The Morning After: Politics as Usual

Toto Wolff

The action on track may not have even had the chance to heat up yet, but off-track it took less than a day for the fireworks to start in Austria.

Indeed, it was fair to assume a protest of DAS was incoming, but that made it no less amusing to see the shenanigans play out – a team (Mercedes) shows up having exploited a loophole with some technical trickery, and another team tries to employ a bit of regulatory skulduggery to stop them in their tracks. Almost as much as the cars themselves, it’s these bits of politicking that make F1, well… F1, and by god I’ve missed it.

That said, I don’t see how anyone can be surprised by the result. Even setting aside the holes in Red Bull’s argument that it wasn’t “part of the steering system”, Christian Horner said himself that DAS had to “earn its place on the car” – if it wasn’t worth the time and resources invested, nor the consideration of car weight and aerodynamics, Mercedes wouldn’t have put it there in the first place.

In any case, Mercedes have won the first battle of the season in the stewards’ room, now it’s a question if they can repeat the feat on track – if Friday was anything to go by, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’.

Friday Figures

1:08.848 and 1:09.082. The average times of Sergio Perez (10 laps) and Lance Stroll (9 laps) respectively, for their medium tyre stints in FP2. The former was faster than all but the Lewis Hamilton (1:08.347), the latter fifth, only 0.075 seconds behind Max Verstappen. Like it or not, that Racing Point is quick.

0.657 seconds. Gap to the front for Sebastian Vettel in FP2, who finished fourth. While it wouldn’t be the first time a F1 team has downplayed their pace on a Friday, I’m inclined to believe Ferrari on this occasion.

0.407 seconds. Gap separating Sergio Perez in P3 from Carlos Sainz in P10. Bodes well for the midfield battle this year.

Quick Hits

With DAS out of the way, the next big protest on the horizon would seem to be over Racing Point. And yes, Andreas Seidl said he couldn’t see a reason to, but that was before he saw their lap times…

Similarly, I’m very curious to see where the FIA-Ferrari stuff goes from here. Clearly there’s still some significant discontent with the settlement, and I don’t blame them. If the FIA can’t prove their ability to police their own engine rules, why should they be trusted to police something as ripe-for-abuse as the impending budget cap?

Not a great first day at the office for Nicholas Latifi. I know he’s a rookie and there’s a certain adjustment-phase to be expected, but nearly nine-tenths slower than anyone else is not how you start on the right foot.