F1 Today – 26/09/2022

Blog News & Analysis

McLaren needs a “big step” forwards

McLaren says it needs a “big step” forwards with next year’s car as it cannot go through another season of playing catch up. The British-based team has been on the backfoot all season after a nightmare fortnight in Bahrain in March where a brake issue and a positive Covid test for Daniel Ricciardo wrecked testing and it was running at the back at the following weekend’s Grand Prix.

The team did recover quite well but has admitted that getting on top of those problems diverted resources away from other key performance areas, and it has had to work extra hard to not lose too much ground against main rival Alpine. But as the focus starts to shift towards next year’s car the team are aware they cannot make the same mistakes.

While F1’s technical regulations are staying pretty stable, beyond changes to the floor, McLaren accepts that it may need to make wider sweeping tweaks than others.

Asked by Motorsport.com about if the current MCL36 concept will be carried over or the team will keep things similar, team boss Andreas Seidl said: “I think it’s a mix. With the technical regulations staying pretty much the same as well, it’s pretty clear it will not be a total revolution.”

“But, at the same time, acknowledging that the teams in front are running more than a second quicker, it’s also clear that we are aiming for big steps in terms of development.”

Technical director James Key has no doubts that to enjoy a successful season in F1 starting the year with a good car is vital, because trying to attack when you are behind expending too much resource.

Reflecting on the upgrade philosophy, he told the McLaren website, “I think the standards that we’ve seen within the top three teams show what you’ve got to be able to achieve.”

“If you start the season with a competitive car, you can adapt your development plans from there and do less than what we have done, whilst being more focused on the areas that you feel will be the most prolific.” Key says next year that where they want to be as they will not be able to continue on this aggressive level of development.

While the team is focused on a big step for 2023, it is still planning to bring some further refinements to its 2022 car before the end of the year. Key added, “With regards to the actual packages of updates we’ve done, it has been an aggressive approach.”


One win a season record doesn’t bother Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton says maintaining his record of winning a race in every Formula One season he has competed in has “zero importance to me.” The seven-time champion has won at least one race each season since he made his debut with McLaren in 2007.

Mercedes struggles this season to compete with Red Bull and Ferrari this season sees Hamilton in the longest winless run of his career, not winning since Jeddah last December. While the team has made huge steps this season, the dominance of Max Verstappen and Red Bull means it looks difficult for him to keep that record along with his pole record going.

Asked by Motorsport.com, about the importance of the record, Hamilton said it had “zero importance to me”, his focus instead being on helping Mercedes rediscover its form.

Adding “I’m grateful that each year we have had, since 2007, an opportunity to win. I do believe that we’re going to have a chance this year, [there are] still got some races to go. And that’s definitely a real big goal for us as a team, to get back to the front and be fighting for the lead.”

Hamilton currently has a hundred and three wins, a victory this season would see him surpass Michael Schumacher’s record of fifteen seasons with at least one win. But he insists he is not focused on the record, saying he doesn’t really care about records in general.

Singapore is set to present Mercedes with a greater opportunity to be competitive thanks to the street circuit layout, although the bumpy track may impact the W13 given its earlier struggles with bouncing this year. But Marina Bay before the pandemic had been one of the team’s weakest circuits

However, Mercedes believe the swings they have seen at Spa where they were challenging Ferrari and Red Bull put them in a good place. Hamilton says going into the final five races he has “no idea where our car is going to be great.”


Ocon finds it ‘strange’ that his results aren’t apricated

Esteban Ocon thinks it ‘strange’ that not everyone appreciates the speed and results he has shown, especially considering he is up against Fernando Alonso. The Frenchman will become Alpine’s team leader next year when the two-time champion leaves for Aston Martin.

While Ocon is raved about by his team, which has committed to him until the end of 2024, he is aware that those outside the squad sometimes fail to recognise the job he is doing. he reckons that having shown so strongly against Alonso, which included his maiden win in Hungary last year, only Lewis Hamilton has done better than him as a teammate to the Spaniard.

Speaking to Motorsport.com about his reputation within the paddock, Ocon said: “I don’t read everything that is said about me, but I hope that when I do something good, it is reported as such, and that others can get an idea. But it is true that there are some people who say to me ‘ah, I didn’t notice your qualifying at Spa’, or ‘I forgot you won last year’. I admit that I find it a bit strange.”

“In the end in qualifying, compared with Fernando, it is 9/7 to him, but I have a few more points in the standings (Ocon has 66 compared to Alonso’s 59). Last year, if we talk about qualifying, we finished the season in a draw: 11 to 11. If I look at Fernando’s career, the only teammate at his level was Lewis. Everyone else has not done better than me.”

Ocon believes that he is doing a good job, admitting it’s a bit strange to see it perceived on the outside is different. Ocon says he now smiles when he remembers the number of times he was told that his F1 career would be killed off going up against Alonso – which makes him especially proud that he has come out of their time together looking so good.

There were doomsday predictions for the Frenchman’s career, but he is “still here” while Alonso is fast he believes he has nothing to prove. He also repeated that he hopes that the two-time champion has also learned from him.

While Ocon is happy with his career progression in F1, and excited about the next two years at Alpine, he knows that he cannot afford to sit back and believe his place on the grid is assured.

He cites the example of Daniel Ricciardo, who could be facing a year on the sidelines in 2023 on the back of two difficult seasons at McLaren. Adding “I understand that there is nothing guaranteed in Formula 1.”

“Even if you have won a race, even if you have stood up to a double world champion like Fernando, you are not sure of having a guaranteed future. We have the example of Daniel. Two years ago, he was in the top-driver group and today he doesn’t have the guarantee of a seat for next season. You must always be at the top, and be sure to never give up.”


BMW has no interest in F1 return

BMW says it has no interest in returning to Formula One at the moment, despite the recent entry of its german rivals Porsche and Audi, instead, they want to focus on their LMDh programme.

Following the finalisation of the updated engine regulations for 2026, increasing the amount of electric power and mandating the use of efuels, F1 has been subject to fresh manufacturer interest.

Audi announced last month it would enter the sport as an engine manufacturer in 2026, while sister brand Porsche remains keen on entering the sport despite talks breaking down with Red Bull. With Mercedes already on the grid, Audi incoming, Porsche interested and the Volkswagen brand no longer completing motorsport activities, it leaves BMW as the only remaining major German manufacturer.

But in an interview with Motorsport-Total.com, officials from BMW made clear that F1 was not something on their radar. Andreas Roos, the head of BMW M Motorsport, said being absent from F1 was “not an issue for us” because BMW was “definitely not interested at the moment.”

Roos added, “I think you also have to be realistic. You have a very high investment in Formula 1, and until that comes back, you have to be very successful for a very long time. So we’re happy with the big bouquet of projects we currently have in motorsport.”

BMW was last in F1 between 2000-09, initially working with Williams before making Sauber its works team in 2006. The BMW team scored one victory at the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix before withdrawing from F1 suddenly at the end of 2009.

Although the recent interest from other manufacturers has caused speculation about BMW returning, it has made it clear its focus remains with the new BMW M Hybrid V8 will debut in IMSA next year before expanding to the World Endurance Championship in 2024, when it will also return to fight for overall honours at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Frank van Meel, the CEO of BMW M Motorsport GmbH, recognised the marketing value and reach of racing in F1, but said BMW does not “do motorsport purely for marketing reasons.”


Alfa Romeo in “no hurry” to decide future

Alfa Romeo CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato says the company is in “no hurry” to make a call on its long-term future in Formula One. Alfa Romeo announced last month that it will conclude its sponsorship deal with the Sauber team at the end of the 2023 season ahead of the Swiss outfit’s expected alliance with Audi.

The announcement was made on the same day that Audi announced it would enter the sport in 2026, with some seeing it as a clumsy attempt to draw attention away from it.

Alfa can only stay in F1 beyond 2023 if it can agree a deal with a team using Ferrari engines, which at the moment leaves Haas as its sole option. The only other possibility would be to hook up with a new entrant who agrees a PU partnership with Maranello, such as Andretti.

Like many car manufacturers, the Italian manufacturer is looking towards an electric future, which could inform its decision on its future. Imparato told Motorsport.com, “I’m totally open to everything. By the way, it’s a period that gives me the opportunity to study everything with no pressure. That’s what I have.”

“I would say, even if we have to take a decision before the end of this year, we have some weeks, months, to see how is the business, and as well to choose in a kind of serene atmosphere. So I’m not in a hurry. Everything is on the table, I would say. I would love to find the best compromise between motorsport DNA, and the EV transition.”

Imparato says what he is trying to do is be between his history and the necessary existential move. While declining to comment on Sauber’s expected deal with Audi, Imparato said the timing of the 2023 contract announcement was to provide “clarity” on its involvement.

For any manufacturer, clarity is important, which is why he decided to renew the deal for 2023 because they are happy with them. He says “We have to open a new chapter of our history, a new chapter of our adventure, so it’s more than a history with Sauber, and with motorsport, and let’s benefit from this context to be clear. And that was a sense of our communication.”

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