Russell takes victory in Spanish Virtual GP
George Russell has taken Williams first win sine 2012 after finishing within three seconds of Charles Leclerc in the Virtual Spanish Grand Prix. The pair battled hard throughout the race around the Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya.
It had looked as if Leclerc was going to take victory after missing out on the win at Interlagos, however, was handed a three-second penalty for cutting corners. But then Leclerc was awarded the same penalty on the penultimate lap to give the young English driver his first Virtual GP win, in dramatic circumstances.
Russell said, “I’m ecstatic. I’m not used to this winning thing – I’ve not done it a long, long time. I dearly missed it. When I got past Charles and I knew I had that 3s penalty, I was pretty furious. But when that radio message came in at the end… I was almost wetting my pants!”
Alex Albon who has been Leclerc main rival in the previous two races for Red Bull also looked to be in contention. Albon opted to take a different strategy taking a two-stop race, finishing third. This then allowed, Russell closed the gap on race leader Leclerc but picked up a three-second time penalty for corner-cutting.
F2 champions Leclerc and Russell swapped the race lead on multiple occasions going into the opening turn, with Russell finally building a decisive lead after an overtake with six laps to go.
Russell built enough of a gap to cancel out his penalty to take his first victory ahead of Leclerc and Mercedes reserve drive Esteban Gutierrez.
Albon’s two-stop strategy, which had briefly vaulted him ahead of Leclerc after the opening round of pitstops, only yielded fourth place. Sky’s Anthony Davidson was sixth ahead of Antonio Giovinazzi, who was another to enjoy a short spell leading the race on his alternative strategy.
Haas F1 reserve Pietro Fittipaldi was eighth ahead of ex-Ferrari junior Antonio Fuoco and Renault junior Max Fewtrell. Lando Norris’s race didn’t go any better, a five-place grid penalty in qualifying for driving backwards as he attempted to get back to the pits after a spin at the final corner. He was involved in an incident in the opening laps of the race and later, picked up a penalty for speeding it the pits before eventually retiring.
Thibaut Courtois was the highest-placed non-racing driver in twelfth place, with series debutant Sergio Aguero taking fourteenth ahead of Nicolas Hamilton and former F1 driver Vitantonio Liuzzi.
Roberts joins Williams as F1 managing director
Williams has appointed former McLaren operations chief Simon Roberts as its new F1 managing director. Roberts will join Williams to oversee the technical, operations and planning functions, as well as racing and factory operations from the start of June
He will also take overall responsibility for the car design and development process. Roberts has almost two decades of experience in Formula One, the majority of which has been served at McLaren, where he started as operations director and general manager in 2003.
After one season with Force India, he returned to McLaren and was promoted to operations director in 2017. Williams has been working on restructuring the team in an attempt to return to the midfield following the worst season in their history last year.
Chief technical officer Paddy Lowe left the team in March and Williams have instigated major changes aimed at getting the team back on the right track.
This has included reshaping their design department and undertaking what Claire Williams described as “a full after-action review of the whole process of designing, build and manufacture and we have left no stone unturned and made the necessary changes where we needed to”.
Racing without fans gives Hamilton ‘empty’
Lewis Hamilton has admitted that racing without fans in attendance will leave him feeling “empty,” but says Formula one’s enforced hiatus has given him even more motivation to perform once the sport returns.
In his first interview since the aborted Australian Grand Prix, the six-time champion said he was “healthy and fresh” Hamilton also revealed that he is trying to make the most of the “part-sabbatical”, having considered taking a year off in the past.
The first ten races of the season have been cancelled or postponed with the plan for five races, including double-headers at the Red Bull Ring and Silverstone taking place behind closed doors. He told Mercedes YouTube, “It gave me a really empty feeling. The fans really make the race.
“Around the world, all the races we go to, the more fans there, the more atmosphere. That’s what you have at places like Silverstone, Monza… so it’s going to be very empty.”
He added: “It’s going to be like a test day for us, probably worse than a test day… there’s not a huge amount of people in Barcelona who come to watch but there are still some. Here there’s going to be no one in the crowd and you’re just going to see empty seats as you’re driving down. But racing is racing.”
Hamilton says he is getting messages from around the world who are struggling during this period because they’re not getting to watch sports. He believes that this shows how significant sport is in people’s eyes.
Speaking about the lack of F1, Hamilton continued: “It’s almost a blessing on one side because it gives you even more appreciation for the things that you love and the things that you do.
In the interview, Hamilton said he had recently thought about taking a year away from F1 but that it was “never a good thing” for an “athlete in their prime” to leave. Adding “ I’m a workaholic and I love that challenge [of a season]. I miss seeing my team, my friends, as everyone does.”
Rain light could show track conditions
The FIA has proposed a coloured rain light system which repeats on-track flag conditions amid several safety recommendations following investigations into serious and fatal racing accidents.
The sports governing body has researched twenty-eight accidents related to circuit racing, the FIA has unveiled proposals to improve on-track safety to inhibit further serious accidents. From that research, it is been suggested that the rear rain light change colour to whatever flag was on the circuit.
For example, the rain light would turn yellow should the race enter yellow flag conditions, and the FIA has also proposed that the rain light could also be used to show the driver ahead slowing down as they enter a yellow flag zone.
The FIA’s statement reads that “although further testing and research is required, this adaptation of the rain light usage could reduce driver notification time, improve the reliability of driver notification and better allow drivers to make an appropriate and proportionate reaction in the case of yellow flag deployment”.
Furthermore, the FIA has indicated that it will be pursuing further research into increased tethering to ensure “large debris is contained or retained with the crashing vehicle”.
In the event of a particularly heavy impact, the rear end of the car can completely detach from the front – creating two potentially dangerous pieces of high-mass debris – and adding increased tethering would ensure that the two halves remain together.
These changes are seen as a response to the accident that killed Anthoine Hubert at last years Belgian Grand Prix. F1, along with Formula E, is already in the process of defining improved impact structures, while F2 and F3 will include them in their next chassis cycle.
F1 discussing implications of quarantine measures in the UK
Formula One says it is in discussion with the British government about the possible implications of quarantine on those arriving from overseas, and which is set to be imposed in the coming weeks.
Until yesterday the UK had not imposed travel restrictions since the start of the Coronavirus crisis. However, last week it emerged that a 14-day quarantine, involving self-isolation at a specific address given on arrival, could be introduced in late May or early June.
In a statement on TV last night the prime minister Boris Johnson confirmed that quarantine was coming “soon”, although he gave no further details. If it continues into July such a measure could, in theory, have an impact on F1’s plans to restart the 2020 World Championship.
The documents says “all international arrivals not on a shortlist of exemptions to self-isolate in their accommodation for fourteen days on arrival into the UK.” That list of exemptions is still to be understood, and it’s believed that Liberty is in discussions with the government on this, before clarity later in the week.
Currently, the sport is planning two races in Austria on weekends of 03 – 05 and 10 – 12 July, followed by two races at Silverstone probably on 24 – 26 July and 31 July – 02 August. Both races are planned to be closed doors events.
An F1 spokesman told Motorsport.com: “We will wait to see the details and are in discussion with government regarding our plans to restart racing safely.”
F1’s strategy for a resumption is based around strict COVID-19 testing of all personnel, and it’s understood that the hope is that those able to present negative test results will be exempted by the UK authorities, thus allowing them to enter or re-enter the country without quarantine.
Manufacturers could walk away over Coronavirus
Racing Point team principal Otmar Szafnauer says manufacturers may decide racing in Formula One is no longer a priority once the impact of Coronavirus crisis is felt.
F1 is preparing for the economic fall-out caused by the pandemic, with the sports reporting last week it had experienced an 84% fall in revenue across the first quarter of the year. The opening ten races of the season have been called off, the hosting fees for which funds much of the prize money that is then given to teams.
This has led to concerns about the future of several teams, with Szafnauer saying that while F1 should “worry about everybody across the board”, he feared manufacturers may want to focus on supporting their road car businesses instead of keeping F1 programmes running.
Szafnauer said in an interview on Sky Sports F1, “The thing with the manufacturers, not so much in Formula 1, but in their regular business of developing and selling and designing road cars, it’s a very, very cost-intensive business.”
“Their fixed costs for tooling are massive, and it depends where in the cycle you are of reaping some of those revenues back from the fixed costs that you put in.” the thing he said is the manufacturers will not being selling cars meaning that they aren’t making money.
Szafnauer served as Honda’s director of strategy and business planning in F1 prior to its withdrawal from the sport at the end of the 2008 season, triggered by the economic crisis. He felt the recovery of manufacturers such as Honda after the Great Recession acted as proof things would improve after the COVID-19 pandemic.