F1 news, standings and more
Two races remain, at Jeddah in Saudi Arabia and Yas Marina in the United Arab Emirates, both circuits with layouts including a series long straights. That should favour the Mercedes car over the Red Bull, meaning one of the most intense battles the sport has seen in its modern history is set to go down to the wire.
Off track, team principals Toto Wolff and Christian Horner have been engaged in something of a slanging match, while the FIA’s policing of the sport in regards to penalties dished out to drivers has come in for heavy criticism. That combination of scintillating action on circuit and controversy off it means the pressure is rising and the smallest of margins could make all the difference
Here’s all the latest F1 news and reaction as the build-up to Saudi Arabia continues:
Mercedes lose key aerodynamics man to Aston Martin
Aston Martin have continued their pillaging of personnel from around the Formula 1 paddock by poaching Mercedes’ chief aerodynamicist Eric Blandin.
The Frenchman will be joining the Silverstone-based outfit, re-branded as Aston Martin for 2022 after previously running under names including Racing Point, Force India and Jordan, at some point in 2022 with an exact date not yet revealed by either team.
Blandin joins the Red Bull head of aerodynamics Dan Fallows in switching to Aston Martin, qui, under the stewardship of billionaire Lawrence Stroll, are aiming to compete for championships by the middle of the decade.
Aston Martin have made a number of high-profile signings as they seek to challenge the top teams
Wolff ‘frustrated’ by Verstappen’s bonus fastest lap point
Toto Wolff says he is “somewhat frustrated” that Max Verstappen was able to take the extra point for fastest lap at Losail last Sunday.
The Dutchman was able to pit for soft tyres at the end of the race after building up a sufficient buffer to Fernando Alonso in the Alpine behind, and set a purple time in order to take what could turn out to be a pivotal point which limited the damage Lewis Hamilton’s win did to his advantage in the standings.
“Lewis was great, but that point they have achieved is somewhat frustrating,” the Mercedes team principal told Sky Sports F1. “The good thing is that the car was fast and it seems that we are in a good position. Lewis had control of the race from start to finish and that is a good indication for what is to come in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.”
Steiner weighs in on Mercedes and Red Bull poilitics
The Haas team principal Guenther Steiner has weighed in on the political wrangling between Mercedes and Red Bull, after a week full of controversy in Qatar.
Red Bull complained about Mercedes’ rear wing in the wake of Hamilton’s win in Brazil, this his straight-line speed unmatched by anybody else on the grid, while Mercedes requested a right to review hearing with the FIA as they sought punishment for Max Verstappen after he drove Lewis Hamilton off the circuit at Interlagos.
Steiner says that competition off-track is fine by him, unless things become “unfair.”
“We fight with everything that is possible,” Steiner told Sport1.de. “It’s all about the world championship title. Whatever means are used, as long as it doesn’t get unfair, I have no problem with that. That makes it interesting and keeps the season exciting.”
Seidl says Wolff and Horner war of words has gone too far
McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl says the way of words between his Mercedes and Bull counterparts has gone too far.
Toto Wolff and Christian Horner have become increasingly angsty with each other as the pressure in the title fight has increased, with the latter in particular coming in for heavy criticism in Qatar for comments about volunteer marshals which earned him a formal warning from the FIA for breaching the international sporting code.
Seidl says he understand that pressure can make things more intense, but believes that things have crossed a line.
“If you watch everything which is ongoing at the moment, it is clear, évidemment, there’s a lot at stake,” the German explained to media. “It’s different to the battles we are in further back, and is obviously great to a certain degree for the fans, and for the show, because in the end it should be entertainment as well. But I definitely think that some of the comments we’ve seen in recent weeks, it’s definitely not something I could imagine would come from us in such a situation.
“I think it’s very important, and it doesn’t matter if you fight for wins, or if you are last, that you always keep respect for the competitors, for the FIA, for F1.”
F1 drivers ‘don’t fully understand’ rules after Max Verstappen verdict
"Pour moi, that was not even close to the line,” Russell, who will join Hamilton at Mercedes next season, told reporters in Qatar. “It was well beyond the line what went on. If this was the last lap of the race, in my mind that would have been a slam-dunk penalty for Max.”
“You have to judge the incident on a case-by-case basis. That’s what they’ve always told us, it’s not the consequence of that incident, it is the incident itself.”
Sainz concurred, en disant:” It looks like over the winter there’s going to be some more deep conversations about how we go racing as a sport. We need to rethink the whole approach because the way it’s been working this year, it’s clear that the drivers don’t fully understand what is going to happen depending on what you do.”
George Russell and Carlos Sainz are both perplexed by the decision not to penalise Verstappen
Binotto says Ferrari ‘can’t wait for season to end’
Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto has revealed the Scuderia ‘can’t wait for the season to end.’
The Italian outfit is third in the constructors’ championship, 39.5 points ahead of rivals McLaren, but has not had the pace to seriously challenge for race victories all campaign long.
The car has seen little development across the course of the season, with efforts concentrated on the 2022 vehicle designed for significant regulation changes, which could shake up the order of the grid and give Ferrari a chance to return to the top.
“What we had to learn, we have learned,” he told Corriere dello Sport. “We’re no longer developing anything [on this year’s car] and it’s inevitable that we’re scrambling to open a different chapter with a new car. I’ll say it sincerely: we can’t take it any more. We can’t wait for this season to end.”
Hamilton back in the simulator to find advantage in title fight
Lewis Hamilton has revealed he has been back in the simulator at Mercedes’ F1 HQ in Brackley as he tries to find an advantage over Max Verstappen with two rounds to go.
Hamilton has famously never been a fan of simulators, insisting it did not reflect a real racing environment and that he preferred to avoid it when possible. But on Wednesday, the seven-time world champion shared a photo to his Instagram story from the simulator as he studied the intricacies of the Jeddah Circuit, ahead of its debut on the Formula 1 calendrier.
The inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix will be held at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit
Alonso regrets lack of battles with Hamilton
Fernando Alonso says a lack of battling with Lewis Hamilton is one of the ‘missing points’ in his Formula 1 carrière.
The Spaniard was team-mate with the Briton at McLaren in the latter’s rookie season in 2007, but in-fighting within the team and clashes of personalities meant that neither won the world championship, which went to Kimi Raikkonen in a Ferrari that was the inferior car.
"Dans 2007 I think we both were not ready,” Alonso told F1’s Beyond the Grid Podcast. “Understandably, he was maybe not ready for the fight because he was a rookie and coming into Formula 1, and I was not performing at my best, not really integrated with the team.
“In the following years, I had a better package in Ferrari than him when he was in McLaren, so we didn’t fight really directly, and now when he switched to Mercedes, he had a better package and we never had the opportunity again to fight together. Donc, that’s a missing point in my career. Mais, évidemment, he’s a legend of the sport and he, like Michael, pushed you to the limit because if you want to beat Lewis, you need to perform at your best.”
Hamilton calls Mercedes car ‘monster diva’ after setup issues
Lewis Hamilton has called the current Mercedes F1 car a “monster diva” because of the difficulty the team has found in finding its sweet spot for race setups at different circuits.
le 2017 Mercedes was notoriously difficult to manage and was the first car to be given the ‘diva’ label by team principal Toto Wolff, but Hamilton says the W12 is even more tough to get a handle on.
“What I’ve noticed this year, which is just a fact, is that the car has been very, very hard to set up,” he told the press. “But this one is a monster of a diva. What we often find, plus we’ve had less practice time, is that it’s been harder to get the car in the right window.
Hamilton says he needs to avoid ‘selfish acts’ in Verstappen fight
Lewis Hamilton says he needs a ‘clever’ strategy to beat Max Verstappen to the Formula 1 drivers’ championship, and that ‘selfish acts’ at this stage could be costly for either man.
The seven-time world champion trails his rival by eight points going into the final two rounds of the season, with the tracks at Jeddah and Yas Marina set to favour the Mercedes car thanks to their long straights and high speeds.
“I don’t feel too big or too successful to avoid a fight,” the 36-year-old told Auto und Motor Sport. “I know that sometimes you have to take this path. You have to be the clever one. Sometimes you lose points, but it’s not just about me. I have 2,000 employees behind me.
“A selfish act where I stick to my point and don’t finish the race could cost my whole team the bonus payments at the end of the year. And then create more work on the damaged car.”