F1 | GP AZERBAIJAN, THE POINT B Y GIAN CARLO MINARDI “NOT AN EXCITING FORMAT. FERARRI IS GROWING”

Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) Ferrari SF-23.
30.04.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 4, Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Baku Street Circuit, Azerbaijan, Race Day.
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Formula 1 has switched on the engines one more after a break of almost a month with a new format for the weekend made up of two qualifying sessions and just as many races.

I honestly find it hard to understand this format. After only an hour of free practice the cars ended up in the parc fermé without the possibility of making changes, except with a penalty. It is a very demanding format, especially when run on a street circuit such as Baku where it takes little to compromise the whole weekend or to force the team to make a superhuman effort. With this setting this format did not excite me and it must certainly be revised.

On the grand prix front, it was an exciting race, especially the final laps with Perez, Verstappen, Leclerc and Alonso giving life to a succession of fast laps. In the end George Russell took it out with the help of a final pitstop and the red tyres.

Beyond this, we saw a crazy Red Bull. Both Perez and Verstappen were incredible with a series of fast laps. In the end the Mexican got the upper hand, confirming his excellent feeling with the city tracks.

However, the month-long break was good for Ferrari. Without having made major changes- visually speaking- it has grown, above all in the management of the tyres, as we saw at the end with a low fuel load and with hard compounds, the great weak spot. Leclerc managed to keep pace with Red Bull, while staying in the tussle for the extra point for the fastest lap. This is certainly a positive aspect. We are still talking of three tenths of a second per lap in favour of Red Bull but it is a good step forward compared to the recent rounds. Fernando Alonso showed he is the same fighter, even if for the first time since the start of the season he failed to make the podium.

With the first European race in Imola (May 19-21), I expect even smaller gaps and, Ferrari and Aston Martin, could begin to interfere with Red Bull’s schedule. Amongst other things, it will be the stage of another change of regulations seeing that in qualifying the drivers will face Q1 with the hard compounds, Q2 with the mediums and Q3 with the softs. We hope that this experiment will entertain us. I am sure that we will follow the first European grand prix with a lot of motivation and I look forward to seeing many of you at the Imola Circuit.

Gian Carlo Minardi

F1 | GP AUSTRALIA, THE POINT BY GIAN CARLO MINARDI “I AM DISGUSTED”

 

They want to make Formula 1 a show but in Melbourne they really hit rock bottom. From the yellow flag we went from the first (of three) read flag following Albon’s accident passing quickly through the virtual safety car and safety car. The peak was reached two laps from the end after Magnussen’s Hass went off the track when the race director Wittich had the red flag waved again choosing for a new restart from which came the third red flag for the collision between the two Alpines which eliminated each other.

In the lead Carlos Sainz caused Fernando Alonso’s spin taking third place. For this move the Spaniard will be penalized 5” despite the direction opting to start the race again, cancelling the previous restart. Alonso returned to the grid taking his position (third place with Sainz fourth) as did the others, except for Gasly and Ocon. The race restarted at the end of the two hours of the race with the last lap under the safety car.

It was really too much. There continue to be rules that are not clear and completely different interpretations from grand prix to grand prix. It is time to say enough and impose clarity. The race director was not free of mistakes, in my opinion distorting the order of arrival of the grand prix that has significance on world championship. The most damaged in this situation are certainly the two Alpine drivers who could appeal.
Ferrari could also appeal Sainz’s penalty., instead I saw Vasseur resigned. The Spaniard made a mistake in the in the collision with Alonso but the penalty was senseless because the subsequent restart did not take into account the new order.

Every decision is justified under the word “safety” but today, with these decisions, the drivers were once again put in even more danger. They could have easily used the SC and the VSC as always, without making all these pantomimes. The same experts have groped around in the dark giving personal interpretations.

The race direction was the real protagonist of this grand prix, stealing the stage from the drivers. Clear decisions with non-subjective decisions are needed.

Coming to the race, we witnessed good overtaking. Verstappen and Red Bull’s supremacy is impressive, even of we did not discover this today.

A step forward by Mercedes, even if the problem on Russell’s car is certainly an alarm bell on reliability, also because they are substituting a lot of components on the client cars. They are bringing forward intense work to go to Baku and Imola with many new developments. They have certainly not given up.

There were small step forwards by Ferrari. It was a good race by Carlos Sainz, even if lap times were distant, not only from red Bull but also Aston Martin paying a gap of 3 tenths of a second between the fastest lap and Fernando Alonso’s time. This weekend there were also mistakes in qualifying and starting in certain positions on this type of track is extremely risky as Leclerc’s retirement showed.

The third consecutive podium for Fernando Alonso which consolidates his third place on the ladder but above all for Aston Martin as the second force behind Red Bull.

Gian Carlo Minardi

F1| GP AUSTRALIA, GIAN CARLO MINARDI “RED BULL AN INCREDIBLE CAR. I HAVE THE IMPRESSION THAT IT SIMULATES ACTIVE SUSPENSIONS”

We are just a few hours from the first free practice which will initiate the third round of the Formula 1 World Championship on the Melbourne track in Australia.

It does not need to be said that the hunt will open for the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez. They are getting ready to experience a calm season, relegating all their rivals to a secondary role. In the first two rounds they gave proof of an imposing strength to which it will not be easy to find a solution. Their calm and security also show through in the fact that the drivers do not obey the orders received. Ferrari and Mercedes have already stated that starting from Imola they will bring a car with many new developments. It has to be seen if this is enough.

The engineers led by Newey have found something incredible that makes the RB19 perform on all the sectors of the track, as well as making the tyres work very well. I am not a technician but watching it race it can be seen that at some points the rear is very low and in others decidedly higher. They give the impression of having found an infallible technical solution that recalls active suspensions. No other car, up till now, manages to replicate this.

If there is a certain equilibrium in qualifying – we have seen that the grid enclosed within a gap of barely 1”8 – the gap increases enormously in the race. Compared to last season’s cars Red Bull managed to improve by about 7-8 tenths of a second almost nullifying the efforts of the other teams. In a situation such as this it is not surprising to see McLaren still on zero points because it really takes very little to stay out of the points.

And in these hours, with a note released in Melbourne, the Federation has decided to ban the celebrations of the teams on the wall for safety reasons. But that is another story…

Gian Carlo Minardi

F1 | FORMULA 1 MOVING TOWARDS A BAN OF THE TYRE WARMERS. GIAN CARLO MINARDI “PIRELLI IS ALREADY AT WORK. THE DRIVERS DO NOT WANT TO LOSE THE BENEFITS”

 

Another thorny question (together with the ban of free practice envisioned by Stefano Domenicali) taking centre stage in the paddock of the Formula World Championship is the ban – beginning in 2024 – of the tyre warmers. The project will be put to the vote which will be held after this year’s British Grand Prix which will see the teams, FIA and FOM involved.

“Currently the tyre warmers can be used for a maximum of two hours at a temperature of 70°. With the ban the approach to qualifying and the race and the pit stop strategy will need to be reviewed since the times will be longer for reaching optimal performance,” was the analysis by Gian Carlo Minardi.

“Two distinct evaluations must be made: on the one hand it is up to Pirelli to find a solution to bring the tyres up to temperature more quickly. In reality it is already working in this direction since from this year’s Imola Grand Prix the rain compounds will not be able to be warmed with the help of the tyre warmers. The road is already open.

“However, we must not forget that the tyre warmers are banned in all the formulas below F1. So this proposal is not so scandalous. In my adventure in the world championship, I myself experienced the two eras, with and without tyre warmers. As always, it is only a question of adaptation.”

Many drivers, starting with Lewis Hamilton, have put the emphasis on the factor of safety. “For years people have been talking about banning them, but the drivers have always been opposed to it. This generation of drivers and they involve the subject of safety for leverage, in order to keep them. They do not want to lose the benefit”.

F1 | Stefano Domenicali is against free practice. The comment by Gian Carlo Minardi

Holding court these days – and causing not a little discussion – were the declarations by Stefano Domenicali, the CEO of the Formula One Group, who envisioned a Formula 1 without the sessions dedicated to free practice, not of great interest for the public. All to the benefit of a greater spectacle.

On the occasion of the presentation of the Australian Grand Prix, the third round of the Formula 1 World Championship we asked Gian Carlo Minardi for his opinion.

Right now the regulations need to be reviewed, also to avoid unpleasant situations such as happened two weeks ago in Saudi Arabia. If we talk about formats, I am convinced that the entire programme could be focussed on the days of Saturday and Sunday. The Friday could be left at the disposition of the fans and the much acclaimed show. Domenicali is right: the public wants to see the action and currently Friday is more “tired” also on the ticket sale front. Because of the high cost of the tickets people do not want to or cannot lose a day of work for Formula 1 and so they can concentrate the efforts on the other two days”.

What could be the recipe? “Friday can be dedicated to visiting the pits and meeting the drivers. Purely for entertainment and with the engines off. And then Saturday and Sunday everyone on the track with a succession of free practice, qualifying and race

F1| GP BAHRAIN, THE POINT BY MINARDI “RED BULL IS A SPACESHIP, ALONSO PHENOMENAL”

 

The spectacle was not lacking throughout the weekend, starting from free practice 3 with all the drivers within barely a second and a half. In Q3 the first ten were separated by just eight tenths of a second.

We noticed this compaction during the three days of testing and this was confirmed on Saturday, while the race gave us an absolutely incredible and uncatchable Red Bull that relegated the first of the rivals – Alonso in the Aston Martin – to more than 38 seconds that rose to 48 when compared to Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari.

At the moment there is nothing for anybody. Despite already having a practically perfect car, Herman’s men managed to improve the vehicle by almost a second. The growth of the Aston Martin that went onto the podium with a great Fernando Alonso was also incredible.

Despite his 42 years of age – which are only a statistic – Nando made himself a protagonist with two incredible over takings against Russell and above all Hamilton. Despite an attacking race he got out of the car as fresh as Verstappen who managed the race from start to finish. A phenomenon was confirmed, and phenomena always have something more. At the present time his years do not show and he does not feel them. This is certainly a positive note for all of Formula 1. It unites three generations of drivers and creates good suspense. Watching him drive was fantastic.

Stroll’s great feat in racing in impaired physical conditions is also to be highlighted. He carried out an incredible tour de force and thanks to the sixth place Aston Martin is the second force of the constructors’ world championship.

On the Ferrari front, the signs that were expected did not come, quite the contrary. In addition to having gained little compared to last year on its direct rivals, it must face up to a not insignificant reliability problem. Without reliability it becomes hard to concentrate in the development of the car, which also wears out the tyres, but we are only at the first race and they need to stay calm.

As I said before, there has been a good compaction in the group and I am pleased to see Williams already taking a top ten place and the first point of the season for Albon. They are still in difficulty in qualifying but it defended itself in the race. They came from several difficult seasons but this is a point of encouragement and confidence.

Gian Carlo Minardi

F1 | GP BAHRAIN, MINARDI “ASTON MARTIN THE POSSIBLE START OF SEASON SURPRISE”

The longest Formula 1 season is about to begin but with only three days of testing behind us. This would already be an anomaly for any sporting event and is a real sporting and technical contradiction about which we can only take note.

Practically 24 hours of testing to prepare for a season made up of 23 grands prix to which we must add 6 sprint races.

As usual interpreting the results of those three days is not at all easy, especially sitting in front of the TV as we lack a lot of information. Starting with the fuel load.

We are certainly faced with a Red Bull that restarts from where it ended the season, in front of everybody in any condition. Even Sergio Perez with the C5s (that Pirelli did not bring for the race on the weekend) beat last season’s pole position. The car designed in Milton Keyes remains the point of reference and it is already frightening. Its margin of advantage over the distance of a grand prix could once again be between 20 and 25 seconds.

Behind them we will find Ferrari that gave positive signs in the flying lap, a little less in the long run from which emerged the Aston Martin which could be the world championship’s third force. At least in the first part of the season. In more difficulty are Mercedes (there is already talk of a version B) and McLaren. Above all the MCL60 of Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri was not very competitive with any compound, paying important gaps.

Another fact that could have emerged is the positive compaction of the forces in the field of the other teams but we can only wait to follow this first round which will start at 4.00pm Sunday.

Gian Carlo Minardi

F1 | GP ABU DHABI, THE POINT BY GIAN CARLO MINARDI “A FASCINATING GRAND PRIX. WELL DONE BY FERRARI”

The last day of “school” has arrived for Formula 1 which gave us a fascinating and tight grand prix right up to the final lap. An unstoppable Max Verstappen took the win ahead of an excellent Charles Leclerc who won his personal challenge for second place with his direct rival Sergio Perez.

Despite the difference with the Red Bull Perez took a feat to its conclusion, also supported by correct strategy by the men on his wall. Ferrari took second place in the constructors’ title ahead of Mercedes after having finished last season in third place. An important step forward to try to race for first place next year.

As we had predicted, a swallow does not a spring make and Mercedes went back to what it was before Mexico. Since the start of the season they were the protagonists of significant growth but in Abu Dhabi whey were not able to replicate the performances seen in Brazil.

Now for the holidays, even if the time available is very short as on March 5th we start again with the first of the twenty four grands prix in 2023. A new year awaits us with many changes on the grid between changes of colours and new arrivals. I am very pleased to see two drivers on the track who worked hard in the lower formulas to force people to respect them such as Oscar Piastri and Nyck de Vries who already on the occasion of the Italian Grand Prix in Monza gave us a first taste of his potential by taking ninth place on his debut in the little competitive Williams.

Having said goodbye to Latifi the English team is getting ready to welcome the third debutant, the American Sargeant who in race 2 of Formula 2 obtained the points for the Superlicence thus completing the 2023 mosaic. Despite a few “old men” on the starting grid has been rejuvenated

The affection shown by the world of Formula 1 to Sebastian Vettel who finished his career in tenth place was very nice.

The test day on Tuesday dedicated to the young drivers is to be followed closely. Despite all the teams being projected towards the new year we will be able to make a comparison with what we saw this weekend.

Gian Carlo Minardi

F1 | SAO PAOLO, THE POINT BY GIAN CARLO MINARDI “VERSTAPPEN’S TEAM-RADIO WAS BAD. LECLERC MUST IMPOSE HIMSELF”

In Brazil we saw an extraordinary weekend with eventful qualifying, sprint race and grand prix and enriched by actions that were even on the limit of the regulations and excessively penalized, such as the collision between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. The penalty was probably dictated by the fact that the Dutchman had all four wheels off the track.

The same goes for the episode between Norris and Leclerc where there was a concurrence of fault on the part of the Ferrari driver. He tried to overtake at an unlikely point and above all in the first lap of an important grand prix for both him and the team in terms of the championship. The driver from Monte Carlo may have been unnerved by the episodes in qualifying but he must start to impose his technical decisions since he is the one who takes to the track. However, this too is part of the growth path and is a token to be paid to become a real champion.

He was then the protagonist of an incredible comeback that finished behind an excellent Carlos Sainz. Too bad for the start of the fire that slowed down the Spaniard who was the protagonist of an excellent comeback starting with the sprint race. Ferrari did well not to reverse the positions to avoid joint risks, even if this could have helped Leclerc who is currently tied with Perez.

I did not like Max Verstappen’s team radio in any way. With great determination he denied the position to his team mate who was fighting with Leclerc for second place in the drivers’ ladder. With two world championships and fourteen wins behind him he should have started to think about the team and not just himself. This was an episode that, in my opinion, highlighted the presence of a dispute between the drivers.

The weekend was decidedly favourable to Mercedes and George Russell who “took home” both the sprint race and the grand prix. If Red Bull and Ferrari froze development a while ago Mercedes continued to work and the results are showing. Having three teams fighting for the win would be a dream for Formula 1. We are also waiting to see the result in Abu Dhabi.

With the result in Interlagos Ferrari saw its lead over Mercedes shrink to only 19 points, with Leclerc and Perez tied on 290 points on the drivers’ front. The Yas Marina track will give us the final verdicts.

An exciting weekend that could have become a great spot for the sport has ended.

The final act will be in a week’s time.

Gian Carlo Minardi

F1 | GP BRAZIL, MINARDI “A race within the race”

We have come to the penultimate round of the 2022 F1 World Championship.

Drivers and teams have arrived at the Interlagos track where three days of unstable weather should be waiting for them.

In conditions of rain we have seen upheavals up to the last lap, as happened in 2008 with Felipe Massa World Champion for a handful of seconds until Lewis Hamilton in the McLaren got the better of Timo Glock in the Toyota, so becoming the youngest world champion in Formula 1 history.

In the case of torrential rain with the ups and downs dangerous streams crossing the track can be created. On the race front it will be an interesting weekend because there are many duels. If first place in both the constructors’ and drivers’ fronts has been assigned, the duel between Ferrari and Mercedes is still open for second place. At the present time the team from Maranello has a lead of 40 points over its direct rivals.

No less important are the duels behind them: Alpine and McLaren are fighting for fourth place with a gap of only 7 points in favour of the French team. Alfa Romeo and Aston Martin are playing for sixth place. Up to now the pair Bottas-Zhou has brought the team 7 more points that Vettel-Stroll.

Only one point – 36 against 35 – separates Haas from Alpha Tauri for eighth place: positions that turn into money for the following season.
On the other hand, the direct duel between Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc for the title of Vice Champion is a question of prestige. In Brazil Red Bull’s driver will take to the track with a lead of five points over the driver from Monte Carlo.

Brazil will also be the setting for the third, and final, sprint race scheduled for Saturday at 8.30pm which will decide the starting grid (as well as assigning the first points of the weekend) of the Grand Prix that will start at 7.00pm.

Gian Carlo Minardi

F1 | GP MEXICO, THE POINT BY GIAN CARLO MINARDI “VERSTAPPEN PERFECT. MERCEDES FOUND THE ANSWERS WITH A VIEW TO 2023”

The Mexican Grand Prix slipped by without any dramatic twists. Max Verstappen and Red Bull confirmed their domination and we are fast approaching the end of this world championship with only two races to go.

With third place Perez took his lead over Leclerc to 5 points, who only took fifth place behind his team mate, with Mercedes nibbling away a few points in the constructors’ ladder, even if the margin still seems to favour the “reds”. Mercedes seems to have found the answers with a view to 2023.

With this win Max Verstappen goes to 14 wins in the season. This is an incredible result but I do not find it correct comparing it to other records set with calendars made up of 16 GPs compared to the current 22.

Mexico gave us a positive result for Bottas, tenth with Alfa Romeo and Daniel Ricciardo’s seventh place despite a (10 second) penalty that was certainly correct with the contact with Tsunoda.

Ferrari finished the weekend with 5th and 6th places but celebrating the excellent result in Imola with the World Championship Finals with a huge crowd of more than 40,000 fans who flocked to the Enzo and Dino Ferrari Circuit. I must congratulate them on the excellent organization. It was a sensational weekend with the icing on the cake the presentation of the brand new 499P with which it will try to win the Le Mans 24 Hours in the highest category, together with the 296 GT3, the heir of the 488 Ferrari.

Now let’s wait and see what Interlagos will give us.

Gian Carlo Minardi

F1 | GP COTA, THE POINT BY GIAN CARLO MINARDI “VERSTAPPEN AND RED BULL UNSTOPPABLE. ABSURD SANCTIONS FOR RUSSELL AND ALONSO”

 

After the two drivers’ titles won by Max Verstappen in Suzuka Red Bull took out the constructors’ title thanks to the Dutchman’s win and Perez’s fourth place that in this way interrupted the domination by Mercedes that this year has had a drought of wins.

Austin showed all the supremacy of the team headed by Horner but especially that of Max Verstappen. For the first time since the start of the year the team made a mistake during the Dutchman’s stop making him lose something like eleven seconds that he quickly recovered on the track and taking the win ahead of Lewis Hamilton.

This win was the demonstration of the strength of the pair and also being able to count on a good margin of potential that has still not been expressed. Unlike the other grands prix, in Austin Verstappen had to take risks highlighting the big difference between him and Perez. This aspect should also open the eyes on the question of the budget gap that should contain all the costs without exception. It is one thing to have a team of good drivers of the calibre of the Mexican and many others. Another is to be able to count on the talent of Verstappen, Hamilton, Leclerc… drivers who affect both the results on the track and the expenditure. The same also applies to the engineers of the calibre of Adrian Newey. The budget cap makes sense if it contains 100% of the expenses of the team, with no exclusion. I will not enter into the merit of the figure.

Going back to the grand prix, it was interesting, certainly conditioned by the huge mistake made by George Russell at the first bend that led to the retirement of Carlos Sainz, the protagonist of an imperfect but faultless start. An episode sanctioned with a ridiculous 5 second penalty. Absilutely ridiculous like the penalty inflicted on Fernando Alonso. Thirty seconds for racing without a mirror. Apart from the fact this was not a blunt element that had not even broken off but if an F1 driver cannot drive without a mirror then he should change jobs. Two absurd penalties.

Well done Lewis Hamilton who brought out all his class, as did Leclerc who, starting from twelfth place took his Ferrari onto the podium showing once more a major problem of tyre wear. The battle for second place with Perez is still open and they will go to Mexico in less than a week with the same engine strategy.

Since announcing his retirement I seem to see a new Sebastian Vettel. He raced like a four times world champion and Sunday he was the protagonist of a wonderful race fighting until the final bend. It was the demonstration of how much different components can come into play in this sport. We see it also with Gasly, ready to say goodbye to Alpha Tauri and Ricciardo who went from the stars into the mud in a few seasons.

The American weekend brought Antonio Giovinazzi back onto the track. It was a mistake that could have cost him dearly in such a delicate moment in his career. Running against the barriers after a few laps is not a positive sign, even if I do not know the causes the led to him going off the track. On the other hand, Mick Schumacher did nothing exciting on the track.

Gian Carlo Minardi

F1 | GP JAPAN, THE POINT BY GIAN CARLO MINARDI “VERSTAPPEN UNDISCUSSED WORLD CHAMPION, BUT WHAT CHAOS WITH THESE REGULATIONS”

Max Verstappen is the World champion for the second time in his short career.

This is the first fixed point, with no ifs or buts. Regardless of the rain that hit the Suzuka circuit, regardless of whether the race lasted only 40 minutes, regardless of the penalty inflicted on Charles Leclerc by the sporting regulations and by the system of attribution of the points.

Both the Dutchman and Red Bull also dominated the Japanese Grand Prix taking out pole position and the win with almost a half a minute advantage on second place confirming the position at the top of this sport. A result that was also consolidated by the second place by Sergio Perez who, in the final laps, put Ferrari’s driver from Monte Carlo under pressure leading him to the mistake at the very end. With second place he equalled Leclerc’s points (249 points for both) and at this point of the season the situation for the Ferrari driver is not so rosy.

Even in the wet Ferrari confirmed its current limits. Competitive on the flying lap (in qualifying Leclerc missed pole position by only 10 thousandths of a second) while in the long run the differences with Red Bull come out, also linked to the degradation of the tyres that put Leclerc in crisis at Suzuka, but in any case he was the protagonist of an incredible defence stained only by the “long” stretch at the end that cost him second place.

Regulations in hand, I find the 5” penalty correct (this time coming after only a few minutes). Too bad that he had space to defend the position better but it is too easy to point the finger considering the difficult situation.

With the title definitively in Verstappen’s hands Leclerc has four grands prix (USA, Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi) to try and save at least second place. It will not be easy staying ahead of Sergio Perez with this Red Bull.

Amongst the “others” congratulations to the two old men, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso. Thanks to their experience they knew how to handle a complicated situation finishing in sixth and seventh places. Well done also to Nicholas Latifi who, together with Vettel, was one of the first to pass from the intermediates so taking his Williams to ninth place ahead of Norris. It was an exciting tussle between Ocon and Hamilton for fourth place.

The real sore point of the weekend was the umpteenth case of confusion created by these absurd regulations. Despite having completed only 29 of the 53 laps (52% of the race) in the maximum time of three hours, full points were attributed. This is because the race was considered finished (the chequered flag was waved).

Honestly I find no big difference between finishing a race when the maximum time runs out or following a red flag.

After what happened in Spa-Francorchamps last year the Federation introduced new points systems that varied according to how many laps were raced. However, this points system is applied only if the race does not restart after a red flag…. To me this seems to be a useless complication, especially if it continues to be run on circuits hit by monsoons and/or cyclones. It may be appropriate to simplify these regulations and re-evaluate the calendars to avoid having three hour grands prix with cars committed on the track for much less time.

Gian Carlo Minardi