Formula 1 needs talks after Vettel controversy

Renault principal Cyril Abiteboul believes the Sebastian Vettel incident can’t be overlooked if there is a need for rule talks in the sport.

The German was hit with a five-second penalty at the Canadian Grand Prix after the stewards ruled that he left and rejoined the track in an unsafe manner and forced Lewis Hamilton into evasive action.

The ruling meant the victory went to Hamilton after Vettel had largely dominated the weekend, leading to uproar in the world of motorsport and stunning scenes as the Ferrari man displayed his outrage.

Abiteboul believes this incident can’t be just left alone and that clarification on the rules is needed if there is an issue.

“Each time there is an incident like that [with Vettel], then we talk, and we talk and we move on to something else,” said Abiteboul to Motorsport.com.  “That’s one of the problems of Formula 1, that there is no proper – not consistency in the application of the decision – but consistency [in what is done].

“If we think that there is a problem, let’s make sure that we fix the problem before we forget about the problem. And it’s a little bit the same on the rules.

“I don’t want to say anything about that [Vettel] incident, because frankly I didn’t watch it as I was too much on my own race, but if we think that there is a problem, it needs to go in-depth.

“We just talk about it in the heat of the moment on Sunday, maybe maximum on Monday, and then we move on to something else. If it’s a real problem, let’s get together and discuss it.”

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Steiner: ‘It can’t get any worse’ for Haas

Haas team principal Guenther Steiner believes things “can’t get any worse” for the team this season.

The American outfit believe they have the fourth-fastest car on the grid, and at times they have demonstrated that, but they continue to be pulled down by an inability to get the 2019 Pirelli range working for them.

The latest issues came at the Canadian GP when Kevin Magnussen crashed in Q2 – he had set a time good enough for Q3 but the damage meant he couldn’t take part, while the incident caused team-mate Romain Grosjean, who was running close behind, to abandon his lap and suffer elimination.

As has become common in 2019, neither driver could make progress in the race and Haas now find themselves down in P8 in the Constructors’ Championship.

With the team now at rock bottom, Steiner believes things can only improve, and he hopes that happens quickly.

“There must be an end to it,” Steiner told the official F1 website.

“What can you do? There’s a point where you cannot get more annoyed. I wouldn’t say I’m depressed, but there must be an end, there must be an upward trend somewhere because it cannot get worse. I hope this point comes soon.”

The thinner-tread tyres for 2019 have caused issues for several teams on the grid, but Haas are suffering the most, and the inconsistency in performance has become a real headache for them.

“For us, the tyres are so inconsistent and I think it’s the same for others,” said Steiner. “One car is very quick at one race and at the next race he is nowhere.

“When you’re on a high, you think you’ve figured it out, and then the next race you’re back to reality. It’s such a rollercoaster.

“If you look at Monte Carlo, in qualifying we were not even two-tenths off a Ferrari. In Canada, how many seconds we were off it? It can’t only be the car, it’s the tyres. Ferrari didn’t have a bad car in Monte Carlo. Maybe they didn’t get the tyres to work there and we did.

“It’s very sporadic what is happening. The general level of confidence is in theory we should be ok but can I tell you with knowledge we are ok? No. Because we don’t know when they work and when they don’t work.

“A lot of people are asking to go back to last year’s tread of tyres because they seem to be more consistent. It cannot only be us.”

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Wolff: Stability will bring the pack together

Mercedes principal Toto Wolff believes stability is the answer for creating a more competitive Formula 1, not regular rule changes.

The series is determined to bring in an overhaul from 2021, but it was announced recently that the deadline for this had been moved back from June to late October.

A budget cap is one of the major features which Liberty Media want to bring into the sport, and while Wolff agrees with it, he also thinks that ripping up the rule book and starting again just to try and reel in the top three teams is a bad idea.

“The default reaction in the past when a team or the big three teams were running away with the championship is that we change the regulations, because you believe that by changing the regulations the others may catch up,” Wolff explained to Motorsport.com.

“But as in the past, teams lobby for change because they believe rolling the dice can be an advantage for them. But we look at the 2019 regulation and the 2018 regulations and none of that has happened.
“The teams that were in front, they increased the gaps they had, so we are back to square one. We are making that mistake over and over again.”

Wolff is adamant that history proves his point and shows that some of the greatest cars have come when the regulations had been stable for a period of time.

“There is one single key that makes the racing better and that is a field that is bunched up, where there is not a big gap between the top teams and the smaller teams,” he explained. “The only way of doing that is leave the rules alone.

“Every time you change the regs, the big teams with more resource will run away.

“Maybe there is an outlier from time to time that one team looks good and we have seen that with Alfa Romeo [this year] which looked very good in testing in Barcelona, but then because of the sheer might of our resource, Ferrari and Red Bull, the rate of development is much steeper [and we have overtaken them].

“So the only way of really having proper racing is don’t change the rules. We’ve seen the 2012 season and there were six different winners and the tyres, fair enough, were a bit of an unknown, but the longer the rules stay stable the more performance is going to converge.”

However, Wolff believes his ideas won’t be listened to because everyone will think he is saying it to preserve Mercedes’ dominance.

“It is very difficult from our position to be credible and to be heard because people think we want to maintain rules as they are in order to maintain our advantage,” he admitted.

“The opposite is actually the case. Leave it alone and performance will converge.”

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Hamilton has been in ‘sweet spot’ since 2018

Lewis Hamilton insists he hit a “sweet spot” in form towards the end of 2018 and has not dropped since.

Eight wins from the last 11 races in 2018 for Hamilton turned his title fight with Sebastian Vettel from a fierce battle to a one-horse race.

This season has followed a similar trend with the Brit taking five wins already and enjoying a 29-point lead over Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas in the Drivers’ Championship.

The five-time World Champion has credited this to his ability to remain in that “sweet spot”.

“Last year I hit that sweet spot at some point during the season, and started being really, really consistent,” Hamilton told Autosport.

“The races have been really strong, as last year, and I’ve not really dropped the ball in that sense, I’ve not dropped off.

“Last year qualifying at the end of the year was very strong.

“But it’s all to do with lifestyle, health, all those kinds of things, and they have a real impact. Also we’re doing a great job as a team.

“Whether or not we’re quickest on the weekend I’ve still got to do the job and deliver. I’m hoping that the rest of the year continues.

“I’m happy where I am in life, I have my health, and the people around me. That’s all down to lifestyle, and life choices.”

Lewis-Hamilton-mechanics-work-on-car-PA

His incident with Vettel during the Canadian GP of course earned most of the publicity, but Hamilton himself made a rare mistake as he crashed during free practice.

The 34-year-old prides himself on keeping his errors to a minimum, and so was pleased that he bounced back to take the win at the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve.

“I take a lot of pride in my work and particularly my track record of not making mistakes,” he added.

“I’ve managed to get myself in a really good place, and really delivering minimum faults, mistakes on race weekend and races.

“A small hiccup on Friday [in Canada], but I was able to pull it back on Saturday, and then throughout the weekend.”

Hamilton has suggested that Ferrari have power modes available to them which Mercedes can’t match, but this hasn’t prevented the Silver Arrows from taking every race win so far in 2019.

The Brit is proud of the team’s ability to win even when they don’t have the best package, and says his goal at every event is to “extract above and beyond”.

“What I can say is my races have been really, really strong, really consistent, and even weekends where we’ve not had the car to really win, I’ve been able to put it right there with the frontrunners,” he said.

“My goal on a race weekend is obviously to do the best that I can do for the team, but it’s also to really extract above and beyond.”

“If you can be an all-round driver, you work well outside of the car and particularly to pull these things out that others are perhaps not always able to pull together, it makes your value go up.”

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Albon adapting to ‘F1 circus’

It took a little while, but Toro Rosso driver Alex Albon says he is adapting nicely to the “F1 circus”.

The Thai-British driver was all set to join Nissan e.dams in Formula E this season, but he received a surprise call to return to the Red Bull fold with Toro Rosso, despite not having turned a wheel in modern Formula 1 machinery before.

Before the team’s shakedown of their STR14 prior to pre-season testing in Barcelona, Albon hadn’t even completed enough mileage to earn his superlicence, the only driver on the grid to be in that situation.

Despite finding Formula 1 “daunting” at first, Albon has made a solid start to his career in the series, taking seven points from as many races.

“The F1 circus isn’t so crazy once you’ve spent time in it,” he told reporters.

“You just adjust to it and everything becomes normal. I’m getting there. At the beginning it was a bit daunting in some respects how much stuff you had to do. Now it’s more like, you get used to it.”

Albon took four wins on his way to P3 in the 2018 F2 Championship, and while delighted to score points in Bahrain and Monaco, his third points-finish of 2019 in China remains his highlight as he went from a pitlane start to P10.

The support from Toro Rosso has been a huge aid to Albon, though he accepts that he is still in a learning phase.

“Early points was always good for me. I’m happy with the team as well. I feel very comfortable with them, I don’t feel stressed out or anything like that. I’ve got a lot of support from these guys and the feeling is good.” Albon explained.

“I’m still learning. It always feels like you finish a weekend and you’re like ‘I wish I knew that’. It’s been like that for the last six races. So I’m always learning and I’m getting better too but it’s not easy.”

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Brown: I’d need three cars for Alonso return

McLaren CEO Zak Brown joked he would need a third car if Fernando Alonso wanted to return to Formula 1.

The Spaniard left the series at the end of 2018 to pursue other interests, including his unsuccessful Indy 500 venture alongside McLaren.

However, back in Formula 1 the Woking outfit’s new line-up of Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris are delivering the goods.

British rookie Norris hoovered up the points early on as team-mate Sainz suffered from a rotten run of bad luck, but the Spaniard has returned with a vengeance in recent races, including a P6 finish in Monaco.

All this has left Sainz best-of-the-rest P7 in the Drivers’ Championship, while McLaren boast that spot in the Constructors’ Championship with P4.

Such is his confidence in the duo, Brown said he would need to ask Formula 1 CEO Chase Carey for permission to run a third car if Alonso wanted to make a comeback.

“Then I first have to ask Chase Carey if I can use three cars,” Brown told Auto Motor und Sport when quizzed about an Alonso return.

“We have long-term contracts with our current drivers [Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz] and are also very satisfied with them.

“Fortunately, Fernando has not yet called. There are currently no cockpits available.

“Our current drivers have done super well so far. They have achieved Q3 in fifty percent of the cases and give us good feedback.

“Moreover, they get along well, so I don’t have to worry about fear when they fight each other.”

A double-points finish in Canada for Renault, while McLaren departed empty-handed has eliminated the 13-point buffer which McLaren enjoyed in P4.

The French manufacturer are now only two points behind their rivals, but Brown believes his team are overperforming anyway.

“The team is performing great, that’s why we are fourth. We don’t have the fourth car, but rather the sixth,” he explained.

“But thanks to our good pit stops, the strategy and of course our drivers, we are now doing well.

“Moreover, other teams have helped us with mistakes. Anyway, our F1 team has certainly taken a step forward.”

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Sainz: Being ‘stuck in P7’ not sustainable

McLaren’s Carlos Sainz has warned Formula 1 bosses that the midfield will not wait forever for them to make Formula 1 less predictable.

Kimi Raikkonen’s win for Lotus at the 2013 Australian Grand Prix remains the last time a non-Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull driver has won a race in Formula 1.

Sergio Perez’s podium at Baku in 2018 is also the only time a driver outside the top three teams has appeared on the podium in the last two seasons.

Despite finishing no higher than P6 this season, Sainz is currently best-of-the-rest P7 in the Drivers’ Championship, but after no podiums in 88 starts, he is starting to take notice of drivers like Marcus Ericsson who have quit Formula 1 and found success elsewhere.

“You see fellow drivers like Marcus [Ericsson] going to different series and immediately being on the pace and potentially winning races or being on the podium,” said Sainz Jr via Motorsport Week.

“Then you see yourself in Formula 1 and you’re stuck in P7… it’s something I haven’t got bored of as it’s only my fifth season but you think about Perez, [Nico] Hulkenberg, they’ve been here for many races and it’s something I struggle to feel is sustainable.

“It needs immediate change and it needs immediate refining in Formula 1 to change that trend.

“It’s not something that as racing drivers in the midfield we are going to be waiting here forever just finishing P7 in every race.

“I think it’s definitely something that needs to be addressed and hopefully 2021 they will make it happen.”

Sainz joined Williams racer George Russell in pointing out how MotoGP have used the regulations to create a tighter field.

“I know very well [Dorna Sports CEO] Carmelo Ezpeleta in MotoGP, I’ve spoken to him many times about what he’s done and how the manufacturers reacted to them tightening the rules with ECU, etc,” he explained.

“I think the main feedback is they were firstly sceptical obviously but now they are more happy than ever as they are fighting against more people and it makes the brand stronger, as they’re fighting against more brands, so Honda and [Marc] Marquez are even more happy.

“It’s a very good example and it’s something that I would like to see in the future in Formula 1.

“But I think Formula 1 is a different specie definitely, but I hope in the future we converse towards something a bit more driver dependent and not machine dependent.”

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