Live news and build-up to the Spanish Grand Prix this weekend
The Spanish Grand Prix is this weekend with the F1 title race hotting up between Max Verstappen and leader Charles Leclerc, with the world champion snatching victory last time out at the inaugural Miami Grand Prix.
Mercedes continue to struggle through the season, with the porpoising effect still not solved, leaving Lewis Hamilton and George Russell frustrated and team boss Toto Wolff left to appease both that better times will come this summer.
Elsewhere in the two-week break between Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel has been featuring on talk shows to discuss climate change. He said: “It’s my passion to drive a car. Every time I step in the car, I love it. When I get out of the car, of course I’m thinking as well: ‘Is this something we should do, travel the world, wasting resources?’ We need to stop being dependent [on fossil fuels], and we can, because there are solutions in place. There’s certain things that are in my control, and certain things are not. There’s things that I do because I feel I can do them better. Do I take the plane every time? No, not when I can take the car. But there’s certain things in my control, and certain things outside.”
Follow all the build-up to the F1 Spanish Grand Prix below:
Max Verstappen vs Charles Leclerc ‘could go all the way’, admits Christian Horner
Team principal for Red Bull Racing, Christian Horner, feels the race for the F1 championship will be another year-long struggle between the early top two – though had hoped for a pressure-free year of Max Verstappen retaining his title.
After the scintillating and controversial nature of his win over Lewis Hamilton last year, Verstappen and Red Bull would have been confident of another strong campaign, while also hoping the likes of Mercedes fell away while getting to grips with the new car designs and regulations.
That has certainly happened – but in their place, Ferrari have emerged as credible challengers and Charles Leclerc has claimed two victories already this season. Combined with Verstappen failing to finish in Bahrain and Australia, it means the reigning champion trails Leclerc in the standings after five races by 19 points, with Horner expecting that battle to go on all year long.
“Look, there is a long, long way to go and it is so tight with Ferrari. There has been some great racing,” he said. “You can see there is a great respect between Charles and Max, they are enjoying racing each other, you can see that.
“I was rather hoping we weren’t set for another competitive year like last year but it looks like this one could well go all the way as well.”
The pair have been leading the way in the early part of the 2022 season
Lewis Hamilton ‘astonished’ that Michael Masi could make F1 return
Lewis Hamilton has been left ‘astonished’ that sacked F1 race director Michael Masi could make a shock return to the sport.
Masi hit the headlines when his controversial safety car ruling in the 2021 season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix essentially handed the title to Max Verstappen at the expense of Hamilton.
He was promptly sacked in what more or less amounted to an admission that he had made the wrong call – something that Hamilton’s Mercedes team saw as a small win – but new FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem has opened the possibility of a route back into the sport for Masi.
“Michael is there and we might use him. We are open to everything,” said Ben Sulayem in his first interview since taking the top role in F1’s governing body six months ago.
According to Sportsmail, Hamilton and his nearest advisers were ‘astonished’ to read the comments and spoke about the situation via urgent phone messages after the story broke. Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff was also furious and made his strong opposition to Masi’s rehabilitation known internally.
A source reported to Sportsmail that the FIA aren’t looking for a fight however and that Ben Sulayem is simply trying to wrestle control of F1 back towards the governing body and away from the teams.
The source said: “Over the last few years the FIA has been marginalised and Ben Sulayem wants to return it to its old role. He doesn’t want anything himself, financially or in any other way. He maybe feels that Toto has got a little ahead of himself. It’s not up to Toto to run Formula One.”
Charles Leclerc ‘lost the brakes’ when crashing legendary Ferrari in Monaco
The Ferrari driver was enjoying a demonstration drive at the Monaco Historic Grand Prix when he lost control of the rear of a classic 312 entering La Rascasse, colliding with the barriers and damaging the rear wing.
The current leader of the Drivers’ Championship standings also failed to finish two races in the city-state during his final year in Formula 2.
Having stopped on the pit straight, Leclerc explained to former Ferrari driver Jacky Ickx, an eight-time winner in F1, that he felt fortunate that his collision had not happened at a more dangerous part of the track.
Leclerc crashed during the Monaco Historic Grand Prix while driving Niki Lauda’s 1974 Ferrari 312 B3
Mercedes reserve driver Nyck de Vries to drive in practice for Williams at Spanish Grand Prix
Mercedes reserve driver Nyck de Vries will make his F1 race weekend debut when he takes part in the first practice session for Williams at the Spanish Grand Prix on Friday.
The 27-year-old Dutchman – who is the reigning Formula E world champion – will borrow Alex Albon’s car for FP at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on Friday afternoon.
De Vries shares the Mercedes reserve role with Stoffel Vandoorne and has previously tested F1 machinery when he drove the Silver Arrows in last year’s post-season Abu Dhabi Grand Prix test.
His appearance for Williams fulfils one of their two mandated young driver sessions, which is a new rule introduced for this season.
“We are looking forward to having Nyck de Vries in the car for FP1 as it is always good to work with a new driver and get a fresh opinion on the car’s strengths and weaknesses,” said Williams’ head of vehicle performance Dave Robson.
“Nyck’s experience and professionalism will be crucial on Friday as he will complete some of the key engineering tests in FP1 before he hands the car back to Alex for FP2.”
Sebastian Vettel on climate change and considering future as a driver due to environment
“It’s my passion to drive a car. Every time I step in the car, I love it. When I get out of the car, of course I’m thinking as well: ‘Is this something we should do, travel the world, wasting resources?’
“We need to stop being dependent [on fossil fuels], and we can, because there are solutions in place. You know, in Britain, you have this sort of goldmine you’re sitting on, which is wind, and you have the ability to increase your energy supply with wind power, solar. Every country has its strengths and weaknesses.
“If you go to Austria, they have the Alps and they have water, they can pump it up, store it, take it back down. It’s something that I’m asking myself. There’s certain things that are in my control, and certain things are not.
“There’s things that I do because I feel I can do them better. Do I take the plane every time? No, not when I can take the car. But there’s certain things in my control, and certain things outside.”
FIA should have taken ‘different approach’ over Lewis Hamilton jewellery ban
Formula One is right to ban jewellery from the cockpit but the governing FIA could have enforced the rule in a less confrontational way, according to Grand Prix Drivers’ Association (GPDA) chairman Alex Wurz.
Hamilton has been told to take them out by the Monaco Grand Prix on 29 May but has said he has no intention of doing so.
“It is a rule for the right reasons,” former Benetton, McLaren and Williams driver Wurz, who is heavily involved in driver safety and education, told Reuters.
“I would have probably liked a slightly different approach of how to deliver the message. I don’t want to end up in football where there are more hands in the air and verbal abuse…you have to work together. It’s a style I would have preferred in this case.”
The ban on jewellery, as well as the wearing of non-compliant under-garments, has long been in the rules but rarely enforced
George Russell a ‘different calibre’ of teammate for Lewis Hamilton
George Russell is already proving his worth with Mercedes after joining the Formula One team this season, giving Lewis Hamilton a more “consistent calibre” of driver to race alongside, claims Ralf Schumacher.
Since replacing Valtteri Bottas, Russell has picked up 59 points in the opening five races of the season to sit fourth in the drivers’ standings – two places and 23 points better off than Hamilton.
It’s an unexpected turn of events, with Russell consistently placing between third and fifth in each race this term, compared to Hamilton’s more erratic third to 13th, as the Mercedes pair struggle to get to grips with the new car and the problems being encountered.
Schumacher says Russell is a higher-class teammate who has plenty to offer, both on and off the track.
“Russell is now a different calibre for Lewis than Bottas was and, above all, he is a consistent calibre,” he told Motorsport.
The new Mercedes recruit has racked up the points quicker than his more illustrious teammate this season as the team struggles with their new car design
Christian Horner surprised by Red Bull and Max Verstappen’s ‘unbelievable start’
Red Bull threw all their energy and resources into last year’s RB16B car in an effort to help Verstappen overcome Lewis Hamilton, which of course he did in dramatic circumstances in the final race in Abu Dhabi, leaving them behind the curve when it came to the new regulations.
After five races of the new season Verstappen is well in the mix at the top of the standings once more, 19 points behind early pace-setter Charles Leclerc of Ferrari. Red Bull have struggled with reliability in their new RB18 car, but Verstappen has won every race he has finished so far.
“Having put so much effort into last year’s car, to come on to these new regulations, we elected to take that risk because we had an opportunity to win last year and you’ve got to go for it,” Horner told CNN.
“That put huge pressure on the team coming into the second half of last year that we had to play catch up. Personally, I didn’t expect us to start the year as competitively as we have.”
After five races of the new season Verstappen is well in the mix at the top of the standings
New F1 race directors praised after FIA switch away from Michael Masi
Formula 1’s new race directors have been praised for a “very good start” to the 2022 season after the removal of Michael Masi.
Masi, who had been lead race director since 2019, lost the role after his part in the controversial ending to the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that allowed Max Verstappen to win his maiden world title.
The Australian was replaced by a two-pronged team of Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas, assisted by the vastly-experienced Herbie Blash.
The refreshing of the race direction team came as part of wider changes, with team principals no longer afforded as direct access to the race director during the race.
Andreas Seidl, team principal at McLaren, has been pleased with the start that Wittich, who has served as race director at each of the first five races, in particular has made.
The arrival of Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas came as part of wider changes to race direction ahead of the 2022 season
Sebastian Vettel tells UK to ‘deal with’ Brexit ‘mess’
Vettel made a surprise appearance on the BBC’s Question Time on Thursday, in which he spoke out on issues such as climate change, human rights and ‘partygate’ in front of a live studio audience in Hackney.
The German driver admitted he has questioned his future in Formula One due to his concerns over climate change and said discussing Brexit risks politicians missing the “bigger picture”.
The Formula One driver appeared on Question Time and also spoke out on climate change and ‘partygate’