Wins possible for Ferrari this year – Binotto
Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto says it is his responsibility to return the team to the front of the grid but admits it may not be possible for the team to win races this year. Last year the Italian team had their worst season since 1980, finishing sixth in the constructors’ championship without a single race victory.
The team was caught on the back foot after an investigation into the legality of its engine at the end of 2019 led to clarifications to the power unit regulations in early 2020 that forced Ferrari to make changes to its engine at the cost of performance.
The team has developed a new engine for this season, but cost-saving restrictions caused by the pandemic and the postponement of this years regulation overhaul have been pushed back by a year. However, limited changes through a token system are permitted.
Binotto takes the responsibility for achieving better results but called on his team to show a “will to win” even if the car is not fast enough to beat main rivals Mercedes and Red Bull.
He told an online press conference last week, “Last year was a big, big disappointment and we know that we cannot repeat that result and we must somehow do better in 2021.”
“What I think will count more is our will to win. I am not saying that we will win, there are cars that have been very strong last year, and with the cars being partially frozen [in terms of development] means they will certainly be strong again in 2021.”
Binotto says the will to win and intention, believing that the intention of being focused and aware that every single detail counts, with the determination being important and showing progress. He is also aware of the responsibility of the team, saying they simply needed to do better.
Ferrari struggled last year with a lack of performance from its engine, as well as aerodynamic inefficiencies, which had been built around the expectation of a more powerful engine. Binotto said both areas had been addressed this year and that early simulations suggested decent progress had been made.
He says that the aerodynamic and power unit testing shows that the team has recovered quite a lot of speed on the straight. To reduce costs, teams have been forced to carry over homologated designs from last year and have been restricted in new developments by an FIA-monitored “token” system.
The team has already announced it has spent some of its tokens on the engine and floor changes, as well as the rear of the car.
Binotto played down Ferrari’s chances of fighting at the front this year and said a lot of the team’s focus would shift to 2022 in preparation for a new set of regulations that will require a complete redesign of the car.
F1 rejects vaccines for personnel in Bahrain
Formula One has rejected the offer from the Bahraini government to vaccinate all personnel attending the race and testing. The island state in the Persian Gulf is set to host F1’s sole pre-season test from 12-14 March before the season-opening race at the Bahrain International Circuit from 26-28 March.
The roll-out of the vaccine in Bahrain has been one of the best in the world, with around 70% population receiving the Pfizer vaccine. Most of the teams are expected to follow the UK government rollout, set out by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, as the majority of teams and F1 are based in England.
Bahrain’s voluntary offer is to vaccinate personnel and media who are attending both pre-season testing on 12-14 March and the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix two weeks later.
A letter from the Bahrain International Circuit said: “Due to the timescale of this year’s F1 event, including testing, the vast majority of participants will be present in Bahrain for three weeks ahead of the race.
A spokesman for F1 said the sport had no plans to be vaccinated as a group “ahead of the rollout of vaccines through the health system in the UK”.
Stefano Domenicali, F1 president, said this earlier month: “The priority is the most vulnerable. We don’t want to jump the line of vaccination.”
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine needs two doses three weeks apart.
Chadwick continues as Williams’s development driver
Jamie Chadwick will continue as Williams’s development driver for the third season. The Englishwoman joined the team in 2019 and this season will increase her simulator programme this year and will continue to be “fully immersed within the team both trackside at certain Grands Prix and at the factory.”
This year she will defend her W Series title which supports eight Grands Prix across Europe and North America, while also taking part in the new electric rally series Extreme E.
Chadwick is hoping to become the first women to race in F1 for forty-five years since, Italian Lella Lombardi last took part in a race.
Chadwick said, “I have absolutely loved my time with Williams so far. I feel I am improving as a driver all the time, and I look forward to fully immersing myself at Williams once again this year.”
Williams team principal Simon Roberts added: “We are delighted that Jamie will continue as a development driver. Not only is she a great female ambassador for the sport and plays an integral part in promoting women in motorsport, her work in the simulator and behind the scenes at Grove is hugely valuable.”
Perez believes Red Bull can open doors for him
Sergio Perez believes that his chance at Red Bull this season will help “open many doors” for him in F1 in the future. The Mexican was left without a drive after his former team Racing Point, now Aston Martin decided to terminate his contract and replace him with four-time champion Sebastian Vettel.
However, a strong 2020 helped Perez to secure a one-year deal with Red Bull, although he is aware that he may not have a long term future with the team. He has a sense the campaign ahead can boost his chances of securing good drives elsewhere.
Perez told Motorsport.com, “I see it as an opportunity to deliver to my potential, having a top car and a top team. It’s an opportunity that will definitely open many doors. We’ll see what happens afterwards. I have to make sure that I do the same as in the past, to deliver to the maximum, make the most of any opportunity I’m given, and just enjoy.”
Perez only signed the contract in December which left him with not much choice other than to throw himself into learning everything he needs to before the season begins. While that has caused him not to have much time off, he believes it has been a hugely valuable experience.
He added, “I’ve been working flat out on my fitness trying to be as ready as possible, with the engineers at the factory, backwards and forwards, spending the time on the things that matter to try and be up to speed as soon as I get into the Bahrain test.”
“It’s a new challenge. There’s new people to meet, new ways of working, and new techniques.”
Perez says when you change teams you need to open your mind when you change teams because it’s a chance to do things differently and to grow as a driver.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says that he has been impressed with Perez’s attitude so far, as the Mexican has embraced the chance he has with the Milton Keynes-based team.
After last weeks shakedown, Horner said, “I think for Checo, after having driven for one team for so long, inevitably, there’s going to be quite a lot of differences even just in procedure, in the way that we operate.”
He says that any mileage they can give him is of huge value, as it gets him used to his engineering team, how the mechanics work, how our meetings work, and what’s required of him as a Red Bull driver.
Horner says Perez is settling in well and was an easy driver to get along with.
Liberty not worried about a fall in revenue
Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei insists that he’s “not worried” about Formula One’s balance sheet as the sport tries to recover from a tough 2020. Last week’s annual accounts shows the sport’s revenues fell by 44% last year, resulting in a loss of $368m, which means less income will be divided between the teams.
Maffei has confidence that the financial performance will improve in 2021 as spectators return to events and the revenue from race promotion fees increases. Last year it announced a restructuring of its events side, including F1 and concert promotion company Live Nation, which effective been mothballed and are operating at a loss due to the pandemic.
Speaking to Wall Street analysts, Maffei said “I think one of the things about being part of the Liberty group is we have the ability to hopefully look ahead and be thoughtful with the benefit of our operating companies.
“The F1 balance sheet is very, very strong. I think the operating levels that we have in our agreements are fine. So I’m not really worried about the balance sheet.”
He also says all of Liberty’s businesses will be ready when the world emerges from COVID restrictions: “We certainly aren’t in the crystal ball business exactly.” Liberty wants to benefit when things do reopen and are prepared for rate of change. But conceded that while fans can hopefully return this season, it wouldn’t be at full capacity.
He also says they are looking at alternative and would not necessarily go from zero to a hundred, but it would be somewhere in the middle. Maffei says he is optimistic by the end of the season the sport can be back at full capacity.
Maffei is confident that F1 broadcast income, which took a hit due to the reduced calendar in 2020, will be back to usual levels in 2021. Saying “We expect a fairly normal broadcast revenue stream in light of our 23 races. Again, no crystal ball about exactly how COVID plays out.”
“But our goal was to try and take the pain in ‘20, to the degree that we rightly had to make concessions to some of our broadcasters. Our goal was to do as much as possible make that a ’20 event, and bring ’21 back to normal.”
Aston Martin’s return attracting sponsors
Aston Martin team principal Otmar Szafnauer says that the teams return to F1 as a constructor for the first time since 1960 has driven a surge of sponsor interest in the Silverstone-based team. He also said the arrival of four-time champion Sebastian Vettel was less of a factor than the allure and prestige of the British manufacturer.
In recent weeks the team has announced a string of new sponsors including title sponsor Cognizant and significant backers Sentinel One and Asahi’s non-alcoholic beer brand Peroni Libera 0.0%. A multi-year partnership with software company NetApp was announced on Monday.
Szafnauer told Reuters, “They all want to be part of this journey that we’re on and for sure Aston Martin, the name and what we’re trying to do and what our future plans are, have attracted a lot of sponsors this year. I think becoming Aston Martin has attracted them and also the existing ones are happy we are taking the direction that we’re taking.”
Mark Gallagher who was the teams head of marketing in the 1990s when it was called Jordan described ant deal on Twitter as “one of the most significant sponsorship deals in the post-tobacco era”.
“The Aston Martin entry was a critical decision for us. It is a phenomenal brand. The team composition obviously has an effect as well, but it goes team branding first for us.”
Asahi Europe and International CEO Paolo Lanzarotti said Peroni would have entered F1 a while ago if it was just about being associated with the sport.
Former title sponsor BWT have remained on board, but the rebrand of the team meant it wanted to change the colour of the car to racing green. Szafnauer said those were now in a minority both in number and value, however.
The new arrivals represent welcome interest at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has hit the revenues of both sport and teams, some of whom have struggled to attract new backers.
Saudi Arabia on the calendar until at least 2030
Formula One’s head of race promotions Chloe Targett-Adams says the sport is expecting the race in the Saudi capital region to remain on the calendar until at least 2030. This year’s race is due to take place on the streets of Jeddah until a permeant circuit is built in Qiddiya due to open in 2023.
The race is part of the country’s Vision 2030 strategy, which is a programme to reduce its dependence on its oil reserves and invest in other areas. The first race is scheduled for 03 – 05 December on a street circuit in Jeddah.
Targett-Adams said in a Blackbook web seminar, last Friday, “In terms of Saudi Arabia, it was phenomenal to be able to get that deal agreed and signed and announced during the pandemic,”
“It’s somewhere we’re really excited about going racing, and it’s a longer-term vision of how we want to build our sport in the Middle East. We’ve got two amazing partners in the Middle East already on the promotion side., with Abu Dhabi and Bahrain, both long-term relationships, incredibly successful.”
The region and Saudi Arabia is seen as a key market for F1 because of its young demographic and growing automotive sector. It could also been seen as a bridge to return to North Africa which hasn’t had a race since 1958.
Despite the pandemic, Target Adams says the temporary street circuit is getting into shape despite the pandemic and are doing a phenomenal job in doing that. Asked about how long the race will be on the calendar she said: “Well, as a minimum we’re looking at definitely a decade, if not longer. It’s important when you go into such a key new market like Saudi to really be able to invest.”
Asked about human rights issues, she insisted that the sport addresses the subject when it deals with new venues. Saying “I think it’s really important to ask the question. From F1’s perspective, we choose to engage with partners.”
Monger completes Comic Relief fundraiser
Channel 4 pundit and double amputee Billy Monger has completed a hundred and forty-mile triathlon to raise money for Comic Relief. Over the last week, the twenty-two-year-old rowed, walked, cycled and swam across England, culminating in eighteen laps of Brands Hatch.
Monger says that returning to the circuit where he crashed and lost both legs in 2017, added a mental toll to the overall challenge.
Writing on Twitter after reaching the finish, Monger said: “I knew this would be a test physically, but mentally it’s really hit me. Being back at Brands Hatch has been an emotional rollercoaster. Can’t thank everyone enough for all their support on the way, it’s really helped me!”
“140 MILES. We made it 🏁 @comicrelief” – billywhizz (@BillyMonger) February 26, 2021
On its fundraising page, Comic Relief dubbed Monger’s attempt “Billy’s Big Challenge”. It will feature in a BBC documentary, set for release in March.
Monger started from his home in Surrey before heading up the East Coast to the Angel of the North and then looping back down through central England through Birmingham, Oxfordshire before crossing the line at Brands Hatch.
Since the accident, the Englishman has returned to racing combining it with broadcasting for Channel 4. This year he is set to compete in Extreme E.