There is a two-day test scheduled for 29-30 August at Misano, where Rossi anticipates Yamaha will bring a greater improvement to the new bike’s engine with an eye on more top speed and better acceleration.
While acknowledging there’s more to come, Rossi was adamant Yamaha will certainly need more should they expect to mount a serious title challenge next season.
“We don’t feel a lot of difference, but we expected [that],” he said.
“It’s just a little bit different the engine and is not the [final] 2020 [version].
“It’s just the first prototype. We work, we try something else, but we need more for sure.”
Many discussions this season have been about where Rossi’s future lies beyond 2020, when his current contract expires.
Daniel Ricciardo is talking the talk and he expects Renault to walk the walk.
The Aussie signed off from the 2019 F1 season with a limp 11th placed finish at last weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, bringing to an end a disappointing debut year with the French outfit.
Renault was fifth in the constructors’ championship, 54 points behind McLaren, while Ricciardo ended up ninth in the drivers’ standings.
After making the move from Red Bull at the end of 2018, Ricciardo and Renault barely fired a shot all season but the West Australian is already eyeing a brighter future in 2020.
After he crossed the line in Abu Dhabi, Ricciardo offered a message of support to the team watching on from the garage. “Thank you guys. I really mean it but we will get better next year, a lot better. I really think we will. So let’s get it,” he said over the team radio.
Those aren’t just empty words designed to make the team feel better at the end of a long campaign, Ricciardo insists. He really believes Renault has the ingredients to make meaningful strides forward next year and at least make good on its pre-season goal of being the leader of the midfield pack behind big dogs Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.
“Putting it bluntly I’m not really a speech maker. I know I like to talk a lot but I’m not gonna say, ‘We’ll do better next year boys’ if I really don’t think we will,” Ricciardo told Motorsport.com.
“I’m not just going to massage their shoulders and tell them what they want to hear.”
Ricciardo is confident he can elevate his performance and is feeling good about improvements made to the car that will benefit him and incoming teammate Esteban Ocon.
“Even in myself I know I’ll get better, so that’s one variable that I know is going to change for the better. So even that alone will improve,” Ricciardo said.
“But there are a lot of other things. Speaking with the aero guys, the philosophy of how we’ve designed the car, and especially the front of the car this year, I think they’re pretty confident that that was maybe not the best way to go, looking at some other teams, in order to develop the car.
“We have a bit in hand and we certainly have the resources and the budget to do so. So, yeah, it’s optimism.”
Renault fell short of its ambition to be the “best of the rest” behind F1’s Big Three, but at least it held off a stiff challenge from Toro Rosso to hold onto fifth place in the constructors’ standings, protecting a slim buffer in Abu Dhabi to finish six points ahead of Red Bull’s junior outfit.
“I think that would have been definitely a punch in the guts,” Ricciardo said earlier in the week when asked about what the mood would have been had Toro Rosso jumped ahead in the year’s final race.
“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*** some s*** up!’”
Who scored the top marks on this season’s final weekend?
And which drivers have the best average for the whole season?
Read on and find out below.
Qualified 1st, Finished 1st
The perfect end to a perfect season for 2019’s champion. In fact, make that a Grand Slam finish after Lewis Hamilton qualified on pole, won the race by leading every lap and secured the fastest lap. The Mercedes W10 was at its best on the Yas Marina layout and Hamilton delivered from Saturday, while teammate Valtteri Bottas was left to focus on a very different weekend knowing he would start at the rear of the field.
The fact Hamilton grabbed that fastest lap – a 47th in F1, incidentally, which takes him up to second in the outright list – on 27-lap-old tyres underlined his dominance of the season finale and, in championship terms at least, the 2019 season.
Rating out of 10: 9.5
Qualified 3rd (Started 2nd), Finished 2nd
Like last year, Max Verstappen concludes his season with one victory, one second place and one third in the campaign’s closing three rounds. A rematch of his gripping duel with Hamilton from Interlagos may not have materialised around the Yas Marina but Verstappen and Red Bull ultimately won out in the battle for second against Charles Leclerc.
After falling behind the Ferrari on lap one, the Dutchman’s later decisive overtake just as Leclerc was lapping George Russell was one of the race’s best moments. With three more wins under his belt, Verstappen goes into the winter hoping that when F1 competitive action reconvenes in three months’ time, Red Bull and Honda have a car for a first title assault.
Rating out of 10: 9
Qualified 4th (started 3rd), Finished 3rd
Not a final weekend in which Ferrari’s qualifying or race pace especially caught the eye, but Charles Leclerc was again their faster driver and third place confirmed he beat Sebastian Vettel in their first year as Ferrari teammates. Leclerc was a tenth quicker in qualifying, despite missing out on a final Q3 lap, and then two places and 20 seconds ahead in the race on the same two-stop strategy.
“His performance level was an accurate reflection of our car’s potential in this race and it was therefore satisfying to see him on the podium,” said his team boss Mattia Binotto. “He drove a strong race to round off a great season.” Hard to disagree.
Rating out 10: 8
Qualified 2nd (started 20th), Finished 4th
Very nearly a memorable back-of-the-grid to the podium for Valtteri Bottas at the end of what has statistically been his best-ever season. Armed with a fresh engine, he was strong on the time sheet throughout the final weekend even if, ultimately, Hamilton found some extra pace in Q3.
From 20th place, Bottas made swift headway despite the race’s early DRS malfunction and passed half the field inside the opening 10 laps. Had the race been a lap or two longer, it is likely third would have been his instead of Leclerc’s.
Rating out of 10: 8
Qualified 5th (Started 4th), Finished 5th
A weekend and result that arguably sums up Sebastian Vettel’s season. “I think as a team we must perform stronger, I think as an individual I must do better, I can do better. It wasn’t a great year from my side,” admitted a wistful Vettel to Sky F1 after the race.
Hopes of an attacking first stint on the soft tyres here – he was the only one of the top six not on mediums – were hindered by the lack of DRS, with Vettel’s switch to a two-stop strategy with 17 laps to go dropping him out of what was fourth into sixth, although he did pass Alex Albon to reclaim one of those positions late on.
Rating out of 10: 7
Qualified 6th (Started 5th), Finished 6th
Alex Albon’s wait for a first career podium will continue into his second season, but Abu Dhabi concluded what in truth has been an extraordinary first season at the top level with what was the most minimal of F1 preparation. The humble and likeable 23-year-old has consistently admitted he has areas to work on over the winter to get even better next year, with the fast and relentless Verstappen proving the ultimate yardstick in the sister car. Albon was no match for the Dutchman here, with his battle with Vettel instead his weekend highlight.
Rating out of 10: 6
F1 season ends with donuts
Qualified 11th (Started 10th), Finished 7th
A little-known fact: Sergio Perez scored the most points outside of the top three teams after the summer break. The 39-point haul from Spa – one more than McLaren’s Carlos Sainz – was completed with a stirring drive to seventh in Abu Dhabi in the kind of race that has become Perez’s trademark. Although he started 10th, Perez had just missed out on Q3 so had a free tyre choice for the race’s first stint. That made his long-short strategy expected, yet the Mexican expertly executed it, with his fresh rubber and clinical overtakes over the final 17 laps seeing him go from 13th to seventh. A job well done.
Rating out of 10: 8
Qualified 7th (Started 6th), Finished 8th
Disappointment against Perez on the final lap of his rookie season to lose a head-of-midfield position he had effectively led all race, but eighth rounded off a first year in which Lando Norris has conclusively justified his place on the F1 grid. He clinched the qualifying head-to-head against teammate Sainz on Saturday and finished as McLaren’s lead car on Sunday, despite being one of several Q3 runners to find themselves vulnerable to the pack by starting on the soft tyres.
Rating out of 10: 8
Lando’s touching farewell
Qualified 14th (Started 13th), Finished 9th
Overshadowed by the form of Pierre Gasly recently, but this was a strong finish to his comeback season for Daniil Kvyat. Like Perez, he inadvertently benefited from not qualifying higher up the field with his first stint on the hard tyres running even longer, to lap 40. He overtook both Renaults in the closing laps and was pleased to snare two final 2019 points. “That first stint was probably the best stint of my life, I pushed like there was no tomorrow!” said a delighted Kvyat.
Rating out of 10: 7.5
Qualified 9th (Started 8th), Finished 10th
With the final lap of his best season in F1 so far, Carlos Sainz beat two drivers who have each spent half-seasons in a Red Bull to sixth place in the Drivers’ Championship. A late switch to a two-stopper meant he had his work cut out to get back into the points, but a fantastic move on Nico Hulkenberg on 2019’s final tour proved decisive.
Rating out of 10: 7
Outside the points
Daniel Ricciardo, Renault – 6
Nico Hulkenberg, Renault – 6
Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo – 6
Kevin Magnussen, Haas – 6.5
Romain Grosjean, Haas – 6
Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo – 6
George Russell, Williams – 7
Pierre Gasly, Toro Rosso – 6.5
Robert Kubica, Williams – 6
Did Not Finish
Lance Stroll, Racing Point – 6
‘I’m happy the season’s over’
2019’S OVERALL DRIVER RATINGS
Scored out of 10 for their performances over a Grand Prix weekend, with discrepancies in their machinery taken into account, the class of F1 2019 have all had high and low moments through the season.
But Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen have consistently proved the season’s highest scorers in this feature and can barely be separated in their season average, with the 2019 champion narrowly ahead of his Red Bull rival after Abu Dhabi.
Carlos Sainz takes the third-best average for McLaren, with Valtteri Bottas fourth and Charles Leclerc fifth.
Average driver ratings for 2019 – Top 10
1. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes – 8.57
2. Max Verstappen, Red Bull – 8.55
3. Carlos Sainz, McLaren – 7.97
4. Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes – 7.70
5. Charles Leclerc, Ferrari – 7.67
6. Sergio Perez, Racing Point – 7.47
7. Lando Norris, McLaren – 7.45
8. Alexander Albon, Red Bull – 7.42
9. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari – 7.30
10. Daniel Ricciardo, Renault – 7.17
This article was originally published by Sky Sports and reproduced with permission.
Five-time Bathurst winner Steven Richards has announced his retirement from Supercars, and has announced plans to take up a managerial role at Team 18.
The 47-year-old confirmed his decision on Friday, bringing an end to a long career in the championship which boasts 460 race starts and 10 wins – five of which came at Mount Panorama.
Son of seven-time Bathurst winner Jim, Richards junior made his debut in the Australian Touring Car Championship in 1996 for Garry Rogers Motorsport, and claimed his maiden Bathurst win two years later alongside Jason Bright with Stone Brothers Racing.
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Richards went back-to-back when he combined with Greg Murphy and Gibson Motorsport to win the Great Race in 1999.
His final full-time season in Supercars came in 2010 after a four-year stint at Tickford, and undertook co-driving duties for the team before defecting to Triple Eight from 2014, having won Bathurst with Mark Winterbottom in 2013.
In five years with Craig Lowndes, Richards won Bathurst twice (2015 and 2018) and claimed the PIRTEK Enduro Cup in 2018.
He reunited with Winterbottom at Team 18 for the 2019 enduros, and will remain with the expanding Holden squad as a full-time relationship manager role.
However, despite leaving the Supercars racing fold, Richards revealed his intention to race on in other categories.
Richards will leave behind his co-drive with Winterbottom, with several names – including defending Bathurst winner Alex Premat – to be linked to the seat for the 2020 enduros.
Team 18 will be after two additional drivers, with Scott Pye’s second entry yet to have a confirmed major sponsor or co-driver.
Richards joins fellow Bathurst winner Luke Youlden as Supercars retirees following the 2019 season.
“I’ve been in discussion with Charlie [Schwerkolt, team owner] and the team regarding an active role for some time,” said Richards.
“It’s an exciting time at Team 18 and now is the right time to make this decision.
“I’ll be able to utilise my experience to assist Charlie and the team drive success both on and off the track and work closely with the incredible team partnerships that have been established.
“I’ve had a fantastic career in Supercars, winning races, competing for championships, and driving with the best teams and drivers in the most competitive touring car championship in the world.
“While I close the door on Supercars I’ll still have some flexibility to continue driving in other categories.”
Schwerkolt was “sad” to see Richards hang up the helmet, but was excited to have the decorated driver remain with his growing team.
“Really sad day for us to announce Richo is hanging up the helmet on his Supercars career, but his move into the management and commercial side of Team 18 will be great future proofing for the team,” said Schwerkolt.
“We have been chatting about this for a while when Richo first joined the team at the start of the year, but now with the expansion to a two-car operation, the role has really progressed into a full time role.
“Richo has extensive motorsport knowledge and is a massive get for our team to have someone of his calibre that can guide and assist all Team 18 properties. Really really proud to have him on board.”