F1 Today – 15/05/2020

F1 Today

Silverstone agrees to host a doubleheader

Organisers at Silverstone and Liberty Media have agreed on a deal following a standoff over money as the track agreed to hold two Grand Prix’s in July and August. Earlier in the week, the two were at loggerheads over costs with the threat of cancellation due to the costs.

Earlier this week, the chances of British races had receded when it emerged that Silverstone had been asking for £15m to host the two events. That is the same amount as it would have paid for its fee to host the race under normal conditions.

F1 has now waivered its fee because it was asking Silverstone to host races without fans, and had offered to ensure that the track was not out of pocket.

But Liberty still needs to agree with the UK government for a way around the two-week quarantine for all international arrivals. They have been in talks with the government and the Chief Medical Officer about how sport can resume.

F1 is trying to work with the government as it could not only prove a problem for Silverstone but the whole season because eight teams are based in the UK. Meaning the cars have to return to their factories periodically in between races, especially if they are involved in accidents.

To work around a two-week enforced quarantine period would mean that any races at Silverstone would have to take place with that period on either side.

Silverstone managing director Stuart Pringle told BBC Sport: “I am delighted to confirm that Silverstone and Formula 1 have reached an agreement in principle to host two races behind closed doors this summer.

“However these races will be subject to government approval, as our priority is the safety of all involved and strict compliance with Covid-19 regulations.”


Belgian government approves exemption for F1

The Belgian government has agreed that this year’s Grand Prix can go ahead as planned but behind closed doors on 28 – 30 August despite the ban on all mass gatherings until September which meant the race would either have to be postponed or held behind closed doors.

On Friday, it agreed plans for the race to go ahead as planned allowing organisers and Liberty Media to finalise the deal. The race’s commercial director Stijn De Boever told Motorsport.com, “We finally got the green light from the government to organise the race.”

“We already had a basic agreement in place with F1, but we also needed the go-ahead from the government to be able to proceed.” He says the deal will be finalised in the next few days. The organisation will help facilitate strict countermeasures to reduce the risk of spreading Coronavirus, but will not have to pay F1 a hosting fee.

De Boever explained, “The idea is to form a partnership in which we work together with F1, but the region will not have to pay anything for the race. There’s 50 years of F1 history at Spa-Francorchamps, so hosting the race is important for Belgium and the region.”

He says they have worked with the Belgian RAC and the FIA to see what the minimum number was of personnel, which could work. De Boever echoed the plans drawn up by Liberty for the biosphere paddock in Austria.

Saying “We are working very closely with other promoters. Austria will be first up, so we will copy what worked for them. We should get a report after every race to see what worked well and what didn’t, and what our organisation should look out for.”

He also announced ticket holders will be able to use their 2020 tickets for the 2021 edition without additional cost or request a refund.


Russell can’t help jealousy of peers in top teams

George Russell says he can’t help but be “a little bit jealous” that several of his close friends are now in competitive seats, but he’s adamant that his own chance will come.

Russell believes that the dramatic moves in the driver market this week make sense because the teams are putting themselves in position fo future by hiring young talent, and he believes that Daniel Ricciardo’s arrival at McLaren will be a “win-win” for Lando Norris.

Speaking on Instagram, he said, “We’re all youngsters, we all want to have that successful career, and races and victories, right here in the moment. Even Nico Rosberg, I don’t know how old he was when he won his first race, how many years he had in F1, but if you’re doing the job and performing, we’ll all get our chance.”

“That’s all I can do at the moment. Seeing my mates up there in potential championship-winning cars – it’s something I’m a little bit jealous of obviously because I want to be up there trying to fight as well.” Russell is confident that as long as he keeps delivering his opportunity will come.

The Englishman who is friendly with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, as well as Norris, admitted that was more aware than most outsiders about what was happening behind the scenes in recent days. While he knew about the moves he admits they took him by surprise, but says it all makes sense

“The likes of Ferrari, you’ve got to start looking to the future, with Charles and Carlos, that could potentially be their line-up for five, six, seven years to come. I think in any organisation that stability is what people need. Two mega good drivers side-by-side, and likewise with Lando and Danny.”

Russell says the mix up is great for the fans and media, believing that Norris can only benefit from having an experienced proven race winner as his teammate.

He believes Ricciardo going to McLaren will be good for Norris, and one the Englishman will relish, this puts him in a win-win situation there, so it’s great for him. It’s exciting I think for the sport.

Adding, “Daniel still has a number of years in him, and both he and Lando could be at McLaren again for four, five, six years to come. It all makes sense when you think of it from that side of things. Like I said, it’s just exciting for the sport.”


Vettel never an option for McLaren

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown says Sebastian Vettel was not considered as a possible 2021 driver because Daniel Ricciardo was already the prime candidate to replace Carlos Sainz Jnr.

The American believes that when this season does begin there could be more “fireworks” at Ferrari. He also says that he knew over the winter there was a chance Sainz could leave at the end of this year with Ferrari in contact with the Spaniard over a move.

It led to Brown lining up a swoop for Ricciardo who came close to joining the Woking team for 2019. He told Sky Sports, “Obviously Seb’s an awesome driver and a four-time champion. But I think we were pretty far down the path in the off-season and knew we would either land with Daniel or [keep] Carlos.”

“We never really entertained anyone beyond that, and especially with Seb’s late-breaking news – we were pretty far down the path at that point,” Brown says that he knew that Sainz was eyeing Ferrari and was given permission to talk to the Italian team, despite having a year of his contract to run.

He suggested that these moves for insiders were not unexpected and the open relationship with Sainz helped. Saying it wasn’t a surprise and that’s why they started and signed Ricciardo. Adding “I think these movements would have probably happened with or without COVID because we started these conversations pre-COVID.”

Looking at the season ahead, Brown predicts continuing tension between Vettel and Charles Leclerc. He believes that Ferrari is not a nice environment between drivers and management, which could lead to exciting racing.

Brown says Renault is an option for Vettel but believes he may be more likely to retire.


McLaren mortgages historic cars

McLaren could be considering raising up to £275m to help see it through the Coronavirus pandemic crisis by mortgaging both its Woking headquarters and part of its spectacular collection of historic F1 cars.

The move has close parallels with Williams who have a recent arrangement by Williams which saw the Grove team take a loan from Michael Latifi, also by co-incidence a shareholder of McLaren, with the assets used as collateral including over 100 F1 cars from the Williams collection, as well as the factory.

Sky Sports has reported that the strategy is being pursued by McLaren and its advisor JP Morgan after an application for a £150m loan from the British government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy was turned down.

Although McLaren has sold many cars over the years, the team owns a huge collection of historic cars, including many associated with World Champions, with those connected to Ayrton Senna regarded as the most valuable.

In May 2018 the Brazilian’s 1993 Monaco GP winning MP4/8 was auctioned by a third party and bought by a well-known racing driver for the euro equivalent of £3.7m. the collection could be worth up to £250m with the facility valued at £200m.

Like many in the industry the pandemic has hit McLaren’s car division hard thanks to the collapse in sales. Staff from all parts of the organisation have been on furlough in recent weeks.

McLaren has declined to give any details of on any plans to raise cash. A spokesman told Motorsport.com: “Like any other British businesses McLaren has been severely affected by the current pandemic and we are therefore exploring a variety of different funding options to help navigate these short-term business interruptions.”

Some of the teams best heritage cars were tied to a previous financial arrangement in 2017 when the company was in the process of buying back the shareholding of the departed Ron Dennis. The cars were retained after the company paid off the £37.5m agreement to buy back shares.

The oldest on the list on that occasion was MP4-1, the very first carbon fibre car built for the 1981 season after Dennis’s Project 4 outfit was merged with McLaren.


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