British GP given go-ahead by government
The British government has given further indications that the British Grands Prix can go ahead after it indicated that it is willing to relax the fourteen-day quarantine rules for elite sports personnel.
The news comes ahead of Tuesday’s expected announcement of an eight-race European leg of the 2020 World Championship, which will feature events at Silverstone on 31 July – 2 August and 7 – 9 August.
There will be no blanket exemptions, but the government will provide flexibility for sports personnel arriving in the UK if a detailed plan surrounding their travel arrangements and movements within the country is approved.
The relaxation of the restrictions will also help UEFA Champions League football, and the West Indies and Pakistan cricket tours. Since the start of the crisis, Formula One has been working to restrict the number of people attending races.
The strategy includes carefully controlled travel and accommodation arrangements for the British teams travelling to races on the continent, and for Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Alpha Tauri, Renault and Pirelli personnel arriving in the UK to travel to Silverstone
At Sunday’s daily briefing, culture secretary Oliver Dowden specifically mentioned F1. Saying “Live British sport will shortly be back on in safe and carefully controlled environments. This guidance provides the safe framework for sports to resume competitions.
“It’s up to each individual sport to decide exactly when to resume competition; they know their sports best. But football, tennis, horse racing, F1, and others are set to return to our screens shortly, with horse racing first out of the gate in the north-east next week.”
An F1 spokesperson told Motorsport.com: “We welcome the government’s efforts to ensure elite sport can continue to operate and their support for our return to racing. We will maintain a close dialogue with them in the coming weeks as we prepare to start our season in the first week of July.”
Austrian GP given go-ahead by government
The Austrian government has also given the go-ahead for the country to host the opening two races on 03 – 05 and 10 – 12 July to take place behind closed doors at the Red Bull Ring.
The country’s health ministry gave the green light for both races, which will be held without spectators amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The races are due to be held in the village of Spielberg, about 200 kilometres southwest of the capital Vienna.
The countries government is moving ahead with easing restrictions as new coronavirus infections wane. Red Bull, who organises the race, has presented a comprehensive, professional security concept to prevent infections, the country’s health ministry said on its website.
Health Minister Rudolf Anschober said, “The concept calls for strict hygienic measures as well as regular tests and health checks for the teams and their employees.”
Formula One’s teams will be limited to a maximum of eighty people each at the races when the delayed season gets going in July, the governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) said on Thursday.
The new reality for teams
From today many employees of Formula One teams are returning to work for the first time since March, with a new reality of strict tests and safety measures. After two months of shutdown, teams can now begin to prepare upgrades and the cars for the opening races in Austria in five weeks.
However, it is not business as usual, with strict distancing measures and a change in priority meaning new procedures have been put in place from the moment workers arrive. The first sign of change is outside the factory, according to Motorsport.com, with new signs telling staff: ‘I respect the distance.’
Those social distancing restrictions mean that only a limited number of staff can work at the same time, with departments having roughly half of their personnel numbers for now. Also, teams are splitting shifts and stopping mixing between departments, with designated doors and stairways being assigned to them to minimise the risk of cross-contamination from different groups of staff.
They must wear face masks, and even before they leave from home have been asked to do a personal temperature check.
On arrival at the factory, all staff must go to a stand-alone building to undergo a serology test under medical supervision to discover if they have any coronavirus antibodies.
If the test comes back negative, then the staff member is allowed to return to work. If, however, there is a positive test then a further swab test will be given to find out if the person is carrying the virus. The results of that will decide if they are cleared to work or must be put in self-isolation for 14 days.
Designs of factories have changed with hand sanitiser and perspex screens to minimise the risk of the virus being transferred, with desks and other working environments also spread out more to keep people apart.
Sao Paulo will not be closed doors
Organisers of the Brazilian Grand Prix say the race will not be held behind closed doors despite the country having the second-highest death toll from Coronavirus. The country has had 498,440 cases of COVID-19 and 28,834 deaths.
Sao Paulo where the race will be held in November has eighty per cent of Brazil’s cases, but from tomorrow will start easing its lockdown. Shops and malls to resume business from tomorrow after about two months of loosely enforced quarantine orders.
Mayor Bruno Covas recently said that the city has met all the state’s criteria to move forward on relaxing restrictions and it puts the F1 race in pole position.
The race will be the third to last race of the season, before the double-header in Bahrain and final race in Abu Dhabi.
Talking for the first time about the plans, event organizer Tamas Rohonyi told us that “preparations for the Brazilian Grand Prix are on schedule and we are certain that the famous Interlagos circuit will be the stage of yet another fascinating race.”
“The event will be run under the existing contract without difficulty. We expect confirmation of the November date by the FIA to put tickets on sale like the other flyaway races.”
This year’s race is due to be the last under the current contract with the countries president Jair Bolsonaro backed a proposal to switch the race to Rio de Janeiro though it is understood that this is too late at this stage.
Sources in Sao Paulo are working on a proposal to keep the race at Interlagos until 2030 but the fee could be a roadblock. It is understood that F1 initially asked for $35 million which is higher than the average of $28.7 million last year and more than other similar races are paying.
F1 speaks out about racial injustice
Formula One drivers have been speaking out about the murder of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, by police in Minneapolis on May 25. Six times champion Lewis Hamilton has criticised his fellow drivers for “staying silent” amid the ongoing global protests against racial injustice.
Meanwhile, curfews have been imposed in forty cities, but people have largely ignored them, leading to tense stand-offs. Riot police clashed with protesters in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Los Angeles, firing tear gas and pepper bullets to try to disperse the crowds.
It has been seen as the biggest protests and civil unrest in the US since the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968, with reports of 4,100 arrests. The protests continue despite the United States having the highest number of deaths from Coronavirus.
Numerous prominent sporting stars and public figures have used their platforms to lend their support to the ongoing protests and the #BlackLivesMatter movement, including Hamilton, who has shared regular posts in recent days.
On Sunday, Hamilton took to Instagram to call out his industry for “staying silent” on the matter through a post on his Stories.
Saying “I see those of you who are staying silent, some of you the biggest stars yet you stay silent in the midst of injustice. Not a sign from anybody in my industry which of course is a white-dominated sport. I’m one of the only people of colour there yet I stand alone.”
“I would have thought by now you would see why this happens and say something about it but you can’t stand alongside us. Just know I know who you are and I see you.”
Charles Leclerc added, “To be completely honest, I felt out of place and uncomfortable sharing my thoughts on social media about the whole situation and this is why I haven’t express myself earlier than today.”
“I still struggle to find the words to describe the atrocity of some videos I’ve seen on Internet. Racism needs to be met with actions, not silence. Please be actively participating, engaging and encouraging others to spread awareness”
Hamilton’s compatriot and McLaren F1 driver Lando Norris currently has a message on his Twitch bio reading: “Sign BLM petitions #BLACKLIVESMATTER.”
Hamilton says that racism isn’t just a problem in America, but Spain, the UK, Italy and all over. This follows comments in April, where he spoke about the need for greatest diversity within motorsport, saying back in April he thought the situation was “worse than ever before”.
Toyota to sell 2009 car as part of Coronavirus fundraiser
Toyota has announced they are going to auction off the last example of there 2009 car as part of the FIA’s online charity auction raising money for Coronavirus.
Teams and drivers have provided some lots for the #RaceAgainstCovid auction, which will be organised by RM Sotheby’s and held in aid of International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The FIA has already given €1m to the organisation.
Toyota has donated chassis TF109-01, which was tested early in the 2009 season by Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock. The team pulled out of the sport at the end of that season, and its 2010 prototype was completed, but never raced.
The TF109-01 subsequently became a Pirelli tyre test car and was driven by Nick Heidfeld, Pedro de la Rosa, Luca di Grassi and Romain Grosjean. It remains in Pirelli’s black livery and comes complete with engine and gearbox.
Other star items include the 1995 Australian GP-winning helmet and overalls donated by Damon Hill and overalls from Tom Kristensen that the multiple Le Mans winner used in his last WEC race for Audi at Interlagos in 2014.
Ferrari has provided last years race-winning 2019 overalls from both Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc along with a chance to spend a day in the Maranello simulator. Mercedes has given suits and other items from Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas. Further lots will be announced in the coming days
“Since the beginning of the health crisis the FIA and the entire motorsport community have been committed to fighting the pandemic through many initiatives such as #RaceAgainstCovid,” said FIA president Jean Todt.
The auction opens via rmsothebys.com on June 15 and will close on June 22.
Williams takes loans of £28m
Williams has revealed that the loan arrangements it refinanced in April brought £28m into the company, with part due to be repaid by April 2022 and the rest over a longer timeframe.
As reported at the time the loans involve Michael Latifi, father of Williams driver Nicholas, as well as banking group HSBC. The 2019 annual report contains details of the refinancing, despite it occurring after the reporting period.
The new arrangements replace loans originally agreed with HSBC in 2015, and which were paid off as part of the refinancing. Williams says the change was necessary after the sale of its Advanced Engineering division in December.
There are two distinct elements, with one involving the land, factory and other assets in Grove, and the second over 100 heritage cars that span the years 1978 to 2019.
Williams says “he new financing arrangements retain long-standing banking partners HSBC in combination with new financing partners. The total funds provided to the group under this new arrangement is $45m.
“$25m has been received and secured against the group’s land, building, plant and machinery, repayable in full in April 2022. Interest of 5% is payable annually and further interest of 5% per annum is rolled up to be repaid in April 2022.”
“A further $20m has been received secured against the group’s heritage assets. Interest of 5% is payable annually commencing from April 2020 whilst the principal of the loan will be repaid by equal annual instalments over a 5-year period ending in 2026.”
Although the two loans total $45m, after costs and the repayment of the original 2015 HSBC loans that actually translates into an injection of the sterling equivalent of around $35m.
On Friday, the group announced it is undertaking a strategic review that could lead to a sale of the entire company, and the report makes it clear that both loans will be “repaid promptly upon proceeds of any assets the lending is secured against”.
Williams CEO Mike O’Driscoll is upbeat about the load arrangements, noting: “Overall this represents an effective use of the group’s assets and provides us with the financial reserves required to fund the team during the current uncertain environment.”