Hungary Test Day 1: Giovinazzi quickest for Ferrari

Ferrari reserve Antonio Giovinazzi topped the timing sheets at the end of the first day of testing at Hungaroring, ending his full day stint in the SF71H substantially faster than any other driver in action on Tuesday.

Giovinazzi set a time of 1:15.648 better than any time ever set at the Hungaroring including at the recent Hungarian Grand Prix weekend, giving credence to Sebastian Vettel’s claims that there was still performance to be extracted from the team’s current package.

Marcus Ericsson was second fastest in the Ferrari powered Sauber, which the Swede will hand over to Giovinazzi for the final day on Wednesday.

Brendon Hartley was third for Toro Rosso racking up the most laps on the day, ahead of Lando Norris who was in action for  McLaren.

Mercedes junior George Russell covered the least mileage on his way to fifth place on the timesheets ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo in sixth Incidentally Both Force India and Red Bull were two of three teams to test the 2019-specification front wings for the first time on Tuesday.

Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg finished eighth, ahead of Williams’ Oliver Rowland, who was taking part in his second test drive for the Grove outfit.

Completing the timesheet was Sean Gelael, who was driving a Toro Rosso as part of the Pirelli tyre test programme. He caused a red flag period when he crashed at high-speed in Turn 11. He escaped unharmed but his team opted against sending him back out.

On Wednesday, the final day, Kimi Raikkonen will be in action for Ferrari, with Jake Dennis on duty for Red Bull, Artem Markelov making his test F1 debut for Renault, Nikita Mazepin will take over the Force India for the day and Robert Kubica driving the Williams.

Feedback from day one in Budapest:

Ferrari

Antonio Giovinazzi could have done with just a few more laps, partly to round it up to a hundred, or even 99, which is his favourite number and the one he had on the SF71H today, or maybe just because “driving a Ferrari is always special.” His running was cut short by a sudden and heavy downpour just as the team was preparing to send him out for his final run. However, on this first day of testing at the Hungaroring, the programme was successfully completed and Antonio’s second “rookie day,” after the one in which he took part in Barcelona, ended with a best lap of 1’15”648, set on the Hypersoft tyres and his lap total was 96. Antonio also ran with the Medium, Soft and Supersoft compounds. Tomorrow, Kimi Raikkonen gets behind the wheel for the final day.

Renault

Nico Hülkenberg: “It was good to work on the car in the morning, but my afternoon was rather less productive. That’s the nature of testing sometimes, and it’s better to be affected by things like these at a test than during a race. My focus is now very much on recharging my batteries and coming back for Spa in top form.”

Alan Permane, Sporting Director: “Today was the first time we ran with chassis R.S.18-04 and we did have a productive morning of aero tests and working on set-up developments from the weekend to help determine future directions. Unfortunately, the afternoon run plan was interrupted by an electrical issue which took a long time to diagnose and then rectify. We are looking forward to seeing Artem make his debut in the car tomorrow.”

Toro Rosso

Brendon Hartley: “We had a lot of interesting items to test today and plenty of work in front of us. In the morning session, we completed the most laps of any team with 94 – this was actually quite punchy in the hot conditions! We had another busy programme to complete in the afternoon session and ended up with a total of 126 laps, but with the unforeseen weather changes we couldn’t complete all of our test items. Despite the rain at the end of the day, I have to say it was a really positive test for us!”

Jonathan Eddolls (Chief Race Engineer): “We had a very busy and productive first test day here in Budapest, running two cars – one for STR and one for Pirelli – which is different to our normal testing.”

“Brendon was on duty driving the STR test car and carried out a very comprehensive plan, focusing on mechanical setup tests, aero work, tyre optimization, and Power Unit tests with Honda. We completed more scientific tests we normally aren’t able to carry out during a race weekend due to time constraints, running various test items on the chassis side with a view of introducing those at a later date, which were quite successful. There was also a number of items tested on the PU, these also performed very well.”

“We will continue our aero work tomorrow with plans to run quite a few rakes as many teams did today. Other items included a further understanding of the tyres in these extremely hot conditions; I think we’ve made very good progress during the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend, however, we wanted to confirm all of our findings and try to improve further.”

“It was an extremely productive day, and there’s some really positive performance items that have come out of testing which we can look forward to introducing in future races. We will run two cars again tomorrow with Brendon and Pierre sharing duties in the Pirelli car, and Sean in the STR test car.”

Toyoharu Tanabe (Honda F1 Technical Director): “For the first day of testing at the Hungaroring, work focussed mainly on the chassis side. However, we were also able to try various new items on the PU. The morning went very smoothly, but the rain in the final 90 minutes of the afternoon meant we stopped running early. However, we were able to gather a substantial amount of data, which we will now analyse overnight with the aim of having another fruitful day tomorrow.”

Red Bull

Hot on the heels of his superb drive from 12th on the grid to fourth place in Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix, Daniel Ricciardo was today back behind the wheel of the RB14 in Budapest, as Formula 1’s second in-season test of the campaign got underway at the Hungaroring.

Daniel Ricciardo: “We did some good work today. There was a lot of long-run stuff, a lot of data gathering, and we got through some set-up changes as well, so it was a pretty good day for the team. We ran with a lot of rakes and aero parts, so I know we tried a few things, but honestly I’m not too sure of the detail.”

“I do know we used some 2019 Pirelli test tyres and that did feel quite different, so we’ll see what comes of that. It was a pretty busy day and we got a lot of laps under our belt, so I don’t feel too bad about saying that’s me done for the moment – now it’s holiday time!”

Senior Projects Engineer Jeff Calam added: “We had a very productive test today, during which we were able to look towards the races to come after the summer break and also towards next season. We ran some test elements aimed at 2019’s car and gathered a lot of valuable information, which will certainly help with the development of the RB15. As with other teams we also had a set of 2019 Pirelli test tyres available, so, all in all, it was a very useful day for the long-term. It was also useful for the short and medium-term too, as we were also able to answer a few questions we’ve had about the RB14 since the last in-season test in May and the data from that will undoubtedly help us for the remainder of this season. We had some rain today, but that wasn’t unexpected, so we even managed to schedule in some wet weather test items. Overall a very good day, with no reliability issues, and a lot learned.”

McLaren

Lando Norris: “It was really enjoyable to get back in the car today, especially as it’s one year since I first made my debut. The first three-quarters of the day were obviously really good. I did a lot of testing; quite a few aero runs but at the same time a good amount of proper runs, so I had a good feeling for the car – until it rained! That put us back a bit, so there are some things we’ll need to carry on testing tomorrow.”

“It’s the first time I’ve driven a Formula 1 car in the rain, so it was good to feel the difference from F2 to F1 in the wet. It was still tricky, but I thought it would be a lot trickier because of how much more horsepower you have in F1. At the same time, you have a lot more grip than in Formula 2, so it’s just on another level, in a similar way to how it is in the dry.”

“Cornering speeds and braking performance are much better than you’d expect in the rain, so I had more confidence than I thought I was going to have. I was a bit nervous before I went out because it got properly wet very quickly!

“I had a good feeling even in the wet, but then it dried out very quickly. I’ve experienced basically everything today weather-wise, and did 107 laps, so that’s really positive.”

Williams

Rob Smedley, Head of Performance Engineering: “It was a good day for the team. We had spent a long time preparing for this event, concentrating on 2019 aero regulations. The team did a good job to prepare for it and everything went more-or-less according to plan, and we collected all the data we needed. We brought a 2019 aero specification front end, and all of the data that we were able to collect will really enrich the 2019 programme going forward.”

“Oliver did a great job, he got on with it, was very professional and diligent and went through all the data gathering runs. He was unfortunate with the weather at the end of the day when it started to rain, as we had just got onto a clean car, so he hasn’t really put in any timed laps. But, he certainly impressed us all with his work ethic. Once we did get onto new tyres at the end of the aero testing, he did a really good job and showed good pace immediately.”

Oliver Rowland, Official Young Driver: “I think in general it went well. I would have preferred to get a bit more of a run at the end when the rain came in, but I can’t control the weather. Everything ran to plan for the team, there was a couple of hold-ups during the day but we managed to make up for that time and the mechanics did a job to get everything fixed and fitted in certain times throughout the day. From a team’s perspective, we gathered a lot of data and it was positive.”

Mercedes

George Russell: “It’s been fantastic to get back behind the wheel of the Mercedes Formula One car. The speed, power and downforce are just completely on another level, so as soon as I jumped in this morning I had a massive smile on my face. Unfortunately, we didn’t quite do as many laps as anticipated owing to some rain this afternoon and a couple of small issues this morning. Nevertheless, it’s been a really good day for me and I think the team learned some things, which is important. Now I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

Andrew Shovlin: “It wasn’t the best of days for us as we only completed 49 laps. We had an issue with the gearbox early on that cost us some time. We were able to tick off some of the data collection test items in the remainder of the morning and early afternoon but, just as we started to get into some proper running, it began to rain.”

“It’s been good to see George back in the car today and he’s done a good job but we had hoped to keep him a bit busier. We’ve got a lot to do tomorrow, and it looks like we may get some more rain, so we will review our programme tonight to make sure we can make the most of these conditions.”

Force India

Nicholas Latifi: “It has been a very productive day of testing and I was happy to get many more laps behind the wheel, getting more and more confident with each run. The majority of our programme was built around the new aero parts for 2019, based on the new set of regulations for the sport: it was interesting to feel how they worked on the car and to gather data for the team.”

“In the afternoon we got caught out by the rain, which meant I didn’t get to do the fun part – the performance runs we had planned with hypersoft tyres. I was a bit disappointed to miss out on that but that’s how it happens sometimes. I am still pleased with my performance today and I am looking forward to being in the car again soon.”

Tom McCullough, Chief Race Engineer, “It was overall a successful day. We managed to get all the aero data we set out to obtain, something that was critical for our 2019 car development. We had a new front wing on the car, alongside other test items and instrumentation.”

“Nicholas didn’t put a foot wrong all day – he settled straight back into the team and, as it was clear from the previous times he was in the car, he was able to do useful work from the first lap. The heavy rain showers in the afternoon meant we had to cut our programme short, but we still managed a solid 103 laps so we can be satisfied with our work.”

Russell: ‘Few issues’ limited Mercedes test

George Russell has revealed there were a “few issues” which “limited” his time in the Mercedes W09 in Hungary, but is still pleased with performance.

The Mercedes junior driver and current F2 World Championship leader finished bottom of the lap charts and was the only man not to surpass the half-century mark with 49 timed laps on the board at the Hungaroring.

But, whilst there were minor setbacks on the first day of testing for the Silver Arrows, Russell was blown away with how quick the car is.

“It was fantastic to get back out behind the Mercedes car,” Russell summarised.

“It’s unbelievable how quick and how much grip this car has got. Just an unbelievable experience to get back there.

“We had a few issues which limited our running but nevertheless it was a good day for myself.

“I was pleased with my performance and I think the team got some valuable information in the limited laps we did.

Russell has been linked with a move to Williams for the 2019 season and is eager to make the most of every opportunity that comes his way.

He added: “I think F1 time is very limited for a young driver so it’s always extremely important to make the most of that chance when you have it.

“Obviously the more I can get the better but I think it will not be the end of the world if we had another day like today because I believe there will be more opportunities in the future.

“It’s just part of the game really, you can’t predict the weather, you can’t always get it perfect from the team’s point of view and F1 is so complex and it’s incredible there’s not more issues in the whole championship so it just goes to show the level everybody runs at.”

Russell, who finished the day in P5, is back for a second day of testing action for Mercedes on Wednesday.

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Giovinazzi: Ferrari car ‘has improved dramatically’

Antonio Giovinazzi has said that he has noticed a “dramatic improvement” in the Ferrari car after setting a blistering pace in Hungary testing.

Giovinazzi was top of the timesheet for much of the opening day at the Hungaroring and set an unofficial track record in the process – a 1:15.648 on the hypersoft tyres.

The Italian, who last got behind the wheel of the SF71H at the Circuit de Catalunya back in May, revealed in the Hungary paddock that the Ferrari car has come on leaps and bounds since then.

“I had tried the car in the Barcelona test rookie, and I must say it has improved dramatically,” said Giovinazzi.

“It’s a big step, last time was in May and now we’re in the end of July.

“It was a big step, it’s really good to see this improvement from the car. It showed the team and drivers are doing a fantastic job to improve the car.

“My main programme, we did a few long runs in the morning and a quali run in the afternoon.

“The rain was coming and we delayed the end of the programme with a lot of long runs.

“It was a good day, positive for me and for the team and this is really important.”

Giovinazzi is once again aiming to join the Formula 1 grid in 2019 after missing out on a Sauber this season.

And all he is trying to do is to give a good account of himself.

He added: “The goal was to do well and try to confirm that you are up to the task.

“But I do not feel under pressure, it has been a positive test and I’m satisfied.”

Giovinazzi is swapping Ferrari overalls for Sauber ones on Wednesday, the final day of testing in Budapest before the summer break officially kicks in.

Giovinazzi breaks track record; Gelael crashes out

Antonio Giovinazzi remained at the top of the testing timesheet on Day One in Hungary, while Sean Gelael crashed out on Pirelli tyre duty.

Giovinazzi, testing in Ferrari’s SF71-H, was quickest in the morning session, but he upped the pace significantly in the afternoon and broke the unofficial track record with a 1:15.648 set on hypersoft tyres.

The official track record at the Hungaroring belongs to Sebastian Vettel, a 1:16.170 set on ultrasofts during FP3 on Friday.

Rain showers in the second part of the afternoon session ensured that none of the other drivers could perhaps mount a challenge of knocking the Italian off top spot, with Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson his nearest rival 2.5 seconds adrift.

Ericsson’s time of 1:18.155 was a personal best; Brendon Hartley, P3, and Lando Norris, P4, also improving on their morning best times.

George Russell, testing in the Mercedes car, occupied P5, while Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo climbed up the leaderboard slightly to a P6 finish.

Nicholas Latifi, who trialled the new front wing to be introduced across all teams in 2019, did not improve on his morning best of 1:19.994 and fell down to P7 as a result.

With Nico Hulkenberg, P8, and Oliver Rowland, P9, racking up the laps in a low-key fashion, it was left to Gelael to provide the day’s most dramatic moment as he crashed into the barrier at Turn 11.

Toro Rosso reported that he was fine after the incident, but it did cut short his Pirelli tyre test by 90 minutes.

Day One timesheet:

1) Antonio Giovinazzi, Ferrari – 1:15.648, 96 laps
2) Marcus Ericsson, Sauber – 1:18.155, 95 laps
3) Brendon Hartley, Toro Rosso – 1:19.251, 126 laps
4) Lando Norris, McLaren – 1:19.294, 107 laps
5) George Russell, Mercedes – 1:19.781, 49 laps
6) Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull – 1:19.854, 125 laps
7) Nicholas Latifi, Force India – 1:19.994, 103 laps
8) Nico Hulkenberg, Renault – 1:20.826, 63 laps
9) Oliver Rowland, Williams – 1:20.970, 65 laps
10) Sean Gelael, Pirelli tyre test (Toro Rosso) – 1:21.451, 109 laps

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Bell steps down as Renault’s chief technical officer

Date published: July 31 2018

Bob Bell is scaling back his role at Renault, stepping down as their chief technical officer and moving into a part-time advisory role.

Bell first joined Renault in 2001 and was an integral part of the Enstone team’s return as a full works outfit from 2016 onward.

He was one of the key links between the English and French arms of the Renault operation, but Bell has ‘after 36 years in Formula 1, understandably expressed a desire to move away from front-line action while exploring other interests outside the sport’.

A new chief technical officer will not be named by Renault as they ‘now have a fully functional and agile collaboration between Viry and Enstone’.

Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul paid tribute to Bell, describing him as the “heart and soul of the team”.

“In just two and a half years he has helped to make Renault Sport a genuine and respected points scorer,” Abiteboul said via the Renault website.

“He’s also a massive part of the heart and soul of the team and a real motivator for everyone to draw together and get the best from themselves and each other.

“Under this planned transition within the team’s executive management, Bob will now look closely at how to work with our partners but also the different stakeholders of Formula 1, and of the Renault Nissan Mitsubishi Alliance, to ensure we continue to move even further up the grid.”

Technical director Nick Chester remains in his current role and will continue to report to Marcin Budkowski, Renault’s executive director.

F1 News Courtesy of https://www.planetf1.com

Bob Bell steps aside in planned Renault transition

Renault Sport Racing today announces Bob Bell will become the team’s Technical Advisor, in an evolution of his current role, and in addition to participating in strategic projects to support the team’s long-term growth and development.

Bell will take responsibility for developing technical collaborations with third parties to explore specific expertise and technologies that can contribute to the team’s overall performance.

Currently Chief Technical Officer, Bob played an instrumental role in the plan for Renault to return to Formula One as a factory team and establishing the team’s technical structure. However, after 36 years in Formula 1, he has understandably expressed a desire to move away from the front-line action while exploring other interests outside the sport. He will fulfil his new role on a part-time basis.

Bob will take on this strategic, transversal role, reporting directly to managing director Cyril Abiteboul. Bob will not be replaced in the position of F1 Chief Technical Officer now a fully functional and agile collaboration between Viry and Enstone has been implemented.

Cyril Abiteboul, managing director of Renault Sport Racing, commented: “In just two and a half years he has helped to make Renault Sport a genuine and respected points scorer. He’s also a massive part of the heart and soul of the team and a real motivator for everyone to draw together and get the best from themselves and each other.”

“Under this planned transition within the team’s executive management, Bob will now look closely at how to work with our partners but also the different stakeholders of Formula 1, and of the Renault Nissan Mitsubishi Alliance, to ensure we continue to move even further up the grid.”

Renault technical chief Bob Bell steps down for advisory role

Bob Bell is to step down from his role as chief technical officer of Renault’s Formula 1 team to take on a part-time advisory role.

The 60-year-old Northern Irishman’s current role, ensuring effective links between the British and French arms of the team, will not be filled.

The move comes three months after Frenchman Marcin Budkowski started work with the F1 team as executive director.

Technical director Nick Chester remains in position and reports to Budkowski.

Bell was one of the most experienced and highly regarded design engineers in F1, having previously worked for Mercedes, Renault in a previous era, Jordan and McLaren.

Renault said that “after 36 years in Formula 1, he has understandably expressed a desire to move away from front-line action while exploring other interests outside the sport”.

Renault F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul said Bell had “helped to make Renault Sport a genuine and respected points scorer” and he was “a massive part of the heart and soul off the team”.

He added: “Bob will now look closely at how to work with our partners but also the different stakeholders of F1, and of the Renault Nissan Mitsubishi alliance, to ensure we continue to move further up the grid.”

F1 News Feed Courtesy of https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/formula1

Norris: I grew up watching Lewis and Fernando at McLaren

Lando Norris at 18-years of age has to be the hottest property on the fringes of Formula 1 and is sure to be on the grid for 2019, perhaps even sooner, but for one so young he has no illusions about the task that awaits him should he step up to the top flight.

Talk is the English teenager may even be on the grid with McLaren before the end of this season to replace out of sorts Stoffel Vandoorne and partner Fernando Alonso perhaps as soon as the Italian Grand Prix.

Champion in just everything he raced during his junior career, Norris currently lies second in the Formula 2 championship.

After an impressive winning start to his new campaign, it has not been a walk in the park for him as many expected because the Class of 2018, in the feeder series, is proving to be a tight contest with formidable rivals in the field.

But Norris is not intimidated and told The Guardian, “I’ve learned to try and not be down as much when it goes wrong. Sometimes there is nothing you can do about it. In the past I would have been the opposite, I would have been annoyed. I am still a bit up and down but have learned you don’t need to be down so much.”

“Sometimes it can go wrong and I come away happy and positive and know I can improve, and sometimes I think everything is terrible and that I am not very good. And that makes me annoyed with myself.”

MotoGP was Norris’ early passion, with Valentino Rossi his idol, but he also recalls that at the age of eight Formula 1 was already on his radar, “Growing up watching Lewis and Fernando, my favourite car was the McLaren in that chrome and fluorescent orange. McLaren were one of the first teams I liked and supported.”

The McLaren situation is an interesting one because according to multiple sources Norris has a deal with the Woking outfit which stipulates that if by the end of September he is not confirmed on the grid for 2019 he has the option to depart the team and seek a ride elsewhere.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that McLaren may sideline Vandoorne to allow Norris to step-up to the race seat alongside veteran Fernando Alonso as early as the Italian Grand Prix in early September or a race later in Singapore.

Reason for this being that the team have Norris on duty for both days of testing at Hungaroring. If things go to plan by the end of Wednesday he will have four or five race simulation runs under his belt.

Needless to say, Norris is relishing the opportunity, “It is challenging knowing that, if you do join, a lot of work is needed to help the team develop the car.”

“If you do eventually get there, it makes a win sweeter. If you were there for two years and ended up winning a championship in year three or year four, that would make it a better win for the team and for yourself,” reasoned Norris with a remarkable maturity that belies his age.

McLaren team chief Zak Brown knows the potential of their young driver, “I certainly think he’s fast enough to be in Formula 1, but you also need to make sure not to rush things and give him enough experience. He’s definitely our star of the future.”

Is Norris being primed to replace Vandoorne at McLaren?

It is no secret that Stoffel Vandoorne’s future at McLaren, and possibly Formula 1, is shaky as the once highly rated driver struggles to match his teammate Fernando Alonso, while his boss Zak Brown admits the team have options on the driver front that may spell bad news for the 26-year-old Belgian.

Vandoorne has been something of an enigma since he stepped up to the top flight. He was stellar in his Formula 1 race debut, substituting for injured Fernando Alonso at the 2016 Bahrain Grand Prix in which the Belgian driver finished tenth.

In 2017 he stepped up to replace retiring Jenson Button but has failed to spark and stats show that he has been obliterated by his veteran teammate, and ‘mentor’ of sorts, Alonso. In qualy this year the score is 12-0 and after 12 rounds it’s 44 to 8 points in the Spaniard’s favour.

At the same time, McLaren have young Lando Norris on their books until the end of September at which point the team reportedly have to commit to giving him a race seat for 2019 or he marches off to… Toro Rosso!

Thus it is interesting to note that at the current in-season test, at Hungaroring, McLaren have opted to run Norris in the car for the two days – that’s a potential 16 or so hours of very valuable track time for the 18-year-old Englishman.

The obvious question is: why not put Vandoorne in the car for at least a day so he can try and revive his form or?

Needless to say, Belgian media are fearing that Vandoorne is on the verge of being dropped, perhaps even at the forthcoming Belgian Grand Prix and are understandably in his corner while seeking answers.

A source close to the McLaren suggests that it is unlikely the team will ditch Vandoorne for his home race at Spa-Francorchamps and would use it to assess their troubled driver after the summer break. However, Norris replacing Vandoorne for the Italian Grand Prix, after the race at Spa, or in Singapore is apparently a distinct possibility.

Adding fuel to the speculation is the fact that team chief Brown is not denying the possibility, when quizzed by Belgian journos in Budapest he said that “it’s very unlikely” they will drop their number two driver.

As for contact with other drivers, Brown explained, “Technically and morally we speak to other drivers. It is normal at this time of the season.”

Vandoorne himself is sure he will be in the car for the remainder of the season, “Yes, I am very confident. You know, after two bad GPs nothing is good but if you have a good run then you’re a god, that’s Formula 1…”

Meanwhile, talk is that Carlos Sainz could join Alonso to create an all-Spanish driver line-up at McLaren in 2019, while Brown has admitted that he would welcome Ferrari’s out of contract veteran Kimi Raikkonen back at the team where he spent five years. Mixed signals aplenty.

On a positive side is if McLaren do wield the axe Vandoorne has a true believer in Sauber chief Frederic Vasseur, the Frenchman managed him in his 2015 GP2 championship winning year.

Apart from Ron Dennis ‘discovering’ and backing Lewis Hamilton all the way to the Briton’s 2008 Formula 1 title and launching Raikkonen into superstardom, of late McLaren have a dubious record when it comes to nurturing their young drivers.

A number of useful drivers, in the early stages of their careers, were cast out before they had time to impress the team. The likes of Heikki Kovalainen, Sergio Perez and Kevin Magnussen spring to mind, with Vandoorne increasingly drifting towards that list.

Big Question: Is Norris being primed to replace Vandoorne at McLaren?

Inside Line: Get well soon Niki we need you back!

I noticed during the course of collating and editing coverage of the German Grand Prix and Hungarian Grand Prix weekends that Mercedes chief and Formula 1 legend Niki Lauda was not present at either race.

A shame because Niki is always worth a quote or two because he simply calls it as he sees it, never pulls his punches and his presence in the paddock a fine source of sound bites.

He is the crown jewel of former grand prix drivers who we are fortunate to have around to enlighten and entertain us as he has done for decades.

Niki’s unique reaction to Formula 1’s adventures at Hockenheim and Hungaroring would no doubt have made headlines.

Mercedes spokesman revealed: “Niki has had a bout of flu and was advised to take some rest by his doctors during the German and Hungarian weekends. We hope to see him back in Spa!”

In a nutshell, from us here at GP247 and behalf of our readers all I can say is: Get well soon Niki because we need you back ASAP calling the shots!