Brown expecting fireworks in Concorde renegotiation
McLaren boss Zak Brown says he is expecting “public fireworks” this year as the sport begins to look at the future regulations of the sport and the beginning of the renegotiation of the commercial deal between Liberty Media and the teams.
The early proposals put forward by the governing body have already faced opposition from the manufactures, with Ferrari issuing threats to walk away from the sport if the final package does not meet their agreement.
Brown says that McLaren wants to play a “constructive” role in the discussions but warns that the process will not be easy. There are a number of issues that are causing concern, from engine regulations, budget caps, reducing the gaps.
Speaking to James Allen On F1, Brown said “There will be some big negotiations going on through 2018 with the teams on contract renewal and I predict that there will be public fireworks; we are already starting to see that.”
“I do not think it’s going to be quiet. Will Ferrari really leave if they don’t like the new rules? I have my opinion but we’ll see how this plays out.”
Earlier this week, Ferrari CEO Sergio Marchionne repeated his threat that Ferrari would walk away if F1 no longer met their needs, but his priority is to maintain unparalleled Ferrari’s 68-year involvement.
Cotsworth unlikely to return
Cotsworth says it is “unlikely” to return to Formula One as an independent engine supplier, saying it needs external backing if it’s to enter the sport under the new engine regulations.
The British engine manufacturer has been part of the discussions about the future engine regulations, which it wants to be drafted by the end of the year and wats to enter the sport. However, that would require investment from a manufacturer or sponsor to make it financially viable for Cosworth to return to F1.
Speaking at Autosport International, Cosworth managing director powertrain Bruce Wood said “First off, we’d love to be there. It’s been reported quite widely that we’ve been heavily involved in the ongoing current discussions.”
“Where we sighted it from the beginning is that it’s unlikely you will see a completely independent Cosworth on the ‘if you build it they will come’ [basis]. That’s unlikely because I think the economics of that are hard to make work.”
Wood says that they are looking for a partner to make a financial commitment to help them into the sport. Cotsworth is one of a number of companies looking at the sport because of the new regulations which are aimed at reducing the cost of the sport.
Wood added, “It’s no secret that the level of technology currently in F1 is quite prohibitive, even to somebody like Cosworth with our background getting into it because there are so many elements that are absolutely cutting edge.”
He also says the proposed engine changes would certainly technically allow Cotsworth to come back and reduce the cost barriers to the sport.
Pirelli hits back over tyre confusion
Pirelli says it believes that fans will not have difficulty in understanding the wider range of tyres once they have seen them on track. This season the manufacturer has expanded the range of tyres at both ends of the spectrum.
The new harder tyres will be more durable but slower over a single lap, with the new softer tyres being less durable but faster over a single lap. The wider range of tyres is aimed at creating more variable strategies in races.
However, the wider range of tyres has prompted questions about the naming, colours and over complicating tyres while Liberty Media is trying to create a sport which is more accessible to the average viewer.
One solution which has been suggested by fans, is for Pirelli could instead name the three tyres it brings to each grand prix as hard, medium and soft, regardless of which of the seven compounds they actually are, but sporting director Mario Isola does not think this would convey the right message.
Sporting director Mario Isola told ESPN “At the end of the season, with the new tyres, there was a lot of talking about ‘ah Pirelli is generating confusion’ — this is not the target.”
“I’m sorry if we are generating confusion but I’m sure that by halfway through the season nobody will talk about that because everyone will know what we’re doing.” Isola says that it is important that fans understand that different circuits require different compounds.
He says Pirelli are trying to make the tyres more understandable and if you coloured the compounds according to the weekend rather than having standard colours for tyres it would be easier to understand.
Adding “Using different colours is not because we want to generate more confusion because at the end of the day we will still have three different colours at each event. Fans will still have to keep in mind three colours for each event.”
Explaining why Pirelli has opted for the tyre colour scheme this year, Isola said the softer compounds have gone of colder colours with the warmer colours for the harder compounds.
Adding “At least we give the right information that we had to develop different compounds for different circuits because it depends on layout, weather conditions, tarmac roughness, there are a lot of facts we have to consider before selecting a compound.”
Looking changes to grid formation
Formula One bosses are evaluating making changes to the way the grid lines up according to former Benetton, Renault and Williams technical director Pat Symonds.
Symonds is part of Ross Brawn’s working group looking at ways of improving the sport future direction. Speaking at the MIA’s Entertainment & Energy-Efficient Motorsport Conference, Symonds said F1 is testing out potential regulation changes in the virtual world using eSports to assess their effectiveness.
“We’re keen to use virtual environments to test some of these regulations. What we can do then is look at statistics. It gives you a chance to do things you can’t otherwise simulate in an easy manner.
“I’ll give you an example of something we’ve been thinking about this year. For a number of years, the starting grid for F1 has been a staggered formation. We know one of our problems is that we put the fastest car on the grid and not only do we do that but we separate them.”
He reminded people that there were times when three cars started on the front row. Brawn believes that these ideas are best tested out in the virtual world so you could see what happens.
Symonds cites the qualifying faciso in 2016 as a good example of what could be tested in the virtual world before being implemented on track.
Movistar extends F1 contract
Formula One has extended its Spanish TV rights with the pay broadcaster Movistar. The new deal will see the rights run until 2020 and give the network opportunities to share short live video clips to be pushed out of Movistar’s social and digital media channels.
The sports owners Liberty Media has been looking at ways of growing the sport on digital media to grow the sports audiences. Director of Media Rights, Ian Holmes said “Spain is one of the most important European markets for Formula One and, thanks to this partnership.”
“The Spanish fans will be able to continue to enjoy the spectacle provided by the pinnacle of motorsport 24/7 on a dedicated channel, Movistar F1.” Holmes added that they will be exclusive content for Movistar.
Content Manager for Movistar, Alex Martinez Roig added “We are poised to build an ambitious project with Formula One, with one specific goal in mind — broadening the Formula One fan base and meeting its wildest expectations.”
Deals have also been done under Liberty Media for the rights in Australia, France, Germany and the U.S all set to start new contracts in 2018.
Meanwhile, the UK picture remains unclear post-2018 with Sky Sports sealing exclusive rights from 2019-24. However, it’s not clear what the ‘free-to-air’ means in practice.
No American good enough – Steiner
Haas team principal Gunther Steiner says while the American team wants an American driver in one of the team’s race seats, he feels that there is currently not one, which is ready enough to step in.
One of Haas’s aims, when it entered the sport, was to find an American capable of an F1 drive. The last American was Alexander Rossi completed a partial F1 campaign with Manor in 2015, becoming the first American to contest a grand prix since Scott Speed in 2007, before heading back to the States.
Meanwhile, Steiner recently said IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden would struggle if dropped into F1 without prior exposure. The Haas team finished eighth in the constructor’s championship last season. When asked if an American driver was high on the list, now that Haas had settled in to F1, Steiner told Motorsport.com: “It’s not on top of our list.
“It’s on top of our list if there’s a good one. Obviously, we want one. But then maybe, if there is a really good one, would they come to us? Just having an American driver who maybe cannot compete at a certain level is maybe not good for the sport.”
Signing an American driver, “would be an ambition, but at the moment there is nobody ready for F1 in the United States in my opinion.” He added.
The Week Ahead
This weekend we have the Autosport show where we normally get a reflection from key players about the last year and begin to look ahead to the season ahead. We are now four weeks away from testing, there are questions about who gets that Williams seat, we still have no idea.
We are also due the monthly strategy group meeting that looks to be a difficult meeting as Ferrari have issued threats to walk away over these regulations changes.
This could also look at the ongoing row about reduction to three power units, Ferrari has a veto over it. But can the other teams pile the pressure on Ferrari not to use its veto at the strategy group? A decision needs to be made before this month’s World Council Meeting.
For the final time on Monday, we expect Channel 4 and Sky Sports to confirm the picks they have divided. We know the shared rights deal ends this year, so do Channel 4 pick the races which have not been on free to air TV in the past six years or not? I expect France and Germany to be picked, but not Canada.