NASCAR Race Weekend Central
This year will be Vettel's last with the Prancing Horse (credit: FIA Images)

Open Wheel Wednesday: Weirdness & Rumors Headline Odd Week in F1

This week in Formula 1, the Sebastian Vettel sweepstakes heat up as another team is interested in throwing their hat into the ring, Guenther Steiner doesn’t really care that Haas was penalized in Hungary and Carlos Sainz Jr. could be regretting his move to Scuderia Ferrari after it was announced their pace would be slow until at least 2022.

All this and more coming up as we take a deep dive into the craziness that was this week in F1.

AlphaTauri Interested in Potential Bid for Sebastian Vettel

Since Sainz was announced as the new second driver at Ferrari, the question has been raised: Where is Vettel going to end up?

Racing Point is one of the teams that has expressed interest in bringing in the world champion to their roster. However, as reported on by PlanetF1, there could be a reunion of sorts for Vettel, as AlphaTauri announced their intention to pursue a contract for Vettel in 2021.

The team formerly known as Toro Rosso only has one victory to its name, coming in the 2008 Italian Grand Prix. That race was won by Vettel, earning his first career victory. Vettel raced for the Italian outlet for two seasons before joining the parent team Red Bull Racing in 2009.

A possible reunion could be a lofty ambition for AlphaTauri. A lot of pundits believe that Vettel’s decision could be Racing Point or retire, as Vettel would be unlikely to join a back-marker team “just to be on the grid.”

Former F1 driver Ralf Schumacher told Sky Sports Germany that, “I am firmly convinced that Sebastian [Vettel] will be on the grid in 2021.

“Sebastian excelled at Toro Rosso early in his career, and his relationship with [team boss] Franz Tost is also very good.”

While Racing Point appears to be the favorite, former F1 team owner Eddie Jordan went on record to say that he would probably not employ Vettel if he were Racing Point.

“Can he rekindle a kind of sparkle and a fire and the enthusiasm and the charisma that he had?” Jordan told the F1 Nation podcast. “It’s going to be difficult at his age. Would I employ him? Probably not, because I think there’s far, far too many young kids coming through.”

That being said, Jordan also mentioned that Perez brings a lot of money to the Racing Point, and they would be foolish to let him go elsewhere and miss out on the payday that he would bring in 2021.

Anything can happen in F1, and stranger things have happened over the years. Look at Kimi Raikkonen going to ALFA-Romeo Racing and Romain Grosjean going to Haas F1.

In my professional opinion, I give AlphaTauri a 15% chance they land Vettel, a 40% chance he retires and a 45% chance he joins Racing Point/Aston Martin Racing in 2021.

Guenther Steiner Unapologetic after Hungarian GP Penalty 

In a gutsy call during the Hungarian GP, Haas F1 team boss Steiner called both cars in at the start of the formation lap for dry tires. The move paid off for Kevin Magnussen, who scored the team’s first points-paying position in ninth. However, K-Mag would be downgraded to P10 after a 10-second time penalty was assessed for Haas “externally aiding the car” before the start of the race.

Steiner didn’t really seem to care and told F1 that he would gladly do it again in the British Grand Prix.

“For sure, we would do the same thing again,” he said. “The 10-second penalty was a little bit ambiguous. Unfortunately, we cannot appeal it because it’s a time penalty – you’re not allowed to appeal those ones.

“It looks like if it’s never been done before – and there’s no clear regulation. […] We need to move on from this, but for sure it spiced the race up for everybody. I don’t think we should stop doing these things in racing, otherwise accountants can race in Formula 1.”

This brings up the question, should teams be penalized for doing this in the future?

F1 has always been a sport about cheating, three-wheeled cars, water tanks and weird-looking cosmetics have all been par for the course. But the call for Haas was a strategy call rather than a rule bend, one could argue that the car was “aided” during the pit stop, but was it really though?

They didn’t make any other adjustments aside from the tires, and the cars had to start in the pit lane, which Grosjean is no stranger to in his career. F1 ambiguity of the call could result in a rule change for the future, but with the Renault vs. Racing Point fiasco, they might have their hands tied for a little while.

Ferrari Chairman Reports Team Will “Return to Winning” in 2022

Oh how the mighty have fallen.

Just a handful of years ago, Ferrari was a team that actually put up a decent fight against the likes of Red Bull Racing and Mercedes. Now, the team is mired back in the midfield, as Mercedes continues to wipe the floor with the competition.

Ferrari Chairman John Elkann announced in an interview with Italian newspaper Gazetta dello Sport, that the team’s new goal is to optimize the performance for the upcoming 2022 rule change.

“Today, we are laying the foundations for being competitive and returning to winning when the rules change in 2022,” Elkann said. “I am convinced of it.

“A long path awaits us. When [Jean] Todt started that historic cycle (of five consecutive titles) in 2000, we came from a fast that lasted for more than 20 years, from 1979. It took time, from when he arrived in 1993 to when he brought Ferrari back to victory. The important thing, then, is to work on and off the track, bringing cohesion and stability, building the Ferrari we want step-by-step.”

For fans of the Prancing Horses, this could seem like the worst gut punch ever received. However, as Ferrari builds for the future, they have two young drivers willing and ready to perform. Monegasque Charles Leclerc is only 22 years old and has a pair of wins in his two full seasons in F1. Meanwhile, the 25-year-old Spaniard, Sainz, is still looking for his first win but brings almost six full seasons of experience with him.

The team’s last championship came in 2007 with Raikkonen, and it’s safe to say the team has a lot of work to do before they can compete for another one.

Elkann was honest about the team’s shortcomings. Citing a decade long structural weakness as well as loss of engine power, aerodynamics and pace, the car is quite obviously not ready to be competitive.

As 2020 continues on, it appears Vettel and Leclerc will just have to deal with it, as there isn’t really anything either of them can do to fix this. Godspeed Ferrari, may you not join Haas and Williams at the back of the grid anytime soon.

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About Alex Gallacher

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Alex has been writing in the motorsport world since he was 19. Starting his career with the NASCAR Pinty's Series, Alex's work has been featured in Inside Track Magazine, TSN & NBC Sports as well as countless race programs. Alex has also worked within the junior hockey world in Canada, appearing as a desk host for the OHL's Barrie Colts. He also got the opportunity to cover the 2018 Chevy Silverado 250 which appeared as the headlining article on NASCAR.com.