Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto believes that F1’s 2021 regulations will have a positive impact on the playing field, but only after several years.
Formula 1, the teams and the FIA have adopted a new set of rules that will govern the sport from 2021.
The changes will hopefully steer Grand Prix racing into a new era, in which the gap between F1’s top tier teams and the midfield players will be significantly reduced, in terms of both performance and financial fairness.
Binotto believes the transformation will indeed have a beneficial bearing on F1 and deliver a better spectacle on the track.
But any immediate changes to the current pecking order are unlikely according to the Scuderia chief.
“These new rules will provide stability to F1 for the next five years, but next year I think the teams with more resources will have a competitive advantage over the others,” said Binotto, quoted by Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“In 2021, the scenario will not be very different from what we have today.”
Have the changes therefore been decided in vain? Not exactly insists Binotto.
“Certainly the new regulations are designed in such a way that the degree of freedom of development will be greatly reduced compared to today,” he added.
“I am quite convinced that we will arrive at a ceiling of performance soon enough
“Within three years of the regulations’ introduction, the performance gap between the first and last will be reduced.
“In short, the goal that Liberty Media has set itself to level the playing field can be achieved, but it won’t happen immediately.”
Much has been written of Ferrari’s miserable 2019 Formula 1 World Championship season which began with so much promise but by early August the damage was done, 12 titles in six years became a formality thereafter.
Former Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo believes that only when the Reds are capable of sustaining a season-long challenge can they start dreaming of world titles in the top flight.
This year the Reds once again flattered early on only to deceive not long after. Trounced at the season opener in Melbourne, they got hammered in the first dozen races and after that they were always playing a game of catch they were never going to win. Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton were again far too good.
When Ferrari finally got going, after the summer break, they did have the best package but became their own worst enemy with botched pitstops, strange strategy calls, technical mistakes and of course the feud between veteran Sebastian Vettel versus precocious newcomer Charles Leclerc.
With this as the background, Montezemolo told Sky Italia, “Winning in F1 means having a set of elements all in perfect harmony.”
Montezemolo is the last Ferrari president to have won an F1 world title and, needless to say, avidly follows every race. Looking back on the season he said, “Given the early indications and the winter tests. I hoped this last world championship would go better for us.
“For a few years Ferrari has not won the F1 title because there are many variables but, for too long, they have never been able to do so because they have not been in a position to challenge consistently until the very end.
“I have some bad memories of many titles lost at the last race of the season but at least we were there until the end with a chance to win. This year and in the [recent] past, this has not happened I am sorry to say.
“Binotto is smart, next year I expect an improvement from Red Bull and the Honda engine, but Ferrari has to have all the elements at least to try to win and fight until the last race,” added the former team chief.
While Maranello may go on to produce the best car in 2020, managing and containing their drivers will be a high-priority. While the official word from the Scuderia is that there is ‘love and peace’ between the pair who will also be free to race one another. The smart money is on this saga to continue next year.
Regarding the matter, Montezemolo explained, “Leclerc is a driver capable of winning. A fast and intelligent boy, who learns from his mistakes and can become a champion. Certainly, there have been moments that have had a negative impact on the team. [Ferrari] drivers must know that they are not racing for themselves.
“It takes clarity, a lot of willingness by both to realise this. This is a great responsibility that Binotto and his team will have to deal with. It’s a sensitive issue. Vettel must remain calm, reclaim his confidence and regain his mojo which is very strong. He must have a very open dialogue with the team. These are delicate times as it is contract time,” added Montezemolo.
Racing Point’s Sergio Perez says that F1’s TV directors are not doing a good job, the Mexican blasting the lack of coverage of the sport’s “unbelievable’ midfield battles.
A few good wheel-to-wheel fights in this year’s season finale in Abu Dhabi – like Perez’s last lap spectacular overtake on Lando Norris or Carlos Sainz’s final lap pounce on Nico Hulkenberg – were ignored by F1’s director who chose to focus on Lewis Hamilton’s completion of his ultimate round in Yas Marina.
McLaren’s Sainz, whose final move on the Hulk allowed the Spaniard to seal his sixth-place position in the championship, was baffled by the F1 director’s snub but insisted it reflected the habitual practice among TV directors of ignoring the action taking place among F1’s rank and file.
“I think it should be shown a little bit more because at the front there is not a lot happening and you need to show the spectator the whole picture, because otherwise you don’t really understand why this is shown,” said the Italian.
“It would be very nice if they could show more from our perspective.”
Six-time Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton has squeezed into the top sports earners of the past decade, having banked $400-million during this period – more than any other racing driver.
Last week Forbes released the list which is topped by boxing champion Floyd Mayweather “who brought in $915-million in the past 10 years, $115-million more than any other athlete, without collecting a single paycheck from a team owner or an eye-popping sponsorship deal.”
Football (soccer) superstars Cristiano Ronaldo is second on $800-million and Lionel Messi third with $750-million.
Forbes’ annual rankings of top-earning athletes “looks at salaries, prize money, bonuses, endorsements, appearance fees and licensing income. The top 10 for the decade, which includes a pair from boxing, soccer, basketball and golf, collectively made $6.1-billion.
“No baseball, football or hockey players made the cut. We also excluded earnings for athletes during their retirement years, keeping NBA stars like Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan out of the top 10.
“Serena Williams is the only woman among the 40 highest-paid athletes of the decade, earning $215-million,” concludes the report.
Top ten earners in sport from 2010 to 2019:
10.Lewis Hamilton: $400-million The six-time F1 World Champion is the most marketable athlete in the sport and commands the biggest paycheck.
9. Kevin Durant: $425-million Durant’s annual earnings from his salary and endorsements jumped 400% during the course of the decade.
8. Manny Pacquiao: $435-million Pacquiao’s 25 pay-per-view fights have generated 20-million buys and an estimated $1.3-billion in revenue.
7. Phil Mickelson: $480-million Mickelson nabbed the biggest paycheck of his career in 2018 when he defeated his longtime rival Woods in an exhibition for a $-million purse.
6. Tiger Woods: $615-million Tiger averaged only 10 PGA Tour events per year during the 2010s, but his endorsement earnings for the decade were tops among athletes.
5. Roger Federer: $640-million Federer, 38, is on the back end of his tennis career, but his earnings will stay high on the back of a 10-year, $300-million deal with Uniqlo inked in 2018.
#4 LeBron James: $680-million James has made more than twice as much from endorsements during his first 16 years in the NBA, compared to his $270-million in playing salary.
#3 Lionel Messi: $750-million Messi’s 2019 playing salary for Barcelona is the highest of any athlete across all team sports.
#2 Cristiano Ronaldo: $800-million Ronaldo’s endorsement partners benefit from his massive Instagram and Facebook followings, which both rank as the biggest of any person on the planet.
#1 Floyd Mayweather: $915-million Mayweather pocketed more than $500 million combined for his 2015 and 2017 fights versus Manny Pacquiao and Conor McGregor.
Lewis Hamilton says that Niki Lauda’s absence still weighs on the Mercedes team and on himself, revealing that he often reads past text messages exchanged with the F1 legend.
As Mercedes’ non-executive chairman but especially as the emblematic figure he represented for so many, Lauda is sorely missed in the F1 paddock.
The Austrian’s passing earlier this year from health complications linked to a life-saving lung transplant undertaken in the summer of 2018 dealt a big blow to the Mercedes squad, with team boss and friend Toto Wolff and Hamilton bearing the brunt of the loss.
“I miss getting the texts. I miss sharing those videos, and I still have a lot of our conversations and every now and then I revisit it,” Hamilton told members of the media recently.
“But again, without his support, I probably wouldn’t have made the switch to come to this team. Without his support, I wouldn’t still be with this team. I don’t think this team would have had success without his support.
“Going to the board, pushing and breaking their balls. That is what he was the best at. But also being real with me. Being the bridge between… Toto who was a racing driver and the board, who were not racing drivers, to have a real champion who understands, and empathises with how difficult it is to deliver weekend in weekend out, [and] when you make a mistake…
“That is where he has been such a great, great pillar for me. So I miss him a lot.”
While Lauda’s condition after his lung transplant appeared to suggest that he would make a full recovery, a bad case of influenza contracted at his home in Ibiza during the Christmas period forced another hospitalization on the 70-year-old former F1 driver.
Unfortunately, Lauda would succumb to his condition in May of this year, just days before the Monaco Grand Prix weekend.
Hamilton revealed that he paid Lauda a visit shortly before his passing.
“It was really tough to see him,” he remembered Hamilton. “We had been sending videos to each other, and I had seen him through his biggest dip and he came back and was in a wheelchair and I was really hopeful.
“And then he had another fall and started to get worse. And that is when I went to see him. And it was still a shock to see your mate in a bed, plugged in. And I’ve been there before. My auntie died of cancer so I had seen it.
“But it is always a shock. And you could see his spirit, this bright spirit of his still shining, but it was starting to dim a little, you know?
“And his fighting spirit was starting to dim, which is only natural when you are going through such a long battle. So it just hit me.”
Cowell sees the combined forces of Red Bull’s chassis design abilities, Honda’s power unit and Verstappen’s skills as an overall impressive package, even if Ferrari holds an edge over its rivals in the engine department.
“Honda are the best improvers this year, they’re way ahead of Ferrari in terms of development rate,” Cowell said in a Motorsport Magazine podcast released this week.
“Red Bull can make championship winning cars, Max Verstappen is formidable and Honda…, their investment in what they’re doing is huge and their determination is huge.
“And that’s showing on track, and you can see that the structure and sound decision-making being done. It’s going to be exciting.”
Contrary to his colleague at Brackley, Mercedes technical director James Allison, whose design department is embracing the challenge of tackling Formula 1’s new 2021 regulations, Cowell’s team at Brixworth will be dealing will an almost identical set of engine rules in the future.
Max Verstappen accepts that the stewards’ calls in F1 will always result in a degree of inconsistency, because it’s simply an unavoidable by-product of the current system.
Verstappen has found himself on the receiving end of the stewards’ wrath more times then he cares to remember, often criticizing a specific call or punishment, or singling out a member of the FIA stewards’ panel for what he perceived as a biased or unfair attitude.
However, a more lenient approach to wheel-to-wheel battles was applied by the stewards this season as Verstappen’s battles with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in Austria and Great Britain clearly showed.
Verstappen accepts that the rulebook will be applied with more or less stringent rigour in each case because of the diversity of interpretations that prevail among the stewards, who often change at each race.
“The thing is, it’s the same in football, isn’t it? You have different refs and some give a yellow card easier than others. It’s the same like that,” the Red Bull charger told Motorsport.com.
“Of course, you know, it’s a rulebook. But then still the stewards have a little bit of a say of what you’re actually going to apply.
“When you go into like a Champions League match or a Premier League match, the ref can be different.
“Sometimes you can get away with a yellow card and then the other ref gives you a red, and you’re like ‘What was going on?’. It’s exactly the same, I think, in Formula 1.”
Verstappen’s experience back in January of being on the other side of the barrier, when he spent a day observing the stewards’ work at a Formula E race in Marrakech (a community work task forced upon the Dutchman by the FIA after the 2018 Brazilian GP), undoubtedly impacted the Red Bull driver’s view of the stewards’ role.
“It’s very hard for them,” he said. “I mean, I’ve been in the room and experienced them handing penalties out.
“It’s not easy for them. They also don’t want to give penalties. Sometimes they just have to, the way the rules are written as well.”
And therefore, a certain amount of inconsistency is acceptable as far as Verstappen is concerned, although a degree of frustration will always remain.
“That’s also fine. When you’re on the wrong side of the penalty it’s always bad, unless you really did something bad and you can accept it.
“But when it’s like 50/50 and you get the penalty, you’re always gonna question.”
Red Bull driver consultant Helmut Marko has gone on the record saying that Lewis Hamilton is still the better driver than Max Verstappen.
The no-nonsense former Le Mans winner turned Red Bull driver powerbroker was tackling one of ten daring discussions conducted by Motorsport-Total.
The one ‘thesis’ presented for discussion was: “Even if Lewis Hamilton is a six-time world champion: Max Verstappen is now the fastest and best driver of Formula 1.”
Interestingly, Marko whose ‘discovery’ and rapid promotion of Verstappen is the stuff of legend, countered that “as a package, Hamilton is still the better one. He has unbelievable basic speed, and of course, he has experience. We’ve have seen this again and again.”
He went on to explain how the Mercedes driver is almost ‘invisible’ in practice “but from the moment qualifying begins, he bangs down laps.”
Marko was also particularly impressed by Hamilton’s racecraft during the course of the season in which he won eight of the first 12 races and cites the Monaco Grand Prix as an example, “Driving in those lanes where no one can overtake, preserving his tyres was smart.
“He has the experience over Max and that is a huge advantage. Of course, he is lucky that he is mostly at the top where life is easier. But we want to change that next year!” warned Marko.
Flavio Briatore believes that Lewis Hamilton and Toto Wolff defecting from Mercedes to Ferrari is highly unlikely and definitely not a wise move for the Maranello team.
In an offseason largely devoid of any real news the Hamilton-Wolff to Ferrari copped a bucket load of headlines. But according to disgraced former team owner, Briatore, this is a bad idea.
He told GrParlamento, “Hamilton at Maranello in 2021? If I had to choose between him and Charles Leclerc, I would take Leclerc and he also costs a lot less.
“Toto Wolff at Ferrari in 2021? It doesn’t make sense for a shareholder of such a team to become an employee of another. No way will that be the solution to the problems. Ferrari needs a leader.
“In F1 the important thing is the car. Renault gave Ricciardo a boat-load of money, but that money would have been better spent in developing the car. If you don’t have the car, you can achieve nothing.
“We had the example of Alonso when he was at Ferrari: he took the car to another level which the second Ferrari driver was incapable of doing.
“Ferrari must work technically to have a car that is at least a tenth from Mercedes. Then the driver makes the difference but two-tenths, five-tenths difference… he can’t do it,” added Briatore.
Daniel Ricciardo wants to spend more time with his Renault team away from the racetrack to boost his crew’s motivation and improve collaboration.
Ricciardo’s endured a difficult maiden campaign with Renault, with the French outfit failing to fulfill its ambition of leading F1’s midfield and inching closer to its frontrunning rivals Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault.
While Renault targets improvements on the track, Ricciardo wants to spend more time with his team before the season gets underway and also during the year, away from the commotion of race weekends.
“For next year I’ve got some ideas of things I can do more or better,” said the Aussie, quoted by Crash.net.
“I feel like I integrated myself into the team well this year, but I look back and am like I can do more.
“I want to have a bit more presence before the season starts, before testing, but also have some ideas of things we can do together as a team to get us into the season – not just technically, but as a team unit.
“I want to get to Barcelona feeling like we’ve got some momentum before the season even starts.”
Call it team building if you wish, but Ricciardo believes there are benefits to be had in terms of improving communication and motivation from spending quality time with his colleagues between races.
“Even some team morale stuff, call it team building and some activities. More importantly to spend time with the team, even away from the track,” he added.
“At the track, even like with Cyril [Abiteboul], sometimes it is ‘hi’ and that is all you get over the weekend because we are busy. So, you don’t always get good quality time at the circuit.
“I feel that to take this relationship to the next level, getting time away from the track is good.
“Just having that feeling, even for the guys, if they know each other a bit more, they will want to work a little bit harder for each other and make some good stuff happen.”
Once again, Lewis Hamilton is conspicuously absent from the Queen’s just released New Year’s Honours list, the much-hoped-for Knighthood title continuing to elude the British F1 star.
There was hope that Hamilton’s sixth world title, achieved with Mercedes this year, would finally put the 34-year-old driver on the short list of the ministers who present the Queen each year with a list of nominees for her approval.
Household names from the world of entertainment, politics and sport – including Sir Elton John, Dame Olivia Newton-John, Bond film director Sam Mendes or UK cricket star Ben Stokes – head up a diverse selection of more than 1,000 people recognized for their services to the United Kingdom.
Hamilton received an OBE in 2008 after securing his first F1 world championship, but the prospect of a knighthood has been debated at length by the driver’s fans and members of the British motorsport community following Hamilton’s tremendous and enduring success in the sport.
Ahead of yesterday’s nominations, David Richards, the head of British motor racing governing body, said that Hamilton’s absence from the New Year’s Honours list would constitute a major oversight.
“I can’t think of anyone more worthy of that recognition than Lewis,” said Richards. “It would be a major oversight if that is not recognised in the new year honours.
“Lewis is far more remarkable in that he did not come from a privileged background. He and his father worked incredibly hard to get into karting and up the steps of the ladder.
“It was sheer hard graft, not gifted to him on a plate. They made huge sacrifices and that makes his achievements even more extraordinary.
“He is a role model for underprivileged children in the UK to show them that anything is possible.”
Three British F1 drivers from the past have been made Sir by the Queen, Jackie Stewart, Stirling Moss and Jack Brabham.
While he feels proud to fly the Union Jack, and while ‘Sir Lewis’ has a nice ring to it, Hamilton admitted recently that such an honour was not on his mind.
“I don’t really like to think too much about it,” he said in Brazil last month. “Just the fact that people have mentioned it, it’s already an honour, but it’s not been something that I’ve been chasing in my life.”
To justify Hamilton’s exclusion, one could argue that Formula 1 – where the emphasis is perhaps more on the machine than the driver – just doesn’t resonate with Buckingham Palace.
But there are also those who point to the F1 star’s tax-free Monaco residency as a reason for his omission.
However, both of the above are equally weak arguments in light, among other things, of Hamilton’s 84 Grand Prix wins, six world titles and impeccable conduct and sportsmanship on the track.
Sebastian Vettel says that winning in Formula 1 and fearing an internal rivalry, such as he’s encountered in the past with Daniel Ricciardo or currently with Charles Leclerc, are two things “that don’t go together”.
Vettel was under massive pressure from up-and-comer Leclerc in 2019, the four-time world champion beaten in the world championship standings by the Monegasque who also led the team’s internal stats with two wins versus a single victory for Vettel, and a 12-9 qualifying record in favor of Leclerc.
Vettel’s predicament this year wasn’t unlike 2014, when he was beaten on all metrics by Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo and left the team at the end of the season to move to Maranello.
The performance gains Honda was able to make during 2019 was a highlight of the new partnership with Red Bull, according to team principal Christian Horner.
Honda supplied Toro Rosso in 2018 following its split from McLaren, and duly made gains in terms of both reliability and performance. However, there was still uncertainty around how competitive the Japanese manufacturer would be at the front of the grid as it joined forces with Red Bull last season. But after three victories and two pole positions this season, Horner admits the level exceeded what he had been expecting.
“It really has been beyond expectation and in many respects, the relationship with Honda has been fantastic — the reliability, the performance increased with each engine — it’s been very much a highlight,” Horner said. “I think the way Max (Verstappen) has driven as well has been very, very positive.
“We obviously had the driver change halfway through the year, and I think that was the right thing to do. I think Alex (Albon) has earned his seat in the car for next year, and we go into the winter on the back of a very promising result in Abu Dhabi, with a lot of motivation.”
That performance level has led to increased expectations that Red Bull can mount a title challenge next year, and Horner insists there is no trend to Red Bull starting seasons off the pace and having to catch up in recent seasons.
“I think if you look at 2018, (starting slowly) wasn’t the case. I think the key that we have going into next year is we have stability of regulations. So theoretically, the car that you see in three months will be an upgrade of the cars that (ended 2019).
“It would be very unusual for any team to completely abandon a concept. And it feels like we’re on the right trajectory. So unless we’ve missed something, hopefully we can be competitive from the start of next season.”
Alex Albon says he’ll be digging deep during pre-season testing to learn as much as possible about his new car ahead of Aston Martin Red Bull’s 2020 campaign.
Albon’s mid-season switch from Toro Rosso to Red Bull Racing boosted the British-Thai’s position in the running order.
The 23-year-old scored points in every race in the second party of the season bar the Brazilian Grand Prix, where a clash with Lewis Hamilton on the penultimate lap of the race robbed him of a probable top-four finish.
However, Albon’s mid-year transfer to the Milton Keynes-based outfit left him little time to really familiarize himself with his car, with race weekends thereafter providing almost no opportunities for him to experiment with set-ups.
The Red Bull charger is determined to probe deep into his RB16 during the six days of winter testing scheduled in Barcelona in February.
“You can’t change that much [on a race weekend], because you can’t risk just going crazy with it,” Albon told Motorsport.com.
“But I think already, the team really understands kind of what I want in the car.
“That’s really where we can really start to focus. At testing the atmosphere is obviously a little bit different.
“You have better comparisons, not like in FP1 and FP2 when you’ve got four hours in between a session and things like that.”
While testing will indeed offer more space for experimentation, this year’s schedule has been cut from eight to six days of running – split across two tests – at the Circuit de Catalunya, so the clock will be ticking.
“It’s a very important time where you have to really focus on your time, on your scheduling and making sure you’re getting the most out of it,” he said.
“Because even if we say it’s time to learn and time to experiment, we’ve only got three days for testing before we get to Melbourne.
“It’s still limited, but of course, it’s better than nothing.”
Porsche motorsport boss Fritz Enzinger says the German manufacturer came very close to committing to Formula 1 as an engine supplier, having already developed a 1.6 liter hybrid power unit suitable for Grand Prix racing.
In the period leading up to F1’s regulation overhaul, Porsche was given a seat at the meetings between the sport’s teams and manufacturers, Formula 1 and the FIA.
Early discussions pointed to an engine regulation for 2021 that would have excluded the MGU-H hybrid component, a move that Porsche found appealing, although Formula 1 ultimately decided to retain the presence of the complex element on its future power units.
In 2017, Porsche had initiated the development of a highly efficient six-cylinder engine, although its final use had yet to be defined.
But eventually, Porsche – or rather the VW group – decided to take a pass on Formula 1.
“It was really close,” remembered Enzinger in an interview with Speedweek.
“Because when the Group Executive Board commissioned a highly efficient racing engine in 2017, Porsche had not only already designed it, it was already built!
“We were involved in the regulatory discussions between the FIA and the F1 promoter Liberty Media.
“However, in the construction phase, the group favored an e-mobility motorsport policy. But the 1.6 liter V6 engine was already on the test bench.”
“The expectation was to reach podium places during the season,” said Enzinger.
“It was really a surprise that we would finish second in the first race. And it was important because our path was courageous – we couldn’t build on an existing team like BMW did with Andretti or Mercedes with HWA.
“So we needed experience, which is why Lotterer, who drove in the best team for two years [DS Techeetah], was hired and was the reference for us.
“After his verdict in the first test in August, we knew we were doing really well.”
Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto says that handing this year’s Singapore Grand Prix to Sebastian Vettel was all about boosting the German driver’s confidence.
Charles Leclerc had dominated the early stages of the race at Marina Bay, leading Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and his Scuderia teammate until the latter undercut both drivers during the event’s single pit stop rotation.
However, Ferrari refrained from swapping its drivers, leaving Vettel to lead Leclerc to the checkered flag and collect his first – and only – win of 2019.
Except for his performance in Montreal, where a mistake while leading the race from Hamilton and a controversial time penalty robbed him of a certain win, Vettel struggled to challenge his Mercedes rivals in the first half of the season.
But the Scuderia’s improvement after the summer break, thanks to its SF90’s engine and aero gains, boosted both Vettel and Leclerc’s performance.
“He has been uncomfortable with the car at the start of the season, certainly with the braking instability,” said Binotto.
“I think the challenge [of Leclerc] for him has been a good benchmark as well, because having such a fast teammate gave him some headaches.
“When he had a lot of overall confidence in the car, I think he has been very fast, and if you look at his race pace he is very similar to Charles, who has been faster in qualy instead.
“So I think I would say, well done to him for the second part of the season – well done for the way he reacted after a not easy first half of the season.”
Formula 1 legend Michael Schumacher’s wife Corinna has provided what some are interpreting as an update on her husband’s condition ahead of the sixth anniversary of the skiing accident that nearly cost him his life.
Now, several German and British news outlets are reporting that while Schumi fans prepare to launch a new ‘KeepFightingMichael’ social media page next week.
Corinna Schumacher reportedly told fans, “Big things start with small steps. Many small particles can form a huge mosaic. Together you are stronger, and that’s exactly how combined forces of the KeepFighting movement make it easier to encourage others.”
The Michael and Mick Schumacher fan club in Kerpen will launch a new KeepFightingMichael page on Facebook on 29 December.
Chairman of the fan club Reiner Ferling said he is hopeful of seeing Schumacher out in public again, “Unfortunately, the time has come again, the sixth anniversary of Michael’s accident is coming around.
“Six years full of hope that Michael will one day go out in public again. We know that Michael is in good hands, that he gets love, security and confidence. Michael can count himself lucky to have such a strong family behind him.
“As a fan club, we will provide all kinds of support that we can provide,” added Ferling.
‘KeepFighting’ is also the name of the family foundation which supports accident victims while investing in brain and spinal cord research.
Felipe Massa believes he might be sharing the track once again with Fernando Alonso in the future, the Brazilian not dismissing a move to Formula E for his former Ferrari teammate.
Alonso’s 2020 schedule so far only includes two events, a maiden participation in the Dakar rally raid in January and a return to the Indy 500 in May.
The two-time F1 world champion will soon join the Toyota Gazoo Racing outfit in Saudi Arabia for 12 days of grueling off-road adventures, but the Spaniard has yet to announce his team of choice for his run at the Brickyard, with Andretti Autosport and Arrow McLaren SP seen as his most probable options.
Alonso has also stated that he’s keeping F1 at the back of his mind, but Massa thinks that Formula E could be a more realistic proposition for the 38-year-old in the future, although that latter has repeatedly ruled out a move to the all-electric series.
“I think it would be easier for me to convince Alonso to go to Formula E than for him to convince me to do the Dakar,” joked Massa, as quoted by Spain’s Marca.
“I think it is possible for Alonso to come to Formula E in the future. With Fernando, anything is possible,” added the Venturi FE driver.
Assessing his former Scuderia teammate’s chances in the upcoming Dakar, Massa says the undertaking is a “great challenge” for the Asturian.
“It will be a great experience for him and something different for all the fans,” he said.
“It will be very difficult, it is a great challenge for any driver, so it will be great to see him compete there. I wouldn’t do it, but it will be great to see him there.”
Mercedes engine boss Andy Cowell admits that Ferrari’s power unit gained an edge over its rivals in 2019, at least in terms of sheer output.
Ferrari’s overall SF90-H package suffered this year from a lack of downforce relative to its Mercedes and Red Bull counterparts, a weakness that ultimately prevented Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel from challenging for the world title.
However, thanks to engine gains achieved in the second part of the season, there’s no question that the Scuderia’s charger had the upper hand in qualifying trim, says Cowell.
“In terms of out-and-out qualifying performance, Ferrari this year have shown that their car is better, but you don’t get points on a Saturday, you get points on a Sunday in terms of finishing the race,” said the managing director of Mercedes HPP unit in Brixworth, speaking on a Motorsport Magazine podcast.
Asked whether the specific architecture of the Mercedes power unit and its limited potential for development was a drawback relative to Ferrari, Cowell said:
“We work very hard with the team at Brackley to make sure the power unit contributes to the overall car performance.
“I don’t think the architecture Is holding us back. Every year we have a very open look at the way the power unit should be laid out.
“A lot of it is determined by the regulations in terms of where you can put the turbocharger – towards the front, sort of split across the crankcase like we have it, or in the back in the transmission.
“Typically, from an aerodynamic perspective you want to follow the shadow of the drivers’ helmet and the crash structures as around that.
“If the Ferrari qualifying performance is all down to crank power than we just need to work harder, we just need to find more crank power for those single laps in qualifying.”
While extracting more power is a never ending quest, Cowell underscored the importance of putting on the track on Sunday the best possible overall package.
“What we mustn’t do is destroy the performance of the car on race day,” he added.
“The aerodynamicists and the vehicle dynamics guys have done a great job of making sure that the car is very kind to its tyres and can stretch well and can be raced hard.
“And the total car package in terms of reliability is a key aspect as well, as well as the tactics of the race and the management of the drivers.”
Carlos Sainz believes he has a lot of room to improve as a driver following the best season of his Formula 1 career to date.
Joining McLaren from Renault, the former Red Bull junior delivered consistently impressive performances throughout the season and secured sixth in the drivers’ championship ahead of Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon — who shared a Red Bull seat this year — with a last-lap overtake on Nico Hulkenberg in Abu Dhabi. Sainz says there is still “a lot” of development to come, even if he acknowledges the significant gains he made during the past season.
Sainz attributes at least part of his strong performances in 2019 to the stability that his move to McLaren has provided, with the team confirming the futures of both the Spaniard and Lando Norris early in the year.
“I think you can see that I’m in a much more comfortable environment right now, more comfortable atmosphere, and the certainty of a nice future with McLaren gave me that extra tranquillity just to show my skills a bit better without that extra having to do everything at the moment, thinking more about the mid-term.
“That has helped me to put together some nice races, some nice overtaking moves that before we maybe didn’t see from myself. That last bit of confidence that I unlocked this year has definitely given me the opportunity to do also the overtaking that you saw (in Abu Dhabi).”
Last lap: P11. Needs a P10 finish to seal 6th in the championship…
Alfa Romeo Racing team boss Frédéric Vasseur has revealed that the Hinwil squad’s founder Peter Sauber was given a heads up on the team’s name change at the start of the 2019 season, and backed the rebrand.
Sauber initiated a commercial partnership with Alfa Romeo in 2018, with the prestigious automobile manufacturer taking over the team’s official branding a year later.
While Peter Sauber no longer held a vested interest in the Swiss outfit at the time of the rebrand, Vasseur made it a point of contacting the Swiss before the name change, out of respect for Sauber’s historic link with the team.
Vasseur’s comments put to rest speculation that emerged earlier this year about the Alfa Romeo brand potentially pulling out of F1.
The team established itself as a consistent to-ten contender in the early part of its 2019 campaign, courtesy of its veteran driver Kimi Raikkonen, but the remainder of the year was a mixed bag of results, although Alfa enjoyed a solid haul of points in Brazil where Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi finished 4th and 5th.
“Last year we were coming from absolutely nowhere, and we were very opportunistic during the season,” said Vasseur. “I would say we scored roughly all the points that we could have scored.
“This season is a bit different, and we are a bit less opportunistic. We missed some of our opportunities.
“But we end the season with more points than last year and it’s a good step. We made a step of 0.7% [in pace] to the top teams, it’s huge.
“We can’t be completely satisfied with this, we need to do more. But I think that we can be optimistic.”
Robert Kubica’s involvement in F1 is set to continue, albeit as a development driver, with the former Williams charger allegedly in advanced talks with Alfa Romeo according to a report from RaceFans.net.
Kubica’s sensational return to F1 racing with Williams eight years after his devastating rally crash that had left his right severely impaired was the sport’s “feel good” story of 2019.
Unfortunately, the depressed form of his team put a damper on Kubica’s hopes of reviving his career at the pinnacle of motorsport.
However, the 35-year-old, whose technical feedback is highly rated, is keen on retaining a development and simulator role next season, and both Haas and Racing Point have disclosed their interest in employing Kubica in 2020.
But it appears as a third team, Alfa Romeo Racing, is set to pip its two rivals and secure Kubica’s coveted services, which include a budget from the driver’s personal sponsor, Polish oil company PKN Orlen.
RaceFans points out that Alfa’s current deal with Shell will expire at the end of the year, therefore opening up a potential commercial opportunity for PKN Orlen and a lucrative sponsorship deal for
Kubica is no stranger to Alfa Romeo’s Sauber-managed Hinwil factory, having raced for the Swiss outfit under its BMW ownership during his first three seasons in F1.
In addition to his potential F1 duties in 2020, Kubica is also considering taking part in the German DTM series, having recently tested for BMW in Jerez.
Corinna Schumacher has publicly expressed what Michael Schumacher fans are considering as a message of hope regarding the health of the F1 legend.
Schumacher’s physical condition remains a mystery for the public, with the former driver’s family fiercely guarding its privacy since the tragedy that befell the great champion on the ski slopes of Meribel on December 29, 2013.
Just days before a group of Schumacher fans prepare to launch a new ‘KeepFightingMichael’ social media page on Facebook, Corinna offered a rare public comment which perhaps hints at her husband’s condition.
“Big things start with small steps. Many small particles can form a huge mosaic,” Corinna reportedly told fans.
“Together you are stronger, and that is exactly how combined forces of the ‘KeepFighting’ movement make it easier to encourage others.”
Fan club chairman Reiner Ferling expressed his hope that Schumacher will one day be seen in public again.
“Unfortunately, the time has come again, the sixth anniversary of Michael’s accident is coming around,” Ferling said.
“Six years full of hope that Michael will one day go out in public again.
“We know that Michael is in good hands, that he gets love, security and confidence. Michael can count himself lucky to have such a strong family behind him.
“As a fan club, we will provide all kinds of support that we can provide.”
However, when it came to the mega bucks earned by the world’s top athletes in the past ten years, Hamilton was but a distant 10th, with earnings totaling $400 million since 2010.
Forbes puts Hamilton’s current Mercedes retainer at 40 million pounds – or about $51.84 million but labels the 84-time Grand Prix winner as “the most marketable athlete in the world”.
While racing in F1 is a full-time job, boxing involves just a handful of appearances for its top stars, Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather. The latter topped Forbes’ list with Mayweather raking in a staggering $915 million since 2010!
Behind sport’s number one earner, soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo was second on the list with a hefty $800 million while Barcelona football star Lionel Messi was third on the podium with a healthy $750 million?
Trailing the trio are basketball player and LA Lakers star LeBron James ($680 million), tennis superstar Roger Federer ($640 million), golfers Tiger Woods ($615 million) and Phil Mickelson ($480 million), Manny Pacquiao ($435 million), the NBA Brooklyn Net’s Kevin Durant ($425 million) and Hamilton ($400 million).
WAE, in which Williams will retain a minority sector, was the battery supplier to Formula E during the all-electric series’ first four seasons.
“We have rapidly grown WAE from an embryonic one client start-up, to a business with many clients in multiple sectors,” said Mike O’Driscoll, Group Chief Executive Officer of Williams Grand Prix Holdings.
“The time is now right to sell a majority stake to enable WAE to further scale and develop its technologies. EMK Capital have a proven track record of success which will enable WAE to take advantage of these emerging opportunities and realise its full potential.”
Craig Wilson, Managing Director of Williams Advanced Engineering said:
“Williams Advanced Engineering has developed a strong reputation for providing energy-efficient advanced performance solutions to a diverse range of sectors and blue-chip clients.
“This expertise and our technologies in areas such as electrification, lightweight structures, aerodynamics and precision manufacture will become even more relevant and in-demand globally going forward.
“This new ownership structure will enable WAE to take advantage of these emerging opportunities and comes at a pivotal moment allowing us to further invest in new areas of capability and technologies in order to realise the full potential of the business.”
EMK Capital focuses on investments in the business services, consumer and industrial sectors, supporting a company’s growth and change.
“We are excited about partnering with WGPH and the WAE management team to support further growth in this exceptional engineering business which has achieved so much in such a short period of time,” said Edmund Lazarus, Managing Partner of EMK.
With all due respect to Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc, there was really only one choice when it came to 2019’s driver of the year, and that driver is Lewis Hamilton.
Amassing 413 points, 11 wins, 17 podiums, five poles and a sixth world championship, Hamilton was once again F1’s standout driver.
And while on paper it looked as dominant a season as any other, the truth was a little more complex, as while his car was not always car the best on any given race weekend, his own excellence was a constant.
If there’s any knock against him, it’s that 2019 was his worst qualifying performance since his first year at Mercedes in 2013, but the flip-side is that he was particularly exceptional on Sundays — even if it was often accompanied by radio messages that made it seem the sky was falling in.
In any case, congratulations to Lewis, on another remarkable, historic season.
There have been pretenders to the throne and occasionally Lewis was dethroned. But in the end record books will show that the Mercedes driver owned the second decade of the 21st century in Formula 1.
He started the season by hammering Valtteri Bottas 2.0 back to Bottas Beta, the Finn no match for the Briton. With that matter sorted, Lewis went on to win the championship in the first 12 races of the season by claiming eight victories in that period to end the contest by early August!
Thereafter big kudos for even remaining interested and going on to claim another trio of wins when the title fight was dead.
In a Ferrari, he might have even won the championship for them. He is the best driver of this generation and he ain’t finished. Enough said. (Paul Velasco)
Taking their sixth-straight Formula 1 World Championship double in 2019, it should come as no surprise that the team of the year is Mercedes.
Even if their car might not have been quite as strong as some of the previous ones, the Silver Arrows made up for any deficiencies with a level of execution their rivals could only dream of.
Finishing 235 points ahead of closest rivals Ferrari, they made what could have been a difficult season into an easy one, with not just Lewis Hamilton, but the pit wall, pit crew, and perhaps most notably, an improved Valtteri Bottas all doing their part.
In short, it was an outfit that truly embodied the “team” aspect of a sport where it can often go unnoticed.
While many resent the domination of Mercedes, I am going to put it out there that this Mercedes team led by Toto Wolff and Lewis Hamilton is the greatest Formula 1 team ever.
No team has ever had such a stranglehold on the big F1 silverware as this era’s Silver Arrows has had. The records speak for themselves.
While the figureheads have been Niki Lauda, Toto and Lewis, this is a huge team (the biggest in the history of the sport?) where every member plays a role with huge passion to deliver unrivalled results. From the media side led by Bradley Lord through to the tech boys led by James Allison to Valtteri Bottas as the world’s best wingman, you cannot fault this outfit – it is as close to perfection as any sports team can reach.
The only question is whether any team/driver can stop them from making it 14 from 7 next year? I say no, and bet money they clean-up again next year… (Paul Velasco)
An award that often is often easy to decide, in 2019, Rookie of the Year was one of the hardest, but in the end, we decided to go with Lando Norris.
Really you can’t go wrong with either George Russell or Alexander Albon, but for us, Norris edges it on account of his year-long performance and ability to out-pace a highly regarded teammate in Carlos Sainz, who he beat in the qualifying head-to-head 11-10.
An exceptionally high-achieving junior, Norris had a lot of expectation riding on his shoulders coming into the season, and yet even for a former F2 runner-up and F3 champion, he was remarkably quick to find his footing, taking P6 in just his second F1 race in Bahrain, and continued to pick up useful points throughout the season as McLaren went on to finish as midfield “champions”.
Indeed, it seems that after several failed attempts to find their “driver of the future”, in Norris, the Woking outfit might finally have their man.
I lost an arm-wrestle with Ben and I conceded that Lando deserves the accolade – I gave it a tie with Alex Albon up there side-by-side with the young McLaren driver.
But in the end, Lando has to take it simply because he made Carlos Sainz sweat in the sister McLaren in a manner that Albon never came close to doing with Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen.
Lando ticked all the boxes, but perhaps most of all he won the hearts and minds across the age spectrum with a wicked sense of humour, game for anything fun and a very fast driver.
He is admired and enjoyed by old and young fans alike suggesting he is going to be around for a long time. And that’s only good for F1. (Paul Velasco)
A villain more in a cartoon sense than a real one, no one wore the black hat during the 2019 Formula 1 season quite like Rich Energy founder William Storey.
The owner of an energy drinks company with no energy drinks, his 2018 title sponsor agreement with Haas had always been a target for derision, but few could have predicted it would unravel so quickly, nor so spectacularly.
Making frequent use of every madman’s favourite soapbox, Twitter, Storey started taking shots at anyone and everybody as his company fell to pieces. A frequent source of jokes and derision, he seemed only too willing to provide more ammunition.
Unsurprisingly the Haas deal went with it, with the American outfit brought into the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Amidst a difficult year for the team, it was the last thing Guenther Steiner’s men needed, and even now they still haven’t been able to replace that source of income. Here’s hoping they can bounce back in 2020, and F1 as a whole can move on from this laughing stock.
I must admit I was (and still am) a ZZ Top fan since the days when La Grange used to get clubs pumping but, honestly at the same, I always found their image with the long beards hard to take seriously.
So when the purveyor of invisible energy drinks William Storey hit the Formula 1 scene, it was immediately hard for me to take him seriously.
I know it’s politically incorrect judging a book by its cover, but this instance I was spot on and this website duly reported all the shenanigans – the Whyte Bikes logo copy, finding Rich Energy cans, the court case, the judge’s findings and the eventual (inevitable) collapse of the pathetic pantomime of ridiculous that it became.
Questions still remain: What was the end game of this whole fiasco? What were Haas thinking? But in the end, do they really need answering unless of course our Villain of the Year somehow bounces back onto the scene… (Paul Velasco)
A year with more than its fair share of classic races, in the end, it was hard to look past the wet weather chaos that took place at Hockenheim during the 2019 German Grand Prix.
Won by Max Verstappen in an afternoon of thrills and plenty of spills, the treacherous conditions provided constant twists and turns, with no less than eight drivers being caught-out at one point or another.
In so doing, such names as Lance Stroll, Nico Hulkenberg and Alex Albon all were in podium contention, but in the end, Verstappen was joined by Sebastian Vettel (who started last) and Pierre Gasly, the latter’s first since the 2016 Chinese Grand Prix.
Although Brazil was also a cracker of a Grand Prix, the German Grand Prix was that little bit more dramatic to take the best race as seen by us in a year with some interesting and intriguing races.
The intro of that race report sums it up aptly: “Where to start!? The German Grand Prix of 2019 might be the last for some years, but it will definitely go down as one of the most exciting races ever witnessed at the venue – perhaps in Formula 1 history – as Max Verstappen triumphed in crazy conditions that took its toll on the best of the best.
“The Dutchman emerged from an incident-packed thriller, to claim victory, while all around him lost their collective heads. He recovered from a tardy front row start which saw him gobbled up and in the wars for most of the frantic early stages of the race, including a spin!
“Mercedes were celebrating 120 years of motorsport this weekend and what a nightmare that turned into as both their drivers crashed, Lewis Hamilton managed to continue but was last of the runners and penalised five seconds for his post-crash pit entry, while Bottas pranged heavily exiting Turn 1 late in the race with a podium on the cards.
“A weekend to forget for the German team celebrating their 200th Formula 1 race.” (Paul Velasco)
Now six years removed from his lone season with McLaren, it’s safe to say Sergio Perez’s star is not sitting quite as high as it once was, but that said, the shine certainly hasn’t come off his skills as a racing driver.
Now a veteran of the grid with nine seasons under his belt, the Mexican continues to go about his business, once again delivering the goods in 2019 with a 10th place finish in the driver’s championship for Racing Point.
His 52 points just two behind the Renault of Daniel Ricciardo, Perez more than held his own against both more highly-regarded drivers and highly-regarded cars, outscoring Lando Norris’ McLaren, Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo, Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso, and also more than doubling the 21 points managed by his teammate, Lance Stroll.
And yet, unlike in 2018 (where he feuded with Esteban Ocon), he hardly featured in the headlines. With his continued results that shouldn’t be the case, and here’s hoping he’s at least considered for some of the bigger-name seats on offer in the 2020 driver market.
Sergio Perez should have been a Ferrari driver before his ill-fated year with McLaren. At the time the Mexican was doing special things with Sauber. But the move to Woking almost destroyed his career. It certainly impacted his career thereafter as he was confined to the Rest as opposed to a Top Three team.
Personally I believe Sergio is past his peak but remains a solid driver delivering when times are tough and the ace of tyre conservation and the like. While the Racing Point team owners son struggled with the golden spoon his father bought for him, his older teammate took the shit car by the scruff and delivered what he could.
In the end, he was tenth in the 2019 F1 World Championship, fourth among the Best of the Rest which hardly does him justice, suffice to say he ended the season with more than double the points of young Lance Stroll in the other pink car.
I will go out on a limb and say that Sergio deserves a crack at a proper big team, not McLaren’s crumbling mayhem of the time, and ask the question: In a Ferrari, would Perez have done a better job than Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari? I say yes. (Paul Velasco)
Formula 1 would like Lewis Hamilton to race ‘forever’, but is also excited by the challenge he faces from young drivers, according to chairman and CEO Chase Carey.
Hamilton wrapped up a sixth drivers’ championship in 2019, leaving him just one short of Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of seven. Hamilton is also just seven short of the German’s win record, and Carey said while the reigning champion is a huge asset to F1 as a superstar who transcends the sport, he also sees exciting potential in the younger generation such as Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc who are now fighting against him.
“But this year in particular, we’ve got an incredible array of young talent. Certainly I don’t have the tenure Jean (Todt, FIA president) and others do, but the breadth and depth of the talent coming into the sport… As Max has been racing a few years we forget how young he is, but whether it’s Max, Charles, Lando (Norris), we have an incredible future for those drivers, and I hope they get a chance to battle for Lewis.”
Carey also believes that the new FIA ladder that creates a clear path through Formula 3 and Formula 2 to F1 will further help to promote young talent.
“It’s why we work so hard to create a proper pyramid for Formula 3 and Formula 2. When we came in there was GP2, Formula 3, GP3 – we had sort of fragmented, not well coordinated races feeding into Formula 1.
“We tried to create a proper pyramid. We want to try and strengthen that pyramid and make sure it provides opportunity for drivers to emerge, become champions and continue to compete, but [also] for young drivers to get into it. I can’t think of a year that has a more exciting breadth and depth of young drivers coming into this sport.”
In Brazil, where he finished 8th, his post-race radio message in which he admitted to having been “fuc***g slow” was a typical case of his self-criticism and candor.
“I’m always quite hard on myself,” Norris told Top Gear.
“I hate when people tell me I’ve done a good job when I know I haven’t or maybe even they know I haven’t, but they want to be nice and cheer me up. I’m just realistic,
“I know that if I’ve not done a good enough job then I’m just not very happy with myself.
“For my own benefit, to make me a better driver going into the future, that’s my best way of improvement if I’m being harsh on myself when I’ve needed to do better.
“So it makes me work harder, makes me work with the team better and hopefully do a better job next time qualifying or the race comes around.”
Norris also endured his fair share of bad luck in 2019, when big points were lost to circumstances or reliability issues, like in Belgium when an engine failure deprived him of a remarkable fifth place finish.
But the McLaren charger knows he can’t carry a disappointment into the next race, let alone into the next season.
“The first few I kind of didn’t get so annoyed about and then I had Paul Ricard, Canada and Spa. Then I got a bit more annoyed because it was happening a bit more regularly,” Norris said.
“I had a couple more and it kind of got to the point where I was realising more it was nothing I could change or effect, or even the people around me. It wasn’t our fault. It’s things that happen and mistakes that are made.
“Those few I was quite easily able to forgive but the next lot were then frustrating because with Spa it was [going to be] my best result and then going into Mexico with the pit stop, it was like this happens and I need to move on because there’s nothing I can do.
“When I look back it has affected a lot of things and points in the championship but a lot of it, not all of it, but a lot of it has been things out of my control and things I cannot change,” he added.
“That’s just something I need to forget and go into next year, something I don’t need to be thinking about.”
Marcus Ericsson is expecting to retain a role with Alfa Romeo Racing in F1 next season, but the Swede’s main focus will be on his IndyCar commitment with Chip Ganassi Racing.
Ericsson raced for Sauber/Alfa Romeo between 2015 and 2018 before exiling himself to the US where he took up a full-time IndyCar seat with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsport, achieving a podium finish at Belle Isle in Detroit.
Following ASP’s alliance with McLaren, Ericsson will transfer to Chip Ganassi’s outfit for 2020 where he will race alongside five-tine IndyCar champion Scott Dixon.
However, the 29-year-old will be keeping a helmet bag and a set of overalls at Hinwil, just in case.
“I have a long relationship with Alfa Romeo and Sauber and I’m pretty sure I will have some role there, but then I’ve also said that I really want to focus 100 per cent on this Indy season,” Ericsson told Sweden’s Expressen.
“The priority is not to be a reserve driver in Formula 1, the priority is Indycar.
“But I don’t want to say too much about it’s complicated, with different things to take into account. We’ll see in the future what Alfa Romeo and even Ganassi want.”
Ericsson found himself in F1’s headlines earlier this year when he was touted by the media as Kimi Raikkonen’s replacement at Spa, when the Finn’s participation in the Belgian Grand Prix was uncertain because of a minor injury.
Ericsson ultimately remained on the sidelines in Belgium but his presence had forced him to miss an IndyCar round in Portland.
“Everything happened very quickly,” he remembered. “In the US they noticed that I would not be driving [at Portland] and therefore assumed that I would be racing in F1.
“That’s the problem with social media today, if someone writes something it becomes like an explosion and then it goes everywhere.
“Alfa Romeo then came out and put the cards on the table, but it wasn’t optimal, it was a bit chaotic.”
An award that goes hand-in-hand with Car of the Year, the 2019 Formula 1 season seemed like it would be Ferrari’s best chance yet to snag their first championship in over a decade. Instead, it was another year to forget.
A tragicomedy largely of their own doing, this year saw the Scuderia put a foot wrong at almost every turn – and Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton were sure to make them pay the price for it.
Even setting aside their erratic car, you had the boneheaded strategy calls, ill-timed errors, and drivers butting-up against one another to ensure something always went wrong, and that meant a title fight that they should have at least been able to keep close, was instead never really in doubt.
Assuming they get their act together, they should be in with another chance at redemption in 2020, but if the Scuderia has shown us anything this decade – and particularly in 2019 – it’s that when it comes to making the right move, they simply can’t be trusted.
My best mate Joao is a die-hard Ferrari fan since forever! I never have been one so inevitably I relish in taking the piss when Ferrari mess up. Unlike the early 2000s when I had little to say, but of late I can’t keep my mouth shut. Roasting them is a real treat.
Alas like other tifosi – tired of coming second for so long – he has to shrug helplessly and agree.
I would like to say Ferrari shot themselves in the foot again this past season, but they are long out of feet. They are their own worst enemy.
This year with a very strong package they were again well below the expectations of, not only, their fans but also those who know how important it is to have the Scuderia up there battling for wins and titles on a regular basis again.
The disappointment starts with the big brass, John Elkann and Louis Camilleri whose laissez-faire attitude does their team principal Mattia Binotto no favours, as he steers the Reds on turbulent seas frothed up by the Italian media fed-up with watching their team fumble on such a regular basis. In Italy, headlines have been unkind to them all year long.
If there were races to lose, Ferrari lost them. If there were races to win, Ferrari didn’t win them. Strategy calls were all over the place and seldom spot-on; the fuel-fiasco made them look like amateurs while the driver casino (as Red Mist likes to put it) also did them no favours. The pair behaved like naughty schoolboys on-track, while off it, they carry on as if nothing is amiss when in fact it is all-out war. Head in the sand syndrome, springs to mind.
I am in the camp (if there is one) that predicts this feud will carry over to next season and get worse, setting the stage for another big disappointment which will further pain my mate and his fellow Reds, as they did this year on too many occasions. (Paul Velasco)
Honda has sought input from its trackside engineers and the mechanics working on both of its customer teams to help improve its operations next year.
As a supplier to Red Bull Racing and sister team Toro Rosso, the Japanese manufacturer made spectacular progress over the 2019 season, elevating the performance and reliability of its power unit to levels comparable with those of its Ferrari and Mercedes rivals.
However, ramping up its supply deal in F1 from one team to two required the deployment of additional resources and operational changes.
While Toro Rosso served as a veritable development laboratory for Red Bull in 2018, allowing the Milton Keynes-based outfit to deliver three wins to itself and Honda this season, Tanabe-san insists that both are now treated equally in terms of engine development and allocated resources.
“We support the two teams equally – engine specification, the number of engineers and mechanics, the scale, all equal,” he said.
“When we started this year, we mixed the people [from 2018] and then brought extra support to make the same [level in both teams].
“We’ll keep the same style, for next year and always.”
The Formula 1 community may stretch far across the globe, but it can also be a tight-knit bunch akin to family, and that makes any death tough to stomach. Unfortunately, 2019 had three of them.
Charlie Whiting, Niki Lauda, Anthoine Hubert. Three very different figures in the motorsport world, all gone too soon.
First it was Whiting, who at 66, fell victim to a pulmonary embolism just days before the first race in Australia. F1’s race director, he had made the near-impossible job of refereeing the sport his own, and even after a full season of Grands Prix, it feels strange to race without him.
Then in May, the remarkable story of Lauda came to an end aged 70, nearly 43 years after his infamous crash at the Nurburgring. Whether as a driver, personality or executive, there was no one quite like him, and he will be forever remembered as a titan of the sport.
Lastly, there was Hubert. The 2018 GP3 champion, the 22-year-old Frenchman was killed in a collision with Juan Manuel Correa during the Formula 2 feature race on Saturday of the Belgian Grand Prix weekend. His life cut far too short in a day and age where motorsport in safer than ever, his death was a stark reminder of the risks still present.
Niki Lauda and Charlie Whiting have been ‘in my life’ since I started following this sport in the early seventies. Niki much more prominent but Charlie always there in the background making the big calls. More permanent than most things in my life.
I also had the privilege of meeting both, more than once, during my tenure at Dubai Autodrome as Comms Manager albeit far too brief.
Charlie’s passing in Melbourne came out of the blue and really floored out community and he has left a formidable gap in the paddock and especially those who worked close to him. It would have been interesting to see how Charlie would have handled some of the more contentious incidents during the course of a season packed with them.
One could argue that Niki was lucky to have had two lives. The incredible tale of the 1976 F1 season is fundamental to his incredible legacy. He defied death went on to live another four decades. Eventually, Nurburgring took its toll and after the lung transplants his fall from health was swift and the inevitable expected, but when it came it was big in emotional impact and his parting left a void in many lives.
Arguably, cruellest of all was how Anthoine Hubert was robbed of life in horrific circumstances during the Formula 2 Feature race at Spa-Francorchamps. It was a wake-up call, on the world stage, for anyone who thought this sport is too safe. It is not.
The only light from that weekend was the fact that Juan Manuel Correa and Giuliano Alesi did not also perish on that horrible Saturday. (Paul Velasco)
Formula 1 teams tend to go into lockdown during the winter months. With no races or testing taking place, teams retreat to their factories, where they are flat-out preparing for the next season behind closed doors.
While we might not see the work that is going on at each respective headquarters, it is still a busy time as the groundwork is set for the coming year. Teams will have internal targets for car builds and performance gains, and external ones in terms of overall position.
So as almost all of those involved in F1 prepare for at least a few days off over the holiday period, it’s a good time to look at where each team finds itself during this off-season.
Last week, we started from the back of the grid and covered the teams from Williams up to Toro Rosso. If you missed that one, check the link below. And now, we’ll close it out with Renault through to Mercedes.
WHERE IT STANDS: Close to the doors of the last chance saloon. Renault has talked a good game since returning to F1, outlining its recovery plan for a Lotus team that had bailiffs in its garage before the French constructor took it over. Once it had completed its restructuring and invested in facilities and personnel, the arrival of Daniel Ricciardo off the back of a fourth-place constructors’ championship finish in 2018 coincided with bold statements that the team was ready to pull clear of the midfield.
That clearly didn’t happen, as McLaren – the only other team with a Renault power unit – humbled the works team, and Renault only just held off Toro Rosso for fifth place. Scapegoats continue to be found when Nick Chester left at the end of the season, but Pat Fry’s return is a very sensible move for a team that had shown signs of real progress 12 months ago.
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: Convincing the board it will eventually be successful. Amid scandal at the top for the car manufacturer, the F1 project has hardly been full of triumphs and is an expensive undertaking that will be under almost constant review. Ricciardo was a great acquisition but came at a high price, and it won’t be value for money if the team can’t deliver a good enough car.
2021 stands out as a big opportunity, but if Renault doesn’t make a significant step forward in 2020 it might not get the chance to take advantage of the new-look F1. So far, the return on investment has been lacking.
Could one more vaguely lackluster campaign in 2020 prompt the sun to set on Renault’s enthusiasm for its F1 program? Image by Dunbar/LAT
REALISTIC TARGET: Beating McLaren. Renault might need even more than that to secure a longer-term future in the sport, but the gap to the top three is far too big to be a target for next season. McLaren is the only other team with a Renault power unit, and the other engine manufacturers that have factory teams – Mercedes and Ferrari – have no problem beating their customers.
Regardless of what any other midfield team does, beating McLaren would show Renault has the required ability within its chassis department.
WHERE IT STANDS: With good headaches. McLaren delivered one of the most impressive team performances of the season given where it had been over the previous four years, and was consistently best of the rest. With a young driver line-up, dynamic new team principal and fresh structure, all of the ingredients are in place for more success.
Now it has to work out what its real goals are. Work started on a new car early because the facilities and budget still mean McLaren should be closer to the front than it has been, and 2020 will be the first full season for both Andreas Seidl and James Key, so further progress should be expected. But it is still a long way from troubling the top three.
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: Sacrificing 2020. The team was willing to risk fourth in the constructors’ championship in order to put more resource into next year’s car, and it will hope that pays off with another step forward. It was a calculated risk, because McLaren will not want to give up the momentum it has created, but similarly has higher ambitions than finishing fourth.
All teams start their seasons with vague promises about ‘taking a step forward’, but in 2019, McLaren actually managed to do it. Image by Mauger/LAT
Regardless, though, its focus really needs to be on 2021. As best of the rest right now, McLaren is the strongest candidate to upset the order of the top three teams when the new regulations come in, and should operate at the budget cap too. There’s a lot of positivity around the team that will be hard to give up, but it should seriously consider throwing everything it has at the season after next.
REALISTIC TARGET: Repeating 2019. The drivers should only get stronger, but the gap to the top three teams is basically insurmountable over one winter with stable regulations. There’s a lot McLaren can still learn, but it really is not worth halving the gap to the top three next year if it comes at any expense to the next era of F1. Not slipping from its current position and allocating resources wisely would be a success.
A man who has presided over the most successful winning run in the history of the sport, Toto Wolff was a headline-grabber unto himself in 2019.
While unlike previous winners — including his good friend, the late Niki Lauda — there was no individual story for which the Mercedes boss won this award, Wolff is a deserving recipient for the sheer depth and breadth of his contribution to the news-cycle throughout the year.
Indeed, if there’s anyone who best fits the “statesman” role of F1, it’s probably Wolff — so much so that his name has even been linked to a job with F1’s owners, Liberty Media.
Whether anything comes of those rumours — or the ones about a possible switch to Ferrari — we can only wait and see, but in any case he is your 2019 Newsmaker of the Year.
Toto Wolff is the puppetmaster in Formula 1 by virtue of the fact that he has built the most potent team in the sport’s history. Along with Niki Lauda, they began this journey almost a decade ago and, from almost scratch – which Brawn GP was before they took over – they monstered the new hybrid turbo technology, leaving their rivals in their wake.
I have always believed that Mercedes have lots of dormant ammo that Wolff (and his team) can dial in when required, and if they are missing anything they can then count on Lewis Hamilton to step up and hit it out the park.
Thus by having easily the best package on the grid for the past half dozen years, supplying those amazing engines to minnows who for some reason cannot get near them and managing several drivers makes Wolff peerless in power.
Hamilton is good for the team and they also owe him, but the truth is even Nikita Mazepin could be fastest of all in the Silver Arrow. And there might have been a message to all and sundry when Toto plonked the unimpressive Russian journeyman and allowed him to beat everyone on that day of testing Bahrain earlier in the year.
Needless to say, every driver has Toto on speed-dial, he also has a huge influence in the way the future the sport may go. Hey, he might even become the uber-boss when Chase Carey departs, or he is heading to Ferrari with Lewis or might he just stay put with Mercedes and carry on setting new records.
In the end, Wolff hogged headlines in 2019 in a manner he would never have done had his team been toiling at the wrong end of the grid. The more his team wins the more powerful he has become and the headlines have duly followed. (Paul Velasco)
You may be thinking: how did a car that lost the 2019 Formula 1 World Championship by 235 points win this award? And you’d be right to do so.
But here’s the thing: this is no honour, but it is us recognising that no car defined the championship more than the SF90.
Possibly the most erratic car of the decade, it seemed like the clear-cut best package on the grid after testing. Then the season started and it was all over the place. In Bahrain, it was mere laps from winning when an engine cylinder failed. A few weeks later in Barcelona, it was losing four-tenths to the Mercedes W10 in the slow corners of the final sector. It nearly won in Canada and Austria.
It was a minute off the lead in Hungary. It dominated on the power tracks of Spa and Monza… And then did the same on the twisty confines of Singapore. Scored a front-row lockout at Suzuka. Finished the season an afterthought in Abu Dhabi. It was simply one prancing horse the Scuderia was unable to tame.
I will throw it out there for argument’s sake that Lewis Hamilton in a Ferrari would have been World Champion. They really had their best chance this year but they grossly miscalculated the advantage they thought they had after typically stellar preseason testing early in the year.
They were ambushed by Mercedes who hit the ground running early on in the season, caught Ferrari flatfooted and by the time the championship was going into recess the title race was done. But not because the SF90 was bad, but rather the team failed to maximise the advantage they had, or their drivers tripped up.
On song, fully dialled up the Ferrari SF90 was a formidable piece of kit, title-winning for sure in what was an unusual case of the car being let down by the team.
Over half a decade removed from Formula 1 title contention, McLaren finally took a step towards regaining its former place of prominence in 2019, and it was no small step, either.
Having ended their ill-fated partnership with Honda at the close of the 2018 season, the Woking outfit entered the year with a Renault engine supply and a swath of question marks, but ended it the undisputed “best of the rest” with a team that was firing on all cylinders.
Courtesy of the chassis supplied by Pat Fry and Peter Podromou, and the all-new driver partnership of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz, they managed to outscore the works Renault by 54 points, being regular top-ten finishers and even earning a podium at the penultimate race in Brazil – the team’s first since the 2014 Australian Grand Prix. Scoring only 62 points a year ago, they finished with just over double that tally, on 145.
Between those accomplishments and their agreement to return to a Mercedes engine supply in 2021, McLaren managed to give their supporters hope again, and that’s why they are our surprise of the year for 2019.
Credit to Zak Brown and the leadership at McLaren, particularly new F1 team boss Andreas Seidl for a renaissance at Woking which resulted in the once mightiest team finally showing some promise after years in the doldrums.
Seidl identified ‘stone in the shoe’ within the team – Fernando Alonso – and marginalised him and allowed his two young drivers to flourish in their first year with the team.
Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris were both impressive, the Spaniard relishing his role in the team alongside a very promising youngster who is as precocious as likeable – incredibly fast too.
The pair transitioned the outfit from Team-Alonso back to McLaren where the team took center stage over personalities and the results prove it was a good call.
As a long-time McLaren fan, I cannot say I am overwhelmed by the showing, we expect no less but at least it is a step in the right direction but, in truth, they will never be the power they once were unless they align themselves with a manufacturer.
But at least this year they were Best of the Rest, and that’s a good start to their long-overdue recovery. (Paul Velasco)
Haas boss Guenther Steiner has absolved both Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen from any responsibility regarding the team’s poor campaign in 2019.
A pre-season favourite to lead the midfield chase this year, Haas’ drivers struggled from the outset as they battled their VF-19’s chronic aero and tyre issues, a familiar theme for the US outfit unfortunately.
Strong performances in qualifying were inexplicably followed by dismal Sundays, leaving everyone scratching their head, mystified by the VF-19’s seemingly incurable set-up troubles.
In Abu Dhabi, after F1’s season finale, Steiner took stock of his team’s disappointing year, and admitted that Grosjean and Magnussen weren’t a factor in the outfit’s painful underperformance.
“I think in no way can I attribute our not-so-good season to them, and therefore we stay with the same driver pairing,” said Steiner.
“I think we need to be honest and say they couldn’t have done better with the car.
“You always can do better when you’re not running into each other, but they just tried too hard at some stage.
“I don’t think I can jump to a conclusion that they didn’t do a good job this year.”
As usual, adversity breeds character and resilience, and Steiner hopes his team and its drivers will take on board in 2020 a few good lessons learnt from this year.
“I think for them [the drivers] it was as well an eye-opener, because at the beginning of the season, the car was looking good, they were both very positive about the car, and then it didn’t pan out like it looked like,” Steiner added.
“We ended up in a few situations where we maybe tried too hard as a team, as drivers, everyone just tried too hard to force the result that wasn’t there, because the car wasn’t there, and everyone was focusing on how can we get the car better.
“That’s maybe what we learned of this as well, to focus on the right thing.”
Not the first – or the last – time Sebastian Vettel made a glaring mistake in his career, none made waves quite like this one.
The error that launched a thousand comments, Vettel’s lap 48 off at turn three, near-miss with Lewis Hamilton in rejoining the track, and subsequent five-second penalty which demoted the German from the lead was the story that kept on giving.
For the days and weeks afterwards, it was really all anyone could talk about, which was understandable given there was so much to dissect. You had not just the discussion of whether the penalty was warranted, but Vettel’s reaction (who can forget him switching the place markers?)
Ferrari’s reaction (lodging a protest with “new evidence” which turned out to be just Karun Chandhok’s analysis on the SkyPad) and also, how the incident fit into the wider catalogue of Vettel cock-ups and his place as the Scuderia’s number one driver.
Normally in the two-week break between races such as this one and the next at Paul Ricard, the F1 news cycle tends to be desperate for anything new by the second half of the fortnight, but with this the flames continued to burn all the way through, and indeed, as the four flags at Maranello will attest, the Scuderia is still smouldering.
Canada was another error by Vettel which have become increasingly frequent in recent years, and particularly this season. Apart from his tantrum-meltdown live on TV it also, for me, marked the end of his reign as the ‘numero uno’ at Maranello with Charles Leclerc in the ascendancy.
In fact, the race in Montreal mirrored his year: he had the car, he had the pace but too many mistakes. And these are now exposed by the guy in the sister car who is delivering for the Reds.
Vettel was left wanting, on that day he swapped the numbers in front of the cars, suggesting he was the winner – but in fact, he was the biggest loser on that day – ditto his entire season and with it, he gave us a story that hasn’t stopped giving. (Paul Velasco)
Mercedes engine boss Andy Cowell says the muffled and less aggressive sound of F1’s hybrid engines has encouraged families to attend Grand Prix weekends.
Formula 1’s engines have seen incredible advancements in terms of energy efficiency since the advent of the hybrid era in 2014.
But for all the technological prowess achieved by the sport’s power unit engineers, one area in which the engines have failed in the ears of the fans is sound.
The low-key strangled melody of today’s F1 engine is a far cry – pun intended – from the screaming, earth-shattering, soul-stirring, high-revving pitch of the V10s and V8s from the previous decade or the nineties.
But Cowell – the man who supplies the power to Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas cars from Mercedes’ HPP factory in Brixworth – believes F1’s typical hybrid engine sound has had a positive impact on race attendance figures.
“In 2014, none of our engines were particularly well tuned, we were running a light-weight exhaust system, and so not equal length primaries,” said Cowell, speaking in a Motorsport magazine podcast.
“I think now everybody’s got a very well tuned engine, all the lengths are a nice equal size, and I think the sound is pleasant, the volume isn’t high, but it’s still pretty noisy.
“Now all the other supporting championships have got turbocharged engines, and they all sound fairly similar. I think we’re seeing more families go to the circuit.
“Previously, with the screaming V8s and the screaming V10s, there was no way a child would go anywhere near a circuit. You wouldn’t inflict that on your child.
“There are lots of us that have got damaged hearing from working in the industry in that time, so therefore I think it’s a good progression.”
“At the moment there are no performance freezes in the power unit world,” explained Cowell.
“We’ve just completed our sixth championship, and with 18 months of development before we went racing and six years it’s a long time for the engineers to optimize. So the gains end up smaller, but you end up looking in more areas.
“You start looking in areas where you assumed there wouldn’t be a gain and often because you’ve not gone hunting there before, you do find reasonably-sized gains.
“With every update the power gets better in terms of power and reliability.”
Ferrari gave Charles Leclerc a very special Christmas present on Monday, announcing a contract extension that will take him through to the end of the 2024 season.
A five-year deal after just one season with the team – and two total in Formula 1 – is, on the face of it, a huge show of faith that cements one of the vacant seats ahead of what is expected to be an engrossing 2021 driver market.
In reality though, it is a big statement that changes very little.
So it was clear that Ferrari was going to retain Leclerc. A proven race-winner at the tender age of 22, he is as safe a long-term bet for the team as one could find. Five years seems like a remarkably long time, but Ferrari handed an extension of similar length to Fernando Alonso in 2011, also after the Spaniard had just completed his first season with the Scuderia.
Alonso will have been much more expensive than Leclerc, but he didn’t see out his contract. If a relationship breaks down or a driver stops performing, there are always escape routes…
Therefore you might expect the announcement to be less about Leclerc and more about Vettel, who has done little over the past few seasons to convince Ferrari that he is the driver to deliver a championship to Maranello. But the way the past year panned out, Leclerc is the only young prospect Ferrari could ever commit to. Max Verstappen burned bridges by accusing the Italian team of cheating, and a handful of other possible candidates are all solidly under contract.
Will this pairing survive beyond 2020? Image by Mark Sutton / Sutton Images
With Leclerc confirmed, Vettel now knows what the future looks like at Ferrari. Either he raises his game to beat Leclerc next year and earn a new contract, or, at the very least, he plays his part in ensuring a more harmonious partnership than the one that ignited on a couple of occasions this season. The latter would also strengthen his chances of staying with the team, so on that front, Ferrari has put the ball in Vettel’s court.
Recent weeks have also brought rumors linking Lewis Hamilton with a move to Maranello, and if anything, Leclerc’s new deal makes such a switch even more likely. Hamilton would know who his teammate would be, and Ferrari would have stability on one side as well as a long-term prospect to go far beyond what would likely be the final few years of Hamilton’s F1 career.
It was never a case of Hamilton and Vettel being a future Ferrari partnership, but Leclerc and Vettel or Leclerc and Hamilton are the top two options.
By locking in Leclerc for the next five years, Ferrari has tied up a loose end that now allows the team to focus on who he should be paired with. It also ensures Leclerc’s commitment through a transitional period in F1.
It’s a bit like musical chairs. The music has stopped; the first – obvious – seat has been taken away; and now the fun can really start.
Ferrari has signed Charles Leclerc to a new five-year contract that will keep him at Maranello until the end of the 2024 season.
Leclerc was promoted to replace of Kimi Raikkonen and partner Sebastian Vettel after just one year racing in Formula 1 with Sauber, and duly impressed. The 22-year-old recorded seven pole positions – the most of any driver in 2019 – and picked up victories in Belgium and Italy as he finished fourth in the drivers’ championship ahead of his vastly more experienced teammate.
After joining the Ferrari Driver Academy in 2016, Leclerc’s rise has been rapid, and his first season racing for the Italian team was a special one, he admitted.
“I am very happy to be staying on with Scuderia Ferrari,” Leclerc said. “This past season, driving for the most illustrious team in Formula 1 has been a dream year for me.
“I cannot wait to enjoy an even deeper relationship with the team after what was an intense and exciting 2019. I’m keen to see what the future holds, and I can’t wait to get going again next season.”
“With each passing race this year, our wish to extend our contract with Charles became ever more self-evident, and the decision means he will now be with us for the next five seasons,” Binotto said. “It demonstrates that Charles and the Scuderia have a firm future together.
“Charles has been part of our family since 2016 and we are more than proud of the results we are achieving with our Academy. We are therefore very pleased to be able to announce that he will be with us for many years to come and I’m sure that together, we will write many new pages in the history of the Prancing Horse.”
Confirmation of Leclerc’s new deal leaves only Vettel’s future uncertain with the Scuderia. The German’s contract expires at the end of the 2020 season, and Lewis Hamilton has been linked with a move.
Alfa Romeo team boss Frédéric Vasseur has dismissed awarding any testing mileage to Mick Schumacher in 2020.
As a member of Ferrari’s Driver Academy, Schumacher was given F1 seat time earlier this year in Bahrain, both with the Scuderia and with Alfa Romeo.
While the Hinwil-based squad remains affiliated with the House of Maranello and the most probable entry point for Schumacher in F1 after his second campaign in Formula 2 in 2020, Vasseur insists there will be no track time allocated to the young German next season.
“There will be no additional tests next year,” Vasseur told Blick’s Roger Benoit.
“First of all, Mick has to win Formula 2 or perform well but that is incredibly difficult given the conditions and the pressure.
“We are following his path and progress,” along with Ferrari.
Alfa has retained both Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi for 2020. But there were initially doubts about the latter’s fate because of his late confirmation, a delay which kept Giovinazzi on his toes.
“Ten years ago, the teams wanted to announce their drivers in February,” said Vasseur.
“We were never in a hurry, so we were able to keep up the pressure on the team and on Antonio.”