2021 will not be normal warns Todt
FIA President Jean Todt has warned that the 2021season will not be like “a normal season” and expects more calendar changes due to Coronavirus. As the pandemic once again rages across Europe and the Americas the ambitious twenty-three race calendar which sees the flyaway races return to their usual slots looks unlikely.
Last month, outgoing CEO Chase Carey said the sport was “planning for 2021 events with fans that provide an experience close to normal and expect our agreements to be honoured”. However, Todt president of the governing body, warned the coronavirus pandemic is “not over” as he braces for more changes to the schedule.
Yesterday it was reported that the opening race in Melbourne on 19 – 21 March is set to be postponed. Todt told Motorsport.com “Unfortunately, it’s not over. It’s not like the season is ending, [so] we start from a white piece of paper. Lockdown is still going to happen, confinement, the virus is there.”
“There has been progress. We are expecting a vaccine, so it will be good for the population, good for the planet to be able to enjoy that. But I’m sure that over the next days, we will hear quite a lot of potential changes on the different calendars, not only Formula One, but on other calendars.”
Todt says he thinks that half of 2022 could be normal, a different life when the pandemic is behind us. He did praise Liberty for putting together a re-written 2020 calling it a “great season and with a lot of creativity.”
He says who could have thought that three races in Italy, double-headers at Silverstone and Spielberg would have worked. As well as the different circuit’s in Bahrain and the return to Istanbul.
Norris tests positive for Coronavirus
Lando Norris has announced he has tested positive for Coronavirus while on holiday ahead of a training camp in Dubai. The McLaren driver said on social media he had symptoms, underwent a test for COVID-19 on Monday.
The Englishman is the fourth driver that is known to have tested positive for the virus and will self-isolate for fourteen days. A Statement from McLaren said, “McLaren can confirm that Lando Norris tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday in Dubai, where he is currently on holiday ahead of a planned training camp.”
“After recognising a loss of taste and smell, he was tested immediately and informed the team. In line with local regulations, he is now self-isolating at his hotel for 14 days. He is currently feeling well and reports no other symptoms.”
Norris added on Twitter, “Yesterday I lost my sense of taste and smell so immediately self-isolated and took a test. It’s come back as positive, so I’ve told everyone that I’ve been in contact with and will be self-isolating for the next 14 days. I feel alright and have no other symptoms but I just wanted to let you all know. Take care.”
Formula One’s testing programme is currently on hold with the teams conducting their own testing during the winter break. Drivers have stressed the importance of keeping safe and ensure their winter preparations are not impacted.
Melbourne organisers back up reports of postponement
Organisers of the Australian Grand Prix are set to announce March’s season opener will be postponed due to the strict quarantine controls on international arrivals.
The Australian Grand Prix Corporation (AGPC) also backed away from the March 21 schedule. A statement said, “Further detail will be provided upon finalisation of arrangements with all parties in the coming weeks.”
Last years race was cancelled hours before FP1 after a member of McLaren team member tested positive for the virus.
a Victoria state government spokesman said, “Discussions between the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, the government and Formula One management about the Formula One calendar for 2021 are ongoing.”
“As part of those discussions, the government will continue to prioritise public health considerations while protecting our major events calendar.”
Bahrain could hold pre-season testing
Formula One could switch pre-season testing to Bahrain following the increasing likelihood that the opening race on 19 – 21 March in Melbourne is set to be postponed and the gulf kingdom hosting the opening race of 2021.
The original idea to move the test to Bahrain was discussed last year, however, the teams decided for the test to remain at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain for the single three-day test.
However, it’s looking likely now Melbourne will not go ahead, with Motorsport.com saying it has learned that teams have agreed to move it to Sakhir. There remains disagreement between teams over when the three-day test will take place in Bahrain, leaving the dates for testing unconfirmed.
While some are eager to hold the running as close to the race as possible, others are looking to run it further out from the Bahrain weekend. The idea is to save on the cost of freight moving between Barcelona and Bahrain.
The sporting regulations state the three-day test must take place “between 1 February and ten days before the start of the first event of the championship”. This means the test could move to the 12-16 March and still give the two-week break required between testing and the opening race.
Last years Bahrain Test was cancelled due to the pandemic, it would also be the first pre-season test held in Bahrain since 2014. It also held in-season testing in 2017 and 2019, as well as staging an additional Grand Prix last year as part of the revised 2020 schedule.
Williams change model with technical partnership
Williams has announced it is expanding its technical partnership with Mercedes from 2022 to include the supply of gearboxes and hydraulics. In a major change for the team under its new owners.
Under the ownership of the Williams family, the team took pride in the fact it was an in the fact they were an independent team. But it appears the team’s new owners are mimicking the model of its rivals, which rely on supply deals with bigger teams.
Team principal Simon Roberts told ESPN, “I’m pleased to see our great relationship with Mercedes extend beyond the supply of engines. Williams is an independent team, but Formula One is always evolving, and as a team, we must be agile to react to the current climate in order to put the team in the best position to be competitive on track.”
“This long-term agreement with Mercedes is a positive step and forms part of our strategic objectives for the future whilst we will still retain our design and manufacturing capabilities in-house.”
Mercedes F1 CEO and team principal Toto Wolff says the expanded supply deal with Williams had been in the works for some time. He added, “We are pleased to expand our technical cooperation with Williams through this new agreement.”
“For Williams, it makes sense to acquire the integrated powertrain after running our power units since 2014 and for our team, it makes sense in terms of economies of scale to supply another team under the new rules.”
Mercedes already has a similar arrangement with Aston Martin, formerly Racing Point, which based the design of its 2020 car on Mercedes’ 2019 chassis with a large degree of success last year.
Wolff haunted by scepticism over Mercedes success
Mercedes F1 CEO and team principal Toto Wolff says the seven-times champions continue to be haunted by “scepticism and pessimism”. The German manufacturer took their dominance to new heights in 2020, only being beaten three times to victory.
Wolff has admitted in an interview with Motorsport.com, the scale of the teams advantaged had even caught the team by surprise with Red Bull’s challenge falling short and Ferrari’s pace dropping off.
However, Wolff says that key to its ongoing success is a paranoid mindset at the team that makes it fear that its run of dominance will soon end. He told the website, “Every year, performances that are similar to the ones that we had [in 2020] come as a surprise because by nature, we are sceptical people.”
“That keeps us on our toes for the targets that we set ourselves, and we are always a little bit behind. In that respect, we are all pleasantly surprised when we get out of the blocks and see that we are in a good position.
Wolff says that Mercedes are always surprised when they start the season where they would be, which wasn’t about fishing for compliments and was the attitude of the team.
He also had no explanation as to why Red Bull and Ferrari were unable to put together a strong enough challenge but suggested that the core strengths of Mercedes have helped.
Wolff says they have great respect for there rivals and the people in those teams, but believes it’s hard for him to comment on where there weaknesses or where Mercedes advantages are. All he knows makes Mercedes a good place to work.
Adding “We are able though to strike the balance between pressure making a pipe burst or producing a diamond. This is something that you need to live every day.
“You need to empower. You need to be a safe place for the employees. You need to allow them to speak up, to make mistakes and have the right values. And all that can only be built up over time.”
Wolff accepted that sometimes, like in 2019 when Ferrari had the edge on power before they were pegged back by FIA technical directives. he says that last year the HPP division were on the limit of performance delivery, amid a cost cap environment and the restructuring needed because of COVID.
He says they have used everything they can to be in a good space, and keep energy levels high, set the right objectives and find purpose in what we do.
Sainz believes limiting testing will be “tough”
Carlos Sainz believes it will be “tough” because of limited testing with Ferrari, but he is relishing the challenge. The Spaniard was announced as a race driver for the team replacing Sebastian Vettel in May last year partnering Charles Leclerc.
Sainz joins the Italian manufacturer following two impressive seasons with McLaren, where he helped the team rise to third in the constructors’ championship.
He will have only a day and a half to get used to his new car, following the reduction of pre-season testing to just three days ahead of the new season. It means most teams will only be able to give each of its drivers just one-and-a-half days of running to get up to speed with the updated cars.
Sainz told Motorsport.com, “Pressure in Ferrari is always high. It doesn’t matter about the number of years on the contract, and I’m the first one that is wanting to be as fast as possible out of the box.”
“But for me a two-year deal is important. It’s one of the things that I’ve always said since I joined McLaren and obviously since joining Ferrari, for a driver to have a bit of stability in a team is always important.”
He says that he feels that in his second year with McLaren he got more out of the car, Sainz suggested that his second year he extracted a lot more out of the car.
Albon to race in DTM this year
Alex Albon will combine his test and reserve driver role at Red Bull with racing in some rounds of DTM this year. The British-Thai driver will partner Liam Lawson in an all-Red Bull line up, with the new Zealander replacing Albon when he is on reserve driver duty.
Albon lost his race seat to Sergio Perez for next season, after finishing a disappointing seventh in the championship behind Perez, Daniel Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz, that was despite him scoring his first two podiums with Red Bull.
Red Bull’s motorsport adviser Helmut Marko told DTM’s website, “The DTM, with a high-class field and GT3 sports cars, is an interesting platform and a real challenge, both for successful race drivers like Alex Albon as for our Red Bull junior driver Liam Lawson.”
Its yet to be announced which team and car make Albon and Lawson will contest the 2021 DTM series with, or how many rounds Albon will compete in.