Mercedes returns to the track
Mercedes are the first team to return to the track since February which a two-day test at Silverstone. Ahead of the beginning of the season in Austria in July, the team are using two days of running at the circuit to familiarise themselves with the new extensive health and safety protocols which will be in place from the Red Bull Ring.
The team is completing the test with the 2018-spec Mercedes W09, thus allowing for extended running outside of F1’s testing restrictions for current cars. Mercedes was eager to complete the test with its full race team to practice new protocols aimed to stop an outbreak of coronavirus in the paddock.
Bottas told the media, “Today I think it was a very helpful day for the team. Obviously, everyone being out from racing and the garage environment for a long time, and there are many new regulations, and we need to be cautious with different things for health.”
“It was good to practice that. I think we learned a lot during the day, how to do things more efficiently and make sure everyone is going to be safe once we eventually start racing.” Mercedes have altered their procedures for the race weekends, to ensure only essential personnel are present.
The German manufacture also confirmed those taking part had tested negative for the virus and wore relevant PPE. Mercedes’ test marks the first on-track running by an F1 team since the end of pre-season testing in Barcelona at the end of February.
Hamilton on track
Lewis Hamilton has made his first on-track appearance since pre-season testing in February on the second and final day of Mercedes’ Silverstone test.
The six-time champion has returned to the UK to begin preparation for the beginning of the season, after a four-month delay due to the coronavirus. He was reunited with the W09 car he won the 2018 championship with as Mercedes continue to work with F1’s new health and safety protocols.
Hamilton has posted passionately in support of the Black Lives Matter movement over the past week and said on Tuesday night he appreciated “the positive steps that have been taken so far” – although there was “still so much change to come” around the world.
In footage on Mercedes social media channels, it showed the team working with the new health and safety protocols to combat coronavirus, which include face masks, social distancing where possible, and hand sanitising.
The team are using a two-year-old car. This year Hamilton looks for a record-equalling seventh title, as well as the opportunity to become the driver with the most wins in the history of F1.
Pirelli restarts it tyre testing
Pirelli has announced they are restarting the development of the 18-inch tyres that will be introduced to Formula One in 2022 after Coronavirus restrictions forced work to be put on hold.
The low profile tyres were originally planned to be introduced next season, but have been delayed after teams agreed to postpone the technical overhaul by a year. This year, Pirelli has only managed one test day in February, before the pandemic shut down most of Europe.
The original twenty-five-day programme included visits to Bahrain, Barcelona, Paul Ricard, Spielberg, Silverstone and Suzuka, running to October. That programme has now been factored into the updated 2021 FIA sporting regulations.
Pirelli was also forced to shut down operations, although not covered by the regulations, they are based in Italy which went into lockdown for two months due to coronavirus. However, the manufacturer wants to make the best use it can of the extra time it has before 18-inch tyres are raced in 2022.
F1 boss Mario Isola told Motorsport.com, “We are doing some development now. Unfortunately, without testing the ideas on track, and it’s always important to validate what you test with simulations or indoor tests.”
“Actually, we didn’t have a lot of possibilities. Even though we are not subject to the FIA shutdown, in Italy we had the lockdown, which was quite heavy. So, it was impossible for some weeks to carry on any activity.”
“We were working from home, and we could use laptops and make simulations on computer, but it was impossible to make any with indoor tests because everything was closed.” Isola says now they are now restarting producing tyre prototypes.
No rush and late calls on calendar
Ross Brawn says Formula One will not be rushed into confirming the rest of its 2020 calendar as the sport can make a “relatively late call” on whether to race or not at certain circuits later in the year.
The first ten races have either been cancelled or postponed due to the coronavirus with the opening race in Austria on the weekend of 03 – 05 July kicking off an eight race European season.
However, there have been suggestions from F1 that other circuits, like Mugello, Hockenheim, Imola and Jerez could hold races, and F1’s managing director of motorsports told Sky Sports that the sport is biding its time to firm up plans for later in the season.
Mugello may not be a possibility after Moto GP’s Italian Grand Prix was cancelled earlier today.
Particularly as setting a date for ‘flyaway’ races, F1 was due to head to North and South America, and Asia was proving “challenging”.
Brawn told Sky Sports, “Every country is at different phases of this pandemic, some countries where it’s quite difficult at the moment, we’re optimistic will improve enough in time for us to go there.”
Adding, “I think where we have permanent circuits then it’s easy to make a relatively late call. Where we have to build a circuit then you need more notice.”
He admitted that organising the flyway races is proving challenging, but Brawn still was looking pretty decent season. Saying “There’s a lot of things now starting to fall into place.”
The Singapore Grand Prix was due to follow Italy, although a circuit would need to be ‘built’ there as it’s a street track. There is more optimism about other races in Asia, such as Bahrain and Abu Dhabi, towards the end of 2020.
Reverse grid races “messy” – Ricciardo
Daniel Ricciardo believes Formula One does not need to implement reverse grid qualifying races, believing the format could “make things a little messy”.
With two races being held at the Red Bull Ring and Silverstone this year a debate has started again about how to mix things up at the second race. Also for a few years, Liberty Media has suggested changing the format of qualifying at certain races.
The idea to change qualifying for the second weekend to a sprint race has been rejected, Mercedes vetoed the proposal, saying F1 did not need a “gimmick” to create more exciting racing.
Renault driver Ricciardo said that while he could see the appeal of a reverse grid qualifying race, he did not think it was an area F1 needed to focus on fixing. On F1’s Instagram account, he said, “I’m not always old-school, but I guess it’s not really the first on our priority list of things to change in the sport.”
“I can see how some fans would be like ‘yeah, it would be great to have the fast guys trying to come through the field’ and all of that. I see that point of view. There are a lot of scenarios where it wouldn’t work, and it would make things a little messy.”
He says that he sees why from a viewers point of view that a reverse grid race would be good but from a racing point of view it’s not where they need.
The recent vote marked the closest the plan had received the green light, but failed to receive the required unanimity among the teams. Motorsport managing director Ross Brawn wished his successor at Mercedes had “taken a bigger view” on the matter.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner feared the back-to-back races at the same track would lead to a similar result in both events.
Horner told Motorsport.com, “The problem is that if we just repeat the same format at the same venue, the result is likely to be very similar. I think we’ve got an ideal opportunity to try something different.”
“As long as it’s clear going into the championship from the first race, and it’s not something that changes during the season, then we certainly wouldn’t have an issue with that.
Norris shocked by market moves
Lando Norris says the recent moves in the driver market came as “a bit of a shock”, but was not surprised McLaren signed Daniel Ricciardo for 2021. The driver market went crazy in May when Sebastian Vettel announced he would leave Ferrari at the end of the year.
Ferrari within days announced the signing of Norris’ current teammate, Carlos Sainz, as Vettel’s replacement, while McLaren snapped up Renault driver Ricciardo to join the team for 2021.
Norris says he didn’t expect Vettel to leave Ferrari, and Sainz get picked up as his replacement, the arrival of Ricciardo at McLaren came as little surprise given the team’s previous interest.
He told Motorsport.com, “It wasn’t so much of a surprise of Daniel coming to McLaren, but I think the bigger surprise was Carlos leaving McLaren for Ferrari and Vettel leaving Ferrari. I guess it was a bit of a shock.
“Especially because no one really expected Seb to do what he did and not to sign with Ferrari again. I think as soon as Seb didn’t sign, then you knew something was going to happen. Everyone seemed quite firmly in place with their teams because no one was really expecting it.”
Saying it was fair play for Sainz to go for the Ferrari seat, and is happy for him. He also says that the signing of Ricciardo was just as a surprise, but he knew that McLaren wanted him before last season. Norris believes it would bring race-winning experience to the team, as well as offering him a new experience by changing teammates for the first time.
Adding “Daniel’s obviously just got that bit more experience with working with those top teams and knowing what’s exactly needed to win races. So his mentality of that side of things is something that’s going to be different from what Carlos had and I think.”
Norris says that he has never spent two years in any category apart from my first years of karting, 2020 is a new situation where he doesn’t know what to expect, meaning it still relatively new for him.