Ferrari confident its recovered speed but still not fighting for the title
Ferrari says its confident that its 2021 car the SF21 will not suffer from the same straight-line speed deficit this year that hurt its form so much last season. The team had a frustrating season last year when it was hampered by its power unit being down on power and by draggy aerodynamics.
The team has worked hard over the winter at its Maranello base to address the deficits, and it has confidence that it will not suffer the same weakness this time around. However, the team once again stressed it was unrealistic for them to be fighting for the title.
Today the team had what it described as its ‘team launch’, where team principal Mattia Binotto said he was confident that the squad was in better shape both with its engine and its aerodynamic efficiency.
He explained, “I think that last year the main issue was the speed on the straight lines, not only the power but both power and drag. We’ve worked a lot, both on the power unit, and the car aerodynamics, to reduce the drag of the car.”
At the launch, Binotto and the team’s new driver line up of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz were passionate about there work together to rebuild the team, which went from title challengers in 2019 to their worst season in four decades in their history.
Few changes to the regulations this year makes it difficult for a team to drastically change their fortunes, but Binotto revealed his confidence that Ferrari has addressed what was seen as their biggest 2020 weakness.
He said, “I think that last year the main issue was the speed on the straights, not only the power but both power and drag. We’ve worked a lot, both on power unit and the car aerodynamics to reduce the drag of the car.”
“Based on our simulations, based on what we can see in terms of power output from the dynos and the drag of the car from the wind-tunnel, I think that we recovered quite a lot of speed on the straights.”
Binotto says he is not expecting speed to be such an issue, but they will only know where they are in testing and the first race in Bahrain.
Leclerc admitted he had spent more time at Ferrari this winter than his previous two with the team, with the young Monegasque – and the new presumptive team leader – also cautiously optimistic about his 2021 car.
He said, “It looks like quite a good step and I think there’s been a lot of work here. We’ve been here since the beginning of the season, pushing quite a lot and seeing the improvements of the car. For now, it always looks positive on paper but then we need to see where the others have done as a step, and where we are compared to them.”
Sainz added “There’s some encouraging signs, there’s some encouraging data coming out. I’m happy and proud and I have seen good progress, but until we see what are rivals have done it’s going to be impossible to know if it’s enough or not.”
While Ferrari is accepting the fact they need to improve this season, they also believe it will be difficult to break out of the midfield. The team finished sixth, behind McLaren, Racing Point and Renault. They are also aware of the need to focus on next years regulation change.
Binotto added, “Our focus on 2021 will be developing the 2022 car, that will be the main target. We will not spend much time on the 2021 car during the season, there’s always a balance and it’s a choice we need to make at some stage.”
Ferrari has a history of being ruthless with sacking team principals following difficult seasons, Binotto admits his job could be on the line if the team fails to deliver on its targets this season.
Saying “I think our will to win is our commitment, our intention, our focus, being aware that each single detail counts. I think determination will be important and showing progress. That’s what I’m expecting.”
Verstappen realistic about 2021 chances
Max Verstappen says he is “realistic” about his chances of battling for the title against Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes this year. The Red Bull driver says he “did not want to hype things up” after driving Red Bull’s new car for the first time at Silverstone on Wednesday.
Verstappen and his new teammate Sergio Perez took part in a filming day, with the running restricted to 100km and running on special compounds of tyres. Red Bull have been secretive about the car but says it felt “normal”, but still insisted that “Mercedes must be the favourites still.”
Red Bull have been secretive about the RB16B, amongst the photos and videos released there was not a single image of the car. It has been suggested they were trying to hide whatever technical innovations it features.
Verstappen told BBC News, “We drive on demo tyres so it will never feel how it’s going to feel on real tyres, so I never really base a lot of my findings on this. It’s more just to get the car out and run a few laps. It all felt normal. We just have to wait and see what happens in Bahrain once we have proper tyres under the car.”
He says he is realistic and there was no sense to talk about stuff now until we get to testing and the first race in Bahrain. Adding “I don’t like to talk it up at the moment. We know where we want to be and where we want to get to and that’s what we have to realise.”
2021 marks Red Bull’s final season with Honda before it takes over the responsivity of manufacturing its own engine having taken over the property of the Japanese manufacturer. Team principal Christian Horner has described the car as “an extensive update” of last year’s.
Aerodynamic changes to cars are unlimited into 2021 but all teams are limited by rules introduced for cost-saving reasons in the pandemic in terms of the changes they can make to structural and mechanical parts of the car from last season to this.
Red Bull have refused to say on what parts of the car they have spent their two permitted development ‘tokens’. Also, rule changes aimed at cutting cornering speeds have limited the size of the floor at the rear of the car.
Verstappen added “The floor is still a big change. To try to recover all that downforce loss will be important. It is going to be interesting to see who did the best.” Last year, Verstappen finished third in the championship behind Hamilton and his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
If Red Bull can get the car together they expect they will be able to challenge Mercedes for the championship, but the team are also aware that Verstappen to be at the top of Mercedes’ list of potential replacements if the Briton decides to retire at the end of the season.
Verstappen, whose contract with Red Bull runs to 2023 but has an unspecified performance clause in it that could allow him to leave in certain circumstances, said: “I don’t know what Lewis is going to do. I just focus on myself and I am very focused on this year and trying to make it a success.
Hamilton pledges to ‘keep pushing’ in the fight against racism
Sir Lewis Hamilton has pledged to “keep pushing” in the fight against racism this year. The seven-times world champion lead last years pre-race demonstrations promoting equality last year, said it was important “to hold ourselves and others accountable.”
Hamilton said he was “proud” of the fact the majority of drivers had taken the knee before races last year. Speaking to BBC News he said, “My question is, what’s next? The inequities within our sport and within the world persist.”
The Englishman’s comments come after F1 announced the pre-race anti-racism message will morph this year into a broader support for “sustainability, diversity and inclusion and community”.
F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali, who has emphasised his desire for drivers to “lead by example” is to discuss with them before the season how best to reflect those issues. Drivers will be allowed to support their own causes as well as anti-racism message. The details of which will be discussed at a summit in Bahrain between testing and the opening race.
Hamilton, writing in a post on social media, said, “Change is still needed. We have to keep striving for equality for all, in order to continue to see true and lasting change in our world.”
“As long as I have air in my lungs, I will continue to fight for change in everything I do. I will work to create pathways and opportunities for kids of colour within sciences, engineering and creative disciplines.”
The seven-time champion last year set up his own commission to look into the causes of the lack of diversity within the motorsport industry. Hamilton and Mercedes have agreed to set up a joint foundation to support the cause.
Last year these actions were prompted in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of US Police. Hamilton spent the year speaking out about issues of equality, saying it had given him a new drive as he sought his seventh world title.
African race a “priority” – Target-Adams
F1 has prioritised a return to Africa says the sports global director of race promotion Chloe Targett-Adams, who deals with event organisers, said that continent is top of the current wish list for new events.
The continent is the only one that doesn’t have a race on the calendar, with the last race at Kyalami in South Africa being held in 1993. It’s been a long-held desire of both former CEO Bernie Ecclestone for the continent to return to the calendar, and Liberty Media share the goal.
Kyalami remains the most likely option, but Morocco which hasn’t hosted a Grand Prix since 1958 has also been seen as a possible venue. Target-Adams told an online Blackbook seminar “I completely agree with Lewis, Africa is a continent that we don’t race in, and that is just wrong.”
“It’s somewhere that we very much want, it’s the priority. We’ve been in talks with possible options for a few years, and we’re hoping that ultimately, we will be able to achieve a race there in the kind of near to mid-term.”
“Alongside Africa, the U.S. remains a clear strategic priority. We’ve got a great race in Austin now, where we looking forward to working with our promoter hopefully for some more years to come.”
Target-Adams says they are also looking for a second race in the United States and continued expansion into Asia, as well as the race in Hanoi. The Vietnam race was removed and replaced by Imola following a political scandal in the country around the race.
Saying “Vietnam is an incredibly exciting race location for F1. Hugely young demographic in the country, vibrant business sector, somewhere we’re very, very excited to race. 2020 was to be the first race, with an amazing circuit built in the outskirts of Hanoi.”
She says that no race wants to launch itself in the middle of a pandemic, but conceded the main problem was finding room on the calendar for new and established events. The other problem the sport faces is finding room on the calendar for the current races, a core set of ten races and ten alternating has been suggested as the future model for the calendar
F1 posts record loses following unprecedented 2020
Formula One has posted record loses in its annual accounts after a season that faced unprecedented challenges caused by the pandemic, including reshaped calendar, races without spectators and promoters not paying hosting fees.
Liberty Media released its full results on Friday with its income falling 44% on 2019 posting a record loss of $386m. overall revenue fell to $1,145m from $2,022m in 2019 and its loss came following the small profit of $17m in 2019 turned into an operating loss of $386m after the teams were paid.
The total payments shared between the 10 teams fell from $1012m in 2019 to just $711m last year.
In its notes, Liberty explained, “Team payments decreased in the full year driven by the contraction in F1 revenue and the associated impact on the calculation of variable elements of team payments. Team payments in 2020 included one-time fees paid to teams upon signing the 2021 Concorde Agreement.”
Hosting fees make up the biggest part of the sports income, in 2019 it made up 30% of the sports income but with most races not paying or paying a reduced fee last season.
It says “Race promotion revenue decreased as fans were prohibited from attending all but three races, which led to one-time changes in the contractual terms of the originally scheduled races that remained on the 2020 calendar and limited revenue generated from the replacement races that were added.”
Broadcast revenues accounted for a bigger percentage of the primary income total, up from 38% to 55%. Although passing the minimum total of fifteen races ensured that most broadcasters paid the full contracted amount for the season, Liberty has admitted that there was a payment reduction in some cases.
Though in some cases one-off contracts and arrangements were made in some cases. Advertising and sponsorship revenue’s share of the primary income total was up slightly from 15% to 17%, although some income was lost, for example, because races with specific title sponsors didn’t take place.
Liberty explained, “Advertising and sponsorship fees declined driven by one-time changes in sponsorship contracts due to the cancellation of races to which contracted sponsorship inventory specifically related and the limited activities at the races, including hospitality.”
Vaccine passports could allow full capacity at Silverstone
Silverstone managing director Stuart Pringle believes that vaccine passports could be an answer for allowing the British Grand Prix to take place at capacity with fans this summer.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday outlined the Government’s roadmap for easing coronavirus lockdown restrictions over the forthcoming months. If the plan goes to plan and there isn’t a big rise in infections, restrictions on public gatherings are expected to be lifted on 21st June.
This year’s British GP is scheduled for July 18 and while welcoming the Government’s announcement, Pringle acknowledged “there’s a long way to go” in the process of easing restrictions.
Pringle says the venue, which in 2019 attracted a race-day attendance of 141,000, had duly modelled different scenarios for fan attendance this year in “every way” possible.
Asked by Sky Sports whether the mooted vaccine passports could help big sports events run at capacity, Pringle said, “It’s something that fans would absolutely consider if it gives them a chance to go and see their sport, whatever that is. Certainly, our technical people are already having conversations with testing organisations.”
“There has been talk between me and other sports and the Government about whether our electronic ticket systems could be linked to the data that is provided by a passport. It’s not straightforward, but it’s probably possible. So that’s something I would vote for.”
Last year due to the pandemic the circuit held two races behind closed doors because of the pandemic. Those with tickets for last years race have been largely rolled over to this year, but Pringle admits the race wasn’t without risk.
Saying “Have we modelled the different scenarios? Absolutely we have, we’ve modelled it every well. We’ve just got to see how these first few steps go.”
Aston Martin renames the RP20 following rebrand
Aston Martin has opted to fully rename last years Racing Point car following the full rebrand of the team. Although the team is carrying over the majority of last years car which helped it to fourth place in last years championship.
The AMR21 will be launched digitally on Wednesday 3rd March, the name comes after Aston Martin’s previous efforts in F1 were with the famous DBR4 in 1959/1960 and the DBR5 in 1960.
Aston Martin’s new car will be painted in iconic British racing green colours, with the team having ended a title sponsorship with Austrian water treatment company BWT. BWT will stay as a sponsor in 2021, however, using “subtle brand accents” in the new Aston livery.
The team has carried over a lot of last years car after the regulation changes were delayed by a year due to the pandemic. The team has opted to spend most of its tokens on developing the car’s aerodynamics. Technical director Andrew Green says the team began developing the car in August last year.
The rebrand of the team as a works team following Lawrence Stroll’s purchase of the car manufacturer last March. Stroll took over Force India and entered it as the new Racing Point team in 2018, he later led a consortium to buy into Aston Martin.
Last year the team took the win in Sakhir, the first for the Silverstone based team since it was Jordan since Interlagos in 2003. Sergio Perez who took that victory has been replaced by four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, with the Mexican joining Red Bull alongside Max Verstappen.
Haas confirm launch plans
Haas will launch their livery on Thursday 4th March, the launch of the VF-21 makes the US-based team the final team to confirm its launch plans. Like many of the teams, the car will be unveiled online as normal big launches aren’t taking place due to the pandemic.
Haas had one of the worst seasons in its short history last year being one of the teams to lose out because of the drop in power from the Ferrari power unit, it finished ninth in the constructor’s championship after scoring just three points.
The team decided to replace both Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen with F2 champion Mick Schumacher and Russian driver Nikita Mazepin. Schumacher made his practice debut for the team in Abu Dhabi where he also took part in the post-season young driver test.
Team principal Gunther Steiner has already said that he was expecting that 2021 would be a transition year ahead of next years regulation changes. He told Motorsport.com, “For sure the car needs to be better, because there is actually quite a big change in the aero rules for next year.”
“I don’t really know where that is going and how much the other [teams] have developed. It will be a tough year anyway next year, but I see it as a transition and we can live with that.”