It was press conference day at Spa, and PlanetF1.com was there to take in what the drivers had to say ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix weekend.
There was big news away from the circuit as a significant departure was confirmed at Ferrari sooner than perhaps anticipated, and Lewis Hamilton recoiled somewhat after being asked an uncomfortable question.
All that and plenty more in today’s F1 news…
Additional reporting by Thomas Maher and Sam Cooper
Laurent Mekies departure confirmed by Ferrari
We knew that Ferrari racing director Laurent Mekies was already due to be on his way to AlphaTauri next season to be their new team principal after Franz Tost retires, but the Scuderia confirmed today that he will now leave the team over the summer break.
They have provided details of how their new backroom structure will take shape, with team principal Fred Vasseur having been working hard to put the building blocks in place for when Mekies did leave the team.
With that now being officially in place, the path is clear for him to take his leave from Maranello, before taking the reins as AlphaTauri team boss next year – when it is likely to be rebranded to a new name.
Lewis Hamilton ducks ‘personal question’ about his performance
Having admitted he has not been feeling that he has been performing at his absolute best for over a year in Hungary, Lewis Hamilton was asked by Sky Sports’ Craig Slater in the TV pen at Spa if he feels like he has “lost something you wouldn’t get back”, which received a rather terse response from the seven-time World Champion.
After a pause, he came back with: “I don’t know, I think that’s a bit of a personal question. I probably don’t really want to go too much into that.”
One for Hamilton to ponder, but given he leads George Russell handily in the Drivers’ standings and comes into the Spa weekend off the back of his first pole position in 17 months, it’s not all bad.
Drivers speak out over visibility concerns at Spa-Francorchamps
With Spa being one of the highest-speed circuits of the entire season and rain forecast for most of the weekend, the drivers were asked about their problems with seeing in front of them in those conditions.
This is all the more pertinent given the tragic death of teenage FRECA racer Dilano van ‘t Hoff several weeks ago in similar conditions after a crash on the Kemmel Straight.
Charles Leclerc was particularly vocal on the subject, telling media including PlanetF1.com: “It’s really difficult to put into words what we are seeing, apart from saying that we are seeing nothing – but we are not exaggerating when we say we don’t see anything, we really don’t see anything when it’s raining, and this is a really big problem for Formula 1, for motorsport in general, any single seaters.”
Lando Norris speaks out on breaking Max Verstappen’s trophy
The Hungarian Grand Prix won’t go down in many history books as a classic, and it’s perhaps best exemplified by the fact we’ve been arguably speaking about Lando Norris accidentally breaking Max Verstappen’s winner’s trophy with his trademark champagne bottle smash to the ground more since the chequered flag than the action itself.
This caused a bit of an uproar in Hungary itself, given the significance of the design of the trophy and what it means to local people, and the McLaren driver took the time to apologise for his clumsiness in Spa.
He told media including PlanetF1.com: “Of course I want to enjoy the time but it was never my intention to do such thing and I did apologise to Max, I know I’ve made a couple of jokes about it, which maybe I shouldn’t, but I do feel bad for…if he did it to my trophy I’d be annoyed.
“I do apologise for it and and obviously the people who put the time and effort into making it, I really didn’t mean for it to happen, so I’ll make sure I’m a lot more careful next time on celebrating.”
‘Scary’ past visit to Spa revisited for F1 rookie
While the 2021 edition of the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa was limited to only two laps behind the Safety Car, the support schedule in Belgium went ahead.
On track in Formula 3 that day was Williams’ Logan Sargeant, who was particularly vocal on the subject of the weather and felt that the fact the junior drivers were sent out to race that day was “questionable”, given the conditions in front of them.
With the forecast not looking too good for the weekend, he hopes to not see a repeat now he has graduated to the top tier.
“In a situation like that, it definitely wasn’t nice,” he told media including PlanetF1.com.
“You can’t see the edge of the track, you can’t see your front wing. You can’t see the brake markers, you can’t see the car in front of you, you’re just driving flat out into a wall of white mist.
“So honestly, in that situation, I think it’s getting to the point where it’s a bit too much.
“I think this track, in particular… I guess the history makes it a bit more scary.”