F1 Today – 08/02/2021

F1 Today

Hamilton signs a one-year contract

Sir Lewis Hamilton has signed a new one-year contract with Mercedes. The seven-times champion opted to delay talks until late last year to allow him to focus on securing his seventh title, the new deal appeared always to be a formality.

However, last month Mercedes CEO and team principal Toto Wolff revealing last month that “curveballs” were being thrown by both sides in contract talks. The announcement on Monday confirms that those curveballs have now been overcome.

Hamilton said, “I am excited to be heading into my ninth season with my Mercedes teammates. Our team has achieved incredible things together and we look forward to building on our success even further, while continuously looking to improve, both on and off the track.”

The Englishman said throughout 2020 that he wanted his new contract to give him a wider scope, allow him to focus on improving diversity and helping its environmental credentials.

Mercedes confirmed in the announcement that a “significant part” of the new deal including a commitment to greater diversity and inclusion in motorsport, taking the form of a joint charitable foundation. Hamilton says he wants to continue the journey to make motorsport more diverse for future generations.

“I’m proud to say we are taking that effort further this year by launching a foundation dedicated to diversity and inclusion in the sport. I am inspired by all that we can build together and can’t wait to get back on the track in March.”

Wolff said the global situation could have an impact on the team’s revenue, while Daimler as a group is having to invest in electrification, adding: “We are living a financial reality that is very different from a few years ago.”

The deal ensures Hamilton will continue his long-running partnership with Mercedes that has yielded six world titles since his move away from McLaren at the end of 2012. Hamilton this year goes for his eighth world title, the year after equalling Michael Schumacher.

The talks began days after the Turkish Grand Prix, the stalled in Bahrain when Hamilton tested positive for coronavirus. Then both Hamilton and Toto Wolff took their Christmas break, with Wolff also testing positive.

Talks resumed last month between the two digitally with Covid restrictions.

Wolff added, “Together, we have decided to extend the sporting relationship for another season and to begin a longer-term project to take the next step in our shared commitment to greater diversity within our sport.”

“Lewis’s competitive record stands alongside the best the sports world has ever seen, and he is a valued ambassador for our brand and our partners.


Hamilton’s contract the key points

Lewis Hamilton has now signed his new contract with Mercedes, and there are some key points which can be picked out from it. Reading following transcripts from the interviews are the key points…

Explaining the reason for the one-year deal, it was a result of numerous factors including next year’s regulation changes, the uncertainty around the pandemic, and the budget cap.

Hamilton, “I’m equally determined to continue the journey we started to make motorsport more diverse for future generations and I am grateful that Mercedes has been extremely supportive of my call to address this issue.”

We know Hamilton has been vocal in the last year on diversity and inclusion in motorsport, in the deal there is a commitment to form a joint charitable foundation. This could be the next step for the Hamilton Commission, its focus has been on diversity and inclusion.

Hamilton added, “I’m proud to say we are taking that effort further this year by launching a foundation dedicated to diversity and inclusion in the sport.”

The other factor at play is Coronavirus and the economic fall out which could impact parent company Daimler, who are having to invest in electrification, adding: “We are living a financial reality that is very different from a few years ago.”

The unknown is the value of this new contract the old deal was worth £30m a year with bonuses up to £10m. But Wolff says the value recognised Hamilton was the best driver, with a huge global following and had achieved enormous success was weighed against the fact that all 2,000 employees contribute to the team’s success.

Wolff said, “We have always been quite aligned of what the other side would expect on contractual terms.”

There has been no decision on what happens next year, but they have stated “first discussions” over 2022 would be held with Mercedes’ two existing drivers, but added: “On the other side, the young drivers are the future, and we want to consider how we want to set ourselves up for the years beyond.”


Russell wins British Virtual GP

George Russell won Sunday’s British Virtual Grand Prix; the Williams driver beat Red Bull’s Alex Albon to take his sixth consecutive win. The Englishman missed last weekends Austrian race due to technical issues.

Russell started the race fifth but soon worked his way up to third in his first stint, he then passed the Ferrari of Callum Ilott after hunting him down following the pit stop. This created the battle between Russell and Albon.

The Red Bull driver was then handed a three-second penalty for exceeding track limits which meant Russell just needed to finish behind. The Williams driver did, however, fight back, breezing past on the penultimate lap, but Albon re-took the lead going through Stowe.

Russell then closed to within a second securing victory. Ferrari’s reserve driver Callum Ilott was third after building enough of a gap over the Haas drivers Pietro and Enzo Fittipaldi, after receiving a penalty. Red Bull’s Liam Lawson was sixth.

Russell’s teammate Nicolas Latifi was seventh, ahead of Ferrari Academy Driver Robert Shwartzman, content creator Ben ‘Tiametmarduk’ Daly and Luca Salvadori, who rounded out the top-10 for McLaren and AlphaTauri respectively.

The charity championship heads to Interlagos for the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, where the drivers and constructors, as well as the $100,000 prize fund for charity, will be decided.


F1 plans Bahrain summit to discuss drivers responsibilities

Formula One is planning a summit in Bahrain with drivers to discuss their roles and responsibilities as ambassadors. The events of the last year with the pandemic and racial equality issues had made the sport more vocal and saw the ‘We Race As One,’ pledging to improve diversity launched.

In his first interviews last month, F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali said that drivers needed to be aware of their roles as the public faces of the series, giving them the responsibility to further F1’s messaging on social issues.

Lewis Hamilton has led the F1 paddock in highlighting issues such as racial injustice and human rights, and is eager to work closely with Liberty in the future to improve diversity. Domenicali says the seven-time champion was “really very important” for F1 by highlighting such non-sporting issues.

In a round of interviews, he said during testing and the opening race in Bahrain he planned to meet with all the drivers to discuss the matter. Domenicali said, “I sent a letter to all the drivers personally because I want to share with them how important it is that they understand that their value in being the positive ambassador of F1.

“I’m not only talking about the sport itself, but also the values on which F1 is to really focus, like We Race As One, and the diversity and sustainability projects that we want to share together.”

He says this meeting needed to happen as soon as physically possible. Domenicali says the sport has never had so many fantastic drivers, young, talented, very strong, and we cannot lose the opportunity of making sure they understand they are more than drivers.

One of the biggest talking points is going to be the behaviour of Haas Driver Nikita Mazepin, who has been widely condemned for groping a woman’s breast in an Instagram video.

Mazepin’s actions were condemned by both the team and F1 itself, but Haas said that it had dealt with the matter internally. Domenicali said, “It was pretty clear, what he did, it was not acceptable, it’s very straightforward.”

“He was apologetic. As a reaction to what he did, we need to make sure that in the discussion we’re going to have, they understand that we cannot joke on certain things. It is not possible.”


Haas hasn’t ruled out Grosjean and Magnussen as reserve

Haas team principal Gunther Steiner says the team hasn’t ruled out calling Romain Grosjean or Kevin Magnussen should the team need a replacement driver during the 2021 season.

However, the priority will be to employ a reserve who can attend all the races and be at races in case of any last minute issues with regulars Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin. Both Grosjean and Magnussen, have found new seats in US series meaning they would not be available or willing to travel to F1 races regularly as a reserve.

However, they could still be called upon if they were free from other commitments and there was sufficient lead time to get them to a race venue. Grosjean made it clear this week that he would be ready to step in if he gets a call from an F1 team.

Steiner told Motorsport.com, “I wouldn’t mind if they are free. I think they will be happy to come back as well. I mean, I haven’t asked them, but I don’t think they have any bad feelings.”

The German said that he was in touch regularly with both drivers, and spoke to Grosjean before the interview and Magnussen last weekend when he was in Daytona.

However, Haas intends to have a reserve on-site on race weekends, as was the case last year. He hasn’t ruled out renewing the deal with Pietro Fittipaldi, who replaced the injured Grosjean in the last two events of 2020.


Why Mazepin not allowed to race under Russian flag?

Nikita Mazepin will not be allowed to race under the Russian flag after a ruling against the Russian Anti-Doping Agency was extended to FIA-run championships.

In December, the Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld a ban on Russia from competing at world championship sporting events for the next two years following a doping scandal.

Mazepin will race under RAF, ‘Russian Automobile Federation’. Russia maybe used if the phrase ‘neutral athlete’ is displayed, and the Russian flag can still be used. However, the Russian National Anthem will not be allowed to be played before the race.


Making racing fun for Vettel again

Aston Martin team principal Otmar Szafnauer believes that the team can “make racing fun again” for Sebastian Vettel following his winter switch from Ferrari. The four-time champion was left without a drive after Ferrari decided to replace him with Carlos Sainz.

Ahead of its rebrand as Aston Martin, the Racing Point squad swooped to sign Vettel on a multi-year deal, replacing Sergio Perez. Vettel recently made his first visit to the Aston Martin F1 team factory to complete a seat fitting and begin to get to know his new engineers and crew.

The move comes after a disappointing and frustrating final season with Ferrari, which saw him slump to thirteenth and only score a single podium.

Speaking to RTL, Szafnauer said that Vettel remained as motivated as ever to succeed in F1, and was confident the new environment could help bring out the best in the German driver.

He said, “He’s as motivated as he’s ever been, very much so. He’s been inquisitive, he asks a lot of questions of us. He compares to how we operate and work and go about our jobs here to what he’s worked with in the past.”

“He will definitely help us understanding the areas where other teams that have won world championships do it better or different than we do, and he will help us improve those areas.”

Szafnauer says the team operates and treats its drivers differently to other teams he has come from, with him having confidence that they can get him to the best possible driver he can be.

Vettel will race alongside Lance Stroll, who scored two podiums last year and picked up his maiden pole position at the Turkish Grand Prix. The team are confident Stroll would learn from Vettel, he was confident the Canadian would also push his more experienced team-mate, helping bring out the best in both drivers.

Explaining, “The thing that I like the most about our drivers in the past is they worked really, really well together. I expect Lance and Seb to do the same, and be team-mates first, and then competitors against each other second. They will learn from each other, and that will drive the team forward.”


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