Villeneuve: Vettel and Leclerc are both to blame

Both Ferrari drivers are to blame for their Interlagos crash according to outspoken 1997 Formula 1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve who claims the pair were trying to out-do one another during a thrilling race in Sao Paulo.

It was a defining moment in the civil war between Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc when they collided on lap 66 while running fourth and fifth respectively, the pair reacting in anger in the aftermath of the inevitable.

The well-reported coming together ended with both Ferraris parked at the side of the Interlagos track, their drivers rendered spectators. Another embarrassing capitulation by the mighty Maranello outfit on an afternoon when at least a podium or two beckoned.

Who was to blame?

A question that has launched a million debates as the civil war between Vettel and Leclerc is fodder for the off-season as it is clear the pair are a liability to the team which now appears to have the firepower to mount a serious title campaign, their drivers are their biggest problem.

After analysing the incident, Villeneuve told Sky Italia: “Vettel and Leclerc are allowed to fight among themselves, but they should not abuse this freedom.

“In my opinion, they are both to blame. Leclerc was too aggressive, and Vettel should not have immediately slammed the door when overtaking his teammate. They both made a mistake.

“It was unnecessary, as they were fighting for third place at most. I think they just wanted to show everyone that they are the better one,” insisted Villeneuve.

In the wake of the incident, Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto said of his drivers, “It’s not for me to blame them. I feel, sorry for the team. I think the drivers need to feel sorry for the team because, in the end, they were free to fight.”

“At the end, both of them have got at least a small or small percentage of responsibility,” added Bonotto, inadvertently, echoing Villeneuve’s sentiments.

Meanwhile, Corriere della Sera reports that Binotto met with Ferrari CEO Louis Camilleri at Maranello on Tuesday where they discussed potential penalties for repeat incidents, including driver fines and other “disciplinary measures.”

Former Ferrari driver Rubens Barrichello, who was at Interlagos last Sunday, told Bild newspaper: “It was a misunderstanding between the two drivers and a sad day for Ferrari.”

As for 2020, both Vettel and Leclerc are staying put, but Sky Deutschland commentator Sascha Roos thinks differently, “Ferrari would be well advised to set a deadline. For example, after the first four races of the season, the decision on a number one driver should be made.”

Big Question: Who was to blame?


Miami Grand Prix future gets six month reprieve

Hopes that Miami will be able to host a Grand Prix in 2021 remain alive for at least another “three to six months”, according to the Florida city’s mayor Carlos Gimenez.

Formula 1 has reached a deal in principle for a race at and near Hard Rock Stadium, but preparations hit an early snag when opposition groups made key blocking moves at the Miami-Dade commission.

Mayor Gimenez used his veto to block the opposition earlier in this month and again this week, as an effort to override the veto failed as commissioners voted 7 to 5 in favour.

“This race isn’t until May of 2021,” Gimenez told CBS Miami. “Sustaining my veto buys three to six months so that we can at least get the parties that are involved together and we can continue to work toward a solution,” he added.

Formula One Management, as well as Hard Rock Stadium CEO Tom Garfinkel, said in similarly-worded statements that they will now use the extra time to work “very hard to address community concerns in a meaningful way.”


Barrichello: Verstappen is very popular in Brazil

Red Bull ace Max Verstappen has become very popular among Brazilian motorsport fans according to former Formula 1 driver and local hero Rubens Barrichello.

Once strongly represented in the top flight, featuring F1 legends like Ayrton Senna, Emerson Fittipaldi and Nelson Piquet as well as multiple race winners including Felipe Massa and Barrichello himself, there is no longer a single Brazilian driver on the grid for their passionate fans to cheer for.

But Barrichello says told De Telegraaf Brazilian people are now turning their attention to Dutchman Verstappen, “Max is an aggressive driver. People think he’s crazy. He is also very outspoken. He says what he thinks. His weekend at Interlagos was ten out of ten. It all makes him a very popular driver in Brazil.”

The 22-year-old has a soft spot for Interlagos, last year he nearly won the race but was punted out of the lead by Esteban Ocon but he recovered to finish second. In 2016, Verstappen impressed on his way to third place in damp conditions in which he shone.

With a very similar view about Verstappen is 1997 F1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve, “In my opinion, he is ready to become world champion. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have to be careful with what he says.”

However, speaking on Sky Italia Villeneuve admitted he was not impressed with Verstappen for recently accusing Ferrari of “cheating” with its engine.

“In that case, he was talking about something he cannot know about. That is the whole problem with that statement,” ventured Villeneuve.


Vettel: I was going straight

Despite television images clearly showing Sebastian Vettel drifting from the right side of the track to the middle in front of Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc, seconds before they crashed out of the Brazilian Grand Prix, the German was adamant he was going straight.

Asked about the block in his post-race interview with Sky F1, Vettel replied, “I was going straight.”

And added, “The summary of the day is that we did not finish a race in which we could have got a good result. It’s a shame about the collision between us, especially for the team as a whole, given that both cars were in the points and considering how much work everyone puts in, both at the track and back in Maranello.

“I think it’s a pity for the team, I think we could have achieved a better result and deserved it. Obviously we were fighting among ourselves at the chicane and it was an aggressive fight.

“I had more battery than him, between curves two and three I thought I was already ahead, I don’t know why we touched each other, and this concluded the race of both,” added the four-time F1 World Champion.

Vettel has a history of crashing with teammates. Doing so during his time at Red Bull with Mark Webber when battling for the lead of the 2010 Turkish Grand Prix.

A couple of years ago he was involved in a three-way crash with Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen at the start of the Singapore Grand Prix.


Red Mist: An Italian Thinking Out Loud

Sunday’s Ferrari casino may well be a defining moment. For two race cars to take each other out is a no-no, but for teammates to do that is shamefully unacceptable, for Ferrari teammates to do that is, well… let’s just leave that one there.

Two Ferraris have often crashed together in Formula 1, but that has invariably been the result of a separate issue — like Lauda and Regazzoni taken out by a Brambilla-Andretti clash, or Kimi and Vettel rendered hors d’combat after Seb’s tangle with Max. I don’t ever recall two Ferrari drivers taking each other out though?

Teammates have never been immune from clashing — McLaren’s Prost vs. Senna most famously in Japan ’89, Hakkinen and Coulthard again for McLaren in Austria ten years later, Jordan’s Fisichella and Ralf Schumacher in Argentina ’97; Montoya and repeat offender Ralf in the US in ’02 and more recently, Mercedes’ Rosberg and Hamilton, properly the second time around in Spain 2016. Don’t forget Webber and our latest repeat offender, Vettel in Turkey 2010.

Feuding teammates are noting new either — and boy, has Ferrari had its fair share — Prost vs. Mansell and Villeneuve and Pironi’s tragic spat, to name but two. Sadly, these things always end up in tears.

Now add to our little pot of collusion, a few more factors; like Italy and its press fed up with Ferrari, its drivers and management. Finger-pointing is at its best at times like this, no?

And then there is all the other stuff allegedly going down in that paddock and beyond. This Penske-Mercedes malarkey for instance. If that is real, significant winds will blow change through that silver cloud and with a soon out of contract Lewis — and even Toto appearing a bit bored with all this winning they’ve been doing lately, would both not want a real new challenge?

What about that eternal Ferrari critic Flav and his chosen Spanish son — has he not just now suggested a return to the Scuderia as one of Fernando’s few F1 options? So, what are the chances of Hamilton and Woolf descending on Maranello — or even more bizarrely, Alonso and Briatore? And all of them? I’m nuts you say?

Well, stranger things have happened in F1 and remember two things here — one, Briatore was the architect of the Schumacher era Ferrari Superteam back at Benetton and it was he who beat Maranello at the end of it — with Alonso, of course. And then those silver guys… well they just won five world titles together, so why not opt for a fresh conquest to actually break all those records dressed in red…?

Somehow, I cannot see today’s line-up strapping into those radical new Ferraris in 2021 — possibly one, definitely not both drivers. And you can probably factor in (another) fundamental change in management at Maranello. Nor can I see too may other proper options beyond the bickering duo who are there now, Hamilton and Alonso. Or perhaps Ricciardo.

If change must happen, it should be radical — just like it was when Briatore’s Benetton Superteam upped camp and headed to Ferrari to commence the previous golden era…

One thing is for sure though, judging by the several case studies we have based on similar F1 team acrimony over the seasons, the wedge dividing Ferrari is right now is likely to soon cut through it — these things always end in tears for one driver or the other, if not both. Especially down Maranello way…

So being, a mellowed Hamilton and his new friend Alonso in a new Ferrari ’21 Superteam may not seem so daft after all…


Brawn Report: Interlagos podium was youngest ever

Formula 1’s MD of motorsport, Ross Brawn provides his post-mortem of  “an intense, unpredictable and utterly compelling Brazilian Grand Prix”  hailing F1’s podium debutantes – Pierre Gasly and Carles Sain.

He also pointed out that with Max Verstappen on the top step it also happens to be youngest average age for a trio on a Grand Prix podium.

The former team chief now turned rule-maker also tucked into the Ferrari drivers’ civil war saga and other bits and pieces from a thrilling race, viewed from the lofty heights of F1’s head of motorsport.

“The Brazilian Grand Prix was an incredibly exciting and dramatic race, packed with incidents and accidents, but while there was a huge amount going on behind him, for Max Verstappen his eighth career win was actually more straightforward than it looked on the results sheet.

“Certainly, there were moments of concern for the Dutchman – the pit lane incident involving Robert Kubica and the need to pass Lewis Hamilton on track twice, which is no mean feat – but after making a good start from pole, the Red Bull star always had victory in his grasp.

“His Red Bull was definitely the best package on the day but Max, too, was in superb form. He didn’t waver, he trusted the judgement of his engineers and strategists, and he delivered a winning drive of pace, power and precision.

“He was particularly strong at the second re-start, when he slowed the field right down with the aim of ensuring no one would be able to slipstream past him and snatch victory. It was an exciting and fascinating re-start which will be analysed very carefully, as the closeness of the pack in the seconds leading up the green flags resulted in a thrilling spectacle as drivers jockeyed for position and where the slightest advantage proved decisive.

“Examining the possibility of procedurally recreating those conditions in future is an interesting concept and one that will undoubtedly be explored in the coming period.

“Of Max’s three wins this year, this was the one where the Red Bull-Honda package was at its best, as it seems to have closed on if not actually matched the level of its rivals. There’s only one race to go, but the Milton Keynes team and the Japanese manufacturer have laid down a strong marker for 2020.

“The Interlagos podium set a Formula 1 record for having the youngest ever average age, at 23 years, 8 months and 13 days, beating the previous record from the 2008 Italian Grand Prix. Of course we are used to seeing Verstappen, the youngest of the three, on the podium, but I’m sure that no one would have bet on Pierre Gasly or Carlos Sainz scoring a maiden podium finish.

“Gasly made the most of the fact that most the top three teams’ drivers were out of the running, but in the race and indeed in qualifying, he has always been in the right place at the right time.

“It’s a great shot in the arm for Pierre, at the end of what’s been a rollercoaster year. His return to Toro Rosso was viewed as a step backwards for the 2016 GP2 champion, but he wasn’t fazed by the switch, and since his return to the Faenza squad he has put in some impressive performances to pick up enough points to possibly take sixth place in the Drivers’ championship. Sunday’s result was a rewarding vindication of his resilience and talent.

“Toro Rosso also now have a chance of doing something special and finishing fifth in the Constructors’ as they are now just eight points behind Renault. The team has already scored more points than in any other year and to improve on its sixth-place from 2008 would be a great send-off for the Toro Rosso name, as it morphs into Alpha Tauri next year.

“Carlos Sainz missed out on his first champagne moment in F1, but later on he and the entire McLaren team stood on the podium to celebrate his third place in style. It was a hugely impressive race from Carlos and the fact that he had some help from safety cars, retirements and accidents, can take nothing away from what was a bravura performance.

“He started from last on the grid and then went on to be the only driver to go the distance making just one pit stop, and without resorting to the hardest Pirelli compound. He attacked in the early stages and then defended to the last and delivered a faultless performance from start to finish.

“He had a particularly exciting tussle with Kimi Räikkönen over the last few laps, with the Finn on quicker tyres that were also 20-laps newer than the Spaniard’s.

“Third place is a deserved reward for the driver and team that has been best of the rest all year. In fact, the 19 points it picked up on Sunday assures it of fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship, the target McLaren set itself at the start of the season. Yes, there’s a big gap to third place and there’s still plenty of work to do, but it’s a real morale booster to take into the winter.

“They’ll be buoyed by the knowledge that they can count on a couple of young and very talented drivers, as Lando Norris also drove a strong race yesterday, and the rookie is still on course to finish in the top 10 in the championship.

“The saddest man in the post-race interviews was undoubtedly Alex Albon, who must have thought his first podium finish was within his grasp until there were just 10 kilometres to go to the chequered flag.

“After switching places with Pierre Gasly in the summer break Alex was last week confirmed for a full season at Red Bull for 2020 and claiming a first F1 podium would have been a great way to celebrate that news and to cap what has been a remarkable turnaround for a driver whose F1 dream looked all but over last winter.

“A top-three finish looked on the cards after a great race in which he overtook Vettel with an impressive move before grittily fending off the Ferrari man’s attempts to reclaim the position. But his hopes of trophy were shattered as a result of the coming together with Hamilton.

“I can understand his disappointment but he shouldn’t dwell on it because he’s had a really good year. He was definitely the least fancied rookie this season, but he has secured his place in the sun and deserves to stay with Red Bull, having performed very consistently, even outscoring his team-mate up to this weekend. He missed out on the podium here, but given Red Bull’s current form, the opportunity might present itself again in Abu Dhabi.

“If Albon was the epitome of disappointment, the two Ferrari drivers were just plain angry. It’s never nice when teammates knock one another out of a race, even more so when it’s not even a particularly important result that goes begging, as in this case, third place in Brazil was the most they could aspire to.

“After tensions flared in the races following the summer break, everything seemed to have calmed down in the Ferrari dressing room. But now, Mattia Binotto faces the tough task of getting things back on track and indeed he said just that in his interviews after the race.

“He had to get stuck in and tell the drivers to face up to their responsibilities, which in Maranello always means putting the interests of the team ahead of those of the individual, which was not the case in yesterday’s race.

“I wouldn’t want to venture an opinion on who was most at fault for the collision, but in the cold light of day, maybe it would be good if one of them will follow Hamilton’s example and immediately admit culpability, as the champion did regarding his clash with Albon.

“If Ferrari really wants to put an end to Mercedes’ dominance, not only does it need to provide its drivers with a more competitive car next year, it must also ensure that incidents like this one are not repeated. Formula 1 is a team sport, especially so in Maranello.”


Abbott: American fans need a hero like Max Verstappen

Rick Abbott, the executive vice president of the Circuit of the Americas, applauds the idea of a second Grand Prix in the USA but says, more importantly, the country needs a driver in the top flight to ignite public imagination as Max Verstappen has done for the Dutch.

During the weekend in Austin, Abbott told Auto Hebdo that he believes the real next step for the development of Formula 1 in America would be a local driver, “Look at how Max Verstappen woke up the Netherlands. Our fans are no different to European fans – they need a hero to cheer on.”

Abbott is also supportive of F1’s efforts to spice up the show, “I appreciate Liberty Media’s efforts in social media, e-gaming. F1 faces the same problems as other sports – we’re all trying to create bridges to attract young people, which is more and more difficult.”

Meanwhile, despite strong opposition from local groups, Liberty Media is trying for a second time to launch a race in Miami, this time mainly on the grounds of the Hard Rock Stadium.

Abbot explained why he supports the project, “A second race would only make us stronger. F1 needs an increased presence in the US to develop its fan base and we would only benefit from it. We are very proud of our facilities.

“We built this facility so that F1 can fully express itself here. I’m not saying that racing in Miami would be a bad thing – quite the contrary. Miami in May or June on an urban circuit, and us in October on a road course, would be complementary.”

But when asked if the race in Austin is now well enough established to compete with a competitor on US soil, Abbott insisted, “Once again, we have more hope than fear about the organisation of a second grand prix.”


Dumontier: Three day race weekend very important for us

Promoter of the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal, Francois Dumontier has admitted he campaigned against Formula 1’s deliberations to slash the race weekend format to just two days.

As Liberty Media looks to expand the calendar to as many as 25 races in the next few years, one idea was to combine practice and qualifying on Saturday before the race on Sunday.

“I was one of the people against such a move,” said Dumontier. “Friday is a very important day for us.”

However, as a compromise, Thursday will effectively be scrapped from the schedule from 2021.

“I had concerns when I heard about that,” Dumontier told Le Journal de Montreal. “But after my discussions in Austin, I was reassured.

“It is true that the drivers will no longer be required to be on-site on Thursday, but the mechanics will still have to work on the cars so not much changes,” he said.


Red Mist: What happens when they clip the boss?

Tell me something. What happens when a family loses its leader?

Let me tell you. It’s a total casino. The soldiers want to be the bagmen, the goombah eyes the wiseguy; people get pinched, others eat alone, the zips circle and the underbosses and consigliere have their hands full. Every man and his dog is out to make the bones.

To be plain, there’s blood on the street — all hell breaks loose when the person who held it all together, becomes dearly departed.

It’s the same in any family — when a patriarch passes, everything every member holds dear, the pecking order and how it all works, ends up in the air. It all changes forever. In business too — a strong leader suddenly removed from power can very well see the forsaken company shutting down through the ensuing mayhem.

So consider that as I take you back to late last July. You may remember that Ferrari was on a charge — Sebastian Vettel had won his brilliant fourth race of the season at Silverstone and it really and truly seemed that the Scuderia finally had dominant Mercedes-Benz covered. All the work done to turn parent company Fiat, and then Ferrari around, was finally working — the boss’ passionate leadership was paying off.

Then Sergio Marchionne was not well. Next thing he was gone.

My first thought was, ’shit, now what?’ Ferrari found itself rudderless in the torrent and as it happens when a Capo is clipped, your boss or your father dies, all hell broke loose. The timing could not have been worse — I was convinced that Marchionne’s huge loss was about to rock the team he had made his own. Damn, it did so too.

The rot set in on track — Seb went off all on his own at Hockenheim and while he bounced back with a second in Hungary and a win at Spa, it properly fell apart after that. Hamilton out-fumbled him at Monza and except for Kimi’s one-off at Austin, it was all Mercedes.

Back at Maranello, the mattresses were out and it was every soldier for himself — the underbosses had it through the eye and the consiglieri were dodging a one-way ride as chaos ruled the Ferrari Family. Gradually, however, the administration began to rebuild — the Old Cigarette Seller and his lieutenants were snuffed out and the Tall Captain and his gumbahs put in place, while the Casa got new Capi as a fresh Marlboro Man took the previous Don’s Grandson by the hand.

Slowly, slowly, Ferrari started to catch that monkey again, but it was never going to be a quick fix; the chasm left by Marchionne’s passing has proven a tough nut to crack.

Into that untested and shaky environment, the new soldier found a lardy, lazy goombah — Leclerc soon got into Vettel’s head and if that was not bad enough, the Scuderia’s luck could not have been worse. The Canada catastrophe, then Austria and more too as Ferrari appeared to do its utmost to shoot itself in both feet.

Trouble is, it was not doing that, all the team was trying to get right, was find back its feet. That took time. The cracks grew —  Charl got even better of dizzy Seb and a year on from his 2018 fiasco, Vettel suffered another Italian nightmare, while his kid teammate trotted to off his second win on the run at Monza.

Critically, however, Ferrari was winning again and for the past six races, it has yet again proven itself a formidable Formula 1 force. Never mind, the real Sebastian Vettel has stood up since Singapore and he’s been sharp ever since. There’s nothing like a couple of thousand laps in a kart to blow those cobwebs away. Now with that win and a couple of seconds from the past four races, it is he who now has the lad on the back foot.

That’s a good thing — what’s better than two bitter Ferrari teammates fighting it out upfront? Haven’t seen that for a while.

Back to Mexico, perhaps there were issues around Charles’ pitstop, but a bunch of other teams had the same. And Seb drove another solid race, even if Lewis beat him fair and square. Being suckered into believing that Hamilton would stop again and losing track position on another stupid F1 circuit, must be addressed. F1 rules that prevent real racing, rather than promoting it, also needs attention.

Let’s hope that new 2021 F1 rules package changes all that but for now, Ferrari news seems strong again. From what I can see, the mattresses are packed away, the outfit has sorted its issues and the crew has opened those books again. Bring it on — Forza Ferrari!

Glossary of Lingo

  • Administration: top management
  • Bagman: collects/cleans/distributes money.
  • Books Open: possibility of promotion
  • Books Closed: no possibility of promotion
  • Boss; Don: head of the family
  • Button: hit man
  • Capo: crew chief
  • Capo dei Capi: boss of all bosses
  • Casa: house
  • Casino: commotion
  • Clip: murder (also whack/hit/pop/burn/ice/contract out)
  • Consigliere: adviser consulted before making decisions.
  • Crew, Soldier: troops
  • Eat Alone: be greedy.
  • Family: organised clan.
  • Goombah: senior associate
  • Made Man: inducted member of the family.
  • Make Bones: gain credibility by killing someone.
  • Mattresses: going to war
  • Outfit: a clan, or family within the Mafia.
  • Through the eye: the mob is watching you
  • Underboss: second in command
  • Wiseguy: made man
  • Zips: newer immigrant Italian mafiosi.


Renault: The team will consider its next course of action

Renault F1 Team acknowledges the decision of the Stewards of the Japanese Grand Prix regarding the protest by SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team concerning the legality of Renault F1 Team’s braking system during the Japanese Grand Prix.

Despite the FIA concurring with Renault that the system was entirely legal under the FIA Technical Regulations, it was judged by the stewards that the system was in breach of the FIA Sporting Regulations regarding driver aid. Both Renault cars were disqualified from the Japanese Grand Prix and the team loses the nine points scored.

However, considering the subjectivity of the qualification of a system as a driver aid and the variability of the associated penalties in recent cases, Renault F1 Team will consider its next course of action within the timeframe laid out by the FIA.