Three Asian Grands Prix cancelled
Three more Grand Prix’s the Japanese, Singapore and Azerbaijan have been cancelled due to Coronavirus. Liberty Media announced it has tried to find a way to hold the races in 2020 but announced on Friday that was not possible in the uncertain global situation.
The race at Suzuka is off as a result of Japan’s ban on many international travellers. Races in Singapore and Baku cannot be held because the street circuits cannot be built in the current climate. The pandemic has claimed three more of F1’s prestigious races.
Singapore’s night race is one of the most demanding races in the world because of its physical and mental test of endurance because of the hot, humid and bumpy conditions and length of the race, but is also popular with corporate visitors.
Azerbaijan pays one of the highest fees of all races and the Baku street track, with its super-long pit straight, has become known for its incident-packed Grands Prix.
While Suzuka is also held in high regards with its demanding high-speed figure of eight layout. It was the first race to be held in Asia and often is one of the most popular races with fans and drivers.
It now looks certain that the European season will be extended to the end of September, with Hockenheim being added to the calendar. While the San Marino Grand Prix could return to the calendar in the Singapore slot held at Imola or Mugello.
F1 is still exploring the possibility of reviving the postponed Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal on a September date before the onset of the Quebec winter. However, the Americas leg looks in doubt with America, Mexico and Brazil being the three countries where the coronavirus outbreaks are among the worst in the world.
Last week, F1 managing director Ross Brawn told BBC Sport: “If we judge the health and safety risk is too high, even if we can meet the obligations of the country, then we may not go there.”
Mexico has said it is planning to host its Grand Prix as scheduled on 30 October – 01 November, but whether the virus situation will improve sufficiently in Mexico City for F1 to feel that will be possible is unclear.
Imola’s return boosted by licence Grade One reinstated
Organisers of a potential San Marino Grand Prix have announced its FIA Grade One licence has been reinstated. The Imola circuit has emerged as a leading candidate to replace one of the cancelled races this season, as Liberty Media try to put together a schedule of at least fifteen Grands Prix.
However, the planned dates of 11 – 13 September is when Moto GP is due to hold its San Marino Grand Prix at Misano, which is just 100kms from Imola. This could create problems with the two bubbles overlapping and placing extra pressure on the region’s health resources. Both races will be held behind closed doors.
Uberto Selvatico Estense, Imola’s chairman, said: “With the renewal of the license we are in the condition to host also a F1 Grand Prix, having all the standards requested by FIA.
“We hope that such dream becomes true with the teamwork of the institutions and territory. The logical date for a race is September 13, forming the last leg of a triple-header after the Belgian and Italian GPs.”
It’s also considering holding the F1 race at Misano on another date.
It comes as Alpha Tauri announces plans for a filming day at Imola on the same day that Aprilia is due to hold a test at Misano, according to Motorsport.com.
The extra mileage would give the Italian team and Honda some useful information, even with the restriction of not being permitted using current Pirelli race tyres. The team could also share anything it learns with sister outfit Red Bull.
Alpha Tauri is only the second team known to be running its current car before the season starts in Austria in July, with Racing Point planning a 100kms filming day at Silverstone next week.
Bahrain’s second race run on different configuration
F1 managing director for motorsport Ross Brawn has suggested the untitled second Grand Prix in Shakir, Bahrain could run on a different track configuration, including one on “an almost oval track” that doesn’t include the familiar tight infield section.
The countries circuit is one of the few in the world which holds a licence to run Grand Prix’s using different track configurations, and a slightly longer version of the regular Grand Prix track was used in 2010.
The three options the circuit as is the Grand Prix Circuit, the Endurance Circuit used in 2010, Paddock Circuit or the Outer Circuit, all which meat the Grade One requirement to hold Grand Prix’s.
Brawn suggested that the Outer Circuit could be used, comprised mainly of fast corners. It leaves the regular Grand Prix circuit at Turn 4, before re-joining it at Turn 13.
Brawn told F1.com, “One of the nice attractions of Bahrain is it has many configurations. So we could go to Bahrain and race on two different tracks there. There’s a nice sort of almost oval track that would be quite exciting, and all the layouts have a Grade 1 licence with the FIA.”
“So that is an option in the pocket. Using two configurations involves quite a lot of work for the riggers, for example, the timing needs setting up for two tracks so you need plenty of notice. That’s something we have to take into account.”
As reported above, the sport is facing a difficult problem to firm up a schedule of flyaway events to follow the last scheduled race in Italy on September 6, with the Azerbaijan, Singapore and Japanese Grands Prix all cancelled. Extra races in Europe remains the most likely way to fill the gap.
said Brawn added, “There are a number of good European tracks where we could add another one or two races on to make sure we have a comprehensive season. We’re not going to declare it yet, as it’s still a work in progress.
Bottas told Mercedes not considering Vettel
Valtteri Bottas says he has been told by Mercedes it is not considering signing Sebastian Vettel for 2021. Ferrari announced last month that four-time world champion Vettel would be leaving the team at the end of the year.
Vettel will be replaced next season by Carlos Sainz, that has lead to suggestions that he could join Mercedes to form an all-star line-up with six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton.
Mercedes F1 CEO and team principal Toto Wolff said last week the team could not discount a move for Vettel, but stressed its focus lay with current drivers Hamilton and Bottas, both of whom are out of contract at the end of the year.
Speaking to Sky Sports, the Finn says he is not concern about Vettel being on the market, claiming he was told by Mercedes that the Ferrari driver was not under consideration for a seat in 2021. He said, “No, it doesn’t get to you. We’ve been very honest also with my team all the time, what’s the situation, and how it’s going to be contract-wise.
“I got a pretty straight message that no, they are not considering Seb, so I said fine, no worries then.” Bottas’s future has been a subject of discussion throughout his time at Mercedes, always signing one-year contracts since joining the team for the 2017 season. But, he says he feels no different about his future with Mercedes compared to any other years.
He says it’s quite funny that not even a single race is done, there’s been people getting my seat and he laughed a couple of times. The main rivals for the second seat Esteban Ocon and George Russell on its junior programme, both of whom have been mooted as potential replacements for Bottas.
Ocon is contracted to Renault until the end of 2021, and it is understood Mercedes does not have an option on recalling him before that deal expires at the end of the season.
Bottas said back in pre-season testing that he wanted a swifter resolution to talks than last year when he was not announced for the following season until the end of August. However, this was before the pandemic.
Hamilton feels as if he’s never been away
Lewis Hamilton admitted he felt as though he had never been away from the track after a productive return to action at Silverstone. The six-time champion hadn’t driven an F1 car since the end of February, before taking part in a test with Mercedes this week.
Using a two-year-old car, Mercedes used the test to allow Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, who tested on Tuesday, to get back up to speed, and for the team to practice the new health and safety protocols being introduced for F1’s return to action in Austria from 01 – 03 July.
In a Mercedes video, Hamilton said, “Honestly it felt just great to be back in the car, a lot of fun. When you leave the garage the first time you get this buzz, and it doesn’t matter how many years you do it, it always feels new and fresh, which is great.”
“Obviously this is an older car, but it still felt fantastic. In general, we just got through a solid programme. I grew up in this kind of weather here, so I’m used to it. I was still able to get a good feel of the car.”
Hamilton hadn’t driven the car since n the final day of pre-season testing on February 28.
F1 then flew to Melbourne for what should have been the season-opening Australian GP, but the event was cancelled before first practice had taken place. Adding “I didn’t feel like I’ve ever left the water, so that’s a positive,” said Hamilton, who will chase a seventh world title this year.
Renault confirms Austria test
Renault is the latest team to announce they will be holding a test using a 2018 car at the Red Bull Ring as it prepares for the season opener at the same circuit at the start of July.
Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon will drive one day each at the test, which takes place on June 16 and 17. Ricciardo will drive on the first day, with his teammate running the second. The team will use its 2018 car, meaning it can run unlimited mileage, as two-year-old machinery is not restricted under current testing restrictions.
Earlier this week, Mercedes became the first team to run a 2018 car at Silverstone as part of the build-up to the F1 season resuming. The Styrian circuit is an interesting choice, as it will give them extra insight into the working environment and track characteristics just a fortnight before F1 action gets underway at the same venue.
However, beyond the clear benefits of running in Austria, Motorsport.com has learned that the team’s hands-on location have also been forced by quarantine restrictions that have limited its scope for testing elsewhere.
Renault is based in the UK and France, and both countries have fourteen-day quarantine periods for incoming travellers, the Anglo-French Renault operation has found itself unable to test in either of those two countries.
Silverstone or Paul Ricard would have been more obvious for the team, but have proved to be impossible to sort because of the need for travelling chassis or engine staff to remain in self-isolation for two weeks prior to any running.
A statement said, “A big thank you to all team members who have come together to find logistical solutions to give our drivers the best possible preparation for the first two races of the season in Austria.”
Engine designer Mezger dies aged ninety
The architect of a line of successful racing engines at Porsche including the TAG-badged Formula One turbo V6, Hans Mezger died at the age of ninety.
He also headed up their entry into F1 in 1991 with the Footwork team at the end of a career with the German manufacturer that stretched back to 1956. He also designed the flat-six boxer engine for the 911 in 1963.
Mezger oversaw the development of the flat-12 that powered the Porsche 917 to a pair of Le Mans 24 Hours victories in 1970 and ’71 and the flat-sixes for the 935, 936 and 956/962 designs that between them won the French enduro no fewer than 11 times.
Mezger joined Porsche in 1956 straight from university, working initially on diesel engines before moving into its calculations department. Then in 1960 joined its F1 programme and then designed the Mezger engine’ for Porsche’s new 911 sportscar, which was originally called the 901.
Mezger was subsequently promoted to the department head of the new racing division set up by R&D boss Ferdinand Piech in 1965 where he oversaw the 917 project.
He also led the development of the TAG Turbo V6 commissioned by McLaren.
This engine powered the McLaren MP4/2 that Niki Lauda took to the F1 world title in 1984, before Alain Prost followed up on that success with back-to-back championships in 1985-86.