Coronavirus – Three team personnel placed in isolation
Three Formula One team personnel have been taken into self-isolation at the Australian Grand Prix while tests are conducted to see if they have coronavirus.
As concerns continue about any outbreak in the paddock, all the teams are acting with extreme caution to head off the chance of any unwell personnel being able to infect anyone else.
In the wake of some team members showing fever symptoms at the track, a contingency plan has been put in place to deal with the first cases. One member of McLaren and two members of Haas have been evaluated at the Albert Park track’s bespoke isolation unit and swab tests have been completed.
With the results of those tests likely to take several hours, both teams have confirmed that their staff have returned to their hotels and been put into a self-isolation condition until it is known if they have caught the virus.
McLaren said in a statement, “We can confirm that one team member has self-isolated in the hotel as a precaution, in line with our policy, after showing symptoms similar to coronavirus.”
“We are awaiting test results and currently do not have a definitive timeframe for these. The team is operating as per our normal schedule. It is unclear what the implications for F1 and the Australian Grand Prix will be if any of the team members are confirmed as having coronavirus.”
The country announced it was banning all Italians from travelling to the country from Wednesday evening. That move will not affect the Italian personnel from Ferrari, Alpha Tauri and Pirelli who were able to travel to Melbourne beforehand.
A statement from F1 said it was taking a scientific approach to handling the coronavirus crisis and was setting up an action plan if personnel were struck down.
Ricciardo keeps options open for 2021
Daniel Ricciardo says that he will be keeping a close eye on his mobile phone this season as the Australian’s Formula One future comes into focus. His two year deal with Renault comes to an end at the end of the season, Ricciardo’s next move could define his career.
The French manufacturer knows that it needs to deliver this year if they are to retain him. During testing, Ricciardo told Reuters, “Everyone knows how this sport works. If another team calls, I’m not going to block the call or anything. I’ll answer it and listen to what they have to say.”
“What Renault also need to know, and fully trust that I mean it, is that I am still here 100% a Renault driver and right now I have no intention of leaving. I want this to work. I don’t even want to think ‘if it doesn’t work then I’ll figure out something else’.”
Ricciardo says he wants to make it work. There appears little option for Ricciardo as Red Bull and Ferrari have their Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc under contract until 2024. While Lewis Hamilton is expected to commit to staying at Mercedes. That leaves, however, potential vacancies in the second driver slots.
He added, “Charles and Max having early signings it does kind of narrow the speculation. I guess Lewis is the next one. And then there’s me. I feel like the Ricciardo/Red Bull stuff just happened so I guess we could be in a similar position with the media and all that in the next few months.”
“I went through a pretty hectic one moving from Red Bull so I think whatever happens it will be less wild.” Ricciardo says there is fresh optimism around the factory and he felt more established.
Mercedes puts in measures following engine issues
Motorsport.com says it has learnt Mercedes has put in a number of countermeasures for its race specification engine, after getting to the bottom of the problems it encountered in testing.
During the six days of testing, the team had a number of reliability issues over the two weeks of running at Barcelona last month, with both its works team and Williams requiring engine changes. Lewis Hamilton admitted at the end of the test that the team was not particularly comfortable with the situation it found itself in.
Asked about the engine, Hamilton said “Is it a concern? Yeah. For sure. Normally in the pre-season, we have much more confidence in the reliability, so it has not been perfect.”
Mercedes flew its troubled power units back to its Brixworth, UK engine headquarters for a detailed analysis, and the work since then has allowed its engineers to fully understand what happened.
Despite the testing problems, Mercedes has not had to roll back on the specification of engine it will use, and it is confident that it will not have to limit how aggressive it can be with engine modes in a bid to ensure reliability.
Speaking ahead of the first race, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said: “We’re glad that we encountered these issues in testing rather than at a race weekend as we could work on fixing them without any penalties.”
Haas remains cautious about prospects
Haas team principal Gunther Steiner insists the outfit has learned its lessons from its troubled 2019 season, but he remains cautious about its prospects for this year.
The US-owned team had a strong start to last year, but by midseason had lost the performance and speed, forcing it to revert to the Melbourne spec. However, Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean ran different specs for much of the second half of the season, a situation that wasn’t easy to manage.
Steiner is adamant that the team has now taken a different approach. He told Motorsport.com, “I’m taking things on board. We are not going to make mistakes like last season. I say definitely yes to that. We understood that we are working a little bit different on it.”
“There can still be mistakes. But I think if I would say we didn’t learn our lesson and be stupid like last year, I mean, that wouldn’t make me feel great, saying, ‘No, I ignore everything that I learned last year, I just keep on going head down like we did last year.’”
Steiner says the team learnt their lessons and the feedback from the drivers on the 2020 car in testing last month was encouraging. Haas’s drivers are making the right noises, but like everyone in the team, they are very cautious.
Adding, “So we do a diligent job and try to do the best and see where it takes us. But that’s happened every year, just last year, the developments didn’t work. So we ended up where we ended up.”
Renault launches livery in Melbourne
Renault has unveiled its car livery and announced a new title sponsor in Melbourne ahead of this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix. The team presented its new livery for the first time in an event at Albert Park on Wednesday, retaining its traditional yellow and black colours.
The design is largely the same as last year, with the only difference being the rear wing changing from yellow to black. The change was prompted by a deal with logistics provider DP World, which includes signage on the front and rear wings. The team will now be known as the Renault DP World F1 Team.
Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon were on hand for the presentation, appearing in their new race gear for the first time after the team ran an all-black interim livery in testing.
The French manufacturer is the final team to confirm its race colours for 2020 after the rest of the field ran their season liveries through testing last month.
Saudi Aramco announces F1 deal
Formula One has announced a major sponsorship deal with Saudi Aramco, raising the prospect of a Saudi Arabia Grand Prix in future.
The long term deal with Aramco has hopes of “combining their considerable shared expertise to identify opportunities for the advancement of sustainable fuels, enhanced engine efficiencies and emerging mobility technology.”
The deal seems at odds with a commitment that the sport made to be carbon neutral by 2030. Recently, The Guardian reported that Aramco has contributed 59.26 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere since 1965, which equates to 4.38 per cent of the planet’s global total in that period.
The deal will also be seen as a step towards a Grand Prix in the future in the capital Riyadh, but that is likely to draw criticism due to the country’s poor human rights record.
Aramco is F1’s sixth title sponsor, alongside DHL, Emirates, Heineken, Pirelli and Rolex, and will be given title sponsorship of 2020 races in Spain, Hungary and the US.
Sette Camara named as Red Bull’s test driver
Sergio Sette Camara has been named test and reserve driver for Formula One team’s Red Bull and Alpha Tauri for the 2020 season. The Brazilian was previously on Red Bull’s books as part of its Junior Team in 2016, while he spent last year in a test and development role for rival F1 team McLaren.
He will share the role with Formula E champion Sébastien Buemi, who raced for Alpha Tauri between 2009-11. Sette Camara told Motorsport.com, “I am extremely happy to join the Red Bull family as Official Test & Reserve driver for the 2020 Formula One season alongside Sebastian.”
“I’ve been watching F1 since I was five years old and I’m humbled to have been given this opportunity to work with Aston Martin Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Alpha Tauri.”
He was originally let go by Red Bull after finishing 11th in his second season of European F3, Sette Camara has since contested three consecutive campaigns in Formula Two. He finished twelfth, sixth and fourth in recent years, and already has forty required points for an FIA super licence.
The Brazilian, who is yet to officially firm up his race programme for the coming season, will be present in his new F1 role at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix this weekend.
Netflix shows F1 shouldn’t always chase profits
F1 motorsport and technical managing director Ross Brawn, says the success of Netflix’s ‘Drive to Survive’ series is proof that F1 should not always prioritise chasing profits.
The second series premiered at the close of testing grabbing the interest of fans, F1’s bosses well aware of the wider exposure that the sport has had with a new audience. The streaming platform has paid only a fraction of what major pay-TV channels are paying out for live coverage of the sport, Brawn says that the gains it has brought deliver a different kind of value.
He told Motorsport.com, “I think it was really great to show the fans the other side of F1 because most of the fans have only seen what goes on at the track or the interviews at the track.”
“Suddenly you see behind the scenes, both at the race tracks and at the factories and the bases the teams operate from. I think it gave people a fascinating insight.”
He says they have discovered that they have been very appealing to the non-race fan: in fact, it turned them into race fans.