F1: Lewis Hamilton extends Mercedes contract
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Mercedes may be strongly expected to defend their Constructors’ Championship with Lewis Hamilton tipped to win a record eighth world title, but there could be a surprise on the cards to give them a challenge. Mercedes have been largely uncontested over the past few years, wrapping up the Constructors’ Championship with a handful of races left.
Red Bull have been their closest challengers recently and there is some speculation that they’re expecting to put up a stronger fight this season.
Max Verstappen remains the most likely to dethrone Hamilton, although there will be plenty of intrigue on how Sergio Perez handles his seat with Red Bull as well.
It’s not expected that any other team will come close to the front two, but Ferrari could spring a surprise.
Expectations are at an all-time low for Ferrari heading into the 2021 season after a disappointing year.
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Rival engine suppliers Mercedes, Renault and Honda all out performed Ferrari last year with Sebastian Vettel particularly struggling.
The four-time world champion has since moved on to Aston Martin with Carlos Sainz taking his place.
But there is quiet optimism from Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto that the power defincies that hampered them last season are now a thing of the past.
“I think last year the main issue was the speed on the straight line, not only the power but also drag,” said Binotto.
“We’ve worked a lot, both on the power unit and the car aerodynamics, to reduce the drag of the car.
“Based on our simulations, on what we can see in terms of power output from the dynos, and the drag of the car from the wind tunnel, I think we have recovered quite a lot of speed on the straight lines.
“So I am expecting speed to not be such an issue as it was. We hope to be competitive, but we will know it only when being in Bahrain. It’s always relative to what the others are doing.
“But we believe the car is certainly more efficient compared to the one we had last year, and when I’m saying efficient I mean from both the aero and power point of view.”
Improving the dismal power unit from last year was Ferrari’s key aim in the offseason and engine chief Enrico Gualtieri will reportedly be debuting a ‘superfast’ cylinder head, which will help produce a higher pressure in the combustion chamber.
It remains to be seen whether the incremental changes will see Ferrari start battling at the front of the grid with Hamilton and Verstappen.
And Binotto is keen to downplay expectations, although he’s excited to see the team’s hard work pay off.
“I do believe that our car is better than the one of last year,” added Binotto.
“Obviously, you cannot compare them as well because there is a change in the aero regulations, on the floor, on the back.
“But the way I have seen the car developing both in the wind tunnel and on the dyno, I believe we have made a significant effort.
“But you cannot know where we are as we are not on track, and that will be very important for us.
“We need to be realistic. The gap to the best was very important and not something we can recover in a single winter.”
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