Engine freeze being considered
Formula One may impose an engine development freeze on the current power units as an emergency measure if there needs to be a further dramatic reduction in costs to save teams.
The Coronavirus pandemic is having a major impact on the finances of everyone in the sport, with discussions are already underway between the teams, the FIA and F1 about how expenditure can be further reduced in the future.
Already the teams have agreed to postpone next years regulation change and carry over this year’s cars into 2021. However, the finances are likely to be squeezed further, discussions are already taking place on extra measures that can be taken if needed.
One area being considered is a reduction in the budget cap from its current $175 million levels that comes into force from the start of next year. However, that could lead to job cuts, at a time when unemployment is expected to rise and new high skilled jobs are unlikely to be created
The other option would be to freeze power unit development for several seasons, which in turn would reduce the engine bills for the teams. Also, the possibility of postponing the regulation changes by another year to 2023, will remain ongoing while the coronavirus crisis plays out.
However, there is a mood among all the outfits to now make sure that decisions are made that help secure the grid rather than play to individual teams’ benefits.
The sports two big manufacturers Mercedes and Ferrari appear to be giving more flexibility in the current circumstances, Mercedes recently approved a plan to keep a 2021 ban on DAS in place, even though it is the only team running it, while Ferrari supported the delay in the new car rules even though it looks like it is behind its rivals with its current car.
No one knows the impact of Coronavirus
Alfa Romeo team principal Fred Vasseur says that nobody knows how ‘deep’ the coronavirus crisis will be for Formula One, as talks continue to try to slash costs and save jobs.
The pandemic has led to the first eight races either being cancelled or postponed, with more events expected to fall by the wayside as the world tries to control the pandemic.
A lack of racing has put a huge financial strain on teams, amid concerns about a drop in commercial rights income and sponsorship revenue as a consequence of what has happened. Measures have been brought in by the FIA and F1 to ease the impact of the uncertainty.
However, that still may not be enough to avoid the risks of some teams struggling to survive. Speaking to Motorsport.com, Vasseur said the difficulty for everyone right now was the lack of certainty about how things will develop over the next few months.
He said, “The issue is that we don’t know how deep the crisis will be. We don’t know if we will be able to start in Montreal or not. It is a bit difficult to have a clear understanding of what will be the situation and what will be the season today.”
“We are struggling to build up to something strong and a decent season, but you never know. In the end, it is difficult for us to imagine what will be the impact on the teams. We have to be reactive. We are working on defining plans and trying to have a plan B and a plan C and all the letters of alphabet.”
Vasseur believes that no matter the size of the team and even the manufacturer teams will be under pressure at this time. But admits that he only knows Alfa Romeo’s situation, but is aware that the manufacturers are selling fewer cars and Red Bull is selling less product.
Vasseur said that Alfa Romeo had spoken to its sponsors about the situation, and accepted things were difficult for anybody to accept.
He explained “We’ve been in contact with our sponsors. For sure, nobody is happy about the current situation. My business and my job and my passion is to race. It’s not to stay at home.”
“Even though I love my family, I don’t want to stay at home for six months! But at the end, we have to understand the situation and I think the sponsors, they also have to manage other crises than just the sponsoring.”
McLaren drivers and staff take a pay cut
Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris have taken a voluntary pay cut as McLaren puts some engine development freeze on the current power units as an emergency measure if there needs to be a further dramatic reduction in costs to save teams.
Both drivers volunteered to take the cut at the same rate as the other employees. McLaren said the measures were “focused on protecting jobs in the short term”.
In a statement, the team said the plan was “to ensure our employees return to full-time work as the economy recovers” and said the steps were “part of wider cost-cutting measures due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its business”.
The team would not reveal how many staff had been furloughed or what percentage of salary the remaining employees would lose. The initial furlough period will be for two months, while the wage reduction runs for three.
Staff working on the F1 project to boost the supply of ventilators for the NHS fighting coronavirus will not be on furlough but will take the pay cut.
The British government has brought in a retention scheme that allows companies to claim a grant covering 80% of the wages of a furloughed worker up to a maximum of £2,500 a month. McLaren CEO Zak Brown says this is the biggest crisis for the sport since the 2008 financial crisis.
F1 and its teams face a major reduction in revenue as a result of the cancellation of races caused by the coronavirus crisis. With the season on hold, the three main incomes, race-hosting fees, broadcast rights and sponsorship income, are under threat.
With no sign of the races beginning soon, the first eight races have been postponed with more expected to follow as the world deals with Covid-19.
the F1 season cannot start again until restrictions on global travel are eased, and there is no sign at this stage of when that could be.
Silverstone open to multiple Grand Prix
Silverstone says it is open to holding multiple Grand Prix this season to help Formula One and even considering reverse layout and using the decommissioned Bridge Circuit.
Silverstone announced on Wednesday that they were giving themselves until the end of April to decide on whether the British Grand Prix can go ahead as scheduled on 19th July.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Stuart Pringle explained “There are two reasons. Number one is that Silverstone is one round in a world championship and our colleagues at Formula One are trying incredibly hard to piece together a season that will start much later [than planned].
“There have been a number of postponements and one cancellation and they are trying to reknit that calendar together. We are one element of that and it’s important that Formula One get the chance to try and get a world championship season away.”
Pringle says that being a fixed venue gives them more flexibility and they have enough time to wait for F1 to get a plan together. The current plan is for the season to be fifteen races, with teams having given the commercial rights holders and the FIA the right to make changes to the calendar without a vote.
There have been suggestions that Silverstone may hold more than one Grand Prix, the circuit says “are willing to work with them in any way, shape or form that they think is in the best interests of the championship. The majority of the teams are within a stone’s throw of the circuit, so operationally it would be pretty straightforward.”
Silverstone is often seen as one of the core races and a highlight of the British summer, it is one of two races held every season since 1950. Pringle admits the reason why it takes place in July is that that is the best time for the weather.
But accepts the race could be held in September.
Norris shaves head for coronavirus relief
Lando Norris has kept to his promise and shaved his head after raising £10,000 for a Coronavirus response fund. On Saturday, Norris promised he would shave his head if he met his target of raising £10,000 for the fund as part of Twitch’s Stream Aid event.
The Englishman raised £2.5m passing his own target. Speaking to the official F1 website earlier this week, Norris revealed he wouldn’t go fully bald and was still deciding on the length.
He said “I will still have some hair left. I’ve ordered a shaver online and I have to wait for that to arrive. I don’t know what the grades are, I normally get my hair scissor-cut – I don’t get it shaved in any way.”
“So, I need to figure out how much I’m willing to go. I’m not going to go completely [bald]. I’m going for 95% gone.”
Verstappen in a better place to beat Hamilton
Nico Rosberg believes Max Verstappen would have a better chance of defeating Lewis Hamilton for the F1 title if the 2020 season is shorter. The plotlines for this season is expected to be Hamilton’s quest for the seventh championship, and his battle with the dutchman.
However, the whole season remains uncertain as to when it will start, currently, the next race is 12 – 14 June in Montreal. F1 is currently looking to fit fifteen to eighteen races in this year, Rosberg believes fewer races could play into Verstappen and Red Bull’s hands as they bid to end Mercedes’ six-year title streak.
Rosberg told Sky Sports, “It increases the chances of there being a surprise champion if there’s fewer races because then of course luck plays a bigger role.”
“I always thought that Red Bull and Max Verstappen were really going to be in the hunt this year and really be able to annoy Mercedes in a big way and give them a run for their money. If there was a shorter season maybe his chances would be even bigger.”
Formula One is looking at several ideas if they need to significantly reshape their calendar, such as extending the season into next January, holding back-to-back-to-back races, and staging two races on the same weekend.
Rosberg urged the sport to “get creative” and supported the prospect of two-race events, although it would present many challenges to the teams. Adding, “It’s completely different. You’ve made plans for the season and then suddenly you have two races per weekend, that would change everything – the way you use your engines, everything is different.”
He admits that the solution is going to be complicated and would need the unanimous agreement of all the teams.
Ecclestone to become a father for the fourth time
Formula One chairman emeritus Bernie Ecclestone is about to become a father for the fourth time with his third wife Fabiana Flosi, according to widespread reports. The billionaire, who is currently in his Brazilian farm north of Sao Paulo as they self-isolate during the coronavirus pandemic, will turn 90 in October, shortly after the baby boy’s July due date.
Ecclestone confirmed the news to Blick after German media Yes, it is due in the summer,’ Ecclestone, who has five grandchildren and a great-grandchild, confirmed to Swiss newspaper Blick on Thursday after the news was first reported by German media. ‘Hopefully, he’ll learn to play backgammon soon!”
Ecclestone and Brazilian Grand Prix marketing director Fabiana, married in 2012 at his ski chalet in Switzerland. ‘Like all parents we have only one wish: the child must be born healthy, ‘Hopefully he will never express any interest in doing something in Formula 1!’
The British billionaire ran Formula One for four decades before being ousted in a coup when Liberty Media in 2014. He has had many controversies over the years, including Labours policy on tobacco adverting, Hitler comments in the FIA-FOTA row and stood trail for bribery in Germany in 2014.
He currently has three children from his two previous marriages