Mercedes postpones Grosjean Paul Ricard F1 test

Grosjean was set to get two outings in a Mercedes W10 car, as offered by team boss Toto Wolff, after the former Haas driver’s crash at last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix.

Grosjean was originally due to hold a demo of Mercedes’ 2019 car at the French Grand Prix on 25-27 June, but that outing had to be cancelled after the Paul Ricard race weekend was brought forward to this weekend, meaning the event clashes with Grosjean’s IndyCar commitments at Road America.

The Frenchman was still set to travel to Le Castellet for an opportunity to undertake a private test with the Mercedes on 29 June.

But that test has now been postponed due to France’s current COVID-19 countermeasures, which stipulate Grosjean would have had to quarantine after travelling to France from the United States.

On Wednesday Mercedes announced on social media that Grosjean’s Mercedes test “has been postponed because of travel restrictions and quarantine requirements.”

 

The team added it would seek a new test date later this year to give Grosjean a fitting end to his F1 career, stating “we’re committed to giving Romain his chance in a Mercedes F1 car and we’re working to reschedule the test later this summer.”

Grosjean, who last month took his first pole and podium in IndyCar, said the idea to hold a final F1 test came up while he was recovering in hospital from the burns he suffered in Sakhir’s fiery accident.

“Well it was all Toto,” Grosjean said on F1’s Beyond the Grid podcast. “You know, when I was in my hospital bed in Bahrain, someone was helping me to open the things on my mobile phone, because I didn’t have any fingers to use.

“And then friends told me ‘Oh, Toto says you could have a test in a Mercedes if you don’t make it back to Abu Dhabi’. And I’m like, oh okay, that is super cool.

“Obviously, at the time, I really liked it. But I wanted to come back to Abu Dhabi until the day it wasn’t going to happen. And then I went back home, had a bit of recovery and then eventually got a call from Mercedes.”

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He also added: “It is an incredible chance. Just for few things. I’m still a Formula 1 fan. I still watch the races. I have been driving it, but now I get to drive the 2019 world champion car, which at the end is not too far from the 2020, which was probably the fastest Formula 1 car ever built.

“And I drive it without pressure, without having a test day to complete few test things and go through a programme and so on. Yes, we can have a programme, but it’s more [like] let’s go and have some fun.”

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F1 teams face new tyre check procedure from French GP after Baku failures

With Pirelli’s investigation into the failures suffered by Lance Stroll and Max Verstappen at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix concluding that the way the tyres were run triggered the incidents, F1’s tyre supplier and governing body the FIA has worked on new protocols.

Amid concerns that teams may have been running tyres below the minimum pressures recommended by Pirelli, new procedures have been agreed that should stamp out the behaviour.

In a technical directive sent to teams ahead of the Paul Ricard race, the FIA reminded teams that it was their responsibility to ensure that the running pressure of tyres were above those stipulated in the prescriptions laid down by Pirelli.

However, it was accepted that there was no way to currently police the running pressures in a reliable way because tyres cannot be checked when the car is out on track.

While teams do have their own sensors and data to monitor tyre pressures, such systems are not reliable enough and the data not robust enough to be established evidence for rule breaches.

So in a bid to confirm that teams are maintaining tyre pressures in a satisfactory way, tyres will now be checked after they have been run on cars.

Sets will be selected at random from practice and qualifying sessions, while every race set will be checked after they have been used.

Tyres due to undergo testing will have seals added to ensure that teams cannot play around with the pressures prior to the checks. No re-inflation of the tyre will be allowed.

The FIA has laid out procedures for the cold pressure checks and they must fall in line with a Pirelli figure that it believes the tyres should be left at when cold.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, climbs out of his car after crashing out from the lead

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, climbs out of his car after crashing out from the lead

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

If faulty valves are found or other problems discovered that leads to an unsatisfactory check, then a reheat check will be allowed.

The FIA makes clear that any team found to have been running tyres that are found after the race to be under the pressure laid out by Pirelli will be reported to the stewards.

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Further checks with Infrared cameras are also being introduced on tyre temperatures to ensure teams are not overheating them in their blankets in a bid to get the pressures up prior to the pre-running checks.

Where previously teams only had to comply with the minimum starting pressures of tyres, now the need to pass the post-running checks means that they will not be able to use tyres consistently below Pirelli’s guidance figures.

This is especially crucial in races where tyres are run over a longer distance, so there is greater scope to play around in lowering pressures.

The new FIA checks come ahead of a new system being brought in for 2022, where F1 is introducing mandatory standard tyre pressure and temperature monitoring devices that will give the FIA and Pirelli the exact insight they need to better judge the tyre running conditions.

In a recent amendment to the 2022 technical regulations, Article 10.7.3 states: “All cars must be fitted with tyre pressure and temperature monitoring sensors which have been manufactured by an FIA designated supplier to a specification determined by the FIA.

“Wheel rims and tyre pressure and temperature sensors should be marked according to the corner colouring and labelling scheme defined in the Appendix to the Technical and Sporting Regulations.”

Although Red Bull suffered a failure in Baku, the team issued a statement on Tuesday insisting it had always followed Pirelli’s tyre parameters ‘at all times’.

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Ricciardo: More forgiving F1 tracks will help my McLaren learning

The Australian conceded that the lack of margin for error at the last two street events in Monaco and Baku gave him less opportunity to explore the limits of the car.

However, he feels that the run of three races in France and Austria – including two on consecutive weekends at the latter venue – will give him more leeway.

Ricciardo has struggled all season to adapt his driving style to the requirements of the McLaren, although he has made good progress in recent weeks.

“The frustrating thing is I kind of know what it needs,” he said.

“But it is just so hard to just get it right. And it’s just such a small window. So there’ll be a lap where I can do it.

“But to repeat that 55 laps consecutively or whatever, that’s where it’s hard.

“And I think that’s why I’m glad just to finish the race and keep trialling and erroring, and all that sort of stuff.

“So I’m looking forward to some open circuits, circuits that are a bit more forgiving of mistakes.

“And I think that’ll probably fast track my learning in a triple-header just to keep some rhythm.”

Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren MCL35M, in the pits

Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren MCL35M, in the pits

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

Ricciardo had a heavy crash in Q2 in Azerbaijan and started 13th, although he recovered to earn points with ninth place in the race.

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“It’s a street circuit, if you’re going to push to the limit, then there’s already a risk of things happening,” he said.

“And then if I’m still trying to probably find where exactly the limit is, then the likelihood is obviously that bit higher.

“It’s obviously a shame that it bit me in qualy, as opposed to maybe a practice, but at the same time, qualy is where you are trying to really peak everything you’ve learned from the car, and get it out of it.

“I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I’m kind of excited to go to Le Castellet, and just get obviously a fairly, I would say, basic track to maybe get away with a few more mistakes on.

“The kind of familiarity of that, and then I guess a doubleheader in Austria will hopefully make this kind of learning phase a bit easier. But it is what it is. It’s obviously on a knife-edge, and I’m just trying to get the most out of it.”

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F1 British GP to welcome fans, with restricted capacity expected

The UK government announced on Monday that it was delaying the end of lockdown in the country by four weeks, until July 19 – the day after the Silverstone race.

The ongoing restrictions mean that there are limits on the number of people able to attend events.

Under the current regulations, outdoor events are limited to 10,000 people or 25 percent of a venue’s capacity, whichever is lower.

However, the British Grand Prix is to be part of the Event Research Programme that has been created to examine the risk of transmission of COVID-19 from attendance at events.

Pilot projects for this have included music concerts, as well as the Euro 2020 football championship and Wimbledon.

At the Euros, the Football Association and UEFA had hoped to increase the current 25 percent capacity (22,500) for England’s group games and first two last-16 matches to a potential 45,000 limit for the semi-final and final.

With the original date for restrictions being lifted on June 21, Silverstone had laid out plans for a sell-out crowd for its race on July 18 – with plans for up to 140,000 spectators to attend on the Sunday.

Fans at Silverstone

Fans at Silverstone

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

While having unrestricted fan numbers now seems unlikely, there remains hope that the event will still be allowed to admit a bumper crowd.

It is understood that F1 chiefs have been in detailed discussions with the UK government to ensure that the British GP can go ahead with decent figures.

Having joined the Event Research Programme, Silverstone could offer valuable insight in to the viability of loosening restrictions for major outdoor sporting events.

One factor in Silverstone’s favour in a larger crowd potentially being able to attend is the fact the venue is spread out over a large area, which means social distancing is much easier to implement at stadiums or venues like Wimbledon.

Furthermore, its location also means that most fans use their own cars to get there rather than public transport, so there is a limited risk of transmission from those travelling to and from the event.

Talks are expected to remain ongoing for the next few days, with a potential decision on crowd numbers allowed at Silverstone coming later this week.

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Why Red Bull reject Kvyat believes he deserves another F1 chance

In the era of COVID-19, teams need easy access to drivers who can jump in with little preparation, and you never know when an unexpected opportunity might crop up.

Like Nico Hulkenberg and Alex Albon, Kvyat is near the top of the list of drivers with recent F1 race experience, hence the interest from Alpine over the winter.

Last month, an 18-inch Pirelli tyre test in Barcelona gave Kvyat a useful first taste of an Enstone car, albeit a three-year old chassis. No further outings are currently scheduled, but he’s ready to step in should Alpine require him to do so.

At the same time, he’s looking at opportunities for 2022 and beyond – and unsurprisingly, an F1 return remains his priority.

“I want to be racing, whatever it is,” he tells Autosport. “Of course, F1 is the first thing that comes to mind, mainly because I still feel like there is some potential left.

“And hopefully a different ambience to where I was before could be better for me. I just would like this kind of opportunity.

“But it doesn’t matter what you like, sometimes there is an opportunity, or sometimes there is not. So we’ll see what will be around soon. The next couple of months will be crucial in that regard.

Daniil Kvyat, AlphaTauri

Daniil Kvyat, AlphaTauri

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

“If not, there are many other series where you can enjoy very competitive, strong racing, and where you can also make a good living out of it.”

One man he’s not expecting to phone any time soon is his former boss Helmut Marko.

Having lost his AlphaTauri seat at the end of last season, Kvyat appears finally to be out of the Red Bull environment. With Albon on standby as reserve and the F2 grid packed with Marko proteges, it’s hard to see him ever getting another chance.

“He has my number if he needs it,” Kvyat smiles. “I already did an interview recently, where I spoke about it for F1, I think. So just copy and paste the words.”

In fact Kvyat told an F1 podcast that he thought Marko might still want to call him, but “that pride might be in the way”.

So has he accepted that, this time, it’s finally over with Red Bull?

“I didn’t say that. I will not say much. It’s enough attention already to that topic. I’ve been asked about it, like I said last week, now again… People know my number, and I know who wants to, but for various reasons, can’t call me anymore. So, I’ll leave it there!”

Kvyat enjoyed a rollercoaster ride over his years under Marko’s supervision at Red Bull. GP3 champion as long ago as 2013, he was propelled into Toro Rosso the following year.

He enjoyed a solid first year at the team, but then Sebastian Vettel’s unexpected move to Ferrari earned him a premature promotion to the senior Red Bull team in 2015.

It’s easy to forget that he actually outscored team-mate Daniel Ricciardo over that season, logging a second place in Hungary.

Daniil Kvyat, Red Bull Racing RB11

Daniil Kvyat, Red Bull Racing RB11

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

However, after a shaky start to 2016 he was soon demoted to Toro Rosso and replaced by the mercurial Max Verstappen. He was ousted from the junior team at the end of 2017, spent a year as a Ferrari sim driver, and was then unexpectedly brought back to STR in 2019.

At the end of last season, he was dropped once more from the rebadged AlphaTauri team to make way for Yuki Tsunoda, having been outscored by Monza winner Pierre Gasly.

Kvyat is adamant that he could have done no more to impress the Red Bull hierarchy.

“Absolutely no regrets,” he says. “Looking back at it, even more now, with the current situations of drivers they have, I’m really proud of what I achieved there. And to be honest, if you look at it now, there’s almost nothing I could have done.

“And this is something what gives me confidence moving in the future, what I’ve been doing. And looking back at it, I was very down about it, but now looking at things, how other drivers take it, I definitely can tell you that I actually can look back with my head high up.”

Kvyat believes that hindsight shows he did a good job in the context of what his Red Bull replacements Gasly and Albon managed. Sergio Perez has also struggled, notwithstanding the Mexican’s victory in Azerbaijan.

“Exactly. I came there, and in the end I looked really good, to be honest, straight away. But how do you say? It was a bit of a wrong timing. I would leave it there, but I just hope, like I was saying, to have another opportunity.

“That’s why it leaves me with a bit of feeling of unfulfillment. Because I feel like the potential is much higher than what I managed to achieve in F1. So that’s why I still keep my eyes open on it.”

The positive news for Kvyat that having left the Red Bull camp he was in demand elsewhere for a test/reserve role heading into 2021.

“There were definitely a lot of opportunities,” he says. “But I’m not going to throw any names in there. Yes, I had some something to choose from.

“I had to find a way of keeping myself occupied, and also staying with one foot in the game. And the best opportunity came with Alpine this year.

“So I went with the Alpine option, because in a general picture it looked the best thing, it would keep me the most occupied, would give me more opportunities, would give me more work in the end. Because in the end I like to work!

Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso STR14, leads Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB15

Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso STR14, leads Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB15

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

“Everything was quite quick, because suddenly, they needed somebody, and they contacted me and [manager] Nicolas Todt. We started speaking with the top management, with Laurent Rossi mainly. And we came together, we worked out a deal. And that was it. Green light.”

Kvyat has already experienced life outside the Red Bull bubble, having spent 2018 as a Ferrari sim driver. Although he did a Pirelli tyre test with the Maranello team, he was never in the frame as a reserve, however.

“Yeah, here it’s a bit more of a primary thing. COVID didn’t exist at the time. So it was a bit different back then. And now it became like you need to be here physically. Because you never know on a Thursday what happens. So it’s a bit more of a trackside role.

“They needed somebody experienced and strong to be able to jump in the car in case it’s needed. And we know in this period it’s taken a bit more seriously, this role. So it’s mainly about that, plus some simulator work, an opportunity for staying in shape.”

Kvyat likes what he’s seen at Enstone: “It’s always interesting to be in a different team and work with new people.

“I’ve been to the factory, had a chance to work in the sim. And I’m very positive about what I saw so far. I think in terms of the team’s potential, it’s very high. I would call them a hardcore racing team with big history already.

“I met some people who worked in the team for many years. These guys give the special spirit to this team, and they’re very competitive, at the same time very organised, very calm.

“Every session goes very smoothly, there are rarely any setbacks. And good spirits. I like this team, I think it has a huge potential.”

He’s also had the chance to observe Fernando Alonso, and see how the Spaniard operates. There’s always something useful to be learned.

“When I worked with Ferrari, I had a chance to look at Kimi [Raikkonen] and Sebastian at the time, both world champions. Fernando is a two-times F1 world champion with big experience, and I like to just observe him, listen to what he likes to speak about with his engineers.

Daniil Kvyat, AlphaTauri AT01

Daniil Kvyat, AlphaTauri AT01

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

“And it’s interesting for me to understand. To be honest, there is nothing extremely surprising. Work is work in the end. But he’s very motivated, very dedicated, that’s for sure.”

Last month’s Barcelona test in Alpine’s 18-inch mule car gave Kvyat some feel for an Enstone product, and it was a chance to understand how the team operates – and for the team to get to know him.

“It’s always interesting to try the car, even if it’s a three-year-old car, but still it gives you an idea about how systems work. In the end the steering wheel is very similar, things like this.

“And also the team could see how I work. I try always to bring some ideas. I don’t like just to sit around, I like to be involved. I hope it was useful for the team to see what the new tyres are about.

“Of course, I want to drive as much as possible. We also have to consider the [race] drivers’ interests here. But whenever the team will think it’s a good opportunity for me to drive, I’ll definitely take it.”

Unlike Albon, who has moved into the DTM with Red Bull support while maintaining his F1 reserve role, Kvyat does not have a racing programme this year. However, he’s starting to think about what he wants to do in 2022.

“I’m pretty open right now,” he says. “I think soon we’ll start looking at other things potentially involving racing for next year.

“And, of course, I am motivated. I’m mainly in this business for winning. So whatever I will do – whether it’s F1, whether it’s other categories – I will consider if there are short, medium or long-term opportunities for wins.”

Having wily manager Nicolas Todt fighting his corner is a plus, but realistically Kvyat knows that landing an F1 race seat is a long shot.

Apart from anything once you’ve not raced for a year, you’re no longer considered current, which makes every F1 testing chance with Alpine even more valuable.

“You’re absolutely right. Yes, it’s important to drive. I think, more than a one-year break, unless you’re a world champion of F1, it’s something you can’t really allow yourself to do. So it’s important to keep going.”

So where does he future lie? Former Haas F1 drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen have both forged new careers in the USA, and immediately proved to be frontrunners in their respective series.

Daniil Kvyat, reserve driver, Alpine F1 and Fernando Alonso, Alpine F1 walk the track

Daniil Kvyat, reserve driver, Alpine F1 and Fernando Alonso, Alpine F1 walk the track

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Indeed at last weekend’s Detroit IMSA event Magnussen scored his first victory since 2013, matching the feat of Marcus Ericsson in the Saturday IndyCar race.

Coincidentally that was also the year of Kvyat’s most recent success, in his GP3 days. The prospect of challenging for wins, after years in F1’s midfield, obviously has appeal.

“I will be very open to many opportunities,” says Kvyat. “But like I said, I will see where I’m most requested, where I am most desired, and where the opportunity to be competitive will be the highest.

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“It’s also the pleasure of racing for myself, because when you enjoy what you do, it’s always a plus. So there will be plenty of things to look at. It’s important to pick the right one, but my mind is very open.

“Whatever there is, IndyCar, Hypercar, Formula E, even throw NASCAR in there. Like I said, in my mind, F1, I still have a lot to give to it. But if the door will be closed, I will realise it very fast. And I’m very good at moving on, believe me.”

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Alpine currently investigating lack of F1 race pace

The Enstone-based team is locked in an incredibly tight midfield battle, but it has not managed to convert its strong Saturday performances into a solid points haul.

It is currently lying in seventh place in the constructors’ standings on 25 points, but has to address its performance to avoid losing more ground to Aston Martin and AlphaTauri ahead of it.

Both Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon have endured frustrations in recent races, as the team’s race pace has not yielded stronger finishes.

Executive director Marcin Budkowski said the outfit was working hard on trying to work out the weaknesses of the A521 and, specifically, how it can address its Sunday struggles.

“We have work to do to understand our race pace deficit and it’s something we’re actively investigating,” he said ahead of the French Grand Prix.

“It’s clear the car is capable of good performances in qualifying, but on some circuits, we can’t seem to replicate that good pace in race conditions, and that’s something we need to get on top of to score bigger points in the championship.

“We hope that our findings so far will help us achieving a good result in France, on a full-time circuit more typical of what we normally see in Formula 1.”

Fernando Alonso, Alpine A521

Fernando Alonso, Alpine A521

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

Budkowski said that despite Alonso having scored an encouraging sixth place in Baku, it should not ignore the fact that that result owed much to the Spaniard’s charge up the order at the restart.

Reflecting on its most recent outing, Budkowski said: “Overall, it was an encouraging weekend up until Sunday. Our pace was relatively competitive on Friday up until Saturday and we reached Q3 with one car after a tricky session with many yellow and red flags.

“It was disappointing for Esteban to retire early on with a reliability issue, and unfortunately our race pace wasn’t strong enough to allow Fernando to fight for good positions in the race. It took a fantastic effort from him to secure sixth position in the last two laps.”

Alpine is to bring a few minor modifications to the car for Paul Ricard, and has also revised its rear wing because of new tougher pull back tests.

And with the team eager to lift its form, plus facing added pressure because of the race in France, Ocon is under no doubts how much the outfit is chasing a good weekend.

“I think everyone in the team is desperate for a good race on home soil, and we’ll be working hard to do just that,” said the Frenchman.

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Robson: Russell would be “massive loss” for Williams if he left in 2022

Russell made his F1 debut with Williams in 2019 after signing a three-year contract, and while he is yet to score a point for the team, his performances have won him praise throughout the paddock.

Both Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso have called Russell a potential future world champion, with the 23-year-old yet to be outqualified in 43 races for Williams.

Russell is a free agent at the end of the year, and is in contention for a possible seat with Mercedes, having been a member of its young driver programme since 2017.

Williams head of vehicle performance Robson acknowledged that Russell would be a “huge loss” were he to leave, particularly before getting the chance to fight more competitively with the team.

“It’s been fantastic working with him right from when we first put him through the evaluation,” Robson said.

“It was obvious he had something about him, some genuinely outstanding talent to drive the car.

“It’s been a great. Probably frustrating at times, but a great journey to be on with him. Of course he’d be a massive loss – he’s genuinely very quick.

“I think we’ve all put in a lot of time and effort to help him where he needed a bit of help, to guide him, and it would be a real shame to lose that without really seeing the benefits of it in our car.

“It would be a massive loss, but I’m not sure it’s something certainly that I’ve got great control over. If we could keep him, it would be fantastic, but we have to see how that pans out.”

George Russell, Williams

George Russell, Williams

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

Russell has stated that he would like to sign a multi-year deal regardless of where he is racing in 2022, something Williams CEO Jost Capito said the team is happy to offer should he not move elsewhere.

Russell’s arrival at Williams coincided with the team hitting its nadir in 2019 as it struggled with an underperforming car and financial difficulties, the latter ultimately leading to the sale of the squad last summer.

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Robson said that Russell’s technical skills were “right up there” and “as good as anyone in the pitlane”, highlighting the role he had played in the team becoming increasingly competitive in the past two years.

“He can take a good amount of credit, to be honest,” Robson said.

“2019 was an incredibly difficult baptism of fire, and once he’d got his head around the situation we were in, he was extremely good at being clear about the order of the problems that needed tackling, and his understanding of the compromises you need to make was very good.

PLUS: Why George Russell is ready to fight for F1 titles

“It’s not just his technical input to all of that, all the work he does in the simulator and guiding those designs, but also the way he interacts with everyone and his positivity.

“There’s something about him. When he talks, people listen, which is important – provided he’s talking about the right thing. Perhaps right at the beginning he didn’t always get [that] right, but it didn’t take him long to suss that out and understand.

“He’s been a big part of it.”

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Tost: Tsunoda must find F1 limit to use “unbelievable natural speed”

The Japanese rookie has had a rollercoaster season for AlphaTauri so far, after making the jump up to grand prix racing from Formula 2.

After impressing on his debut in Bahrain, he endured more difficult times with a big qualifying crash at Imola, criticised his team after a frustrating time in Spain and having a practice smash in Monaco.

He was back in the points at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix last weekend though as he produced perhaps his most complete event of the season so far.

For Tost, who has helped create an intense work schedule for Tsunoda after the youngster was told to move near AlphaTauri’s Faenza base, the key thing for his driver is being able to understand exactly how far he can push things.

“He has to learn or he has to recognise when he’s on the limit,” explained Tost.

“If you are in the same tenth with other top drivers, then there’s not so much space any more to be faster.

Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri

Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

“And then you must recognise as a driver ‘I can’t brake later’, ‘I can’t push harder’, not in a way as he thought he can do it, because then you simply end into the tyre wall.

“But this is a kind of a learning process. And I must say that during [the Baku weekend] the team made already a big step forward in understanding the car and also from the technical feedback side.

“Therefore I’m quite positive that we will get him in the right way, because he has unbelievable natural speed.”

While Tsunoda’s crashes this season have not been ideal, Tost is clear that he always prefers a driver who pushes too hard rather than one who takes things too cautiously.

“I like drivers who are pushing, I like drivers who are risking something,” he said. “But of course, early or later, you must get it under control. And this is what we have to teach Yuki.

“But to be honest, I like this way more than to try to make someone faster. Slowing down a fast driver is easier than to speed up a slow driver.”

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Vettel: 'Wild' costs of junior categories need to be cut

The issue of high costs in junior categories was raised recently by Lewis Hamilton, who told Spanish publication AS that F1 had become a ‘billionaire boys’ club’.

He added: “If I were to start over from a working-class family, it would be impossible for me to be here today because the other boys would have a lot more money.

“We have to work to change that and make this an accessible sport, for the rich and for people with more humble origins.”

Vettel concurs that things have now got out of control and reckons that if he were starting his career right now, he would find it very difficult to make his way up the motor racing ladder.

“There’s not a quick fix, but ultimately, the costs are too high,” explained the Aston Martin driver.

“In all honesty, if I look back to when I started, costs were lower, but they were still high.

“I mean I was very fortunate. I had [backer] Mr Gerhard Noack looking after me, who was the same man who looked after Michael [Schumacher] when he started, probably 20 years before me as a young child.

“It was already very, very expensive back then, so I think Michael was in need of help, and I was in need, because I couldn’t afford it. I think the first season we did in very junior go karts, we managed sort of do half on our own and then we started to be very lucky to find people that supported and helped us.

Liam Lawson, Hitech Grand Prix and Juri Vips, Hitech Grand Prix at the start of the race

Liam Lawson, Hitech Grand Prix and Juri Vips, Hitech Grand Prix at the start of the race

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

“I think since then, the world has changed. I think sponsoring has changed. And probably the readiness to invest money in young kids and motor sport has changed as well. So, in short, it has always been tricky.

“I don’t think it will be a quick fix, but there are certain things that could be addressed to try and make the sport more accessible for all types of backgrounds and all children. It is an expensive hobby, no matter which way you look at it. But certainly it’s gone wild in the last years, and got way too expensive.”

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff recently said that stakeholders needed to do more to ensure that motor racing did not just become the domain of rich people.

“What I think we can do is make sure that grassroots racing becomes more affordable, so kids that haven’t got any financial background can actually be successful in the junior formulas,” he said.

“All the big Formula 1 teams [need to be] able to identify those kids, rather than making it so expensive that a good go-karting season costs $250,000, an F4 season £500,000, and an F3 season $1 million.

“That is totally absurd, [and] needs to stop, because we want to have access. I think we need to give access to kids that are interested in go-karting, the opportunity to race for much more affordable budgets.”

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Alonso felt he was “losing time” in F1 before taking break

Two-time world champion Alonso walked away from F1 at the end of 2018 after a difficult four-year spell with McLaren that had failed to yield a single podium finish.

The Spaniard outlined his intention to complete the Triple Crown of Motorsport, winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans twice with Toyota and racing at the Indianapolis 500 in 2020.

He also took part in the Dakar Rally and the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona, winning the latter in 2019.

But Alonso made his F1 comeback with Alpine for this season after signing a two-year contract, and recently revealed that he was enjoying his return more than he expected.

Asked what he put that down to, Alonso explained he’d felt like he was running out of time to try other challenges after spending so long only focusing on F1.

“Two things are playing a big role on this,” Alonso said.

“One was I think the two years out of the sport was needed for me after 18 seasons in Formula 1 non-stop, with full dedication. It was too demanding at one point.

Fernando Alonso, McLaren MCL33 leads Lance Stroll, Williams FW41 and Kevin Magnussen, Haas F1 Team VF-18

Fernando Alonso, McLaren MCL33 leads Lance Stroll, Williams FW41 and Kevin Magnussen, Haas F1 Team VF-18

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

“I had in my head other challenges with Le Mans, with Daytona, with the World Endurance Championship possibility etc, I had to do those in a way and tick those boxes to be happy, and to be free to come back and enjoy.

“Until I was not doing those challenges, I thought that I was losing time in F1, some of the last seasons before ’18. So once those challenges were completed, now I’m freer in a way to enjoy every weekend here.”

Alonso explained that the second factor aiding his enjoyment was how well he had fit in with the Alpine team. It marks his third stint with the Enstone-based operation, having previously driven for Renault in 2003-2006 and 2008-2009.

“The second is the team, I think the team is amazing,” Alonso said.

“You know what atmosphere we have now, what motivation we have in the team in Enstone, in Viry – the hard work that everyone is putting in, how we approach every weekend, how we approach the little success that we have some weekends, and how we approach the bad moments in some other weekends.

“We are all united in the same direction, and this feels very good every week.”

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