Words by Tony Robertson (@TonyRob84).
Welcome back to the eighth edition of Overtime Online’s (normally) weekly F1 column Life In The Fast Lane.
Apologies for the lack of an upload last week, assignments and deadlines hindered the possibility of uploading a column. However, we’re back this week and boy is there a lot to cover. Now without further ado, let’s get into the last two weeks immense action.
Driver Market explodes into life:
News broke this week that four-time world champion Sebastien Vettel would be leaving Ferrari at the end of the current season.
Despite Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto stating that Vettel was the Italian teams first choice to partner Charles Leclerc into 2021, they were unable to agree terms. Though Vettel said in his statement that the reasons behind the termination of their partnership were not financial.
The German Driver said : “My relationship with Scuderia Ferrari will finish at the end of 2020.
“The team and I have realised that there is no longer a common desire to stay together beyond the end of this season. Financial matters have played no part in this joint decision. That’s not the way I think when it comes to making certain choices and it never will be.
“My immediate goal is to finish my long stint with Ferrari, in the hope of sharing some more beautiful moments together, to add to all those we have enjoyed so far.”
— Formula 1 (@F1) May 12, 2020
I for one believe him here. A far more plausible explanation would be that they couldn’t agree terms on Vettel’s position in the team, with Vettel wanting to retain his status as number one driver while Ferrari will be investing more heavily in their young prodigy.
This sparked rumours and speculation about who would take over the seat. Lewis Hamilton had been heavily linked with the position for a while and with his contract at Mercedes up at the end of the year, the move would have made sense in theory, though Ferrari would likely want to avoid a fight between their two drivers.
Carlos Sainz Jr. and Daniel Ricciardo were the other two drivers most strongly linked with a move to the Italian constructor. Both drivers are undoubtedly talented, with Sainz finishing as the strongest driver from the rest of the midfield teams while Ricciardo is a proven race winner from his stint at Red Bull.
— Formula 1 (@F1) May 14, 2020
In the end it was Sainz who was given the seat in the second Ferrari car. A quite phenomenal rise for him.
The 25 year old Spaniard said: “I am very happy that I will be driving for Scuderia Ferrari in 2021 and I’m excited about my future with the team.
“I still have an important year ahead with McLaren Racing and I’m really looking forward to going racing again with them this season.”
Meanwhile, this left a vacant seat at McLaren. However, shortly before the Sainz to Ferrari deal had been confirmed it was time for McLaren to announce their new driver.
The new partnership at McLaren going into 2021 of Lando Norris, who announced a new contract with the British constructor the same day all this other madness was going on, and Aussie Ricciardo is set to be one of the funniest pairings F1 will have ever seen. Expect memes galore from the Formula One communities across social media when these two pair up in 2021.
— Formula 1 (@F1) May 14, 2020
This move opens up a whole new question for the driver market. Who will take the vacant Renault seat?
Vettel will be looking for a new team, though he may hold out for a better team to come calling for his services or may hang up his gloves.
Fernando Alonso has been linked with a return to F1 and Renault may just about be right for him at this time, though will Alonso be the type of driver they want to invest in.
Renault may choose youth over experience and pick one of their academy drivers with F2 driver Guanyu Zhou with the Chinese driver giving a strong impression during his time in F2 and during the VGP’s as well as potentially being the key to opening up a huge market in China.
Nico Hulkenberg has also been rumoured to return to the team who let him go, but personally, I can’t see this materialising due to Renault preferring other options ahead of their former employee.
Elsewhere in the grid a space will certainly be opening up at Alfa Romeo as Kimi Raikkonen will be retiring at the end of the year and almost every other driver on the grid does not have a contract signed going into 2021.
— Formula 1 (@F1) May 14, 2020
Most Influential Person In F1 Revealed:
A fan poll held by the official F1 website has revealed who fans believe is the most influential person in the history of Formula One.
Seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher was voted as the most influential person in F1 history with 61% of the vote in the final v Bernie Ecclestone’s 39%.
Schumacher beat the likes of Niki Laudu, Ayrton Senna and Juan Manuel Fangio to get to the final.
Of course it is a very deserving title, the name Michael Schumacher is one of a few elite racers who transcend the sport and break into the mainstream where you don’t need to be a regular F1 watcher to know the name Michael Schumacher.
Russell Wins In A Williams:
Yes you read that right. George Russell has won a Grand Prix in a Williams car!
Unfortunately for him and any fans of Williams it wasn’t in real life. It was instead in the Spanish Virtual Grand Prix.
The Brit took the chequered flag ahead of Leclerc after starting on poll but falling behind at the start of the race with Esteban Guitierez, Leclerc, Alex Albon and Nicholas Latifi moving up the order at his expense.
By turn one of lap four it appeared that we many be treated to another Leclerc v Albon as both overtook Gutierez. But Albon picked a bold undercut strategy to try and thwart his opponent which ultimately failed to work due to him being unable to make a big enough gap before his second stop.
Russell managed to get himself back into the lead on lap 25 but not before he received a critical three second time penalty for corner cutting. Though Leclerc wasn’t about to give him the position due to security on the penalty. The Monaco born driver battled with Russell until the end of the race but was unable to keep first place locked down.
However, things took a dramatic turn on lap 32 as Leclerc received a three second penalty on the final turn meaning he would have to overtake Russell in order to win.
Russell even managed to increase the gap between him and Leclerc to 2.5 seconds by the end of the race. Gutierez rounded out the top three as Albon finished in fourth.
Honourable mentions go to Thibaut Courtois who finished 12th and Man City striker Sergio Aguero who finished in 14th in his debut virtual grand prix and Barcelona player Arthur who unfortunately finished 19th.
Tracks Announce Running Plans:
As well as everything else which has happened in the last two weeks, the track runners have also announced their plans for running their respective races later this year.
Silverstone and Spa both announced that they were officially planning on running their respective Grand Prix’s before the end of the current season.
Silverstone in particular was interesting as they said they would be doing back to back races in late July and early August. Meanwhile the Belgian government gave the go ahead to for Spa to host their own Grand Prix. However both will still be behind closed doors in order to combat the potential spread of Coronavirus.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) May 15, 2020
That concludes this weeks column. You can check out last weeks column here.
See you next week.