Nissany: The goal is to race in Israel in 2021

There may be more than meets the eye with regards to Williams’ signing little known Israeli driver Roy Nissany, as he hinted this may be the first step towards a Grand Prix in the country.

At the post-grand prix test in Abu Dhabi last year, the unknown 25-year-old Nissany was suddenly at the wheel of Williams’ 2019 car.

He was quickly ridiculed, not only because he was several seconds off the pace of Williams’ regular drivers, but because his then 42-year-old father Chanoch was even slower when he did a Friday practice for Minardi back in 2005.

For the 2020 test driver announcement, which will involve Nissany doing several Friday practice sessions, Claire Williams travelled to Roy’s native Tel Aviv.

He has strong Israeli backing, including by the new Tour de France team Israel Start-Up Nation.

“I feel like we are all putting the Israeli flag on the map,” Nissany said.

La Gazzetta dello Sport said it could just be the first step towards a grand prix in Israel, “The goal is to race in Israel in 2021. It would be a dream to be able to drive there, with 350 million people admiring my country on TV.

“For me it has been a long journey – almost 20 years. Formula 1 was never a dream but a goal. Williams is a wonderful place to learn and I am very grateful to be offered this opportunity,” he said.

Israel Start-Up Nation was founded by Canadian-Israeli billionaire Sylvan Adams, who said: “The fast-track plan is for Roy to be an actual F1 driver as early as 2021. Of course, he has a few hurdles to accomplish before he can be selected to be one of the two drivers.”


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Red Mist: Who will replace Seb when he leaves Ferrari?

One of the biggest Formula 1 talking points, until the subject will be resolved later this year, will be the feud for the Ferrari number one seat, or in other words who Sebastian Vettel’s place at the Scuderia.

The quadruple F1 World Champion’s contract with Maranello expires at the end of the year following what has been a pretty barren Prancing Horse stint so far — there’s still a season of that to run, remember…

Anyway, there’s been more than enough flatulence about Lewis Hamilton’s Ferrari future — Italian motorsport bible Autosprint, after all, ran a doctored image of Lewis in a red Ferrari suit to taunt the Tifosi its cover in September 2018 already and there was a literal shitstorm on the subject a few weeks ago, once Hamilton had taken his latest title and surprisingly shortly after we regurgitated the matter again some months ago.

The facts are simple — both Seb and Lewis are out of contract as this current F1 era lapses after this season.

Speculation becomes complicated; Vettel is clearly not the happiest chappie following young Carlito Leclerc’s arrival at Maranello. Unlike with the previous German maestro at Maranello, the Monegasque lad is allowed to beat Vettel, as he can, has and will again, rather than Ferrari having a gorilla in its second car contracted not to beat the number one in Schumi’s superteam years.

So, should he not stop? Is Vettel likely to sail into the twilight of his career having to deal mano-a-mano with superbly talented young upstart? Would you…?

Then the story of Mercedes — the one about the racing team being sold — plausibly as the next acquisition to satisfy Roger Penske’s voracious recent racing appetite — with Merc stepping back to be just an engine supplier – will allegedly see Lewis free to go and allegedly let Toto Wolff follow him to #4 Via Abetone Inferiore.

Both of which juggernauts would suit Maranello just fine — but can Lewis and Toto ever be able to pull off a “Jean Todt” at polemic-infused Ferrari, that is. But evidence suggests that ‘casino’ was a negotiating ploy of sorts and a highly unlikely scenario.

However, I will argue — there’s a dark horse — ready to repeat history.

According to recent speculation in the German press, the honeymoon may be over at Renault. Asked about Daniel Ricciardo’s commitment to the Regie, team boss Cyril Abiteboul said cryptically, “I think my answer would be different today than it was a few weeks or months ago…”

Is that smoke we see there?

Danny’s (Italian roots etc) has also long been tipped to dress in Red sooner or later and should this latest speculation prove to have legs, we would see Dan oust former Red Bull teammate Vettel, this time, from Ferrari.

Thus the possible answers to the question posed in the title are twofold:

  1. Seb stays and things between the drivers remain as they are or get worse because it is doubtful they will improve unless he unconditionally he may have to play the number two role if Carlito keeps betaing him;
  2. Dan arrives with his big smile, chills things up at Maranello and pushes Carlito harder than he has been pushed before without the aggro they are going through now with their current explosive pairing.

No, it is not a given that Seb will leave Ferrari at the end of this season, but the above also applies for when he does leave which should be well before his 22-year-old teammate’s deal ends in 2024.

Step up the Honey Badger!

So over to you: Who will race in Red alongside Leclerc next year?


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Camilleri: There will be significant extra budget next year

Ferrari CEO Louis Camilleri speaking to media lunch at Maranello last week confirmed that the evolution to the 2021 Formula 1 regulation comes at a high price and thus his team will be afforded extra resources for the new era.

Seated alongside team principal Mattia Binotto, Camilleri said that a bumper financial year for the sportscar manufacturer, including the launch of the SF90 Stradale hybrid, had led to “a lot of smiling faces” at Maranello.

Integral to that is the F1 team, he explained, “We are one company and the car business funds Mattia’s business. We’re also prepared to invest and luckily the car business can support those investments, not only in terms of people but also in terms of infrastructure.”

Binotto added “Yes, it will be significantly more expensive. The budget we’ve got available is the one that’s needed. Certainly, the number of projects in parallel are significantly more compared to the past.

“We all started very early on the 2021 car. So yes, there will be significant extra budget next year, not only about money but resources – extra people would be required to run the programs. I think it’s got to be a situation to be managed right now.”

This is exactly what midfield teams did not want to hear, as the extra funding available to Ferrari and of course Mercedes, as well as the Red Bull-Honda partnership, will dwarf what The Rest can bring to the table.

The ‘damage’ is being done right now as 2021 cars are already well into the early stages of production, rendering the $175-million budget cap for the new era almost irrelevant as big money is already being spent.

With regards to Biniotto’s first year in charge of the sport’s most famous team, Camilleri said, “We need patience, we need stability and serenity.

“If you look back in the history of F1, where teams have done very well, be it McLaren, Ferrari in the good old days, Red Bull or today Mercedes, there is one common thread, which was that there was a lot of stability within the team.

“They learned to work very closely together. That is something we are very focused on. Mattia has been spending a lot of time to ensure that we have a cohesive, united team,” added Camilleri.


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Is Hulkenberg his own worst enemy?

Jason Watt, a Danish former F3000 winner turned pundit, says he is not surprised that Nico Hulkenberg’s Formula 1 career is coming to an end.

Having lost his race seat at Renault for 2020, Hulkenberg was in the running for drives at Haas and Alfa Romeo but instead will bid farewell to the F1 paddock next weekend in Abu Dhabi.

Watt says the German’s ten-year career has been up and down since 2010, but he achieved a “pretty good reputation” by dominating his teammates at Force India.

“After that, the curve stagnated severely. For the past five seasons, including 2019, he has finished ahead of his teammate in the championship only once,” Watt told Ekstra Bladet newspaper,

“He looked good in 2018 with Carlos Sainz though, so I was excited to see him against Daniel Ricciardo this year,” he added.

However, he thinks it is possible Hulkenberg’s 2019 form went awry once it became clear to team management that they were moving on.

“Every Dane remembers when Magnussen said no thanks to a contract extension with them and immediately Jolyon Palmer was faster,” he said. “The only similar thing about the two cars was that they were yellow.

“I don’t think that’s what happened with Hulkenberg, but I don’t think it’s controversial to say Renault was more interested in Daniel Ricciardo.”

Watt thinks Haas then turned down Hulkenberg for 2020 because of his “high wage demands”. He thinks that is bad news for both the American team and the 32-year-old driver.

“It doesn’t do much for Kevin [Magnussen] when Romain Grosjean has those periods of stupid mistakes. So for Kevin’s sake, I would have liked to see Hulkenberg there in 2020,” said Watt.

“Now it seems that he will end his days in the DTM or Formula E, and in my book he has himself to blame for that.”

Big Question: Is Hulk his own worst enemy?


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Wolff: Our drivers don’t have 2021 contracts so all doors are open

Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff has vowed to look into the way Valtteri Bottas’ contract uncertainty affects his mid-season performance while revealing that for 2021 the German team have no driver under contract.

Bottas replaced Nico Rosberg for the 2017 season, on a one-year deal. Subsequently, he was also signed one season at a time for 2018, 2019 and now 2020. He admits the constant uncertainty affects him.

“There were a lot of rumours. I had no idea what was going on,” Bottas said of this season, when it was rumoured throughout that Esteban Ocon might take his place.

“As an athlete and a driver, that is certainly not ideal. There was no peace of mind to focus completely on my work, and the situation will be similar again next year. At the moment I’m not too worried because my pace is good and I enjoy driving,” he is quoted by Sport.de.

However, Mercedes boss Wolff has acknowledged the way the uncertainty affects Bottas, “Apparently it has an influence on him so I will try to take that into account and do my job better.”

“In 2021, all the doors are open: none of our drivers have contracts with the team, so it will be a very interesting situation,” he added.

The 2021 season coincides with the coming of age of the new F1 rules package.


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Wolff: Lewis has no reason to consider other teams

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff is keen to have Lewis Hamilton to sign a new contract with the team that has brought him so much success since he joined in 2013.

Hamilton, who could wrap up his sixth world championship during the forthcoming Mexico-Austin double header, signed a new two-year deal in 2018 that extended his commitment to the end of 2020.

Now, boss Wolff wants the 34-year-old to sign another.

“As long as we are able to provide the winning car, Lewis has no reason to consider other teams – and we have no reason to look elsewhere,” he said.

“What we have said to Lewis is that we would like to finish the season on a high, breathe a moment and then discuss what happens in 2021.”

The sport’s rules are changing fundamentally for 2021, so Wolff thinks other top teams will also be contemplating what drivers to sign up.

“Loyalty and integrity is something that binds us together and the most important discussions about 2021 will be with Lewis and Valtteri,” he said.

“Ferrari will also look at the options they have. They have a good lineup now that causes hiccups sometimes, so they will also be thinking: What do we want for 2021?’”

Big Question: Why would Lewis move from Mercedes?


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Vettel: Leclerc is fast but you can’t compare teammates

Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel is not willing to say if Charles Leclerc is his best ever teammate in Formula 1 claiming its.

In less than a full season, 22-year-old Leclerc has managed to challenge quadruple world champion Vettel’s number one status at Maranello.

“He’s young, he’s very fast. I don’t think anyone doubts that,” Vettel is quoted by Speed Week.

But is he the best teammate Vettel has ever had?

“You can’t really compare them,” Vettel said, “because you’d have to put Mark, Kimi, Daniel and Vitantonio in the same car at the same time. So it’s not fair,” he said.

“In terms of pure speed, Leclerc is very fast, but it is still very early for him. It’s only his second season, so it’s something completely different than Kimi or Mark, who spent a lot of time in Formula 1 and had much more experience,” Vettel added.

But he admitted that it’s good that Leclerc is doing so well, “It’s good to have a real reference, and especially good at those times when I had a bit of trouble getting the most out of myself and the car.

“And as a team, it’s good to have two riders fighting eye to eye on the track, ” added Vettel who made his grand prix debut.


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Time for Verstappen to make decision on 2021

Red Bull Max Verstappen will know within “one or two” races next year if he will stay at Red Bull in 2021 according to his Dutch compatriot driver Robert Doornbos.

2020 is the final year on Verstappen’s current contract, and he has made noises about potentially switching to a faster top team for 2021.

“Nothing will happen in 2020,” Doornbos told Ziggo Sport. “Max can’t go anywhere yet. “After that it will be a difficult choice, because you simply cannot see into the future.

“Max actually has the choice of two other teams, or three if you include McLaren. They’ve done extremely well and can become a serious team when they go to Mercedes engines.

“One thing is for sure and that is that Mercedes will not continue to dominate Formula 1 for another four years,” added the former Red Bull driver.

However, Doornbos thinks it is possible that Red Bull-Honda will succeed in retaining Verstappen beyond 2020, “It’s important for them to develop that car as well as possible next winter.”

“Max wants to see a good car next year if he is going to be convinced to stay. Max will be able to tell what kind of car he has after one or two race weekends. Based on that, he will make his choice quickly.”

Verstappen, 22, is hopeful Red Bull-Honda can step up to the top two teams in 2020.

“We already have many ideas for next year about how we can make ourselves stronger,” he said. “Some things have worked well this year, some a little less, but there are always things that could be better. I always try to analyse everything that could be improved.

“I think we know what went wrong this year and have taken measures for next year, so we are going to find out,” Verstappen added.

Big Question: What’s in store for Verstappen in 2021?


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Sato: Japan needs another driver in Formula 1

Takuma Sato

Takuma Sato believes Formula 1 needs a new Japanese driver to continue to inspire regrowth in support for the sport in a country where tickets for the Grand Prix used to be sold by lottery.

At Suzuka, the former Jordan, BAR and Super Aguri driver was in the paddock to support Honda and the Japanese driver Naoki Yamamoto.

31-year-old Yamamoto, poised to win his third Super Formula title this year, got his first taste of F1 with a Friday practice session for Toro Rosso at Suzuka.

Sato, who now races in Indycar, thinks Japan needs a new local hero to cheer on.

“F1 is doing well in Japan even if it is not the madness that we used to know,” the 42-year-old told France’s Auto Hebdo.

“Honda’s recent wins are helping, but I don’t think that’s the problem. Fans want something other than what happened in the 80s and 2000s.

“The real solution is a Japanese driver who can fight for the podium. It’s been five years that they have waited for a successor to Kamui Kobayashi,” Sato said.

It is debatable whether Yamamoto fits the bill. He is already 31, and although supported by Honda, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner says he “doesn’t fit the criteria” for a Toro Rosso race seat.

When asked about Yamamoto, Sato answered: “He did a great job in the free practice given the circumstances, because it is never easy to just jump into a Formula 1 car.

“There is plenty of talent in Japan, but the challenge is to get all the pieces of the puzzle together. Super Formula is perhaps the discipline that is most similar to F1, so I think it’s a matter of time before a Japanese driver arrives in Formula 1,” he added.


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Villeneuve: Hülkenberg doesn’t even have a podium

Jacques Villeneuve keeps calling as he sees it and for that reason he is not high in the paddock popularity stakes, and he has not held back in his take on Haas retaining their drivers for 2020, the 1997 Formula 1 World Champion obviously caring less who he annoys.

In the wake of the surprise news that the American team would retain their drivers Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean for another season. The latter was expected to make way for Nico Hulkenberg who was ditched by Renault for next season.

But Hulk and Haas did not find enough common ground to strike a deal and Grosjean remains alognside KMag for another year of guaranteed bent metal.

While most lamented the decision, of course, Villeneuve had his unique view on Hulkenberg/Grosjean story and told journo Andre Wiegold, “These are the two drivers with the most races without a victory. Hülkenberg doesn’t even have a podium, so why would you want to change?

“If you wanted to swap Grosjean, then you should either go for a young driver or an older one who knows how to win… like Ricciardo,” added the Canadian.

After the tragic Anthoine Hubert accident, Villeneuve waded in with suggestions that young drivers are brought up in sim racing where ‘virtual’ crashes have little consequences. In other words: use of simulators as a hobby as part of an F1 driver’s tasks was luring young drivers into a false sense of security.

It was an explosive accusation that prompted Lando Norris to respond, “I don’t think it has anything to do with sim racing, it’s just something [Villeneuve] wants to use as an excuse.

“Safety is getting better, especially compared to his time in F1, but it’s not like we completely forget the danger, we recognize the danger!”

When questioned on the same topic, Lewis Hamilton took a swipe at Villeneuve, “I almost never agree with his opinions, but who does, personally I don’t listen to the opinion of that individual.”


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