Perez returns follow negative coronavirus test
Sergio Perez will return for Racing Point at this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix after testing negative for coronavirus. The Mexican missed both races, Silverstone, after contracting Covid-19 last month.
Perez tested positive for the virus after travelling to Mexico, one of the world’s coronavirus hotspots, to visit his mother after she had an accident. He was replaced by German Nico Hulkenberg, who now stands down.
Racing Point said on Thursday that Perez had tested negative for Covid-19 and governing body the FIA had confirmed he could return to the Formula One paddock.
Speaking before the news was confirmed, Perez had said: “I’m very lucky that I’ve only had mild symptoms, so I’ve been able to keep training and make sure that I’m ready to jump back behind the wheel of the car.”
“I’m very glad I had my tablet to keep me entertained too, though! I’ve definitely missed racing and it was hard to watch from the outside. I can’t wait to get on track, hopefully, this weekend.”
Perez was the first driver to contract coronavirus, which was a surprise because he had tested positive for the virus because he had followed guidance.
In the press conference, he added “I was just unlucky. I hadn’t done anything different to the rest of the paddock. I am not willing to take any blame for it because anyone can get it. I was just the unlucky one.”
Speaking about reports he was speaking to sponsors while in Mexico, or interacted with fans as “bull****”. He says his only COVID symptoms were a headache and tiredness, admitted it was “very difficult” to watch Hulkenberg race in his place.
How teams managing Catalonia coronavirus risks
McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl says Formula One teams will treat the logistical challenge of the Spanish Grand Prix in a similar way to Hungary amid growing concerns about Coronavirus in Catalonia.
Despite the rising cases of the virus in the region, this weekends race will go ahead despite fears of a second wave. Last month restrictions were reintroduced in Barcelona late last month in a bid to curb a rise in cases, while many countries including the UK have enforced new quarantine guidelines for those travelling back from Spain.
Today, Spain recorded 1,690 new cases of Coronavirus making it worst in Western Europe as it reached 326,000 cases.
Seidl says that teams are facing similar measures to the ones seen in Hungary last month when most teams did not leave their accommodation except to travel to the circuit or the airport.
Speaking to Motorsport.com, Seidl said “In the end, it will be pretty much the same as for Hungary. There will be two places where we will be as a team in Barcelona, which is a nice Hilton hotel, and the race track in Barcelona.”
“We will aim again to stay in our bubble, following all the measures in terms of social distancing and hygiene. Together with this rigorous testing, we are doing, I think we have everything in place to have another safe Formula One event.”
Many of the drivers have opted to stay in their motorhomes at the circuit on race weekends in a bid to avoid outside contact and reduce the chances of contracting Coronavirus.
Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, have both said it will be there would be no changes to his routine or plans for Barcelona.
Hamilton said, “I don’t really know a lot of what’s happening there, but I stay at the track always, so nothing changes for me.” With Bottas adding, “I will only be with the people who are included in the bubble, that’s it. Then after the race weekend, leave with the same people to the next place. So it should be safe”
No extra tension building at Ferrari
Sebastian Vettel is insisting there are no extra tension building at Ferrari, following two difficult weekends at Silverstone where he publicly questioned the team’s decisions on strategy.
The four-times champion will leave Ferrari at the end of the season, after it decided not to renew his contract beyond 2020, with Carlos Sainz taking his place at Maranello. But his season has seen him struggle for confidence in the Ferrari and the team struggling for performance.
During last Sunday’s race, Vettel called out Ferrari’s strategy over team radio, telling the team it had “messed up” before later saying the decisions “made no sense”.
But he said there was no added tension with the team either due to its struggles at Silverstone or a change in the environment ahead of his departure. He disagrees that tensions are growing between himself and Ferrari.
He told Motorsport.com, “I think we are trying to do everything we can, and it is never relaxed if things don’t go your way or they go wrong. Naturally, if you judge the emotions right after the race or during the race, I don’t think that is a fair reflection of what is going on, hence why I tend to disagree.”
“I didn’t have a great race and we tried to come back up, and could have opted for a different strategy, but we didn’t, so we’ve talked about it, sorted it out and moved on. There is not much different in terms of climate compared to the week before, or the week before that.”
Vettel is currently thirteenth in the driver’s championship, with less than a quarter of teammate Charles Leclerc’s total.
“Foolish” not to expect tyre blistering
Mercedes says in its Anniversary Grand Prix debrief video that its “foolish” not to expect a repeat of the tyre blistering issues seen last Sunday at Silverstone that led to its first defeat of the season.
The German manufacturer dominated qualifying last weekend, however because of high track temperatures the team struggled with severe blistering on its rear tyres through the race. Both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas reported recurring issues through the race on the softer compounds.
The difficulties for Mercedes allowed Max Verstappen to take the first non-Mercedes win since last September, ending their four-race run this season. Mercedes knowing that high track temperature is expected to make tyre management a challenge this weekend was eager to learn the lessons.
peaking in Mercedes’ post-race debrief video, trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin said it could not rule out a repeat of the same blistering problem in Spain.
Shovlin said, “I think we’d be foolish to say that we are not going to see this problem again and we are not going to see it in Spain. We need to be looking at solutions and if we can make good progress this week [to] try and understand exactly the nature of our problem.”
“That’s why were we so much worse than the others, then I’d like to think we can get on top of it for Spain. But there’s no doubt Spain is going to be tough. Our focus in terms of performance is all about how can we get the tyres cooler, how can we avoid this problem.”
He is hopeful that they won’t see its again but admitted Barcelona would be a good test to have made on this problem. Shovlin says that the issue was that the centre of the tyre was getting hot which causes sliding, leading to more heat the pressures go up.
Shovlin explained how the high temperatures at Silverstone made it difficult for Hamilton and Bottas to keep the rear tyres cool, noting that it was a new issue not encountered by the team so far this season.
Adding “We need to look at how we can improve that issue with the rear, try and understand exactly what was happening because it is the first time we have seen it this year, and just make sure that we have some tools in place to deal with it better when we get to another hot race.
FIA warns about track limits
FIA race director Michael Masi has continued the clamped down on corner-cutting ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix by issuing new guidance to drivers on Thursday.
Last season, to stop the drivers gaining an advantage from Turn Two there was a bollard placed in the run-off area. This year, any driver which fails to negotiate the corner properly, after cutting across the run-off at the inside of the corner was required to stay to the left of the bollard before carefully returning to the track.
Masi has moved to further clamp down on this corner cutting by introducing new warnings for those repeatedly missing the corner and gaining an advantage.
Masi wrote in his pre-event notes issued to all teams and drivers, “Each time any car fails to negotiate Turn 2 by using the track, teams will be informed via the official messaging system. On the second occasion of a driver failing to negotiate Turn 2 by using the track during the race, he will be shown a black and white flag”
In all cases, the drivers must re-join the track when it is safe to do so and without gaining a lasting advantage.
The new guidance follows the approach which is in line with the stricter approach the FIA has taken towards policing track limits through the 2020 season so far.
Also some minor changes have been made to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya since last year’s Spanish Grand Prix. A new asphalt road is now in the run-off area at Turn 1 after being installed for the long lap penalty used in MotoGP.
The exit kerb at Turn 8 has been extended, while the gravel trap has also been extended at both Turn 8 and Turn 12. A new TecPro barrier is also in place at Turn 12, plus the metallic kerb at Turn 15 has been extended to meet the pit lane entry.
FIA announces new kerbs on engine modes
The FIA has informed teams that new restrictions on engine modes for qualifying which will be put in place by the Belgian Grand Prix. The measures are designed to close the gap between the Mercedes powered teams who generally the biggest performance gains in qualifying.
However, these changes are likely to further ramp up tensions in a paddock where there is already conflict on the Racing Point copying case and the final stages of Concorde Agreement negotiations.
The secretary-general for motorsport Peter Bayer referred to modes in a letter to teams that covered various technical matters, under the heading “power unit ICE modes, reduction of the scope of adjustability between qualifying and the race”.
While the letter carries no regulatory value, it made it clear that the governing body wants teams to run the same ICE modes in both qualifying and the race. But a new directive is expected to follow for the Belgian Grand Prix.
The letter referenced two FIA rules. The first is Article 2.7 of the 2020 technical regulations, headed “Duty of Competitor,” and which reads as follows: “It is the duty of each competitor to satisfy the FIA technical delegate and the stewards that his automobile complies with these regulations in their entirety at all times during an Event.
“The design of the car, its components and systems shall, with the exception of safety features, demonstrate their compliance with these regulations by means of physical inspection of hardware or materials. No mechanical design may rely upon software inspection as a means of ensuring its compliance.
“Due to their nature, the compliance of electronic systems may be assessed by means of inspection of hardware, software and data.”
The letter noted that the “multitude and complexity of modes being used make it extremely difficult for the FIA to monitor compliance with all the PU-related regulations and provisions in selected critical moments of the event”.
The other rule cited is Article 27.1 of the sporting regulations, the often-used reference to drivers being required to drive the car “alone and unaided.”
The letter also noted that “the changes to ICE modes that are currently in force could potentially mean that the driver does not drive the car alone and unaided.”
Teams are still unsure what the directive will mean, but a single mode will also affect races limiting the adjustment drivers can make.
The Weekend Ahead
This weekend Spanish Grand Prix is going to be interesting as we said in the Prixview we are here at the hottest time of the year, this creates added pressure on cooling and cars. It is like going to Bahrain in March, we know that at Silverstone that there were issues with the tyres because of the heat.
Mercedes were the biggest sufferers last weekend, but they believe they have resolved those issues. But time will tell, they have won nearly all the races in the hybrid era in Barcelona and were quick in testing. Red Bull will again be the closet challengers as Ferrari really struggled to show pace in testing.
This is a weekend where we will find out how much progress all of the teams have made since testing, it’s the first direct comparison as it remains round six like last season. Racing Point was also quick in testing but expect the ‘copying row’ to rumble on throughout the weekend. Despite this, you have said they will be still in front.
The midfield teams have been very close throughout this season and that was evident when we were testing back in February. The big thing to watch for this weekend are they making progress in going forwards in terms of pace.
Prixview here. You can join us throughout the weekend for LIVE coverage of the Spanish Grand Prix, as well as updates throughout the weekend starting with FP1 from 09:45BST tomorrow, qualifying 13:45 on Saturday and race coverage from 13:40 Sunday