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Behind-the-scenes from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

The impressive Yas Marina facility

Perfumes and Secret Santa. The F1 paddock was still in full swing as November trickled into December for the latest race since 1963. Motorsport Week provides some behind-the-scenes access from Yas Marina.

Formula 1’s fragrances

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There was a surprise development on Friday when Formula 1 unveiled a range of fragrances – understood to be a precaution against anyone looking to try and launch any ‘official’ products – with three 3D-created bottles placed on display in the paddock. Those bottles will be on sale for an eye-watering $10,000 but the range of five fragrances will go on sale from next March, with a 75ml bottle set to retail at £195.00. Not cheap. The fragrances will each have their own blend, with one “inspired by the risk takers” and another “inspired by pure and tense emotion.” That fragrance has been created by “leveraging wet asphalt [which] resulted in a bold, audacious and faceted fragrance which represents both the spirit of F1 and haute perfumery.” It was one of those developments that had several people muttering “is this a joke?”

Hamilton runs #1

As in 2018, Lewis Hamilton appeared on track at the start of the opening practice session with the number 1 replacing his usual 44 on the front of the W10. Hamilton has sported 44 since Formula 1 switched to permanent driver numbers in 2014 and has shirked the opportunity to use the number 1, as is an option for the reigning World Champion. Hamilton completed the opening half of the 90-minute session before using 44 for the remainder of the weekend’s track action. 

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Thank you Charlie

The shock passing of Charlie Whiting on the eve of the 2019 season in Melbourne has cast a shadow on the entire campaign, such was the enormity of Whiting’s position within the Formula 1 community. In Abu Dhabi on Thursday evening hundreds of people participated in a fundraising bike race around the Yas Marina Circuit. 43 teams, each comprising five members with two bikes, completed 10 laps of the venue in a timed relay event to determine the victor. Each team’s efforts were rewarded with sponsorship funding to be donated to the Grand Prix Trust, which provides services and support to those in the motorsport community if and when required. 

“It is fantastic to see the entire Formula 1 family here tonight supporting this event,” said Whiting’s replacement Michael Masi, who was present along with Ross Brawn and Martin Brundle. “From the start of the season, the support you have given to me and all of us since the tragic loss of Charlie in Melbourne has been incredible, and on behalf of the FIA I want to thank you all.”

TV Tigers, made up of members of Sky UK and Sky Italia, completed the 10-lap relay in 1hr 26:40.090, astonishingly edging a team representing Red Bull Racing by less than a second! Local outfit Team Yas completed the podium, with a ceremony taking place afterwards, and the trophy presented by race director Masi. Among the 43 teams were the Renault Freewheelers, the Red Lanterns, Not Fast Just Furious and, of course, Charlie’s Angels. 

Secret Santa

It was the last event of the season, with the race taking place in December for the first time since 1963, with the paddock weary and relieved that the circus has come to a conclusion. But it being December, and with Christmas looming on the horizon, Formula 1 arranged a Secret Santa, the full details of which will be divulged on its video channel once the Festive period is well and truly upon us. Robert Kubica bought a Hulk-themed dog costume for Nico Hulkenberg’s dog, Zeus, while Daniel Ricciardo brought a pair of Las Vegas socks for Charles Leclerc, and George Russell was given a jumper by Lance Stroll – though Russell suggested Stroll had bought a piece of clothing one size too small. And with it being December Alexander Albon bought the grid’s youngest driver – Lando Norris – a Lindt advent calendar. 

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Going, going, gone

Formula 1 linked up with Sotheby’s for a car auction that took place on the starting grid on Saturday evening. It was a unique sight, with the start/finish line given over to a couple of auctioneers in front of several rows of exceptionally wealthy bidders. The value of the cars, both road and race versions, lined up along the pit straight on Saturday evening was immense. The Ferrari F2002 went for an eye-watering $5.9m but even that was usurped by a 2017-spec Pagani Zonda, with gasps among the audience when the highest bid rocketed from $5m to $6m in one swoop, the eventual purchaser paying $6,075,000 for the car. Among the other high sellers were the 2015 Ferrari FXX K, which went for $3.8m, and the 2010 Mercedes-Benz SLS 2010 Sir Stirling Moss, which was acquired for $2.15m.

Norris’ tribute to engineer

McLaren has been a team transformed this year and one element of that has been its spirit, refreshed by a new and younger driver line-up. Senior engineer Andrew Jarvis was spending his last race with McLaren, after several years working his way up the ranks, and as a way of a tribute Lando Norris tweaked his helmet design. At the rear of Norris’ helmet was a picture of Jarvis’ face, with the engineer understandably shocked when the Briton showed him the design. Another token of gratitude came with the development that Norris was going to gift Jarvis the one-off helmet design as a farewell present [click here for video].

Looking to the future

Several grand prix promoters were present in the Abu Dhabi paddock as plans for 2020 and beyond started to take shape. Vietnam’s officials were keen to stress that their venue is nearing completion and will be ready on time, with the event now just three grands prix and four months away from becoming a reality. It is an important market for Formula 1 and the first new event signed off by Liberty Media since it acquired Formula 1 in 2017. Baku’s chiefs were also in Abu Dhabi and their ambition is to be one of the leading venues when it comes to sustainability, with a plan set to be announced in the coming weeks. Two sons of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro – keen to see Rio de Janeiro get the grand prix from 2021 – were in attendance. Elsewhere Eric Boullier was in Abu Dhabi and he is poised to play a greater role in the organisation of the French Grand Prix. The contract expires in 2022 but Paul Ricard wants to extend through 2027. For 2020 changes at the circuit are planned following widespread criticism of the 2019 race, with the first sector set for layout tweaks. There will still be a chicane on the Mistral Straight but the multiple layouts usable at the track means an alteration could also be made there. Official developments are expected prior to Christmas. 

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Recycling

Formula 1 is pressing ahead with its plans to have a net zero carbon footprint by 2030 and to make all events sustainable by 2025, but Abu Dhabi was perhaps a reminder of the challenges faced by the sport. Unless you are exceptionally wealthy, or a Formula 1 team member, no-one stays on the cluster of hotels on Yas Island, which means at least a 20- or 30-minute drive to and from the other hotels, located either in Abu Dhabi or along the Dubai-bound highway. There are no shuttle options for fans. There is no public transport for Abu Dhabi does not have a railway network. Elsewhere a handful of recycling bins had been introduced but not in the media centre itself, which led to the pictured scene at the end of each day – an issue of laziness and also a lack of education perhaps. There were a few water fountains around but whoever installed them put them in the blazing sun, which on the intelligence scale is not exactly up there. And that’s before we take into account the hundreds of air conditioning units whirring and the fact the race takes place at night… 

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I have said it many times over the years, the FIA need to appoint stewards that are the same people for EVERY race. I have always felt that some stewards are biased toward "some" drivers (Of cour

F1 needs a Friday program including testing or the race tracks are going to lose a lot of ticket sales.  As a TV viewer, I find the Friday practice sessions quite enjoyable.   On par with the rest of

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Pirelli: Lower pressures will aid under-fire 2020 spec in test

Pirelli: Lower pressures will aid under-fire 2020 spec in test

Pirelli is hoping that lower pressures will give the Formula 1 teams a much better impression of its 2020 tyres in Abu Dhabi testing than was gained when they were run in Austin.
The feedback from drivers will determine whether the FIA sticks with the 2020 tyres for next season or reverts to the 2019 spec. If teams are unhappy, then a vote will be held – and if more than seven want to abandon the new tyre, the FIA will agree to do so.

All teams are running in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday and Wednesday with both types of tyres, so that a direct comparison can be made.

Drivers were not happy when they were trialled in free practice in Austin, but unexpectedly cold weather and the fact that teams had no time to adjust their cars for a tyre that has a different shape shoulder meant that the results were disappointing.

Pirelli has now confirmed that the new tyres were run in FP1 in Austin with higher pressures than they were designed for – but that will be addressed in this week’s test.

“We gave the teams the information on how the new tyres is,” said Pirelli F1 boss Mario Isola. “Static profile, dynamic profile, data to set up the car in the best possible way. The prescriptions for the 2020 tyre at the test will be different compared to the race tyre, because the new construction has been designed to work at a lower pressure.

“We found the improvement during out tyre development test, when we had lower pressure. So the prescription for the test will be 1.5psi lower for front and rear, and we have asked the teams to consider this different in the prescription.”

Isola said it wasn’t possible to run with the ideal pressures at the US GP.

“In Austin it was impossible to give different prescriptions because with the limited time it was impossible to set the car up in the proper way to give different prescriptions, and obviously all the test will be more relaxed in making a comparison that is more representative.

“It wasn’t the only handicap in Austin – also the downforce levels are different because of the different profile and obviously in free practice you cannot ask a team to change the floor of the car, it’s impossible.

“But during the test they have time to adjust the set-up, to adjust the floor if needed, they have a different approach to how to work during the test.

“What I ask the teams is to make a proper technical comparison between the two constructions, to understand what is the performance of the current one, and new one, and any decision is welcome.”

Isola said that lower pressure should address the grip issues drivers complained about in Austin: “During our tyre development test with lower pressure the grip of our new construction is slightly higher than the current one. So the comment we had in Austin about a loss of grip is not in line with our findings.”

Teams will have 20 sets of tyres each for the Abu Dhabi test. Twelve sets are mandated by Pirelli, namely two sets each of the 2019 C3 and C4s, plus two sets each of the 2020 C2s, C3s, C4s, and C5s. The teams have nominated the remaining eight sets themselves

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Ricciardo: Losing fifth would have been a "punch in the guts"

Ricciardo: Losing fifth would have been a "punch in the guts"

Daniel Ricciardo reckons it would have been a "punch in the guts" for Renault if it had ended the Formula 1 season losing fifth spot in the constructors' championship.
The French car manufacturer had headed into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix needing to not give up too much ground to Toro Rosso if it was going to keep hold on to its spot in the standings.

And although Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat did finish ahead of both Renaults, it was not enough to lift his Italian outfit in front.

Ricciardo, who came home two places behind Kvyat in 11th, thinks it important that, on the back of what has been a roller-coaster season for Renault, the year did not end with another disappointment.

"I think that would have been definitely a punch in the guts," he said, when asked by Motorsport.com about the importance of achieving its weekend target.

"I know financially it is [a blow]. And you put the financial loss on to kind of motivation loss, and we didn't need that.

"So let's use that as a positive and say: "Alright boys, we dodged a bullet now. Let's avoid all bullets next year and f**k some s**t up!"

Although Renault had looked in contention for a good points haul in the Abu Dhabi race, Ricciardo said it all went wrong when he switched to the hard tyre.

"The hard tyre killed my race," he said. "You know, we didn't have speed on it at all. And it's one of those ones as a driver that you know straight away.

"We do test sometimes for five or seven laps, but you need an out lap to know how the car is going to be and I felt it already by Turn 8. I think it was on the out lap of the hard.

"My gut told me that this is going to be a pretty shitty stint, but I didn't say it on the radio straight away. I didn't want to be negative from the first lap. But after a few laps I said, 'Boys, we're not going anywhere.' So eventually we did a two-stop. The soft was a ton better, but I guess too little too late."

Ricciardo said that getting to the bottom of why the hard did not work was something he and Renault needed to understand before they disappeared for the winter break.

"I don't want to let it go," he said. "I want to figure out why the hard didn't work for us and actually, more importantly, why we put the hard on. It wasn't our first plan in the strategy.

"But [then] we'll get a break. I think it's important now just in the winter to keep the spirit of the team high.

"We did underachieve for the most part this year, but we must not let that bring them down. I think if that's the case, then we're not going to move forward next year. So we'll keep the candle wick lit!"

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Wolff: Abu Dhabi test no benchmark for Russell

Wolff: Abu Dhabi test no benchmark for Russell

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff insists that George Russell's test with the team next week will not be used to benchmark the Englishman in any way.
Russell will drive for his regular team on Tuesday morning at the start of the two-day 2020 tyre test before handing the FW42 over to ex-F2 driver Roy Nissany for the afternoon.

He will then drive the Mercedes W10 on Wednesday, after Valtteri Bottas runs it on Tuesday.

World champion Lewis Hamilton is not available as he has team sponsor commitments.

Russell will return to Abu Dhabi next week for two further days of 2021 18-inch running in Mercedes' mule car. It will be Pirelli's final test of the season with the new size tyres.

Wolff insists Russell does not have to worry about impressing the works team amid talk about Lewis Hamilton's long-term future.

"I've said to George, who was not 100% these last days, this test is not benchmarking him, because we are absolutely certain that he has the qualities of a potential future Mercedes driver," said Wolff.

"He has the raw speed, he has the talent, he has the intelligence. There is a reason why he's won F3 and F2 as a rookie. That hasn't been done many times before. And he has a flawless record in F1.

"It is more about the experience. So there's nothing to prove during the during these upcoming tests. George is under contract with Williams and we will always honour all contracts because they have given him the chance to step into F1.

"Probably if he does the test it will just confirm what we anyway know."

Russell's most recent running for Mercedes was in the post-race Bahrain test earlier this year.

"My health concerns were in my mind not only for this weekend but for next week, when I will be driving their car," said Russell. "But they're not going to judge me based off one test.

"I'm there to do a job, I'm there to give them data, I'm there to learn as much as I can and bring back the experience I have in that car for the guys back here, and when I did it in Bahrain it was hugely beneficial and hopefully it will be the same again."

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Gasly "disgusted" by first-lap Stroll collision

Gasly "disgusted" by first-lap Stroll collision

Toro Rosso driver Pierre Gasly says he was left "disgusted" by his opening lap collision with Lance Stroll in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
A hit from Stroll's Racing Point in the opening corner of the race turned Gasly's Toro Rosso, whose left front impacted with the other Racing Point car of Sergio Perez as a result.

This damaged Gasly's front wing and nosecone, and though he made it back to the pits, he was already marooned a lap down by the time the damaged parts could be replaced.

With Gasly not contending for points, McLaren's Carlos Sainz overhauled him for sixth place in the drivers' standings.

Speaking to French broadcaster Canal+ after the race, Gasly said: "I'm just disgusted with what happened, because we clearly had the potential to keep sixth place and that's it. It's annoying when this kind of thing happens."

He also made it clear that he held Stroll responsible, saying: "With him [Stroll] behind, there's a 50-50 chance that things will go wrong.

"It sucks, it really sucks because we had a good pace, we had a good car, we worked well all weekend and when we see where Sainz finishes and what Daniil [Kvyat, ninth place in the other Toro Rosso] does, there was clearly the potential to make a good result."

Sergio Perez, Racing Point RP19, Pierre Gasly, Toro Rosso STR14 and Lance Stroll, Racing Point RP19 make contact at the start

Gasly reiterated his stance when in his subsequent media session in English, as he said that "from what I could see so far, Lance just ruined everything".

"Last race of the season, just to ruin your race with the first-corner incident, it's clearly annoying.

"It put us one lap down from the first lap, and the whole race basically praying for a safety car, looking at the standings."

Gasly, whose second full season in F1 included a Red Bull demotion and a subsequent recovery of form at Toro Rosso that culminated in a maiden podium at Interlagos, said he was not in the right frame of mind to reflect on his campaign after the race.

"I think it's not really the opportune moment because at the moment I'm upset for the race.

"I will have a couple of days to calm down and just think back at the whole season, because a lot of things happened, there are a lot of things to debrief, a lot of things to look at, and yeah, just to make sure we come back strong for next season."

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Raikkonen perplexed at how Alfa Romeo lost two seconds ‘in just two weeks’

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The final two races of the 2019 season were massive contrasts for Alfa Romeo – and Kimi Raikkonen wants the team to find out why they struggled so much in Abu Dhabi.

Brazil was a very impressive performance from the team, as Raikkonen finished in fourth place with Antonio Giovinazzi fifth, giving Alfa Romeo an outside chance of beating Racing Point to seventh place in the constructors’ championship.

However, those hopes all but disappeared when both cars were eliminated in Q1 at Yas Marina on Saturday, with Raikkonen only able to recover to 13th in the race despite a more competitive showing on Sunday, as Giovinazzi came home 16th.

“It hasn’t been an easy weekend,” said Raikkonen. “We seemed to struggle with the tyres, to make them work as they should, because in just two weeks our car [became] two seconds slower than the cars we were racing against, but that’s how it is.

“[In the race] it was a little bit better, but we weren’t still fast enough. I could see the other cars, but we weren’t close enough to fight for the points.

“Over just one lap, even the first couple of corners, we couldn’t get the temperature, but it was actually more difficult in the last sector because that’s where you need more grip. The first two sectors are mainly straight lines, so less problems.

“It was slightly better [than qualifying] but it wasn’t an easy car to drive. We’ll try a few things in testing on Tuesday and Wednesday and for sure we’ll learn some things. For sure we’re not where we wanted to be – we want to be where we were in the first part of the season, but for many different reasons we didn’t have the speed to stay up there. We actually lost speed, we fell down the order, but that’s how it is.”

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Traditionally not a fan of testing, Raikkonen says the timing of the Pirelli tyre test in Abu Dhabi this week - it takes place on Tuesday and Wednesday - is nonetheless good for Alfa Romeo to try and learn from their problems this weekend.

“We have the Monday off and then we’re back for testing and try learn and try to improve for next year. It’s not possible to guess what we’re going to get but let’s see what we can do. Let’s learn from this year, this race and from this championship.”

The less experienced Giovinazzi suffered a similar race to Raikkonen, and sees his own performance as being his main focus for the off-season.

“We fought to have a good result, but we didn’t manage to finish the season with a point,” Giovinazzi said. “We tried a different strategy [starting on the soft and then two-stopping] as we had to take our chances, starting from the back, although this gamble didn’t pay off.

“It’s been a season in which I learnt a lot of lessons: it will all help me when I get back to the start line in Melbourne. I am happy with the way I improved during the year, both in qualifying and the race, and I am looking forward to taking the next step forward. We will work hard this winter, understand where we can improve and do our best to have an even better season in 2020.”

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Haas ready to forget 2019 after final ‘hard fight’ in Abu Dhabi

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The story of Haas’s 2019 F1 campaign has been one of ongoing struggles. No surprise then that drivers Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean finished the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix looking forward to 2020 – when the lessons learnt from this season could yield a step back up the standings.

Magnussen, who started 14th at Yas Marina and finished in the same position, said that Haas had “fought as hard as we could” both there and throughout the year, with a season-high race result of P8.

“From there we just didn’t have the pace – massively out of position – but I mean the team is doing really well and has done [really well] all year with just pushing as hard as they can,” said the Dane.

“And even in a tough situation where the car looks very slow and it doesn’t look good, they’re still extracting everything and giving me all the [guidance] that I need. Just pushing through and extracting everything from the car, which is tough when you don’t have that natural motivation of scoring points with a good car.”

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“Can’t wait for next year… It’s not been the best car, but it’s still been a learning year and you take something away from every situation and especially in the tough ones you take even more…”

Team mate Grosjean previously said that the VF-19 Haas F1 car “won’t go into a museum”, but the Frenchman was more upbeat in Abu Dhabi, even after he failed to make up any positions from P15 on the grid.

“It’s been tough, a tough race," he said. "I think Friday afternoon, the crash with Bottas, compromised the race a lot because we only had one floor and we did all the practice with that one so we had to change the spec and revert back to another one, which we know.

“It was always going to be tough. I think I need to work on the starts on my side, it’s been a big weakness of mine this year… next year I want to have some good starts.”

Team Principal Guenther Steiner summed up the mood at Haas, adding: “The season ended as we expected. We got the most out of the car today. We’re glad the season is over and now we can focus on next year.

"We got a little bit bruised this year, but we’re not broken – we will come back. The aim is to forget 2019 and start next season as we left off 2018. The focus is on next year and we’re really looking forward to that work.”

With just 28 points on the board, Haas predictably recorded their lowest season score since joining F1 in 2016 – and their worst finishing position, ninth in the table behind Alfa Romeo.

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Kvyat - first race stint in Abu Dhabi was the ‘best of my life’

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Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat added to his personal 2019 highlights reel by finishing ninth in Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from 13th on the grid, after he completed one of the “best stints” of his life – a mega 39-lap effort on hard tyres to start the race.

Kvyat ran the longest first stint of any driver at Yas Marina, and despite dropping three places to 16th on the opening lap, he steadily rose to P7 by the time he pitted on lap 40. Then he switched to medium tyres, emerging 10th before swiping P9 from Renault's Nico Hulkenberg a few laps later.

“Yeah, it was one of the best stints of my life to be honest, it was like [qualifying], every lap was really quick and consistent and I’m really happy to sign off the year with a nearly perfect race.

It ended a mixed run of races for Kvyat, marred by post-race penalties that cost him points in Mexico – thanks to a clash with Hulkenberg – and the following United States Grand Prix where he collided with Sergio Perez late on.

Kvyat continued: “Lately, a couple of races, it wasn’t coming towards me, but now, finally, to sum it up, it’s a race I wanted to close this year with.”

The Russian therefore ended 2019 on 37 points in P13, although his team mate Pierre Gasly missed out on P6 in the standings to McLaren's Carlos Sainz after a first-lap clash with Racing Point’s Lance Stroll and Perez.

“I don’t have much to say," was Gasly's summary. "I didn’t see the footage exactly… but it felt like Lance hit me in Turn 1, pushed me back into Checo and broke the front wing. And then one lap down, praying for the safety car the whole race so, yeah, it was boring.

“There are a lot of things to take from the second part of the season. I think I’m still a bit too upset about the race to have an objective and deep thought about it, but clearly over the winter we’ll look back at what happened because it’s been pretty intense…”

On 85 points and sixth in the table, 2019 was Toro Rosso’s best season ever – and best finish in the championship since 2008.

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Bottas Triggers Beast Mode | 2019 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

The Finn started from the back of the grid but he didn't stay there long, carving his way through the pack to only just miss out on a podium finish. 

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F1 Paddock Pass: Post-Race At The 2019 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton ended a dominant year with an emphatic victory - Will Buxton looks back on the 2019 season finale at the Yas Marina Circuit. 

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And another season comes to an end.

I was mostly wrong with my guesses for the season.  There were some awfully low points from a lack of racing early on in the season but thankfully most of the races in the last 2/3 if the season we enjoyable.

Big questions for 2020 for me:

1) does Ferrari get out of it's way and win a title?

2) can bottas beat Hamilton?

3) will vettel find his form again?

4) can Honda develop the engine more to get on par with Mercedes and Ferrari?

5) will Williams field a respectable car next year?

6) finally will Haas find it's form in the midfield again and have a good car once more.

Looking forward to winter testing already.

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2 hours ago, skalls said:

And another season comes to an end.

I was mostly wrong with my guesses for the season.  There were some awfully low points from a lack of racing early on in the season but thankfully most of the races in the last 2/3 if the season we enjoyable.

Big questions for 2020 for me:

1) does Ferrari get out of it's way and win a title?

2) can bottas beat Hamilton?

3) will vettel find his form again?

4) can Honda develop the engine more to get on par with Mercedes and Ferrari?

5) will Williams field a respectable car next year?

6) finally will Haas find it's form in the midfield again and have a good car once more.

Looking forward to winter testing already.

Ferrari certainly had the race pace and LeClerc looks to be an incredibly smart choice for them as they promoted him to Kimi's seat.  Now they just need to hire someone to focus on quality and reliability, as well as bring in some better race strategists.  At times this year, I could swear they were just flipping a coin to decide what to do.

Bottas has been consistently good but I still wonder if Mercedes is sold on him long term...based upon how long it took to make him another one year offer.

Vettel...that's a head scratcher.  The man who was clearly one of the top drivers in the world as recently as the end of 2018 made a lot of unforced errors this year.  But he still has pace and there is no doubt that he still has talent.

Honda...man don't you know that MacLaren have to be kicking themselves?  Just when they end the Honda deal, the engines start running well for RBR and Toro Rosso...and Renault doesn't seem to be on the same pace with them at all.  

Williams?  Man, I would like to see them relevant again but I'm not sure Claire et al have the same chutzpah and expertise that their old man had.  Unless something drastic happens, it wouldn't surprise me to see them end their run in F1 sometime soon.

Haas?  I don't know why but I am just not a fan of Grosjean and never have been.  I thought Haas made a mistake this past year when they could have replaced RG with Esteban Ocon..who was a faster driver and much more reliable at finishing races than Grosjean ever has been.  It's hard to accumulate points from the paddock.

 

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It'll be interesting to see how much development the teams put in to the cars for 2020 with such drastic developmental changes coming in 2021.

Haas...What can I say?  Abysmal year.  Developed a car lacking in downforce and consequently were unable to keep the tires in a workable range.  I feel they made a big blunder keeping Grosjean instead of making a serious run at Nico.  Hulkenberg is a better driver than Grosjean in every aspect.

Ferrari doomed themselves.  Straight line speed much faster than anyone.  The sacrifice of downforce for blazing fast straight speed was a failure for the reds.  The car was outmatched in all the slow speed sections, and tire degradation was much higher than Mercedes or Red Bull.  That was very evident in Abu Dhabi.  They were consistently fastest through sectors 1 & 2,  but sector 3 they were drastically outpaced.  Race strategies all year were laughable.  It seemed that they were always waiting to react to Mercedes strategy instead of dictating their strategy to other teams.  

Mercedes and Red Bull should keep doing what they are doing.  It is working.

Mclaren and Toro Rosso .  Good season.  Good stable of drivers for both teams.  Lando Norris was impressive in his rookie season.  I thought Kyvat drove well, but still too aggressive at times.  It was nice to see Gasly get some confidence back and a podium at Interlagos.

Renault and Alfa...back to the drawing board.

Racing Point.  I like Checo.  Stroll is a wannabe F1 driver.  I'm interested to see how the team invests into the car in the offseason since the ownership change.

Williams?  A travesty.  I feel bad for George Russell.  A talented young driver being wasted on a car that really had no business being out on the track.  Not even close to being competitive.

 

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Charles Leclerc's attitude hurt Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel claims Jacques Villeneuve

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Jacques Villeneuve has questioned Charles Leclerc's attitude during his first season at Ferrari, claiming it hurt the team and Sebastian Vettel's performance during the 2019 Formula 1 season.

The 1997 F1 champion, writing in his column for Dutch website Formule1.nl, believes the 22-year-old should have accepted a second driver role within the team for his first year, which would have allowed him to learn from Vettel without upsetting the balance.

However Leclerc made it clear from the second race of the season that he was unwilling to do so by ignoring team orders to stay behind Vettel during the early stages of the Bahrain Grand Prix – a race Leclerc would have gone on to win had it not been for an engine problem.

But Villeneuve reckons that and other moments during the season upset the driver chemistry as Leclerc tried to prove he "is the future".

"Ferrari fell apart this year," wrote the Canadian racer. "A lot depends on your two drivers and the chemistry in the team was just not in balance. 

"Ferrari never said to Leclerc 'look it's your first year with us, your second year in F1. Relax, learn from Vettel.' Then the team would have moved further ahead than now.

"Instead, from the first race, Leclerc has had the charisma of 'I'm going to show that I'm the boss and that Vettel is the past. I am the future.' And there was a wave among the fans that Leclerc is coming to save us and the media went along with it. 

"I think that hurt Vettel. A similar situation with Ricciardo at the time at Red Bull. That didn't help Vettel.

"But Leclerc simply wasn't ready for that role. This year he drove for pole positions and sometimes for victories but not for the championship. So this whole situation has damaged Ferrari. 

"I don't know what Mattia Binotto could do about that. I do not know the agreements, in the days of [Eddie] Irvine and [Rubens] Barrichello this was simply established from the start."

Leclerc finished fourth in the standings with nine pole positions and two race wins, 24 points more than Vettel.

MIKA: IMHO, Leclerc did the best possible thing for himself. Poor management hurt Ferrari!

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Abu Dhabi DRS failure proof F1 needs to change – Ross Brawn

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Formula 1 motorsport boss Ross Brawn says the DRS failure in Abu Dhabi highlighted the need for change in F1 and believes the 2021 rules will deliver that.

The drag-reduction-system was unavailable for the opening third of the grand prix following a server crash, which meant there were fewer overtakes in the opening 18 laps than many would have expected, save for a charging Valtteri Bottas who started at the back of the pack.

Brawn isn't a fan of DRS and wants it to be scrapped, but it's not yet known if it will be retained under the new-for-2021 regulations. They have however been framed to reduce its impact by improving how cars follow one another and Brawn believes the Abu Dhabi race is proof that change is needed.

"We are particularly pleased with the largely positive response to the new rules, especially from the fans," said Brawn.

"In [Sunday's] race, no DRS was available for almost 20 laps because of a technical problem and that only served to emphasise the need for the cars to be able to fight at close quarters.

"In addition, the performance gap between the teams needs to be reduced, because looking at [Sunday's] race, once again only the top teams completed the full race distance, every other team was lapped.

"These goals are shared at every level by the stakeholders in the sport, especially the fans. An important step has been taken, but there is more to come and we are definitely moving in the right direction."

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And another season comes to an end.
I was mostly wrong with my guesses for the season.  There were some awfully low points from a lack of racing early on in the season but thankfully most of the races in the last 2/3 if the season we enjoyable.
Big questions for 2020 for me:
1) does Ferrari get out of it's way and win a title?
2) can bottas beat Hamilton?
3) will vettel find his form again?
4) can Honda develop the engine more to get on par with Mercedes and Ferrari?
5) will Williams field a respectable car next year?
6) finally will Haas find it's form in the midfield again and have a good car once more.
Looking forward to winter testing already.

Although I hope I’m wrong, I think the answer to all your questions is no.


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IMHO, Leclerc did the best possible thing for himself. Poor management hurt Ferrari!


I agree. Maybe he did at some point but Jacques never struck me as being someone that would take a backseat to a teammate.


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Sebastian Vettel: I don't need to drive differently in 2020

Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel has played down suggestions that he has to change his driving style in Formula 1 but accepts that he has "to do a better job" next season.

Vettel finished runner-up to Lewis Hamilton in 2017 and 2018, but was never in the mix for overall honours amid a sequence of mistakes from both driver and team in 2019.

Vettel claimed only one victory – in Singapore – and scored just two pole positions, compared to seven for team-mate Charles Leclerc, as he finished a low-key fifth in the standings.

It is the lowest he has finished in the standings since joining Ferrari in 2015.

“I think I’ve been honest, I’ve always done what I can do,” said Vettel.

“I’ve been around for long enough, and I’m honest enough to admit.

“Here and there, I should have done a better job, I know there is more from my side.

“Clearly I look at myself first, address all the points I think need to be addressed, first address the points that need to be addressed at myself so I think there are things I can do better, that I know I can do better so that’s the first thing I look at and try to do better next year.”

When asked what he needs to change personally, Vettel replied: “I don’t think there is rocket science to be changed, it’s always in the details, small adjustments, nothing big and major.

“I don’t need to drive differently, I know how to drive, we all work together trying to improve the car, trying to make it faster for both of us, but yeah, you’re always looking at yourself.

“I’m not doing the same stuff as I did 10 years ago, I’ve evolved. And I think to the better, but certainly here and there, there are things you always feel you can do better.”

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Grosjean: 2020 tyres still "not what you'd dream of"

Grosjean: 2020 tyres still "not what you'd dream of"

Haas Formula 1 driver Romain Grosjean has indicated he remains unconvinced by Pirelli’s 2020-spec tyres after sampling them in post-season testing in Abu Dhabi.
The new tyres’ debut during the United States Grand Prix weekend elicited a largely negative reaction from drivers and teams, leading to a proposal to scrap the 2020 version and continue with the current year’s specification instead.

Such a move would require the approval of seven teams or more, and the 2020 compounds’ performance in this week’s test is likely to prove key to the final decision.

Pirelli said it expected the two days to offer a “more representative” picture, thanks also to the lower prescribed tyre pressures.

However, as the sole 2019 regular speaking to media after the opening day of running, GPDA director Grosjean indicated that his opinion “stayed in the same line” as after Austin.

Asked which spec he would prefer to race next year, he said: “I don’t know. It’s too early to say. But it shouldn’t really be a question, should it?

“That’s where we are. If you ask me right now, I don’t know. Depending on the track I would tell you one or the other. [But] this is not going to happen.

“After one year of development, you would like to be saying ‘I am going to race the 2020, no question’.”

Pirelli has sought to deliver lower degradation, a wider working range and less overheating with its new spec, with it repeatedly stressing the latter target was due to the drivers’ wishes.

Grosjean said that his team ran many comparisons between 2019 and 2020 versions of various compounds on Tuesday, adding that “some were close, some were far”.

“They [the 2020 tyres] are different,” Grosjean said. “There are some positives and there are some negatives.

“They did a big change. Again, we need to look at how we’ve been running the cars and make sure we are on the maximum of everything, but if you ask me if I’m very happy about the new tyres, and [if] this is going to solve some of the problems – the thermal degradation, sensitive to following another car – I just have to tell the truth. And no, it’s not going to change that problem fully.

“The degradation on some compounds was better. Being able to run lower pressures also helps you. So those are the positives. But it’s not what you would dream of.”

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Ocon: Renault run key in light of 2020's "big problem"

Ocon: Renault run key in light of 2020's "big problem"

Renault's new Formula 1 signing Esteban Ocon believes getting a run in the team's 2019 car in Abu Dhabi is "crucial" and will "help massively" in light of next year's reduced testing schedule.
Ocon, who replaces Nico Hulkenberg in the French marque's 2020 F1 line-up, was released by Mercedes to join Renault for the post-season two-day tyre test in Abu Dhabi.

And the Frenchman believes this will be integral to his preparations for next year, as F1 has cut down from eight pre-season test days to six for 2020.

"It's crucial and definitely it's going to help me massively. Because you arrive to testing in February with an advantage, because you have your position [in the car] fixed, you have things that you verified on track, which it's great to have the chance for that," Ocon said after his first day in the Renault RS19.

"I didn't get much driving time this year, and to have even fewer days in February, it's a big problem.

"So to have these two days here it's basically a counter for the days we are lacking in February."

Ocon, who served as Renault's F1 reserve in 2016 before driving for Manor and then Force India/Racing Point, ended Tuesday's opening test day in eighth place, 2.838s off the pace.

Tyre supplier Pirelli revealed that Ocon's mileage was limited by a problem with the seat, and the Frenchman himself confirmed the seating position was a marked difference compared to Mercedes - whose two race drivers are shorter than Renault's 2019 line-up.

That aside, Ocon enjoyed a "pretty smooth" day.

"It's a fantastic feeling, to be back. I was so excited for today, I've been waiting for that day for months and finally it happened.

"Good first impression, the team gave me a very warm welcome, which is always very satisfying. Seeing some old faces, some new faces as well, which is great.

"And we properly started to work on all the little details, and towards the afternoon I started to get closer and closer to the limit."

Asked what he made of the RS19, he said: "It felt good. Obviously there's always a lot that you can improve, but yeah, the engine is also something new for me since a couple of years - good power.

"Then, of course, the balance, you need to always work on it. I think we have a solid base that we can continue [from] tomorrow."

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Ferrari fuel checked at least 10 times this year - Binotto

Ferrari fuel checked at least 10 times this year - Binotto

Ferrari says that it has been checked for its fuel levels at least 10 times this season, in the wake of the discrepancy found in Charles Leclerc’s car at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The Italian outfit was fined 50,000 Euro by the FIA after the fuel amount it declared for Leclerc ahead of the race was 4.88kg different to the amount that the governing body found was in the car.

While the breach of rules prompted intrigue that it was linked to a recent clampdown on engine tricks by the FIA, Ferrari made it clear that Abu Dhabi was not the first time the team had been scrutinised over its fuel levels.

Team principal Mattia Binotto said: “It is not the first time we are doing it. This season we have been checked at least 10 times. “So it's not the first time and it has always been okay, but [on Sunday] we got a discrepancy.”

Binotto said that the procedure for checking fuel weight was well known, and quite easy for teams to understand.

“You declare a certain quantity of fuel at the start of the race that you're filling in the car,” he explained. 

“The FIA may sometimes try to check what has been declared by simply weighing the car, emptying the car, weighing it again, do the difference and try to verify if you got [a difference].”

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF90, leads Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari SF90, Alexander Albon, Red Bull RB15, and Carlos Sainz Jr., McLaren MCL34

Fuel save mode

The controversy over the declaration discrepancy came ahead of a race where both Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel were told to use fuel saving engine modes.

But rather than this being linked to the FIA matter, Binotto claimed that the decision to not push the engine hard was made because of reliability concerns.

Asked by Motorsport.com why the team had spent much of the race in engine mode 4, Binotto said: “We had an engine failure in Austin with Charles, and we know that in terms of mileage we could have been at risk.

“I think we had to manage to save the tyres, at least on the hard, to potentially be on a one stop race which has not been the case. So overall we believe that was right to simply manage engines, tyres and managing the race.”

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French GP mulling major changes to track layout

French GP mulling major changes to track layout

French Grand Prix organisers are considering making major track layout revisions to Paul Ricard in a bid to make it better for Formula 1 racing, Motorsport.com has learned.
In the wake of a far from thrilling race earlier this year, it has emerged that circuit chiefs have been in discussions with the FIA and FOM to find ways to make the venue better for overtaking.

Those talks are focusing on three key changes to the venue that could help improve matters. This includes a reprofiling of the chicane on the Mistral Straight to make it tighter; the addition of a third DRS zone before Signes, plus an all-new layout in the first section of the track.

Former F1 team boss Eric Boullier, who is now a strategic advisor for the French GP, says that he began talks with race director Michael Masi as early as July this year, and subsequent conversations have taken place with FOM about what to do.

Speaking exclusively to Motorsport.com about his plan, Boullier said: “I asked what do we need to do? They came back to me with a completely new track layout which was not Paul Ricard at all. It was a new track so a different story! But that was part of the purpose of my request, to find out what could be done.

“So I'm now in the process of coming back to them and saying which ideas are good and I agree with. We are working on it and we will see what can done.”

The likely area of focus for Boullier is in the opening section of track, with the current medium-speed configuration not good for allowing cars to follow each other.

“Based on the results I've seen from FOM, this [first part of track] is going to be my suggestion. So not to redesign everything. We will keep the chicane, and we will keep Signes and Beausset, because they are signature corners.

“But maybe we can change from Turn 1 to Turn 4 to make it, let's say, faster, with big braking. And then having two big straight lines that should cause a team to run less downforce.”

While there have been suggestions that the track could be improved by removing the chicane on the back straight, Boullier says that is not an option being considered.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W10, leads Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG W10,Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF90, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB15, and the rest of the field on the formation lap

“Everybody says take out this chicane and have a straight line and it's going to solve your problem,” he said. “Yes, but it's creating more problems for me because I've got 10,000 grandstand seats there. And obviously the main revenue stream of a grand prix promoter is ticketing.

“So where am I going to put these 10,000 people in the grandstand? Plus, also, all the overtaking manoeuvres happened there.”

Boullier did say, however, that the chicane could be tightened up – which would help make it a sharper braking zone.

“We can change a little bit the configuration where it makes the braking harder and it gives another 20 metres longer for the second part where, if we have a third DRS zone, we could see maybe some more overtaking,” he said.

Boullier said that no final decision has been taken about what would be done yet, and costs would need to be figured in as well.

“I don't know yet,” he said when asked when the work would be signed off. “We have to take the decision and work out who is going to pay for this.”

Paul Ricard is also planning a packed support race schedule for 2020, which will include a historic festival element that will feature a Goodwood-style open paddock for fans.

Boullier added: “We have decided to push with FOM towards series with more than 30 cars, and a lot of track action to make the fans happy with the on track show.

“And because this will be the 70th anniversary of F1, I would like to bring some old cars and have an open paddock, Goodwood-style, where fans can touch the cars and talk to the owners. It is not good to have these fenced paddocks everywhere - it is good to open it up.”

 

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Why Ferrari tried a split wastegate in Abu Dhabi

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Ferrari trialled a different turbo wastegate arrangement during practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, to allow them to continue evaluating it into the post-race tyre tests this week. In the first of these tests you are allowed to run components that have appeared during a race weekend (including practice sessions). You cannot run new designs.

Uniquely among the four F1 engine suppliers, Ferrari opted in 2019 for a single wastegate pipe, having run two in previous seasons. The wastegate is basically a valve that dumps the excess gases from the turbo into the air when the driver lifts the throttle and momentarily increases the pressures. Dumping the excess allows the turbine to run at a consistent speed without any dangerously high peak pressures.

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On the left, Ferrari's experimental 'split wastegate' design. On the right, the single wastegate they used throughout 2019

Teams have tried to make use of this gas flow by enlisting it to aid the airflow to the underside of the rear wing. Although it’s only a momentary blast of gas, as the wastegate is not operating when on throttle, that momentary lifting coincides with when the driver most needs extra rear downforce – under braking and on the entry to a corner. It will help with rear stability.

That flow split between two pipes can spread the effect across more of the width of the wing than could a single pipe. The orientation of the two pipes will ideally be one either side of the engine exhaust – which is what Red Bull switched to from the Belgian Grand Prix onwards. Prior to that, their two waste pipes were arranged on one side. The Ferrari experimental pipes mimic those of the Red Bull, as seen below.

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