Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021

McLaren’s reduced gap to Mercedes “encouraging” for Seidl

RaceFans Round-up

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In the round-up: McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl is pleased by how much closer his team was to Mercedes in the first race of the 2021 F1 season.

In brief

Seidl encouraged by Bahrain performance

Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo finished fourth and sixth respectively in Bahrain, the lead McLaren taking the flag 46 seconds after race-winner Lewis Hamilton. Seidl declared himself “very happy” with the team’s first race since its switch to Mercedes power.

“The hard work everyone has put in over the winter was paying off,” he said. “It was great to see also in terms of the gap, for example, to Lewis, was only I think around 45 seconds in a race where these guys were proper flat-out. It’s an encouraging sign because it confirms again we made a good step forward with the car and as a team, which is, as I always say, key to get back to the front in some years again and fight for victories.”

However Seidl acknowledged the team faces tougher competition from a reinvigorated Ferrari and, potentially, Honda-powered AlphaTauri.

“A lot of our competitors made some good steps forwards as well. So it was the expected close battle with Ferrari. AlphaTauri are difficult to judge after Pierre [Gasly] had the issue at the beginning.

“But I’m really happy how our team and drivers pulled it off. Obviously it’s the best possible start we could have had to this new season. And thank you also to our colleagues from Mercedes, they worked so hard over the winter together with us in order to make sure we are ready for the first race and now we have the first race together with this new partnership under under the belt and it just feels good.”

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Comment of the day

Mercedes gave to figure out their post-Hamilton strategy, says Gavin:

However great Hamilton is, he is 36 years old. With all the success how long will he continue, how hungry is he? Hamilton has always struck me as someone who is there for the competition – not driving the cars per sae (e.g. Kimi Raikkonen or Valentino Rossi on bikes – They just love racing/driving/riding).

If Hamilton wins another drivers’ championship he moves the bar clear of everyone – most championships, wins, poles, points, laps lead etc… At 37 or 38 will he continue to spend nearly every summer weekend of his life at race tracks?

Mercedes need to risk upsetting the apple cart to have their succession plan in place. The obvious choice for that is George Russell who looks for all the world a top tier pilot. But they need time to bail out of that plan if he turns out to be “only” very good rather than great. Russell on the other hand can’t afford to spend much more time marking his card at the back of the grid.

If Mercedes don’t see Bottas as a potential lead driver there really isn’t a reason to keep him beyond this season (although it depends how “bumpy” the world still is as you need a full pre-season including factory time for any new driver). Russell has been around the team for a while and surely would be no worse than Bottas.

The only way that Bottas stays at Mercedes is if Hamilton signs something like a four-year deal or decides to go at the end of this year (which I don’t see happening – surely he wouldn’t leave to empty stands and a few hand claps from the mechanics?)
Gavin Campbell

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On this day in F1

Luca Badoer, Forti, Buenos Aires, 1995
Badoer thankfully clambered unhurt from his Forti today in 1996 at Buenos Aires
  • 25 years ago today Damon Hill continued his perfect start to the season by winning in Buenos Aires. Meanwhile Pedro Diniz was fortunate to escape injury when fuel leaked from his Ligier after a pit stop, causing a huge fire. Earlier in the race Luca Badoer also had a escape when Diniz flipped his Forti on its roll hoop, prompting the deployment of the Safety Car: a Renault Clio.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 22 comments on “McLaren’s reduced gap to Mercedes “encouraging” for Seidl”

    1. Like I said, McLaren ought to have improved but it looks like it was just the PU relative to the competition. Depressing to see considering they supposedly found a loophole.

      1. Far too early to tell – any one race is not enough information, and Bahrain is perhaps less representative than most.

        For now, what we know is that (averaging both drivers) they were the third fastest team in qualifying behind RBR and Mercedes, and they finished the race the third fastest team on track. There’s no strong evidence yet to suggest that overall any other midfield team has a stronger claim to ‘best of the rest’ than them. AT might be that team, but as Seidl says that’s difficult to judge right now.

        This is, from a track perspective, one of the weirdest seasons ever. Bahrain, Imola, Algarve, Catalunya, Monaco, Baku as a starting six races is very odd indeed. Still, by the time we reach Canada everyone will have had a chance to test their cars and drivers in a huge variety of conditions and we’ll all be getting a really good idea of how the running order is shaking out.

        1. @bookgrub How is Bahrain less ‘representative’ than most? The track is permanent after all, unlike for example Albert Park, so definitely more representative than that.

          1. I mean that the prevailing conditions in Bahrain are towards some of the extremes for the season, mostly wind, heat and sand. Other ‘non-representative’ tracks might be Monza and Monaco, given their need for special purpose car modifications.

      2. They said they have “free laptime” to come which I take to mean turning up their engines to full after being careful in the first race.

      3. If the loophole is advancious expect the otherteams to have it too next race (It’s a easy add on to the floor)

        1. From what i understand the underside of the gearbox casing needs to be changed in order to adapt the mclaren style flaps to the diffuser. On top of that there’s no guarantee that just plugging that fix into your diffuser will make it work better, you need to analyse it first and see how it fits with the rest of your design philosophy, optimise it, and then you know whether you can make tangible gains by implementing it, just because it gives McLaren an advantage, it doesn’t meant it’ll give Aston Martin the same advantage

      4. We don’t know how big the advantage is though. And just because it’s a loophole it doesn’t mean it gives the team a half second advantage per lap. And of course it’s just the PU, that’s where all of McLaren’s tokens went in winter.

      5. @peartree

        Considering that they spent most of their development tokens just fitting in a Mercedes PU in to a chassis designed around the Renault engine, I think they’ve done a pretty stellar job.

        1. @todfod @bascb I agree, just saying that the gearbox/diffuser loophole looked more promising and as it supposedly uses one token it could lock in an advantage for McLaren.

      6. Honestly, @peartree, since they had to use their development tokens to actually fit that engine in, it shows they are doing a solid job by did not losing performance vs. the competition who did get to improve their chassis.

    2. MCL BAH 4th & 7th

      Reply moderated
    3. Ricciardo finished 7th, not 6th…

      1. Correct! Keith could you change that Charles Leclerc was 6th Daniel was 7th

    4. The thing is though. That reduced gap is because Mercedes moved backwards. But then so did Aston Martin and Alpine.

      Hamilton was hardly flat out either. He was on a strategy taking track position over fastest race time. He was managing the tyres to make it to the end without being overtaken.

      McLaren scored better in Bahrain 2020 (4+5) than they did in 2021 (4+7)

      1. Hard to understand why you disagree Hamilton was flat out. Obviously he was not flat out in one lap pace but he was going as fast as possible for the race, he was fighting for the win till the last lap. He couldn’t go any faster.

        This is important because Hamilton couldn’t drop off the pace to conserve the engine because he was pressured. Norris on the other hand may have been able to reduce pace as he was unable to challenge for P3 and he was able to manage pace to Perez.

        1. @Peyton Perez was too far behind to catch him anyway.

        2. Like I said:

          He was on a strategy taking track position over fastest race time

          An optimal strategy would have made him a lot faster. Also Verstappen could have gone a lot faster had he not been “held up” by Hamilton.

    5. @keithcollantine you’ve missed a golden opportunity to quote your favourite tabloid pun: ‘Diniz in the oven!’

    6. Just sort the sprint race thing already. BTW, what if Brazil loses out for a second consecutive year because of COVID. Which track would become the third one for the sprint race experiment?

    7. Donald Trump news, lol. ‘Tumbling’. Just couldn’t help it.

    8. James Norris
      7th April 2021, 10:51

      RE: COTD – I think there is an argument for keeping Bottas. He may not be a top-flight driver, but he is a solid number 2 who doesn’t upset the apple cart. If Russell is onboarded as the new superstar, Bottas can back him up with solid experience and technical knowledge, to reduce the impact of the change in star driver.

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