F1 update: Lewis the Legend!

With four races left to go after today’s, it’s time to do a quick pit stop and look at what we’ve seen and can still expect to see in this year’s F1 season.

To start with the most deserving, a week ago Lewis Hamilton became truly legendary in beating Michael Schumacher’s record of F1 race wins. After today, Lewis now totals an incredible 93 wins, 9 of which so far this season. He also equals Schumacher’s record for the most wins with the same team (72), and today’s Hamilton-Bottas double means Mercedes clinched their 7th constructor world title. Lewis is Formula 1’s uncontested number 1, obviously helped by driving the car that is still relatively far ahead of the competition.

It’s good to be the king!

If Lewis is already the de facto world champion, it’s far more contested who will finish second and third – and who won’t. Valtteri Bottas is probably the ideal second driver with Mercedes eyes. He’s loyal to the team and occasionally manages to challenge Lewis, and so far this year has won two races. The question is however rather if what Max Verstappen (Red Bull) and Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) manage to achieve in inferior cars isn’t more impressive. Even though Ferrari is improving and Charles’s results is the only thing that may save Mattia Binotto’s job as team head, they are still far from Mercedes and Charles’s driving is the only thing making Ferrari look slightly better than the mid-field teams. Max on the other hand does a very good job of scoring podium finishes, including one race win this year, and is still in competition with Valtteri for second place in the championship. Red Bull and Max is also the only constellation that occasionally has managed to challenge Mercedes this season.

A good summary of Ferrari’s season so far…

Charles and Max’s relative success also make it very clear that driving skills still count and that it’s not all about the car. The last two races in Portugal and Italy were a good illustration of how far behind Leclerc Sebastian Vettel currently is, in spite of Ferrari confirming both drive identical cars. Seb had officially doubted this but also admitted that Charles is currently in another league. There is probably little hope of things improving before Seb leaves Ferrari for Racing Point / Aston Martin at the end of the season, and you have to wonder whether Racing Point don’t ask themselves whether switching Perez for Vettel was a wise move. I guess time will tell.

There’s equally little hope of Alex Albon retaining his seat in Red Bull. His oddds improved slightly last week when Pierre Gasly confirmed he’s staying with Red Bull’s little brother Alpha Tauri next year. This beats me as Alpha Tauri is Red Bull’s farm team and Pierre’s stellar performance this season with notably one race win stands in stark contrast to Albon’s total lack of results. Today in Italy, Albon then put what is probably the last nail in his coffin himself, when after a mediocre race he completely messed up the restart after the safety car phase with 7 laps to go, managing to lose the car and end up last. Before Portugal, team boss Christian Horner last had given Albon two races to start performing. The fact that he couldn’t and hasn’t been able to all season most probably means we’ll see another second driver at Red Bull next year.

“How the hell can Max be so fast??”

Behind Mercedes and the best half of Red Bull and Ferrari, the mid field is as competitive as ever with Racing Point, McLaren, Renault and Alpha Tauri all very close, and even Alfa Romeo Racing (ex Sauber) managing to pick up points here and there. Although he’s leaving at the end of the season, Daniel Ricciardo certainly doesn’t lack motivation and looks to be finishing his short spell with the Renault team in style, something that may have been really important when Renault decided to stay committed to F1. The team won’t have much time to regret Ricciardo though, as they will instead need to focus on Fernando Alonso returning to the team he won his two world titles with . With an improving car, it will be very interesting to see what an experienced driver like Alonso will be able to achieve.

Will Alonso be able to recreate the magic?

At the back of the field the most interesting is certainly the discussions around Williams, its new owners (the US investment company Dorilton), and whether George Russell will stay on as driver (apparently Nicolas Latifi has enough financial backing to be certain of his seat). Russell has done a fantastic season given what could be expected, notably reaching qualifying P2 on eight occasions (I know, but we’re talking about Williams here!) and also refers to the fact that he has a contract covering 2021. Then again so did Sergio Perez at Racing Point and that didn’t stop the team from firing him and hire Vettel instead. Perez is still looking for a new seat, and it’s not impossible that he kicks Russell out of Williams. Or maybe Perez could be the one replacing Albon at Red Bull?

The UK seems to have a promising successor to Lewis!

As for Haas, last years’ rock’n’roll team notably thanks to the Netflix documentary “Formula 1 – drive to survive” (watch it if you haven’t!) and the charismatic team boss Günther Steiner with his unique version of German English, it’s been a sad season. The team is nowhere to be seen and not even Steiner’s swearing seem to help anymore. Magnussen and Grosjean are both leaving the team next season, Gene Haas is however said to be committed to another season, so Haas will line up two new drivers in 2021. The rumours have it that one of those may be Michael Schumacher’s son Nic… It also means that both Magnussen and Grosjean could be competing for that second seat at Red Bull, both bringing as much experience as Perez.

With four races to go after today there’s thus still some excitement left, however rather off the track given we already know that Lewis will with very high certainty clinch his well-deserved seventh driver’s title soon, with a new record in the number of race wins! Just a small point though – Lewis doesn’t have a contract for next year, which is slightly strange given how late in the season we are. Most probably he’ll re-sign with Mercedes in the coming weeks, because he wouldn’t be retiring now that he’s beaten most records, would he?

F1 action off the track

In the absence of driving, the F1 circus has still managed to produce some entertainment these last weeks. Mid-May we learnt that Daniel Ricciardo is leaving Renault after only 12 months to join McLaren, and around a week before the real bombshell was dropped, namely that Sebastian Vettel is leaving Ferrari at the end of the season. He will be replaced by Carlos Sainz Jr., and will move on to…. Right. We don’t know, even three weeks after the announcement (and waiting for that piece of news has now made this post a bit old…).

To start with the less surprising news, Daniel Ricciardo leaves Renault after only one season, in a move that made Renault F1 principal Cyril Abiteboul frustrated and speak of a lack of trust. My guess is that Ricciardo is at least as frustrated by a car that last season failed to show any kind of progress over 2018, and you have to believe didn’t give any reason to think it would be better this year. Renault didn’t deliver on everything Ricciardo was promised when joining, and Cyril should thus stop complaining and work on getting his team to perform instead.

Didn’t have much to laugh about lately…

That of course assumes he still has a team, which is far from certain given Renault’s and France’s current status. The French state owns 15% of stumbling mother company Renault, which sacked 15.000 employees last week and has seen demand rock bottom in Covid times. It wouldn’t be a massive surprise that the French state pressures Renault to pull the plug on F1, making Ricciardo’s move look even wiser. Let’s be honest: Daniel should never have left Red Bull and joined Renault in the first place. But with McLaren, he’ll at least be driving for a team that seems to be on a roll, that has plenty of money from Lando Norris’s father Adam, who seems to be slightly more business-minded than the French state, and where next to Lando, he’ll probably have a first driver status.

The far larger surprise came a week earlier with Vettel announcing he’s leaving Ferrari at the end of the season (if we end up having one), when his contract comes to an end. Given it’s unclear where he’s going or if he’s leaving the sport altogether, this has led to loads of speculation as to his reasons. It’s unclear if he was offered more than a one-year extension and on what terms, some therefore claiming money played a role. A lot has also been focused on the lack of a cultural fit at Ferrari after Luca di Montezemolo left and was replaced by the not-very-FI-loving Sergio Macchione and his foot soldier Maurizio Arrivabene. There may be some truth to both points, but you have to believe Vettel is mainly in it for winning races, not for the money. And in terms of culture, the changes didn’t happen yesterday. Vettel has been driving under new management since 2015 and there didn’t seem to be any issues until he started making mistakes. And that was after a certain Charles Leclerc joined, and regularly drove faster – and better.

Not Seb’s prowdest moment

If there is indeed a cultural issue, it has no doubt been complicated by the Monegasque Leclerc, a true Southerner who is fluent in Italian, both language- and cultural-wise. Leclerc is also young enough not to have demands on anything but driving his car, which he does very well. But I doubt this is fundamentally about culture. My guess would be that it’s more related to Vettel sensing he’s losing his first driver status and as a four-time world champion, maybe just not having the energy to go for it again. He has nothing left to prove, which is also the reason he may be leaving the sport.

All good things come to an end sometime

If Vettel says on, his options are rather limited. That he would go to a smaller team with no chance of winning races doesn’t feel very likely. That basically limits it to one option, given Albon doesn’t seem to be at risk at Red Bull (and Verstappen most certainly isn’t). That would be to take the second seat at Mercedes next to Lewis, replacing Valtteri Bottas who’s been on rolling one-year contracts since joining the team in 2017. However, whether Mercedes would be prepared to open such a potential powder keg and whether Lewis Hamilton would agree to it is far from certain. It’s also highly doubtful whether Vettel, who could never challenge Lewis’s first driver status, would accept to play second fiddle to him.

The winner in all this is of course Carlos Sainz Jr, son of legendary rally driver Carlos Sainz, who did an excellent job at McLaren in 2019. By contracting him for 2021, Ferrari also completes the transition to the next generation of drivers. If Albon starts delivering, Red Bull can be said to have done the same thing, leaving Mercedes trailing behind – and making it even less probable they would engage an ageing Sebastian Vettel. The most likely option therefore seems to be that it’s “Tschüss, Seb” thanks for everything!

World champion for Red Bull in 2013 – Vettel’s really happy days!

What is up with Sebastian Vettel?

Sebastian (Seb) Vettel is a four-time F1 world champion and generally considered one of the very best drivers in history. Lately though, Seb has lost his mark and nowhere more so than in today’s Italian GP in Monza.

Whereas Vettel’s Ferrari team mate Charles Leclerc drove brilliantly and won the race although arguably having an overall slower car than Mercedes (although Ferrari’s straight line top speed was amazing!), Seb himself not only ruined the day for himself, but did his best to do so for Lance Stroll as well, in a manoeuvre that was certainly not worthy his capabilities. Having gone off the track all by himself in a fast corner, he then regained the track in front of the nose of Stroll’s car, as he came rushing through the same corner. Luckily nothing happened but the resulting 10 second stop-and-go penalty meant the end of Seb’s day and he finished the race in the part of the result list no one looks at.

The problem is that this is not a one-off; Vettel has not won a single race this season and has mixed podium positions with rankings at the bottom of the list. He has started to lose out in qualifying to Leclerc, and also to make mistakes we’ve never seen him make before and at times, like today, showing bad judgement on a level very untypical of him.

Vettel crashing out of the lead in the German GP this year

Italy and Ferrari will be celebrating all night long and rightly so, as Leclerc leaves no doubt that he is currently Ferrari’s Nr 1 driver, also passing Vettel in the overall championship. The question is whether Vettel will be able to come back.

Lewis Hamilton finished third today behind Valtteri Bottas, but the championship is virtually already decided in his favour, also in view of the fact that Ferrari’s two last wins in Monza and Spa have been on circuits very well suited to them, which will not be the case going forward.

Mr Ferrari says arrividerci

A couple of weeks ago it became clear that Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, president of Ferrari since 1991, had lost the power battle against his boss and arch rival Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, and will leave the company.

Montezemolo was hired by Enzo Ferrari as his PA in 1973, 41 years ago (!) and could well be described as the last Ferrari man of the old school and also the man that since 1991 led the company from close to bankruptcy through ist commercially most successful period in history. In his 23 years as CEO, Ferrari launched 19 new models and became F1 world champion six times under the F1 leadership of Jean Todt, Montezemolo’s most successful hire. He developed new businesses for Ferrari including personalized cars and Corse Clienti, where old racing cars were sold to (very wealthy!) clients. He was key to re-shaping Ferrari into the company it is today.

The lack of success in F1 since 2007 did however increasingly become a burden for Montezemolo and a good excuse for Marchionne to push him out. Marchionne already started the process a while ago when recruiting Marco Mattiacci as new F1 boss, who at the time claimed never having seen an F1 race and was as far from Montezemolo’s style as you can get.

Montezemolo leaves a very big pair (no doubt hand-sewn) Italian leather shoes to fill, as he himself moves on to try to achieve the same wonders with another Italian company close to bankruptcy – Alitalia. Ciao Luca, we wish you the best of luck, it seems you may need it…

Ferrari California T – World Première – the turbo is back!

I had the privilege to attend the world première of the new Ferrari California T at the Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari in Modena in February.

Ferrari California T

The front is all new and inspired by the Ferrari F12 and FF. It is much sportier and I have to say it looks much better than the original California (which I had the privilege to own). The back of the car, exhausts, diffuser etc. also looks better and sportier. The shape of its flanks is inspired by the classic Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa; not bad at all… It also has some resemblance to the beautiful (moderon) Alfa Romeo 8C.

Ferrari California T

Ferrari California T

The rear has been improved and is now lower and better looking.

The interior has been overhauled as well and is more in line with the other Ferrari models (458, FF and F12). The seats are thinner and thus provide more space in the back.

Technical highlights
The big news is the use of a turbocharger in a Ferrari. The last Ferrari with at turbo was the Ferrari F40, more than 20 years ago!

The specs are amazing; remember this is the “entry-level” Ferrari… (original California in brackets):

  • Power: 560 HP (460 HP)
  • Acceleration 0-100 km/h: 3.6 s (3.9 s)
  • Top speed 316 km/h (310 km/h)

Power is really up. To put this into perspective: it has 10 HP less than the 458, more power than any Lamborghini Diablo, only 20 HP less than the original Lamborghini Murcielago or 45 HP more than the Ferrari 575M V12.

Ferrari states, with a lot of emphasis, that there is no turbo lag and that the California T sounds like a proper Ferrari. Let’s wait and see…

Summarising it looks better and more athletic than the original California and it has the power to match it.

For those he want the tech details; the presentation:

Ferrari quickest on first day of F1 testing in Jerez

Räikkönen in the Ferrari F14-T was quickest on the first day of pre-season testing on tuesday.

Ferrari F14-T

Only eight cars set times in a session where some teams didn’t run at all and other teams had serious reliability problems. Lewis Hamilton crashed due to a front wing failure.

Unofficial Tuesday test times from Jerez:
1. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1m 27.104s, 31 laps
2. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes , 1m 27.820s, 18 laps
3. Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 1m 30.082s, 7 laps
4. Sergio Perez, Force India, 1m 33.161s, 11 laps
5. Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso, 1m 36.530s, 15 laps
6. Esteban Gutierrez, Sauber, 1m 42.257s, 7 laps
7. Sebastian Vettel , Red Bull, No time, 3 laps
8. Marcus Ericsson, Caterham, No time, 1 lap

Rosberg/Mercedes vinner i Monaco!

Inför en kuliss med strålande sol, svala temperaturer och som alltid en försvarlig andel kändisar gick Monacos GP av stapeln idag. Monaco är ju på många sätt ett speciellt lopp: sträckan är säsongens kortaste (både per varv och totalt) och trängsta, och det kräver sin man att närma sig Sainte Dévote-kurvan efter startrakan i 285 km/h, eller för den delen att hålla 260 km/h genom den svängande Loews-tunneln, där sikten vid infart och utfart är noll. Att köra om är nära nog omöjligt, och försök att ändå göra det brukar leda till ett antal krascher – så även i år. Slutligen hade Nico Rosberg som startade från pole naturigtvis hopp om att vinna sitt hemmalopp 30 år efter sin far, Keke Rosberg. Så blev det också, och Nico Rosberg firade därmed sin andra seger i Monaco.

Formula One World Championship
Keke vinner i Monaco 1983 – en annan tid och andra bilar!

En av de stora frågorna inför loppet var hur däcken skulle hålla då det spekulerats i om några stall skulle prova en enstoppsstrategi, då däckslitaget i Monaco är betydligt mindre än under övriga lopp och temperaturen med runt 15 grader var låg. Takterandet fick dock ett slut i 30:e varvet, då Massa blockerade däcken strax innan, just det, Sainte Dévote-kurvan, och den rätt rejäla kraschen föranledde säsongens första safety car-fas. Denna kom som en skänk från ovan för Mercedes, som i då var det enda toppstallet som inte bytt däck än (troligen alltså satsade på en enstoppsstrategi) och nu fick ett byte “gratis”.

Efter ett antal safety car-varv förflöt sen loppet odramatiskt tills varv 46, då Maldonado/Williams i ett försök att köra om Chilton/Marussia i Bureau Tabac-kurvan, som aldrig varit något bra omkörningsställe, istället körde rakt fram i 200 km/h och skadade säkerhetszonerna så svårt att det blev röd flagg. Röd flagg innebär omstart av loppet bakom safety car i den ordning bilarna befinner sig i, vilket för topp 4 vid tidpunkten var Rosberg-Vettel-Webber-Hamilton. Det innebär också att däck får bytas och annat får åtgärdas innan omstarten, och därigenom stod det klart att det inte skulle bli några mer däckbyten under de sista 30 varven.

I varv 63 var det dags för nästa safety car-fas, då Grosjean/Lotus glömde att bromsa vid utfarten från Loews-tunneln och körde rakt in i häcken på Ricciardo/Red Bull. Därefter förflöt resterande tio varv odramatiskt, och Rosberg kunde alltså bärga segern före Vettel och Webber.

Positiva överraskningar i loppet var, förutom att samtliga förare i krascherna klarade sig utan skador, helt klart Sutil/Force India och Perez/McLaren, som båda racade för allt var tyglarna höll. Tyvärr tog Perez lopp slut fem varv innan mål. På den negativa sidan har vi Ferrari, där Alonso förde en oinspierad tillvaro i skymundan och var den mest omkörda föraren i loppet, liksom Chilton/Marussia och Grosjean/Lotus, som inte skaffade sig några nya vänner i det här loppet heller.

Nico Rosberg
Nico Rosberg vinner Monacos GP 2013

PARIS: Ferrari och bagage – hur hänger det ihop egentligen?

Ferrari FF är en oerhört praktisk bil. Jag skojar inte. Provade att sitta “bakom mig själv” i baksätet och det är mycket bra långfärdskomfort för fyra(!) vuxna. Och bagageutrymmet är stort, se bilden på de bruna väskorna nedan (det är alltså stora väskor även om det inte syns på bilden). Som en jämförelse kan ni också se hur mycket bagage det går in i en 458 Italia; inte så dåligt det heller i och för sig, för en så extrem bil.

En nyhet för i år på FF är att det går att få ett glastak som skapar stor rymd i coupén.

Egentligen är FF den ultimata bilen; praktisk och extrem på en gång. Synd bara att jag fortfarande inte kommer överens med utseendet…

VIDEO: evo testar Ferrari F12berlinetta – jag har blandade känslor…

Jethro Bovingdon från evo provkör nya Ferrari F12berlinetta och tycker den är briljant! Bilen har osannolika prestanda på pappret, med det slutar inte där; enligt Jethro är F12berlinetta en superbil som dels går att använda till vardags dels är kul att köra sportigt med på allmän väg, trots (!) 740 hästar.

Vadan desa blandade känslor? I euforin efter att ha sett F12berlinetta på Genève-salongen, var jag på väg att beställa en F12berlinetta till våren 2013, men förståndet (eller var det min fru?) kom ikapp mig…

Se även mina tidigare artiklar om F12berlinetta: (har jag snöat in på denna bil månne?)

Ferrari F12berlinetta – provkörningar, bilder och videofilm – OMG!

Nu har Ferrari låtit pressen köra nya F12berlinetta. Evo ger den fem stjärnor och Top Gear är lyriska. Top Gear tycker att konceptet är något av en modern tappning på 550 (en av mina favorit-Ferrari från alla tider) snarare än en uppföljare till 599.

Kolla in Auto Express provkörning på videon nedan. Inspelad på samma vägar och bana (Fiorano) där jag provkörde den uppdaterade Ferrari California i maj.

Se även mina tidigare artiklar om F12berlinetta: Ferrari visar nya F12berlinetta. Den snabbaste Ferrarin någonsin! och Ferrari F12berlinetta – salongens stjärna!