Belgian GP Thursday
By: Matt Beer
As a goodnight present - some more classic Spa action from the Motorsport Images archive: Alain Prost leads as things go awry for Nelson Piquet in 1985
Thanks for your company today, we'll be back with our usual Autosport Live coverage of every moment of track action from Spa over the rest of the weekend.
Though Bottas came out fighting with a superb start to this season, he's long since trailed away from Hamilton in what initially looked like it might become a spicy intra-team title battle.
Team boss Toto Wolff has mentioned "weaknesses" that Bottas still needs to deal with. Here's Edd Straw's take on the problems Bottas must swiftly eliminate in what is already a battle to hold onto his seat for 2021:
Valtteri Bottas's fight to remain at Mercedes starts again for 2021 after completing a deal to remain with the team next year. With Ferrari and Red Bull looming as a threat, he must remove his lingering weaknesses
Twenty years ago this weekend, this was the battle for victory in the Belgian GP supporting Formula 3000 race - Jason Watt fending off Gonzalo Rodriguez.
Both were drivers who could've made it to F1, but tragedy struck both within a month of that Spa race. Rodriguez was killed in a Champ Car crash at Laguna Seca, and Watt was left paralysed in a motorcycle crash just after also winning the F3000 finale at the Nurburgring - though he would later return to racing in an adapted car.
The 20th anniversary of the Watt/Rodriguez fight probably won't be on many people's minds in the Spa paddock this weekend, but we felt it was worth marking.
"Actually, maybe this is breaking news as well: Esteban is also Australian. He has an Australian passport. I have a Monegasque [one]," was Ricciardo's not entirely serious response.
But also: "I’m not convinced the team is making decisions based on marketing at the moment. The one objective and the reason I signed, is because they want to be a top team and fighting for championships.
"Maybe the French thing is a bonus, but I would definitely say performance and growth in the team is the bigger reason why they signed with him."
He was clearly very content with the news.
"We have a great relationship, Valtteri and I, it's constantly improving," he said.
"I think it was a smart decision from the team, and I really look forward to working with him - I really enjoy working with him in general, we get on well both outside and on the track."
Haas team principal Gunther Steiner was very relaxed about this, given how much his current employees Grosjean and Magnussen have clashes on track:
"We are running into each other even without history!" he joked. "We would manage..."
Autosport Performance recently looked into how F1's most famous corner had changed over the years (more than you might think) and how drivers' perceptions of it had shifted, and also got some expert tips on how to tackle it.
Here's the full feature, which also includes Ricardo Zonta's take on BAR's infamous pair of Eau Rouge shunts in 1999 Belgian GP qualifying:
After a run of races where Magnussen and Grosjean were driving different specification cars, they're back in the same equipment this weekend - a 'refined' version of an upgrade that first appeared in Germany last month.
But Magnussen doesn't think there's any certainty of light at the end of the tunnel yet:
"I think we got some good data to compare directly across the cars, but it’s hard to say what we learned," he said of the split-spec races.
"It’s going to be a process of ironing out the problems with this upgrade and try and work our way through the weaknesses and build up the strengths we’ve seen on this upgrade."
Q. Have you talked to Kvyat about the situation?
Q. Are you expecting help on that front?
Q. Have you spoken to Alex Albon about what he can expect at Red Bull?
Q. What can he expect?
PG: It’s a top team. They have their way of working. It’s a really strong team and really competitive so for him it will be a positive change.
He shrugged it off - "for us the plan is clear and we won't have a new engine yet" - and Hamilton pretty much did too, with Edd Straw reporting that the world champion suggested the new Mercedes unit wouldn't be a huge difference.
"Next year, the rules will remain relatively the same, so this year will give you some idea of what will happen in the next year and a half," he points out.
Plenty of the movers and shakers, and drivers, in the F1 paddock feature in it:
That's very much in line with what Mercedes engine chief Andy Cowell recently insisted to Jonathan Noble:
Mercedes may have a perfect championship record in Formula 1's turbo-hybrid era - which it looks set to extend in 2019 - but the main battleground that pushed it to the front of the grid is now being won by another team
Charles Leclerc was one of several F1 drivers expressing their sympathy for Pierre Gasly this afternoon. However, that wasn't what he was being asked about when this shot was taken
Racing Point is the latest team to add a pair of fins to the point at which the chassis joins the nose, adding a solution not dissimilar to Mercedes' interpretation.
These help to regulate the airflow over the chassis and helps to control it around the pushrod pick-up point. The fins have been used in conjunction with an S-duct on other cars, but Racing Point doesn't run one and so these are largely to bring airflow down the flanks of the car.
He's been elaborating on that to reporters, including saying that Ocon and Renault both being French was "one piece of the puzzle”.
We've got plenty more on Hulkenberg's latest career development to come later today and tomorrow on our news pages, including the chances of him ending up joining Magnussen at Haas, the other factors Hulkenberg believes were involved in Renault's choice and the moment he saw the writing was on the wall for his time at the team.