Domenicali rules out two day race weekends
F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali has ruled out the idea of moving to two-day race weekends in the future. As part of looking at proposals for further expansion of the calendar, a suggestion of a two-day event was put forward.
So rather than running over Friday, Saturday and Sunday, practice, qualifying and races would all be run over two days. Last years Emilia Romanaga Grand Prix was a two-day event, however, while it was deemed a success this weekends race reverted to the three-day format.
The trial last season did reignite discussions about whether it made sense to move F1 more permanently to the two-day format. However, the former Ferrari team principal and race director at Mugello has ruled out the idea completely, citing the fact that race promoters prefer the three-day event schedule because it allows them to maximise ticket sales and revenue.
Speaking in a video on F1.com, about the possibility of two-day weekends, Domenicali made it clear that two-day weekends were not going to happen. He said, “All the organisers really wanted to have a full experience for the people and for the crowd, so we need to respect that.”
The Eifel Grand Prix at the Nürburgring, last year also became a two-day event after FP1 and FP2 had to be cancelled because of bad weather. Looking at how that weekend played out, seven-time world champion Sir Lewis Hamilton reckoned there were benefits to not having three-day schedules.
Hamilton said, “There’s twenty-two days less of twenty cars bombing around the track and polluting the air, the planet, so that’s a positive. I think it just made it so much harder for us. Normally you have two sessions on the Friday, you get time to make tons of different set-up changes, and if you’re on the back foot, you’ve got time to catch up.”
“When you start on a Saturday, you’ve got no time. You’ve got that one session to really get on top of it and the set-up between practice and qualifying. It made it so hard.”
Wolff hopes Hamilton will continue next year
Mercedes F1 CEO and team principal Toto Wolff says he “very much” hopes seven-time champion Sir Lewis Hamilton will extend his contract with the team beyond the end of this year.
The seven-times champion signed a one year deal with Mercedes in February as he goes after his eighth title. Despite being in the latter part of his career, Hamilton has made it clear he has no intention of retiring from F1 at the end of the year and relished his battle against Max Verstappen as he narrowly beat the Red Bull driver to claim victory at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix three weeks ago.
Asked by Crash.net, if Hamilton wanted to stay at Mercedes, “I very much hope so. The journey that we have had together was very successful. He has been a Mercedes driver – a Mercedes kid since his go-karting years. He never raced a single weekend in Formula One without a Mercedes power unit, so it’s the logical continuation of the story.”
Hamilton’s teammate is set to be decided between Valtteri Bottas and George Russell, Wolff is determined to decide on will partner the seven-times champion by the end of the season. Russell became a serious contender following his performance in Sakhir last December standing in for Hamilton.
Wolff added, “We don’t want to leave it until January to confirm the two drivers. Valtteri [Bottas] was pretty regular during the summer, this is when it should happen. Also, to give the driver peace-of-mind, or be able to concentrate on the job.”
“And obviously for next year there’s lots of balls in the air and we will always try to do the best for the team long-term while also giving total loyalty to our current driver line-up.
Perez “learned a lot” about Verstappen’s F1 driving style
Sergio Perez says he was able to learn a lot about how Max Verstappen drives the Red Bull during the Bahrain Grand Prix. The Mexican finished fifth in the race after recovering from an electrical problem on the formation lap, following a disappointing qualifying where he could only manage eleventh.
Perez believes he has improved his understanding of how to drive Red Bull’s RB16B and will take what he has learnt into this weekend at Imola. He told Crash.net, “I learned a lot.”
“I learned more about Max’s driving style and how the car has to be driven to extract the maximum from it. I think that was the biggest learning, I know what balance I need from the car throughout the weekend.”
Looking ahead to this weekend he says he hopes to have a good weekend and to be in contention for victory, saying that qualifying is very important at Imola as you can hardly overtake there but I like it.
Ricciardo eyes Bathurst debut
Daniel Ricciardo reckons there is a good chance of a Bathurst and IndyCar run in the near future, thanks to his switch to McLaren. The Australian joined the team at the start of the year as he hopes that he can lead the team back to winning ways after nine seasons without a victory for the British team.
But beyond the F1 ambitions, McLaren’s involvement in IndyCar, plus CEO Zak Brown’s association with Supercars, has teed up a good chance of some running outside of Grand Prix cars. Brown is part owner of the Walkinshaw Andretti United Supercars team and last year floated the idea of a Ricciardo/Lando Norris wildcard entry at Mount Panorama.
The team has a history of wildcard entries into the Bathurst race and two years ago ran an extra car with former Marussia driver Alexander Rossi and his IndyCar teammate James Hinchcliffe.
In an interview with this month’s edition of GP Racing magazine, Ricciardo has made it clear that he is definitely up for a Supercars outing and an IndyCar run could also be on the cards.
Asked about a Bathurst outing, Ricciardo said: “I do have to ask Zak. I need to, even if I don’t do the race, I need to drive a Supercar around Bathurst. Whether it’s a private test, or the actual race, I do need to do it. And I think now I have a good opportunity with Zak as a friend and a boss.
“He’s keen to try and get us into the other open-wheelers in the States, the IndyCars. So there’s a lot to do.” Ricciardo has only one real option despite there being two possible options, Bathurst 1000 or in a GT car at the 12 Hours event, the Bathhurst 1000 clashes with the Japanese’s Grand Prix
Asked about a run in the latter event, he said: “When I signed with him [Brown], over the early phase of last year, we had these conversations and it was thrown in there: ‘We should get you to do the 12 Hours of Bathurst.’ If he asked me and it worked logistically, I would say yes.”
Williams can focus on performance rather than survival
George Russell says that Williams can focus on performance rather than keeping the team alive thanks to an investment boost from its new owners and the appointment of a technical director.
Last September following the turbulent few years and the financial fallout from the pandemic, the Williams family sold the team last year to American investment firm Dorilton Capital. Following the sale of the team and the new investment, Dorilton promoted Simon Roberts to the role of team principal, with former Volkswagen Motorsport chief Jost Capito coming in as CEO.
Capito brought in Francois-Xavier Demaison, whom he worked with at Volkswagen on the brand’s successful WRC and Pikes Peak programmes, to fill the role of technical director that has been left vacant since Paddy Lowe’s exit during a disastrous 2019 season.
Russell believes that the arrival of Capito and Demaison is a key moment in Williams’ reversal of fortunes, with the team now being able to focus on performance rather than just surviving.
He told Motorsport.com, “I think it’s incredibly positive news for Williams in the years to come with the arrival of [Jost] and I really believe we’ve got a firm boss at the helm who will be able to structure a proper technical team around us to help improve ultimately the performance of the car.”
Russell says during his time with the team before the sale to Dorilton the whole team was focused on keeping the team alive rather than focusing on making the car faster. But following the financial stability, he hopes that the team can go back to focusing on the performance of the car.
Russell admits his tricky Williams stint has been made even more “difficult” without a clear technical director at the helm. Already although the teams focus remains on next years regulation change, he says Demaison will “bring everything together” in preparation of F1’s radical 2022 overhaul, which is Williams’ biggest opportunity to finally move up the grid.
Explaining, “I think it’s incredibly important to have a technical director in place. Formula One is one massive jigsaw puzzle. You’ve got to put those pieces together, of which a technical director is the one orchestrating that.”
He says the appointments of a CEO, technical director etc means that they can now focus on doing their jobs and bringing the team together.
Partner teams ‘not a good deal’ currently – De Meo
Renault CEO Luca de Meo has downplayed the possibility of linking the Alpine joining up with a partner team in the near future, saying it is currently “not a good deal”. The French manufacture rebranded the team to Alpine as part of de Meo’s plan for a ‘Renaulution’ of the group.
Renault is the only manufacture that doesn’t have a customer team, after McLaren decided to return to Mercedes power units this year. Meanwhile, Mercedes, Ferrari and Honda have at least two teams, Mercedes has McLaren, Aston Martin and Williams; Ferrari works with Haas and Alfa Romeo, and Honda powers Red Bull and Alpha Tauri.
The French manufacturer has previously said it’s relaxed about the situation, although they say they are opened to a partner team model in the future, it would have to be the right deal.
Speaking in a recent roundtable media call, de Meo acknowledged the benefits offered by partner teams but questioned how beneficial the model was financially for the power unit supplier. de Meo said, “Of course theoretically, it’s better when you have your engine used by others, because you can maybe exchange data, share some of the things.”
“But the current conditions, and this I say it very clearly, especially economical conditions, of transfer of technology between one team and another, the ones that are defined by the federation – are actually not very favourable.”
“So the price that other teams pay to access the technology of people like us that make the initial investment, it’s not a good business case, if you want my opinion. I said that already a lot of times. I don’t want to enter into numbers, but I can tell you that this is not a good deal.”
He says that numbers mean the smaller teams can’t produce an engine, this de Meo says economically, it doesn’t change a lot.” Williams has been one team linked with Renault to form a potential B-team partnership in the future, but has made clear it wants to maintain its independence in the long term.
Despite the reduced data team principal Laurent Rossi believes only supplying themselves also significantly reduced risks involved should things go wrong. Rossi said, “Providing a power unit to others is, as Luca said, can be a benefit because you can derive some extra data points to further solidify the reliability and performance of your power unit,”
“That said, the way it has been built up until recently makes it dangerously expensive, in fact, as soon as you enter troubles in terms of dealing and managing the performance of the other power units. If you have reliability issues on the track, then suddenly you have like a crisis, and you need to delegate a part of your team there.”
Hamilton/Vettel paired together in press conference
Sir Lewis Hamilton will address the media alongside Sebastian Vettel ahead of this weekend’s Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix. For the first time since the aborted Australian Grand Prix last March, the format of different drivers from different teams at the press conference has been banned because of the pandemic.
This was so the teams so to remain in the Covid-secure ‘bubbles’ – with team-mates sitting next to each other to answer questions. But for the Imola weekend – the second of the 2021 season – the driver combinations are being swapped around on media day.
The two drivers with eleven world titles between them have been paired together for the press conference, while Max Verstappen will be alongside Mick Schumacher.
They will still be virtual press conferences at Imola, meaning there will just be one host present with the drivers in the press conference room, with questions submitted by journalists remotely.