Abu Dhabi 2021 back in headlines, flexi-wing saga also returns – F1 news round-up

Sam Cooper
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes and Max Verstappen, Red Bull, driving side-by-side in Hungary.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes and Max Verstappen, Red Bull, driving side-by-side.

Controversy and rule changes were on the agenda as F1 counts down to the Italian Grand Prix.

In comparison to last year’s porpoising, it has been a relatively quiet year of FIA intervention in 2023.

But that is not to say the FIA is taking a step back and indeed, it appears the governing body is moving to close a loophole in the regulations.

Did somebody say flexi wings?

The term flexi wing is nothing new to veteran Formula 1 fans for it seems the FIA is always trying to clamp down on the phenomenon that could give teams more performance.

As a result, the sport’s governing body have reportedly issued a technical directive as a way of better regulating the potential flexible bodywork. This comes as the FIA believed some teams have found a way to create flexible front and rear wing elements that can avoid detection in tests.

The FIA have ordered that teams submit the required drawings of their parts for scrutineering by September 8 with compliant designs then required for use as of the Singapore Grand Prix from September 15-17.

Read more: Flexi-wing saga returns as FIA prepare to clamp down hard on illegal tricks

Alternative ending for Abu Dhabi 2021 put forward

Ask any Formula 1 fan and they will have an opinion about the last laps of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The title-decider has become the hottest of hot topics since that fateful day and even two years on, the fallout is still being felt.

Lewis Hamilton was harshly done out of an eighth world title while Max Verstappen was rewarded for an excellent year with his maiden championship.

But the decisions made by race director Michael Masi have been under the spotlight ever since and the race went on to cost the Australian his job.

F1 commentator Peter Windsor believes the red flag stoppage at the Dutch Grand Prix is what should have happened when Verstappen took the F1 crown from Hamilton in the infamous race.

“I still say that race of Lewis’s at Abu Dhabi was one of the best races he ever drove and, considering the state of the Championship, it was a really impressive performance from Mercedes as well, I think, to do as well as they did,” Windsor said.

“I was just thinking actually, to go on about it again, when the whole red flag thing came out at Zandvoort and they all stopped and then they told everybody what tyres to be on, why didn’t they do that at Abu Dhabi?

“If they’re going to stop the race, why didn’t they do that? Everybody must be on a new set of soft tyres, one-lap sprint to the finish – that would’ve been OK.”

Read more: More questions raised about Abu Dhabi 2021 race after Zandvoort tyre call

Surprise moves predicted for Yuki Tsunoda and Zhou Guanyu

While the silly season has been quieter than usual, there are still a few seats left to be decided.

Both Yuki Tsunoda and Zhou Guanyu are currently without a contract and while the former looks likely to be extended at AlphaTauri, there are increasing reports that Sauber may go a different direction when it comes to Zhou.

But in the future, Le Mans winner Richard Bradley has predicted that Tsunoda’s Honda links make him a prime target for Aston Martin while Zhou has been tipped for a move to Willaims.

“I think he will be a very strong contender for the Aston Martin seat,” Bradley told On Track GP when predicting Tsunoda’s F1 2024 home.

“Remember, Honda are going to be supplying Aston Martin’s engines and he’s obviously an HRC [Honda Racing Corporation] driver and so it just makes logical sense.

“And we’ve already heard the rumours that there are discussions ongoing.

“I can see Zhou going to Williams, I can see him taking Logan’s seat,” Bradley claimed.

“Because we know that Williams, obviously we’ve got the new management, but historically they’ve always been a team that’s needed a bit of external budget.

“Zhou’s situation with Alfa, obviously we’ve got a few rumours going around now about that, but Alfa are going towards Audi, the Chinese economy is struggling quite a bit at the minute, I think that’s been well documented in normal news, and I expect that’s what is hurting Zhou’s negotiations at the minute, there’s a lot of uncertainty there.

“But I expect that Williams as a team, if they get rid of Logan, then Zhou is a logical option.”

Read more: F1 silly season: Shock moves predicted for Yuki Tsunoda and Zhou Guanyu

Lewis Hamilton denies rift with Mercedes

Time may be ticking on the remainder of Lewis Hamilton’s contract but the seven-time world champion has denied any reports of a potential rift between the two parties.

Hamilton was vocally annoyed about the team’s decision to stick with the zeropod design at the start of the season but now that they have deployed a car more to his liking, the Brit suggested frustration was natural in F1.

“I think in the heated and intense sport that we’re living in, of course there’s frustrations on both sides all of the time and what’s important is you just continue to be open and communicate about those,” he told Hungarian broadcaster M4 Sport.

“I think you’re constantly growing through those conversations. I think the most important thing is to be aligned on where you’re going.

“There’s no doubt that everyone in this team wants to win. We’ve been caught off guard about the cost cap and just the direction of the new regulations, and you just can’t copy and paste and do something different.

“It has to evolve and manoeuvre into a different direction. It just takes time. Has it been quick enough? Maybe not but the good thing is we’ve now sat down, we’ve now said okay we’re more open minded, this is maybe the direction we need to go so let’s explore it and let’s get on top of it for next year.”

Read more: Lewis Hamilton lifts lid on Mercedes relationship after ignoring his car requests

Sergio Perez paying no attention to critics

Despite Christian Horner stating he will be in the seat next year, Sergio Perez seems under pressure with Helmut Marko repeatedly suggesting they may look to go a different way.

It would not be a matter of debate had Perez’s performances been up to scratch with a run of failures to reach Q3 stopped only to then finish P4 in Zandvoort.

Despite this, Perez is keen to shut out the outside world.

“Obviously, you always want to prove yourself – it’s a game to yourself,” he told media including PlanetF1.com

“I haven’t really, to be honest, read what people say or have to say about myself or my career or whatever. I know what I’m capable of, I’ve done it before and not that long ago – it was only a few months ago.

“But people, when they’re not here, it’s very easy for them to speak out and it’s something that is very understandable. It’s how most sports work.

“But I think as an athlete, it’s important to be able to disconnect from that and make sure that you do what is best for you.

“To be honest, I don’t follow social media that much, first of all. And secondly, during the break, I was so busy having a good time that I really don’t listen to all of that and I focus on what I have to do.

“There are so many things that I could focus on and be negative to myself [about] and become a victim very easily, but that’s not the way I am. I’ve never been like that.

“I’m just focusing on what I can do best, focusing on enjoying the moment, and that’s [where] all my focus and all my energy [is].”

Read more: Sergio Perez issues response to critics amid continued rumours over Red Bull future