F1 has an all-Aussie line-up as son of legend lands big shot — Pit Talk
F1 will eventually have no choice but to shift away from fossil fuels and adopt fully electric power, changing the image of the category forever, one sport leader says.
Meanwhile, there are grim concerns for Mercedes after a baffling mystery at the team only deepened at the Miami Grand Prix.
And another Australian is set to gain his first taste of F1 in a major step for his promising career.
All this and more in today’s Pit Talk!
Watch every practice, qualifying and race of the 2022 FIA Formula One World Championship™ live on Kayo. New to Kayo? Try 14 days free now >
AUSSIE SET FOR FIRST F1 TEST
Jack Doohan, son of Aussie MotoGP legend Mick, will get his first shot in a Formula 1 car this weekend.
The Alpine Academy driver, who is competing in Formula 2, has been named to take part in testing at Losail International Circuit in Qatar this weekend.
It means Alpine will have an all-Australian driver line-up for the testing weekend with Oscar Piastri also set to drive.
Piastri has already tested in Austin in April, and will also take part in a third test in Austria later this season.
However it’s a breakthrough moment for 19-year-old Doohan who said he’s ready to take the opportunity with both hands.
“I’m super excited to drive a Formula 1 car for the first time,” Doohan said. “This is a moment that I’ve been building up to ever since I started racing karts, and I know these opportunities are extremely privileged.
“I’m very grateful to Alpine for the opportunity and I’m looking forward to giving it my best on the test day.
“I’ve watched behind the scenes at some private tests before and I’ve completed a lot of preparation in the loop simulator at Enstone, so I’m definitely feeling ready for this challenge.
“I’ll build myself up on the day, enjoy it at the same time and hopefully learn as much as possible alongside the team.”
CAR OVERWEIGHT? JUST LOSE WATER
As McLaren’s difficult start to 2022 continues, Daniel Ricciardo has revealed the team is going to extreme lengths to find performance in the tight midfield battle for points.
The minimum weight rule has been raised to an elephantine 798 kilograms to account for the all-new 2022 rules, but even so several teams have struggled to reach that magic number.
Paddock speculation had only one team, Alfa Romeo, underneath it at the start of the year, while Red Bull Racing was rumoured to be the weightiest — more on that below.
Every extra gram contributes to lap time. Some teams, most notably Williams, have stripped as much paint from the car as the marketing department will allow to claw back time. And at the Miami International Autodrome, with the MCL-36 still over the limit, McLaren was going to extreme measures to save weight.
“We don’t have the luxury of putting three litres in the drink system,” he told Autosport. “Everyone is obviously fighting for that last bit of weight.”
It was a particularly painful sacrifice in oppressively hot and humid Floridian city.
“We have a little bit, and it’s never enough fluid, so naturally you’re going to get dehydrated. And yeah, this heat was pretty real.
“They’re the tough ones obviously. Everyone obviously worked hard. It is hot. Drivers, mechanics — everyone’s feeling the heat.”
Conditions were so stifling that Lewis Hamilton estimated he’d lost two kilograms over the course of Friday practice, so much was he sweating in the car.
“The heat reminds me a little bit of driving in Malaysia,” he said. “Kuala Lumpur is still number one in terms of the heat, then Singapore, and now here in Miami.”
Drink bottle size isn’t mandated in the rules and is normally added only once the car’s optimum size and shape has been decided. In 2017 Hamilton had his drink bottle removed from the car completely in the face of a resurgent Ferrari.
Ricciardo will be hoping things don’t become that extreme and that the team finds other places to save weight before summer really arrives for the middle of the season.
RED BULL RACING ON A CRASH DIET FOR SPAIN
Red Bull Racing’s RB18 is arguably the fastest car on the grid at the moment and wears one of the field’s most detailed aerodynamic designs. It has just one problem: it’s chronically overweight.
In launch spec it was speculated to be the heaviest car in Formula 1, well in excess of the already raised weight limit.
It’s why its performance uptick in Imola was so much greater than the relatively small list of updates provided by the team ahead of the weekend would’ve suggested — the car had been stripped for weight.
The story ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix will be Ferrari’s first major update package, but RBR is planning on yet more revisions there, and Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko said the team was poised to finally hit its diet goals.
‘I ASK MYSELF EVERY DAY’: Vettel admits to reconsidering his career because of climate change
‘STILL IN THE FRAME’: Aussie star’s golden chance to save his seat as MotoGP future hangs in balance
“In Spain we are starting the race weekend with new parts,” Marko told Germany’s F1-Insider.
“With this we can finally reach our optimal weight. Until now we were relatively far above the minimum weight of 798 kilograms.”
Responding to accusations from Ferrari that his team’s constant flow of updates would mean Red Bull Racing hits the budget cap sooner than other teams, Marko said the RB18 had the same development potential as the SF-75.
“We are on an equal footing with Ferrari,” he said.
“The difference in the future will be made by getting the most out of our package on the track.
“We continue to look forward to the fierce battle with Ferrari and have full confidence that the FIA will take care of it.”
MERCEDES ‘MYSTERY’ DEEPENS AFTER ‘MOST CONCERNING’ MOMENT YET
Mercedes appear no closer to finding any reliable speed from their W13 with former F1 driver and analyst Martin Brundle saying the Miami Grand Prix “was their most concerning weekend” so far.
The Silver Arrows are operating in a no man’s land that’s well out of reach of frontrunners Ferrari and Red Bull, with George Russell and Lewis Hamilton finishing fifth and sixth at the Miami GP respectively.
Russell was upbeat about Mercedes’ chances moving forward, but Hamilton and team boss Toto Wolff have been more realistic.
Wolff said that Merecedes “haven’t had this situation before” in which the drivers are reporting issues that isn’t marrying up with the data.
“The data sometimes doesn’t show what the drivers tell us and they have their hands full with a car that is just not at all nice to drive, or comfortable to drive, or predictable to drive,” Wolff said. “But the data don’t show these big swings.
“We haven’t had this situation before in any of the years, where it just didn’t correlate at all with what we see on our screens, with what the driver feels and that’s making it even more difficult.”
Wolff said the W13 is fast, but the team doesn’t “understand how to unlock the potential”.
Writing in his column for Sky Sports, Brundle said the fact Mercedes still have little understanding of the car’s issues makes their situation all the more alarming.
“Mercedes were once again the third-best team but in many ways I think it was their most concerning weekend given that George Russell was fastest on Friday and struggled for pace thereafter and the team simply didn’t know why,” Brundle wrote.
“They’ve talked about ‘diva’ cars before but this one is just a plain mystery with a knife-edge window of set-up.
“There’s a good car in there somewhere, it’s just so well hidden.”
F1 ‘HAS NO OTHER OPTION BUT TO GO ELECTRIC
As the world shifts with increasing speed away from fossil fuels and towards electrification, the matter of Formula 1’s own propulsion and where it fits into the broader landscape will come increasingly into focus.
The F1 power unit is billed as the world’s most efficient motor and is comfortably more powerful than equivalent all-electric engines, but advances are coming thick and fast. You’ll have seen it on the road already – electric mobility isn’t on the way; it’s already here.
And though he has a clear vested interest as chairman of Formula E, Alejandro Agag says electric motors are progressing so quickly that it’s only a matter of time before F1 will have to seriously consider switching.
“Unless someone says, ‘No, we’d prefer to go slower and continue with gasoline’,” he said, as quoted by The Race.
“By developing battery technology in electric cars, we will go faster one day.
“We could go faster today; the only thing is we would have no energy in the battery.
“But this will come. The amount of energy that the battery can store will arrive, the battery will be lighter. Already the progression we’ve had in Formula E through Gen1, Gen2, Gen3 — it’s staggered. This is how I see it.”
Formula 1’s current power unit produces more than 750 kilowatts, around 120 kilowatts of which is generated electrically. The next-generation motor is due to be introduced in 2026 and will reportedly boost electrical power to around 350 kilowatts, although how much of that is usable will depend on battery capacity.
In parallel the sport will switch to fully synthetic fuel, having switched to E10 this season. F1 believes the combustion engine can still have a long future with sustainable petrol.
Agag, who through Formula E controls the FIA’s exclusive rights to all-electric racing, says he wants to generate greater synergy between his sport and Formula 1 to create space for both as the world around them changes.
“I’m working on it without much success for the moment, but it’s one of my real objectives, to find a way where Formula 1 and Formula E can exist in parallel in a very coordinated way,” he said. “So, let’s see if we can make it happen.”
ALEX ALBON’S RED-HOT FORM DOWN TO SUPERSTITION
Alex Albon has only just returned to full-time Formula 1 this season, but already he’s developed a healthy — and very noticeable — superstition behind his point-scoring form.
Ahead of the Australian Grand Prix he made a charitable visit to a Thai orphanage, where he offered to have his hair dyed by some of the children who had already had theirs bleached.
When he arrived in the F1 paddock in Melbourne he was sporting a burnt-red hairstyle. He left with the team’s first points of the season off the back of a superbly executed strategy, checking the box early for a team that’s struggled to score at all in recent years.
The colour washed out of his hair before the following race in Italy, where he finished an agonising 11th and just out of the points.
The connection was apparently clear, and when he arrived in Miami his hair was again a blazing red.
Lo and behold, he walked away with two points for ninth, and a superstition was born.
“No upgrades are ever needed, you just need to dye your hair!” he told Sky Sports.
If teammate Nicholas Latifi weren’t such a nice guy, he might have considered raiding Albon’s local for hair colouring ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix to help himself get back on equal terms.
‘MAYBE EASIER’: ROMAIN GROSJEAN EXPLAINS INDYCAR AND F1 DIFFERENCES
F1’s much-hyped visit to the United States turned the spotlight on Colton Herta, who’s been rumoured for several months to be looking for a way to jump from IndyCar to Formula 1.
The American is signed to Andretti Autosport, which is attempting to join Formula 1 in 2024. He’s also McLaren’s newest development driver, which has recently prompted some sometimes fanciful rumours of a more rapid elevation to the sport.
The route from IndyCar to F1 isn’t new, but it is rare for driver to make the switch and even rarer for them to do so successfully. Jacques Villeneuve managed the transition best, winning the Champ Car title in 1995 and the F1 championship in 1997.
Several have gone in the opposite direction too, jumping from F1 to IndyCar, the latest of which is 10-time F1 podium-getter Romain Grosjean, who joined the sport last year and has since scored four podiums Stateside.
He’s best placed to consider the challenges Herta or any F1-aspiring IndyCar driver would face, and he believes the attention to detail required to be successful in Formula 1 would make a west–east Atlantic crossing more difficult that the opposite crossing.
“I guess maybe it’s easier to go from F1 to Indy,” he told Fox Sports. “IndyCar is a more basic car with less aero but probably more mechanical grip.
“F1 is very specific due the tyres and their small [operating] windows. If you have forever driven sliding the car and suddenly you have to change [your style], it will be a hard switch.”
“In IndyCar you can change the set-up a lot and make it to your liking. In F1 you are dictated by the aerodynamics of the car.
“You have to muscle through an IndyCar and slide a lot, whereas in F1 you need to be smooth.
“It’s a fairly different approach in the driving. Throttle application isn’t key in IndyCar but is in F1.”
But he added that this doesn’t mean that the IndyCar field is less talented than F1’s crop of competitors. Indeed in the Frenchman’s opinion IndyCar drivers are seriously underrated by the FIA, which awards the series with fewer superlicence points that it does for Formula 2.
“It’s completely wrong, as the championship has got an incredible level, and there is so much skill required to win around ovals and street and road courses with very different layouts,” he said. “It should give many more points than what it is.”