Binotto admits Mercedes has a “slightly better” car
Ferrari’s team principal Mattia Binotto says that Mercedes has a “slightly better” car but insists that the gap between the two teams in the championship is not representative.
The Italian team were believed to be the benchmark in testing, however, Mercedes has made a brilliant start to the season and become the first team to score four one-twos in the first four races. While Ferrari has failed to fight Mercedes in three races and lost an almost certain win in Bahrain.
Mercedes F1 CEO Toto Wolff has acknowledged that the current gap “flatters” his team’s W10 in relation to the SF90, and his counterpart at Ferrari is of a similar opinion.
Speaking after Baku, Binotto told Autosport “I think that, four races in the season, no win for Ferrari, four wins for Mercedes, no doubt that they are very strong, and certainly they’ve got, let me say, a slightly better car.”
“But I think that the gap is not so big, and the points and the results are not reflecting the true potentials of the cars.” In Baku, Charles Leclerc topped all three practices before a crash during qualifying cost him the chance of challenging for pole.
While teammate Sebastian Vettel put “a bit of pressure” on the Mercedes cars in the race, but ultimately finished over 10 seconds behind second-placed Lewis Hamilton. Binotto added, “I think that if you’ve got a car fast enough to score potentially the pole, you’ve got a good car overall.”
“In the race, yes, we were not as fast as them, but we didn’t finish 20 seconds behind. I think that Seb somehow at the end of the race was quite close, and if you look what the delta, lap time average, on the race, is significant but still little.”
“I think it’s something on which there is much to try to work and to close in in the near future.” The Monacan did manage to recover to fifth in the race, after believing he “threw away” a great chance.
He says that the care definitely had the potential for pole, but he has taken the responsibility for the mistake and says that fifth place was the best he could manage in the race.
Leclerc added “It’s a bit disappointing, but on the other hand I think there are some positives to take away from the weekend. I think qualy pace was definitely stronger than China and race pace was also very close to Mercedes, so yeah, now we look forward and I’m pretty sure we’ll come back even stronger in Barcelona.”
Horner “totally confident” that Verstappen will stay
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner is “totally confident” that Max Verstappen will stay with the team beyond the end of the season, despite reports that Mercedes is interested in the Dutchman.
Last month Mercedes F1 CEO and team principal Toto Wolff dismissed rumours that the German manufacturer was trying to lure him away from Red Bull, following a meeting with his father Jos. While Verstappen, who has a contract until 2020, has also dismissed the reports.
Horner told Motorsport.com, “Max has a contract and it’s very clear what that position is. I’m totally confident that he’ll be here next year.” It has been suggested that Verstappen’s contract contains a performance clause that would allow him to leave Red Bull if it cannot fight for the world title with Honda.
He finished third in Melbourne and in fourth in the last three races, the third place also marked Honda’s first podium since returning to Formula One in 2015. Verstappen has only finished fourth in the three races since then, but is ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in the points and only just behind Sebastian Vettel.
Horner added, “We’re at race four and he’s 36 points behind [championship leader Valtteri Bottas]. There’s a long way to go in this championship and you just have to take things one race at a time. Three fourth positions in a row is getting a little it boring now and I think we want to be fighting for the podium again.”
Verstappen has been very supportive of the Red Bull – Honda relationship, with an upgrade being introduced in Baku. The Dutchman grew increasingly frustrated with Renault’s reliability issues last year. However, he says he accepts that Honda will need to trigger grid penalties this year in its bid to catch Ferrari and Mercedes.
However, in a recent Q&A with team partner ExxonMobil, Horner said Verstappen’s form meant the onus is on the team to produce a better package.
Horner adds “Max selected another gear since last year’s Canadian Grand Prix. The way he drove from that point onwards has been hugely impressive. He had a run that came to end in Bahrain of six straight podiums.”
“He also scored the second highest amount of points behind Lewis Hamilton in the second half of last season and he’s carried that form through the winter to the start of this year.”
Scrap Friday running – Kvyat
Daniil Kvyat has suggested that Formula One should scrap Friday practice altogether, saying that teams already know too much. In Baku, FP1 was abandoned after Williams’s George Russell ran over a drain cover dislodging it.
In the following days the debate about the format of the weekend going forward. Now the Russian has suggested that it will not hurt having just one session at current venues and an extra day for new venues. He told Motorsport.com, “Maybe we need to just come on the track on Saturday. That’s it. Honestly, we are so up [to knowledge] on all the tracks we know.”
“I think we need to allow extra time on new tracks, like it’s going to be Vietnam or something, maybe, but I don’t know. It’s up to F1 people to decide, what is best and what is not. Every driver is different. Someone needs maybe five hours. But not me.”
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says that changing the format to a two-day format would make sense if the calendar continues to grow and if they ad more races they will need to be more condensed.
Adding “We saw that one session worked well enough on Friday [in Baku], so maybe just one good session is the way to go. Then parts and people can turn up a little bit later and one session is enough for the weekend.”
Easier to cope with Williams woes due to past woes – Russell
George Russell believes that he has found it easier to cope with Williams difficulties because he hasn’t had the “perfect career” leading up to the start of his Formula One career.
The current Formula Two champion has impressed in his first four races for the team, regularly out qualifying and out racing more experienced teammate Robert Kubica. But the team remains firmly as the slowest car on the grid and unable to fight in the midfield.
Asked by Motorsport.com, whether his own career background helped him better cope with Williams’ current predicament, Russell said: “Yeah, you know, it’s not my first difficult year. I think sometimes if you have just such a perfect career path.”
“When you do have a difficulty, you don’t know how to handle it, whereas I’ve had a number of difficult moments in my career, so I’ve sort of got the experience on that hand.” Russell, who is backed by Mercedes stepped up into F1 after back to back titles in F2 and what is now F3, formerly GP3, with ART Grand Prix.
That followed two difficult years in European Formula 3 with Carlin in 2015 and Hitech GP in 2016, during which the Briton was unable to fight for the title against the leading cars of the dominant Prema outfit. Russell says they are examples of “character-building” campaigns for him, while also putting 2013, his final year in karting, into the same category.
“My last year in karting was very difficult, I went to a team [Birel ART] which wasn’t performing at the time. I saw it as a win-win situation; if I performed it’d look great on me and if I didn’t, people would just blame it on the equipment.”
He says that his two F3 years were character building, with the huge amount he has learned Russell believes they have made him the kind of driver he is today.
While Williams continues to struggle, Russel can Russell can only measure himself against Kubica right now, and even there direct comparisons have been made difficult by a perceived difference in equipment.
His fellow rookies Lando Norris and Alex Albon, have already impressed early on and are all drivers Russell successfully competed alongside in his junior career.
But there is a belief in the paddock that Russell can perform at the same level given the right car.
“Exciting things in pipeline” for Williams
Williams says that it has “exciting things in the pipeline” as the team looks to close the gap to the midfield after clearing the “backlog” in the manufacturing process which prevented car development.
The British team remains firmly at the back and is the only one yet to score points following the difficult start to the season. A delay in building the car and changes to ensure the car was legal has left Williams unable to manufacture upgrades to make up for its performance shortcomings.
For this weekends Spanish Grand Prix the team are bringing “a few little upgrades”, which George Russell believes will “give us a good indication of how the rest of the season will pan out.”
He told Autosport, “It’s definitely going to get easier from now on in and I have confidence that we are going to make progress. The team is working extremely hard and we have some quite exciting things in the pipeline.”
“How close that will bring us to the rest of the pack I don’t know but these [difficult] weekends are making us stronger. I do believe at some point we’ll be able to turn it around.”
Russell admitted Williams will not have a “full update” at Barcelona and said the developments focus on “a number of different things from aerodynamics to brakes”.
The team’s technical programme is currently being run by co-founder and former technical director Sir Patrick Head, Williams chief technical officer Paddy Lowe has not been working for the team since just before the season opener, for “personal reasons”.
Deputy team principal Claire Williams says that Sir Patrick is “acting as a guide” for the team’s engineers and believes progress is on the horizon after playing “catch up” since missing the start of pre-season testing.
She added “We are now in a position where we have all our race quantities, we have the quality on those race quantities that we needed,” Williams said.
Williams believes that there is some light at the end of the tunnel and that a little bit of performance to the car, but admits that the car is too far behind Toro Rosso.
Schumacher describes F1 as his destiny
Mick Schumacher has described reaching Formula One as his destiny, as he looks to learn from his father’s legacy. Mick is the son of seven times champion Michael, and his F2 and F1 test debut in Bahrain last month.
Asked by Sky Sports, which of the current grid he most identified with, he said “I’m not really comparing myself to anyone now in F1, obviously it’s to my dad who I compare myself to. To see what we did, which steps he took and what he did different to others, and also see what positives I can take from that.”
Schumacher says that there are so many talented drivers in F1 and they would not be there otherwise, he says that it is always good to speak to each other and try to learn as much as possible. Asked if he regarded F1 as his destiny, he replied: “Yeah, it is.”
The twenty-year-old has enjoyed a breakthrough twelve months, a late surge in last years Euro F3 saw him secure a drive in F2 this season as well as being signed to Ferrari’s Academy.
Schumacher added, “It is very important to do one step after the other. We have done that up until now and F2 should now be the final step before F1.”
He has scored points in three of the four races this season and goes into this weekends Spanish Grand Prix ninth in the championship. Schumacher says that’s he is very happy to work with Prema and says that the tyres degrade a bit more.
Adding “It’s very good preparation for F1 and so I’m very grateful to be here.”
Spain to mark Imola anniversary
Organisers of the Spanish Grand Prix have announced that the Brazilian-Austrian flag it will display on the podium of its race this weekend as a nod to a poignant tribute to Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger.
Last week marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the deaths of the three times champion and the Austrian at Imola. Following Senna accident, it emerged that in his car he had the Austrian flag, which he had planned to unfurl and wave after the race.
It is well documented how reluctant the Brazilian driver had been to race after Ratzenberger’s death, which had affected him greatly.
Barcelona is the first race since the anniversary, want to make that tribute happen and have merged the national flags of both drivers. The winner will display the flag on the podium, and a similar flag will also be at half-mast on the entrance to the circuit.
Fans are also being encouraged to interact with the hashtag #thetributethatneverhappened. Replicas will be available for those in attendance to purchase.
It will end two weeks of commemorations events across Europe and in Brazil marking the anniversary