This Week – 04/02/2024

News & Analysis This Week

This Week, a shocking move with ripple effects for seasons to come as the lure of Ferrari proves too big of a draw for Lewis Hamilton. Thirty years with Mercedes, in one way or another, over as the seven-time champion goes to the prancing horse but can he do what his two greatest rivals Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel failed to do, and win a championship? What next for Mercedes as this appears to have surprised them as much as all of us…

General News

Jenson Button finished third on his Daytona 24 Hours debut as former Sauber driver Felipe Nasr won for Porsche Penske Motorsport. Button’s teammate Louis Deletraz crossed the chequered flag to secure a podium finish for Wayne Taylor Racing, sharing duty with Jordan Taylor and McLaren IndyCar driver Colton Herta.

Tom Blomqvist and Jack Aitken finished second with Whelen Engineering Cadillac Racing. Button alongside his Sky Sports commitments will race in the hypercar class in the World Endurance Championship, which includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans race.

Organisers in Barcelona are confident a €50m renovation plan can help the event stay on the calendar beyond 2026 despite the Spanish Grand Prix’s move to Madrid. It was announced last week while the circuit has lost the hosting rights it could retain a Grand Prix, provisionally called Catalan Grand Prix after its deal ends,

Barcelona’s chiefs are bullish about their event’s future, hoping the completion of a 50 million euro renovation project will help get a new deal across the line. in recent years the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya has received criticism for its dated facilities and mediocre fan experience. The 2022 edition was marred by logistical issues, which prompted an apology from the promoters and a demand from F1 to improve its access problems.

In an informal press meeting attended by, circuit and Catalan government officials were optimistic that the large-scale renovation at Montmelo will alleviate some of those crowd control issues and will strengthen Barcelona’s claim on a grand prix slot.

However that could be hard given recent suggestions of a return to Sepang in Malaysia in 2027, following a decades long hiatus and the calendar capped at a twenty-four races. Me personally I would choose Sepang over Barcelona given it’s regarded as one of the best Tilke designed

The Japanese GP will remain at Suzuka until 2029 after Honda signed a new five-year deal from next year. The contract was due to end at the end of the season and the renewal will be welcomed by drivers and fans who love the figure of eight classic circuits.  The last remaining race that currently has a contract that runs out after this season’s edition is Silverstone, but it’s believed that a deal to keep the British GP firmly on the schedule is not far away.

The new Suzuka contract is not as long as those handed to the likes of Australia (running to 2035) and Bahrain (2036), but at five years it is longer than the track’s previous arrangement, which ran for three seasons. Both Suzuka and Silverstone, which deal will be announced soon, have always looked to be a formality in my view given historical value, Suzuka owned by Honda and Silverstone being a home race for most teams.

F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali said “Suzuka is a special circuit and part of the fabric of the sport. So I am delighted that F1 will continue to race there until at least 2029. As we prepare to return to Japan earlier than usual this season, l would like to express my huge gratitude to the promoter and team at Honda MobilityLand for supporting our effort towards greater calendar rationalisation as we look to make the sport more sustainable.”

Honda Mobilityland president Tsuyoshi Saito added: “We aim to create a sustainable future, and currently we are preparing to welcome many fans for the 2024 F1 Japanese Grand Prix in April, the first time the event will be held in the spring season. We will continue to work together with the local communities and government agencies, including Mie Prefecture and Suzuka City, so that Suzuka can continue to be loved by fans around the world


Prior to the Ferrari announcement, Lewis Hamilton ended his agreement with US-based management company Copper and is once again working with his long-time friend Marc Hynes. The two met during there junior career driving for Manor team in Formula Renault and F3 as he worked his way through the ranks. Hynes served as a driver coach for Manor and remained close to Hamilton after he made it to F1.

In December 2015, he took a job that involved focusing on building the Project Forty-Four organisation that was set up by Hamilton a year earlier, as well as looking after his day-to-day activities while being on hand at races. For the last three years Hamilton worked with Copper and its Canadian-born boss Penni Thow, primarily focussing on expanding Project Forty-Four and pursuing ventures outside racing, including the Mission 44 charitable foundation, an Apple+ TV documentary project and the Apple-backed Brad Pitt F1 film, which Hamilton is a producer of.

Hamilton says his call to leave Mercedes was one of the “hardest decisions” he has made in F1, as his exit for Ferrari was confirmed on Thursday night.

In his first interview, Hamilton said, “I have had an amazing 11 years with this team and I’m so proud of what we have achieved together. Mercedes has been part of my life since I was 13 years old.”

“It’s a place where I have grown up, so making the decision to leave was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make. But the time is right for me to take this step and I’m excited to be taking on a new challenge. I will be forever grateful for the incredible support of my Mercedes family, especially Toto for his friendship and leadership and I want to finish on a high together.”

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said he accepted Hamilton’s decision to join a rival, but said his squad was excited about the options it had as it ponders a replacement for 2025.

he explained, “In terms of a team-driver pairing, our relationship with Lewis has become the most successful the sport has seen, and that’s something we can look back on with pride. Lewis will always be an important part of Mercedes motorsport history. However, we knew our partnership would come to a natural end at some point, and that day has now come.”

Wolff admitted that the team’s options for replacing Hamilton have been ‘bitten’ Mercedes, but the Formula 1 team may be “bold” with its new signing. He has played down the prospect of going after Leclerc and Norris – both of whom were previously seen as leading candidates to one day succeed Hamilton.

Addressing the media for the first time since the Hamilton revelation, Wolff conceded that the recent driver market developments had ‘bitten’ Mercedes. Saying two days ago he didn’t believe it was

Also praising the credentials of George Russell to lead the team now, Wolff said: “We’ve such a solid foundation, such a quick and talented and intelligent guy [Russell] in a car that we just need to take the right choice for the second driver, the second seat. It’s not something I want to be rushed into. I guess that a few contracts have been signed a few weeks ago that we would have looked at. That would have been interesting, but the timing here bit us a bit.”

Wolff added that Mercedes could use this situation to be “bold” with its driver choice since the timing of Hamilton’s exit news has given Mercedes “a long time to decide what we want to do”.


Ferrari has named Ollie Bearman as one of their reserve drivers this season, sharing the role with Antonio Giovinazzi and Robert Shwartzman, with the trio on hand to support or step in for Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz. The Englishman made his FP1 debut with Haas in Mexico.

The two will also race for Ferrari in WEC this season. Bearman, who will also drive a second Formula 2 season for Prema Racing in 2024, finished sixth in his debut campaign in the feeder series last year, winning three feature races and one sprint race.

A statement over last weekend said, “Oliver Bearman, the Scuderia Ferrari Driver Academy student currently racing in Formula 2 with the Prema team, will also take on the role of Reserve Driver, ready to step in if a race driver is incapacitated, a role he will share with Antonio Giovinazzi and Robert Shwartzman.”

“These last two are also taking part in the WEC (World Endurance Championship) at the wheel of the Ferrari 499 P Hypercar, numbers 51 and 83 respectively.” Meanwhile, Leclerc’s broth Arthur has been promoted from FDA to development driver, days after Charles extended his contract until 2029.

Sainz’s future with the team remains uncertain, with talks understood to be ongoing over an extension to his current deal, which also expires at the end of the upcoming campaign.

All four were in action on Monday and Tuesday in Barcelona, with Arthur and Bearman on day one and Charles and Carlos on day two of a tyre test for Pirelli.

Well Sainz’s future with Ferrari was finalised on Thursday with him leaving the team at the end of the season when they announced they had signed Lewis Hamilton on a multi-year deal.. The biggest driver move in recent times will shake up the 2025 driver market before pre-season testing. But the move has parallels with his shock move to Mercedes in 2013, a year before a major regulation change then he went on to dominate the next seven seasons only losing the title to teammate Nico Rosberg in 2016.

Hamilton joining Ferrari proves the lure of the sport’s most historic and evocative team, is strong for many drivers. But his two long-time rivals Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso both were drawn to Ferrari but never managed to win a championship for the Scuderia. I think Hamilton could be different he joins Ferrari a lot later in his career and we know his move to Mercedes shocked us all but was one of the best decisions I’ve seen though at the time was strange but was one of the best moves I think we seen six championships in eight years, and eight constructors in a decade.

Hamilton at Ferrari, surprising but not, because Ferrari has always drawn the biggest drivers and I think in the latter part of his career he wants that challenge. We all know Sainz has been linked to Audi who enter in 2026, could he take a year out to work on that project? Or do a one year deal with Sauber or Haas to keep him sharp?

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Lando Norris believes the realistic ambition for the team in the next two years before the regulation change in 2026 is fighting for wins rather than titles. Last week, he signed a contract extension to 2027 at the earliest which he hopes will lead to him winning a championship.

But despite the rapid turnaround last season, saw the team emerged in the second half as the closet challenger to Red Bull. While Norris believes McLaren has the potential to build on its multiple podium-finishing form in 2023, he is equally not getting carried away that it will be in a position soon to launch a full-on title challenge.

he said, there were “Moments we were close to winning races last year, and a few races we were not miles away from a Red Bull, and, when you think of it, it was the most competitive car ever in F1. So, with the knowledge of, if you want to win one race, we are the closest we’ve ever been since I’ve been here at McLaren and for many, many years.”

“But fighting for a championship is a bigger step. If you asked me, ‘Do you think you can win races this year?’ I’d probably be more inclined to say yes.” Norris says an important thing you always need to remember, jumping from regularly winning races to challenging for titles are different mountains.

Norris feels that McLaren right now does have the capacity to take on anyone over a single weekend if things go right, but probably lacks the consistency to do it every time out. That latter part is key for any team looking to challenge Red Bull, but I think they need to all make a big jump.

Norris feels, though, that the major rules reset coming for 2026 when F1 will introduce new engines and all-new cars, offers a brilliant opportunity for any top teams to seize the initiative and gun for the title.


Aston Martin

Team principal Mike Krack believes this season’s competitive order is unlikely to go through “big deviations” in 2024 as the regulations remain stable. This year is the third year of the current regulations, it is expected that all the teams will coalesce around the Red Bull-style downwash sidepod car architecture.

The notable exceptions to that philosophy were Mercedes and Ferrari, but both have committed to a new car concept for 2024 that will almost certainly fall in line with the rest of the grid. Krack says it would be a ‘surprise’ to see any major changes to the form guide this year.

He said: “When you when you have stable rules, the way we have it now, teams will rather go evolutionary. And if you have such a standout car, as we have with Red Bull, I think a lot of people will try to go in that direction.”

“On the other hand, we have heard from Ferrari, from Mercedes, that they will make very big architectural changes. So, we are curious to see what that is going to bring.  But I think all in all, if you look at it, usually what happens if the technical regs stay [the same] the field is moving closer together year on year.”

I think he is on the ball with what we are in theory expecting this season. However, Krack believes that the focus of teams over the next two years will be on refining their trackside operations to regain performance.

Improved strategy and pitstop times might prove critical in the races, given the teams could be split by as little as six-tenths in qualifying during the second half of the 2023 season.


RB, previously Alpha Tauri, has appointed former FIA technical director for single-seaters Tim Gloss as chief technical officer while confirming Alan Permane as racing director. The two signings are the first significant signings by incoming team principal Laurent Mekies.

In addition to Goss and Permane coming in, it has also hired Red Bull aerodynamicist Guillaume Cattelani as its deputy technical director. Goss has been brought in to report to Mekies in the newly-created position of chief technical officer, following his recent departure as the FIA’s technical director for single-seaters. I think this is further evidence of two things which may sound contradictory building closer ties but developing the team into a midfield leader.

Goss said “I am delighted to join Visa Cash App RB at the start of its new era of competition. It’s a team with great pride and heritage, with some exceptional people already in place, and I’m looking forward to working with team principal Laurent Mekies and alongside technical director Jody Egginton. “There’s an exciting challenge ahead of us but I think the team is well-equipped to meet that head-on.”

Former Alpine racing director Permane will oversee all of its trackside operations, a similar role he had been fulfilling at the Enstone team until his dismissal last July. Permane added, “After a few months of downtime, it’s great to return to racing again with the Visa Cash App RB team.  From long experience, I know how professional, driven and competitive the people within this race team are and I can’t wait to see where that spirit can take the team in the future.”

Cattelani has been brought in from sister team Red Bull to work as a deputy to technical director Egginton. According to Egginton, Cattelani’s “focus on aerodynamics and vehicle dynamics will allow us to hone and develop this year’s car and add capability going forward, while Tim’s arrival will absolutely give us the structure we need to create cars that will elevate the team’s performance even further in the coming years.”

I think these are significant appointments to develop RB independence and become a strong midfield team which Red Bull wants going forward, they’ve been clear its now a sister team rather than a B Team, but they need to deliver.

Former driver Nyck de Vries has lost a legal case initiated by a company that invested in his career by providing him with a loan. The Amsterdam District Court has decreed that De Vries will have to repay the €250,000 loan and, in addition, pay half of both his salary and any sponsorship income he earned during his partial F1 season with AlphaTauri up to July 2023. The Dutchman is now considering an appeal against the decision.

De Vries obtained the loan from Jeroen Schothorst’s Investrand company in 2018, when he needed to top up the budget for his Prema Formula 2 drive. It was agreed that if De Vries became an active F1 driver by 2022, Investrand would take 50% of his income for as long as he competed at the top level. If he didn’t make it to F1 by that time, Investrand would write the loan off. The company later agreed that his activities as a test driver for Mercedes would not count.

A complication arose when, at the 2022 Italian GP, reserve driver De Vries was called in at the last minute as a substitute for the ill Alex Albon at Williams. He duly finished ninth in the race and did enough to catch the attention of Red Bull, which led to him getting the AlphaTauri seat for the following year. He will thus have to repay the €250,000 loan plus interest, along with half of his 2023 AlphaTauri earnings.

Schothorst said, “I am happy that the judge has now ruled in our favour, although I of course regret that this procedure was necessary. We would have preferred to reach an arrangement without procedures through proper consultation, but unfortunately, our attempts to do so were resolutely rejected by Nyck and his lawyer. This made going to court inevitable. That does not alter the fact that I wish Nyck all possible success in the continuation of his already impressive motorsport career, even though it will no longer be in F1.”

De Vries’s lawyer Jeroen Bedaux challenged the decision, noting that De Vries had won on some elements such as any extra payments claimed to the end of 2022, while also indicating that there may yet be an appeal. He told “The court’s interpretation of the agreement is not consistent with what De Vries in any event intended at the time he concluded the agreement, and De Vries has also fully and conscientiously fulfilled his obligations up to and including 2022, which has also been confirmed in court.


Haas understands a “significant part” about the tyre problems that held it back last year but admits it does not fully comprehend the issues at play. The team spent most of last of last year once again struggling to understand why it was fast in qualifying but would struggle so much to look after its tyres in the race.

An upgrade introduced at the United States Grand Prix to help improve the aerodynamic characteristics did not deliver a clear answer either about what direction it needed to head in, and drivers Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg ended up going different routes. Haas boss Ayao Komatsu is clear that much of the focus of its winter efforts has been on addressing the tyre issue, which he says it has not yet been fully resolved.

Komatsu said, “I don’t think we understand everything. I think we understand a significant part of it, but the only proof is if you can produce a car that can deal with the problem. I don’t like to sit here and say that we understand it 100%, We don’t. But we have a decent idea of why and where we need to focus on.”

This has to be concerning but I’m not surprised we have often talked about this weakness for Haas but he has given a few possible reasons one being the way forwards being looked at is how different departments integrate with each other. They are based across three different time zones and two continents but he says key to Haas making progress was in improving the lines of communication, and ensuring that the infrastructure was robust enough for the right decisions to be made.

On Friday, the team unveiled the livery of the VF-24, compared to last years car is not substantial, but he main area of alteration being the upper nose section. This is now predominantly black compared to being white last year, which makes the VF-24 appear dark from all angles compared to its predecessor.

While Haas has only released renders of the VF-24’s livery so far, it will run its new car for the first time at a Silverstone shakedown on 11 February.

Haas F1 team’s owner and chairman, Gene Haas said, “I’m looking forward to seeing the VF-24 running and racing – a sentiment I know I share with our partners and indeed the entire team. In Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen, we also know we’ve got a great pair of drivers behind the wheel.”

“Their experience will prove invaluable again as we develop our programme through the year. We’ve used the off-season to put the processes in place to be better and ultimately improve our overall performance. Soon we get to see how we’re doing.”

Komatsu, when Steiner did not have his contract renewed by Gene Haas after the 2023 season concluded. In a Haas team statement, Komatsu said the squad is “realistic about our expectations for the VF-24 to start”, while adding, “it’s still an exciting moment in any F1 season to showcase the [livery]”. But in a frank admission, he stated that he expects Haas “out of the gates in Bahrain [when the sole test and first race will take place]… I still think we’re going to be towards the back of the grid, if not last”.


F1 has rejected the American Andretti team’s bid to enter the sport in the next two years – but left the door open for admission in 2028. Andretti’s entry had been approved by the governing body however liberty Media which holds the commercial rights holders F1 felt the proposal for entry in 2025 or 2026 was lacking.

F1 conducted analysis involving key stakeholders and decided an eleventh team “would not on its own add value” and does “not believe the applicant would be a competitive participant”. This appears to be under the current proposals as Liberty Media has suggested that should General Motors build an engine for 2028 there could be an opportunity to re-evaluate the entry.

F1 said it would “look differently on an application for the entry of a team into the 2028 championship with a GM power unit, either as a GM works team or as a GM customer team designing all allowable components in-house.

I’m not surprised by the decision by Liberty not to accept the offer given the public resistance to this by other teams, however, I am surprised they weren’t consulted. We know that until recently because of multiple factors rather than Covid financial stability ha seen many teams struggle to turn a profit and before Haas, the three teams which entered in 2010 have all gone bust in five years.

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The Week Ahead

We had a big shock this week with Lewis Hamilton, this could lead to earlier contract negotiations for all the drivers, even activating a few break clauses we don’t know. Hamilton’s move shocked everyone and Mercedes have hinted at doing something bold but we don’t know. Carlos Sainz now has to go through the whole season being sacked.

We will want to here from him at some point, I may next week write a column, but I think Mercedes will need time to think about the future. The coming weeks with three weeks until Bahrain is going to ramp up the speculation about that big question we have all been asking for months it seems, can anyone stop Red Bull this year, come launch week that will be on all our minds unfortunately I’m on holiday.

Think the driver market will start earlier some drivers may see Mercedes as an option though it’s not as big of a draw as it would have been a few years ago. Launch week could be interesting as drivers will already start being asked about 2025, we need to try and see through behind the bigger spin that will be put on by drivers. The months ahead could be interesting as we figure out what’s really going on…

The format of sprint weekends is still the unknown as on the start times list it listed as TBC when sessions are we have two months till Shanghai where the first sprint is. That I imagine will be decided soon and we will have answers. We will wait to see the reaction when it is given its been divisive between fans and we would like to know soon.


We will be back on Sunday 25th February for This Test with all the analysis of pre-season testing, the next regular This Week is Sunday 17th March.

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