In the round-up today: Belgium GP tyres choices revealed; Bottas says he won’t be in Lewis’ shadow; Kubica says he’s staying realistic about his F1 return chances; Verstappen expects further talks with Ricciardo over Hungary crash; Mclaren calls Lando Norris ‘Star of the Future’; George Russell says he didn’t feel any obstruction from Halo.
Red Bull and McLaren have gone very aggressive with their tyre choices for the Belgian Grand Prix, after heavily favouring the ultrasoft tyre.
Despite the huge demands of the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, Pirelli has elected to take its three softest compounds to this month’s race in a bid to deliver more exciting action.
And it is Red Bull and McLaren who have picked the highest number of ultrasofts – choosing nine sets each for their drivers.
This is in contrast to more conservative choices elsewhere, with Mercedes choose six ultrasofts for its drivers, while Ferrari taking seven sets.
Red Bull’s split means that Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen will only have one set of the soft tyres for the weekend.
After eleven races with Mercedes, Valtteri Bottas is coming into his own and believes he has a real shot at winning the 2017 world championship.
Speaking to Germany’s Sport Bild, the Finn dwelled once again on the subject of his team mate’s sporting gesture in last Sunday’s Hungarian GP.
“Not every teammate would have done that for a podium, but on the other hand, I would have been angry if Lewis had not accepted the deal,” said Bottas.
“The team has made it clear right from the beginning that we are both treated and respected equally. We get the same equipment, there is no number 1 and number 2 driver, and I trusted that was the case. I am fighting for the world championship, as this is also about my own career.
“I do not want to be in Lewis’ shadow,” the quiet 27-year-old insisted.
Asked if he truly believes his can clinch the world title this season, Bottas said he had no doubts in his mind he can pull it off.
“Yes. I can become world champion,” he said.
“There are still nine races to go, and I believe that I can beat Lewis and Sebastian — I have already done both this year.
“I am getting better and better. There is no limit for me. I would never say that one of my opponents is better than me. I believe in myself.”
Bottas’ fate with Mercedes for next season has yet to be sealed, but all signs point to an extension of his contract with the German outfit.
“At this time of the year I often did not know how it would go on for me, so I have a lot of practice,” he smiled.
“And it’s ok, as I feel comfortable in the team and have only received positive feedback. So I’m not too worried.”
Robert Kubica says he must be realistic about his chances of returning to Formula 1 despite impressing when he drove a contemporary F1 car for the first time since 2011.
The 32-year-old Pole, whose F1 career was interrupted following a rallying crash, finished fourth fastest and completed 142 laps on day two of the post-Hungarian Grand Prix test.
Kubica admitted he was “not 100 percent happy” with his return but felt good physically after the eight-hour test, held in hot and humid conditions, and did not feel any pain.
“I would like to have other opportunities but the reality is that I don’t know and we’ll have to wait and see.” said Kubica.
“If we see where I was four months ago compared to where I am now, it is a big change and it happened very quickly.
“So I think if in three months I did improve a lot and moved forward quite a lot, everything can happen in the future. But we have to be realistic, nothing will be easy.
“My target is to get this kind of role in F1 if I can and if I will have a chance but I don’t know. One thing is sure, if it doesn’t happen, I will not be disappointed because I am looking at this situation very realistically.”
The Pole feels he needs more time in the car to feel comfortable.
“If I get the chance to jump again in the car I will find it much easier, more familiar and it will come more naturally,” he said. “For a driver the best feeling you can have is everything comes so easily you don’t think about it.
“But when everything if new you have to think about it and concentrate on things, keep analysing why you are driving. Once I jumped out of the car [after four hours of running], I had a big break and I jump back at 2pm and I felt like a different driver.
“The car felt much more familiar and it’s a good sign. A lot of people think you improve only by driving but you can improve also by thinking and thinking where you can
“This is what happened and if I was driving again the next day I would have some idea where I can improve and everything will come easier and more natural which is the target.”
Max Verstappen says he will probably speak to Daniel Ricciardo again over their first lap clash at the Hungarian Grand Prix, to ensure no lingering tension remains.
The Dutchman said sorry to his Red Bull teammate immediately after the Hungaroring race – having slid into the side of the Australian on the opening lap in a clash that put him out.
Although Ricciardo has accepted the apology and vowed to move on, Verstappen reckons another conversation about the matter might be worthwhile.
“I’ve talked to him, but we will probably talk again before the next race at some point,” said Verstappen. “We have always had a very good relationship.”
When asked if he felt things were back to normal after their post-race chat, Verstappen said: “I think so. But I will keep this between me and Daniel.”
Verstappen says the incident at Turn 2 was a consequence of both of them attempting to move forward at a track where overtaking is very difficult – so early positions were more important than normal.
“You know, the first lap needs to happen, and you need to try and get in the best possible position,” he said. “That’s when you go for it, because that will be your position. You do everything you can, of course, to move forward.
“I locked up and from then onwards you are just a passenger in your own car. Look, we were both looking to move towards the front. I locked up because I had another car in front of me and then I hit Daniel. That is of course not want you want, but you don’t do it on purpose.”
Although Verstappen has enjoyed better fortunes in recent races, he is hoping that the second half of the campaign deliver better reliability and results.
Asked how he reflected on the first half of the year, he said: “I don’t want to look back on it. [I had] a lot of DNF’s and a lot of points lost.
“From the start we weren’t there with Mercedes and Ferrari pace wise. But from my side my pace was always good, so that is a positive thing.”
Lando Norris demonstrated he is a “potential star of the future” with an impressive display in Formula 1’s post-Hungarian GP test, according to McLaren racing director Eric Boullier.
European F3 frontrunner Norris completed 91 laps and the second quickest time – a 1m17.385s – on the ultrasoft tyres to finish 0.271s adrift of Ferrari pace-setter Sebastian Vettel.
“Lando has impressed us all with his maturity, professionalism and speed, and has got to grips very quickly with the car in only his first outing in the MCL32,” said Boullier.
“His feedback with the engineers has been valuable and accurate, and he’s certainly an asset to our test driver line-up – not to mention a potential star of the future.”
Norris completed aerodynamic data gathering, set-up adjustments, high-fuel longer runs and single-lap pace.
“It’s been a really good day – and a very productive one for all of us,” said Norris, who drove a 2011 McLaren MP4-26 earlier this year in Portugal in preparation for Wednesday’s test.
“I managed to get through all the tests that the team asked me to complete, and everything went well.
“Getting used to the car was a bit of a challenge at first, but by the end of the day I felt very comfortable. I got a lot of laps under my belt and I really enjoyed the experience.
“Finally, I want to say a big thanks to the team for giving me this opportunity. Hopefully it will be the first of many!”
The test was part of his prize for winning the 2016 McLaren Autosport BRDC Award, which also includes the role as a test and simulator driver.
Mercedes tester George Russell was surprised by how good visibility was with the Halo – and claimed it actually helped him see more than usual at one point – after trying it out in the Hungaroring Formula 1 test.
With the FIA having made clear that the Halo will be mandatory from 2018, Mercedes ran the cockpit protection system for a few laps during this week’s post Hungarian GP test.
And although Russell said it was a bit tricky initially to get in the car, he could not believe how much he could see once he was out on track.
“The Halo was surprising, I had a much better view than I ever imagined,” he said.
“One very funny positive was that at the end of the day, when the sun was coming down, the Halo actually blocked the sun from my eyes, so I actually saw more than I would usually see on circuit at 5.30pm when the sun is low.
“To be honest, from a drivers’ perspective, when you’re doing a qualy lap the visibility is completely fine. The only hindrance could potentially be the start lights, but I was extremely surprised by the Halo and by what I could see.”
The Mercedes Halo test was the first time that Russell had sat in the car with the device fitted, and he reckoned it would take drivers a bit of getting used to before they got comfortable getting in and out of the cockpits.
“It was tricky to get in and out of the car, it just takes a bit of experience, finding the right techniques, where to put your arms and stuff,” he said.
“I struggled initially but towards the end, after a few trial runs, I was fine getting in and out. You can hold on to the Halo as you pull yourself up.
“The only thing is getting your leg into the car, it’s quite high. But I think most people would just have a step to stand on to get in and out of the car.”
Russell completed two solid days of running for Mercedes, and although his programme did not allow him to set headline grabbing times, he was happy with how things had gone.