In a blockbuster morning of Formula 1 news, Carlos Sainz has been confirmed as a Ferrari driver for the 2021 season, while Daniel Ricciardo will partner Lando Norris at McLaren for the new year.
Sebastian Vettel’s announcement earlier in the week that he is going to leave Ferrari at the end of the current season blew the driver market wide open, and the confirmed news today was swiftly followed as teams already look to complete their line-ups for the 2021 season.
Sainz has signed a two year deal with Ferrari, and will partner Charles Leclerc, who had a hugely impressive debut season with the Scuderia last year, winning two races and finishing third in the championship ahead of team-mate Vettel. Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto showed his satisfaction at the move, saying, “We believe that a driver pairing with the talent and personality of Charles and Carlos, the youngest of the past 50 years of the Scuderia, will be the best possible combination to help us reach the goals we have set ourselves.”
Sainz began his career in F1 with Red Bull junior team Toro Rosso, but his frustration at a lack of opportunity at the main Red Bull team led to him joining Renault on loan for the 2018 season, having replaced Jolyon Palmer at the end of 2017. The news of Daniel Ricciardo jumping the Red Bull ship and joining Renault pushed Sainz out of the team, who then joined McLaren in 2019.
His relationship with team-mate Lando Norris was one of the more cheerful sides of the 2019 season, and the two transcended expectations for a team that is embarking on an impressive rebuilding process, which is what has enticed Daniel Ricciardo.
Ricciardo joined Renault from Red Bull for the 2019 season, but has quickly grown impatient at the team’s lack of performance, having seen a slump in pace. They finished fifth in 2019 compared to fourth in 2018, 54 points behind McLaren.
It is unknown the length of the contract Ricciardo has signed at the Woking-based team, but signing a prove race winner and a highly talented racing driver is a revolution in the recovery of the British outfit, and has been described by Racing Chief Executive Zak Brown as “an exciting new dimension to the team”.
Ricciardo and Sainz did, however, seem content enough to stay put at their respective teams, but the domino effect from Vettel’s departure has had a substantial knock-on effect on the rest of the grid.
There is now an vacant seat at Renault, for which the French team have an abundance of options. Sebastian Vettel may or may not retire at the end of the year, and former champion Fernando Alonso has been tipped for a return to partner Esteban Ocon for the new year. F2 stars Guanyu Zhou and Christian Lundgaard, who are part of the Renault programme, will also be vying for the seat, while Nico Hulkenberg has been name-dropped for a return. Hulkenberg was forced out of F1 after a contractual agreement between Toto Wolff and Renault saw Esteban Ocon take his seat for the 2020 season, which is expected to start in Austria in July amid the coronavirus crisis.
Depending on who does take the seat, the 2021 season could see the youngest grid in the 70 year history of the sport.
McLaren has become the latest F1 team to unveil their 2020 design, in a launch held at the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking on Thursday.
The MCL35 – the team’s second design to be powered by Renault – features a livery akin to the 2019 car, with a blue front wing, blue stripes along the airbox and sidepods, and a matte orange main body and halo.
Visible changes include tighter sidepods and a narrower nose, a philosophy that no doubt continues under the bodywork.
Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris will drive for the team once again, hoping to build upon their 2019 successes which saw them finish sixth and eleventh in the drivers’ standings respectively.
The highlight of their year undoubtedly came at the Brazilian Grand Prix, which saw Sainz finish third behind Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly and claim McLaren’s first podium since 2014.
McLaren finished a relatively comfortable fourth in the constructors’ championship, 54 points ahead of fifth-place Renault. It was their best result since 2012, and one they will be hoping to build on in 2020.
In a statement, Chief Executive Officer Zak Brown said, “I’m immensely proud of the entire team today. Last season we delivered what we set out to do – secure a hard-fought fourth in the Constructors’ Championship.
“Our positive on-track momentum and the renewed energy in the team has seen us grow our valued partner family and global fan base and we look forward to a hugely competitive season.
“While we are enjoying going racing again, we remain measured and focused, and all of us at McLaren keep pushing fearlessly forward.”
Mercedes and AlphaTauri (previously Toro Rosso) are next on the list, set to launch their cars on Friday 14th.
New McLaren signing Carlos Sainz has called his first day with the team “a dream come true”, as he completed 150 laps on the second day of the post-season test.
“Going out of the garage today on my first day as a McLaren driver was pretty much a dream come true,” he said. “When I finally completed my first run I felt extremely good, and I must say it’s been a very straightforward day.
“The team has made me feel at home from lap one and from day one yesterday when I started working with them. I did a lot of laps today and I’m grateful to the team for giving me such a reliable car to be able to initiate me in this new chapter and new style of car.”
Sainz made the jump to McLaren on the back of a 2018 campaign that saw him help Renault secure P4 in the constructors’ championship alongside Nico Hulkenberg, the team’s best performance since their return to F1.
Sainz himself finished P10 in the drivers’ championship with 53 points, three points ahead of the man he has replaced at McLaren, Fernando Alonso, with the highlights of the Sainz’s campaign being a fifth-place finish at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix and a sixth-place finish in Abu Dhabi.
Renault released Sainz early once the chequered flag fell on the last race, allowing him to drive for McLaren in the test just two days later, and he was pleased with the initial results from his outing despite having a lot to learn.
“From the first lap to the 150th lap, I enjoyed them all; the feeling was good and we’ve been able to end the season in the best way possible. As soon as I got out of the box I felt comfortable in the car. Of course, there are always going to be details to improve and new things to adapt to, like the seat and driving style, but from the first lap I could spend time adapting and getting to know all the new controls and procedures. It’s been great.
“It’s been an intense few days after the race finished here in Abu Dhabi, learning a lot of names and understanding how the car works. I’m looking forward to spending more time back at the factory over the winter getting to know the team better and preparing as much as we can for 2019.”
McLaren will be the third team Sainz will have driven for in his career, having made his debut at the 2015 Australian Grand Prix at Toro Rosso alongside Max Verstappen and switching to Renault in the later stages of 2017 to replace Jolyon Palmer.
Renault team principal Cyril Abiteboul praised Sainz’s efforts for the Enstone-based team, saying he’d “like to thank [him] for all he has done for the team since joining us. He’s been a massive team player and wish him all the best as he joins our partner McLaren next year.”
Looking at the results, you wouldn’t have thought much happened during the British Grand Prix, but some action at the start and a couple of safety car periods spiced the race up. The final race of the triple-header in Europe saw Sebastian Vettel take the win.
Sebastian Vettel – 9
There were pre-race doubts about Vettel’s fitness – he had tape put on his neck after FP3 – but the adrenaline kicked in and his start was beautiful, waving concerns away. All the action happened behind him. The safety cars late on in the race put him behind on the track but a great dive-bomb up the inside of Bottas sealed the win. Great victory as we head towards Germany next!
Lewis Hamilton – 9
The Brit got a tardy start which he would come to regret, even if he ended the race in a position where he lost minimal amounts of points. There were some very interesting comments from him afterwards suggesting that tactics from Ferrari were what resulted in him being taken out, bringing back memories of Mexico 2017. Hamilton was the last car on track at the end of lap one, but like a knife through butter he carved his way through the field. A disappointing start, but if you look from lap two onwards it was a great race for him.
Kimi Raikkonen – 7
Raikkonen has finished on the podium at the last three races, but never on the top step. The Finn owned up to his coming-together with Hamilton, saying the incident at turn three was his fault and accepting the penalty handed to him. Team-mate Vettel stormed off into the distance, while Raikkonen couldn’t quite match Hamilton near the end of the race.
Valtteri Bottas – 8
The Mercedes team threw away the lead again today, deciding to keep Bottas out after the second safety car. Before that he was faster than Vettel, so on a level playing field Bottas could have beaten the German and taken the flag first. Much like in China and Baku, strategy from his team may have cost him the victory once again, even if it may have been tougher in Silverstone to remain in the lead. A great start made amends for a poor qualifying on Saturday, but he is clearly still playing second fiddle to Hamilton.
Daniel Ricciardo – 7
Silverstone turned out to be a track which highlighted the frailties of the Red Bull package. Roughly 80% of the track is spent at full throttle, and power isn’t exactly Red Bull’s strong point. Ricciardo was out qualified once again by Verstappen, with a DRS issue hampering his performance. He was great at defending against Raikkonen during the race but unfortunately the safety car came out at the wrong time for him, as he had already made a pit-stop two laps beforehand. The lack of speed along the straights prevented him from passing Bottas in the closing laps of the race.
Nico Hulkenburg – 8
Best of the rest and great haul of points for the German. Renault were the only team to use the hard tyre during the race, having worried about blistering on the other compounds, and the tactic worked brilliantly. Hulkenberg did supremely well to keep the pack behind him at the two safety car restarts.
Esteban Ocon – 7
Ocon is showing his worth a lot more this season compared to last, and provided a great result at for Force India at what is essentially the team’s home race, given that their factory is literally just over the road. Ocon made it through to the final part of qualifying, and kept the car in the top ten on Sunday.
Fernando Alonso – 8
Alonso’s McLaren may lack pace on a Saturday but on a Sunday, in the hands of the Spaniard, it is one of the best in the midfield. He took advantage of the safety cars to pit for some fresh rubber, allowing him to get past Kevin Magnussen at the end. He may appear calm on the outside, but it isn’t hard to imagine that deep down all is still not well with the relationship between himself and McLaren.
Kevin Magnussen – 7
Hampered by the first lap accident with his team-mate, Magnussen did well to score points considering the clash inflicted some damage to his car, which restricted his speed. He was one of few drivers not to pit under the safety car which pushed him down the order late on, but he managed to hold on to salvage some points.
Sergio Perez – 6
Much like Hamilton, Perez saw the field drive past him after contact on the first lap spun him at turn one. He recovered well and found himself in contention for the last point, which was ultimately claimed by Pierre Gasly Chafter a collision between the two near the end of the race. After the race, though, Gasly was awarded a five-second penalty for the incident, meaning Perez inherited P10 and the one point that comes with it.
Stoffel Vandoorne – 4
It was a quiet weekend in general for Vandoorne. He was a whopping 0.9 seconds slower than Alonso on Saturday, and with others making the decision to start the race from the pit-lane it meant he was the last on the grid. He finished the race in 12th, meaning he now hasn’t scored since Baku. Lando Norris in currently second in Formula 2 and is hotly tipped for a drive in F1 next year. It could well be this seat that he takes.
Lance Stroll – 5
Williams are currently the worst car on the grid, and unfortunately nothing put that more on show than Sunday’s race. Prior to the first safety car they were the only team to have been lapped, and Stroll made a mistake in qualifying which ended up his car being beached in the gravel.
Pierre Gasly – 7
Gasly had a good Sunday and initially finished tenth, a welcome result given that Toro Rosso been having a tough time of it recently. The Frenchman collided with Perez with a few laps to go, and a harsh time penalty given to him after the race pushed him down the field. Silverstone was a track which showed Honda’s deficit to the other manufacturers, but there are still promising signs and it was a far better day for Gasly than the results suggested.
Sergey Sirotkin – 5
Sirotkin, along with his team-mate, started the race from the pits after taking on new parts. Like Stroll, Sirotkin also made a mistake in qualifying, but managed to keep the car going and set a lap, albeit one that turned out to be the slowest of the session. Seeing the Williams team run plum last is such a shame to see.
Max Verstappen – 7
Verstappen may have been classified as a finisher, but a brake-by-wire issue ended his day late into the race. Ever-hungry, he was running in a solid podium position, but with the deficit of his Renault power-unit he was a sitting duck at the restarts. His defending to Raikkonen was brilliant.
Carlos Sainz – 5
A poor performance for Sainz both on Saturday and Sunday. A less-than-par qualifying session put him in the thick of the action, and he collided with Romain Grosjean. A weekend to forget for the Spaniard.
Romain Grosjean – 5
Will Austria be seen as a peak in Grosjean’s season? Three collisions in one weekend isn’t good enough. The first occurred in practice, with the second being the cardinal sin of hitting his team mate on the first lap. The third, a tangling with Sainz at Copse, ended his race. Grosjean should have lifted off the throttle, but he kept his foot buried, causing instability and ultimately the collision.
Marcus Ericcson – 6
Ericsson’s DRS didn’t close as he approached turn one during the race and he crashed heavily, bringing out the first safety car. The crash rounded out an unfortunate weekend for the Swede, after England took his country out of the World Cup the day before. He did, however, have great pace during qualifying and got through to Q2.
Charles Leclerc – 8
An unfortunate error in the pits for Sauber resulted in Leclerc’s rear tyre not being fitted properly and the team telling him to stop the car. He had made another Q3 appearance on Saturday and had been running seventh at the time of the error, which meant the loss of a potentially big haul of points.
Brendan Hartley – N/A
You can’t really comment on what a horrible weekend the Kiwi has had. The suspension failure on Saturday pretty much ended his weekend. He didn’t see any track action in qualifying, and a last minute problem starting from the pit lane resulted in retirement after one lap. None of it whatsoever was his fault.
There is now a two-week break before we head to Hockenheim in Germany, a track that we see appear every so often on the calendar. Vettel won on Hamilton’s home turf this weekend, but can Hamilton strike back with victory in Germany? Vettel hasn’t got a record like Hamilton at his home track, and has only won in Germany once in his Red Bull days. The summer break looms and, for drivers such as Grosjean and Vandoorne, the pressure increases.
Valtteri Bottas has claimed his first pole position of the year, and leads a Mercedes 1-2 into tomorrow’s Austrian Grand Prix.
Of the big-hitters, only Bottas and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen had a truly clean session. Both Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel made mistakes early on – at turn three and turn four respectively – and ended up relatively far back after the first Q3 runs had been completed. It took until the last couple of minutes for the pair to pull themselves back up the order – Hamilton ultimately qualified P2, and Vettel P3, with both pushing Kimi Raikkonen down into P4. Vettel was noted as being under investigation for allegedly impeding Carlos Sainz in Q2, but since Sainz did advance to Q3 it is uncertain whether Vettel will receive any penalty.
Red Bull had expected qualifying to be a struggle compared to Mercedes and Ferrari coming into the weekend. Max Verstappen may have qualified P5 but he was still two tenths behind Raikkonen, and Daniel Ricciardo ended up P7 behind the Haas of an impressive Romain Grosjean. Replays of team radio throughout the session indicated a certain amount of tension in the team, with Ricciardo frustrated that Verstappen did not follow orders to lead the Australian for a lap and give him a tow, as Ricciardo had done for Verstappen the lap before.
Kevin Magnussen and the two Renaults of Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg complete the top ten.
Further down the order, Charles Leclerc continues to impress in the Sauber. He qualified P13 but carries a five-place grid penalty due to his gearbox needing to be changed following a stoppage on track in FP3.
Force India’s Sergio Perez had a nightmare of a session. The Mexican complained of running out of battery during his first run and of getting stuck in traffic during his second. He failed to make it out of Q1 and starts P17.
It was also a frustrating session for McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne and Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley. Both were looking to pull themselves out of the drop-zone and into Q2, but encountered yellow flags on their flying laps when Charles Leclerc ran through the gravel trap in the final moments of Q1.
Both Mercedes and Red Bull will start tomorrow’s Grand Prix on the supersoft tyres, with all those around them starting on the ultras. Bottas will be hoping to convert pole position into a win, at the circuit where he claimed his second ever victory in 2017.
Austrian Grand Prix Grid
1. Valtteri Bottas – 1:03.130
2. Lewis Hamilton – 1:03.149
3. Sebastian Vettel – 1:03.464
4. Kimi Raikkonen – 1:03.660
5. Max Verstappen – 1:03.840
6. Romain Grosjean – 1:03.892
7. Daniel Ricciardo – 1:03.996
8. Kevin Magnussen – 1:04.051
9. Carlos Sainz – 1:04.725
10. Nico Hulkenberg – 1:05.019
11. Esteban Ocon – 1:04.845
12. Pierre Gasly 0 1:04.874
13. Fernando Alonso – 1:05.058
14. Lance Stroll – 1:05.286
15. Stoffel Vandoorne – 1:05.271
16. Sergio Perez – 1:05.279
17. Sergey Sirotkin – 1:05.322
18. Charles Leclerc – 1:04.979 *5-place penalty for gearbox change
19. Brendon Hartley 1:05.366
20. Marcus Ericsson – 1:05.479
Update – 17:30 – Sebastian Vettel has been given a three-place penalty by the stewards for impeding Carlos Sainz at turn one in Q2. The German will now start P6, promoting Kimi Raikkonen to P3, Max Verstappen to P4, and Romain Grosjean to P5.