Mercedes chief Toto Wolff has poured cold water on the F1’s sprint race format, claiming it discourages drivers from taking any risks.
F1 is trialling sprint races at three Grands Prix in 2021, with Monza the latest to feature the innovation.
The brand-new format was first unleashed at Silverstone and the reaction was divided, with some claiming it was a “waste of time” while others branded it “exciting”.
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Wolff is the latest to criticise the format, calling it “confusing” and adding there is not enough of an incentive for drivers to risk anything that could damage their grand prix.
“Everybody’s confused,” Wolff said, per motorsport.com.
“I don’t know how it is with you, I don’t even know what session is when.
“I believe the sprint race format as it stands at the moment, doesn’t give a lot of benefit because nobody will take a serious risk.
“There’s too little points at stake and the risk of compromising your Sunday grand prix, with points all the way back to 10th position, is just not worth the risk.
“So, what we’ve seen is a combination of general difficulties in overtaking because the straight-line speeds are very similar, but also because, even Turn 1 and 2, nobody takes a risk.”
It’s worth noting Mercedes’ main man Lewis Hamilton had a tough weekend in Monza, only coming fifth in the Sprint Race before he was taken out in the main race by Max Verstappen while running behind Daniel Ricciardo and Norris.
Ricciardo’s performance on the weekend though proved that not all drivers are shying away from taking risks in the sprint.
Ricciardo, who broke a three-year victory drought at Monza, overtook Lando Norris and Lewis Hamilton at the very start of the sprint.
He was bumped by Pierre Gasly but there was no damage to Ricciardo’s car, with McLaren’s gamble on soft compound tyres paying off.
“It was nice to gain a couple of positions, and then we settled into a rhythm,” Ricciardo said at the time.
“We had a good start, that was important, but I knew we could.”
Wolff added that the sprint races were “worth a try” but was uncertain whether they were worth keeping.
F1 boss Ross Brawn is listening to the criticism, telling media drivers had echoed similar concerns about the need for a greater reward from the sprint.
“We had a session with the drivers after Silverstone,” Brawn said in the lead-up to the Italian grand prix.
“And I must say they’re very positive.
“But it’s true, some of them felt there should be more reward for the sprint. And there should be more jeopardy in the sprint.
“If we’re doing that then maybe a stand-alone event is consideration. I think qualifying on a Friday, race on a Sunday, with a stand-alone event with some decent reward [in between] – but maybe a little bit of jeopardy in the grid of how you start it.
“But we’ve always got to be conscious, we don’t want gimmicks, we don’t want an artificial [show], we don’t want to cannibalise [the grand prix], we don’t want to affect the integrity.
“It’s a difficult balance. But there’s definitely potential there.”
Brazil Grand Prix result, McLaren power loss, chassis crack
Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren team has revealed a cracked chassis was the reason he was forced to quit the Brazil Grand Prix on Monday morning.
The Australian suffered a cruel nightmare when he was forced to retire late in the race as a result of his MCL35M experiencing power loss.
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He said after the race he had been optimistic about finishing ahead of Ferrari rivals Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, possibly finishing as high as fifth in Monday’s dramatic Grand Prix won by Lewis Hamilton.
Despite being out-performed by Ferrari all weekend, the team’s strategy of running a one-stop race on harder tyres had appeared like a stroke of genius before the day was ruined instantly by his fading power.
McLaren has now announced the team investigated the loss of power inside the garage and found a crack had formed within components related to its power unit installation.
McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl said the team will continue to investigate why the problem occurred.
“We had a power loss on track,” he said.
“In the initial investigation we found a technical issue, a crack on the chassis side of the power unit installation, which we need to now investigate. I can give you a better update next week in Qatar.”
It ended Ricciardo’s run of 34 consecutive races of reaching the finish line. Ricciardo was called into the garage on lap 51, just 20 laps short of the chequered flag.
He said after the race it was a new problem he had not experienced since joining the team for the start of the 2021 season.
“We were looking like we were going to get a few points and the race was going pretty well, we were coping pretty well – potentially a one-stop strategy could have worked out for us strongly,” he said.
“It was definitely a better day than yesterday and I was happy with how we were going but it was just out of our control today.
“We knew they had to two-stop. I think they had a bit more pace but maybe through strategy we could’ve disrupted them.
“But then we had a loss of power and had to retire the car. Definitely a shame, but it was a much more promising day than [Saturday]. We’ll take the positives from that, and we’ve got another chance next week.”
It capped off a miserable weekend for McLaren with Lando Norris only able to score one championship point after finishing 10th.
The team struggled to find a quick set-up through Saturday’s qualifying and Sunday’s sprint race.
Ricciardo dropped from eighth to 11th during the sprint race after dropping down the field in the opening lap.
Qatar stages the next chapter of 2021’s gripping title battle next Sunday.
Brazilian Grand Prix, Constructors championship, leaderboard, Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton, feud, Toto Wolff, Christian Horner, engine, rear wing
Just three rounds are left in the race for the Formula 1 title and two challengers remain.
Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton – the same two that have been caught up in a simmering feud that has been escalating all season.
A rivalry that has already reached boiling point and yet is far from settling down as the crescendo climax awaits at Abu Dhabi in December.
Hamilton’s dream of a record-breaking eighth world championship remains very much a possibility after his incredible resurgence in Brazil.
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It leaves him just 14 points behind Red Bull’s Verstappen and with the stakes only set to get higher, the competition will subsequently become even fiercer.
Both team principals have refused to interfere too much in the drama, instead describing the conflict back in September as the coming together of two equally-competitive combatants.
“Max is a no-quarter kind of guy; Lewis has demonstrated that he doesn’t want to give anything either and when you get two racers of that mentality, you get incidents,” Red Bull’s Christian Horner said.
Mercedes’ Toto Wolff was equally diplomatic at the time adding: “The point is that these two are racing for a drivers’ championship and you can’t expect them to have velvet gloves on”.
That all changed on Monday morning though, with even Wolff taking his velvet gloves off.
“I think we’ve just had many, many punches in the face this weekend,” he said.
“Decisions that could have swung either side against us or for us. It’s something that I’m just angry about and I will defend my team, my drivers to what comes.
“I’ve always been very diplomatic in how I discuss things, but diplomacy has ended today.”
What exactly sparked the change in mood from Wolff?
Well, there were a host of incidents that all came to a head of Monday as the ongoing feud between Mercedes and Red Bull spilled over.
It started when Hamilton was disqualified from qualifying classification after the FIA deemed his rear wing not to be legal, with the Drag Reduction System opening greater than the maximum 85 millimetres allowed.
Wolff could hardly believe it, telling reporters he thought Mercedes sporting director Ron Meadows “was joking” when the news came through on WhatsApp.
Earlier in the day Verstappen had walked over to Hamilton’s car and briefly touched the rear wing, copping a hefty fine for his actions.
It was Verstappen’s defensive driving on the track though on Monday morning that really sent Wolff over the edge, particularly given the punishment handed down to Hamilton a few days earlier.
It was turn three on lap 48 and Hamilton had long been closing in on Verstappen, who held a slender lead.
Like Wolff had said back in September, these were two drivers competing for a championship and willing to do whatever it takes in the pursuit of that goal.
What Verstappen did next though crossed a line according to the Mercedes boss.
It was another flashpoint in the pair’s ongoing duel, with Verstappen seeming to deliberately push his championship rival off the track to keep hold of his lead.
F1 race director Michael Masi has since hinted Verstappen could face a retrospective penalty for the incident once all footage is reviewed but at the time no punishment was laid down.
Given Hamilton’s previous disqualification, Wolff was left livid by the decision.
“That was just over the line – should have been a five-second penalty at least – and probably Max knew that,” he said.
“Just brushing it under the carpet is just the tip of the iceberg. I mean, it’s laughable.”
Wolff though was in no laughing mood when it also emerged that Red Bull made wing changes under parc ferme conditions on the same weekend Mercedes was denied that chance.
“No I’m not [happy], it is being judged two different ways here in the sport at this time,” he said of that development.
Horner later clarified from Red Bull’s standpoint that the two requests were “completing different”, telling Sky Sports Mercedes had failed a legality test on their repair.
It changed little for Wolff though, only intensifying the siege mentality which saw him declare: “Lewis – brilliant job. Damage limitation. F*** them all” on the team radio after the sprint race.
“I don’t want to claim anything on the stewards… I think they have a difficult life anyway and they are only there to lose,” Wolff later added.
“But in a certain way when you’re taking punches all weekend and you have such a situation on top of everything, you’re just losing faith.”
When Hamilton and Verstappen crashed back at the British Grand Prix and Horner launched a scathing attack at the Brit’s driving, it seemed tensions between Mercedes and Red Bull had reached boiling point.
Instead, four months later, the drama is still bubbling away and with the championship yet to be decided it is unlikely to go away anytime soon.
Particularly when you consider the added mystery of Mercedes’ engine problems.
Rules allow teams to make changes to the engine provided it improves reliability as opposed to the performance advantage.
Mercedes had already previously hinted at the need for additional power unit parts at the end of the season and on the weekend, they took the gamble.
With Hamilton already trailing Verstappen in the race to the title, a grid penalty was the last setback Mercedes needed but the sudden jump in pace was needed.
It ended up giving the Brit a significant boost to his straight-line speed and helped Hamilton secure a remarkable victory.
It also, along with the rear wing of Hamilton’s car, left Verstappen suspicious and Red Bull searching for answers.
A late protest could provide them but not just yet.
“We need to look at where that speed comes from,” Horner said.
“It’s not normal and we need to look at it, but it’s too early to protest.”
Just another ongoing drama as Hamilton eyes history with the entire F1 world watching.
Red Bull in particular it seems will be keeping a close eye on it all.
F1 Lewis Hamilton vs Max Verstappen Brazil Grand Prix incident, camera footage missing
The FIA has confirmed race officials did not look at footage from Max Verstappen’s on-board camera before announcing his fiery incident with Lewis Hamilton in Brazil would not be investigated.
The wheel to wheel tussle in Monday’s Brazil Grand Prix left the Formula 1 world with its heart in its mouth as the two world championship rivals nearly made contact on Lap 48 at Turn 4.
Hamilton produced one of the greatest drives in recent memory to win the Brazil Grand Prix on Monday morning, but the big talking point was the moment his rivalry with Verstappen almost exploded.
More than 24 hours after the race was won, the footage from Verstappen’s Red Bull is still yet to see the light of day.
Conspiracy theories surrounding the missing footage are growing louder following a Daily Mail report Mercedes is still considering launching an official protest of the decision not to penalise the 24-year-old.
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Hamilton is now 14 points behind Verstappen — but the margin could easily have been even further reduced if action had been taken against Verstappen.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said after the race it was “laughable” that Verstappen avoided any penalty for the moment the Red Bull star appeared to run Hamilton off the track.
Formula 1 commentators on Sky Sports unanimously agreed action should have been taken against Verstappen after he took a shallow line into Turn 4 when Hamilton had already passed him entering the corner and controlled the racing line. Verstappen didn’t give an inch.
Sky Sports first revealed after the race the broadcaster was yet to download the footage from Verstappen’s Red Bull that would have revealed his dashboard and steering wheel movement throughout the incident.
Sky sports technical analyst Anthony Davidson said after the race available camera angles of the incident appear to show Verstappen failing to attempt to steer his car towards the apex of the turn — a clear suggestion Verstappen deliberately forced Hamilton off the track.
He said footage from Verstappen’s on-board camera would be crucial to see if Verstappen’s steering wheel was ever in a position that would have allowed the Dutch driver to make the hard turn.
Wolff also said he would like to see the on-board footage from Verstappen’s Red Bull.
The FIA had ruled the near-collision was a “racing incident” that needed no further investigation — prompting scorn from Lewis Hamilton over the team radio.
F1 race director Michael Masi has now confirmed the key missing footage has still not been seen by race officials.
He said it is “only the cameras that were broadcast” that officials had access to in investigating the incident.
“The forward facing, the 360, there’s all of the camera angles that we don’t get live that will be downloaded and we’ll have a look at them post-race,” he said.
“It hasn’t been obtained yet. It’s been requested.”
He conceded the footage from Verstappen’s Red Bull could be a “smoking gun”.
“Could be, absolutely. Possibly. But no, we didn’t have access to it,” he said.
“And obviously, it’s being downloaded. And once the commercial rights holder supplies it, we’ll have a look.”
Hamilton had earlier called the incident “crazy” when first told of the incident was being looked at by stewards. It took him 11 more laps before he got the move to stick on Lap 59.
Davidson said footage of Verstappen’s dash could easily have resulted in the FIA taking action against Verstappen.
“You always need in these situations other camera angles. The FIA have more camera angles than we do, but they’re missing this critical on-board shot,” he said.
“I think if they had that on-board shot it’s a very different story today.”
He said broadcast cameras appeared to show Verstappen not making enough effort to make the turn.
“Usually what you’d be looking for is a telltale sign like a lock-up on the inside front tyre,” he said.
“A sign that the driver is right at the adhesion of grip, and the steering angle being forced into the car. And the other thing you’re looking for is, is the driver on the apex — is the driver doing everything to make the corner.
“I can’t see that much steering angle going into the car. For me, it’s very well done by Max, cramping him off the road. But I’m not seeing enough effort being put into the car to try and make the corner.”
Former F1 driver Paul di Resta said on Sky Sports after the race he at least expected Verstappen to be ordered to give the position back to Hamilton.
Former driver Johnny Herbert also said he anticipated a five-second penalty being handed down.
It’s why Wolff was so unhappy after the race, describing Verstappen’s move as “over the line”.
“It was really wrong defence from Max, absolutely an inch over the limit, but he needed to do that to defend,” he said.
“Lewis just managed it even more brilliantly by avoiding the contact and end the race that way.
“But that was just over the line, it should have been a five-second penalty at least. Probably Max knew that. Just brushing it under the carpet, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
“It’s just laughable.”
A five second penalty would have seen Verstappen finish third behind Mercedes’ driver Valtteri Bottas, who was three seconds behind the Dutch driver as they crossed the line.
That would have cut Verstappen’s lead to just 11 championship points with three races remaining.
Hamilton was also suspicious after the race, suggesting the decision not to take action against Verstappen was pre-ordained.
“When they said they were going to investigate, I just knew the decision they were going to come to, whether it was right or wrong,” said Hamilton to Sky Sports.
“I didn’t let it phase me, I just kept racing.”
It was just one of the many moments of drama throughout the weekend, which began with Hamilton taking a grid penalty for introducing a new engine.
After his car’s rear wing was found to have violated technical rules by 0.2mm, Hamilton started Sunday’s sprint race from last, and also started Monday’s grand prix from 10th as a result of his earlier grid penalty.
Near-perfect as Hamilton was, he was still fined $9000 for undoing his safety belt on his victory lap in breach of the rules to accept a Brazilian flag from a track marshall.
Qatar makes its F1 debut as host of next Sunday’s latest fix of the sport’s refreshingly exciting circuit drama followed by Saudi Arabia and the season-closing Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in mid-December.
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