Brazilian Virtual GP – Albon stops Leclerc taking a hattrick
Alex Albon has stopped Charles Leclerc taking a third win of the Virtual F1 Series following a long race-long battle at the Brazilian Grand Prix. A three-second penalty for the Ferrari driver demoted to third for exceeding track limits.
The third race of the season was dominated by a gripping battle between the Red Bull and Ferrari, in an ever-changing wheel-to-wheel battle between Albon and Leclerc, a fortnight after the Ferrari driver had beaten his Red Bull rival in the Shanghai.
The race started with chaos, when Mercedes Stoffel Vandoorne crashed into the pit wall, allowing Albon and Leclerc to pass before pulling away, working together they managed to slipstream and so repeatedly change positions down the circuit’s main straight and long run to Turn Four.
Following the pit stops Albon switched to the soft tyres, Leclerc didn’t give up but picked up a penalty for excessive warnings about running wide. The Ferrari briefly nosed back ahead of the Red Bull on several occasions in the closing laps, before Albon took control and seized victory.
“I was shaking afterwards. I had so much adrenaline in my body – I feel more scared driving a simulator than the real thing! The pressure was unbelievable!” said a thrilled Albon, who was denied a maiden F1 podium in real life in Brazil last November after a late tangle with Lewis Hamilton.
Russell steadily closed in throughout the race taking third midway through the thirty-six laps, following Leclerc’s penalty he was promoted onto the podium. Leclerc said, “I kept overtaking Alex, I didn’t want him to go even knowing that George would come back and cost me the second place. It was proper fun.”
Vandoorne came back from the crash at the start with a strong performance to finish fourth ahead of teammate Esteban Gutierrez. Lando Norris failed to qualify because of connection problems initially beset Lando Norris once again, finishing tenth but picked up several penalties on the way.
In the battle of the England cricketers, Ben Stokes was a commendable thriteenth on his second outing in the series, four places ahead of a debuting Stuart Broad.
Round four of the season takes place this weekend, the Virtual Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya.
Budget cap to be lowered
F1 motorsport managing director Ross Brawn has told Sky Sports that the sport is in the final stages of reducing the budget cap to £116m from £140m for next season.
Despite the deferral of the 2021 regulations by at least a year the cost cap rules were retained for next season. The regulations were designed to reduce spending, excluding drivers’ salaries and other selected items, from next year in a bid to improve the competitiveness of the sport.
The reduction was prompted by the loss of income to the sport after the first ten races were either postponed or cancelled due to the coronavirus. This has prompted a need for a further reduction in the money being spent by all teams to go racing.
Fresh from a phone meeting between F1 and the FIA, the sport’s governing body, Brawn told Sky Sports “Today’s meeting was the FIA and Formula One. The details will be going out to the teams in the next few days. There has been a lot of consultation and I think we’re now at the very final stages. It will all become clear shortly.”
While the sporting, technical and financial rules aimed at resetting the sport’s competitiveness from 2022 have been agreed. The Concorde Agreement which sets out F1’s commercial arrangements expires at the end of this year.
He says that the new agreement should combine well with the budget cap to help level up the playing field. Brawn added, “There’s going to be a much more equitable prize fund in the new agreement so the midfield teams, in particular, are going to be much better off in terms of their portion of the prize money.”
He believes that the new rules should allow the midfield teams to score podiums and wins, as well as making a small profit. Adding “If we can achieve that we’ll have a very sustainable future.”
But while the coronavirus crisis has led to the overhaul of the cars being delayed by a year, Brawn made clear the regulations are “definitely coming in” for 2022 despite calls from some teams to defer again to 2023.
Budget cap is a performance leveller
Racing Point team principal Otmar Szafnauer believes that the reduced cost cap has the potential to be performance “leveller”. F1 teams have already agreed in principle to move the 2021 cost cap limit from $175m to $150m as a result of the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, there has been a stand-off between Ferrari and the other teams has emerged, the Italian team doesn’t want the cap below $145m while McLaren wants it reduced to around $100m.
The talks were due to secure the commercial deal by the end of the year, but the Coronavirus pandemic has placed extra financial pressure on the teams. The idea of the cap is to close the gaps between the teams and produce healthier competition levels – which could have added long-term sustainability benefits for F1.
Szafnauer told Motorsport.com, “The other thing that we have to remember is that [with] the cost cap you don’t have to spend the money. You don’t have to, even if the cost cap is $170m.”
“We at Force India, for example, in dollar terms, with all the exclusions, we used to spend around just over $100m, say $110m. But there are lots of exclusions. So if you take out all the exclusions, my guess is we’re spending around $70m.”
He says that the cap doesn’t mean you need to spend up to the cap, but the cap would prove a leveller in performance. But he warned that the sport needs to be careful about saying only ‘cost cap for financial reasons’ when it can also be a leveller in competitiveness.
Speaking ahead of the latest discussions on a budget cap, he added, “The bigger teams that today spend $300m plus dollars having to come down to $170m, $150m – or $100m [or] even lower – they’re screaming, saying, ‘Well, I’m going to have to cut a lot of people.”
But admits that will be hard to do, saying that the sport needs to be financially stable for everyone.
‘Draconian’ measures to start the season – Horner
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has described the health protocols for the Austrian Grand Prix as ‘draconian.’ Strict proposals have been put in place to allow the race to go ahead in July, should travel restrictions have been eased in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Several proposals have been put forward to get the 2020 season underway, including a ban on fans and media, strict isolation for F1 personnel from the local community and extensive testing of those at the venue.
Speaking to Motorsport.com about the Austrian GP plans, Horner said, “Red Bull are really committed to getting the championship off the ground. They have put in huge effort to get the race underway in Austria. It’s a circuit that’s owned by Red Bull, so it’s obviously within their control, but they’re working with the local authorities and the government.”
“including a ban on fans and media, strict isolation for F1 personnel from the local community and extensive testing of those at the venue.”
“Of course the screening and testing and the restrictions that are going to be in place are going to be pretty draconian, but if it allows the sport to start up again, I think it will be a blueprint for other circuits to follow.”
Horner says creating this bubble doesn’t mean it’s going to be normal, explaining that teams could have a maximum of eighty people. Teams will need to stay together and travel, also they will be in a bubble unable to interact with other teams.
He says procedures which are being drawn up at the moment are designed to protect most of the paddock, but although some remain doubtful that F1 will be able to resume at all this year, Horner thinks that at least some races will happen.
“We’re a race team, and we need a championship to race in. It’s unimaginable not to go racing this year, and I think it would be enormously unlikely for there not to be an event take place, or a world championship to take place.”
Mexico City circuit becomes Covid-19 hospital
The Autodromo Hermanos Rodriquez, venue for the Mexico City Grand Prix, will be transformed into a temporary hospital for coronavirus patients. The coronavirus has infected three million people infected and 200,000 deaths since the first cases were confirmed at the start of the year.
In Mexico, the outbreak has swelled to over 23,000 cases, with 2,154 deaths. In an attempt to stop the city’s hospitals from being overwhelmed will be transformed into a makeshift hospital.
In a post on social media, the director of the Mexican Institute of Social Security Zoe Robledo, detailed the plans. “This [the paddock club] is going to become an expansion hospital soon,” Robledo said.
“It is where eight modules for hospitalisation have been installed. Each module has 24 beds and that is where the staff will be attending. In addition, 26 intensive care beds have been installed,” the paddock, he added.
The paddock is being utilised due to its load lifts, which will allow for the safe moving of patients. Temporary lights and gas tanks have also been installed.
Currently, the Mexico City Grand Prix was due to take place 1 November before the pandemic delaying the current season until at least July. But the circuit said recently, it remains committed to hosting a Grand Prix this season.
Colonel Moore backs Hamilton for a seventh title
Colonel Tom Moore who has raised £32.8m for the NHS’ fight against the coronavirus, is a long-time F1 fan and he has backed Lewis Hamilton to become a seven-time champion once the season gets underway.
Hamilton has sent Colonel Tom a social media message of congratulations for his fundraising efforts and the centenarian said of the Mercedes drivers’ attempt to match Michael Schumacher’s titles record: “Of course he can! Never let that be a doubt in your mind – of course, he will.
“He hasn’t finished yet, he’s not an old man, he’s still a young man. He can keep going for a long time, it just depends on whether the car can keep ahead as they are now. But there are other cars who are doing the best to catch up and pass Mercedes.”
Moore will continue to close the gap to F1’s six-time champions is McLaren, who his family have a special affiliation for.
He added “I can remember when McLaren was the winner used to win and win and win,” recalls Capt. Tom. One day I’m sure it will be the same because McLaren are improving all the time.”
F1 in lockdown
With two months until the start of the Formula One season, many drivers have been placed into lockdown due to Coronavirus. But that doesn’t mean a total lack of Formula 1 content. It’s just a bit… different.
Many of the younger drivers have taken to platforms like Twitch playing video games, including various esports events. Charles Leclerc has also dabbled in some Fortnite action with Barcelona and France striker, Antoine Griezmann.
Following the stream with Griezmann, a fan kindly sent the 22-year-old a banana costume in honour of the Fortnite character, Peely.
Kimi Raikkonen posted a video of himself bouncing along on a row of trampolines? There was something strangely hypnotic in seeing the 2007 world champion joyfully bouncing back and forth before your very eyes.
George Russell, who is living with his parents, has gone in search of the ultimate home workout. If the standard plank position wasn’t hard enough, the 22-year-old displayed this punishing version with a little help from his fitness coach, who is staying with the Williams driver at his parents’ home during the lockdown.
Lando Norris has also taken part in BBC’s Big Night Spin challenge, where participants spin around 10 times and attempt to kick a football, hit a cricket stump, swing a golf club, or anything else sport-related they can get their hands on.
Meanwhile down under, Daniel Ricciardo may have created a new viral video challenge after throwing prowess by successfully chucking a water bottle into a bin on the back of a moving truck.
The animal story now, Carlos Sainz’s dog Olivia to begin with but by the time ‘Heart and Soul’ kicks in, she’s cracked it.