Vettel applauds Leclerc’s ‘very good’ qualy job

Sebastian Vettel believes Charles Leclerc has done a “very good job in qualifying” this season with his new Ferrari team-mate winning the head-to-head.

Not only did Leclerc become the first Ferrari driver since Michael Schumcher to take four successive pole positions, P1 from Belgium to Russia, he also beat Vettel in their first season together.

Of the 17 qualifying session in which both set times, he out-qualified the German 10 – 7.

“First of all Charles has done a very good job in qualifying,” Vettel said to RaceFans.net.

“I don’t think it’s right sitting here and not mentioning that, so that needs to be appreciated.”

Vettel, though, acknowledges that there were Saturdays in which he could have done a better job.

“Here and there certainly I didn’t have great sessions in qualifying,” he said.

“Things maybe didn’t come together the way I would have liked.

“Here and there I think I missed out on qualifying for different reasons.

“But, overall, I can’t be happy with how qualifying was this year.

“Certainly the goal is for the final races to make sure we have a good Saturday.”

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Williams: Arrogant not to question myself

While there have been moments Claire Williams has thought of quitting, she says she doesn’t want to be accused of being the person who brought Williams to the ground.

Williams are currently in the midst of their worst slump ever in Formula 1.

The team finished last in 2018, bagging seven points, however, this year it is even more dire with just one point from 19 grands prix.

Although Williams have tried to highlight even the smallest of improvements, those have been few and far between leaving one to wonder what 2020 will bring.

It has also raised questions about Williams’ position as deputy team boss with team owner Frank Williams’ daughter admitting she has had moments of wanting to throw in the towel.

“Yeah, of course I have,” she admitted to Yahoo Sport.

“Anyone that doesn’t have those moments of self-reflection and introspection should be accused of being totally arrogant.

“The situation has been horrifically challenging and very difficult but I’m always motivated by the people we have in this team, and they’ve never shown any signs of giving up, so I wasn’t going to either.

“And what would it look like if I gave up?

“I wasn’t prepared to give up because I would only be accused of being the daughter that brought her dad’s iconic team down to the ground, and there was no way I was going to have that resting on my back for the rest of my life.”

The team’s poor performances have led some – most notably Jacques Villeneuve – to state that Williams is not the right person for the job.

She, however, insists she still has the full support of her father.

“He’s given me this responsibility to look after the team, and in every conversation I’ve had with him, he’s fully supportive,” she said.

“He knows how tough this business is, one that is a whole lot tougher in this day and age, with social media and people calling you an a***hole left, right and centre. That just makes me dig my heels in more.

“When people turn around and say I should give it up, that just makes me fight even harder, and I’ve always been a firm believer that if you work hard, fight hard, then one day you will get your just rewards.”

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‘Ironic but 2020 could deliver a close fight’

With Red Bull and Ferrari battling Mercedes at different stages of this campaign, Christian Horner says 2020 could yet deliver the “closest” fight seen in years.

Although Mercedes won eight grands prix on the trot to kick off their title-winning campaign, Red Bull ended their run at the Austrian GP with Max Verstappen adding a second win two races later in Germany.

Ferrari joined the party after the summer break with the Scuderia winning three in a row before Mercedes were back up in P1 and wrapping up both championship titles.

Despite the Brackley squad winning both with races to spare, Horner has been encouraged by recent results.

As such he reckons 2020 could be a close fight, “ironic” given that the rules are changing for 2021 to promote just that.

“They have had such a period of dominance, and congratulations to Lewis Hamilton on a phenomenal achievement with his sixth World Championship,” he told Autosport.

“They are the benchmark and it feels like the grid is concertinaing a bit.

“Usually a regulation change spreads it apart.

“It might be ironic that 2020 might be the closest year we have, with a three-way battle, before everything changes for 2021.”

The Red Bull boss is full of praise for his team’s new engine partner, Honda, confident they are moving in the right direction.

“This year was always going to be a transitional year with a new engine partner,” he added.

“I have to say all compliments to Honda with all the progress they have made this year with performance.

“We have made good progress throughout the year, we have had a couple of wins, we have achieved a couple of poles although only started on pole once, and we have been contender to win a few races this year.

“In Monaco we were very competitive, Hungary as well, we were in a position potentially to win that race, and [in the United States] again we have been that competitive.

“So we are on the right trajectory. It is important that we carry the momentum into the winter and then into the beginning of next year.”

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‘Hamilton not best driver, but great ambassador’

Lewis Hamilton may not be the “best” driver according to Emerson Fittipaldi, but he is a “very important ambassador” for the sport.

Hamilton wrapped up his sixth Drivers’ Championship last time out at the United States Grand Prix.

That put him just one behind Michael Schumacher’s all-time record while he could beat also beat Schumacher’s race win record of 91 next season.

Fittipaldi, though, doesn’t believe the Mercedes driver is F1’s best.

“He is in the top league, don’t know if he is the best, but he is a very important ambassador of this sport,” he told Gazzetta dello Sport.

“Lewis is a character that can bring in more fans, even those not interested in F1 to this sport.

“An example? My daughter Vittoria is starting to follow F1 said ‘Dad I want to take a picture with Hamilton’.

“Lewis comes from a very simple family and has made himself thanks to his dedication.

“Einstein used to say ’20 percent is thanks of your talent, the rest is dedication and sacrifice’. For Hamliton it has been this way.”

The double World Champion also weighed in on the battle between Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc.

“They are two very good drivers, Seb is still very fast and Charles has a lot of talent.

“Their partnership at Ferrari can only do the team good as they push each other to improve.

“I think Ferrari have improved during the season for this very reason.

“And I see Ferrari being very fast in 2020. If they will keep the same advantage on the engine, I believe it will be very hard for Mercedes to beat them.”

As for Max Verstappen, Fittipaldi reckons he is the “most talented driver in F1 along with Leclerc.”

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Wolff calls ‘foul’ on fuel flow breaches

Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff says if any team had breached the FIA’s fuel flow regulations that would have been “foul play”.

With rivals questioning Ferrari’s power unit, the FIA issued a Technical Directive ahead of the United States Grand Prix that outlined the rules relating to fuel flow.

The FIA’s head of single-seater technical matters Nikolas Tombazis highlighted Article 5.10.5 which states that “any device, system or procedure the purpose and/or effect of which is to increase the flow rate or to store and recycle fuel after the measurement point is prohibited.”

The TD was followed by a drop-off in pace by Ferrari only throwing fuel on the fire as to whether they were operating outside the rules.

Team boss Mattia Binotto has insisted they weren’t, reportedly even going as far as to threatening legal action after Max Verstappen blatantly accused them of “cheating”.

However, Wolff says it would have amounted to cheating if any team had been found playing around with the fuel flow.

“If somebody was doing what the technical directive clarified, it would have been foul play,” he told Autosport.

“And the way the technical directive was formulated it was a severe breach of regulations, so there is not even any talk about any grey areas.”

That’s a sentiment echoed by Red Bull’s Christian Horner.

“The TD was very clear,” he said.

“I think that is not to say that anybody was doing anything, but if they were it would obviously be illegal.

“The power unit is an incredibly complex piece of machinery both from a hardware and software perspective, and the clarifications that we have requested were standard stuff that goes backwards and forwards continually between the teams and the FIA.

“So it is always good to get clarity before wasting effort.”

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Five things we want to see before 2019 concludes

Formula 1 will bid farewell to 2019 in less than a month but not every story line has been written…

A non-Mercedes/Ferrari/Red Bull driver on the podium in the dry

Last season Formula 1 saw a non-Mercedes/Ferrari/Red Bull driver finish on the podium when Sergio Perez brought his VJM11 home in third place at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

The year prior to that it was Lance Stroll in the Williams.

The year before that, Sergio Perez twice for Force India and Valtteri Bottas bagged one for Williams.

This year no one outside of Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull has stepped up onto the podium, at least not in the dry.

Daniil Kvyat managed it in the chaos that was the wet German Grand Prix, but that was more to do with survival than car performance.

Not taking anything away from the Toro Rosso driver but outside of that his best result has been a P7.

It is damning indictment of today’s Formula 1 that drivers, and there are a lot of great ones not with a top three team, cannot reach the podium.

Wouldn’t it be great to see Daniel Ricciardo, Carlos Sainz or Kimi Raikkonen spraying champagne before the season ends?

…specifically Nico Hulkenberg on the podium

Ten years after first lining up on a Formula 1 grid with Williams, Nico Hulkenberg has two grands prix remaining – unless something miraculous happens.

Dropped by Renault, he is without a race seat for next season with Alfa Romeo, his last hope, closing the door last week when they re-signed Antonio Giovinazzi.

That means Hulkenberg will reach 177 starts and then it will be game over.

Back in 2017 he took over a Formula 1 record from Adrian Sutil, a very unwanted one as the driver with the most starts without a podium.

He has since extended that record by almost 50 races.

There aren’t many around – the Renault fans, the Hulkenberg and even the neutrals – who would frown at him ending his F1 career with that elusive first podium.

Proper wheel-to-wheel Ferrari battle, no team orders

This season Ferrari adopted the team orders philosophy and declared Sebastian Vettel their number 1 “priority”.

That hasn’t worked too well for them with the German actually behind Leclerc in the standings and, barring disaster for the Monégasque driver, unlikely to catch him before the season concludes.

The two have been side-by-side on the track this season but that’s been because Ferrari’s team orders have allowed the one to overtake other.

What they have not had is a ding-dong battle.

Vettel is the four-time World Champion who has been stuck on four since 2013 and, at 32 years of age, is being chased by rumours of retirement.

Leclerc on the other hand is the young upstart, the future of not only Ferrari but also Formula 1.

He has spent the year downplaying the prospect of being named as Ferrari’s number one driver and, giving Vettel’s record compared to his, one could argue that he still has a lot to do to earn the position.

A wheel-to-wheel battle with no interference from the pit wall would go someway towards giving Leclerc a bit more of a say in the Ferrari strategy meetings. If he wins it of course.

George-Russell

George Russell score a point

It seems inconceivable that Robert Kubica is on the board and yet George Russell is not. Then again it seems inconceivable that Williams have just one point but, sadly for them, it is what it is.

All too often fighting for 19th place on the grid, Russell has bagged the only whitewash of this season when it comes to qualifying.

The Brit has put his FW42 ahead of Kubica’s in 19 of 19 qualifying sessions with a best showing of P16 to Kubica’s P18.

The Saturday that he was P16, Russell missed out on a Q2 berth by less than a tenth of a second for the Hungarian Grand Prix.

The rookie racer has also dominated Kubica on grand prix Sundays, beating his team-mate 15 times with Kubica only ahead on three occasions.

One of those, though, was Germany, the chaotic wet race in which Kubica finished P10 to Russell’s P11.

Given Russell’s stats against his team-mate, a point or two in the final two races of the season would be a fitting reward in his debut campaign.

Hamilton qualify in a Williams

Sticking with Williams…

It would never happen but wouldn’t it be interesting to see what Hamilton could do in the slowest car on the F1 grid?

He won the World title, his sixth overall, in arguably the best.

Now let’s see what he can in the worst.

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Albon favourite to keep his ‘bum’ in Red Bull seat

Yet to name Max Verstappen’s 2020 team-mate, Christian Horner has reiterated that it is Alexander Albon’s to “lose”.

Albon stepped up to Red Bull at this year’s Belgian Grand Prix, replacing the beleaguered Pierre Gasly.

The Thai driver immediately impressed.

With very few mistakes to his name, Albon has bagged seven successive top six results with Red Bull including a career best P4 at the Japanese GP.

And although he has yet to reach the podium, he has out-scored Verstappen in their brief time together.

As such Horner sees no reason why Albon cannot carry on next season.

“It’s his seat to lose really,” the Red Bull team boss told Sky Sports F1.

“He’s got his bum in it at the moment and he’s doing a good job.

“We’ve still got time until the end of the year.

“All the drivers are under contract for next year so we don’t need to rush – but everybody has been impressed with the work he’s doing so far.”

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