Rally Italia Sardegna 2020 – Preview.

We come to this event much later in the year than normal. It will be interesting what the weather does, as it is normally a dry and hot rally. As I write this, the weather reports suggest that there will be rain at the start of the week, but that it will warm up and the rain will stop.

Of course, as championship leaders, Elfyn Evans and his co-driver Scott Martin will be opening the road on Friday. The last time they did that in Mexico, they finished in fourth place. What kind of a result will they be able to get in this rally? They hold an 18-point lead over their teammates and former champions.

Seb and Julien, and will be working hard to get a good result for their championship challenge. The former champions will want a strong result, and at least a podium finish to set up a title decider in the Ypres Rally. I suspect they will target winning on the island of Sardinia.

Third on the road, Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja lie 27 points from the championship leader. The Hyundai team know how to win here, with Thierry taking victories in 2016 and 2018. The Estonians hopes of getting a top result and successfully defending their world title, make this event very important. They have to outscore both former teammates, and ideally win.

Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio and, who won this event last year will start for Hyundai as well, their first competitive start in the car since Rally Mexico.

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 08, Rally Italia Sardegna
13 – 16 June 2019
Dani Sordo
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

At Toyota, Kalle Rovanpera, who has just turned 20 will have much to learn about getting to grips with this event, but will have the best teammates alongside him. He also competed last year in a Skoda Fabia R5, and finished in ninth place. This season he has taken some very good results in this first season at the top, sitting fourth in the championship.

At M-Sport, Teemu is the only driver to have stood on the podium this season, taking third in Mexico and took second place last year in this event behind Dani. It gives all three drivers hope that they can secure a good result in this event, and to finish the season strongly.

Petter Solberg and Andreas Mikkelsen will be driving the final stage of the rally in a Citroen C3 WRC on Pirelli tyres. The Norwegian pairing have been helping Pirelli test their tyres, in their preparations for next season when they become the tyre supplier for the championship.

Here’s the stage information for you. Sixteen stages and 238km of action in total.

Let’s hear from the drivers!

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“Sardinia is a rally that I like, but we’re going to be competing there at a different time of the year compared to usual, so the challenge might not be the same as what we are used to. For this reason, the test that we did there last week was important preparation. At this time of year, the weather can be more uncertain than normal, and on an island like Sardinia it can change very quickly anyway. In the test we had some heavy rain showers and the conditions on the stage changed completely in just a few minutes. Everything is still open in the championship, so we have to keep doing our best and target the maximum points in Sardinia.”

Elfyn Evans

“Whenever you finish one rally on a high like we did in Turkey then it’s always a good boost for the following round. Leading the championship is certainly a good position to be in, even though it does come with an added challenge in that we will need to sweep the road in Sardinia. It is how it is but it’s not going to make it an easy event for us – providing it stays dry, of course. Going to Sardinia in October could change the weather forecasts somewhat. It might make it a little bit less demanding for the tyres, but we will still have some difficult choices: We face some loops of stages where we have to choose the tyres for the first and second passes of stages without returning to service, so it’s still going be a big challenge.”

FIA World Rally Championship 2019 / Round 08 / Rally dÕItalia Sardegna / 13-16 June, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Kalle Rovanperä

“In my pre-event test for Sardinia I had a good feeling straight away in the car, and it got even better once we made some changes, so I’m happy going into the rally. In Sardinia there’s usually a lot of road cleaning on the first pass, so it will be important to have good grip there. It can also be quite rough in some places and on the second pass there will be big ruts, so you need to have a good setup to deal with that also. It seems we can expect to have some rain showers and that they can be quite local – so it will only be wet in some parts of the stages. The information from our weather crews is going to be really important to know if there will be rain or not and what tyres we need to take, especially as I’ve heard that the stages can be really slippery when it rains.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“There are nice beautiful roads at Rally Italia Sardegna, with flowing, narrow stages. The natural characteristic of the stages suits my pace notes system and my driving style. It’s a rally where we have always demonstrated good speed, and we’ve also won there twice in the past. The weather could be different to what we’re used to during the usual summer slot, so that could be challenging on that side, particularly if it rains. Most of the stages are well known to us from previous years, so we are looking forward to the event.”

Ott Tänak

“Rally Italia Sardegna is normally a hot and tough event; this year the rally is taking place a bit later in the season so we might face some difficult weather conditions. Wet weather can change the full concept of the rally, so we have to expect a range of situations. The stages are made up of high grip roads typically, which can be tough on the tyres, so tyre management is generally important. We hope to show the performance of the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC on this different type of gravel roads and be in the fight for victory.”

Dani Sordo

“This is a very special rally for me, with some incredible memories from last year’s event. I will never forget the feeling of taking that victory with Hyundai Motorsport and I hope we can repeat it this year! The stages are normally quite slippery on the first pass because there is a lot of loose gravel on the surface; this can benefit those crews starting further back on the order. The second pass is much more aggressive on the tyres, offering greater grip levels. I tested the car recently and had a good feeling, so the objective is victory.”

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 08 Rally Italia Sardegna
13 – 16 June 2019
Day 3, Podium, Dani Sordo, Carlos Del Barrio, Anders Jaeger,
Photographer: Fabien Dufour
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

M-Sport WRT

Esapekka Lappi

“We’re heading to Sardinia a bit later than usual so things could be a little different this year. The temperatures might not be as high, and the weather could be a bit more unpredictable. This has never been an event where you can push flat-out all the time, and that could be even truer this year. We’ll have to complete two loops of stages without service so there’ll be a compromise to consider when deciding set-ups and tyre strategies that will work over both passes. It’s going to be a challenging weekend, but we’re determined to produce a good result and I think this is an event where we have a good chance of doing that.”

Teemu Suninen

“I’ve always performed well in Sardinia and it’s an event I look forward to every year. It’s the first event I did with Jarmo, and where I secured my best ever result last year. Of course, we’ll be competing in the autumn this time which will make things a bit different, but I hope we’ll be able to show the same good pace. As always in Sardinia, we’ll need to be really focused and careful to mark every stone on the recce. We’ll also have to think carefully about the set-up and strategy as we’ll have to drive two loops without service – meaning that myself and Jarmo will have to make any changes remotely with what we carry in the car.”

Teemu Suninen and Jarmo Lehtinen took three stage victories last year on their way to second overall. Photo credit M-Sport WRT

Gus Greensmith

“I’ve only competed in Sardinia once before, but I really like the island and the stages. They’re not quite as rough as those in Turkey, but they’re certainly not smooth and we will need to deliver another good performance if we want to secure another good result this week. That’s our aim and I see no reason why we can’t achieve it. We know from Teemu’s performance last year that the car is suited to Sardinia’s stages, and I also feel as though I am developing better consistency every time I get behind the wheel.”

 

Summary

We are really set for an incredible finish to the end of the championship. There are only three crews who can realistically win the title, two at Toyota and one at Hyundai. Kalle at Toyota and Thierry at Hyundai still have a mathematical chance, but it’s unlikely to be their year.

In terms of who will be fighting for victory, I think that Seb and Ott will fight it out for victory, with either Thierry, Dani or Teemu getting the final podium position. Ott will hope that Thierry or Dani can finish ahead of Seb and Elfyn, taking points away from his championship rivals, as he bids to win his second title. Elfyn will want to get a good result, as he bids for his first world championship title.

In the manufacturers’ battle, Toyota lead the way, but Hyundai who are the reigning champions will want to score well. With three winners at Hyundai, they have a good chance of doing just that.

Five Things We Take Away From The Mexico Grand Prix

 

Max Verstappen the winner of the 2018 Mexico Grandprix. Image courtesy of Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

1 – Max sticks to his word

All season it has been said that Red Bull realistically have talked up winning at Monaco, Hungary and Singapore. But if you were to ask that question to Max Verstappen, he would say ‘and Mexico too.’ He wasn’t a happy man on Saturday though as another chance at pole position went begging. On Sunday it took great guts to be the latest braker into turn 1 and his kindness to his tyres took him to victory, like he has been saying all season. He had two sets of new red supersoft tyres compared to the rest of the field, who only had one, and he won by a clear 15 seconds – his fifth victory in F1, and second of the 2018 season.

 

Photo Credit: Suceria Ferrari

2 – Vettel is gracious in defeat

When David Coulthard was doing the pre-podium interviews it was great to see Sebastian Vettel go to Lewis Hamilton and congratulate him. The German knew where it all fell apart this season and didn’t want to discuss it at the time. A true sportsman as he probably wasn’t in high spirits and he wasn’t standing on the first position on the podium. After this he entered the Mercedes pit section and congratulated the team too. The German will look to build on this season and look  ahead to the challenges that 2019 hold. 

 

Credit: Mercedes-AMG Petronas

3 – Mercedes tyre wear haunts them

The tyres that the Silver Arrows cars used just fell apart, which resulted in Hamilton finishing a distant P4 and Bottas pitting 3 times before finishing a distant P5. They had great starts but it was easy for others to overtake them, and poor mistakes from both Hamilton and Bottas put them back to P4 and P5. An investigation will surely be had after the celebration of Hamilton’s 5th title, as they were the team that struggled the most with tyres and they are close to wrapping up another Constructor’s title.

 

 

4 – Superb Sauber

Sauber had to start on the ‘chewing gum’ tyres, the pink wall hypersofts, and still managed P7 and P9. They both made a ‘one stop’ strategy work, taking us back to the days of Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez doing it so well in the Sauber colours. They jumped Toro Rosso in the standings for P8, as Pierre Gasly had a solid Sunday, but more grid penalties only helped Sauber further. It was a great haul of points by the team considering they started on the hypersoft tyres. 

 

Daniel Ricciardo in Aston Martin RedBull Racing garage at the 2018 Mexico Granprix. Image courtesy of Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

5 – Ricciardo can’t wait for his new challenge to begin with Renault

“Just let Gasly drive it” was the quote from the Honey Badger in the media pen after his eighth retirement of the season and his second mechanical failure in a row. He probably feels that his 2018 car is cursed and hasn’t taste champagne since his victory in Monaco. His new chapter edges closer and most are unsure how close he will be to the podium in the future, considering that Nico Hulkenburg, as of yet, still hasn’t been there. 

2018 Chinese GP Driver Ratings

2018 is turning out to be the an exciting season. For the first time in the hybrid era it has been three races since the Silver Arrows last jumped on the topstep. China tends to be a race with very few retirements but safety cars aplenty and it was a factor today. 

Daniel Ricciardo – 10

He never wins a boring race, a stat that shows this is that he has never won a race from starting in the top three. ‘Sometimes you’ve got to lick the stamp and send it.’ That is what he said on the podium after his moves, especially on the divebomb from far back on Hamilton at turn 14. He was sixth at the restart, and through some great moves he finished first. Once he got through the field he pulled a gap and was never seen again. It is the first shooey of the season, some more to follow?

Valterri Bottas – 8

Flying the flag for Mercedes in the race, the Finn got a great start managing to jump one of the Ferrari’s. He kept it behind him and didn’t let the other get away. This allowed him to a great outlap to undercut the Ferrari to get the lead and control the race. His tyres lost him the lead but kept the other Finn behind him for a great second place considering had the second best car.

Kimi Raikkonen – 8

He got screwed by his team, Ferrari seem to be putting all their eggs in one basket with Vettel. It isn’t always going to work if they do. Kimi was a bit fortunate with the timing of the safety car after losing around 15 seconds to Hamilton after being left out there by the team. Had tyre age on his side to allow him to pull some passes off and finish on the podium. Spoilt today with a a few words on the podium too! 

Lewis Hamilton – 7

It was a grumpy Lewis Hamilton day much like Bahrain, he was never happy. ‘Is it me or there a lot of cars with fresh tyres behind me’ was a quote in the race. This was a clear shot at the team as was left in no mans land. He was just behind the others all weekend, with everything happening around him he closes the gap on his championship rival. Two races though not on the podium for the Brit.

Max Verstappen – 6

Patience, that is what the Dutchman needs more of, we all know he has the speed. Twice in one race he made mistakes on overtaking. First, on the outside of Hamilton where he could of waited for the DRS rather than losing places to Ricciardo. The second being the half gap on the inside of Vettel for the following lap as time was on his side. He would of probably won the race if he kept it clean but instead fifth due to a penalty. Unlike Bahrain he admitted it was his fault, think a talk with himself tonight needs to be done.

Nico Hulkenburg – 9

Once more this German is so under rated, with contracts up in air at the end of this season surely teams have to take a note. He has never been on the podium but consistently in the points and keeps it clean unlike others. Another strong day for him that puts him firmly as the number one driver at Renault.

Fernando Alonso – 8

Ringing the neck out of his car, finding the pace which his team mate cannot. His racecraft that he has only helps him further from starting so far back in the field. Kept tyres in good condition and his nose clean to push on. Nice move on Vettel late on to get even more points, due to a higher result is sixth in the standings.

Sebastian Vettel – 8

Through no fault of his own the championship leader finished down in eigth. He started the race well and did his token fast first lap to break the DRS on second place. He managed the gap well to keep the field behind him which was brilliant. The team kept him out too long which as a result allowed Bottas to jump him, and then running wide at the hairpin gave the aggresive Verstappen a gap that he would attempt a pass causing a spin. He lit the rears up when trying to get back pointing in the right direction which hindered him for the remaining laps. Had the pace but others hurt him. 

Carlos Sainz – 7

Very much in the shadows of his team mate currently, he needs a big display. Nearly got the stricken Ferrari at the end of the race but more points for him, albeit another finish far behind his team mate.

Kevin Magnussen – 7

Said he was lucky to just miss out on Q3. He qualified eleventh allowing him to have first choice of tyre. He went with the soft and slowly picked off the positions, undercuts pushed him back to further down the field though, more points for the American team.

Esteban Ocon – 6

An okay race for Ocon, he finished higher than he started which is something good to take for him. Hope for the team at Baku when they were strong last year but keep it clean! 

Sergio Perez – 6

The Mexican well renowned for his skill to keep life in his tyres you’d have thought would thrive in these conditions. A result from probably being one of the ten to go through into Q3 he was not helped by starting on the ultra soft tyres. The damage was done as went long on second stint and had no pace throughout.

Stoffel Vandoorne – 6

The Belgian is in the same boat as Carlos Sainz, playing second fiddle to his team mate. Mclaren seem to be talking a lot of gas and air when it comes to the performance of their car, but Vandoorne isn’t getting what his team mate can out of it. This time drivers’ didn’t retire so finished out of the points.

Lance Stroll – 7

A great start for Stroll today, quite a few positions picked off at the 270 degree turn one. Williams had a bit more pace this weekend albeit being slower than last year in qualifying. Solid midfield finish, confidence can be built as we head into the European season.

Sergey Sirotkin – 6

Is growing into the seat but questions continue to be asked if signing him was the correct decision. Is learning the car well, and gaining confidence. Not much was said about him throughout the race. 

Marcus Ericcson – 6

Good finish for Marcus, showing his rookie team mate that there is more potential in the Sauber Alfa Romeo. Peope saw him as a pay driver as they dropped the impressive Wehrlein over him but mixing it in the midfield and not always coming out second best.

Romain Grosjean – 5

Besides the few explicit words on the radio early on in the race when it seems the team said to let his team mate through Romain had a very quiet race. Getting into qualifying three seemed to hinder him. Forget and move on, but take confidence pace in the car is there.

Pierre Gasly – 5

It was the Frenchman’s eigth start and that showed, a bit of a yo-yo season thus far. Toro Rosso struggled with China very power concentrated track. He took out his team mate causing the safety car and ruined both races for the team. Gone back to Australia, want to keep the Bahrain-esque form up. Very silly, but he’ll learn from that.

Charles Leclerc – 6

For a driver that had never been to China he wasn’t adrift of the field, of course there are simulators that can be used but great display. The European season is when Leclerc will come to a next level.

Brendon Hartley – 5

The car wasn’t at the races today and was pretty much held back. The Kiwi was doing his own thing before being a passenger to a collision with his team mate. Had to retire late on due to damage.

Two things to conclude really, Verstappen, we rave how exciting he is to watch but he needs to learn. One of the late great Ayrton Senna’s quotes ‘If you no longer go for the gap that exists, you are no longer a racing driver’ can be used to defend him. I don’t even think that he would of attempted that optimistic move.

Gave Ricciardo the driver of the day, but a big shout out to the Red Bull team for the whole of the weekend. A record breaking engine change in this era yesterday, and the two double stack pit stops really shows drive in the team to do the best they can at the track. Off track great tactics was decided in a few seconds when the safety car was called too. In a fortnight the Formula 1 circus is off to Baku, much earlier this year.

 

Images Courtesy of Redbull content pool

Pirelli’s Rainbow – Karun Chandhok’s Guide To F1 Tyres In 2018 | Mobil 1 The Grid

Check out the newest video from Mobil 1 The Grid in which Karun Chandhok provides an insight into the enduring importance of tyres in F1, and why this year’s Pirelli range is a step in the right direction for the sport.

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F1 Season Preview: 5 things to watch

With the start of the F1 season nearly upon us, here are 5 things to watch out for in 2018.

McLaren-Renault

Glenn Dunbar/McLaren

After a dismal three-year marriage, McLaren-Honda finally divorced at the end of 2017 with McLaren going to Renault and Honda going to Toro Rosso.

Throughout the troubled times, McLaren claimed, time and time again, that they have one of the best chassis on the grid. So, with the Renault engine of the rise, McLaren’s word will be put to the test—can they challenge for podiums, wins or even the championship or will Alonso be left disappointed once more?

Alfa Romeo Sauber

Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team

Following the fallout over the short-lived Sauber-Honda deal, the Swiss team strengthened their partnership with Ferrari by becoming their effective ‘B-team’.

This means that, along with up-to-date engines, Sauber will be responsible for looking after some of Ferrari’s junior drivers. For 2018, they’ll have reigning F2 champion Charles Leclerc as a full-time driver and 2016 GP2-runner up Antonio Giovinazzi as their third driver. Mercedes have already said that the alliance could be “dangerous for them” with the Germans hinting that they may follow suit in the coming years.

The ‘Halo’

Steve Etherington/Mercedes AMG F1

Controversial as it is, we will see the halo raced for the first time in 2018. The FIA had to do something for this season as they had said a ‘frontal head protection device’ would be in place by 2018.

Some would say that it’s been rushed through the development process. Nevertheless, the FIA have allowed the teams some leeway with winglets and such like on the halo and the structure of it will be blended into the colour scheme of the car, so that it doesn’t stand out quite as much.

Softer tyres

Zak Mauger/LAT Images/Pirelli Media

Pirelli have admitted that they were too cautious with their tyre compounds in 2017, leading to widespread one-stop races and minimal degradation.

While they’re not going back to the days of super high-degradation tyres, the 2018 tyres will be softer. Along with the introduction of the Hyper-Soft, each compound will be a step softer; the Super-Soft will be like the old Ultra-Soft, the Soft will be like the old Super-Soft and so on. This should increase the variation in strategies, hopefully leading to more exciting and unpredictable racing.

The midfield

Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool

2017 involved an intense mid-field fight between Renault, Toro Rosso and Haas with the teams finishing within 10 points of each other.

A shake up is on the cards for 2018, however. The newly-powered McLaren and the works Renault team are both expected to rise above the rest of the midfield for fourth and fifth places in the championship which will make the midfield battle for sixth down to tenth. Force India should be as strong as ever and could give McLaren and Renault a run for their money while less is expected of Williams, given the standard of their drivers. The new Toro Rosso-Honda partnership has the potential to be very good, as does Alfa-Romeo Sauber, while Haas remains to be an unknown.