore the motivation will be on a very high level.

Q: Otmar, we’re talking drivers, Checo said yesterday that he hopes to make an announcement about his future soon. Is there anything that you can say on the matter?
Otmar Szafnauer: Yeah, soon might be today!

Q: Well, how about now…?
OS: Well, I think we have a formal process of announcing, and yeah, he’s right, we will announce soon.

Q: Can you describe the role that Checo has played in the team and how integral he is to the team going forwards?
OS: I think both Cyril and Guenther mentioned it. There’s more than just speed and what you do on Sunday. It’s also developing the car and knowing the team, being able to compare your previous developments to the developments that you’re bringing and, because of Checo’s history with the team, of six years, he brings all that to the table. Lance, having great potential and a great talent, doesn’t have that history with the team, so you need a good mix. I think we’ve got that in Sergio and Lance.

Q: And this race marks the anniversary of Laurence Stroll’s takeover of the team. Can you compare where it is now, compared to before the takeover?
OS: There are many things that are different. The one significant thing is that we don’t suffer with the financial instability that we used to have, at all. That means we can plan our developments on the car, we can plan when we bring upgrades and they actually happen. We can plan our salary payments, which is helpful for everybody in the team. Apart from that, we have plans going into the future. There’s a new factory coming; we should get planning permission for that in October, probably start, have ground-breaking in the first quarter of next year. The plan is to actually move into the new factory in the break of 2021. So, although that won’t come to fruition for another 18 months, or so, those plans are happening today. We’ve added about 40 employees: we were at 405 a year ago; we’re at 445. And, like Guenther mentioned, if there are good people on the market, we’re interested for good people. We’re adding, we’re growing and we want to be more competitive. So, those are our plans going forwards – but it takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight.

Q: Tanabe-san, you’re running your spec-4 power unit here at Spa this weekend. What advantages is it bringing?
Toyoharu Tanabe: We bring performance improvement with the spec-4 PU. The purpose of the spec-4 is a performance gain. Because as always, as I’ve mentioned, we’re still catching up pace to make the gap between the top runners and then our teams. Honda should improve PU performance.

Q: Only Daniil Kvyat and Alex Albon are using it this weekend. What’s the reason for that?
TT: We discussed with our teams about the PU usage and then we considered the current position, and then usage for the rest of the season. So, then we decided this strategic application.

Questions from Floor

Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines/Racefans.net) A question to the four team principals. Next year’s calendar… according to the draft calendar announced yesterday will have 22 races, which you all had to agree to. Did any of you attach any specific conditions to agreeing to 22 races? And Cyril, more particularly, could you comment on suggestions that you requested an increase in the number of power unit components if the calendar went up top 22 races, please?
CA: I can confirm that we did. We asked for the principle that is already agreed for 2021 to apply for 2020. The draft regulations, which are just draft regulations for 2021, there is a concept that if you go above 21 races there is extra component allocation. So that’s simply what we asked on the simple basis that it’s very late to change the duty cycle of any component for next year. There was a bit of a discussion, as always in Formula One, but eventually we reached a compromise in Budapest that everyone managed to stick to, for once in Formula One, and eventually it was good to confirm the 22 races. We are happy to have specifically the same number of MGU-Ks as internal combustion engines. That’s going to make the lives of the technicians, the mechanics in the garage, an awful lot of simpler. Sometimes we don’t really think about these type of things but they do make a difference, in addition to the prospect of penalty. That was the condition that from the outset we mentioned. Otherwise we are very supportive of an extension of the calendar.
FT: As long as we get more money, if you have more races, I’m fine with it. On the technical side, from the power unit, has just been explained by Cyril, there’s nothing to add.
GS: We kept a low profile and didn’t ask for anything.
FT: Also not for money?
OS: I think we also agreed to shorten the amount of test days we have because we’re increasing the calendar, which kind of makes sense and goes to wellbeing of the mechanics and all those that travel. One of the conditions we all agreed to, if I remember right, was a shortened winter test.

Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) To the four team principals please. Ross Brawn has talked about using the stable regulations next year to maybe trial some different race formats ahead of 2021. Would you be in favour of that and what sort of slightly different formats might we see?
OS: I think last time we got together we did discuss about some formats on Saturday to maybe mix up the grids for Sunday. We’ve got further discussions I think between Monza and September (sic). If we are to improve the show there is nothing wrong with trying and seeing how it goes, get some fan feedback, and if people like it and it improves the show, I’m all for it.

Q: Guenther?
GS: Otmar said a lot there. What we are a little bit, I wouldn’t say concerned, but what we need to look at is that by changing the format the costs don’t go up – that we do more and don’t get more out of it. We need to carefully think about. There were a lot of things around but we didn’t get around to discuss the detail about it. So when we get to the detail there will be the difficulty because if we change format and it costs a lot more because we do everything differently, there is a point where it is not sustainable.

Q: So, for example, what would you say to having qualifying races on a Saturday?
GS: That costs more money, because you need more spare parts because you have two races a weekend, you know. You need more MGU-Ks, because they can break. So we need to consider all this stuff.

Q: Franz, your thoughts?
FT: You know, to change the race weekend format, maybe there are some good points in there. We will discuss it in two weeks, I think in Geneva we have another meeting. But the most important thing is that the teams and the cars are on an equal level on the performance side. You can have whatever format but if there are some cars far ahead of the others – one second or even more – then it doesn’t change anything. What we have to provide the fans is a good show and for this the performance of the different teams and of the cars has to be on a level within a few tenths of a second, like it is in the midfield. If you look currently there are three teams far ahead, but the midfield is fighting very close to each other with a difference of a couple of hundredths of a second and there are good fights in between the cars and they show good races and this is what the fans want to see and I don’t think this is so much to do with the format.

Q: Cyril do you think the format needs changing in any area?
CA: I think we could be a bit more progressive on the weekend format. I think we need to probably adapt slightly the format to the new audience, to the way that sport is being consumed. People are not really interested in sitting for two hours in front of the TV at two o’clock on Sundays, or three o’clock on Sundays. I think that’s something to take into account. Friday running in particular, with very empty grandstands, is for me a bit of a loss of an opportunity. So there is probably some improvement to be made. I think we need to be very careful about all detail associated with having some tests into next year, as again next year is tomorrow. The plans are made already; the engines are almost being built as we speak. So if you look at the amount of discussion we had to get to the 22 races, when we start talking about the detail of the consequence of changing the format even on a couple of races, I’m a bit afraid that we see that it is a bit difficult at this late stage of the season. So in my opinion we need to do that. But I think it needs to be done properly but with a global commitment, not just testing and maybe it’s a bit late already for next year, but clearly doing that for 2021.

Q: (Luke Smith – crash.net) – A question for Franz. You said there were no concerns about Pierre’s motivation in returning to Toro Rosso, but we saw when Daniil when returning to the team initially in 2016 how difficult it was for him to adjust back and how long it took it him to get over the demotion. Are there any concerns about that with Pierre and are Red Bull and Toro Rosso doing anything extra to help give him the support he may need?
FT: If we see any deficiencies then of course we will support him in any way. He knows our team very well. Therefore, I think it’s a very short period to adapt to this situation and once more if the car works well and if he had a good race result and he has some success then his self-confidence is coming back and then Pierre will have the form he had before. Don’t forget that last year in Bahrain he finished in the fourth position. He scored many points in the 2018 season and I’m quite sure we will see Pierre Gasly showing a good performance very soon.

Q: (Dan Knutson – Auto Action and Speedsport) Cyril, the team is not where you want it to be in the Constructors’ Championship. What do you need to change to get back up there?
CA: Well, I think first you are right. The team is not where we wanted it to be. It’s a very clear regression against last year. Less points, Constructors’ Championship – it’s clear. But at the same time what’s clear is the areas of the team that need to be improved. In my opinion we have made a good step on engine power, as demonstrated by top speed on a number of tracks that are sensitive to that. Driver line-up, apart from the comments made previously, is a strong one. Mechanically the car is good. We know what’s missing and that’s simply downforce and aerodynamics and that’s clearly the current focus right now. We are looking at improving that and we will draw an assessment pretty soon and we will move from there.

Q: (Jon McEvoy – Daily Mail) To Cyril, how near did you get last year to signing Esteban. Were there discussions with him, were there discussions with Mercedes? Did you almost get it over the line?
CA: You’re talking about last year?

Q: Yes.
CA: I think it has been publicly reported that it has been discussed. It’s been discussed to a certain level of detail. The old story is publicly reported also. We had the opportunity of signing Daniel, which was an opportunity also, which was an opportunity that was discussed but never really certain. When it became certain we had to make a quick decision. An opportunity like Daniel is not an opportunity that happens on many occasions for a team like us in construction and it’s an opportunity we decided to take. But frankly I’m very happy that we managed all together – Esteban, Renault, Mercedes, Toto, myself – we managed to put that behind and decide what was best for everyone this year.

Q: (Julien Billotte – Auto Hebdo) Cyril, Nico mentioned nationality as one of the factors behind Renault’s decision to sign Esteban. How important is it for Renault to have a French driver and also how tricky can it become for you and him if the performance does not improve enough next year?
CA: Each time we sign a driver we create an expectation and by creating an expectation it becomes tricky. Just look at the situation of the team this year. I think a lot of the critics we have this year are also due to the fact that we created a lot of expectation by signing Daniel. It’s the same. Each time you make a decision you need to accept the consequence. On the nationality, frankly, I would not put too much down to that. It’s a plus, it’s a bonus, but it’s not an element into the decision. Saying that it is an element into the decision would mean that we have sort of changed our factors or parameters when we evaluated Esteban and that would not be fair to Esteban, just like it would not be fair to Nico or Renault’s management. It’s a plus but what matters is that he ends up in a good car also.

Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines/Racefans.net) There are suggestions that one or two teams could be coming in in 2021. Certainly there are some plans behind the scenes for these teams to try and enter. How do you feel about it? Should Formula One grow beyond the current ten teams?
CA: Frankly and quickly – if it’s good teams, strong teams with good backing then it’s a sustainable project in my opinion, yes.
FT: I agree. Twelve teams, it’s a good number and you never know what’s going on with any other team. That means we need as many cars as possible on the starting grid. I think 24 is also acceptable from the safety side and from the race track and also from the space on the tracks. I would welcome them, yes.
GS: I think it would be a good thing to have more teams, as long as they are – as Cyril and Franz said – as long as they are well funded and high profile. But also what FOM needs to look after is the teams that are here. We shouldn’t go and just try to get new teams because new is better. It needs to be looked after, the teams that are here who are doing a good job, who made a big investment and just thinking more is better, that will not work as well.
OS: Well, I think in the future with the cost cap being introduced and implemented then there might be room for 12 teams but we do have to be careful about getting the money distribution to be a little bit more equitable so that you can have 12 sustainable teams.

Q: (Matthieu Mastalerz – FranceRacing.Fr) Cyril, you have said Renault underestimated the investments of top teams like Mercedes, which has increased more than expected. So is Renault, as a constructor, able or willing to increase its investment in order to reach its goal?
CA: The problem with that is a question of timing, because even if you make the decision now, you are not going to be able to spend really more before a few years, because spending more means more people, more designers, more manufacturers, more people in production and so on and so forth. And if you compound that to the fact that there will be a budget cap introduced by 2021, it’s already too late. So no, I think in reality we have no choice but to a certain degree continue with our plan, carry on with our plan. Accept the change, accept the difficulty, not use that as an excuse but be extremely determined on what it takes to be more competitive in 2021. Some people will have to manage a reduction of their operation. We will be able to stay exactly where we are or increase slightly, because the budget cap is still a chunk higher than what we are operating right now. That’s the reason why we would have liked it to be a bit lower but we understand that it’s a good compromise and a compromise that should make us more competitive than where we are right now.

Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) Over the summer break, we had an update from F1 and the FIA on the progress of the 2021 car and the regulations. There’s obviously still a lot to sort before 2021 gets finalised on track and all of the off track stuff behind the scenes. How happy are you with how things are progressing? Is there any concern that the three big teams are going to veto or block the extent of changes that you want to make the field closer?
OS: I think we’ve got from now until the end of October to review, understand and come to a final decision. There are a lot of opinions in the room as to what should happen for the future. I believe we all want closer racing, that’s for sure. We all want F1 to keep its DNA of development and differentiation, that’s for sure. And most of us want a bit of cost-savings as well. So I think those are the considerations and we’ll all get together and hash it out and hopefully come up with a set of regulations towards the end of October that meets everyone’s needs.
GS: I would agree with what Otmar said. I think we just need to sit down, all the teams, and see where we can take it and hopefully have a regulation soon, because there are different opinions and to discuss them all here… we could sit here a long time. There will have to be compromises found to get this regulation over the finish line and I think one way or another it will happen. If the big teams try to change everything it’s difficult for us but it’s the FIA, the governing body and the promoters which have an opinion as well, so let’s see what we can come up with until the end of October. But I think it will be… we will come to a solution but for sure not everyone will be happy, 100 per cent, and that’s normally when you reach compromises.
FT: Yeah, there are a couple of sporting working group and technical working group meetings where all these new technical regulations are being discussed. So far I must say that the FIA and the FOM is going in the right direction. We know that we can come down with the costs which is covered by the cost cap and the money distribution should be much fairer than… We’ll come up with a different governance which is covered from the sporting and technical regulations side. We are going in the right direction. FIA and FOM should make the decisions. The date is clear, it’s the end of October and then we go for it. Up to now, I think we’re going in the right direction.
CA: As far as we’re concerned frankly we need to focus on three important aspects. The budget cap, all the refinements, even though the principle is agreed but we need to get that done and really put in stone. Money distribution, like Franz said, we need something that is more equitable otherwise we will end up with the same disparity that we have now. And governance. We are less concerned about the details of the technical and sporting regulations because these things will happen anyway and we are prepared to increase more power to Formula One and FIA that has gone up their team in order to think what’s right for the sport. They’ve done a lot of research; they know what’s good for the sport but we want these three elements to be fixed and agreed as quickly as possible.

Q: (Luke Smith – Crash.net) Franz, another question for you: picking up… you were talking about Max in 2015. Would you be able to reflect on what it was like working with Max through his first season in Formula One, how exciting was it playing that formative role in his future and was it immediately clear you had such a star on your hands?
FT: You know Max was coming from Formula 3 and in those days there were a lot of people who said it’s too early for him to come into Formula One but then we gave him some possibilities to do FP1 sessions and he showed that he can do it. He had fantastic car control and he, from the very beginning onwards, had everything from the technical side under control also and therefore we signed him, or Red Bull signed him and we had a fantastic season together and his learning gradient was quite steep and then we know in the second season, 2016, after five (sic) races he went to Red Bull Racing, won the first race in Barcelona and from then onwards he is there as a driver and he made really big, big steps forward, big progress and for me, Max, now, is the driver who is able – as I mentioned, just before – to win races and to win the championship. He has all the ingredients together, which you need for doing this.

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Ferrari: Friday goes to plan

Ferrari: Friday goes to plan

The first Friday following the summer break went off smoothly for Scuderia Ferrari, as the team got through its planned programme over the course of free practice for the Belgian Grand Prix, the thirteenth round of the season.

Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel completed 98 laps between them over the three hours of track time and were quickest in both sessions. However, lap times don’t mean much until tomorrow afternoon when it’s time for qualifying.

FP1. Sebastian and Charles did 20 laps each, starting on the Soft tyre. They both worked on set-up before tackling some runs aimed at evaluating performance. The first to set a significant time was Leclerc with a 1’44”788. Shortly after, Sebastian posted a 1’44”574, which turned out to be the best of the session, with his team-mate second.

FP2. In the afternoon, the two Scuderia Ferrari drivers got back to work, running the Medium tyres to complete an evaluation of the compounds brought here by Pirelli, before going back to the Softs for a qualifying simulation. Charles did a 1’44”123, which turned out to be the quickest of the day. Sebastian was next up with a 1’44”753. The Monegasque and the German then began working on race preparation with the usual long runs, on different fuel loads.

Tomorrow. The final hour of free practice gets underway at noon local time, prior to qualifying at 3pm. On Sunday, the Belgian Grand Prix gets underway at 15.10.

Ferrari keep old PU for Spa as rivals unleash upgrades

Charles Leclerc: “It was quite a good first day for us after the holidays. I really like this circuit and enjoy driving here. The track is quite long, has all types of corners and there’s a very unique flow to it. Despite our good positions in free practice, we do have to stay realistic and expect our rivals to be very competitive tomorrow.

“Our qualifying pace was strong today, but we still have some work ahead of us in improving it over the long runs. If we are quick on the straights, we will hopefully have some good opportunities for overtaking on Sunday, which is a positive. The last few Grands Prix have been great, with a lot of battles, so I hope that this race will be another exciting one.”

Ferrari remains ahead in FP2 as Leclerc takes over

Sebastian Vettel: “It was a positive day and it’s great to be back in the car, especially at a track like this. The feeling from the cockpit was good, but I think there is still room for improvement. Let’s not forget it’s only Friday and it will only get serious tomorrow afternoon and then Sunday when it matters.

“On a quick lap, the performance was okay, but the race is not just one lap and so we have to work on improving our race pace, especially in the second sector. In today’s two sessions, we were sliding a bit too much in the middle sector and so for the race it will be important to optimise the tyre behaviour. We still have work to do tomorrow.”

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McLaren: It’s clear we have work to do

McLaren: It’s clear we have work to do

McLaren report from day one of the Belgian Grand Prix weekend, Round 13 of the 2019 Formula 1 World Championship, at Spa-Francorchamps.

Carlos Sainz

  • FP1 1m46.557s (+1.983s) 20 laps 10th
  • FP2 1m45.999s (+1.876s) 28 laps 11th

“I think it’s been a mixed Friday. During FP1 I was quite encouraged by how the car felt and how the session went. In terms of lap-time, we were looking okay and the behaviour of the car was decent. FP2 was definitely more challenging. We faced issues with car balance and overall car grip. We need to look carefully into what happened in order to find a bit of lap-time for tomorrow. The target always has to be Q3, so let’s see if we can get back in.”

Lando Norris

  • FP1 1m46.670s (+2.096s) 19 laps 12th
  • FP2 1m46.258s (+2.135s) 29 laps 15th

“The day was good, we did the things we needed to do. The car seemed to change quite a bit from FP1 to FP2, which is something that we weren’t quite expecting. Also, pace-wise we’re struggling a little bit as well, compared to some of the other guys, so there is plenty to look at overnight. A good day in terms of what we were doing ourselves but, in terms of pace, we have a bit to catch up on. We’ll work hard tonight and come up with some good ideas for tomorrow.”

Andrea Stella, Performance Director: “Spa-Francorchamps is a circuit that requires careful work to optimise rear wing levels and also car set-up, because grip is low and the track is bumpy in places. That was the focus of our efforts today, in addition to the normal work of aerodynamic testing and tyre evaluation.

“It’s difficult to properly evaluate our competitiveness because both the power effect and the fuel effect are sizeable at Spa. It’s clear we have work to do, however, and overnight we’ll be trying to find the improvements that will allow us to push on into Q3 and score good points in Sunday’s race.”

Honda: It was a productive day

Honda: It was a productive day

It was a productive day of practice for the two Honda-powered teams at the Belgian Grand Prix, as both Aston Martin Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso ran a variety of power unit specifications.

At Red Bull, Alex was getting to grips with his new surroundings while also using the Spec 4 power unit, while the latest version was also in Daniil’s car for Toro Rosso.

The opening session saw Max finish third and Alex fourth as the weekend started strongly for Red Bull, as 0.077s covered the two new team-mates.

Albon ticks all the right boxes in first session for Red Bull

Then in the afternoon, Max was sixth overall as he carried out his soft tyre run much earlier than the rest of the field, while Alex ended up in 10th place.

It was a more challenging day for the Toro Rosso pair, with Pierre back with the team for the first time since Abu Dhabi last year.

After Daniil and Pierre were 17th and 18th respectively in the first practice session, there was progress in FP2 as Daniil was 14th – 0.4s slower than Alex – and Pierre was less than 0.2s further back in 17th place.

We will spend Friday night analysing the data from all four cars and the upgraded PU to optimise the settings ahead of qualifying.

Toyoharu Tanabe, Technical Director: “It’s good to be back at a race track after a four week break. We introduced our Spec 4 PU here, running it just with Albon and Kvyat, while Verstappen and Gasly ran an older specification.

“That way, only one driver from each of our teams gets grid penalties on Sunday. As this is the first time Spec 4 has run on track, we have focussed on gathering as much data as possible during today’s three hours of track time.

“Both of the new PUs ran trouble-free and we have plenty of data from them that we can study overnight, as we prepare our settings for qualifying and the race. However, Max mentioned that the power cut out occasionally, so we must look into that now.”

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Kubica: Both drivers are unhappy with a few things

Kubica: Both drivers are unhappy with a few things

Williams report from day one of the Belgian Grand Prix weekend, Round 13 of the 2019 Formula 1 World Championship, at Spa-Francorchamps.

Dave Robson, Senior Race Engineer: “It has been good to get back to the track after a couple of weeks away, especially at such an enjoyable circuit as Spa. We completed some useful work in both sessions as we looked at some set-up options suitable for Spa and some development items for next year.

“Nicholas drove well in FP1 and did some useful set-up work allowing George to inherit a car that he was reasonably happy with straightaway. Robert completed some interesting background tests as well as tuning his set-up ready for tomorrow.

“As normal on a track so long, both drivers are unhappy with a few things around the lap and so we will now spend the remainder of the evening analysing the data and fine-tuning the car ready for the rest of the weekend.

George Russell: It’s been a long summer break, so I was happy to get back in the seat for FP2. The car generally felt nice to drive so it was enjoyable around a great circuit like this. We knew it was going to be difficult for us, the pace is a long way off, half of the lap time we are missing is on the straight and we also struggle in the corners. We will look at the data and see if we can find a better compromise tomorrow. All in all, it will be a tough weekend

Robert Kubica: “I would say today was as expected. Driving at Spa is always nice as it’s a great track to drive. The feeling in the car unfortunately is not so great at the moment. Hopefully we’ll be able to solve some issues and improve the handling of the car. Our pace, unfortunately, is what it is, and the gap to the cars in front is pretty big.”

Kubica unsure Williams performance upswing is for real

Nicholas Latifi: “This was probably the FP1 I was most looking forward to due to the nature of the track. There have been a lot of changes to the car since my previous session at Le Castellet and its difficult to compare the FW42 across different circuits.

“On a general note, I noticed a slight improvement with the car despite running with a smaller rear wing, and I was pleased with my session. It was quite clean, and I was able to give the car back to George for FP2. Overall, it was great to drive a Formula One car at Spa and I look forward to my next outing with the team.”

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Haas: We’re struggling on these low downforce tracks

Haas: We’re struggling on these low downforce tracks

The 13th round of the 2019 FIA Formula 1 World Championship began with practice Friday at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps as teams prepared for Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix.

Two 90-minute sessions – FP1 and FP2 – were run under sunny skies on the 7.004-kilometer (4.352-mile), 19-turn circuit.

Both Rich Energy Haas F1 drivers utilized Pirelli P Zero Red soft tires throughout FP1 and both finished the session on high-fuel-load runs. Grosjean’s best lap of 1:47.176 came on his 14th of 18 tours of the circuit and was 14th fastest on the timesheet. Magnussen’s best time of 1:48.488 came on his 14th of 21 laps placing him 16th overall at the checkered.

Grosjean and Magnussen began FP2 in the afternoon with a short run on new Yellow medium tires before switching to new sets of softs. Grosjean’s best lap of 1:46.120 came on softs on his 13th lap of the session – good for 12th overall for the Frenchman.

Magnussen’s quick lap of 1:46.399 was also banked on the soft compound on his 13th tour, placing the Dane 18th on the timesheet. Both drivers finished the session with distance runs, Grosjean on used soft tires and Magnussen starting with his earlier soft set before a switch to his used mediums.

Haas F1 Team ran a total of 81 laps Friday – 39 by Grosjean and 42 by Magnussen – during the two sessions.

Romain Grosjean: “It was alright. Surprisingly, my first run of the day I was happy with the balance of the car. After we started to remove downforce things got a bit more fruity. That’s obviously always going to be the game at Spa, being fast on the straights, then getting the corners as good as you can.

“We’re just evaluating which downforce we’re going to run for the weekend. We’re working really hard to find out what we can do better for the future. I hadn’t run the Hockenheim package until today, and it’s better than the Barcelona one – so my confidence came back up on that package, which is good. It’s very low downforce here though, so it’s always going to be quite complicated.”

The Rich Energy Storey just won’t go away…

Kevin Magnussen: “It was a bit of a difficult day, definitely not the best Friday we’ve had in a while. We’re really lacking pace and just struggling with the car and the handling. So, we’ll see if we can fix it, or fix some of it, but it’s been a tough start to the weekend. We’re going to do our best to come back.

“This is a difficult track to get the downforce levels right, it’s also very difficult for us to make the tires work – that adds another element to our decisions on the aero and the rest of the set-up. If your tires aren’t working, that’s the most important, and they’re not. We need to see if we can fix it. We also didn’t get out for proper long runs today, so there’s more to learn there. Fingers crossed we’ll have a better day tomorrow.”

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal: “Not a very successful FP1 and FP2 for us, we are struggling a little bit on these low downforce tracks. We just need to work as best as we can to get the best out of the car. We never give up, we try to do the best, and hopefully we can get something out of it.”

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Racing Point: Updates have brought performance gains

Racing Point: Updates have brought performance gains

Racing Point report from day one of the Belgian Grand Prix weekend, Round 13 of the 2019 Formula 1 World Championship, at Spa-Francorchamps.

Sergio Perez

  • FP1 1:46.433 P9 22 laps
  • FP2 1:45.117 P5 25 laps

“We are still investigating the problem at the end of second practice, but it looks like a drop in oil pressure which killed the engine. Hopefully, it won’t impact on the rest of the weekend too much, but we need to wait and see if anything is damaged and needs to be changed.

“Up until that point, things were looking good. The car was strong in both sessions and the new parts we introduced here made an immediate difference. There are still lots of areas to improve before tomorrow, but I’m feeling positive.”

Perez gets new three-year deal with Racing Point!

Lance Stroll

  • FP1 1:46.198 P7 16 laps
  • FP2 1:45.732 P8 21 laps

“Today was one of the better Fridays we have had this season so that is promising. We did some consistent running and the pace of the car is looking good, which is what we expected here in Spa. We suffered some heat transfer issues behind my seat so we will look into that overnight but overall I am feeling positive. It is a shame we have an engine penalty but it is what it is.

“We will do what we can in Qualifying but the focus is going to be on setting the car up for Sunday and then trying to pass as many cars as possible to score some points! I’m looking forward to it and confident we can have a good rest of the weekend.”

Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal: “It wasn’t the most straightforward day with a few operational issues that limited Lance’s running in both sessions. We had to abort a couple of runs with sensor issues and then there was a heat transfer issue with his seat.

“Then, right at the end of the session, Sergio was forced to stop the car. Exactly what happened is still under investigation but the engine stopped as a consequence of an oil pressure loss. However, when we were on track, the drivers were reasonably happy with the car from a balance perspective and the updates appear to have brought performance gains.”

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Vettel ‘not blinded’ by Ferrari advantage

Sebastian Vettel says Ferrari will not be blinded by the advantage it enjoyed in Friday practice for the Belgian Grand Prix despite comfortably leading the field.

The German was quickest in the opening practice session while teammate Charles Leclerc was fastest in FP2 as Ferrari ended up one-two on both occasions. The margin was nearly a second in both sessions but Vettel says previous experience this season will ensure Ferrari does not get carried away.

“I don’t think the margin is correct,” Vettel said. “I don’t know what others are doing. We’ve seen a couple of times that we’re very quick on Friday so I’m not blinded by that.

“The reality is today is a Friday. We have to wait until tomorrow night and then especially Sunday

Ferrari keep old PU for Spa as rivals unleash upgrades

“(The car is) less competitive in sector two and then when it’s straight again more competitive! It’s something that we knew. We have to work on sector two and work on the feel of the car there. Obviously the race has more than one lap. Today is Friday, we have seen many times we are good on Friday if you look only at one lap so we shouldn’t get blinded by that.”

And while Ferrari’s qualifying pace looked impressive at Spa-Francorchamps, Vettel says the car was far less competitive during a race simulation, but again says that is typical of past race weekends.

“Nothing happened, we were just not so fast. It’s not a big secret — we struggle a bit more on consecutive laps for the long run, but it’s also Friday so I’m not sure. We seem to do something quite different compared to the others. One lap I think we’re quite OK and race pace we need to pick it up.”

With lower temperatures forecast for Sunday, Vettel says Friday’s running will still prove beneficial even if the conditions change the way the car behaves.

“I’m not concerned; we’ll see what it does. Maybe it will be difficult to carry today into Sunday but still it was useful to do those laps and we’ve got some homework.”

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Toro Rosso: Still not quite where we expected to be

Toro Rosso: Still not quite where we expected to be

Toro Rosso report from day one of the Belgian Grand Prix weekend, Round 13 of the 2019 Formula 1 World Championship, at Spa-Francorchamps.

Daniil Kvyat

  • First Practice Session Best lap: 1:47.636, pos. 17th, 20 laps
  • Second Practice Session Best lap: 1:46.214, pos. 14th, 24 laps

“It’s great to be back in the car after the summer break and Spa is the perfect track to return to racing as well. With quite a few other drivers taking grid penalties, the race should be quite interesting as some drivers will be out of position. We’ll see how tomorrow goes. This kind of track can either be quite good or quite poor and at the moment, it’s quite poor for us. Today our car wasn’t suited to this track as well as it is to some others. We will see what we can find for tomorrow, but I’m not too concerned.

Pierre Gasly

  • First Practice Session Best lap: 1:47.968, pos. 18th, 26 laps
  • Second Practice Session Best lap: 1:46.374, pos. 17th, 28 laps

“It was a busy day with the team, trying to get used to the car and learn all of the new procedures and the behaviour of the car. It was the first time working with this group of engineers, so there were a lot of things to get done today.

“We had a good plan and lap after lap I felt I was getting used to the car, so I think we are progressing. It’s been a bit tricky in terms of pace for us, so we need to work and find out which direction to take for tomorrow to be more competitive. Some drivers will have penalties this weekend, so we need to make sure we have a good race car for Sunday.”

Albon enjoys smooth first day, but relying on ‘baby steps’

Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer: “It’s good to be back on track after the summer break and we couldn’t pick a better place than a sunny Spa, it’s a fantastic track and the weather conditions are great for running.

“We’re pleased to be working with Pierre again, we worked closely with him last year and he has tremendous speed, so we’re looking forward to maximising his performance in the second half of the season. Obviously, the last time he drove for us it was a different car than the one he drove today, so the main focus for him was to get him comfortable and acclimatised with the seat fit characteristics and the balance of the STR14.

“This meant it was less performance running and more building up the laps, so he could get used to the setup. Now I think we have a good idea of the requirements he needs from the car. As for Dany, we will take a new PU for him, Honda’s Spec 4, and it will be interesting to see the step in performance it brings, which should be positive around here. Given he will take a PU related penalty, Dany’s main priority today was on race pace.

“Coming here we knew that a few of the corners on this track wouldn’t necessarily suit some of the handling characteristics of our car, so another big focus was carrying out multiple setup changes on both the aero and mechanical side, to try and minimise these handling issues.

“We didn’t show the best performance in FP1, so we made quite a few changes to the car for FP2, which improved the performance, although we’ve finished the day still not quite where we expected to be.

“We know where the limitations are, so we just need to come up with some changes for the car to try and improve those areas without making the car weaker in the others.”

Mercedes: We’re a little off the pace in low and high fuel runs

Mercedes: We’re a little off the pace in low and high fuel runs

Mercedes report from day one of the Belgian Grand Prix weekend, Round 13 of the 2019 Formula 1 World Championship, at Spa-Francorchamps.

Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport gear up for a fight at Spa-Francorchamps

  • Valtteri finished the morning session in P5 with Lewis in P6
  • Both drivers ran the Medium tyres in FP1
  • Valtteri completed the afternoon session in P3 with Lewis in P4
  • Both drivers ran the Medium and the Soft compounds in FP2, setting their best times on the Softs

Valtteri Bottas: “It’s nice to be back in the car especially on a track like this, I had fun out there today. We got through our programme as planned, finding small gains as the day went on; it was pretty much business at usual on Friday. We always knew coming here that Ferrari and Red Bull would be quick on this track, but Ferrari have been particularly strong on the straights today.

“We’ll push hard overnight, trying to find every bit of performance we can for tomorrow. We need to make a big step if we want to battle with them, but at least we made some decent gains from FP1 to FP2.”

Hamilton vows to ‘apply the pressure’ on Ferrari despite deficit

Lewis Hamilton : “It was obviously not a great start for us in FP1, we had a problem with the throttle pedal, I basically lost power and was idling. I managed to fix it with a couple of switch changes and got the car back to the garage, but when I went out we had another issue.

“It was a bit of a mess, but we got some laps in towards the end. We made some changes for FP2 and the car was feeling a lot better, but we still have work to do tonight. The Ferraris are particularly strong in the first sector, we gain some time back in the middle, and I think it looks quite close between us in sector three.

“They have been strong on the straights all year long, so I had a feeling this weekend might work really well for them. We will have to find a way to apply the pressure this weekend, if we don’t have it on pure pace.”

James Allison: “We made some progress with the car across the two sessions but we have more to do in order to be competitive tomorrow and on Sunday, because we looked a little off the pace in both the low and the high fuel running today.

“The car balance was a bit too much towards understeer this morning and the track surface here is quite a rough asphalt, which makes it pretty demanding on the tyres if you don’t have the car’s balance correct.

“That hurts on both the single lap and the long runs because you can’t keep the goodness in the tyres if the balance isn’t there. It will be small changes that we’re looking for but there’s nevertheless some work to do overnight if we want to pick up where we left off before the summer break.”

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Ferrari gaining a second in first sector – Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton says Ferrari’s advantage looks to be close to a second in the first sector at the Belgian Grand Prix but expects Mercedes to be a threat in the race.

Ferrari secured a one-two finish in both of Friday’s practice sessions at Spa-Francorchamps, where the Scuderia’s straight-line speed advantage played an even bigger role. With the first sector primary full throttle from Turn 1 all the way to the braking zone at Les Combes, Hamilton says Ferrari is making major gains in that sector but after his own difficult day he still sees reasons for optimism for Mercedes.

“Not a great start for us in FP1,” Hamilton said. “We had a problem with the throttle and basically lost power, and so I was idling with the RPM trying to get back. I managed to fix it a little bit just with a couple of switch changes and got it back — and then we went back out and had another problem, so it was a little bit of a mess.

Hamilton vows to ‘apply the pressure’ on Ferrari despite deficit

“We got some laps toward the end but it wasn’t spectacular. Then we made some changes — big changes — because the setup was quite far off into FP2, and it was feeling a lot better but we still have work to do. I don’t know about the gaps but the Ferraris look quite quick. They’re nearly a second quicker than us just in a straight line down to Turn 5, so that’s quite impressive.

“Nevertheless we’ll keep chipping away at it. We’re clearly up in the mix, which is a good thing.”

“That (gap) sounds terrible! But it’s practice. We definitely don’t have even half of that to catch, so I’m not sure where the time is lost. But I’m hopeful. All that time is on the straights generally. There’s not a lot we can do to generally catch that up. They’ve been quick all year long on the straights, so I kind of had a feeling this weekend would work really well for them.

“We just kind of have to somehow apply the pressure another way, if we don’t have it on pure pace. I think the long run was very strong. I’m about to find out now, but I was told (Sebastian) Vettel’s times. He was in the high-50s I think — 51, mid-51s, and I was in the low-to-mid 50s on the long runs. So it will be interesting to know what fuel and tire life that we had. If we’re quick in the race, that could be good.”

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Perez gets new three-year deal with Racing Point!

Perez gets new three-year deal with Racing Point!

Sergio Perez is putting his full faith in SportPesa Racing Point, the Mexican driver committing to the Silverstone-based outfit until the end 2022.

Perez began his relationship with the pink squad back in 2014, when it raced under the Force India banner.

Over the course of six seasons, the 29-year-old has scored five podiums, establishing his reputation as one of the most consistent and reliable racers on the grid.

“I’m very excited to extend my partnership with the team for the next three years,” said Perez in Spa.

“I’ve been working together with this group of people for a long time now and they have become my second family.

“Together we have enjoyed a tremendous amount of success and we share the same passion for racing.

“I have been impressed with the direction the team has taken over the last twelve months and that gives me confidence for the future.

“I believe the best times are still to come and I look forward to celebrating plenty of podiums in the years ahead.”

Racing Point’s line-up will remain intact in 2020, with Lance Stroll signed on for a second year with his father’s team.

Racing Point team principal Otmar Szafnauer underscored Perez’s well-known qualities but also his driver’s precious experience.

“We know Sergio very well and it’s great to confirm him on a long-term deal,” said Szafnauer.

“Over the last six years we have seen him become a very complete driver with excellent qualifying speed and exceptional race craft.

“Sergio believes in the long-term vision of this project and getting his commitment until the end of 2022 gives us valuable consistency going forward.

“As the team continues to grow and develop it’s important to have a driver with Sergio’s level of experience, especially with new regulations on the horizon.

“The whole team is thrilled to continue working with Sergio and I believe we can enjoy great success together in the coming years.”

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Grid penalty takes pressure off – Albon

Alexander Albon admits a power unit penalty at the Belgian Grand Prix takes the pressure off to a degree as he makes his Red Bull debut.

Red Bull opted to replace Pierre Gasly with Albon after the Hungarian Grand Prix, with the Frenchman having struggled throughout his first 12 races with the team. Albon’s first race with his new team will see him starting from the back of the grid as a result of taking an upgraded Honda power unit, and without the direct qualifying comparison with team-mate Max Verstappen he says it removes some of the pressure early on.

“Yeah you could say that (the pressure is off) definitely,” Albon said. “I still would have liked to have qualified properly and seen where I would have gone, but obviously the focus now is not on the short run pace, it’s really trying to set-up the car for Sunday.

“So there is a bit of a more chilled out atmosphere but of course you still want to do a good job on Sunday.”

Albon was fourth quickest in the first practice session on Friday — within 0.1s of Verstappen — but that gap was 0.4s as he ended up 10th when focusing on race pace in FP2.

Dealing with the challenge of driving two different cars in the same season, Albon says he found his improvement rate to be quicker once he was physically in the car after carrying out some simulator work earlier in the week.

“It was a pretty smooth day. I feel quite at home with the guys, they’ve been very nice to me and it is very different (to the Toro Rosso). I could tell that already on Wednesday in the sim and you could tell it’s going to take some time to get used to. But once you are on the track and have the helmet on you can feel the G-forces and you can feel the car a bit better, but it’s just baby steps really.

“It’s just you’ve got the driving style you learn at Toro Rosso and you spend six months driving that way and you come to the Red Bull car and you’ve got a memory of what the other car was like. You have to kind of rewire your brain to start from zero again and go again. It’s not one thing in particular…”

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Albon enjoys smooth first day, but relying on ‘baby steps’

Albon enjoys smooth first day, but relying on ‘baby steps’

Alex Albon acquitted himself well on his first day of running at Spa with Red Bull, but the team’s new recruit is taking it one step at a time as he gets acquainted with his new environment.

Albon clocked in just a tenth behind Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen in FP1, enjoying an impressive baptism of fire.

The British-Thai racer rounded off the top-ten in FP2 as he worked diligently to improve his understanding of his RB15 and focused on long runs.

Ferrari maintains Spa dominance in second practice

“It was a pretty smooth day,” Albon told Sky F1.

“I feel quite at home with the guys, they’ve been very nice to me and it is very different.

“I could tell that already on Wednesday in the sim and you could tell it’s going to take some time to get used to.

“But once you are on the track and have the helmet on you can feel the G-Forces and you can feel the car a bit better, but it’s just baby steps really,” he added.

“Just understanding the car as it feels very different to the Toro Rosso.

“It’s just the driving style you have for Toro Rosso, you spend six months driving that way and you come to Red Bull and you are trying to remember what the other car was like.

“You have to kind of re-wire your brain and start to learn it and go again. It’s not one thing in particular.”

Regardless of where he qualifies on Saturday, Albon will launch his maiden race with Red Bull Racing from the back of the grid as a result of his car’s switch to Honda’s latest-spec engine.

While he would have liked to start his Belgian Grand Prix higher up the grid, Albon admitted that his demotion will relieve part of the inevitable pressure associated with his debut with his new team.

“I still would have liked to have qualified properly and seen where I would have gone, but obviously the focus now is not on the short run pace, it’s really trying to set-up the car for Sunday,” said the 23-year-old.

“So there is a bit of a more chilled out atmosphere but of course you still want to do a good job on Sunday.”

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Hamilton vows to ‘apply the pressure’ on Ferrari despite deficit

Hamilton vows to ‘apply the pressure’ on Ferrari despite deficit

Lewis Hamilton was anything but surprised by Ferrari’s pace on the opening day of running at Spa, but the Briton vowed to find a way to “apply the pressure” on the Scuderia going forward.

Hamilton endured a rocky start to his day with throttle and telemetry issues hampering his running in FP1, not to mention the balance of his W10 which teh Briton labeled “a nightmare”.

F1 Fan Poll: Verstappen better than Hamilton, Vettel not in top ten

“Obviously not a great start for us in FP1, we had a problem with the throttle, and I lost power,” Hamilton said.

“I was idling with the rpm trying to get it back. I managed to fix it with a couple of switch changes.

“When we went back out, we had another problem, that was a bit of a mess. I had a few laps towards the end, but not anything spectacular.”

Mercedes made set-up changes ahead of FP2 to improve the handling of Hamilton’s W10. But Ferrari’s significant advantage in the first sector kept both Silver Arrows at bay in FP2.

“We made some changes because the set-up was quite far off going into FP2. It was feeling a lot better but there’s still a lot of work to do tonight.

“[The balance] it was terrible in FP1, it was a nightmare. This one, it was quite a lot better.

“There are some bumps, like at Turn 9, that has always been there but feel worse and worse each year.

“The Ferraris are particularly strong in the first sector, we gain some time back in the middle, and I think it looks quite close between us in sector three.

“They have been strong on the straights all year long, so I had a feeling this weekend might work really well for them.

“We will have to find a way to apply the pressure this weekend, if we don’t have it on pure pace.

“We’ll just keep chipping away at it. We’re clearly up in the mix, which is good.”

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Perez to remain at Racing Point through 2022

Sergio Perez has signed a new three-year contract with Racing Point, keeping him at the team until the end of the 2022 season.

The Mexican has been with the team for six seasons since joining what was then called Force India from McLaren in 2014. In that time, he has picked up five podiums and regularly been one of the midfield’s leaders, finishing in the top 10 of the drivers’ championship every year, but has often signed one-year extensions. With the team under new ownership following Lawrence Stroll’s takeover, Perez has committed for the next three years in what becomes the longest active contract in F1.

“I’m very excited to extend my partnership with the team for the next three years,” Perez said. “I’ve been working together with this group of people for a long time now and they have become my second family.

Perez will be paired with Lance Stroll again next season, and his deal also takes him beyond the end of the current bilateral agreements between the teams and F1. New regulations will also be introduced in 2021, and Racing Point team principal Otmar Szafnauer says that stability will prove beneficial through such a period of change for the sport.

“We know Sergio very well and it’s great to confirm him on a long-term deal,” Szafnauer said. “Over the last six years we have seen him become a very complete driver with excellent qualifying speed and exceptional race craft. Sergio believes in the long-term vision of this project and getting his commitment until the end of 2022 gives us valuable consistency going forward.

“As the team continues to grow and develop it’s important to have a driver with Sergio’s level of experience, especially with new regulations on the horizon. The whole team is thrilled to continue working with Sergio and I believe we can enjoy great success together in the coming years.”

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