Closed-circuit race not an option for Zandvoort
The sporting director of the Dutch Grand Prix Jan Lammers says the organisers of the Zandvoort race have not considered the option of putting on a race behind closed doors.
Lammers says if they were given the option of running behind closed doors or not at tall this season, they would rather postpone the race until 2021. The Grand Prix was due to return to the Dutch dunes next month for the first time since 1985, but the Grand Prix is one of many motorsport events that have been put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.
On Tuesday the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal was the latest F1 race that was officially postponed. Currently, the season should start the weekend of the 26 – 28 June at Paul Ricard.
Not all grand Prix organisers seem keen on the idea to run a race without any fans in attendance. Lammers has said the idea has not been considered by Zandvoort.
Lammers told Motorsport.com, “[A race without fans] is an unthinkable scenario. If you have a race, it has to be without compromise. You have to be able to celebrate. For us, it’s about the return of Formula One after 35 years. That should be a great party that you want to celebrate with everyone.”
He says if Formula One made a formal request for the race to be ran behind closed doors they would have to think about it seriously. Lammers says that the sport faces a difficult balancing act between safeguarding its future while prioritising the health of fans and those in the paddock.
Adding, “We can’t forget that the FIA and FOM are facing an incredible task. They are trying to save as much as they can; teams, promotors, sponsors. They are all doing what you can expect from them, they are thinking about all scenarios.”
Lammers hopes, like everyone involved in the sport, that racing can resume soon as it would mean that the virus was under control.
2020 championship will happen – Brawn
F1’s managing director for motorsport and technical Ross Brawn says the sport can still hold a world championship this year even if the season cannot start until October.
The Englishman says the sport is looking at closed-door races as a way to start the season once the coronavirus crisis eases and “every permutation is being discussed”. Formula One needs a minimum of eight races to be classed as a world championship.
Brawn told Sky Sports, “If you wanted a drop-dead point (deadline), it would be October. But then there’s always the possibility we could run into next year, and that’s being explored – could we stray into January to finish the season.”
He also says there was no point starting the season unless it could be kept going and pointed out that races on permanent circuits were easier to re-schedule than those on temporary tracks such as street circuits. The only race which has been cancelled is Monaco, with the others being postponed.
Brawn said he believed the 2020 season could include anywhere between eight and 19 races and that plans for how to approach a season were changing almost every day. “It’s a very dynamic and volatile situation,” he said.
Clarifying the comments by Brawn, a spokesman for F1 said, October was the latest starting point for an eight race season which would finish before Christmas.
To get nineteen races in, the season would have to start in July with the likelihood of running into January 2021. Saying “We’re looking at the logistics of a closed race, how we would get the people there, how we would protect them, how we would make it safe.”
Todt warns of new reality due to Coronavirus
FIA president Jean Todt says that Formula One is facing a new reality and face the prospect of cuts to ensure the sport emerges intact from the coronavirus crisis.
So far nine races have been either cancelled or postponed because of the pandemic, with the French Grand Prix on 26 – 28 June currently scheduled provisionally the season opener.
Speaking to Motorsport.com, Todt said, “’m sure that a lot of teams, suppliers, manufacturers, they may have to review their programmes. They may be constrained to stop.
“I don’t want to be too confident, but I hope a few team owners or team sponsors will keep the motivation. That’s why we must make sure we don’t discourage them, because they may say OK, after all of that, what is the purpose? Do I still like it? Do I still need it?”
In another interview with the French newspaper L’Equipe, Todt says the FIA would not rush the resumption of the season. Saying “We will not put anyone in danger to resume a championship. We will only resume when we have guarantees that the contamination risk is zero.”
Budget cap meeting postponed
BBC News says it has learned that a meeting to discuss lowering the 2021 budget cap has been postponed until next week. The top three teams are concerned about the challenges of the plan for them have not been fully understood, have provided further information to F1 and the FIA.
Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull sent in extra analysis and ideas the governing bodies want to consider further. The meeting is now set to take place at a so-far undefined time next week.
The budget cap currently set at £137.9m is due to come into force next season with the exemptions, including driver salaries, the remuneration of the three top executives in a team and engine costs.
The teams have already informally agreed to lower that figure to $150m with the same exemptions, and now figures such as McLaren boss Zak Brown are pushing for that to be reduced to $125m. However, the bigger teams believe the ramifications haven’t been understood.
For example, Ferrari and Mercedes manufacturer parts for the smaller teams but the research and development cost of these is not fully covered by the sale price. There is also the question of the different models among the customer teams.
Haas buy all their car from Ferrari bar the monocoque and aerodynamic surfaces; Racing Point buy effectively the rear end of their car from Mercedes; whereas Williams and McLaren only buy engines.
Ferrari also worries about Italian law has stringent restrictions around making staff redundant. Also raised the point that a single budget-cap figure for all teams might not be fair and equitable because all teams have different business models.
Complicating the matter further is the Coronavirus, which will see the sport’s revenues drop after the first nine races were either cancelled or postponed. Also, the manufacturers facing a global slowdown in sales the full repercussions of the pandemic are still unknown.
Earlier in the week, McLaren CEO Zak Brown warned that the sport was “in a very fragile state” and there was a risk of up to four teams pulling out if costs were not addressed.
F1 has already made a series of changes as it seeks to ride out the coronavirus crisis, including delaying a major rules change from 2021 to 2022 and forcing teams to run the same cars this year and next.
Playing with fire if resisting budget cap reduction
McLaren F1 CEO Zak Brown believes the two teams resisting a further reduction in the cost cap for 2021 are “playing with fire”.
Brown also likened the two teams to “a heavyweight who only wants to fight middleweights” as they continue to defend their financial and thus competitive advantage. Since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, the teams have provisionally agreed to lower the 2021 cost cap from $175m to $150m.
However, a leaked video has emerged of the meeting, showing that Brown and others backed a further drop to $125m. Of the three top teams most impacted by the cap, Ferrari and Red Bull reportedly objected, while Mercedes was more receptive.
Speaking on Sky Sports Vodcast, Brown said, “Without 10 teams or at least nine teams you don’t really have F1. A couple of teams need to be very careful, because I think they are playing with fire, so to speak.”
“It takes a full grid to have a sport, so if they continue to have the sport unsustainable, and a couple of [smaller] teams lose interest, or financially are not able to participate any more, they are going to be racing against themselves. And that’s not going to work.”
Brown wouldn’t say which teams are refusing to co-operate on cost but did say that Daimler the parent company of Mercedes, was doing an excellent job. Those teams also recognise the situation the sport is in.
The challenge for these teams is between the financial costs of the sport and the marketing power of the sport. Brown added, “It’s a huge marketing platform for those two teams, so I understand why they want to keep the fiscal balance where it is now”
Norris feels more respected by McLaren
Lando Norris feels he has gained the “respect” following his first season in Formula One, and that has led to McLaren listening to and relying more on his feedback.
The Englishman finished eleventh in his debut season, following his rapid rise through the junior series, and with a team-mate, Carlos Sainz Jr took McLaren to fourth place in the standings, which was its best result since 2012.
The twenty-year-old has become a prominent figure in recent weeks through his eSports, as online racing has had a surge in interest with real-world racing suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. He has done a mixture of F1 eSports for McLaren, the Not the GP series and Rfactor.
Asked by Autosport, if he felt more comfortable being a figurehead in F1 and within McLaren, Norris told Autosport: “I guess a little bit, but I’m still much better at driving than anything else. It at the same time, just because I’ve done it for a year, people gain a bit of respect and therefore listen to you at the same time a bit more.”
“I mean, I didn’t know if I’m classed as a veteran, but I feel more confident within myself and I think at the same time just because you’re in year two, and with McLaren as well, then you are kind of seen as a bit more of a professional in some ways, not someone who was just there for one year, and you gain a bit of respect.”
He says that people listening to him makes him the spokesman and they take action from what you say. Norris also says that in his second season in F1 you can lead the engineers and aerodynamicists and if they want to develop the car in a certain way, you know there are consequences.
Norris said he felt “in a much better place coming into my year two, with knowing things I needed to work on”, which helped his initial preparations for the delayed 2020 season.
Adding, “That just allowed me to have a better strategy, a better focus on pre-season testing, knowing those areas that I needed to work on, and that made it much easier in terms of setting our goals, what things we wanted to achieve, and so on.”
Norris says he felt more confident with what he was doing, which put him in a better place for testing and the Australia weekend, which was cancelled. He aims to continue that once the season begins.
Williams restructures selling its Advanced Engineering division
The Williams team has refinanced its corporate borrowings following the sale of its sister Advanced Engineering division in December 2019. The refinancing agreement retains long-standing banking partner HSBC.
The deal includes a loan from Latrus Racing, a company owned by Michael Latifi, the father of Williams driver Nicholas. As well as a mortgage on the team’s land and buildings, as well as is factory and machinery.
Latrus Racing was founded by Michael Latifi in 2012 and are involved in the racing activities of Nicholas. He is already a sponsor of the Williams team through Sofina, his Canadian food products company, and is also a part-owner of the McLaren Group, has made an investment in May 2018 through another of his companies.
Deputy team principal Claire Williams, told Motorsport.com, “Following the sale of WAE at the end of 2019 we began a refinancing process. After considering a number of options, we have now concluded our refinancing with a consortium of lenders.”
“All of which was negotiated on an arms-length commercial basis. The loan package provides us with the resources that we need moving forward.”
The security arrangement for the deal are FW06 of 1978 to three examples of FW42 used last season and includes examples of all the world championship-winning cars.