The key storylines to emerge from the United States GP press conferences

Mark Scott
Max Verstappen answers questions in Austin paddock. Texas, October 2022

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen answers questions in Austin paddock. Texas, October 2022

Another race weekend, another round of arguments over the cost cap. Remember the days that F1 was about the actual racing? Us neither.

Away from the circus, we have updates from Daniel Ricciardo and Nicholas Latifi on their respective futures, while Carlos Sainz was remarkably open about his struggles at Ferrari this season.

But first, let’s address the elephant in the cool-down room.

Pressure continues to mount on Red Bull…

The deja vu feeling was strong in Austin, Texas as yet another media day was dominated by the three most triggering words in all of Formula 1 right now: cost cap breach.

With rumours swirling of the FIA reaching out to Red Bull in an attempt to settle the matter, drivers from rival teams seemingly took every opportunity they got to try and apply pressure on the FIA to come down hard on the soon-to-be double World Champions of 2022.

Lewis Hamilton, despite an initial effort to distance himself from cost cap talk in part two of the FIA drivers’ press conference, did have this to say on the record.

“I do think that sport needs to do something about this in the future otherwise, if it’s quite relaxed…if they relax with these rules, then all the teams would just go over, spending millions more and then only having a slap on the wrist, is obviously not going be great for the sport. They might as well not have a cost cap in the future.”

The other leading voices in the anti-Red Bull camp will come of no surprise to you. Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz and Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas, previously a key and respected part of the Mercedes machine up until the end of the 2021 season.

“I just hope that if there’s a penalty the penalty is relatively important to take the appetite away from overspending 2 or 3 million to waste on next year’s car,” Sainz said.

“Because you think next year’s car is worth it more than the other year, and then you take a penalty for ignoring it. I don’t know, I just think it needs to be fair play for everyone.

“And if there’s a cost cap, it’s there to be followed and I just hope that the FIA takes the right decisions to make sure that everyone follows it.”

Bottas himself was a little more assertive, saying: “I’m in quite a same line than Carlos.

“I feel like rules are the rules and if you don’t follow them, there should be a penalty that really hurts because like Carlos said, you don’t want anyone to have the appetite to maximise something for one year and risking with a budget cap but then, I personally hope that it’s going to be a strict and harsh penalty because that shouldn’t happen: rules are the rules.”

Not absolutely everyone is calling for such drastic action, though, with Sebastian Vettel, winner of four World Championships with Red Bull, dismissing the idea to strip Max Verstappen of his 2021 World title because of the cost cap breach as “stupid”.

…but Red Bull are fighting back

But Red Bull themselves are not backing down. They are still absolutely adamant that they have not breached the cost cap and rest assured, when FP1 and FP2 rolls around later on Friday not many are going to be paying much attention to what is happening on track.

Max Verstappen, someone who usually always speaks his mind, was true to that form on Thursday during his media rounds, calling the criticism that Red Bull is receiving as “hypocritical”.

“Nothing has been confirmed yet but as a team, we know what we have to deal with and I think we were very clear on what we think was correct,” Verstappen said in an interview with Sky Italy.

“It’s still ongoing and at the end of the day it’s not my job – it’s between the team and the FIA.”

“That’s how F1 works as well, everyone at the end of the day is a bit hypocritical. I’m fine with that. We just have to focus on our job.”

It’s a shame Verstappen didn’t expand on that point (maybe he still will at some stage) and it would be fascinating to know how he feels about the fact that he is a double World Champion now, yet hardly anyone is talking about it.

We wonder if there will ever be a time again when Formula 1 stops being a circus.

Daniel Ricciardo drops hint on F1 future

Away from cost cap talk (yes, other things are happening in the world of F1), we had Daniel Ricciardo talking about his future once he had jumped off the saddle of Horsey McHorse. Didn’t think I would be typing out that sentence this week, but here we are.

After being shown the door by McLaren, Ricciardo’s current options are join Haas, join Williams or sit on the sidelines in a reserve role, strongly rumoured to be with Mercedes.

Judging by the following quotes, it appears Ricciardo has all but confirmed the latter is the one road he has chosen to head down next season.

“You will see me around,” Ricciardo said. “It’s going to look different for me, but there is still very much still a plan in place.

“So, it’s not that I am checking out and saying ‘see you later’, it’s far from that.

“I’m just putting in a plan to honestly try to get me back to the front of the grid and win races and do all the stuff I know I can do.”

With that sort of talk, it feels like we’re not too far away from announcements being made…

An honest assessment from Carlos Sainz

One talking point we were not necessarily expecting to be raised in the build-up to the United States Grand Prix is Carlos Sainz’s ‘difficult second album’ syndrome at Ferrari.

He has already comfortably surpassed his first season total of 164.5 points, but the key difference is that last year he was beating Charles Leclerc and this year he has found that much harder to come by.

Rather than just wheel out the standard response ‘I will just try to do better next year’, Sainz was very honest in his assessment.

“He [Charles] has done a better job to me this year clearly, both in driving and race execution and he felt straight away more at home with the car than me,” Sainz said when quizzed by on the matter.

“And I’ve been in this fight through the whole year to try and get myself to a level similar to last year. Am I there? I don’t think so.

“I think I still have a few things with this car that still don’t come naturally and I would need to change a lot of things.

He later added: “Here are cars that you need to think while driving and there’s cars that you drive naturally. And this year while driving I need to think a lot. I need a lot of headspace to know that this kind of corner, I need to do it that way, this kind of corner, I need to do it the other way.

“And I’m sure there’s hundreds, thousands of seconds that go away while you’re thinking about the corner that is coming.”

It does beg the question whether Carlos Sainz can find a way to beat Charles Leclerc again next season or whether his team-mate will continue to have his number now for how ever long the Spaniard remains at Ferrari.

Nicholas Latifi to make IndyCar switch?

You didn’t think we were going to finish without giving you an update on the one and only Nicholas Latifi, did you?

With Williams finally overlooking the millions and millions Latifi brought into the team in favour of a driver who could potentially be capable of helping Alex Albon lift the team up from F1’s basement again, Latifi is looking to secure his own future away from Formula 1.

The Canadian was linked with a move to IndyCar, joining Chip Ganassi Racing, but those rumours have been emphatically quashed by him.

“This news is completely false,” he told Le Journal de Montreal in Austin.

“I have never talked with Ganassi or other teams in Indycar. It’s poor journalism.

“But nothing is signed and I will have no announcements to make in the short term.

“The important thing for me is to finish my season on a good note and to focus on the events that remain for me in Formula 1. Afterwards, we will see the opportunities that will be offered to me.”

Could Latifi follow in the potential footsteps of Ricciardo and take a reserve role?

“I will only accept such a position if I am sure that a full-time seat is promised to me afterwards,” was Latifi’s reply.

Take notes, Daniel!

Read more: Red Bull ‘raising eyebrows’ about ex-Mercedes employee within FIA