Martins has no regrets over Renault split

Alpine academy driver Victor Martins has no regrets over the decision that led to him temporarily leaving the programme in 2020.

The Frenchman joined the Renault academy in 2018 but after being narrowly beaten to the Formula Renault Eurocup title by Oscar Piastri in 2019, he opted to stay in the series for another year rather than move up to Formula 3 as the team wanted, leading to the two parties splitting up.

He went on to win the Eurocup title in 2020 and was thus brought back into the academy, now rebranded to Alpine along with the Formula 1 team, and given a spot in F3 for 2021. Given how things have worked out, he is happy with his decisions.

“A driver always wants to move up to the next level. It was a difficult decision to make with my personal management,” he told the French version of Motorsport.com.

“Of course, I knew I potentially had the opportunity to be in F3 already for 2020. But when I think back today to how I was, I tell myself it was really not the right time and that I still had a lot to learn.

“Maybe I didn’t have the opportunity to be in a top team that would allow me to show myself at the forefront. We have to go through difficult times. It strengthened me mentally.

“Today, I’m that much more proud and I tell myself this was really the right path to take.”

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Martins has driven alongside fellow Alpine juniors Piastri and Christian Lundgaard on multiple occasions as the three have made their way through the ranks.

While he is only just entering F3, the other two will be in Formula 2 in 2021 and are widely considered to be in contention for an F1 seat.

Martins admits that can be frustrating, but he is trying not to pay much attention to it.

“During the 2020 season, I just learned how important it is to focus on myself and not on others,” he added.

“I can be frustrated if I see Christian and Oscar in Formula 2 and me still in Formula Renault, but I think the most important thing for me is to focus on myself, to continue to develop my skills and improve myself well as a person and as a driver as well.

“I tried to tell myself this was the opportunity to go through situations I had not experienced in previous years – leading the championship instead of being second and chasing another driver.

“I am extremely proud of what we have accomplished. I can hardly be more ready [for the step up] than I am today.”

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Kvyat: Luck has not been on my side this year

Daniil Kvyat was taken out in Germany through no fault of his own and feels that luck has rarely been on his side in 2020.

At the Nurburgring, Kvyat was in with a shot of finishing in the points before Alex Albon hit him, taking off his front-wing and ruining his race.

The AlphaTauri driver ended up crossing the line last of those who finished the race, while team-mate Pierre Gasly took P6.

The margin between the two is now 39 points, and Kvyat feels that this has largely been down to bad luck on his side.

“Unfortunately, the Nürburgring race did not go well for me from lap 12 onward when I got hit by Albon, but these things happen in racing. He got penalised, but my race was damaged from then on and so was my car,” he said.

“Up until then, I was definitely racing for solid points and I had been happy with my lap in Quali. However, the events were out of my control and luck has not been my strongest point this year, to be honest. Nothing seems to have landed in my basket for free. I have had to work hard for everything

“But we will turn the page and move on. We keep working, we keep digging with my engineers and I am still happy with the way we approach each race weekend.

“Our understanding of the car is much better, and it will come right soon. It’s been good for the last few races and it was just this last weekend where we were unable to score points.”

Portimao Circuit

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The Portuguese Grand Prix is next up on the calendar and will see the sport go to Portimao for the first time ever.

Like the majority of the grid, Kvyat has never driven there before, with his only experience of it coming on a simulator.

“I’ve never been to Portimao, so it will be a completely new experience for me and I guess for most of the other drivers. It will be an interesting challenge,” he added.

“A while ago, I did a few laps of the Algarve circuit on the simulator, but it’s not so fresh in my mind. I think we will have to work hard and learn everything we can on Friday and Saturday morning.

“It is quite an unusual layout, with drops and climbs, so something different to work on. We should get ideal weather there at this time of year, in the low 20s maybe, certainly better than the unusual conditions we had at the Nürburgring.”

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‘With Ricciardo, Renault has a trump card’

Racing Point’s Andrew Green says that, in the fight for P3 in the Constructors Championship, Renault has a trump card in Daniel Ricciardo.

Racing Point is currently leading said fight, but Renault is just six points behind and is the in-form team after finishing on the podium in Germany courtesy of Ricciardo.

At the same race, Nico Hulkenberg stood in for Lance Stroll and finished in P8. While technical director Green feels the German was excellent, he says that losing a regular driver hurts the team, especially when rivals have such a strong one.

“We haven’t done ourselves a favour by changing drivers. At the Nürburgring, for example, we actually only had one car and therefore only 50 percent of the data,” he told Auto Motor und Sport.

“It was an incredibly difficult task for Nico to jump into the car coldly and drive straight away. The goal was simply to qualify for the race. He did that with ease. The improvement was incredible. One more try and he would even have made it into Q2.

“The fact that he still finished eighth from the very back was a great performance on the one hand, but it also shows that our car can’t be that bad.

“With Ricciardo, Renault naturally has a trump card in hand. He always really gets everything out of this car.”

Sebastian Vettel

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Everyone at Racing Point will be hoping that they can have a trump card of their own next season in Sebastian Vettel, who is replacing Sergio Perez.

Green is confident that this will be the case, feeling that he will have a positive impact on the team, and they will help him re-find his form.

“Nobody forgets how to drive a car fast. You just have to have the right car and the right people around you to do your job. Obviously, he’s having problems right now. We can offer him what he needs to return to his old form,” he added.

“The whole team wants him. He will feel that. We know that he can bring us as much as we can for him. Everyone in the team is looking forward to January when we can finally work with him.

“If he just opens the door to the factory, it will increase the motivation of every single employee. When a multiple world champion gets into one of our cars, it is also an appreciation of the people who work here.

“We deserve it. We were facing bankruptcy 18 months ago. This team almost didn’t exist anymore, and now a World Champion wants to drive for us. With us, he can experience his second wind.”

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Norris extra motivated in fight for P4

Lando Norris says the battle for P4 in the Drivers’ Championship is giving him that extra push at race weekends.

The Briton started the season in style at the Austrian Grand Prix, scoring his first ever podium finish with P3, and since then he has kept his name in a large bunch of drivers battling it out for P4 in the Drivers’ Championship.

Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen will lock out the top three positions, and although Daniel Ricciardo is the current ‘best of the rest’ in P4 with 78 points, Charles Leclerc is only 15 points adrift of the Renault driver in P8.

Norris finds himself nestled in P5 on 65 points after losing that P4 spot following back-to-back races without points.

But that extremely close scrap for P4 is giving him an extra motivation to go racing with 6 rounds of the 2020 season to go.

“It’s nice to go into every weekend like this because you can find extra motivation thinking about it,” he told Motorsport.com.

“Of course, I don’t go into every weekend thinking about the Championship or trying to hold that position in the Championship, but it still motivates me and makes me push a little bit more.

“Obviously, there have been ups and downs. We started the year very well and managed to get the maximum from the first few races.

“As a team, we started very strongly, especially on my side. In this way, we had the advantage at first.”

Norris is wary though of Renault and Ricciardo after losing ground to the Aussie in recent weeks.

“Renault had a very strong rise in the middle of the season. I’ve made mistakes in a few places. Some tracks didn’t suit us as well as Renault,”he explained.

“We’re pushing too hard and trying to keep our position. But at the same time, it’s not that easy to achieve.

“One weekend we’re slightly ahead, while another weekend we may be slightly behind. So when we’re behind or we have the faster car, we try to get the maximum and earn more points.”

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McLaren are yet to fully understand the benefits of updates like their new Mercedes-style nose cone which they have introduced, but Norris believes McLaren’s overall upgrades are giving them some momentum for the remainder of the season.

He also teased further upgrades to come for the Portuguese Grand Prix.

“We haven’t had many updates during the year. We started the season with a very good package and it took him a while to understand it,” the Briton explained.

“The updates we’re bringing in now, the updates we brought in at the beginning of the season, and the fact that we understand the car better every weekend.

“Understanding, working on and developing today’s cars is very challenging. We have a plan for that.

“We’ve had a few updates in Russia, and there’s still going to be some minor updates this weekend, but they’re still not updates that will allow us to get second place in the Championship or do special things.

“We’re trying to put it all together and we want to make sure the car is working properly. We are trying to get the maximum from the package.”

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‘There’d only be a few thousandths between them’

Former Mercedes vice-president Norbert Haug thinks there’d be nothing to choose between Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton at their peaks.

With Hamilton joining Schumacher on 91 wins at the Eifel Grand Prix and all but set to match the German haul of seven World Championships, the debate over which, if either, is the best Formula driver of all time has grown and grown.

Haug, who was vice-president of Mercedes’s motorsport branch until 2012, has now weighed in, refusing to pick a side by stating that there’d be little to choose either way.

“If they had both raced each other in their prime, there would probably only have been a few thousandths of a second between them,” he told Motorsport.com.

“Both drivers also have the utmost respect for each other, which is nice to see. I have never heard one of them speak a bad word about the other.”

Schumacher was renowned for his work-rate and dedication, fundamentally changing the sport in terms of fitness levels and regimes.

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Hamilton does not have the same reputation, with the Brit enjoying an often glamorous lifestyle outside of F1. Some criticise him for this, but Haug thinks that he’s every bit as hard-working.

“All kinds of pictures on Instagram really do not deliver fast lap times,” he added.

“All extremely good drivers are willing to make those extra meters [in terms of training work]. They are both perfectionists, always ask questions and even after a one-two punch they want a very long debrief.

“That’s why they can get on people’s nerves.”

Like Haug, Schumacher too left Mercedes in 2012, with Lewis Hamilton replacing him. There has been talk that the team forced the former out to ensure the latter would join, but that apparently isn’t true.

“But I know only a few rumours from the F1 world that actually turn out to be correct. That also applies in this case,” Haug said.

“No one retired him early. In reality, it was a very clear and structured process, with Michael always in charge.

“He laid the foundation for Lewis’s records in a way.”

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Steiner: F1 in false sense of normality, then Honda quit

Haas team boss Guenther Steiner says Formula 1 is “very good at forgetting very quick”, but Honda reminded the sport of its flaws.

That main flaw for Steiner revolves around the complexity of the technology in Formula 1, and the fact that Honda will be able to walk away from the sport clean at the end of 2021.

Arguably Formula 1 has never faced a challenge like the COVID-19 pandemic, but Steiner thinks the next big change ahead for the sport is to stop falling into the trap of thinking everything is back to normal too quickly.

Honda announcing that they would leave Formula 1 at the end of 2021 was the perfect reminder.

“Instead of just trying to always get the last bit out of technology and everything, we should also make sure that we have got a sustainable business and not only a sustainable technology,” Steiner is quoted by GPFans.

“Why would you run a normal business with this big risk that somebody can just get out of a contract without doing anything?

“I think we need always to be aware of that and I think we have got a lot more aware of it, but we are very good in forgetting very quick, because all of a sudden, everything is good again.

“We are back racing, okey dokey, let’s go racing, everything will be like it was before. Not always, that will not happen.”

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Currently Honda are the only engine manufacturer to have pulled out, leaving Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault for 2022 and beyond.

But Steiner wouldn’t be surprised to see others follow Honda out of the door, comparing the present time to the global financial crisis which caused Honda to exit the sport at the end of the 2008 season.

“I think we need to be aware that this happens any day with anybody,” he explained.

“You need to think back, I don’t know if it was 2008, 2009 when three manufacturers pulled out. From one day to the other, Formula 1 was a different world.

“We don’t have to forget what happened this March. A pandemic came along and all of a sudden, we were in a bad spot, all of us.

“But we keep on forgetting that this thing can happen in Formula 1. This is not an essential business.

“Each company can decide to pull out any day. As much as we’re surprised, we shouldn’t be surprised because again, this can happen tomorrow.”

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Ferrari, Renault pass initial 2022 crash tests

Ferrari and Renault are reported to have already passed initial front crash tests for their 2022 Formula 1 entries.

Work is, of course, taking place on 2021 cars and Ferrari are, according to the Italian version of Motorsport.com, also still developing this season’s SF1000 and beginning to look at their 2022 edition when the F1 regulations significantly change.

The Scuderia have “already passed the FIA frontal crash test and the nose of the car has obtained the homologation of the governing body”, says the report.

The same applies to Renault, who will be rebranded as Alpine next year when Fernando Alonso makes his return to Formula 1.

Although teams cannot yet work on aerodynamics for 2022, they can make progress on the structural parts of the car.

Ferrari have said that realistically it will be 2022 before they can again challenge for a World Championship or even race victories in normal circumstances.

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Ferrari

But at least they will have a new engine for 2021, with a comparative lack of power having been one of the major issues in their fall down the pecking order this season – the Italian giants sit sixth of 10 in the constructors’ World Championship standings.

In terms of recent developments, Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto revealed that an upgrade introduced for the Eifel Grand Prix at the Nurburgring had yielded minor progress but nevertheless a “positive” one after Charles Leclerc qualified in P4.

“I think we were not expecting a lot of difference,” said Binotto. “It was a small upgrade and it was completing a package we started introducing in Russia.

“The positive is that it was correlating well with what we saw in the wind tunnel and back in the factory. And that somehow means we are moving the car in the right direction.

“There will be some more further upgrades during the remainder of the season, which will be as well important.

“And for us, what’s key is the team developing the car, and more important, making sure the direction we are taking the car is the right one.”

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‘It’s not like we p*ss ourselves while driving’

George Russell has given an insight into how simulator work helps him prepare for races – although not with the supposed ‘fear factor’.

In recent years, simulators have taken on an increasingly important role in trying to replicate what a Formula 1 driver would experience without actually getting into a car at a circuit.

But there is clearly a world of difference between what some outsiders might see as little more than playing a glorified video game and, in reality, hurtling around a track at 200 miles per hour.

Williams driver Russell, quoted by Motorsport-total.com, put it like this: “You’re not afraid at all in the simulator. It’s not like we piss ourselves [in reality] while driving.

“But if you make a mistake in the simulator, you press the reset button and start over. In reality, you give your mechanics a bit of work, to say the least.”

Often the virtual world can no longer be distinguished from the real world. But there are still areas in which a good simulation differs from a less good one – the tyres.

“It’s incredibly difficult to simulate the tyres,” said Russell, 22, who remains a Mercedes junior driver.

“They are incredibly complex in their temperature development, how they work, how they deform in curves and the air pressure is higher and lower. Then there are different mixtures. That’s incredibly difficult to simulate.

“For me, this is the difference between a top simulation and a less good one – the tyre model.”

George Russell

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While some drivers clearly take away plenty from their simulator experiences, others are not quite as keen.

Valtteri Bottas said he planned to prepare on a home sim for the Portuguese Grand Prix at the new F1 venue of the Algarve International Circuit.

But when his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton had a virtual run-out for the Tuscan Grand Prix at Mugello earlier this season, he was left scratching his head.

“Normally I tend to think, [and] in my past I always felt, that one of my strengths is learning a circuit quite quickly,” said Hamilton.

“For this one [Mugello] we went on the simulator, which I never do, and I don’t feel like I benefited particularly.”

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Berger: Hamilton’s achievement ‘actually unbelievable’

Ex-F1 driver Gerhard Berger says it’s “actually unbelievable” that Lewis Hamilton has matched Michael Schumacher’s race win record after such a short time.

Few thought that Schumacher’s 91 victories in Formula 1 would be equalled, but Hamilton did exactly that by taking victory at the 2020 Eifel Grand Prix.

But Schumacher’s final win came as recently as the 2006 Chinese Grand Prix, so for Berger it’s unbelievable that such a record has been matched only 14 years later.

“It’s actually unbelievable,” Berger is quoted by Motorsport-Total.com.

Lewis Hamilton is a very special racing driver. He has simply proven countless times that he deserves these World Championships. I think this is a battle between two giants that we will all discuss on the same level for many years to come.”

For Berger though the matching of Schumacher’s record perhaps came too soon “simply because of his fate, which is so dramatic that tears almost come to you every time you think about it or talk about it.”

Sadly the seven-time World Champion wasn’t there to see Hamilton match his race wins record and little is known about Schumacher’s condition since he suffered severe head injuries in a skiing accident back in 2013.

“I think these are two such giants that you just have to accept that they are the people in our sport who have shaped the sport the most,” Berger added.
Eifel Grand Prix conclusions

Despite Schumacher and Hamilton now being tied on 91 race wins each, Berger has another driver in mind when thinking of the single greatest individual to grace Formula 1 with their presence.

That individual being Ayrton Senna.

Berger believes that had it not been for Senna’s fatal crash at Imola in 1994, then the three-time World Champion would have gone on to reach similar heights to Schumacher and Hamilton.

“Ayrton died early, but until then still had all the records in hand,” Berger explained.

“I just think that Ayrton would have become World Champion very often in the years that followed. Then the count would have looked different again.

“I’ve seen them all very closely. For me, Ayrton was still the best racing driver I’ve seen.”

Hamilton now has the chance to set his own record for race wins as he heads to Portimao for the Portuguese Grand Prix.

He is also well on course to equal Schumacher’s record of seven World Championships this season.

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Gasly ‘very comfortable’ at AlphaTauri

While Pierre Gasly has admitted he wants another chance at Red Bull, the Frenchman is enjoying life at AlphaTauri.

Gasly returned to the team he started his Formula 1 career at after being demoted by Red Bull last season. Since then, he has been in excellent form.

He claimed his first podium by finishing in P2 at the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix and went one better this season by winning in Monza.

The 24-year old continued to impress last time out in Germany, and his performances have led many to call for Red Bull to promote him again. However, he’s perfectly happy where he is.

“I was super happy with my sixth place at the Nürburgring, especially since Saturday had been tricky because the characteristics of the track did not suit us as well as the ones we had raced on recently,” he said.

“At the moment I feel I am very comfortable with the way we are all working as a team, and race by race we are increasing our understanding of what it takes to get the most out of the car.

“I am satisfied with how things are going and happy that the results are there. The team is doing all it can and that makes me happy. Now we take that momentum forward to the next race.”

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Next up on the calendar, the sport is heading to Portimao for the first time ever. It will be the third time in 2020 that Gasly is driving an F1 car at a track for the first time.

“I find it interesting going to new places: already this year we have had Mugello, where I had never raced, and also Nürburgring was the first time for me in a Formula 1 car and I have enjoyed that,” he added.

“Portimao looks to be a very nice track, with plenty of elevation changes and some unusual corners, and although I think a few teams tested there many years ago, it has never really been used for Formula 1.

“It will be important therefore for the team to be well prepared and to do a good job in free practice. Let’s see how we go there. At the moment, we seem quite strong on Sundays, managing to fight for points, even if we struggle a bit in qualifying.

“I am looking forward to it and looking forward to some warmer weather, as it was really cold at the Nürburgring, so it will be nice to return to more normal conditions.”

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