Lorenzo vs Do I really need a degree?
Nobody graduated in the 2020 edition of the Belgian Grand Prix
With football in its offseason, and with rugby league being a fresh interest and not offering much space of analysis, my mood is heavily based on what happens in Formula 1. And if you have previously read my reviews, you know that I support a team before being a sport fan. Can’t hide it!
You understand that sitting at my keyboard this afternoon and writing my review has been tough. Because my team has underperformed. And because the race itself was never interesting.
Sadness multiplied by the fact that this race was hosted on one of the best racetracks ever: the F1 University, Spa-Francorchamps.
I wasn't sleeping. Frustration kept me awake.
It was not a race, it was a Stations of the Cross, a 308km long procession. Of course, not every race can be a thriller, but you have expectations when the cars are in Belgium.
I’m sure Valtteri Bottas had expectations. But apparently, he “agreed” in not using the full potential of his Mercedes to attack his teammate. The Finnish was denied of the chance to pursuit the victory and trying to reduce the gap between him and Hamilton in the Drivers’ Standing.
Bottas was not the only one that was stopped from trying something different. Antonio Giovinazzi’s crash at Lap 9 hurt everybody, especially George Russell that was hit by the Alfa Romeo’s rear left tyre, forcing the Safety Car in for 4 laps, and all the teams to recall their drivers to the pits.
At Lap 11, most of the drivers were on new Hard tyres. Albon choose new Medium, while Raikkonen had to opt for used Hard. Pérez stayed out until Lap 18, changing from Soft to new Hard, an odd strategy that penalised his race. Gasly, who started on Hard tyres, stopped at Lap 26 for new Medium.
Charles Leclerc was called in the pits at Lap 10. He was the first in, but his stop was a disaster. His tyres were not ready, and he stayed in for 10 seconds. It was not a big loss, considering the performance of his Ferrari. At the start, Charles managed to jump from 13th to 8th, but lost all the places he gained on the Kemmel straight.
Latifi and Magnussen, in the last two places at the chequered flag, stopped for a second time. Leclerc was forced to a second stop for a precautionary engine valves pneumatic pressure top-up.
From Lap 11 to the chequered flag, nothing else happened. All the drivers had to manage their tyres until the end. Hamilton won over Bottas, Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo who scored the fastest lap of the race at the last lap. Ocon 5th, proving how good Renault is on low drag setup, was followed by Albon, Norris, Gasly, Stroll and Pérez.
Ricciardo and Ocon will have another great chance to score points this Sunday at Monza.
On the drivers outside points, Kvyat 11th puts the second AlphaTauri, the former Minardi and still built in Faenza, Italy, in front of the two Ferrari, Vettel 13th and Leclerc 14th. Ferrari struggled during the whole weekend, with Charles Leclerc losing around 9 tenths in Sectors 1 and 3 compared to his last year time but improving the same by almost 4 tenths in the middle sector, where aero and chassis efficiency is key. The two drivers never found confidence in their car and found difficult to bring tyres to temperature due to extreme low drag setup that Ferrari was forced to choose. The Italian Grand Prix in Monza appears to be another disaster in the making.
The Master of Spa Kimi Räikkönen was 12th after a very positive race despite the flaws of his Alfa Romeo. Positive Giovinazzi performance before the race, with another great first lap. The Apulian driver is the only one that made up places during the first lap of every round of this 2020 championship, scoring a +20.
Grosjean, Latifi and Magnussen in the last three places. DNF for Giovinazzi and Russell. DNS for Carlos Sainz, that suffered an exhaust failure during his lap to the grid.
Prelude and Succession to the Spa throne
All hail King Kimi
In the beginning, Michael Schumacher from Hürth reached the Ardennes and established his kingdom. Then, he left the throne to Kimi-Matias Räikkönen from Espoo. But with the King about to leave the sport, who will claim Spa as their domain?
Before the race, Ferrari and Alfa Romeo focus was on this F2 racing weekend. Mick Schumacher, one of the Ferrari Driver Academy drivers, qualified 7th, and scored a 3rd place in the feature race and a 2nd place in the sprint race.
The German driver is rumoured to take Räikkönen’s place in Alfa Romeo next season, if the Finnish, 41 in October, decides to stop racing at the end of this season.
On other news, Liberty Media finalised the new Concorde Agreement. Ferrari was the most satisfied team, keeping its historical bonus, being considered as a founder partners of F1, and retaining its veto. It is a political victory for the Italian team, and most likely it will be the only victory they will score this season.
The 2020 F1 calendar was also completed. As expected, Yas Marina will close the championship. Turkey will return in the calendar, with reserve: they still need to have their licence Grade 1 licence approved by the FIA.
Bahrain will be the third double feature, after the Red Bull Ring and Silverstone. One of the two races will be hosted on a different track layout, nicknamed Bahrain “oval” by Ross Brawn in a recent interview. The racetrack will be shortest to ever host a F1 Grand Prix. A whole lap is expected to be completed in under 55 seconds, the shortest F1 lap ever. The record to beat is held by Niki Lauda, lapping the 1974 Dijon track in 59 seconds.
The short and fast layout, that will feature two or three DRS zones, will cause lots of traffic jams during practices and in Q1.
One of the teams that were happy to sign the Agreement, Williams Racing, has been sold to Dorilton Capital, a New York company. They do not have racing or sport background, but some key figures in the new management of the historical team will be James Mathews, former British Formula Renault driver, and Stephanie Dattilo, former General Counsel for Pirelli North America that dealt with Liberty Media for title sponsorships. The team name will stay the same. The team HQ will remain Grove. And Claire Williams stays as team principal for the time being.
It is the end of an era for F1, with the last of the “garagisti”, as Enzo Ferrari would call the British independent teams who assembled their cars with purchased parts, to disappear. And, to be fair to Frank Williams, he is the only person who came close to what Enzo Ferrari achieved in motorsport. Frank, former De Tomaso technician, created and conducted a team to 738 entries, 312 podiums, 133 fastest laps, 128 pole positions, 114 victories, 9 Constructors’ and 7 Drivers’ Championships. Their last victory was in 2012, and the last championships in 1997.
Updates on the Copygate
$60k? Wait until you pop the bonnet
Renault has withdrawn their appeal against Racing Point in the Copygate. Ferrari and Racing Point are now the only two parties involved in the case. Renault’s reasons to withdrawn are not dissimilar from McLaren’s. They have been reassured by the FIA that new rules against plagiarism will be introduced from next season. There are also rumour of friendly phone conversations between Daimler CEO Ola Källenius and Renault new CEO, Luca De Meo. The two CEOs, old friends, are rumoured to have privately solved the issue. Why Daimler CEO has felt the need to call Renault CEO is unclear, as Mercedes is not directly involved in the case. For the record, Mercedes owns a small percentage of Renault.
In the near future
It will hardly change the ranks in the pack
Party Mode ban has been rectified and it will be in force from this weekend, the Italian Grand Prix in Monza. After discussions between the FIA and the engine suppliers, the FIA has picked the parameters that they will check to ensure the use of the same engine mode in both qualifying and race.
The ban was schedule to be applied in Spa, but Mercedes and Honda asked, and obtain, to postpone the ban to work out the new engine management configuration.
The FIA has focused on the ICE. They will check fuel and air flow and pressure, output power and RPM of the thermic engine. They also asked the teams to submit their ERS data before the 21st of August. It is unclear if they were looking in ways to inspect the hybrid side of the Power Unit. There are suspicions about some team managing to exploit the limit of 163HP delivered by the electric motors.
Teams will still be allowed to have an Overtake button. This function will be unavailable during qualifying. It will be available in race, only on straights and it will use extra power released from the MGU-K and the opening of the wastegate valve only.
FIA has also started looking into ways to reduce the aerodynamic load on 2021 cars to help the teams in managing the Pirelli tyres, spec 2019, that will be used next season. After the incidents in Silverstone, the FIA has decided to reduce the aerodynamic efficiency of cars by around 10%, by eliminating opening on floors, reducing the size of rear brake ducts deflectors and reducing diffuser fences.
From 2022, Pirelli will introduce new tyres to fit the 18” rims.
VW has expressed an interest in entering F1 with one of their brands. Herbert Diess, CEO of VAG, said that he will considering entering the sport if F1 will decide to pursuit the reduction of CO2 via synthetic fuels.
From Down Under, that’s all. You will, hopefully, hear from me next Monday for a review of the Italian Grand Prix.