Montoya: Vettel’s problem is not mental it’s technical

Juan Pablo Montoya believes Sebastian Vette’s problems are not head-related and suggests that the error-prone Ferrari driver is struggling to come to terms with the SF90 while his shooting star teammate Charles Leclerc appears to have adapted his style to the potent but finicky package.

Montoya told Motorsport Network, “I think he doesn’t like something in the car or this year’s tyres and Leclerc is able to better adapt. Vettel has to suffer to go as quick as the other guy. Because he has to suffer and he is not comfortable, he makes mistakes. When you’re not happy with the car and you push, mistakes happen.”

At 31 Vettel is a wily campaigner with four F1 world titles under his belt as well as 52 wins in 234 Grand Prix starts but is now on a winless streak lasting over a year.

At Monza last Sunday, he messed up in front of the tifosi with a blatant error while his teammate powered to a famous victory, the 21-year-old’s second in a week in which he comprehensively outshone his illustrious teammate.

Montoya said of Vettel’s freefall, “I don’t think it’s a mental thing. It is more a technical one. It’s about understanding, having someone on your side who’s able to find what’s going on.”

The popular Columbian driver revealed how he had to alter his driving style to suit the McLaren’s of 2005 and 2006,  “I had to change the way I braked the car and it started doing very different things to what I was used to.

“Changing they way you drive is very complicated. If you change the way you drive the car you can still be quick, but probably not as quick as you used to be.”

“He will have to adapt to a certain extent, but learning to be quick in a different way is very difficult. It’s better to adapt the car to your driving than your style to someone else’s.”

Vettel has never been fully comfortable with the hybrid turbo era as he was with the V8s. Daniel Ricciardo outdrove him in 2014, and at Ferrari the German was hardly tested by Kimi Raikkonen in the last stages of his journey in Red.

Young gun Leclerc has by intent or not been extremely smart in how he has slowly shifted the power from the submissive young gun to the team’s top gun by simply delivering a blistering pace, setting the marker in race-mode and almost taunting Vettel with his ‘catch-me-if-you-can’ approach.

As the seven-time Grand Prix winner and Indycar Champion pointed out, this has the #5 car chasing too often, the driver trying too hard and triggering mistakes.

Perhaps it would be wise for him to take a page out of the Prost-Senna battle archives to figure out what The Professor did to contain and beat a teammate who was faster and younger than him. Tortoise and hare spring to mind.

Montoya, who is back in the F1 paddock coaching Lance Stroll, closed with advice for Vettel, “The only way is working harder, doing something different to what he’s doing now. He must be used to working in a certain way, but right now it’s not working out for him.”

Big Question: What’s bugging Seb?


Mercedes: Leclerc ‘knew where we were weak’

Charles Leclerc figured out Mercedes through his battle with Lewis Hamilton says the team’s motorsport strategy director James Vowles.

The Ferrari driver fended off the attack of Lewis Hamilton at Monza after both had made their pit stops, while in the later stages he had to contend with Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

Mercedes were unable to find a way to past Leclerc as he went on to make it back-to-back wins for himself, and Vowles believes that the 21-year-old’s battle with Hamilton meant he knew “where we were weak” by the time Bottas was in a position to challenge.

“By the time Valtteri caught up to the back of Leclerc, he had already been used to it,” Vowles said in Mercedes’ PurePitWall debrief of the Italian GP.

“He knew where we were strong and where we were weak and he defended against Lewis for 20 to 30 laps of the race.

“The reality was that by the time Valtteri had caught back up, not only had his tyres been used a little bit, but more so Leclerc knew exactly where to defend and how to defend.

“The same problem that Lewis had still remained, we weren’t quite, with all the engine modes enabled, fast enough in a straight line in order to make the overtake happen, but more so you now had an experienced Leclerc in front of you who knew how to defend.”

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Vettel spin opened the door for Mercedes

Mercedes’ motorsport strategy director James Vowles believes Sebastian Vettel could have proved a big problem at Monza if he hadn’t have spun.

Vettel spun on lap 6 of the Italian Grand Prix and was given a ten-second stop/go penalty for re-joining the track in front of Lance Stroll and causing front wing damage for both drivers.

That sent him to the back of the field and opened up a wider range of strategies for Mercedes in their pursuit of the win – they had initial concerns that the German could have forced Lewis Hamilton into a shorter first stint.

“Before the race started we highlighted that our best chance to beat Ferrari was to go one car on the slightly shorter side, one car on the longer side and create a situation that Ferrari may not be able to cover in both circumstances,” Vowles explained in Mercedes’ PurePitWall debrief.

“The difficulty was [Sebastian] Vettel, when he was there you could lose a position to him, Ferrari could use him to effectively stop the car going very long.

“When he spun, however, the opportunities were then created and we executed the plan.

“With Lewis we took the first available opportunity to undercut when [Carlos] Sainz moved out of the pit window.

“With Valtteri [Bottas] he always knew he was going to go on the longer side, take the medium tyre, and attack at the end of the race when Leclerc’s tyres would be at their weakest.

“[Ferrari’s] plan worked he [Leclerc] was very quick at the end of the race and Lewis had done everything he could but wasn’t able to get through, Leclerc now damaging his tyres to defend, however, it wasn’t meant to be.

“Valtteri tried his hardest, got close twice, but on both of those occasions not close enough to be able to complete the overtake despite that big difference in both tyre age and compound.”

Despite falling short in their pursuit to deny Leclerc the win at Ferrari’s home race, Vowles doesn’t believe either strategy had flaws against the other.

“As we went into it there isn’t really one strategy that worked out better or worse,” he confirmed.

“Lewis could have managed his tyres more and attacked less and would have made it to the end of the race and kept his P2, but he did the right thing, you fight for the win.

“Just on this occasion he damaged his tyres doing so and wasn’t able to get through and was compromised as a result.”

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Mercedes predict more ‘tripping’ in Monza qualy

Formula 1 can expect another traffic jam of annoyed drivers in qualifying at Monza with Mercedes saying the drivers will chase the tow as they did at Spa.

Last Saturday Lewis Hamilton labelled the drivers’ antics as “dangerous” as they tried to line up the perfect tow for their hot laps.

That meant extremely slow out-laps as the lead driver hoping that those behind will overtake. They didn’t.

In the ensuing traffic jam Hamilton almost rear-ended his Mercedes team-mate as he had to dive out of the way for a fast-approaching car.

Sebastian Vettel was another who wasn’t impressed and predicted that it will “hit the peak in Monza” where finding the perfect tow can make all the difference.

He’s not the only one expecting that.

Mercedes’ trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin has highlighted the importance of the tow around the Italian circuit.

Speaking in the team’s post-race video debrief, he conceded that there was “quite a lot of performance” to be gained if a driver can “position his car right.”

He explained that what happened at Spa was that “everyone had a very slow out-lap, we were all tripping over each other.

“You do get the benefit of the tow, but the issue is your tyres are cold.

“And that was a problem for us, we lost a bit of time at the first corner just because the tyres weren’t in the right window.”

Shovlin added: “Looking ahead to Monza, it’s going to be a similar situation.

“Very high-speed track, long straights and everyone is going to be trying to get a tow off everyone else.

“So what you will probably see in qualifying towards the end is people are staying in the garage, they are waiting for the clock to run down.

“No one wants to go out first but eventually you’ve got to go, you’ve got to get that out-lap in and you’ll see people move.”

“Now, what would be good is Ferrari, they are very fast in a straight line, if they would go out first, we can get behind them and get the benefit of that tow.”

All you need to know about the Italian Grand Prix

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Wet Italian Grand Prix on the cards

Formula 1 could be in for a wet Italian Grand Prix with rain forecast throughout Sunday at the Monza circuit.

F1’s rookie, and even some of the more experienced drivers, could have a battle on their hands this weekend as they take on Formula 1’s fastest circuit in the wet.

Rain is forecast for Friday’s practices where the day’s high will be 22’C.

While it will dry up on Saturday, the temperature up to 25’C for qualifying, the rain will return that evening.

There is a 45% chance of rain at the start of Sunday’s Italian GP and while that lessens as the afternoon progresses, it is expect to continue falling.

The day’s high is 21’C.

Formula 1 last had a wet session at Monza in 2017 when it poured in qualifying.

Lewis Hamilton took pole position ahead of Lance Stroll.

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Monza secures new five-year Italian GP deal

Monza will continue to host the Italian Grand Prix until 2024 at least, having signed a new deal with Liberty Media.

The race’s future was in jeopardy as Formula 1 raced towards the 90th edition of the Italian GP without a deal in place for 2020.

That, though, has now been resolved.

Chase Carey, Chairman and CEO said: “We are really pleased to have reached an agreement with the ACI which ensures the Italian Grand Prix will remain on the FIA Formula 1 World Championship calendar until at least 2024.

“This is one of four Grands Prix that were part of the 1950 championship and still features in the calendar and along with the British Grand Prix, it is the only one to have been held every year since then.

“History, speed and passion are words that motorsport fans associate with Monza. The feeling one gets at this Grand Prix is truly unique, as is the circuit’s distinctive podium.

“I would like to thank the ACI, especially its President, Angelo Sticchi Damiani for its efforts and this five year deal means that another part of the jigsaw for the Formula 1 of the future, is now in place.

“The championship features many historic venues such as Monza and also new countries in which the already vast fan-base of our sport can grow.

“For now, we can look forward to what is bound to be another great race this weekend, as we prepare for the Gran Premio Heineken D’Italian 2020 and in the years to come.”

The Autodromo di Monza has hosted 68 Formula 1 World Championship races.

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Stat Attack: 2019 Italian Grand Prix

Statistics for Sunday’s Italian Formula One Grand Prix at Monza, the 14th race of the 21-round season:

Lap distance: 5.793km. Total distance: 306.720km (53 laps)

2018 pole: Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari, one minute 19.119 seconds.

2018 winner: Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes

Race lap record: Rubens Barrichello (Brazil), Ferrari. One minute 21.046 seconds (2004).

Start time: 1310 GMT (1510 local)

Sunday’s race will be the 90th edition of the Italian Grand Prix, with the first staged at Monza in 1922. Ferrari are also celebrating their 90th anniversary.

Hamilton has won at Monza five times, a record he shares with Michael Schumacher. Mercedes have also won for the past five years.

The Briton has been on pole six times at Monza, including four of the past five.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel can become only the second driver, and first since Britain’s Stirling Moss in the 1950s, to win at Monza with three different teams.

Moss won with Maserati, Vanwall and Cooper. Vettel has done so previously with Toro Rosso (2008) and Red Bull (2011 and 2013).

The Italian and British Grands Prix are the only ones to have been on the calendar in every year since the world championship started in 1950.

The Italian race has been staged at Monza every year except 1980 when it was at Imola.

Raikkonen’s 2018 pole lap was at an average speed of 263.587 kph, the fastest in Formula One history.

The race has been won from pole position 10 times in the last 14 years.

Ferrari have won 18 times at Monza since the championship started, more than anyone else, but their last home success was in 2010.

Hamilton has 81 victories from 242 races and is closing the gap to Schumacher’s record 91. Vettel, third on the all-time list, has 52.

Vettel has not won since his victory at last season’s Belgian Grand Prix, more than a year ago.

Ferrari have won 236 races since 1950, McLaren 182, Williams 114, Mercedes 97 and Red Bull 61. Former champions McLaren and Williams have not won since 2012.

Hamilton has won eight out of 13 races so far this season and has a 65-point lead over team mate Valtteri Bottas, who has won twice. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has also won twice and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc once.

Hamilton has a record 87 career poles, Vettel 56.

Four races so far this season have been won from pole — Bottas in Azerbaijan, Hamilton in Monaco and France and Leclerc in Belgium. Max Verstappen took the first pole of his Formula One career in Hungary on Aug. 3.

Belgium was Ferrari’s 63rd front row lockout, one behind Mercedes in the list of records.

Hamilton has 145 career podiums. Vettel has 117.

Hamilton has now led 141 grands prix, leaving him one off Schumacher’s record.

Hamilton has finished the last 25 races in the points. He holds the record of 33 successive scoring finishes.

Verstappen’s retirement in Spa last Sunday ended a run of 21 successive top five finishes. It was his first blank since Hungary in July 2018.

Leclerc’s first career F1 victory in Belgium made him Ferrari’s youngest winner, at 21 years old, and the sport’s third youngest after Verstappen and Vettel.

The Monegasque is the 39th driver to win for Ferrari, and Formula One’s 108th winner.


Can Mercedes spoil Ferrari’s Monza homecoming?

Ferrari will go into their home race at Monza full of confidence. Mercedes meanwhile are by their own admission on the back foot.

It was a weekend of domination in Spa for Charles Leclerc who claimed his first win in Formula 1 and Ferrari’s first since October 2018 – considering the tragic circumstances which surrounded the race – there was really only one winner that would have felt right, that being Leclerc.

Now that the 21-year-old has won a race after coming so close before in Bahrain and Austria, he will have his sights firmly set on back-to-back wins as we head for the high-speed Monza circuit where Ferrari are expected to thrive again.

But perhaps there is nobody under greater pressure right now at the Scuderia than Sebastian Vettel. The four-time World Champion was dominated by his younger team-mate in Belgium, forcing him to settle for playing the team game – so much so that Nico Rosberg believed that Leclerc made his Ferrari partner look “like a Barrichello“.

We have seen this before with Vettel at Red Bull when Daniel Ricciardo came in and chiseled away that number one status, but the problem for Vettel is this time there is no clear escape route, so he’s going to have to stay and fight it out.

But let’s be honest, the world of Formula 1 is ‘what have you done for me lately?’ Get the win in Monza in front of the Tifosi and Vettel will be in the good books again. He surely can’t do any worse than he managed here last season, right?

While Ferrari principal Mattia Binotto said, “I don’t think my first victory as team principal really counts“, he will no doubt feel a huge weight off his shoulders with the pressure and questions that were starting to mount, but it seems for now that the pressure has relocated to the Mercedes camp.

Ferrari Mercedes

The Silver Arrows have won all five races at Monza during the turbo-hybrid era, so for them to be going into this race with little confidence is quite surprising.

Hamilton painted a rather bleak picture to the media, saying: “It’s all straights, so Ferrari… it’s going to be a happy weekend for Ferrari, most likely in that respect.

“I mean, this weekend [Belgium], I think just in qualifying we’re losing over a second a lap.

“So, there’s not much me and Valtteri can do in that instance and there’s not a lot of corners there to catch that up.

“It’ll be interesting.

“In the next few days we’ve got to make some drastic improvements to our straight speed, somehow.

“I don’t know if that’s possible – but if anyone can do it, it’s our team.

“We’ll do our best – but position is also everything.”

Ferrari are believed to have something around a 20 brake horsepower advantage over their rivals, and as Hamilton explained, Monza is all about power.

But, Hamilton also showed in Spa that the W10 is far more competitive in race trim when Ferrari can’t put those extra horses to proper use, and this is where the reigning World Champion needs to strike to re-establish dominance.

As for team-mate Valtteri Bottas, hopefully the Italian GP doesn’t turn into another “Sunday drive” for him.

Robert Kubica didn't suspect an engine failure was incoming during qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix.

Mercedes did of course introduce their latest engine upgrade for Spa, but it’s safe to say that proved a flop after Sergio Perez and Robert Kubica suffered worrying failures.

It only added to what is already a tricky period of the season for the German manufacturer, two races back-to-back which expose their weaknesses, and then after Italy Formula 1 heads for the Singapore GP where Red Bull expect to be strong.

The Austrian outfit had a tough time of things in Spa as expected – the Honda PU isn’t quite up to that of Ferrari and Mercedes just yet, so around circuits like Spa and Monza that really leaves you with no chance.

Alex Albon made his Red Bull debut and was greeted with a demotion to the back after taking the new Spec 4 power unit, but produced a solid drive to recover to P5 at the chequered flag.

Albon and Max Verstappen were reportedly back at the Spec 2 engine for qualifying and the race in Spa, but Verstappen will take the Spec 4 at Monza to get his engine penalties out of the way in time for Singapore.

Italy therefore will be a weekend of damage limitations for the Dutchman as he looks to keep the points-scoring deficit between him, Bottas and Hamilton to a minimum before he can give it a proper go in Singapore.

As for Albon if he keeps things clean then he should start where he actually qualifies. Red Bull were pleased with what they saw from the Thai-British driver in his first race following the call-up from Toro Rosso, so it will be interesting to see what he can accomplish on a level playing field in Italy.

McLaren are working hard to make gains on the top three, but their reliability woes in Spa proved a huge setback, woes for which they solely blame on Renault.

Despite the MCL34 not looking particularly quick all weekend, Lando Norris was set to finish a career-best P5 before his engine packed in on the final lap of the race.

Carlos Sainz’s problems with the Renault power unit began on the formation lap and, after failing to get away off the grid once the lights went out, promptly retired soon after.

Norris was ultimately classified P11, just outside the points for a further slap in the face, and McLaren are rightly frustrated after an unexpected afternoon of heavy points scoring went up in smoke.

Renault got both cars into Q3 at the Belgian GP, but the race didn’t go quite as smoothly – Nico Hulkenberg did manage to finish P8, but Daniel Ricciardo slipped all the way down to P14 after damaging the R.S.19 on the opening lap.

However, if Renault’s issues seem bad, then spare a thought for Haas.

As Late Braking put it, Kevin Magnussen was little more than a moving chicane which others needed to overcome, while Romain Grosjean sounded a broken man on team radio who had simply given up.

Will Monza be any different? Probably not as sinking like a stone on race days has been Haas’ thing in 2019.

SportPesa Racing Point have stated their intentions to start moving in the other direction and Perez’s serious pace in practice ahead of the Belgian GP really made people sit up.

As it turned out, different wing specs were giving him an unrealistic boost, but P6 in the race was a solid achievement, even if he did have to endure a stewards inquiry for his last-lap battle with Albon.

Norris’ demise helped promote Stroll to P10, giving Racing Point their second double-points finish in Formula 1 – so far their aim to fight for points at every remaining race in 2019 is going to plan, so we wait to see if Monza follows suit or sticks a spanner in the works.

Toro Rosso will have been pleased with their work in Spa after Daniil Kvyat finished an impressive P7, while Pierre Gasly looked more like his old self, finishing P9 and remaining largely competitive against his team-mate in his first race back with the team.

Like Ferrari, the Italian GP is also a home race for Toro Rosso, so maybe we will see a 2008 repeat eleven years later? It’s very unlikely, but Formula 1 hasn’t been short of surprises in 2019.

Alfa Romeo boss slams Max Verstappen's 'stupid' move

For Alfa Romeo, simply move on. Kimi Raikkonen was hit by Verstappen on the opening lap in Spa and claimed “after that it was almost pointless to be out there”, while Antonio Giovinazzi retired in Q1 and then crashed out of the race on the final lap in a points scoring position.

George Russell continued to show signs of progress for Williams and can only aim to do the same at the Italian GP.

Robert Kubica is sadly getting left behind and must do better if he wants a drive for 2020.

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