Russell clinches F1 eSports title
George Russell has been crowned the unofficial F1 eSports champion after a fourth consecutive win in the final race the Canadian Virtual Grand Prix. Russell was unstoppable lead at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, in what has been a good run for the team.
Russell beat his Red Bull rival Alex Albon by six seconds on the road which became fifteen seconds in the final classification once three-time penalties were factored in. He led almost every lap from pole position, only losing the lead through the pit stops,
Russell’s title rival Charles Leclerc did not take part opting to take part in the Virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans, giving him the title.
Esteban Gutierrez was third for Mercedes, who missed out on a race victory in F1’s virtual world. Underlining the pace of the Thai driver his engineer at one point that Russell had offered to slow down to make it more interesting.
There was chaos at the start allowing Russell and Albon to pull away, but Albon late picked up a penalty worth nine seconds for track limits abuse, but Gutierrez was also punished, which meant Albon was able to hold onto his second consecutive second-place finish.
Russell’s Williams team-mate Nicholas Latifi was fighting for third place until he crashed at the final corner and ended up dropping to ninth place. However, Renault Caio Collet recovered from contact with the wall to take fourth ahead of Ben Daly.
Daly was caught up in a collision at the final chicane with Mercedes’ Davidson, but he was able to fight back into the top five such was the frenetic nature of the race. Guanyu Zhon took sixth place, ahead of Nicholls Latifi who took seventh at his home race.
The Quebecer recovered from a crash with Sky’s Anthony Davidson, who was ahead of Ferrari junior Callum Ilott and FIA Formula 3 driver David Schumacher. In his second Virtual GP appearance, Alpha Tauri F1 driver Pierre Gasly was disqualified out of ninth place in the closing stages of the race after amassing too many corner-cutting penalties.
F1 eSport will return with its championship later in the year, but this was the end of the Virtual Grand Prix series.
Mercedes engine boss to leave at end of June
Mercedes engines managing director Andy Cowell is to leave his job at the end of the month as part of a restructuring of the motorsports division. The team says that Cowell informed them in January 2020 of his intention to depart.
The team say he has worked together with Markus Schäfer and Toto Wolff to define the future management structure for High-Performance Powertrain division. Cowell has been part of HPP for sixteen years, serving as managing director since 2014.
He played a major role in delivering six consecutive drivers and constructors, but will continue as an advisor on a “major future project” until at least early 2021 and will help with the transition of the new structure, but his duties as the head of the F1 team’s engine department will be taken over by Hywel Thomas at the start of next month.
Cowell joined Mercedes from Cosworth in 2004 as principal engineer and has played a key role in the success of Mercedes’ Formula One engines ever since. Since 2014 Mercedes have been the benchmark, despite others
Mercedes F1 CEO Toto Wolff said, “Andy’s leadership of the team at HPP has been a key factor in our championship success in recent seasons. He has made an outstanding contribution to our motorsport legacy and I have valued and enjoyed our working relationship since 2013.”
“I am sure he will enjoy great success in the next challenge he decides to take on. Our philosophy has always been that a winning team is a dynamic organisation, and that change is a natural part of every company’s development.”
Wolff says that he is pleased they have worked together to create a new leadership structure building on the strength of the team at Brixworth, putting them in a strong position for the years ahead.
Cowell said he worked with Daimler board member Markus Schafer and Wolff to ensure a structure was in place to take over his responsibilities.
Adding “After 16 enjoyable years working for HPP, I have decided that now is the right time to move on from my role and seek a new engineering business challenge.”
“I have appreciated the opportunity to work with Markus [Schäfer] and Toto in defining the future leadership structure of the company and I have every confidence in the ability of Hywel and the team to lead the company forward.”
Algarve could hold replacement race
The Portuguese Grand Prix could return to the calendar this season replacing one or two of the cancelled races after the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve announced it was in strong negotiations.
The circuit is the third one to put itself forward as a possible replacement, joining Imola and Hockenheim in bidding to host races which have been cancelled due to Coronavirus. F1 is looking at extending its European season beyond early September, with more circuits bidding for races.
It is thought the venue has been under consideration for some time now by F1, with a spokesperson from the circuit at Portimao confirming to Motorsport.com that discussions are underway and claiming there is “a lot of willingness” from teams for the circuit to be chosen.
A spokesperson said, “We are in contact with FOM and in strong negotiations. As Ross Brawn has said, it is a possibility. For now, nothing is confirmed, but we know that there is a lot of willingness among the teams that Portugal be chosen for the calendar and we are working very hard and doing everything we can to have the F1 in our race track.”
The circuit believes it is ideal to create a bubble as it has a large facility to ensure social distancing. The dates under discussion are 25 – 27 for the Portuguese Grand Prix and 03 – 04 October for an Algarve Grand Prix, should it be chosen to host two races.
The Japanese Grand Prix’s have been cancelled, but that would require the Chinese Grand Prix to be moved to later in October as it was provisionally rescheduled for 02 – 04. But China could move into the slot now free of 09 – 11.
Brawn stated last week: “There are a number of good European tracks where we could add another one or two races on to make sure we have a comprehensive season. We’re not going to declare it yet, as it’s still a work in progress.”
Currently, the plan is for an Italian Circuit, either Imola or Mugello to replace the Singapore Grand Prix. While the Russian Grand Prix should go ahead on 25 – 27 September, provisionally.
Shanghai prepared to host a double-header
Shanghai has also entered the race to hold a double-header later in the year. The Chinese Grand Prix was the first race to be postponed after the province of Wuhan became the source of the global Coronavirus pandemic.
The uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic has made things complicated, and there is now a contingency to have one or two more races in Europe before looking at options elsewhere. Although it was the first to be postponed, it was always one the sport wanted to re-organise.
Shanghai Sports Bureau Director Xu Bin said the city was keen to host a Grand Prix this year rather than wait until 2021, and it was pondering if it wanted to go ahead with the offer of a double-header.
Speaking to Shanghai People’s Radio he said: “International sport organisations care a lot about these world-class sport events in China and Shanghai.” Despite a lot of changes of our events due to the pandemic, we have received support from international sport organisations and national associations for some of our events.”
“We would be allowed to hold the events in Shanghai at a suitable time in the second half of the year, depending on the situation of the pandemic.” Xu says that the plan has been proposed by Liberty Media, but depends on the situation.
Bottas believes he “more complete”
Valtteri Bottas believes he is now “more complete as a driver” and at his physical peak following the extended break before the delayed start to the 2020 season.
The coronavirus pandemic caused the cancellation or postponement of the first ten races, the season will begin in Austria just over seven months since the last race in Abu Dhabi. While drivers have only had six days of pre-season testing in February to get to know their 2020 cars in that break, many have used the recent lockdown to work on their fitness.
Mercedes driver Bottas revealed that the additional time to focus on his physical condition has led to some impressive results, giving him confidence heading into the new season.
Sky Sports “Three or four weeks ago, I did a fitness test that I normally do once or twice a year, and it was my best ever. As a driver, you don’t get that many months normally to focus on your fitness, it’s normally just the winter break.”
“But now it’s been an extended break, and I was really systematic on the training, and it was amazing to see the results and how good you feel.”
The Finn says it rare that a driver has so much time off and getting time to do different kinds of things. As well as focusing on yourself, improving yourself physically and mentally.
Bottas had his best season last year, taking four wins on his way to second in the driver’s championship. He knows that he will face a fierce battle from his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to claim his first world title.
The Finn is well aware that the shortened season means that any errors are extra costly, but was pleased with the progress he made even through testing to prepare for the campaign. He described 2020 as “pretty special season.”
Adding, “I feel with the things that we’ve been working on with the team and with my core engineering team in terms of my driving style, I have a couple of new things in my driving style toolbox that I could use.”
“I could prove that in Barcelona testing, I could feel in some types of corners I made good steps, and I’ve been focusing on that during the lockdown, driving other things.
Podium ceremony scrapped to ensure social distancing
The podium celebrations are being scrapped for 2020 to ensure social distancing, as well as stopping any potential spread of Coronavirus. Also, the pre-race drivers’ parade will also be scrapped, as the fans won’t be there anyway.
There will be no standing together for the national anthem or trophies handed over directly by local dignitaries. motorsport managing director Ross Brawn, told F1.com, “The practices we have had in the past just can’t be done.”
“The podium procedure can’t happen, but we’re looking at doing something on the grid after the race. One option would be to line the cars up on the track and the drivers will stand in front of cars.”
“We can’t present the trophies, as you can’t have someone in close proximity presenting a trophy, but we have worked it out, we have plans and procedures, we’re looking at how we can present it on TV.”
The driver’s parade will also be cancelled, but each driver will be interviewed in the garages.
Abiteboul believes power unit battlefield in 2026
Renault’s F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul says that 2026 power unit regulations will be the “next battlefield” as alternative proposals are discussed over the next couple of years.
The current V6 hybrids are set until 2025, and the teams have agreed that the next set of engine regulations should offer the manufacturers a more affordable format, with a strong sustainable element.
F1 motorsports managing director Ross Brawn noted last week that all options are still possible for the 2026 regulations, while also conceding that no new manufacturers will enter the championship before then. Abiteboul says recent tweaks to the current power unit rules are a good step towards saving money and stressed that the 2026 regulations should go further.
He told Motorsport.com, “There is probably more work to be done on the power unit side. We’ve contained the arms race on power unit development a bit by limiting the number of new homologations per year, and by limiting further the number of dyno hours.”
“It’s good, but it’s still bloody expensive to maintain and operate these engines. The next step is to have a good look at what can be done in order to make sure that the next generation of power unit is a more economic sell.”
Abiteboul says that the team is beginning to study the future of the sport, and their objectives. Renaults future is likely to be decided on the economical sustainability of the next power unit because clearly the current one is very difficult.
Adding “The next thing we need to think about is the technology involved. We see the pace at which electrification is gaining everywhere around the world, and therefore we need to think very hard about what that means for F1.”
He says that the big principles of the new engine need to be agreed in 2021 or 2022 so that the development can begin in 2023, Abiteboul downplayed suggestions that removing the MGU-H from the current V6 hybrid would be a simple solution.
Saying, “We have the MGU-H for the fuel efficiency of the engine. Are we prepared to say that we will lose something like 20-30% of fuel efficiency? I don’t see us carrying more fuel, because we already know that the cars are even heavier in 2022.”