F1 considering second race in Bahrain
Formula One is assessing the possibility of the Sakhir Grand Prix returning to the calendar as the TBC race creating a double header in Bahrain if the Portuguese Grand Prix cannot go ahead as round three of the season.
The season is due to start in Bahrain with testing on 12 – 14 March followed by the opening race a fortnight later, with the extra race slotting in on 2 – 4 April. The TBC slot will, however, remain open to Portugal to host the race on the 30 April – 2 May.
Hopes of hosting a race in Portimao appear to be fading as Europe battles with a second winter wave and new variants of Coronavirus. If the second race in Bahrain does go ahead it will be expected to be held on the outer circuit.
According to Motorsport.com, F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali is due to hold lengthy talks with various race promoters over the next few days to try to better gauge the situation before deciding how the season will start.
The Italian remains hopeful that the current dates can work and is adamant that the Imola race isn’t under threat. But the revised proposal is moving the Imola race to 09 – 11 April, giving a three-week break to slot another race in.
Speaking to selected media, Domenicali said about the calendar situation: “There is a TBC date there, and if it will be Portugal, it will be written as Portugal. The reason why it’s not written Portugal is because the situation is still not closed yet.”
“As soon as we can, we will be able to announce something – and that will be in the next days, not in the next two months. I’ve got personal meetings during this weekend to understand what is the state of the situation.”
He says there are numerous options on the table, and confirmed the Sakhir Grand Prix was an option but nothing was confirmed. Domenicali is hopeful that F1 can still pull off a full 23-race calendar.
Saying “Everyone was thinking that this year would have been easier if you imagine the situation, and it is not. We are totally confident that we can achieve the number of races that are on the calendar.
“It’s a challenge, but we are confident that, with the relations we have, this can really happen. But as you can imagine we are fluid and flexible to be ready with other possibilities.
Vettel “hungry” to succeed – Szafnauer
Aston Martin team principal Otmar Szafnauer says Sebastian Vettel has arrived at his new team “really hungry” to succeed and believes the four-time champion is fully capable of rediscovering his best form.
After six years with Ferrari which failed to see the German win a title, Vettel was let go by the team in May last year and once the season finally got underway he appeared to struggle throughout the year. Vettel begins a fresh chapter in his career at the outfit that was Racing Point in the first season of their new era.
Last week, despite lockdown, he made his first visit to the teams Silverstone base to complete his seat fitting, and his new team boss has been impressed by the German driver’s approach.
Speaking in an interview with Sky Sports, Szafnauer said: “The way I look at it is at 33 years old you don’t forget how to drive a Formula One racing car fast. He definitely hasn’t forgotten how to do that, and the work ethic is still there.
“He’s really, really hungry to perform. We’ve started working with him this year already and you can see it. He asked all the right questions and a lot of them. He’s really hungry for knowledge.”
Szafnauer described Vettel as ‘a performance engineer’ behind the wheel, saying that he wants to understand more than just aspect of car performance. He says that is a good trait to have, and Aston Martin wants to see the four-time champion have fun again in Formula One, which means being competitive.
Vettel’s first challenge will be to beat new teammate Lance Stroll in the sister car, the three-time podium finisher who is entering his third season at the team his father owns. Szafnauer believes that the partnership can be “great” with the target being third in the constructors, after narrowly losing it to McLaren last season.
He says Vettel was very experienced but not passed his best, with Stroll being much younger and on the learning curve but naturally very fast.
Grosjean to race in IndyCar
Romain Grosjean is to race in IndyCar this, racing at selected races on road and street circuits for Dale Coyne Racing. The Frenchman’s F1 career ended with a firey crash in November’s Bahrain Grand Prix where he suffered burns to his hands and extensive bruising.
Grosjean raced in F1 for nine and a half seasons for the Renault, Lotus and Haas teams, and scored ten podium finishes. His crash resulted in serious burns after he spent nearly 30 seconds in an inferno before managing to extricate himself from his Haas car. He told BBC News “My left hand is still healing, but we are just about ready to get back into the race car and to start this next chapter of my career.”
He added, “I had different options for this season and IndyCar Racing was definitely my favourite one. Although I’m not ready yet to take on the ovals. IndyCar has a much more level playing field than what I have been used to in my career so far. It will be exciting to challenge for podiums and wins again.”
Grosjean’s first test will be at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama on 22 February, alongside team-mate Ed Jones. He will take part in his first race at the same circuit on the 18th of April.
The Frenchman had been previously sceptical about IndyCar because he thought the championship was largely on oval tracks. But when he discovered most races were on road and street courses, the same type of tracks as F1, his interest heightened.
Team owner Dale Coyne said: “We’ve been talking to Romain for some time now, even before his accident at Bahrain. He has shown interest in the IndyCar series for the past several months and we’re very happy that he has chosen to pursue his career with us and excited to welcome a driver with his pedigree.”
Domenicali continues Americas push
Liberty Media plans to make a big push to boost interest in the United States this year, as it continues to evaluate a second race in the country. The sports owners made it one of their key aims, when they took over the sport in 2017 to increase the appeal of the sport in America.
This year the latest plan for a street race in the states was due to debut, but the plans for a race around Miami have stalled because of ongoing resistance from local residents and politicians. However, the event isn’t abandoned with the prompter agreeing to wait until the aftermath of the pandemic become clear.
F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali shared his predecessor’s eagerness to do more in America. Speaking to a group of media on Thursday, the Italian said that F1 was weighing up how best to fit in a second race alongside the current event in Austin.
Domenicali said, “Miami is more advanced in terms of discussion, but there are others in other areas of the American country. But they are not at the level where I can say, ‘yes, they are there,’ and I can anticipate something happening.
“I think that in the next couple of months we will decide what there will be in terms of possible discussion concerning that country, and eventual rotation or stabilizing with two [Grands Prix] that are fixed. So it’s a work in progress.”
However, a change would take place this year would be the profile given to F1 in the US. Domenicali believes the sport needed to do more to keep itself in the spotlight all year, rather than just in the build-up to the country’s race.
Adding, “I can guarantee to you there is now big interest in the USA with Formula One. What we don’t have to do, in terms of mistake, is that the US needs to be fed with F1 news every day.”
He believes its wrong to just have an incredible push in the build-up to the race, then being silent the rest of the year. Speaking about the race in Austin he says negotiations were already underway to renew the contract which ends next year.
It’s not only in America he is looking to push for new races, but he also said discussions were ongoing about returning to Africa, currently the only continent without a race, he said there were discussions about races in both “north and south Africa”.
Domenicali urges teams to back engine freeze
F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali has urged teams to back Red Bull’s call for an engine freeze for the good of the sport, ahead of a crunch meeting of the F1 Commission next week. Red Bull is hoping to take over Honda’s programme at the end of the year after they decided to withdraw.
Red Bull says that they can only carry on running the Honda power units if a development freeze is imposed. This is because the Milton Keynes-based outfit cannot afford to match the kind of development budgets that manufacturers like Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault can put into improving their power units.
Renault appears to be the biggest opponents, with Mercedes and Ferrari appearing open to the idea. This is because the French manufacturer it is scheduled to introduce a new power unit for the start of 2022.
It made the decision on the timing of that upgrade after Red Bull rejected the French car manufacturer’s previous call for a freeze to come into play at the time. In the round table interview on Thursday, Domenicali, who took over from Chase Carey as CEO of F1 at the start of this year, is eager for the freeze to get pushed through.
He believes doing so would be good for all teams, because it would ensure a reduction in costs that will be important as F1 prepares for new power unit rules that are likely to come in for 2025. This comes ahead of that meeting next Thursday, with him saying an engine freeze was a very important point.
He told the media, “I don’t want to say only for Red Bull. It is for the entire F1 because, as you know today, the actual regulation and freezing is based on 2023.”
“We want to anticipate the freeze because we want to save money to make sure that the manufacturers and teams can invest in the new engine. And on the one side, that is a priority for a lot of the manufacturers.”
Manufacturers have already started to have discussions to frame a set of regulations between 2022-26, with Domenicali optimistic that the move can get the necessary support from teams, as they go in the right direction.
Williams announces launch date
Williams will launch there 2021 car the FW43B on the first day of pre-season testing Friday 5th March in Sakhir, Bahrain. The team announced the launch on social media, with a clip of the new car being fired up for the first time.
The announcement makes Williams the fifth team to formally announce its launch plans ahead of the new season, following McLaren, Alpha Tauri, Alfa Romeo and Mercedes.
Williams is currently the final team to hold its launch event, one week before the start of pre-season testing in Bahrain, when drivers George Russell and Nicholas Latifi are set to get a maiden extended run-out in the car.
This season marks the first season under the ownership of American investment fund Dorilton Capital last August, and the exit of the Williams family. Despite the departure of Sir Frank Williams, the owners said they will be sticking with his initials as the car name.
Williams will head into the 2021 season aiming to build on an improved 2020 campaign that saw it regularly battle with lower-midfield rivals Alfa Romeo and Haas, making a step forward on the previous year.
Although it finished 2020 pointless and last in the constructor’s championship, Williams at serval races just outside the points with both Russell, who almost won the Sakhir Grand Prix for Mercedes, getting through to Q2 regularly and Latifi finishing eleventh three times.
Alpha Tauri sets its launch date
Alpha Tauri has also confirmed they will launch there 2021 car the AT02 on Friday 19th February. The Italian revealed the date but no other details about the unveiling in a tweet on Thursday morning.
Last year the team had a successful season with Pierre Gasly taking a surprise victory at the Italian Grand Prix, the squad is bullish about its prospects for the campaign ahead. Gasly will be joined by rookie Yuki Tsunoda to race alongside him following an impressive rookie season in F2 last year.
Alpha Tauri has been testing with a 2018 car with Tsunoda both at Imola and Misano in a bid to rack up the miles ahead of his F1 debut in the Bahrain Grand Prix.
At the end of last year team principal, Franz Tost said he believed that the team made solid progress with its organisation, which made him confident for the future.
He said “We are getting stronger and stronger in every aspect from the processes, but also from the discipline side and also the track operations worked well. People are coming more and want to get up We have two really good drivers as well.”
“Pierre improved a lot. He has reached a real high level now. And therefore, we could be so successful. The car, I must say, worked from the very beginning onwards.” Tost says that the team’s aerodynamic upgrades brought an advantage and came together to push the team forward.
Alpha Tauri is sticking with Honda engines for the Japanese car manufacturer’s final season in F1, but no decision has yet been made about which power unit the team will use in 2022. Its sister team Red Bull is looking to take over the Honda engine programme, but that depends on teams agreeing to an engine freeze.
The week ahead
Next week is kind of difficult to predict and we are seeing despite lockdowns teams are starting to get prepared for the season ahead. Like we have said for weeks we are still waiting for Lewis Hamilton’s contract to be agreed until we get an announcement there will be continuing speculation on what’s going on. According to Stefano Domenicali, this has been stalled by the post-F1 role for Hamilton.
We have now had half the teams confirm the dates of their online launches, I expect next week we will get the confirmation of the remaining team’s dates. Some teams are going to use a filming day or old cars to get their drivers back into the grove, remember as athletes they are not under the same restrictions as the majority of us.
We should have an F1 Commission meeting as we are starting to get stories around that in the media, we know one of the main talking points is Red Bull needing that engine freeze allowing them to take over the Honda engine. I think the key in this is going to be Mercedes and their customers as they have given sound that they could support the move.
This week we have heard a lot from Domenicali, so expect reaction and analysis of these interviews as it will give us an insight into what he wants to achieve and the direction he wants to take the sport in. We know short term Covid-19 is the continuing thing shaping the sport, today we heard him speak about his vision.