Sainz’s First Day In Ferrari Red

As the crazy but highly entertaining 2020 season comes to a close, and I make my return to MOH Racing, there are new beginnings looming for several drivers on the F1 grid. These include, of course, McLaren’s departing Spanish star Carlos Sainz, who began the next step of his career in earnest by visiting his new employers Ferrari in Maranello.

The 26 year-old makes his switch fresh from helping McLaren secure third in the 2020 Constructors’ Championship, following what was the British team’s best season since 2012. It remains to be seen what he can do for the Prancing Horse, as their chosen replacement for Aston Martin-bound Sebastian Vettel, and if their 2021 season will be as difficult as this one has been. For the time being, though, Sainz seems comfortable enough in his new surroundings.

He spent his first outing at the factory getting to know his colleagues and undergoing a seat fitting prior to a January test in Ferrari’s 2018 car. Despite the question marks over how competitive the team will be before new regulations arrive in 2022, team principal Mattia Binotto’s confidence in his new signing is clear for all to see.

“He has the speed, the experience, wins many places in the race and usually brings his car to the finish line,” he told Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport. “With a view to the Constructors’ Championship, we need two drivers who score regularly.”

There is no question in my mind that Sainz deserves his shot at Ferrari, although I was unsure about his decision to join them from such a strong and comfortable position in an ever-improving McLaren squad. I understand, however, that the lure of the red car is likely impossible to resist, and will still be intrigued to see how he adapts to it – and team-mate Charles Leclerc – come the new season.

Mason

The First Favourite

Well, I’m back on MOH Racing, and I can only apologise for having been silent since Australia. Nine races on, we’re now looking at the halfway point of the 2019 Formula One season, and I thought it only fitting to rejoin you here, after a thrilling British Grand Prix on Sunday. It’s fair to say that plenty of post-race talking points came out of Silverstone this year, such as the first lap clash between the two Haas drivers, the subsequent collision between Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen that left many questioning the German’s future in the sport, and Lewis Hamilton’s record sixth victory on home soil. For me, though, the aspect of the race that left the greatest impression on me was Verstappen’s breathtaking duel with Charles Leclerc. It was a battle that treated us to fair but very close racing from beginning to end, and for many it served as a tantalising reminder that we’re likely to see similar battles between the two youngsters for some time yet.

Beyond that, it reminded me of my increasing admiration for Leclerc in particular. Not only is he an indicator of the young talent we have to look forward to in the future, and very quick regardless, but he is also impressively humble and mature outside the car. There’s no media pen sulking after a bad day at the office, nor is there any kind of chip on his shoulder. All I have seen so far is respect and gratitude for his fellow racers and the people who helped him get where he is today. These qualities mean that my usual neutrality towards the drivers and teams competing in Formula One has been somewhat disrupted. At different points in the last few years, I’ve had Renault, Lotus, Virgin and McLaren shirts in my wardrobe. I have a painting of Damon Hill’s Jordan 198 on my wall, and I’m writing this while wearing a Toro Rosso watch. This means that overall, I have largely displayed no favouritism (although I did write a post praising the now defunct Virgin/Marussia/Manor team in 2016). All that has changed since the start of last season, and I can now say with absolute certainty that Leclerc has established himself firmly as my first-ever favourite driver. With his position at Ferrari looking very strong at present, I would say there are many more great things to come from him this season alone, especially after a string of outstanding performances and the races in Bahrain and Austria that he narrowly missed out on winning. I can’t wait to see what he can do next.

Mason

 

Australia And AWOL

Well, we’re now one Grand Prix down, with 20 to go – and what a great start to 2019 we had in Australia. There are very few things that can convince me to willingly wake up at 4.30am on a Sunday morning, but Formula One has always been one of them. Once again, I had no regrets, and like many others I came away with lots to think about once the 58 laps of Albert Park were over. First of all, we were treated to a¬†slightly¬†unexpected race winner. After so many years of dominance from the Silver Arrows, I was never going to be surprised by yet another Mercedes one-two, but I’m not sure I would have bet on a rejuvenated Valtteri Bottas cruising into the distance and beating team-mate Lewis Hamilton by some 20.8 seconds. The Finn seemed in total control from the start, never really looking back once he reached Turn 1 in the lead. Although Hamilton was later found to have had a damaged floor, which is likely to have severely hampered his race pace, Bottas looked almost like a different driver – fearless and unprepared to be second-best. His winter break, and the porridge he’d had for breakfast on race morning, had obviously worked wonders. If we can see more of the same from him through the rest of the season, it’ll be great for the sport and its fans.

Behind the two leaders, I took notice of Ferrari’s baffling lack of pace in comparison to the testing speed they showed, Honda’s first podium courtesy of Max Verstappen’s Red Bull (oh, to be a fly on the wall at McLaren), and the closeness of the midfield as they battled over the lower points positions. Daniil Kvyat’s return to Toro Rosso turned many heads as he valiantly kept the second Red Bull of Pierre Gasly at bay for tenth – will he show his team that they were wrong to drop him in 2017? I was left with further questions about those in the bottom half of the field. Renault’s big new signing Daniel Ricciardo endured a torrid home Grand Prix, qualifying twelfth before hitting a bump on the approach to the first corner. This caused his front wing to disintegrate and after circulating at the back until half-distance, his team called him in to retire. The failure to finish means we are yet to see exactly what the Honey Badger will be able to achieve with his new employer, but I’m confident we will see him back to his best very soon.

I’m also excited to see what the newcomers on the F1 grid can do this year. Lando Norris missed out on points after starting a superb eighth, but with better luck it would seem there is more to come from the young Brit. The same can probably be said for Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi (not strictly a rookie, thanks to his two races as a temporary Sauber driver in 2017) and Toro Rosso’s Alexander Albon, although George Russell is likely to face more of an uphill struggle. His Williams FW42 is significantly slower than the cars ahead of it – he and Robert Kubica locked out the back row of the grid and finished two and three laps down respectively – and there looks to be plenty of work to do before the car can become remotely competitive. It’s been a shame to see a team with the illustrious history of Williams so far adrift of its rivals, but its progress will be yet another source of intrigue as the F1 circus looks toward the Bahrain Grand Prix. Bring it on!

Before I sign off, I’d just like to apologise for my lack of activity lately. University work has had to take priority, and will need to for the foreseeable future, but I’ve also been struggling with some confidence issues. No passion in my life is quite as great as the one I have for motorsport, but that’s exactly what has made it more difficult to write about. There are persistent doubts floating around in my head. What if I get this so catastrophically wrong, even though it’s something I love so much? What if I don’t have anything new or engaging enough to say about it? Those questions can go some way towards explaining why I may only post here sporadically for a while – but I hope you can be patient with me and stick around as I try to keep you updated. Your understanding would be very much appreciated.

Mason

Kvyat Fastest On Day Three In Barcelona

Following Ferrari’s blistering pace on Monday and Tuesday, it was Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat who ended the third day of testing at the Circuit de Catalunya with the quickest lap, following a 1:17.704 that was set with only minutes to go. In taking the top spot, the Russian usurped Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen, who had led all day until that point. The Iceman ultimately held onto second place, being only half a tenth slower than Kvyat.

Renault rounded out the top three with Daniel Ricciardo, who covered the most laps he has managed so far this week with a total of 80. His former Red Bull team-mate Sebastian Vettel was fourth for Ferrari, with the Austrian team’s current ace Max Verstappen following closely behind in fifth – he clocked up most of his mileage in the afternoon. The second Renault of Nico Hulkenberg was sixth, just ahead of Romain Grosjean and Pietro Fittipaldi in the Haas VF-19, who both endured technical problems that caused the car to stop. Carlos Sainz and Sergio Perez completed the top ten for McLaren and Racing Point respectively.

Despite only ending up eleventh and twelfth fastest, Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton certainly made the most of the track at their disposal, driving 182 laps between them as they took turns to get behind the wheel. Meanwhile, Williams was finally able to get its testing programme underway with the FW42, although George Russell could only set 23 laps and was slowest overall, with a best time that was 7.9s adrift of Kvyat’s.

Russell’s participation means that his team-mate Robert Kubica is the only 2019 driver yet to venture onto the circuit as the test enters its fourth day on Thursday.

Mason

Vibration Concerns At Red Bull – Reports

Reports citing Sky Sports’ Marc Priestley have suggested that Red Bull Racing has encountered its first issue with new engine supplier Honda – namely vibrations that are causing an unstable rear end.

Prior to the RB15’s official track debut on Monday, Honda had been unable to properly test its new engine on its dyno thanks to its own vibration problem. It expected a clearer picture to arise once the teams arrived in Barcelona; whilst Red Bull has so far completed over 200 laps of reliable running, this teething problem still remains.

Another source has told GPToday.com that specifically, the problem “is not so much the engine but the complete rear. That is not yet in balance and therefore it doesn’t run as they want at Red Bull Racing.”

Although vibrations are generally less of a concern at low speeds, they become more threatening at greater ones, so they are undoubtedly a hindrance that Red Bull will want to remove as quickly as possible.

Mason

Williams Keeping Quiet On Lowe’s Future

Williams finally arrived at the Circuit de Catalunya for day three of Formula One’s pre-season testing period on Wednesday, following what Deputy Team Principal Claire Williams described as an “embarrassing” delay in getting the FW42 ready for the track.

The team’s new British recruit George Russell finally drove the car in anger during the afternoon session, but even as he took to the Spanish tarmac, questions were still being asked as to exactly why his squad had been late in coming to the test. It has been speculated that a major flaw in the design of the car is to blame, and that Technical Director Paddy Lowe’s future at Grove is in doubt as a result.

The engineer did not speak to the assembled media, cancelling all of his Wednesday press commitments, but Williams told Sky Sports that it would be wrong to blame him for the team’s current predicament.

“There is always a lot of speculation in these circumstances,” she said. “But we don’t apportion any blame at Williams, that’s not the name of the game and not what you need to be focusing your energy on.

“It’s about us all clubbing together and making sure we understand why we were unable to deliver the car and do that after-action review and learn from our mistakes.”

Williams again refused to directly discuss Lowe when asked about him in a subsequent interview, reiterating that her focus lies elsewhere. “I’ve been reading a lot of speculation in the media recently about Paddy’s position. Right now all I’m focused on, and all the team should be focused on is the car, and making sure the car is in the right place.”

Mason

Loss Of Sauber Name “Hurts” – Peter Sauber

Peter Sauber has said that the loss of his surname from Formula One, in favour of the Alfa Romeo moniker, “hurts”.

Sauber founded the team that previously bore his name in the early 1970s, and it entered F1 ahead of the 1993 season. Speaking to CH Media during pre-season testing in Barcelona, and pointing to his squad’s history, the 75 year-old said: “Of course it hurts that the Sauber name disappears after such a long time. But the name is only gone from Formula One. The company is 49 years old and will enter its 50th season in 2019.”

Sauber then added that he did see positives in the change, despite his personal feelings. “For the team, changing the name to Alfa Romeo is a good thing. Otherwise, the owners would not have done it. And what is good for the team is also good from my perspective. I did many things that were difficult but in the best interests of the team.”

Such acts included selling the team to German car maker BMW, who owned it between 2006 and 2009. This period saw it achieve its only race victory to date, courtesy of Robert Kubica at the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix. Now, ten years on from BMW’s departure, Sauber evidently views the arrangement with Alfa Romeo as a similar situation.

“Between 2006 and 2009 we built the F1 cars for BMW. Now it’s Alfa Romeo,” he said. “Sauber is also still registered as the manufacturer with the FIA, and neither the ownership or the management will change that.”

Mason

Vettel Tops First Day Of Testing

Sebastian Vettel rounded off an excellent first day of F1 testing for Ferrari with the quickest overall lap time at the Circuit de Catalunya on Monday. The German’s best time of 1:18.161 was 0.397s clear of second-placed Carlos Sainz, who made his first appearance at the wheel for his new McLaren team. The 119 laps he completed – exactly 50 fewer than Vettel – served as valuable mileage for the Woking squad, who endured a problematic first season with Renault engines last year, although Sainz did cause one red flag following a brief loss of drive on track in the afternoon.

Joining the Spaniard in temporarily halting proceedings was Haas driver Romain Grosjean, who lost fuel pressure in the morning before ending the day in third with a 1:19.159 on the same tyre compound as Vettel. Somewhat notably, then, Ferrari’s main rivals were absent from the top three on day one, but they weren’t too far behind – Max Verstappen was fourth in Red Bull’s new Honda-powered RB15, with 128 laps under his belt. Speaking afterwards, Team Principal Christian Horner seemed pleased with the car’s progress. “The main focus is mainly getting miles on the board and understanding that complex marriage between engine and chassis to make sure both are working in harmony, which seems to be working well so far,” he said.

Alfa Romeo’s new signing Kimi Raikkonen was fifth on the timesheets, but the Iceman’s day was far from uneventful. He would be responsible for two red flags, although the second was planned, and came with only a minute left on the clock. The first was deployed after he lost the rear end of his C38 at Turn 5, beaching it in the gravel trap. Toro Rosso returnee Daniil Kvyat was just behind in sixth, only 0.002s away from Raikkonen, while Racing Point’s Sergio Perez took seventh after a mere 30 laps, supposedly due to teething problems.

Unusually, Mercedes and Renault filled out the bottom of the order – both teams had given both their respective drivers the chance to drive their cars. Mercedes took eighth and ninth, with Valtteri Bottas just 0.008s ahead of Lewis Hamilton in the new W10. Nico Hulkenberg was the faster of the two Renault racers, although the gap between himself and new team-mate Daniel Ricciardo was even smaller, at 0.003s.

Testing continues in Barcelona tomorrow, with only the Williams FW42 yet to turn a wheel on track due to ongoing issues. The team has confirmed that its car is unlikely to run until Wednesday at the earliest.

Mason

The Formation Lap

As the first Formula One test of 2019 gets underway, what better time is there to get this new project up and running too? My name is Mason, and since 2015 I’ve been writing another blog, www.thirdtimeenabled.com, covering pretty much any and every topic and idea I can think of. Nearly four years later, I’m still loving it – I never quite know what might end up there next. But one of my big passions has been somewhat left out of it, and that’s what I hope to rectify here at MOH Racing. If something has wheels and an engine, I’ll happily watch it, especially if it’s F1 – and now the time has come to let you know my thoughts on motorsport in black and white.

I have my university flatmate Sam to thank for this. In the past I have always felt conflicted about whether I should write about what I love most – what if I’m no good? What if I can’t do it justice? Sam convinced me that after at least 15 years of being a fan (I’m 21 at the time of writing), I must have something half-decent to say, and that’s what led me to start this very post. There are a lot of motorsport websites out there and a lot of them carry similar stories, so it’s going to be hard to stand out from the crowd. I only ask that you be patient with me, and I hope that you enjoy reading what I have to offer as much as I’ll enjoy writing it. Let’s go!

Mason