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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