Haas launches VF21 online
Haas launched their 2021 on Thursday the VF21 was launched online where it was announced that Uralkali would be the team’s title sponsor. The UK based American team was the eighth team to launch their new car online ahead of testing next week in Bahrain.
The Team has moved away from what Haas has traditionally run in, adopting red and blue colours on the white base to reflect the colours of the Russian flag. Uralkali is the world’s largest potash fertiliser producer and is headed up by Dmitry Mazepin, the father of 2021 Haas driver Nikita Mazepin.
team owner Gene Haas said, “I’m very pleased to welcome Uralkali to Formula 1 as title partner to Haas F1 Team. We look forward to representing their brand throughout the season. It’s definitely a case of all change but I’m hoping that we get back to being in the mix for scoring some points at these races.”
Haas goes into 2021 following a difficult 2020 when they struggled aerodynamically and lost performance from the Ferrari engine which saw it finish ninth in the constructors’ championship. This season it has a new line up with Mick Schumacher making his debut thirty years after his father, he will be partnered by Russian Nikita Mazepin.
Haas has opted against spending its two permitted development tokens on its car for 2021 following the majority carry-over in designs under the revised technical regulations. Instead, the team have decided to focus its resources on developing next years car with the technical overhaul.
Recently team principal Gunther Steiner told Motorsport.com, “It will be quite a challenging season going forward, we know about that. We’ve braced ourselves for it. We’ll do as much as we can for this year for the mid-term, compromise the short term for the gains on the mid to long-term. That’s our plan at the moment.”
This year the team has built closer ties with the technical partner Ferrari, with them setting up a ‘Haas Hub’ at Ferrari’s Maranello base with staff being redeployed from the manufacturer.
I made a “huge mistake” on groping incident – Mazepin
Nikita Mazepin admits he made a “huge mistake” in an incident in which he was filmed inappropriately touching a woman. The Haas driver said he was “not proud” of his behaviour and understood why it was wrong.
Mazepin has issued a public apology, saying he had “let myself and many people down”. However, he would not say whether he had apologised to the woman in the video for his actions.
He told BBC News, “We as human beings have to show a certain behaviour towards each other, and I am confident I will be one of those humans from now on. I made a huge mistake, but I have taken responsibility and learned from it.”
The incident took place in the week between last year’s Sakhir and Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, when a post on Instagram since deleted, showed Mazepin leaning from a back of the car to touch the breast of a woman in the front passenger seat.
He added, “They have been very patient helping me learn this matter further and I think on the whole behaviour in the incident I am way further than I have ever been. Graduating to F1 and being an F1 driver means all of a sudden you become a sort of example to a lot of young kids who are aiming to get to the same championship.”
Mazepin says that says he has learned and the behaviour you need to have on and offline.
Asked how he felt about being seen as a driver who was in F1 only because of his father’s money, Mazepin said: “I am not the only driver who has had it to deal with. But it doesn’t really bother me because I am proud of my family and proud of my father and I am not thinking of it in a negative way.”
Mazepin will compete as a neutral driver after the Word Anti-Doping Agency placed a five-year ban from international sport on Russians. But it is not yet known how that will be represented.
WADA begins an investigation into Haas livery
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is looking into the livery of Haas for 2021 amid questions over its compliance with a ban against Russia. On Friday the team unveiled a car featuring the Russian flag reflecting the team’s new title sponsor Uralkali.
However, the design of the new car has raised concerns about compliance with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which announced in December that Russian athletes were banned from competing at world championship events for the next two years.
The ban related to state-sponsored doping and cover-ups at the 2014 Winter Olympics following investigations by WADA, which had recommended a four-year ban. Last month the Russian Automobile Federation confirmed that Haas driver Nikita Mazepin could not compete under the Russian flag, or use national emblems, flags or the word Russia/Russian.
Haas has claimed the livery was not designed to circumvent the CAS ruling, but WADA has confirmed it is looking into the matter. A spokesman told Autosport, WADA is aware of this matter and is looking into it with the relevant authorities.
The uncertainty would appear to lie within the clause of the ruling that says Russian athletes “shall not display publicly […] any national emblem or other national symbols of the Russian Federation, including without limitation, on their clothes, equipment or other personal items.”
A spokesman for the FIA said “The team has clarified the livery with the FIA – the CAS decision does not prohibit the use of the colours of the Russian flag”
The statement from the RAF says that Mazepin could still use the colours of the Russian flag, as well as the acronym RAF, which stands for ‘Russian Automobile Federation’.
Haas F1 boss Gunther Steiner, “Obviously we cannot use the Russian flag as the Russian flag, but you can use colours on a car. In the end, it’s the athlete which cannot display the Russian flag and not the team. The team is an American team.”
Williams launches despite technical difficulties
Williams has unveiled its 2021 car the FW43B, the British based teams 2021 car starts black at the rear before going through various shades of blue before white on the front wing with the front edge of the front wing returning to dark blue. There are also hints of orange on the car.
The British based team was forced to abandon what was to be an innovative digital augmented reality launch after the VR app was hacked before the launch. Instead, it was forced to reveal images on social media.
The car’s revamped white, blue and yellow livery has been inspired by Williams’ dominant cars from the 1980s and ’90s, with new CEO Jost Capito saying it “signposts our long-term ambition to return to the front”.
2021 will be the first under the team’s new owners Dorilton Capital after the Williams family sold the team last September. They have a long term ambition of returning Williams back to the front, but in the last three years have finished bottom of the constructors.
The team has retained both of its drivers George Russell and Nicholas Latif.
Capito said, “Williams Racing is a sporting icon and a team that has forged a reputation of success through sheer determination and grit intertwined with innovation, passionate and skilful race-craft and an absolute desire to win.”
“Highs and lows are typical in any long-established sporting brand’s journey and historic success can be a strong motivator, but it cannot be relied upon to define future success in the modern era of Formula 1.”
He said this was the start of the journey and that they were happy that the momentum in the right direction.
Williams will be hoping that Russell can build on a strong 2020, where he almost won the Sakhir Grand Prix for Mercedes, scoring his first points. That was despite him not scoring after crashing at Imola.
Future beyond 2021 “not my first rodeo”
Sir Lewis Hamilton believes that only having a one-year contract extension with Mercedes will not be cause of distraction throughout 2021, saying “it’s not my first rodeo” dealing with contract speculation. The future of the world champion was uncertain until early February as contract negotiations dragged on.
Both Hamilton and Mercedes said they were committed to a new deal, but the short term deal is bound to lead to the question throughout the year about his future.
Asked if he fears contract chatter will become a distraction, Hamilton replied he doesn’t believe it will add any pressure. Telling Motorsport.com “Time will tell, I guess. It’s not like it’s my first rodeo. I think I’ve been in this position where at least I’ve been asked the question for a period of time.”
“I don’t really feel pressured in that sense. Naturally, I continue to have huge belief in and always bet on myself in terms of, I know what it takes to deliver.”
However the ties with Mercedes appear to have been strengthened by a commitment to set up a joint charitable foundation to support greater diversity and inclusion in motorsport, a cause Hamilton is deeply invested in.
Adding “I think I have an extraordinary relationship with Mercedes that’s incredibly deep and I think there’s more than just racing that we will probably end up doing together. As you’ve already seen, with this foundation, there are a lot of great things that we will do moving forwards.”
News in Brief
Bahrain only to allow fans who have been vaccinated
Organisers of pre-season testing and the opening race of the season the Bahrain Grand Prix have announced if they are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 or have recovered from the virus.
Organisers said there would be health screening on entry and masks would have to be worn at all times. Last year Bahrain hosted two races in November and December last season, with only health workers in the grandstands.
Stroll targets top five in drivers
Lance Stroll wants to achieve a top-five finish in the drivers’ championship this season. The Canadian had his best-ever finish last season finishing eleventh after scoring his maiden pole position and two podiums in what was his fourth season in F1.
Baku behind closed doors
Organisers of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix have announced that this year’s race will take place behind closed doors. Last years race in the capital Baku was cancelled because of the pandemic with organisers hoping to welcome fans back in 2021 after on the first weekend in June.
However today the organisers announced in a statement that is years race will take place without fans in attendance. The race is the first to announce no fans would be permitted to attend following a slight u-turn by F1 saying that fans would be at all races.
A statement said, “This decision was taken in light of ongoing health and safety concerns caused by the coronavirus pandemic and comes after extensive deliberation between BCC and the Government of the Azerbaijan Republic, F1 and the FIA.”
“While the global situation and pandemic response is continuing to improve, it has become clear that the 2021 Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix race weekend has arrived too soon for BCC to safely host the event with fans present.”
Bahrain has also announced earlier on Friday, that only fans who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 or are recovered from the virus will be allowed to attend testing and the race.
Ticket holders for the 2020 Azerbaijan Grand Prix who rolled their ticket over to the 2021 race are permitted to do the same for 2022 at no extra cost.
Director of the circuit Arif Rahimov says while they were disappointed by the decision to not allow the vital part of making the weekend such a special occasion year after year. But the decision was one made for health and safety.
Adding “We are once again expecting no shortage of drama, high-speeds and excitement when F1 arrives back in Baku for the fifth time this summer, so please sit back, relax and enjoy the 2021 F1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix and we will see you all again in person in 2022!
Portimão race confirmed for 2021
Formula One has finally formally confirmed that the Portuguese Grand Prix will be round three of the season. The FIA finally approved the final 2021 calendar on Friday morning, the race replaces Vietnam which was removed in November because of a corruption scandal.
The addition of Portimao on the weekend 01 – 03 May means the 2021 calendar is the longest season with the addition of Saudi Arabia to the calendar. It appears now unlikely that the Chinese Grand Prix which is officially postponed will be rescheduled this year.
F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali said, “We are thrilled to announce that Formula 1 will be racing again in Portimao after the huge success of the race last year. We want to thank the promoter and the Portuguese Government for their hard work and dedication in getting us to this point.
“We are confident and excited about our 2021 season, having shown last year that we could deliver seventeen races safely and bring our millions of fans thrilling racing at a difficult time.”
When Portimao made its race debut in October in a rescheduled calendar, drivers described the circuit as a roller-coaster and the circuit produced one of the best races of 2020. The race also was where Sir Lewis Hamilton surpassed Michael Schumacher’s all-time record.
Twenty-seven thousand spectators were in attendance last autumn. Domenicali added, “We hope to welcome fans to Portimao again this season in a safe way and are working with the promoter on the details of that plan.”
Portugal is currently one of the thirty-three countries on the United Kingdom’s red list’ and UK and Irish residents have to quarantine in hotels for ten days on their return, with elite sports do not exempt.
Portugal will form a back-to-back with neighbouring Spain on the calendar, meaning F1 personnel are set to go straight from the Algarve to Barcelona for the following week’s event.
Porsche considers entry under 2025 regulations
Porsche and parent company the Volkswagen Group are considering entering Formula One. However, any final decision expands on the direction of the sport’s next engine regulations, which are due to be introduced in 2025.
E-fuels are carbon-neutral fuels that can power internal combustion engines without the environmental impact of traditional fossil fuels, are currently under discussion. The plan is for this new model of fuels coming from 2025 to be made from efuels, these are made from bio-mass, and synthetic fuels, which are manufactured by an industrial process that captures carbon from the atmosphere.
F1 has committed to making e-fuels a central part of the sport from 2025, as it looks to become carbon neutral by the end of the decade. The VW Group are part of the group looking at the next set of engine regulations. It is understood that these talks are now discussing the detail of regulations, which are part of a wider plan for the sport to achieve net-zero carbon status by 2030.
Porsche Motorsport vice-president Fritz Enzinger told BBC News, “It would be of great interest if aspects of sustainability – for instance, the implementation of e-fuels – play a role in this. Should these aspects be confirmed, we will evaluate them in detail within the VW Group and discuss further steps.”
He added, “Porsche and Volkswagen AG are observing the constantly changing regulations in all relevant racing series around the world.”
It’s not known what brand the group are considering if it did commit to enter f1, nor is it clear whether it would enter as a constructor or just an engine manufacturer. VAG is said to have had initial exploratory talks with three teams – Red Bull, McLaren and Williams.
Red Bull have obvious appeal because of their level of competitiveness and absence of ties to a car manufacturer. The teams current supplier Honda are withdrawing from the sport at the end of the year, with Red Bull striking a deal to take over the Japanese company’s power-units and run them until the end of 2024.
Red Bull have not commented on Porsche but team principal Christian Horner said last month they were open to a partnership with a car manufacturer, also known as OEMs. Horner said, “If an exciting partner comes along, then of course it makes sense to look at it very seriously, whether it be an OEM or another type of partner.”
McLaren has also been linked to Porsche, its current team principal, Andreas Seidl, is the former head of Porsche motorsport – is embarking this season on a new customer engine contract with Mercedes. A McLaren spokesperson said: “We never comment on speculation.”
Current F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali is also a former VW Group executive. The 55-year-old joined F1 in January after five years as CEO of Lamborghini, which is part of VAG.
Before that, he was VAG’s head of future projects. He was working on an F1 feasibility study for the company when it was hit by the diesel-gate emissions scandal, which curtailed the plans. It is the second time in the last decade that the manufacturer has looked at entering F1 they decided to focus on WEC.
The new regulations designed to cut cost and improve sustainability have been designed as a solution for carbon-neutral power as there are limitations to the practical implementation of electric cars for all purposes.
Porsche is already building its own manufacturing plant for synthetic fuels in southern Chile.