Lorenzo vs 91
Which is also my year of birth
Hello and welcome everybody to another review from Down Under. Lots of material to analyse, so let’s go in flat out and let’s see how we’ll come out.
I prefer the Fiat Multipla
Lots of play on words on the meaning of the word onda, H-less, in my language. So many that I had to come up with something in English. Just to keep it light.
Yes, because the news is not as light: Honda will leave F1 at the end of the 2021 season, leaving Red Bull and AlphaTauri wandering in the paddock, wondering who will supply power unit to the Faenza and Milton Keynes’ cars.
Before we look at what this will mean for RB and F1, it’s suggestable pointing that only 24 later their announcement, the Japan engine manufacturer announced their renewal with IndyCar, at least until the end of the next decade. For the American series, Honda will supply a 2.4 V6 biturbo hybrid from 2023.
The message is loud and clear to FIA and Liberty Media: Honda’s issue with our sport is not the technology, but the complexity of rules and the disparity of returns compared to the investment. The bar is high, and the rules are many and restrictive. In 5 years, Honda won 5 GPs and spent millions in developing their PU. They have one more season to try and clinching a championship that is missing since, guess? 1991.
As car manufacturer, Honda will divert F1 resources into their mission of erasing their carbon emissions by 2050. It is a long and ambitious path, with an intermediate point in 2030: by that year, half of Honda cars sales should be represented by fuel cell vehicles and battery electric vehicles, moving the focus of the company from MAAS (mobility as a service) to EAAS (energy as a service).
Back to F1, from January 2021 Red Bull will be allowed to start designing their 2022 car without knowing what engine will seat in their chassis. There are speculations and plans in motion. By looking at the landscape of F1 and navigating through the news published since Honda’s announcement, looks like Plan A for Marko & Co. will be continuing with Honda’s engine. This means that the energy drink company will work with an outside company to develop the engine for 2022, as it is reported that F1 will freeze them from 2023 until 2025. If that hypothesis is correct, RB could use Mario Illien’s Ilmor. Less probable that RB will allocate staff for engine development in their factory by trying hiring Andy Cowell, in gardening leave from Mercedes.
From 2026, and if F1 will agree to pursue alternative combustibles, the Volkswagen Auto Group will sign in with Porsche. And considering that it is hard imagining Mercedes of Ferrari supplying Red Bull, Porsche would be the first and only name on Marko’s list.
Why not Renault? A bit more of a speculation, the new CEO Luca de Meo was seen having a chat with Red Bull management in the Red Bull motorhome at the Nürburgring. After the messy and public divorce between the French and Horner’s team, there were little chances for these two entities to get back together. But what if Renault reaches out to Red Bull? What if Luca de Meo, motorsport fan, is thinking to see the Renault/Alpine logo on Max Verstappen’s car and overalls? Max, more than Leclerc, Norris, Albon and Russell, is the new and exciting face of F1. Marketing speaking, it would be great having Max indirectly representing de Meo’s bleu baby.
Red Bull has until May 2021 to decide. Otherwise, they might just leave F1.
Circus and Carnival
Brigitte Bardot, Bardot Brigitte, beijou, beijou
Let’s talk racetracks! News is that Chase Carey has reached and agreement with people in Rio de Janeiro to organise a Formula 1 Grand Prix in a brand new track that should be built on military land, and still cost the destruction of the last forested area of the city. The track has been in the works for few years now, as Interlagos has been deemed not financially viable, and it features a layout very similar to the São Paulo’s track, especially in sectors 1 and 3. It remain to see if the new track will feature the changes in gradient we have at the José Carlos Pace. The track will not be named after Ayrton Senna. It will not be the first time F1 races in Rio, but the original track, the Jacarepaguá, was demolished prior to the 2016 Olympic Games.
Racetracks and what racetracks should feature future F1 calendars is a hot topic. On one side, we have drivers loving the old-style tracks like Mugello and Nürburgring. Lots of ups and downs, long fast corners, gravel and walls and limited areas where to take a breath. On the other side, we have Hermann Tilke and his constructions. And not even the good ones! What happened to Sepang? What happened to the Istanbul Park? Now, I’m sure that there are people in this world that love Sochi and other racetracks made in parking lots, and that would point out at many boring races hosted at the Nürburgring and at Imola, where F1 followed each other for almost two hours without concrete chances for overtakes. But could you blame the racetrack, or the problem lies in the size and aerodynamic development of F1 cars? As Fred Durst would sing, “just think about it”. Perhaps there are not many chances to overtake at Mugello, Nürburgring and Imola, but there are many points were drivers can make mistakes and lose positions. Have you seen how difficult was taking the apex at the Haug-Haken last night?
Covering Sochi in gravel would not be a solution, both for logistic and for entertainment purposes, as tarmac escape routes allow drivers to re-join the race. This is what Ross Brawn recently said. I understand Ross’ point of view, as he lost the 1997 championship because his driver got trapped in gravel. Writing this sarcastic comment hurts me so much, guys…More than feeling like shaking my head at something said by Ross Brawn, that guy is my general and I would go to war under his command.
Speaking of Sochi, Russia has an agreement with F1 until 2025, but Sochi will be replaced by the Igora Drive in Saint Petersburg due to a redevelopment plan of the area surrounding the Olympic Park. A new concert hall will be built in Sochi, and the track will be redesigned. Perhaps they will come up with a better Turn 2.
Giorgio Terruzzi, one of the greatest Italian sport journalists alive, has a small blog space on Red Bull’s website. I don’t buy any Red Bull related product for obvious reason, but Giorgio’s blog, and podcast, is great. He suggested few tracks that F1 should consider, if those were not completely unrealistic: Laguna Seca, Bathurst, Lédenon and Ascari. The last one, situated in Ronda, Málaga, Spain, and featured in Gran Turismo 6, could solve a new problem: Montmeló racetrack’s contract with F1 is expired, and their CEO has resigned few weeks ago; they have until the end of this month to reach a new agreement with F1, otherwise Spain will not have a Grand Prix.
Well deserved and still not enough
It looked like the perfect chance for Valtteri Bottas to reopen the championship, but he messed up his chances to win the race going deep at the Haug-Haken, then his Mercedes killed his dream for at least another year. With Hamilton’s mood not at his usual bombastic, and with the excessive play he complained to have before the start, Bottas had to win. For Jenson Button, one of the two people able to defeat Hamilton in the same team, Valtteri should keep trying differentiating and playing mind games against the soon to be 7 times World Champion. But with current F1 being so much data driven, it is hard differentiating strategies and setups. Perhaps the new weekend format about to be tested in Imola will help. With 90 minutes of practice instead of 4 hours, driver’s buttocks will count more towards setting up the car for the weekend. This format was tested at the Nürburgring, too, due to the heavy rain that forced FIA to cancel FP1 and FP2, robbing Mick Schumacher and Callum Illot of their chances to drive the Alfa Romeo and the Haas. The two F2 drivers should feature Abu Dhabi FP sessions, together with Robert Shwartzman. Someone that did not thrive with this format, but achieved so much during the race, was Nico Hülkenberg. Nico replaced Stroll, that allegedly could not lift himself from the dunny and I do not want to speculate if he was face in it or sitting on it. The number 27 took the Racing Point out for 4 laps during Qualifying, taking the 20th on the grid, but managed to gain 8th place by end of the race. Driver of the day, Super Nico showed once again that he deserves a top F1 team. And I would love to see, one day, a white 27 on a Ferrari nose cone.
Another number I would love to see on a Ferrari, is number 3. Daniel Ricciardo managed to finish 3rd, thanks to Bottas’ retirement, to a great overtake on Charles Leclerc, and to a good race strategy. What this means for Renault? It means that Cyril Abiteboul will get a tattoo. As Dan told David Coulthard, it would be something that will remind Cyril of this day in Germany. With Cyril about to be promoted as CEO of Alpine, and let someone else directing the F1 team, is a great goodbye gift. Despite obvious reasons, I’m hyped to see Daniel in McLaren and with a Mercedes PU under the hood.
Charles Leclerc did a great job in FP3 and Qualifying. Ferrari brought a new floor and new bargeboards, that improved the handle of the SF1000. By looking and comparing Charles’ telemetry with Bottas’ during FP3 and Qualifying, it is possible to see how fast Charles was during Sector 1, and in Turns 7, 10, 13 and 14. Especially in Turn 7, Ford-Kurve, a long corner with some banking, Charles goes in with confidence that his rear end will not escape his control; and Turn 10, riding the kerb on the Michael-Schumacher-S. Leclerc and Ferrari did a good job setting up the suspension to achieve good mechanical grip. Despite the positives, Charles suffered graining on his Soft tyres. Safety Car timing did not help him, and he finished 7th. He could have finished 4th or 5th, but that is still little when you drive for Ferrari. With the new engine that will debut in 2021 and that has been running in Maranello for quite sometimes, my beloved red team should mount a challenge for the podium next season.
A person that was not penalised by the Safety Car, but found reasons to complain about it, was Max Verstappen, 2nd. Max blamed race direction for introducing an unneeded Safety Car, that reset the group by driving excessively slowly and making everyone’s tyres too cold.
Only Lewis’ tyres were not as cold, thanks to the DAS featured in his Mercedes. Once Bottas was out, Lewis found himself in the lead with the better car and achieved an easy victory. It is victory number 91 for him, equalling Michael Schumacher’s record. You know, many with a more important status than me have said their opinion about Lewis’ record and how easy he has it in current F1. Fernando Alonso, Bernie Ecclestone, Sir Jackie Stewart. I can relate. I can say that Lewis is the best of his generation, but that he also found himself without strong opponents. Many people point out at Schumacher and Ferrari golden era, but it was different from the Mercedes era we are living. Schumacher and Ferrari achieved 5 championships in a row, but only 2 of those 5 were easy. McLaren, Williams and Renault launched Häkkinen, Coulthard, Räikkönen, Montoya and Alonso against Kaiser Schumi. Bernie pointed out that Schumacher had to race by himself, I’m adding that he had a great team behind calling strategies, while Lewis has Bono telling him how to drive. But that is just the F1 of this time. The sport has changed, perhaps for worse. Yes, Lewis has it easier than Michael, but the record will still stand. 1kg of gold weight as much as 1kg of steel. So, congratulation to Lewis Hamilton for his 91st victory. He will not stop at 91, and I’m preparing a tissue box.
One of the first people to congratulate him was the man that dreams to break the new standard: Mick Schumacher. Michael’s son congratulated Lewis on behalf of the Schumacher family. Mick handed Lewis Michael’s Mercedes helmet, helmet that Lewis took on the podium and lifted to the sky. Touchy moment for everyone that loves F1, despite having loved or hated Michael, despite loving or hating Lewis.
Another man broke another record: Räikkönen overtook Barrichello’s number of races started. Kimi cut the cake, told Brundle and Rubens that the record does not really mean anything for him right now, and that he might or might not continue next year, but not fuelled by Alonso’s F1 return. It will be a sad day when F1 will lose Kimi for good.
Special mention to Romain Grosjean, 9th, and Antonio Giovinazzi, 10th. Antonio, driver born in my region, Puglia, held Vettel and Räikkönen. What does the future hold for these two men?
Special mention, but in negative, for Ocon. What happened to Mercedes’ next golden boy? The Wehrlein Curse, of course.
Transfer Market - Winter Session
Gotta wait a little longer
Before looking at Romain and Antonio, Fernando Alonso will drive for Renault in the filming day at Barcelona today, 13th of October. Fernando might not be allowed to take part to the Rookie Test at the end of the season and made fun of this F1 that does not allow team to hold testing. It is an old critic and he is not the first person to raise the issue. In the witch hunt for useless expenses, F1 cut testing, missing the mark by far. More to follow.
Romain Grosjean and Antonio Giovinazzi. Their destinies are tied up with those of Räikkönen, Magnussen, Schumacher, Illot, Shwartzman, Perez, Hulkenberg, Kvyat, Tsunoda and Nikita Mazepin. F1 market is exciting because the Domino effect: there are 20 seats for 25 talented drivers. Here’s my prediction for next season.
Steiner was irritated by Grosjean’s team radio messages in Sochi, and if you have followed Netflix’s Drive To Survive, perhaps your idea was as mine: Grosjean can f*ck off. Instead, Romain puts on a great drive for the standard expected from him. Is it a sign of maturity? Is it a sign of wanting to keep his seat? Meanwhile Magnussen fought Vettel with the usual temper, but his aggressiveness disappears against Romain’s performance. Steiner is in talk with Mazepin’s father, owner of Uralkali. The Haas TP denied Haas is up for sale, as Mazepin tried to take over Racing Point before Lance Stroll, so perhaps the two were talking a sponsorship in exchange for a seat for the young Russian F2 driver. Italian press reported rumours of Mick Schumacher about to sign for Haas, rumour that I ignored in my role of news gatherer and re-framer. Mick and Kimi should be the pair up for Alfa Romeo in 2021, with Antonio Giovinazzi taking the seat of the news Ferrari simulator in Maranello.
Despite Honda leaving, Tsunoda is still one of the young drivers that Marko wants to bring to F1. He might replace Kvyat in AlphaTauri and team up with Gasly that, despite being the driver with more points in Toro Rosso/AlphaTauri history, will remain at Faenza. I do not think Albon will be replaced, as Gasly should have not being replaced last season. Red Bull seems to have learnt the lesson and has stopped burning drivers. But for Kvyat seems to be too late. But what does it mean for Perez and Hulkenberg? I wish I knew.
Hamilton is yet to re-sign. I find hard to believe that Lewis does feel uncomfortable talking money during a pandemic. I’m more incline to think that he is waiting to be reassured that Mercedes will continue racing after 2022 and to see what new role Toto Wolff will take in the team. I do not believe the rumour that he is asking too much for his new three years contract (apparently 44 million for three years) but I might be wrong. He will not talk with anyone else, but he might leave. In that case, look out for Max Verstappen, free to leave Red Bull under certain conditions after 2021. Talks between Toto and Lewis are reported to start after Imola. Stay tuned.
Save us from ourselves and deliver us from evil
While Mercedes is looking to achieve the en plain for pole positions in one season, there are few considerations I have picked up around. The first is about the need of F1 of cutting costs and apply a budget cap. The budget cap, 145 million for the first year and then to be reduced year by year, will cut “performance expenses”, meaning that the teams could still spend millions in hospitality and marketing. The budget cap is going to cut the essential for racing. And let’s look at the staff limit: how can F1 ask 1200 people to build 2 to 6 cars per season? About reverse grid: the topic was discussed by the 20 F1 drivers, and 18 over 20 were completely against the idea. The remaining 2 were open to an experiment. It sounds ridiculous that F1 has approved or is considering those ideas. And sad because those are ideas that Liberty Media borrowed from American sports but that were supported by F1 guru Ross Brawn! I wonder what Stefano Domenicali will do from January.
An American idea, that might help Ferrari for 2022, is F1 own version of the draft lottery: the lower a team finished in the Constructors’ standing, more time at the CFD and wind tunnel is allowed. Could this driving teams to tank their results? It does not seem the case for Ferrari, that has started experimenting for next season. But it could be an idea. And it would be against the sport. Oh yes, FIA and sporting regulations, we covered that during the Copygate…
A good idea was Sebastian Vettel’s for this weekend at the Nürburgring: let’s repeat the 1984 Nürburgring Champions Cup and let’s race on the same car. That would have been a show. Reminds me of 100.000.000$ pour Steve Warson, volume 66 of Michel Vaillant where the most famous drivers from motorsport were facing each other in different racing categories with the same vehicle.
And speaking of Michel Vaillant and the Vaillante team, FDA and other driving academy should start considering sending their drivers racing in other categories like WEC or IndyCar. There are so many drivers and not many seats available in F1. If Ferrari is serious at considering Le Mans or Indianapolis as next challenges, why not diverting their FDA drivers to these categories? It will open a new era of drivers jumping from one category to another, like Alonso is doing. By the way, go watch Amazon’s Fernando. Great docuseries.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, that’s all. For my couch to your display, enjoy the rest of your day.