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Christian Horner says Red Bull Racing are doing everything within their power to get Alexander Albon back on the Formula 1 grid in 2022, but he fears the Anglo-Thai drivers link to Red Bull could see the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team veto a move to the Mercedes-powered Williams Racing team.

Albon was replaced at Red Bull at the end of the 2020 in favour of Sergio Pérez, with the two-time podium finisher taking on the role of reserve driver for the current campaign.  He is also racing in select races of the 2021 DTM Series driving a Ferrari for the AlphaTauri AF Corse outfit.  He currently sits fourth in the standings with one win and two further podiums to his name in the opening eight races.

Horner, the Team Principal at Red Bull, is hopeful a deal can be reached to bring the twenty-five-year-old back onto the Formula 1 grid in 2022, with Albon being linked not only to Williams but also to the Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN outfit. 

And Horner says it is their priority to see Albon back racing where he belongs, but he believes his link with Red Bull could hinder his chances of racing for Williams.  If he fails to get a drive next year, he will remain with Red Bull as their test and reserve driver.

“We’re working hard to get him a seat,” said Horner to Sky Sports F1.  “I really hope that Mercedes don’t block his opportunity at Williams. That’ll be a great, great shame.

Max Verstappen will not face any penalty for the Dutch Grand Prix after stewards at the Circuit Zandvoort summoned him for passing Lance Stroll on-track under red flag conditions on Friday afternoon.

The Red Bull Racing driver had been on a quick lap when the red flags flew at Zandvoort, and whilst slowing down, he passed the already slow-moving Stroll before returning to the pit lane at the correct speed.

Stewards looked at all the data and determined that Verstappen had done everything he could to slow down in a safe manner, and as such deemed that no penalty was applicable, meaning he can go into Saturday’s Qualifying session with pole position in his targets.  Had he been found guilty of the offence, a grid drop penalty could have been applied.

“The Race Management System indicates that the red flag and red lights were initiated at 15:10:12,” said a statement from the stewards at Zandvoort.  “When VER (Verstappen) passed Light Panel 14 (which is prior to the point of the overtake) it was not illuminated.

“As VER approached the rear of the car (within a few metres) of STR (Stroll), the red light on VER’s steering wheel activated.

Frédéric Vasseur, the Team Principal of Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN, would prefer to have an experienced line-up for the 2022 Formula 1 season rather than bringing in a rookie, meaning a promotion to the team for the likes of Nyck de Vries or Callum Ilott is unlikely.

Alfa Romeo will have at least one new driver for next season after Kimi Räikkönen announced that 2021 will be his last in the sport, with Valtteri Bottas odds-on to replace his countryman as the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team are expected to bring in George Russell at his expense.

Rumours around the paddock say that Antonio Giovinazzi’s position within the team is also under threat, and Red Bull Racing’s reserve driver Alexander Albon has been touted as his replacement, although the Anglo-Thai driver is also under consideration to replace Russell at Williams Racing.

With new aerodynamic regulations coming in for the 2022 season, Vasseur feels there will be more benefit for Alfa Romeo to have two experienced drivers behind the wheel, although he has not ruled out the team fielding a driver with limited Formula 1 experience.

“I’m not sure that the change of regulation has something to do with this,” said Vasseur to Motorsport.com. “I would say that it’s probably more the limited number of test days. We have to consider the point between the others in the driver choice.

Lando Norris felt it was a tricky day for both himself and his McLaren F1 Team on Friday at the Circuit Zandvoort due to the red flag interruptions across both sessions, but he feels the team are in a good place heading into the rest of the weekend.

Sebastian Vettel stopped on track during the morning session and caused a lengthy stoppage, while the afternoon saw more red flags as first Lewis Hamilton broke down and then Nikita Mazepin spun into the gravel trap.

Norris ended eleventh fastest in the morning session and eighth in the afternoon, and he knows he will need to push hard and get the lap times in when it matters in Qualifying on Saturday afternoon amid the traffic that is expected to plague the sessions.

“A tough first day,” said Norris.  “It was tricky with the traffic and difficult to get laps in with the red flags and stoppages.

“It began with a good feeling with the car, and we weren’t too bad, but we’ve got some work to do to be able to consistently get good laps in during qualifying, which I’m sure we can do. A decent day but work to do overnight.”

Esteban Ocon continued his recent strong form by finishing third fastest in practice for the Dutch Grand Prix on Friday, although he knows the hard work is still to be done this weekend.

The Alpine F1 Team driver, the surprise winner of the Hungarian Grand Prix just prior to the summer break, had started the weekend at the Circuit Zandvoort seventh fastest in the morning session, although he did suffer an off-track moment and a further moment when he failed to notice Lando Norris coming through and pushed the McLaren F1 Team driver onto the grass.

But Ocon was the early pacesetter in the afternoon and was only beaten by the two Scuderia Ferrari drivers at the end of the day, and he hopes for more performance on Saturday if he is to fight for a place towards the front of the grid in Qualifying.

“It’s been a fun Friday and learning this track in a Formula 1 car has been awesome,” said Ocon.  “It’s been high grip, a lot of Gs, undulation and taking on the banked corners, which, overall, has been mega fun.

“As a team, it’s been a good day and we look quite competitive, but we know qualifying is when that counts. I experienced that in FP1 with the close call with Lando [Norris]. It was a little close for comfort but in the end nothing happened and we move on.

Andrew Shovlin admitted it was a tricky Friday for the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team at the Circuit Zandvoort, and they will be working hard both overnight and on track on Saturday to improve.

Three red flags across the two sessions – one caused by Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton after a technical issue on his W12 – meant Mercedes did not complete as much running around the updated Zandvoort circuit as they would have liked, with the reigning World Champion managing only three laps in the afternoon before he stopped on track.  Hamilton did, however, top the morning session.

Valtteri Bottas had a more productive day on the other side of the garage and the data he gathered will be important for the team as they bid to improve their car, with Shovlin, the Track Engineering Director at Mercedes, hoping gains can be made ahead of Saturday’s running.

“We’ve had a tricky day with red flags costing us a lot of running time in the first session and then Lewis had an issue with his car, so we had to stop on track,” said Shovlin.  

“Everyone has struggled with a lack of running so there isn’t masses of data to work with and many had low fuel runs that were compromised with traffic, so we have to expect many teams to move forward tomorrow.

Kimi Räikkönen will take no further part in this weekend’s Dutch Grand Prix weekend after testing positive for Coronavirus.

The Finn, who announced he will retire from Formula 1 earlier this week, was set to make his three-hundred and forty-second race start in the sport this weekend at the Circuit Zandvoort, and he completed both sessions with his Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN team on Friday.

But an onsite PCR test for the 2007 World Champion has seen him test positive for COVID-19, and he has been withdrawn from the remainder of the event.  Alfa Romeo will replace him for the remainder of the weekend with official test driver Robert Kubica.

“Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN confirm that, following the latest round of testing conducted in Zandvoort in advance of the 2021 Dutch Grand Prix, driver Kimi Räikkönen has tested positive for COVID-19,” said a statement from Alfa Romeo.

“Kimi is displaying no symptoms and is in good spirits. He has immediately entered isolation in his hotel. The team has carried out an investigation for any close contacts and there is no further impact expected for the team for the remainder of this event.

Lewis Hamilton admits he will go into the rest of the Dutch Grand Prix weekend on the back foot after an engine issue curtailed his afternoon session on Friday after only three laps.

The Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver had topped the morning session at the Circuit Zandvoort and was hoping for more speed in the afternoon, but he was forced to pull over early on with a technical issue that caused a red flag.

Hamilton says the car had been feeling good throughout the laps he did manage through the day, and with team-mate Valtteri Bottas having a very productive afternoon in comparison, the seven-time World Champion feels he can go into the weekend with at least some confidence.

“This track is epic. It brought back so many memories when I first got out there, from when I drove here before,” said Hamilton.  “I knew it was great when I was in Formula 3, but in a Formula 1 car it is just something else.

“It’s a shame I couldn’t complete more running, but the loss of power cut my FP2 short quite early on. I’ve got some catching up to do and we need to investigate the issue in more detail, but it’s not the end of the world.

Sebastian Vettel felt it was a positive day for the Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team at the Circuit Zandvoort on Friday, despite the German losing most of the morning session due to an engine issue.

The four-time World Champion stopped on track early on during Friday mornings session and caused a lengthy red flag, but he was able to get back on track in the afternoon and break into the top ten despite two further red flags interruptions.

Vettel says the changes to the Zandvoort circuit have been positive, and he believes more circuits would benefit from having banked turns, having enjoyed running on the new banking so far this weekend.

“I think overall that was a decent afternoon session,” said Vettel.  “We had some catching up to do because of the power unit issue this morning. So I had to find the rhythm quickly and it helped that I have driven here before many years ago.

“They did not change too much on the track [layout], but I think the changes they have made are for the better. It is an exciting lap because of the banking and corners with camber are always good fun to drive. We need more circuits with these types of corners.

Charles Leclerc says Scuderia Ferrari will be looking to improve on their long run pace during Saturday mornings final free practice session at the Circuit Zandvoort, with the short run speed already looking promising for the Maranello-based team.

The Monegasque racer started the Dutch Grand Prix weekend with the fourth fastest time in the morning session before he took top spot in the afternoon, with Leclerc the only driver to dip beneath the seventy-one second barrier across the day.

Having enjoyed running around the Zandvoort track, including the new banking on three of the turns, Leclerc says there is potential this weekend for a strong result, but he remains cautious that some of the main competitors have yet to show their hand.

“I think there is still quite a bit of potential for us to improve,” said Leclerc.  “It is looking good for now, but we shouldn’t get carried away because it’s just Friday and I feel our competitors have a bit of performance still to reveal.

“I really enjoyed driving on the new Zandvoort. The banking feels very special on the first timed lap and it’s just overall a fun track to drive on. Then for the race, I don’t think there will be much overtaking so it will be important to secure a good grid position tomorrow.

Pierre Gasly says the Circuit Zandvoort is ‘an amazing track to drive on’ after the Frenchman got his first taste of the new layout on Friday.

The Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda driver admitted it was difficult to get into a real rhythm during the two practice sessions due to the many disruptions and red flags, but Gasly was able to get through the whole of his planned programme as he ended the day inside the top ten.

Gasly says it will be important to get the most out of Qualifying on Saturday afternoon as overtaking is likely to be difficult, and he says the team will be looking to improve the feeling of his AT-02 ahead of final practice.

“I must say it was really fun today, it’s an amazing track to drive on and very unique, especially turn 3 – it’s like sliding in a toboggan, with the banking,” said Gasly.  “Obviously, the sessions were interrupted quite a lot with the red flags, so it was difficult to make it through our whole programme, but we still managed to complete a lot of it.

“I think we’re not looking as good as we would’ve liked but hopefully, we can work tonight to find a bit more performance for tomorrow. I’m confident we can do that.

Max Verstappen felt it was a good opening day of the Dutch Grand Prix weekend despite the home hero finishing only fifth fastest on Friday afternoon.

The Red Bull Racing driver, racing in Formula 1 in his homeland for the first time this weekend, was second fastest in the morning session at the Circuit Zandvoort, but his afternoon session saw him end only fifth after completing his best lap on a used set of tyres.  He was also unable to complete a lap that looked to be quicker when Nikita Mazepin spun and caused a yellow flag.

Verstappen says driving around Zandvoort is ‘very fun’ and it was a thrill to be out there with the Dutch fans supporting his every move, but he knows there are improvements to be made to his RB16B overnight if he is to be in the pole position fight on Saturday afternoon.

“It’s been a good day and it was really enjoyable to see everyone in orange having fun in the grandstands,” said Verstappen.  “Of course, the track is also very fun to drive with a lot of fast corners so it was good to finally get out there.

“From our side I don’t think the lap times are very representative today as I did my fastest lap on a used set of tyres. I was improving on another push lap and then Mazepin had a spin otherwise I think we would be higher up but it’s only Friday and we’re still looking at all the details of where we can do better and improve.

Mick Schumacher reckons the word rollercoaster is very befitting of the Circuit Zandvoort after the German experienced the updated track for the first time on Friday.

The Uralkali Haas F1 Team racer has raced at Zandvoort before in the past, most recently during his championship-winning FIA Formula 3 European Championship campaign in 2018, but since then the track has changed, with banking being applied to two of its corners.

Schumacher ended his afternoon session with the seventeenth fastest time of the day having been eighteenth in the morning, and he hopes the team can find some additional pace overnight.

“I think the word rollercoaster really fits for here!” said Schumacher.  “It was a decent day, still lots to learn about this new track but I’m sure it’s the same for everyone.

“I still think we need to tweak it a little bit to get everything we can out of it, but I think we’re on a good road. We still have some margin but I’m sure we will find it.

Maximilian Günther will remain in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship for the 2021-22 season after signing with the Nissan e.dams team.

The German racer has left the BMW i Andretti Motorsport team after two seasons and will now partner Sébastien Buemi after Oliver Rowland left the Nissan set-up after the conclusion of season seven last month in Berlin.

Günther has scored three wins during his Formula E career to date and finished sixteenth in the standings in the 2020-21 season, with his sole win this year coming in the New York City E-Prix.

“It makes me feel very proud to become part of the Nissan e.dams family,” said Günther.  “The team has big ambitions in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship and I’m full of motivation to contribute to the success of this project.

“To compete for one of the biggest car manufacturers in the world is an honor and a great new step in my career. I’m looking forward to this exciting journey.”

Charles Leclerc led the way at the 2021 Dutch Grand Prix at the Zandvoort circuit in the Netherlands in the second free practice session (FP2).

Carlos Sainz was 0.154 seconds behind in second position. Esteban Ocon was in third position at the end of the session.

The stands were filled with the orange-clad Dutch fans cheering their local hero Max Verstappen.

The sixty-minute long free practice session started again under clear skies in hotter conditions with the air temperature at 20 degrees C and the track temperature at 35 degrees C.

The start of the session was delayed by five minutes. After the interrupted first practice session, the drivers queued up at the end of the pit lane at the start of the session to get maximum track time.


RaceScene.com