Teams approve the engine freeze from 2022
The F1 Commission has unanimously approved the 2022 engine development ‘freeze’ which paths the way for Red Bull to take over the running of Honda’s engines from next year when the Japanese manufacturer leaves the sport at the end of the year.
Honda announced in October last year that it would be leaving F1 at the end of 2021. The team then made it clear that its ‘Plan A’ was to take over the running and intellectual property.
Red Bull says that plan was only feasible if the sport ‘froze’ power unit development from next year, arguing that it would be unfeasible for them to engage in a performance battle with the sport’s three other big engine manufacturers.
The proposal was passed at Thursday’s meeting with F1 saying in a statement, “significant development for the sport that reflects the unity and collaborative spirit between the FIA, Formula One and the teams.”
However, any notion of introducing a ‘balance of power’ rule – which would allow manufacturers with less powerful engines to catch up to the leaders at the start of 2022 – was not discussed and is not on the table.
Thursday’s meeting also outlined the five main points of the next set of engine regulations which will be brought in a year earlier than planned in 2025. These are
- Environmental sustainability and social and automotive relevance
- Fully sustainable fuel
- Creating a powerful and emotive Power Unit
- Significant cost reduction
- Attractiveness to new Power Unit manufacturers
A working group of current and potential power unit manufacturers and fuel suppliers has been established to look into the possibilities for 2025.
Key decisions from the F1 Commission
Plans for sprint races to take place at selected Grands Prix this season have received “broad support.” In Thursday’s commission meeting the teams and F1 have confirmed a working group will be set up to established to further the plans before a final decision is taken on the format change.
It is understood that teams want clarity on various details of the proposal, including points weighting, possible prize money and how it would impact driver contracts.
These proposals are an experiment at three races Montreal, Monza and Interlagos. A normal qualifying would be held on Friday to set the grid for the sprint race, then the results of that race would then set the grid for the Grand Prix.
F1 would still hold qualifying as normal but moved to Friday to set the grid for the sprint race. The result of this would then set the final starting grid for the Grand Prix on Sunday.
A statement said, “All teams recognised the major importance of engaging fans in new and innovative ways to ensure an even more exciting weekend format.”
“There was, therefore, broad support from all parties for a new qualifying format at some races, and a working group has been tasked with creating a complete plan with the aim to reach a final decision before the start for the 2021 championship.”
The meeting also informed teams of updates to the calendar, as reported earlier in the week by Autosport, the Portuguese Grand Prix will fill the TBC race on 30 April – 02 May, subject to a final agreement with the promoter.
The move means F1 will abandon back-up plans to hold multiple races in Bahrain to start the season and leave Imola on its existing 18 April date.
Pirelli’s proposal for five extra days of tyre testing for 2021 ahead of next years changes were approved taking it to thirty, giving in theory three days of testing to each team through the year.
F1 and the FIA also confirmed that plans for a possible driver salary cap were discussed, which led to an agreement for another working group to be formed to explore the idea further.
Alonso undergoes surgery following cycling accident
Fernando Alonso underwent minor surgery on Friday following a cycling accident in which he fractured his upper jaw. The two times champion who is returning to Formula One this year was hit by a car while training near Lugano in according to Gazzetta dello Sport.
Alonso was taken to hospital following the accident and underwent a “successful corrective operation” and will remain in hospital for observation for forty eight hours. But is conscious and “well in himself” according to a statement from Alpine.
a statement from Alpine said on Thursday evening, “Alpine F1 Team can confirm that Fernando Alonso has been involved in a road accident while cycling in Switzerland. Fernando is conscious and well in himself and is awaiting further medical examinations tomorrow morning.”
Friday’s statement added, “The medical team are satisfied with his progress. After a few days of complete rest, he will be able to progressively resume training. We expect him to be fully operational to [prepare] for the season.
Reports suggested that Alonso came off his bike while braking hard to avoid an impact with a car while out cycling on the road, when a car exited a supermarket. In a statement made by the local police in Switzerland, it was confirmed that Alonso hit a car as it was turning into a supermarket car park.
Police say, “According to an initial reconstruction and for reasons that the police investigation will have to establish, while she was making a left-hand turn to enter a supermarket car park, she collided with a 39-year-old Spanish citizen, who was riding his bicycle and passing a line of stationary vehicles on the right. The collision took place against the right side of the car.
“Officers from the Cantonal Police and in support from the Lugano Police Force, as well as rescuers from the Lugano Green Cross, arrived on the scene and, after giving the cyclist initial treatment, took him by ambulance to hospital.”
A statement from Alpine on Friday morning added, “Medics discovered a fracture in his upper jaw and conducted a successful corrective operation. The attending medical team are satisfied with his progress. We expect him be fully operational to undertake preparation for the season.”
In a tweet, Alonso said, “Thanks for all your wishes, I’m ok and looking forward to getting 2021 underway. Let’s gooooooooooooooo”
Alonso is returning to Alpine, previously Renault, for the third time following two years out. During that time, he has won the 24 Hours of Le Mans twice for Toyota, along with one World Endurance Championship title, and has also competed in the Indianapolis 500 and the Dakar Rally.
The Spaniard race for the team between 2003 and 2006, winning two world championships, after a year with McLaren he returned for 2008-09, before joining Ferrari.
A second McLaren stint followed from 2015 to 2018, but the team’s dip in on-track fortunes left Alonso increasingly frustrated, prompting him to explore avenues outside of F1.
McLaren not my last chance to shine – Ricciardo
Daniel Ricciardo believes that McLaren is not his last chance to shine, but his best chance to shine. In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, he spoke about whether he could provide the missing piece of that puzzle.
He says the teams return to Mercedes power and next years regulation changes year represents a “perfect storm”.
Ricciardo told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald in an exclusive interview, ”I think this is my best chance to achieve what I’ve said all along is the goal. I didn’t ever want to get to F1 just to get to F1 – I wanted to be world champion, and I still do.”
“McLaren, with the way they’re progressing, feels like the best chance for me to be able to do that, maybe the best chance I’ve had.
“You never know in this sport, but I’m confident I’m in the right place. Can I sit here and say that I can fight for a world championship next year? Who knows, but I feel confident that I’m in the right place to give myself a good shot at it.”
When Ricciardo was considering his future he said he needed to “evolve” from his time spent inside the Red Bull F1 program, driving for junior team Toro Rosso for two seasons before joining world champion Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull Racing in 2014.
Ricciardo did talk to McLaren before going to Renault (now Alpine), but that proved to be the wrong decision as they slipped behind McLaren last year. Most of the negotiation took place online, with the Australian spending most of the first lockdown on his family farm in Western Australia.
“You can see McLaren’s pathway to getting better, and I feel McLaren is ready for me to be one of the elements they haven’t had to help them win.”
Ricciardo says now that neither he, nor McLaren, was really ready for one another two years ago, winning races in four of his five seasons with Red Bull. While McLaren, struggling to find its feet with new engine partner Honda, was mired at the back of the grid. The idea was right, the timing, less so.
The extended break between testing and Austria made Ricciardo in the uncomfortable position of telling Renault team principal Cyril Abiteboul that he was moving on even before a Grand Prix weekend.
Admitting “It wasn’t easy telling them I was out, but this is a sport where you have to look out for yourself first and foremost. I felt McLaren was going to give me a better opportunity in the years ahead, simple as that.”
Brown suggests rotating calendar
McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown says he wants Formula One to introduce a calendar rotation model in future seasons, believing it could help some races become more sustainable.
The original twenty-three race calendar announced last November is the longest calendar in the sport’s history despite the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic. That has since grown to twenty-four with the addition of Imola and if the Shanghai race gets reinstated it will grow to twenty-five.
The current schedule features three triple-headers in the space of eleven weeks on opposite sides of the Pacific in the second half of the season, prompting concerns from teams about the impact it will have on personnel. Over the last few years, there has been concerns that the number of races was getting too much
Last month, F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali, said last month that the series could reduce the number of races on the calendar in the future, as well as suggesting that a rotation system could be used for some events.
Brown says he is supportive of that idea, believing that a rotational calendar and fewer races would not only reduce pressure on teams but also increase the value of events by offering greater exclusivity. Brown told Motorsport.com, “I’d like to get to a place where we are rotating some races.”
“I’m a big believer that if a good country wants a Grand Prix, that’s a great thing. I think the more countries we race in, the better. That being said, I think there’s two things to consider with the size of the schedule. There’s first and foremost is your people. It’s a brutal schedule.
“Then the other is the scarcity of the races. If you look at NFL, there are I think sixteen regular season games, and three or four play-offs. The Olympics is massively popular, that’s every four years, as is the World Cup.”
The ‘core’ calendar which has been suggested to feature ten races, such as Monaco, Monza, Silverstone, Melbourne, Austin, Spa, Montreal, Bahrain and Shanghai has been suggested. But instead of fifty-fifty spilt which has been suggested a three-quarters model where the calendar is made up of permanent events, with the remaining quarter comprising rotating races.
Brown said, “In our ideal world, you would do twenty Grands Prix per year. Maybe there are twenty-five markets, and maybe 15 of those are fixed events, because there is a commercial reality of this sport. You do have to balance all of the various interests.”
McLaren announces new partnership
McLaren has announced a new multi-year partnership with Cisco Webex becoming an official collaboration partner of the McLaren team. The team say that Cisco’s platform will be integrated into McLaren Racing day-to-day activities to drive collaboration across all areas of the team.
The Cisco Webex cloud-based suite of tools will enable McLaren to overcome geographical boundaries and create virtual experiences that bring fans and partners closer to the team.
From the start of the season, the company will provide a live streaming service for McLaren’s partners, to deliver exclusive behind-the-scenes insights into the team. The two pioneered this platform allowing to enable its partners and guests greater access to the team from any location.
Chief commercial officer, Mark Waller said, “We are delighted to announce this partnership and welcome Cisco Webex to our team. The ability to connect with others around the world has never been more important and working with Cisco Webex will continue to help us bring our fans and partners closer to the heart of our team.”
Ferrari fires up with launch plans
Ferrari has announced dates for it two launch events ahead of the new season, presenting both the team and the new SF21 car. On Friday, they announced they had completed the first fire up of the car ahead of these launches.
In December team principal Mattia Binotto said that the team was planning to split its launch events in 2021, holding one event for the team and a separate one to unveil the car. The team launch will be on Friday 26th February with the car launch on Wednesday 10th March.
Ferrari is the sixth team to confirm launch plans, which were accompanied by a short video of the fire-up being completed at its factory in Maranello.
Following the fire up, Binotto addressed the entire Ferrari team, with the majority of members tuning in to watch the event via video call.
Binotto said, “Our 2021 season starts here. We can expect plenty of challenges along the way and we are determined to do better. The car has been improved in all areas where developments are permitted.
“We must work in a determined and focused way aware of where we were and where we want to go.” Ferrari goes into this season looking to recover from its worst season in four decades, slumping to sixth place in last year’s championship, scoring just three podium finishes.
The team was hit hard following an FIA investigation into its power unit in 2019, with the resulting directives causing its performance to slump dramatically.
Ferrari will enter 2021 with a new driver line-up, following the signing of Carlos Sainz to replace four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, partnering Charles Leclerc.
Alpine relaunches Renault’s academy
Alpine has relaunched Renault’s driver academy as the Alpine Academy to nurture talent into F1. The change of branding follows the decision by the French manufacturers’ decision to bring all its motorsport activities to the Alpine umbrella for 2021.
The team confirmed five drivers as part of its 2021 programme including reigning FIA F3 champion Oscar Piastri, F2 drivers Guanyu Zhou and Christian Lundgaard, 2020 Formula Renault Eurocup winner Victor Martins and runner-up Caio Collet.
Lundgaard is the longest-serving member, he won two races in his rookie F2 season to finish seventh for ART Grand Prix while Zhou recorded a victory and a further five podiums to net sixth for Virtuosi.
Renault Eurocup champion Martins, who racked up seven wins during his title campaign, will graduate to FIA F3 this year with MP Motorsport alongside Collet. The Brazilian took five wins on his way to the runners up spot within the 2020 Formula Renault Eurocup for R-ace GP and recently took part in the post-season F3 test with Prema.
Director Mia Sharizman believes this year’s academy line-up contains plenty of talent and potential to reach F1. She said, “The Academy enters an important phase in its growth since we started the programme in 2016.”
“On paper, this year we have a very experienced line-up with seventeen victories and two championships shared between our drivers from their respective seasons last year.
“For Zhou, it’s his third year in the series and it’s time for him to combine his experience and potential to win the title.
“We also have high expectations for Christian who can challenge for the title this year having shown us all glimpses of his potential last season.
“Whilst for Oscar, who is the rookie in Formula 2 for us, enters this year with great confidence after winning the Formula 3 crown last year.”
The week ahead
We head a step closer to the start of testing we have now had all the drivers confirmed after Sir Lewis Hamilton signing his new contract. So the focus shifts now to launch week and the testing weekend in Bahrain in a month.
The drivers will become more vocal following the winter break, however it looking that travel restrictions are beginning to affect some drivers as some countries are enforcing quarantine restrictions. This is a story we need to watch in the weeks ahead.
More reaction to the engine freeze from Ferrari I expect are the key to this as they haven’t shown signs of wanting to use its veto. We need to see how the teams response and what this could mean for Red Bull when they take over Honda’s engine.
This week has been a slow mid-week but I believe that was to be expected as teams focused on yesterday’s commission meeting and Hamilton signing a new contract meant any announcement would have been overshadowed.
Fernando Alonso’s accident is likely to remain in the news, although it doesn’t appear yet as if its going to place him in doubt for Alpine. I suspect if he is discharged from hospital, we will hear from him ourselves, but I don’t think that he will be at risk of not being able to race this season.