Austrian GP: Thursday's news and gossip round-up

Austrian Bull at the Red Bull Ring Formula 1

As it’s mid-2019 most of the talk on Thursday focused on 2018 tyres and 2021 regulations, such is the political minefield of a Formula 1 paddock after a bit of a negative event. 

2021 and beyond

The processional nature of the French Grand Prix brought to the bubble factors that have been simmering for several years, and which are sought to be addressed in the 2021 regulations that are still under discussion – with an October deadline now set. Lewis Hamilton set the ball rolling in France and other drivers quipped in throughout Thursday. It’s clear that for the first time the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association is playing a more active role in discussions, with the drivers largely uniting in thinking about – to borrow a line from Hot Fuzz – the greater good. Hamilton, Nico Hulkenberg and Alexander Wurz were present at the recent Paris meeting (Romain Grosjean would also have joined but remained home with his wife in the wake of a burglary) and more meetings are planned until October. 

Tyre meeting

A meeting is set to be held on Friday over whether to return to 2018 tyres, which – three races aside – featured a thicker gauge. Some teams suspect that Mercedes’ advantage is down to the modified tyres (which also have reduced blistering), though that is a tad on the simplistic side, given the complexity of Formula 1 cars and the technical regulations. “We don’t know why there’s so much talk about the tyres being massively different, if already last year we ran these tyres at a few races and no-one really complained a lot,” quipped Carlos Sainz Jr. It feels like a case of hot air and wasted time over something that is the same for everyone. 

Unhappy Ricciardo

Daniel Ricciardo was still stewing a little over the penalties that he picked up at Paul Ricard, which demoted him from seventh to outside the points. “We were driving back to Monaco, so I was in the back of the car and had two and a half hours to think about it,” said Ricciardo of his handful of social media posts. “So I was bored as well. I certainly feel two was harsh. Give me one point for trying. Nothing against Pierre Gasly but he was not in our battle at all, and he kind of steals the points. It is like…I didn’t think that justified it but, it’s all good…I got over it pretty quickly.” When asked on which era of F1 he’d like to have raced in, Ricciardo couldn’t resist. “Ohhh, 1714! 1714. Before it existed there was no issues. I don’t know.”

Feeling hot, hot hot

Anyone living in Western and Central Europe will be well aware that the continent is in the midst of a heatwave. Even in the Austrian countryside it reached 35˚c on Thursday, which for most Europeans was sweltering, while for other paddock people – such as Australians and South Americans – it was deemed a pleasant day. One knock-on effect of the heat is in terms of cooling – with teams having to balance temperature and performance – as well as tyre performance. “Bizarrely it doesn’t hurt us as much as it does other teams,” explained Williams’ George Russell. “Because we don’t have the downforce that everyone else can generate we put less energy and temperature through the tyre, so when it’s hotter everyone else has to manage the tyres whereas we can still sort of push flat out on them. So it might close the gap.” Hope then? Not so. “I certainly don’t anticipate anything higher than P19 in quali.”

Lauda remembered

The passing of Niki Lauda in May shocked and saddened the Formula 1 community, and the three-time Formula 1 World Champion was remembered at his home event in Austria. In the walkway underneath the circuit, dubbed the Walk of Legends, one side of the wall – typically given over to race posters – featured pictures of Lauda throughout several phases of his life, including as a driver, airline owner, and team manager. A specification of the Ferrari 312T, which Lauda raced for three years from 1975-77, was put on display in the paddock, taking pride of place among the chill-out area that also featured traditional live music and food.

Title fight

Allegedly, this is still a thing. “For sure every race weekend is important and, unfortunately, I have not been able to execute perfect weekends in some of them,” said Valtteri Bottas, 36 points down. “I’m glad there are still 13 to go and, yes, I think the next few races are going to be really important for me. If I look that far ahead, which I normally don’t do – I don’t think about it at all – the fact is that I would need to start closing the gap if I want to stay in the championship fight – that’s a fact. But how to achieve it, for me it’s better to focus on today, on the things I have to do with the engineers today and, from tomorrow, take it lap by lap.”