Thursday saw the pre-race press conferences take place at the Circuit of The Americas, leaving plenty of F1 news to digest from the day in Austin.
It’s the first time we have seen the drivers since Qatar and there were plenty of talking points to take from the day as Formula 1 ramps up for another Sprint weekend.
World Champions dominate the headlines, as do a couple of technical changes from the FIA that certainly raised eyebrows when the drivers found out…
Lewis Hamilton bemoans ‘poor communication’ from FIA over Qatar investigation
Lewis Hamilton believes the FIA needed to do a “better job” of communicating how they re-opened their investigation into his Qatar track crossing, and brushed off concerns that he was “singled out” in the process.
The FIA explained that Hamilton’s “role model” status in the sport meant that him crossing a live track should be looked into again, prompting criticism that the same move would not be done to other drivers.
Hamilton does not believe that is the case, but felt things were handled in the wrong way by the governing body.
“No, I don’t think I was singled out,” Hamilton said when asked if he felt singled out because of the FIA’s statement.
“Ultimately, I think it was just poor communication. I don’t think what they had said is exactly what they meant.
“I mean, I think there was a karting incident recently where a kid was hit, so we really need to make sure that we’re continuously focusing on safety and I think that’s really at the at the root of it, but I just think they probably need to speak to their PR agent to do a better job.”
Max Verstappen dismisses ‘BS’ Red Bull power struggle rumours
Reports of a rift at the top of Red Bull between Christian Horner and Helmut Marko were rife after the Qatar Grand Prix, but Max Verstappen was having absolutely none of it.
With both Horner and Marko having commented separately to deny the reports, Verstappen added his own disdain for them – believing things are all well within the team.
“I saw that, from the outside, people were trying to basically talk some BS because I think the mood in the team is very good,” Verstappen said on Thursday.
“Everyone knows exactly what their role is. And of course, [there were] sad times last year when Dietrich [Mateschitz] passed away, but, you know, we’ve tried to keep that legacy, keep moving forward, and everyone that we have right now in the team is very important to that success that we’re having.”
Sergio Perez vows to fight on and laughs off retirement rumours
A report spread like wildfire that Sergio Perez was set to retire after the Qatar Grand Prix and, with PlanetF1.com having received confirmation from sources close to the Red Bull driver that this was well wide of the mark, questions remained for the Mexican in Austin about it.
Naturally, though, he looked to brush those false reports aside.
“I’m just laughing at it,” he said.
“There’s nothing I can do, I am fully focused on my job. I was really busy with the team as well.
“That really sums up my season, a guy says something about me and then all of a sudden it comes true?
“No, I have a contract for next year, and no reason not to respect that contract, I’m going to give my very best to it. I’ve made a commitment but, more than that, it will not be my final contract in F1.”
FIA quadruple maximum F1 driver fines in wave of new rules
Away from Austin, the World Motor Sport Council convened and the FIA approved several rule changes, alongside moves such as Pirelli being confirmed as Formula 1’s sole tyre supplier until 2027.
But with maximum fines for a driver or team having previously been capped at €250,000, this has now been quadrupled to €1million [£870,000], to reflect the current state of Formula 1, and represents the first such increase in over a decade.
This could lead to the drivers being more careful on track in future, but was just one of a host of changes approved by the WMSC in their latest meeting.
Drivers respond with shock to new FIA steward fining powers
News of the maximum fine increase raised a lot of eyebrows when the drivers were informed of the news in the press conference, with eyes significantly widening at such a potential hit to their wallets.
Max Verstappen was fined €50,000 for so much as touching a rival rear wing in the past, and he was naturally withering in his response, saying: “If touching a rear wing is €50,000, then I would like to know what one million is! Then maybe we can sponsor also the bottles of wine, so I’ll get ready!”
Charles Leclerc added: “It’s a huge amount of money. I have no idea about what deserves a €1 million penalty, but some drivers are making less than that. It’s a lot of money and… I don’t know.”
Lewis Hamilton explained: “When it comes to things like this, we really need to be thinking with the message that sends out to those that are watching.
“If they are going to be fining a million, let’s make sure that 100 percent of that goes to a cause.
“There are so many causes around the world. That’s the only way they’ll get that million from me.”