Whiting dismisses fears over standing restarts
Formula One race director Charlie Whiting has dismissed fears that the new rules about standing restarts could lead to “carnage.” From this season following red flags restarts will be made from the grid, rather from behind the safety car.
However, Whiting can decide to use a safety car restart, dependant on track and weather conditions. The new standing starts were tried during testing, with some drivers criticising the new procedures harshly. One of the most critical was GPDA director and Haas’s Romain Grosjean.
The Frenchman suggested that the grip levels were too low in testing and in race conditions with low grip, could lead to accidents in the race. Asked about the possibility of having to do the restart on used tyres, He said “Safety-wise I’m a bit concerned. To me, it could be carnage.”
“You could lose the car in a straight line. Honestly, I was not having much fun, just trying to upshift and downshift was tricky.” Responding to those comments, Whiting said that the concerns were unfounded pointing out in the event of a red flag, teams normally change tyres anyway, so it would be not much different to a normal race start.
Speaking about the fears of drivers, he said “No driver has spoken to me about it. It seems a bit of an odd comment to me because they all put new tyres on whenever there is a red flag.”
FIA race director Mekies to join Ferrari
The FIA deputy race director Laurent Mekies has left the sports governing body to join Ferrari. The departure of Mekies is likely to start more controversy about secrets being taken to teams.
The sport’s governing body has lost two of its most senior members, in September it was announced that Formula One technical director Marcin Budkowski was leaving for Renault. That prompted fears that secret development information would give the French manufacturer unfair advantage.
Mekies will be joining the team in an unspecified technical role. He will report to Ferrari’s technical director Mattia Binotto when he joins the team in September.
In a statement issued by the FIA, the governing body said that Mekies would step down from his F1 responsibilities immediately but would continue to fulfil safety roles while he sees out his three month notice period.
In a statement, the FIA said “Until his departure from the FIA at the end of June, Mekies will continue to act as the FIA safety director. However, he will immediately cease all F1 duties.
“(He) will no longer be involved in any F1 matter, stepping down from his role as a deputy F1 race director with immediate effect.” Mekies joined the FIA in 2014 as safety director for motorsport.
Last year he was promoted to deputy F1 race director following the departure of Herbie Blash at the end of 2016. But, the move is expected to spark new controversy about how much leave should be given because of access to information from all teams.
The other teams will be expected to react to the move in the coming days. Red Bull boss Christian Horner said at the time of Budkowski move, it was unacceptable for senior FIA figures to only be on three months’ gardening leave.
Ferrari should lose veto powers – Todt
FIA president and former Ferrari team principal Jean Todt says that the Italian manufacturer should lose its long-standing veto on Formula One rules.
Ferrari has had the right to veto any non-safety regulations which it doesn’t like for decades. The team last used the veto to block plans to put a price cap on engine and gearboxes in 2015. It has been widely expected the team would use it veto powers as a chip in the discussions around the next set of engine regulations due to come in 2021.
Speaking about that veto in London, Todt said the thirty-year veto which they have had since the 1980’s is well out of date. Todt said “The veto was at the time of Enzo Ferrari, and he was isolated in Maranello. That was the only team supplying engine and chassis against some other teams that were all powered by Ford.”
“So at this time, it was decided that being away from what is called the silicon valley of motorsport, they needed to have a protection. That is the story about the veto.” Todt added now that times have changed, he was not in favour of it now.
Todt says that the teams veto powers are only in place under the current Concorde Agreement which expires in 2020. The veto tweak involved Ferrari only being allowed to block rules if it could prove that they were against the team’s best interests.
Speaking about Ferrari’s bonus payments, Todt believes that its right that Ferrari receives the payments because of the attraction it brings to F1.
The Frenchman’s comment comes against the threats that CEO Sergio Marchionne has made to walk away if the new regulations do not suit Ferrari’s interest. Though many see that as a bargaining chip, Todt doesn’t dismiss the chance totally.
He says “They may leave. And honestly, that is their choice. They are free. Definitely, I hope they will not leave. But it can always happen. You have seen big competitors leaving. Coming back. But again. It is their choice.”
He adds that he feels Ferrari should be spending money on cars and not racing. Adding “it is not acceptable to have the pinnacle of motorsport where 60-70 percent of the field are struggling to survive.”
Hamilton relaxed about contract
Lewis Hamilton says he is “relaxed” about the way his contract negotiations are going with Mercedes, saying that he and the team are trying to “extract more from each other” in 2018.
The four times champions contract with the German team expires at the end of the season, but both Hamilton and Mercedes have expressed a willingness to extend the deal. It is understood that the Englishman is set to sign a three-year deal worth a reputed £120million.
However, while Hamilton admitted at a Petronas event in Turin that there was “no news” in relation to his contract, he confirmed: “We’ve been talking and will continue to talk.”
He said “It’s quite a relaxed atmosphere for us because Mercedes know I’m committed to them and they’ve obviously expressed they’re committed to me,” Hamilton explained.
“Both Toto (Wolff) and I sit here quite relaxed. It’s about constantly trying to find common grounds.” Added the four time champion.
He says that both sides want to improve the partnership and extract the most from each other, which they are working on. Hamilton said that while he hopes to sign in the next week, not to worry if it isn’t as they have all season.
Speaking about the season ahead, Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas agreed with his teammates assessment of the team’s situation but added he feels he could contribute more as the team looks for a fifth consecutive drivers and constructors championship. He added “I feel very much a part of the team,” the Finn added.
“I think with Lewis we can work really well together so we can continue. As a team we learnt so much from last year and I can’t wait to see what that’s going to bring us this year.”
Lowe admits Williams struggling with its car
Williams chief technical officer Paddy Lowe has admitted the teams 2018 car is struggling with corner entry and stability, saying they need to get on top of it if they are to move up the grid.
The FW14 is the first car that the English engineer has designed from the beginning since Lowe returned to the team last year, and has had a radical change in concept from its predecessors. However the team had difficulties in delivering good lap times in pre-season testing in Barcelona, Lowe has admitted that there are issues that need resolving.
He explained to Motorsport.com “The limitation in the car at the moment is corner entry and stability. I mean, that is quite often the limitation in a car to be honest, but it’s particularly exaggerated at the moment with what we’re running.”
“I think if we can unlock some progress there, we will find a lot more lap time than we’ve got at the moment. Because some other aspects of the car are working really, really strongly through other phases of the corner,” he added.
Lowe says that there is no single factor causing the problem, and that it wasn’t unexpected for these issues to arise as the team took a new development path.
Saying “Mostly these things involve a strong aerodynamic element, but the solutions involve everything from suspension to tyres and everything else. It’s always multi-dimensional.”
“[There was] a large degree of change both in the team that delivered the car and the car itself. That can take a while to develop and optimise, and I think we can make a lot more progress within the season and even into next.”
Speaking about the correlation between the track and wind tunnel, he said he had faith in the Williams’ factory facilities. Saying they believe in the team’s ability to measure aerodynamic performance is one of the strongest he has seen.