Alfa Romeo “unable to survive” without cost savings
Alfa Romeo team principal Fred Vasseur says he was “not sure that we would have been able to survive” without Formula One’s cost-saving measures and partial development freeze.
The coronavirus pandemic has drastically hit the teams financially as global car sales and revenue shrank last season. This meant the teams agreed to reduce the budget cap over the next few years, and delay the all-new regulations by a year until 2022, while carrying over their current chassis to 2021 and limiting development work on the cars with a token system.
Vasseur told Autosport he believed that those measures proved crucial in keeping the team afloat and said he was thankful F1 teams all came to an agreement. Vasseur explained, “It’s never easy to do a move because you’re always a bit scared that you could give an advantage to someone else or to another team.”
“We were in a such a tough situation that we had to [agree to a reduced cost cap and development freeze]. But we could also imagine at this stage that some teams would have been more drastically against that.”
“When you have the feeling that you are not performing in Barcelona [during testing], you are not keen to freeze the car for the next 18 months. Thankfully that did happen because I’m not sure that we would have been able to survive.”
Vasseur’s Alfa Romeo team had a difficult 2020 like all the Ferrari powered teams they struggled with the performance from the power unit and finished eighth in the constructors. But he described 2020 as a political “revolution”, with the pandemic forcing teams to work more closely together.
In ten weeks he said they were able to achieve more than they have in the last ten years, when it came to regulation changes, describing it as a revolution into the mindset of F1.
It was announced last year that the Alfa Romeo tie-up would be extended to 2021, with the Italian brand and Sauber forming a relationship that also involves the development of Alfa’s road cars. Vasseur explained the partnership with Alfa Romeo goes far beyond the sponsorship package it entails.
Scrap hybrid power units says Ecclestone
Former Formula One CEO Bernie Ecclestone has called on the sport to return to the cheaper and more popular to revert to the crowd-pleasing V8s from the pre-hybrid era.
The teams are currently discussing whether to freeze power units when the new regulations are brought in next year until the next power unit regulations are due to be introduced in 2026. The V8’s was replaced by the V6-Hybrids in 2014.
The move was championed, particularly by Renault, as hybrid technology became more common in road cars. Ecclestone told Motorsport Magazine’s February edition, F1 doesn’t have to be relevant to the car industry. “People forget, Formula One is in the entertainment business and when you stop entertaining you haven’t got a business.”
“There’s going to be a lot of changes [in the world]. Everyone will have electric cars, the politicians will see to that, you won’t be able to take a petrol car into a city. People will say, ‘Hang about, all these F1 cars charging round, why aren’t they electric?’ and the manufacturers are going to stop making petrol or diesel cars within a few years.”
The debate about F1’s engine regulations has been reignited by Honda’s announcement that it was withdrawing from the sport at the end of the year. Ecclestone says Red Bull will only agree to take on the Honda programme if there is an engine freeze.
He added “Let’s get rid of these bloody silly engines they have now. The people in the grandstands aren’t interested in how super-efficient they are, how much fuel they use, how powerful they are.”
Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault have all committed to the hybrid concept because a rising number of hybrid and electric cars coming on the market.
Media exaggerated RB16 problems – Verstappen
Max Verstappen says that the media made Red Bull’s aero problems last season were made bigger than they felt within the team. Verstappen and teammate Alex Albon both struggled at times with aero anomalies early in the season.
The RB16 struggled with unpredictable handing and a nervous rear end, which managed to catch both drivers out, aero anomalies early in the season.
While intrigued about the car’s characteristics was one of the talking points last season, Verstappen says that, reflecting on the year, the issues were not a big a drama to him as some people thought outside the team.
Verstappen told Motorsport.com about the RB16’s difficult traits, “I think that’s, you know, made bigger in the media. We had the second fastest car. I think there are a lot worse cars to drive out there.”
“We had a few spins in pre-season and stuff, and when you drive on the limit, the car’s not easy to drive, you know what I mean? And maybe ours is a bit more difficult compared to Mercedes, but it’s probably nicer than Williams, you know.
“So I think it’s a bit overdone what people said in the media. I never really felt like that.” The Dutchman last season found himself in a lonely third place, not being able to challenge Mercedes but without being challenged by Ferrari.
While Verstappen was unable to fight with Mercedes after the world champions made another step forwards in 2020. He believes that 2020 was better than the year before, but admitted that Red Bull was still lacking a bit to Mercedes.
Gasly remembers “every second” of Monza
Pierre Gasly says he can remember “every single second” of his shock maiden F1 win at the Italian Grand Prix after taking time to fully reflect on the result. The Frenchman took a surprise win at Monza in a drama-filled race in September.
Gasly inherited the lead following the red flag and a penalty for race leader Lewis Hamilton dropped him down the order, as well as the rest of the usual contenders being out of position. After fending off Carlos Sainz’s McLaren the Alpha Tauri driver took the teams first win in twelve years, as well as being the first driver outside the big three since Melbourne 2013 to win a race.
The celebrations post-race provided some of the most striking images of the season when Gasly sat on the top step as he came to terms with the enormity of his achievement.
Speaking to Autosport, the Frenchman said, “I remember every single second of that race and of the celebration. It’s something which is in my mind and will never go away.”
“I would say this year was so compact and intense that it was actually hard to really take the time off, and get to relax and enjoy as much as probably I would have done in a more normal scenario without COVID.”
“Still, when I had a week’s break between two races and I could get back home and I could realise, ‘OK, that’s what we’ve done’, and really try to think over and remember all of the emotions that we lived.”
Gasly on reflection says winning that race at Monza was incredible, as Mercedes had won nearly all the races in 2020. He says he keeps his trophy at his Italian apartment where he stayed following the victory.
Adding, “That should be a motivation for all of us in the team to try and repeat as much as we can, strong performances like we have had in Sao Paulo or in Monza.”
Brivio set for F1 move
Davide Brivio who led Suzuki to MotoGP title in 2020, has been linked with a shock move to join the rebranded Alpine. The Italian is a hugely respected in MotoGP, in a career which has seen him win multiple championships.
According to Motorsport.com, there are reports that a new management structure at Alpine is being considered, with current team boss Cyril Abiteboul moving to a senior role within the Alpine organisation. But at this stage, there is no confirmation of the move.
Renault’s rebrand is part of CEO Luca de Meo’s desire to desire to reinvigorate the French car manufacturer. Abiteboul has been working on plans for Alpine and suggested last year that there was not guaranteed he would stay as F1 team principal for the long haul.
Asked if he would remain team boss in the wake of his new Alpine responsibilities, Abiteboul said that his focus on doing what was best for the sportscar manufacturer meant he was only sure of remaining in F1 until the end of 2020.
He said at Monza last year, “It’s a mission which I started, which I will have in hand in a couple of weeks. Part of the deliverable of that mission will see obviously some proposals in terms of structure.”
“I absolutely do not want to comment on here and now. What I can tell you is that I remain in the context of that mission until the end of this year fully committed in my role as team principal.”
De Meo also hinted that it would be important for whoever took charge of the Alpine division to give it their full focus. He spoke about the need to simplify the chain of command, and to have someone to run the F1 team.
Brivio was team manager for the Japanese bike manufacturer at the time that it was sponsored by Fiat from 2007 to 2010, when de Meo was the Italian road car company’s chief marketing officer. He left the team joining Ducati alongside Rossi to work closely as part of the Italian’s personal staff.
In 2013, Brivio decided to return to an official team position as he took on the Suzuki team boss role as it prepared for its full-time return in 2015.
McLaren warn it’s going to take years to close
McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl has warned that it could take the team “some years” before it can bridge the “huge gap” to Mercedes and return to fighting at the front of the F1 grid.
Last year the team backed up its strong 2019 season with third place in the constructors, the first time it had finished third in the championship since 2012. They secured that with a strong finish at the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi.
This year the team is reviving its relationship with Mercedes as well as Daniel Ricciardo joining the team to partner Lando Norris. Despite McLaren’s impressive improvements, Seidl has urged his side to remain cautious because the team is still playing catch up in terms of organisation and infrastructure compared to the leading teams.
Seidl told Crash.net, “I think we need to stay realistic despite the good outcome on the championship side with P3 We know exactly where we are. There is still a huge gap to the cars in front, especially to the Mercedes car.”
“I think the most important thing, first of all, is to see that the team, this year, under the leadership of James Key has produced a very competitive car, a great step forward compared to last year.”
Seidl says that it was great to see despite the challenges of the pandemic that McLaren kept pushing flat out to bring updates and improving the performance of the car. He said they made a great step forward compared to last year, under the leadership of James Key.
McLaren accepts that the gap to Mercedes is something they cannot close in a single season, with Seidl admitting they “know that we have a lot of deficits within the team in terms of organisation and infrastructure, which we need to close first, but again we have a clear plan of how we want to reduce these deficits.”
At the same time, the German warned that the team’s success last year means it must not “get carried away”, in what is expected to be an even closer midfield battle this year.
Start time could revert to noon GMT
Reports are suggesting that the race start time is set to revert to 12:10GMT or 14:10 local time this season. Since 2018, most of the races between late April and October start at 15:10, unless there were less than four hours till sunset.
The change was brought about as part of a push by F1 owners Liberty Media to try to boost television audiences. It was felt that shifting races to start 10 minutes after the hour would be better for broadcasters, as they could schedule their pre-race programming to begin on the hour shortly before the action began.
It also allowed viewers in North America to view the race at 9 am eastern, so they would not need to get up early. At the time, a statement from F1 said: “Some broadcasters usually go on air precisely on the hour, hence missing the tension and emotion that characterize the minutes before the start of each Grand Prix.
“Thanks to this change, television viewers will be brought closer to the teams and the drivers and fully enjoy the spectacle offered just before the red lights go out.”
While the change had some benefits, it proved unpopular. The change will also allow more time for travel, according to Motorsport.com, t F1 has proposed to teams that from this season, the start times are moved back to the hour, plus the normal timing will be 2pm at events on a European time zone.
However, these changes will not affect those in Asia and the Americas, which are often suited to viewers in Europe and night/twilight races. For example, Melbourne and Baku would still start at 16:00 local and Austin at 13:00.