French GP to be postponed
The French Grand Prix looks set to be postponed after President Emmanuel Macron said in a televised address to the nation on Monday that restrictions on public events would continue until mid-July because of the Coronavirus.
The race is currently due to be the opening round of the championship on 26 – 28 June. In last nights address to the nation, President Macron announced that there would be no big public gathering until “mid-July.” That means that it is impossible to hold an event that was attended by 135,000 people last year.
The race would be the tenth Grand Prix to be called off at the start of a season that has been thrown into chaos by the coronavirus crisis. The sport is hoping the season can start in Europe in the summer, and it is possible that the first races at least could be held behind closed doors.
Ross Brawn, F1’s managing director, said last week that a viable World Championship season could be held before the end of the year, even if the first race did not take until October. But he added that the season could run into January 2021 to fit in more races.
F1 is facing a serious financial shortfall as a result of the lack of racing as all three of its main revenue streams are under threat – race-hosting fees, broadcast rights and sponsorship income.
So far eight Grand Prix’s have been postponed due to the coronavirus, the only cancelled race is Monaco. Many of the teams have shut down for the summer break and furlonged staff to help them get through the crisis. F1’s bosses have taken a series of steps to cut costs with the future so uncertain.
More measures are expected later in the week following the monthly meeting of the strategy group.
20,000 orders for ventilators from NHS
The seven teams part of a consortium building ventilators for the NHS have more than 20,000 orders from the UK government. All UK teams have been collaborating through ‘Project Pit Lane’ in the fight against the Coronavirus.
Last week, 10,000 breathing-aid devices being produced to a new design invented by the Mercedes team and University College London Hospital. A third F1-related project has been ended as the devices were not required.
The new orders with which all the UK-based teams are involved are for a device known as a Rapidly Manufactured Ventilator System (RMVS). Developed by clinicians and the medicines and healthcare products regulator agency (MHRA), and has now received formal orders from the government over 10,000 units for the NHS.
The Red Bull and Renault project have formally ended as it was decided that it was over sophisticated devices than it was originally thought were needed. Likely, they will now manufacture the Mercedes device, known as the ‘continuous positive airway pressure’ device (CPAP).
Despite the shutdown, teams are allowed to continue to work on this project. Mercedes have converted there Brixworth engine plant into a production centre, they believe they can produce 1,000 units a day.
An F1 spokesman said that “The F1 team project leads for BlueSky – Red Bull Racing and Renault F1 Team – have shown brilliant dedication and skill throughout the project and should feel proud of the work they have undertaken”.
Giovinazzi backs closed-door racing
Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi has backed plans to begin the F1 season without spectators. The first nine races of the season have been postponed or cancelled due to the Coronavirus, with an option for the season to begin behind closed doors
Giovinazzi, the sole Italian on the grid and whose homeland has suffered the second most coronavirus deaths in the world, told Sky Sports: “For sure it will be really different – people coming to support us is an extra boost for every driver.”
“But now, the main thing is to race in a safe mode and one [way] is to have no people at the track. Of course, they will support us on the sofa, but I think [if we are] to start soon, to start without people is a safe way to race.”
Since returning from Melbourne he has been living on his own, separated from his family and girlfriend in Italy. He’s cooked, cleaned and done his laundry and only worked with his fitness conditioner via video conference.
Another way the Italian has filled his time is by competing in the Virtual GP series. He and several other drivers involved in Grands Prix meet online daily for practice, and Giovinazzi’s debut in Australia the series saw him finish fifth, with Charles Leclerc winning.
Reflecting on that fifth place, “It was really nice and we did this for the fans, for the people at home so they can see some action from Formula 1 drivers. But it was really tough at the end of the race I was completely wet through!”
Ahead of the virtual Chinese Grand Prix this weekend, he said that the drivers had been practicing and adapting his driving style.
Looking ahead to his second season, Giovinazzi is wary of the physical challenges that lie ahead with, potentially, a series of F1 triple headers following several months of inaction.
Saying “I think it will be completely difficult. When we come back to Barcelona after the winter break, after the first day your neck is completely destroyed. Now we will have more than two months maybe three months [off]. When we come back we will like you say [drive] three weeks in a row. It will be tough will but it will be the same for everyone.”
Little time to catch up – Vasseur
Alfa Romeo team principal Fred Vasseur believes that there will be little time to catch up when the season starts because an intense run of races will hamper scope for development.
Formula One is looking to run an eighteen race season between July and the week before Christmas after the first ten races were postponed due to Coronavirus, teams will face an incredible challenge to keep on top of things during an intense few months.
Vasseur says teams will have enough on their plates just to compete in the races, so thinks that there will be little chance to go aggressive with updates to close in on competitors. Speaking to Motorsport.com, the Frenchman said, “For sure, when you have to do 15 or so races in a row, it’s much better to have a good car from the beginning.”
“It would be quite difficult, I would not say impossible because nothing is impossible, but it would be quite difficult to recover, much more than when you would have 10 months. But that’s the fact. It’s like this and we don’t have much to complain.”
He believes that it would be a decision to save F1 and an important one, but also accepts there will be downsides to this disruption.
It is likely the teams will vote to extend their current factory shutdowns until there is greater clarity on when racing can resume. Once they get back to work, Vasseur thinks that the focus for teams will be different to a normal season.
He says that when the shutdown ends they will put resources into this season, but first they would need to know how many races will be happening.
Albert Park modifications get a mixed response
Formula One drivers are divided on modifications to the Albert Park circuit which are designed to improve overtaking, with the latter fearing the current Formula One designs will further reduce passing in Australia.
Earlier in the year, the CEO of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation Andrew Westacott told Autosport earlier this year, that resurfacing works will take place at the Melbourne circuit “in the next year or two”, and that plan will also involve considering changes to the current 16-turn layout.
While the race is officially postponed it will likely be cancelled given the logistical challenge of building the street circuit. But it will return next year – when the current car designs will still be in service as a result of the cost-saving decisions implemented by F1 and the FIA to help the teams during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Daniel Ricciardo believes that Albert Park is “a bit like Monaco, like, it’s a pleasure to drive by yourself but for overtaking come Sunday it’s not always the best track on the calendar.”
Ricciardo says if they were asked to change the circuit, he would want to change the width and profile of the corners to create bigger breaking zones increasing the chances of overtaking in the race.
Hamilton added, “Particularly right now when we’re getting faster and faster, you’re probably going to see less overtaking I would imagine potentially. Being that we have more downforce, more drag, which affects the car further behind even more so.”
“So yeah, I’m definitely [keen] for them adding some cool modifications. I don’t really know what they would have to do to the actual current layout – just extending, that’s going to make a big difference.”
Sebastian Vettel was, however, more sceptical about the changes, saying they should be delayed until after 2022 when the regulations change to see if they have any impact on the racing. Saying, it “might also be the cheaper option – let us spend the money on the cars before you spend the money on the track.
“I think it’s probably best to wait and see what happens next year and then we’ll see. If they make the track even nicer then go ahead, but usually with those things they end up doing it not so nice.”
Remembering Sir Stirling Moss
Sir Stirling Moss passed away on Easter Sunday, he is regarded as one of the greatest drivers never to win a World Championship, finishing as runner-up four times in a career spanning 1951 to 1961.
Moss scored 16 victories through his F1 career, as well as winning several other high-profile events, including the Mille Miglia. He continued racing into his eighties and retired in 2011, here are some of the tributes.
Mercedes, “Today, the sporting world lost not only a true icon and a legend, but a gentleman. The Team and the Mercedes Motorsport family have lost a dear friend. Sir Stirling, we’ll miss you.”
World champion, Mario Andretti, “Just heard the very sad news my dear friend Stirling Moss has died. He was my hero and such a kind man beloved by everyone. He was a true giant in our sport and will be missed forever. My deepest sympathy to his devoted wife Suzie. Rest in peace, Racer.”
Ferrari vice president, Piero Ferrari, “Stirling Moss symbolised motor sport. He was a true personality who left an indelible impression on the history of racing. He was supremely versatile and was thus able to win in so many different categories, from Formula 1 to sports car endurance races.”
Lewis Hamilton, “Today we say goodbye to Sir Stirling Moss, the racing legend. I certainly will miss our conversations. I am truly grateful to have had these special moments with him. Sending my prayers and thoughts to his family. May he rest in peace.”
Martin Brundle paid tribute to “a mighty racer and gentleman” and said Moss “had a press on style on the track and in life.”
FIA president Jean Todt said: “Very sad day. Stirling Moss left us after a long fight. He was a true legend in motor sport and he will remain so forever.”
McLaren CEO, Zak Brown, “Saddened to read of the passing of Sir Stirling Moss. A Formula 1 great, versatile racer and incredible ambassador for British and international motorsport. My respects and sympathies to his loved ones.”
A statement by BRDC said, “We are deeply saddened to hear about the passing of BRDC Member, motorsport legend and friend to many Sir Stirling Moss OBE. Our thoughts are with Lady Moss & their family at this difficult time. A proud BRDC Member from the day he received his badge and we will all miss him dearly.”
GPDA chairman Alexander Wurz wrote: “Today we lost on Icon of our sport, Sir Stirling Moss. RIP Sir.”
Williams F1 driver George Russell wrote: “Only had the pleasure of meeting him briefly a couple of times but even that was enough to understand why he was so highly respected. My thoughts are with his family
You can read the full obituary here