‘biosphere’ for the paddock to start the season
F1 Motorsport and technical managing director Ross Brawn has outlined plans to create a “biosphere” to get the 2020 season underway with back-to-back races in Austria.
The opening ten races of the season have been either cancelled or postponed due to coronavirus. The plan is to start the championship with consecutive races at the Red Bull Ring in Austria on 5 and 12 July. He said, “We’re working our way through all the requirements to make sure we operate in a safe environment.”
Speaking on a newly launched F1 podcast prompted by the Coronavirus, Brawn said that the restart of the season, he said it had been thrown into disarray by the coronavirus crisis was a “massive logistical challenge” but that “it is all going to be done properly, there will be no risk taken and it will all be done in the correct way”.
Brawn said: “Unfortunately it will be without fans, which is a great shame, but we still feel we can take the race out to all the fans who watch us on TV and other means. It’s important for us to try and get the season going. [There are] many reasons for wanting to start the season.”
He says the very important that the season gets underway, o excite the fans and for livelihood for thousands of people. But Brawn says that no added medical pressure for services which are dealing with coronavirus.
Brawn says that the current plan to have two races at both Austria and Silverstone on consecutive weekends in July. Brawn said, “It’s a real consideration because one of the logistical challenges is getting everyone tested and cleared to enter the paddock and enter the racing environment.”
Both the Red Bull Ring and Silverstone fits the bill, but services like catering would be centralised for all the teams. But, the question remains where would the season go next given restrictions across most of the world on travel.
Brawn added: “It’s been months now of working on the best reaction we can have to this terrible pandemic, the best reaction the sport and business can have.
Hungarian Grand Prix in doubt
The Hungarian Grand Prix looks unlike to take place on its scheduled 31 July – 02 August date after the country’s government extended a ban on public gatherings. The announcement comes days after organisers said they were confident that the race would go ahead.
While some restrictions will be lifted on shops, restaurants and schools are to gradually be relaxed, a block on events involving more than 500 people has been extended to August 15. Budapest was hoping to be the fourth or fifth round of the season, however, the new restrictions make even a closed doors race impossible.
Earlier this week before the latest announcement, race organiser Zsolt Gyulay said that the circuit was open to all options and that the government is fully behind the event.
Hungaroring Sport CEO Gyulay told Motorsport.com, “We are in a daily contact with the rights holder. Liberty is aware that we are open for all kinds of solutions, and we are ready for organising a race. The way it takes is definitely beyond our control, and it depends on the situation the country is in.”
He said at the time they were fully committed to the date, laying out the two options, for a normal weekend or a closed-door weekend like the Red Bull Ring and Silverstone.
“There are two options. The first one is that we organise a race closed to fans, similarly to Austria. Certainly, it would mean a huge loss for the promoter.”
“The second option is to organise the race with fans, in which we have 35 years of experience. Last year we broke the audience number record, and based on the pre-sold tickets, a similar number was expected for this year’s race.”
Line up for Brazilian eSport Grand Prix
Ben Stokes and Stuart Broad for this weekend’s Virtual Brazilian Grand Prix, as Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc looks for a third straight victory in the Esports championship.
The fourth round of the series will take place around Interlagos because Zandvoort was not on last years calendar. Leclerc took victory in Melbourne and Shanghai and will look for his third win in a row at Interlagos.
Leclerc is one of five current F1 drivers so far confirmed for the event, along with Alex Albon of Red Bull, as well as Antonio Giovinazzi, George Russell and Nicholas Latifi.
But the notable sporting additions for the race are cricket icons Ben Stokes and Stuart Broad, who will be racing for Red Bull and Toro Rosso (now known as Alpha Tauri) respectively.
Stokes told Sky Sports, “The last race was a great experience to understand what F1 racing is really about and I really enjoyed it. This time around, I have been doing a few more Grand Prix around the track, sticking to the regulations to get used to what it’s going to be like come race day.”
Racing Point insists its car is legal
Racing Point technical director Andrew Green has revealed the FIA visited the team’s F1 factory to check its RP20 car against Mercedes’ designs and was satisfied with the results.
The team’s car caused a stir during Barcelona Testing because of it’s likeness to last years Mercedes, with some calling Racing Point’s car a ‘clone’ and a ‘Pink Mercedes’. There were also suggestions that the team’s results would be protested in Melbourne before it was aborted, and Renault has since said it has not ruled out a future legal challenge.
Defending the legal status in an exclusive interview with Motorsport.com. Green said, “We don’t really know what the ground is that they are thinking of protesting about. When the car launched, we talked to the FIA about it, the FIA came round to the factory and looked at what we’d done and the designs of the car.”
“They even took the design data from Mercedes for last year’s car and checked it against ours. They did a thorough check and they are completely happy that the car that we’ve got on track has been designed by us.”
The FIA confirmed Green’s comments when contacted by Motorsport.com. Green says that they can scream about the legality as much as they want, but that’s only because they missed the trick and are upset they missed it.
The car features the same low-rake philosophy Mercedes has deployed for years and means Racing Point has abandoned the Red Bull-inspired high-rake approach it has long run. This had meant a significant design compromise to integrate the low-rake-fitting gearbox the team buys from Mercedes.
Green says that for 2020 there was no pressure to carry over anything for the first time he has been able to design a brand new car. He added, “There was always significant carry-over, and this year was the first time that we had a clean sheet and we could optimise what we were buying from Mercedes.”
Szafnauer plays down Wolff involvement
Racing Point team principal Otmar Szafnauer doubts Toto Wolff will become involved with the team when it becomes Aston Martin next year despite his investment in the manufacturer.
The British team will be rebranded as Aston Martin next season after its owner Lawrence Stroll took a stake in the British road car manufacturer in January. Mercedes F1 CEO and team principal Wolff made a personal investment in Aston Martin earlier last month worth 0.95% of the company.
Wolff is insisting that he remains committed to his role with the German manufacturer, saying “nothing will change in the short term” as he remains in talks overextending his contract with the German team.
Szafnauer says that while he is happy for Wolff to be an investor he does not anticipate the Austrian having any involvement with the F1 team, which is a separate company. Szafnauer told Sky Sports, “He’s done an amazing job at Mercedes, but I can’t see him having a stake in our team for example.”
“The road car company, having shares in that is completely different than having shares in a loss-making Formula 1 team.” Szafnauer said he was yet to talk to Wolff about his investment in Aston Martin, but that he presumed it was a sensible business decision.
He added “I haven’t spoken to him in six or seven weeks since the Australian Grand Prix. I’ve seen him on a couple of these Zoom calls, but I haven’t asked him that question.”
Szafnauer said knowing Wolff he was making the right decision made on the share price, he says that he must have thought it’s a good time to buy.
Brabham reflects on Imola in 1994
David Brabham insists that his former teammate Roland Ratzenberger is not the forgotten man of Imola. Twenty-six years on from the darkest weekends in the history of sport which have been retold countless times since, but with the focus on the three-time world champion.
Ratzenberger joined the Simtek team to start his F1 carer after racing in touring cars, Formula 3000 and Le Mans 24 Hours. That lead to him getting his chance in Formula One at the start of 1994.
Brabham told BBC News “He didn’t have it easy. Roland had no real help in terms of racing from his parents – his dad didn’t approve – so he went off on his own.”
“That story about him and Nick wouldn’t surprise me. Roland would have done anything to get a seat. For me he was the ideal racing driver – he was fit, good-looking and had a great smile. He was fast in the car and understood the car.”
In the days leading up to the weekend, Ratzenberger was at Imola to test his car’s carbon brakes, which the Austrian had complained about. Once that issue was resolved, the Australian said his team-mate felt a lot better and was confident of braking. Unfortunately for Ratzenberger, part failure caused him to crash during qualifying at Villeneuve.
Ratzenberger was pronounced dead at the nearby Maggiore di Bologna hospital. He was only 33. It was later confirmed the Austrian suffered several injuries, including a skull fracture.
“I don’t remember much of the rest of the day. We put the shutter down in the garage and we walked back. There weren’t a lot of people talking. Everyone was in a state of shock. Nobody could comprehend what had happened.”
Imola was a weekend full of accidents, Rubens Barrichello, who suffered a broken nose and arm when his Jordan careered into the Variante Bassa corner at 140mph.
That continued into the race, a crash between Pedro Lamy’s Lotus went spinning off the track after it smashed into the back of JJ Lehto’s stationary Benetton. The accident at Tamburello caused Senna’s death.
“The cars stop once more and you just think: ‘Oh no, not again’. You then realise it’s Senna.”
“I don’t think I got word that he passed away until that evening when I turned on Teletext. That’s when the whole weekend hit me and I burst into tears.”
The deaths at Imola were the last during a Grand Prix until Jules Bianchi’s death in 2015 following his accident at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix. The full investigation into the accident killed Antoine Hubert at Spa, will report later in the year.
Senna ready to sign Williams deal in 1991
Ayrton Senna had a contract with Williams ready to sign for the 1992 season but remained at McLaren due to his loyalty to Honda, it has been revealed.
The Brazilian won his final championship for McLaren in 1991 and was out of contract at the end of that season. Senna, however, would not move to Williams until 1994 but would never finish a race and was killed in a crash in the San Marino Grand Prix.
Now his manager at the time Julian Jakobi has told Beyond the Grid, that Senna could have made the move as early as 1992, having arrived at the Belgian Grand Prix of that year holding contracts from both Williams and McLaren ready to sign.
Jakobi said “Ayrton wanted to go to Williams, but he was loyal to Honda. His basic instinct was to go to Williams earlier, but he was loyal particularly to Mr. [Nobuhiko] Kawamoto, who was the president of Honda.”
“He was very close to him, because Honda had basically brought themselves and Ayrton to McLaren in 1988, and they’d won three championships together.”
“Even late ’91, when he won the third championship, he didn’t feel instinctively that the Honda was what it was, and he was worried about the future,” Jakobi says he expected the deal to move to Williams at Spa, only for the Brazilian to change his mind overnight after a call with Honda president Kawamoto.
He says that by the Sunday Senna had made his decision to stay at McLaren. Jakobi believes that if Senna had signed for Williams in 1991, Nigel Mansell wouldn’t have won the championship the following year as he wouldn’t have been champion that season.
Honda would ultimately pull out of F1 after the 1992 season, prompting Senna to consider not racing at all in 1993 and take a sabbatical as Alain Prost had done the previous year.