Verstappen not been so excited for “a long time”
Max Verstappen says that he has not been so excited for “a long time” ahead of Red Bull’s first season with Honda power. The British based team has switched to the Japanese manufacturer this season, after deciding to split with long term partner Renault.
Speaking to Motorsport.com, the Dutchman said that the alliance between Red Bull and Honda has started well ahead of two weeks of testing, which proved positive for the team. He said “I was very excited to do the filming day at Silverstone. I just wanted to get out and feel how the engine was behaving.”
Verstappen has been praised by Red Bull’s advisor Dr Helmut Marko for his mature approach to testing, which he says contributed to Red Bull’s best-ever testing programme.
Addressing his happier demeanour through testing, Verstappen said: “I’m just a lot more excited. It’s a new project with Honda and trying to understand everything is very important.”
“Testing is there to get you prepared in the best possible way for the beginning of the season because you don’t have a lot of time once the season starts to really adjust a lot of things.” The Dutchman was critical of Renaults failure to close the gap to Mercedes and Ferrari.
The team has been trying to keep its expectations realistic, but Verstappen said the positivity remains high behind-the-scenes.
He said that there had been no issues with integrating Honda’s engineers into the Red Bull team and was impressed by Honda’s “incredibly focused and calm” working manner.
Hamilton criticises Sky move
Five times world champion Lewis Hamilton has critics the reduction in free-to-air TV coverage saying that it does not make sense for the fans to be blocked or deterred from watching races by the reduction.
From this season Sky Sport will have exclusive live coverage of every race with the exception of the British Grand Prix, this means that UK and Irish fans will need to pay to watch live races. Although highlights will be aired by Channel Four, Hamilton says the situation is “definitely not cool.”
While he said he does not understand the move to pay TV and that it is “not my job to come up with the answers for that”, Hamilton said he was not convinced by the move.
He told Motorsport.com “The more people you have at the grand prix, the more atmosphere it is. It is the fans that makes the sport what it is, so the more you block them or deter them the worse the business is going to be for the people that own it.
“But that is nothing to do with me. When the fans do come or the people that I do get to meet at the races, I try to utilise the opportunity to connect with them.” Hamilton said he grew up watching F1 races on the BBC “and it was awesome”.
He says that it is also “bloody expensive” for fans to attend races on top of pay TV and the TV licence which he described as “ridiculous.”
F1 turning a “blind eye” to human rights in Bahrain
Formula One has been accused of turning a “blind eye” to a woman who has been jailed for three years for protesting against the Bahrain Grand Prix. Najah Yousef was jailed in 2017 for three years after protesting against the race and claims she was beaten and sexually abused while in custody.
In a court ruling against her, posts she made on Facebook were cited. She wrote: “No to Formula One races on occupied Bahraini land” and called for “freedom for the formula detainees”, placing a focus on protesters jailed for criticising the Bahrain Grand Prix, which has been held in the country since 2004.
Sky News says that it has obtained a letter between F1’s general counsel Sacha Woodward-Hill to human rights groups Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) and Human Rights Watch. It says “We were assured that anyone who merely criticised or continues to criticise Formula One in Bahrain is free to do so, can say whatever they want and would be left alone to do so.”
“We also continue to engage with the promoters of the Bahrain Grand Prix on our commitment to respecting internationally recognised human rights, which of course includes freedom of expression.”
Bahrain’s problems began in February 2011 when the Arab Spring reached the Gulf kingdom. The countries leaders have been accused of imprisoning political opponents and clashes with police are common.
A government spokesperson said: “Najah Yusuf’s conviction does not relate to Bahrain’s Formula 1 Grand Prix. Any suggestion that she was convicted of a related offence is categorically incorrect. She was charged and subsequently convicted by a court of terror offences.”
The spokesperson said that peaceful protests are protected by Bahrain’s constitution and do not constitute a crime
Ghosn released on bail
Renault’s former CEO Carlos Ghosn has been released on bail, after being detained by Japanese police for over three months. Ghosn has been charged with financial misconduct and aggravated breach of trust but denies wrongdoing.
Mr Ghosn has been given strict bail conditions for Mr Ghosn, including video surveillance and restricted use of his mobile phone, were set for his release. His computer access is restricted to his lawyer’s office during weekday daytime hours.
Ghosn has accused the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance of treason when he was arrested, and previous requests for bail were rejected and his lengthy detention has drawn international criticism.
His imminent release from the detention centre, where he has been held since his arrest on 19 November, was signalled by the arrival of a car from the Embassy of France.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told Europe 1 radio, “Carlos Ghosn is being released. He is a French citizen. He will be able to defend himself with greater ease. So much, the better.”
“But my responsibility as finance and economy minister is to make sure that hundreds of thousands of jobs at Renault and at the Renault-Nissan alliance are protected,” he added.
Ghosn’s third request for bail was from a new legal team, but his lengthy prison spell has attracted global attention and drawn criticism of Japan’s criminal justice system, which allows for lengthy detention periods.
F1 to increase awareness of technical achievements
Formula One has outlined its “two key strategic priorities” for 2019 which are to increase the awareness of the technical achievements of the turbo-hybrid engines to make the championship more accessible.
The noise, cost and complexity of the V6 turbo hybrids have been heavily criticised since they were brought in in 2014. That means milestones like Mercedes achieving 50% thermal efficiency in 2017 have been largely overlooked.
Speaking at the Geneva Motor Show, F1 CEO Chase Carey outlined two priorities, split between the relevance of the technology on show and making the championship “inviting to all”.
He said “[The] first is to build not just on our technological leadership [in motorsport], but the incredible achievements in efficiency and sustainability for our cars and hybrid engines.”
“We’ll continue to invest in opportunities to further reduce carbon emissions and other initiatives to be at the forefront of road relevant technology. Second, we want to continue to emphasise that Formula 1 is a sport for everyone.”
He says also he wants to create more awareness of the opportunities for women in all aspects of the sport.
Carey also believes that there is “great momentum” after citing growth in crowd figures, the global TV audience and F1’s social media platform. He says that the launch next Thursday and the 1,000th Grand Prix in China are part of a bid to “elevate our global spectacles”.
“We’ll continue to upgrade our traditional and digital offerings in new and compelling ways, new camera angles and graphics, and much more,” Carey said.
2019 promises to be “special” – Todt
FIA president Jean Todt believes that 2019 promises to be a “special” season and that Ferrari looks to be in “excellent” shape after testing. 2019 is expected to be a season which is expected to see a close fight between Mercedes and Ferrari.
There are many other stories which could make for an intriguing season, including Red Bull’s switch to Honda, Robert Kubica’s return to the sport after seven years and numerous surprises in testing. Todt told Sky Sports, “e have seen in Barcelona over the last weeks some new things happening.”
“New aerodynamic regulations, some new talents arriving, some joining winning teams, so I just think it’s a very special moment. Very soon we will be celebrating 1,000th Formula 1 Grand Prix in Shanghai. The story is moving on.”
Speaking about his former team Ferrari, Todt said “It seems that Ferrari have been doing an excellent job. [Their] driver line-up is quite interesting so let’s wait until we see the first race in Melbourne.”