In the traditional column for the official website of the championship, the sports director of Formula 1 Ross Brown summed up the past Grand Prix of Russia and congratulated the new champions of Formula 2 and Formula 3 – Nick de Vries and Robert Schwartzman.
Ross Brown “A quick look at the results of the Grand prix of Russia – and it might seem that the Mercedes team won another dominant victory. This is their 11th victory, the eighth double victory of the season and the sixth consecutive victory in Sochi. But this time it was not easy. And if it weren’t for a virtual safety car after stopping Sebastian Vettel’s car in the 15th turn, then Mercedes would not be able to stop Ferrari on the way to victory in the fourth race in a row.
The leaders of the championship decided to start on Medium tires – they understood that they had to use an alternative strategy to participate in the fight – Ferrari had an advantage in speed both in qualification and in a long series of laps.
Before the summer break, it was hard to imagine that Ferrari would be able to impose a Mercedes fight, but now they have to work hard to repulse the attacks of Scuderia. They are ready to use every chance – and this strategy has yielded excellent results in Sochi. The Mercedes team won a double, although no one believed on Saturday.
Power plants and problems with them
How did Ferrari lose the race they were supposed to win? The answer is simple: there are problems with reliability. The key role was played by the failure of MGU-K on Vettel's car – it was not only the cause of the German racer's descent, but also occurred at the moment when Lecler was vulnerable: the Monegasque had already made a pit stop, and the Mercedes racers had not yet. Having lost a position on the track, he was no longer able to compete for the victory, which seemed so close after the pole on Saturday.
However, reliability issues in the middle of the race are not the only topic of discussion at Ferrari. At the start, Leclair gave Vettel the opportunity to take advantage of the slipstream, and for the next few laps we listened to his hot-tempered radio exchange with the command bridge, while Vettel ignored the agreement to switch positions when they create a sufficient gap from Mercedes. This also hit all the headlines.
After a pit stop, Vettel returned to the track behind Leclair, and then stepped out of the race, so now they don’t need to make mutual accusations. But in the coming days, Mattia Binotto will have to make a lot of efforts to somehow resolve the conflict. Over the past few weeks, Ferrari have made progress in working with the car, but now there are other problems associated with the relationship of the riders.
On the one hand, the team has a four-time world champion, one of the best racers in the peloton, who made too many mistakes over the past two seasons. On the other hand, the young and talented Charles Leclair, it is impossible to win six poles per season (with four in a row) and win two races on the legendary tracks in Spa and Monza, if you are not a future star. Two leaders in a team are a potentially dangerous combination, and one must be careful with them.
Of course, Mattia understands perfectly where this situation can lead, because he had encountered this before when he was a young engineer. But now it is he who must make the healthy competition mechanism work without problems.
Problems with overtaking
In the second half of the race, Leclair was unable to overtake Bottas. Due to the aerodynamic configuration of modern cars, it’s difficult to closely pursue an opponent, you need to have a pretty big speed advantage in order to play a position – even with the help of DRS. In addition, it is worth approaching the car in front, as the rubber begins to overheat, and this further reduces the chances. That is why it often seems that the cars seem to be connected by an elastic bandage – the rider behind periodically slows down to cool the tires before attacking again.
This year we have improved something, but this is not enough, although we have obtained useful data. Serious changes are needed – we worked a lot with this and continue to do this together with the FIA, adjusting the regulations for 2021.
Teams participated in this process from the very beginning, many of them worked on a simulator and conducted extremely transparent research, which was very useful to us. The solutions we work with are not a panacea for all ills, but they are necessary. We can’t do anything and hope that everything will work out by itself.
If someone has other considerations, we are happy to listen to them, and if they are consistent with our goals, they can be implemented in the rules. Everyone is interested in changes – and we, as owners of commercial rights, and the FIA, which makes up the regulations, and teams, both large and small.
In Sochi, Haas F1 finally finished in the top ten. Kevin Magnussen got two points for ninth place, where he dropped after the penalty. Last time the team earned points in the German Grand Prix. It is unfortunate that after a brilliant performance in the qualification, Roman Grosjean did not actually participate in the race, becoming a victim of a collision with Antonio Giovinazzi a few meters after the start.
Having finished last season on the fifth line of the Cup of designers, the American team hoped to consolidate progress, but, unfortunately, took a few steps back. This applies primarily to their performances in races – in the qualifications everything got a little better. At some point, it seemed that the team fell into a vicious circle, but Gunter Steiner’s people sorted out the different elements of the puzzle and reassembled it, so now the team returned to the fight.
Formula 1 important team of Gene Haas. This is the first example of how a new team declared itself in a sport where for many years the newcomers did not linger and did not leave anything after themselves. Haas F1 is also important because it performs under the American flag in sports, where Europe has always dominated. Formula 1 is extremely important to maintain interest in the United States, and in the absence of the American rider, this role is played by the local team. Let's hope that Haas F1 will perform well in the remaining races, including the home Grand Prix in Austin.
Great support races
The fate of the titles in the youth series was decided on Saturday in Sochi. Nick de Vries became the champion of Formula 2 for three races before the end of the season – Sunday sprint and stage in Abu Dhabi. And Robert Schwartzman won the Saturday race and won the title in his Formula 3 debut season.
At 24, de Vries is an experienced and accomplished racer. This year he performed steadily, won four victories and rose at least 12 times to the podium. But the chance to get into Formula 1 often depends not only on the title in the youth series. An important role in this is played by the right moment. Despite Nick’s achievements and talent, the team for 2020 has already been formed, so he chose a different path, and we wish him all the best. Will he be able to get into Formula 1 in the future? If there are places. He definitely has the talent to achieve this.
Schwartzman won the title in Formula 3. Speaking for the dominant Prema Racing this year, he easily ended up in the top three. His victory is important for the rider himself, and for Russia, where over the past few years racers continue to appear, able to climb to the top of motorsport. Do not forget that Vitaly Petrov and Daniil Kvyat were successful in our sport.
Congratulations to Nick and Robert – I hope they fulfill their dream, and I'm sure it includes Formula 1. It is important to emphasize that the youth series are the way to the top of motorsport, and that’s why the FIA and I worked hard to include Formula 2 and “Formula 3 in the Formula 1 racing weekend. We wanted to not only draw more attention to the young racers, but also to give those who work in Formula 1 an opportunity to see what young people are capable of under high pressure.”