F1 Today – 09/01/2023

Blog News & Analysis

Ben Sulayem “surprised” by “reaction” to Andretti’s proposed entry

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem says he is “surprised” by the “adverse reaction” to Andretti’s proposed entry with Cadillac. After years of lobbying the owner Michael received his biggest boost yet when they announced a partnership with the General Motors brand Cadillac.

The Andretti-Cadillac bid is unlikely to be on the grid until the 2026 regulation changes, but would require sign-off from Liberty Media and the FIA, who have welcomed the developments.

Ben Sulayem’s latest message of support for Andretti came on Sunday when, without specifying who or what he was referring to, he posted a message on Twitter hitting back at the reaction to their plan. The FIA president wrote, “It is surprising that there has been some adverse reaction to the Cadillac and Andretti news.”

“The FIA has accepted the entries of smaller, successful organisations in recent years. We should be encouraging prospective F1 entries from global manufacturers like GM and thoroughbred racers like Andretti and others. Interest from teams in growth markets adds diversity and broadens F1’s appeal.”

After the Andretti and General Motors announced last week, F1 issued a statement saying they were not the only interested party and would not be guaranteed a spot on the grid.

F1 added in their statement, “There is great interest in the F1 project at this time with a number of conversations continuing that are not as visible as others.” The sport has made it clear over the last few years any new entry must be ‘credible and stable’ which must meet the criteria and objectives set out.

In response, Andretti said, “One of the big things was ‘what does Andretti bring to the party?’. Well, we’re bringing one of the biggest manufacturers in the world with us now with General Motors and Cadillac.”

Andretti are intending to have one American driver, expected to be Colton Herta. Despite a proposed entry being some time away, Andretti is making firm plans for the grid.

Herta was linked to a race seat with Alpha Tauri, however, was unable to take up the seat after failing to secure enough super licence points despite his success in IndyCar, but as he is signed through to 2027 with Andretti he is the logical top pick.

On top of building a factory in Indiana and now gaining a major partner, Andretti is mulling his driver options and has confirmed that an American driver is top of the list, namely Herta.


Car weight now on the edge of being a safety issue – Russell

George Russell says the increasing weight of the cars could become a potential safety issue as an impact “is like crashing with a bus compared to a Smart Car”. Last years. Regulation changes introduced the heaviest cars in the sports history, up three kilograms from the previous regulations.

The changes were made to incorporate the metal floor stays several teams ran throughout last season to improve their problems with porpoising, as well as because several standard parts came in heavier than expected when produced for the teams.

Car weight was also a major issue in terms of performance in 2022 at all team bar Alfa Romeo, which hit the minimum weight target ahead of last season. They all struggled to get down to the limit due to the heavier standard parts and having to design their new machines with the heavier eighteen-inch wheels and new safety structure additions in mind.

The heavier weight was also the source of many complaints from the drivers, which performed as expected in high-speed turns due to their underfloor aerodynamic surfaces but struggled with understeer in slow corners. Speaking to Motorsport.com, about the handling of the cars, Russell said there are “a lot of positives to take from this regulation change” and also outlined his thoughts on how the high and seemingly ever-rising weight figure could soon become problematic.

Russell, who is also a director of the trade union which represents drivers, the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, added “The big one [issue] is the weight. The weight is extraordinary. At the moment, the low-speed performance is not great.”

“We keep making these cars safer and safer, but obviously the heavier you make them when you have an impact it’s like crashing with a bus compared to a Smart Car.”

“You’re going to have a greater impact if you’re going the same speed with a car that weights 800-odd-kgs or over 900kgs at the start of a race, compared to one 15 years ago when they were at 650kg.”

He believes it will get to the point where the cars get too heavy and become unsafe.


Renault expects FIA to get tough on engine upgrades

Renault is expecting that the FIA will get tougher with engine manufactures do not use upgrades for reliability to boost performance. This year is the second year of a freeze on power units which restricts what elements can be changed.

Hardware tweaks solely aimed at delivering a boost in power are not allowed, but the FIA is able to approve changes aimed at solving genuine reliability problems. However, such tweaks can cause controversy if, as a consequence of sorting out problems, there is a subsequent lift in performance.

Renault’s engine boss Bruno Famin thinks that so far the FIA has handled well the process of dealing with reliability issues, but reckons that things now need to be tightened up with teams having had a year to better understand their power units. Famin told Motorsport.com, “I think the process in 2022 with the FIA and the other manufacturers has been quite good. It has been transparent at least, so everybody was aware of the request of the others, and this is very good. It has been well managed by the FIA, I think.”

“It has been quite tolerant in 2022. I think it was quite normal because everybody was affected by reliability issues: not only us, clearly, because I think we had 30/40/50/60/70 requests from different manufacturers, so everybody was affected by this kind of problem. I am expecting the FIA to be a bit stronger in the future, but I have no information.”

Famin admits the issue is complicated to deal with because there are some elements of the power unit where it is hard to separate performance and reliability. He explained that reliability has an impact on a potential performance gains.

Saying “if you need to change the material of the piston rings, you will be able to have something stronger, to have more knock, to have more performance, then where is the limit? It’s not obvious.”


Williams could have been quicker in 2022 – Albon

Alex Albon believes that Williams could have been “much quicker” last year if they had resolved the balance issues that “tied in” to certain circuits. The British-Thai driver made his return to the sport last year following a year out as Red Bull’s reserve and development driver and quickly became the team’s leader.

Albon’s best finish of ninth in Miami along with points finishes in Australia and Belgium and won praise for his performances throughout the season. But Williams struggled to regularly compete with the other midfield teams, causing it to slump to last in the constructors’ championship

The team’s biggest weakness which affected Albon and his teammate Nicolas Latifi was the balance of the car, something Albon was confident, if solved, would unlock much more pace.

Albon told Motorsport.com, “It’s a tricky one, because the car can be much quicker with the right balance to it. It feels like at the minute, we’re quite restricted on performance just because of how we’re tied in at some places. Certain tracks really expose us, like Brazil or Mexico.”

“But I know for a fact what we need to do to the car. We’ve just got to find it, really. There’s no easy given that we’re going to just be able to say we need this in the car and we’ll be able to get it.”

“There’s a lot of correlation that needs to be correct. There’s a lot of different departments in the factory that we need to get moving and into the right direction together. And that’s going to be the aim for the winter.”

Williams ended last season in tenth, twenty-seven points behind ninth-placed Alpha Tauri, after opting to end development of its car early to focus on 2023. Albon signed a multi-year contract extension with Williams in 2022, which he felt gave him the security to focus more on helping the team find the right direction with its car development.

Albon added, “My focus a lot of the time was really about surviving in F1, or focusing on that kind of performance side on my side. Whereas now that I have that kind of stability and focus into the future, a lot of it is now turning its attention more to, OK, how do we bring this forward with the team? Where does the development need to go?”

He says that he wants to work together with his new teammate Sargeant, as he gets up to speed in his development the American has created a good dynamic.


Colapinto joins Williams F1 academy

Formula Three race winner Franco Colapinto has joined Williams’ academy ahead of the 2023 season. The Argentinian made his debut in Formula Three with Van Amersfoort Racing, taking pole on his debut at the Bahrain Grand Prix and winning sprint races at Imola and Monza.

He finished ninth in the driver’s championship, after three further podiums to his name. Williams announced on Monday that Colapinto had become the latest young driver to join its junior programme, as well as confirmed he would remain in F3 with MP Motorsport.

According to Williams, Colapinto will be “immersed with the team both trackside and at the factory in Grove” as well as undertaking simulator work to assist his own development and that of the team’s F1 car.

Colapinto added, “It’s a real honour to join Williams Racing Team as an Academy Driver. They are one of the most successful teams in Formula 1 history and I am looking forward to following in the footsteps of my fellow countryman Carlos Reutemann.”

“It’s an incredible opportunity for which I am forever grateful. Thanks to everyone at Williams for putting their trust in me. The goal is to reach even higher this time. My first year in FIA F3 was all about learning and I will use all the knowledge I’ve gathered to aim for the title next year.”

Sporting director Sven Smeets added, “We’re delighted to welcome Franco to the Williams Racing Driver Academy. His career achievements since starting karting highlight Franco’s natural ability behind the wheel and what he’s capable of in the years to come. He had a standout rookie season in Formula 3 with several strong performances that led to podiums and wins.”


Bottas impressed by Zhou’s lack of mistakes

Valtteri Bottas was impressed by Alfa Romeo teammate Guanyu Zhou’s lack of mistakes through his rookie season, calling it his “biggest strength.” The Finn and Zhou formed an all new line up at the team last season.

While Bottas was responsible for forty-nine of Alfa Romeo’s fifty-five points in 2022, Zhou drew praise for his performances through his rookie campaign, scoring a best result of eighth place at the Canadian Grand Prix.

Bottas agreed with the suggestion that Zhou had surprised many through his first F1 season, noting there had been very few errors compared to many other rookies. He told Motorsport.com, “The biggest strength this year has been that he really hasn’t made any mistakes. It’s not guaranteed as a rookie, and it’s a sport where it’s easy to try too much and too hard and make silly mistakes.”

“But he’s been good on giving himself some time to develop and not wanting things too quickly. He’s been able to progress step by step, both in qualifying pace and then in race pace.”

Bottas says that his technical knowledge is getting better and better, as well as Zhou getting more confident with choosing his set-up. Zhou made big steps forward with his pace through the second half of the season, regularly challenging Bottas and doing enough to secure a contract extension to remain with Alfa Romeo for 2023.

Bottas felt he and Zhou made “a really good team-mate pairing” and there was “really good respect both ways.”

Fred Vasseur, who has now joined Ferrari, said at the end of 2022 that Zhou “did very well” through his rookie campaign, noting he had lost a number of chances due to reliability when the car was at its quickest.

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