Ferrari announces Austria upgrades
Ferrari is to bring a revised gearbox and engine to the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix in a bid to lift its fortunes after low-key pre-season testing.
Going into the aborted opening race in Melbourne it was believed that Ferrari was behind Mercedes and Red Bull. But with months now since that race and despite the shutdown, the team is expected to make key changes for the opening races in Austria.
First, it is understood that Ferrari has reacted to an issue it uncovered during pre-season testing, which required a stiffening up of the gearbox assembly.
While the revision will have weight and aerodynamic implications for the outfit, it is believed these will be more than offset by the overall gains that will come from a more rigid structure. These changes are designed to improve the handling of the car and improve tyre performance and life.
Ferrari was the first to introduce the titanium gearbox with a stiffening carbon shroud combination on the F2004. It is a feature that is now used up and down the grid as it’s a modular design that means any changes required for the sake of suspension or aerodynamics can be made without incurring a grid penalty.
It has plenty of experience in this area, for 2016 they introduced the gearbox cassette and internal suspension componentry were redesigned to slim down the structure and allow more flow around and under the assembly. However, that appeared not to work, requiring further changes to the structure.
As part of a separate push to improve after Barcelona testing, Ferrari will also bring its second-generation power unit to Austria rather than the spec originally being rolled out in Australia. This now means the team will recover some of the power deficit it lost in the change of regulations this year.
However, admits that Spielberg will not be one of their strong races, as it offers a combination of challenges due to the high altitude and short lap. Last year, teams struggled with cooling, also team principal Mattia Binotto suggested that the car will be essentially the same as before, what he means is that the team will have little in terms of larger conceptual changes
No difference drivers who have and haven’t done sim racing
Lando Norris says he does not expect a “night and day” difference between Formula One drivers who have and have not done sim racing across the enforced coronavirus break once track action resumes.
The pandemic and postponement of the first ten races have allowed many off the drivers to take part in eSports races. Norris believes that the advantage of these races will not last long, as within a few laps every driver will be back on the pace.
He told Motorsport.com, “They [sim racers] will have a slight advantage in some areas but it’s not going to be night and day, you’re not just going to see the sim racers do miles better than the guys who haven’t done any sim racing.”
“It’s very small differences and it might be we get back into it a lap before or something like that but nothing else.” Norris says he might be a bit ahead of the engineers, but it was good that drivers can jump back in the car and a few laps they will be back on the pace.
Norris is also confident that the season will comprise of more than just eight races – the number currently confirmed so far and all of which will take place in Europe.
He is aware that the shorten season will change drivers approaches and that the risk of a retirement proving more costly.
Adding “I’m pretty confident there’s going to be quite a few more races than just eight, I think there’s definitely going to be more than that. That’s [taking greater risks] something I need to speak through with my engineers and work out as a team what’s best for us and what’s best for me.”
Norris says he is confident that he can do better this season, and in Austria, they will know where the pace is.
Must work now to cut costs – Steiner
Haas team principal Gunther Steiner says that the sport must not row back on its recent drive to cut costs when the world’s economic situation kicks back into gear. Saying it is essential F1 stays committed to the positive action it has taken with moves to reduce spending.
He suggested that Liberty needed not to forget the challenges everyone has faced during the coronavirus pandemic, using it for a new impetus to secure the long-term future of all teams on the grid.
As part of Motorsport.com’s series looking at F1 after Coronavirus, Steiner said “We came together and decided on a budget cap, a lower one and it is a good initiative. We decided very quickly that we take the car forward from this year to next year… and the 2022 regulations should make the car cheaper.”
“I think we learned already some [lessons from it]. Now, we need to make sure that we don’t forget about and then, when the good times come, the first thing we do is, ‘oh let’s discuss about taking the budget cap up again, or take it away’.”
He doubts it will happen, but that doesn’t mean that the sport shouldn’t be doing it. Saying that the lesson from the pandemic is how teams and business have left themselves with too little margin in the good times. Steiner says that the reserves have all gone, not just money.
The ‘New Deal’ makes Steiner optimistic that, while the top three teams will still hold an advantage into the era of the new rules from 2022, that they will not be totally out of reach.
But warned that in 2022 that the sport should not expect that the teams will be equal, as the bigger teams will still have the advantage. Steiner says “I think it will take a few years because the advantage the big teams have with their resources is pretty good…. And it’s also knowledge they acquired over the last 20 years.”
“So, I think they will still have an advantage. But in the end, I think, if you do a good job, just make a fast car, then it should get you there.”
Development tokens are a good compromise
F1’s motorsport managing director Ross Brawn believes that the development token system introduced for 2020 and 2021 is a “good compromise” as it allows a little flexibility within the chassis freeze.
In an attempt to cut costs and make savings because of the coronavirus cars will be frozen from the first race of the 2020 season until the end of 2021, with other elements to be frozen from later this year.
However, McLaren’s switch from Renault to Mercedes power in the middle of the freeze meant that it was inevitable that the team would have to make some changes for 2021. This has meant the introduction of a ‘joker’ system for upgrades, allowing teams to change frozen elements of their choice each team has two tokens that they can deploy with the agreement of the FIA.
McLaren is obliged to use its tokens to pay for the revised engine installation and the changes associated with it. Brawn says it was necessary to build in some flexibility, especially given the way the freeze regulations were introduced at short notice.
Brawn told Motorsport.com, “When you give somebody five years and tell them this is going to be the situation then you can be fairly specific about what you’re going to do. When you tell them with a few weeks’ notice, then you’ve got to be flexible in terms of how you apply it.”
“The problem with the freeze was that we had a team that was changing an engine, McLaren. You can’t ignore that, you can’t say that you can’t change your engine. So we had to find a fair system that was going to accommodate their need to make the change.”
He says that if teams find a flaw in their car that they shouldn’t have to live with for two years, that why the token system has been put in place to allow it to be put right.
Racing Point factory move postponed by a year
Racing Point’s move to a new factory this year has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the team were due to move into its new home adjacent to its current home at Silverstone in August 2021.
The team are still operating out of the factory built for Jordan in the late 1980s. speaking to F1.com, team principal Otmar Szafnauer said “Mainly, we were on a tight timeframe anyway. [It was] a project plan that was quite tight and we had to break ground in the first quarter of this year to be able to finish and move in, in August 2021.”
“Well, first quarter of this year, we were in complete lockdown, nobody was working. Formula 1 teams had our yearly FIA-imposed break because of it [the coronavirus pandemic]. We couldn’t get anyone to progress the factory, so it was put on hold.”
He says that despite the cost cap and financial crisis expected in the sport it was still right to build this new facility. Szafnauer explained that the current factory was bursting at the seams, and they were having pockets of engineers working in different locations, to bring them under one roof would be more efficient.
The team will be rebranded again for next year as Aston Martin, following Stroll’s investment in the British carmaker earlier this year, another factor in the need for a new building, Szafnauer said.
Teams will show support for Black Live’s Matter
F1 drivers and teams will have the opportunity to show support for Black Lives Matter and diversity when the season begins. It’s understood F1 will be supportive of shows of solidarity at Grands Prix, such as individuals taking a knee or teams carrying messages of support on their cars.
Lewis Hamilton has led F1 response after calling out his fellow drivers for not speaking out following the shooting death of George Floyd by US police in Minneapolis last month. F1 and the FIA are also working on their plans.
According to Sky Sport’s Craig Slater reported, “While Lewis has been the leading voice on this topic, Mercedes and other teams as well recognise that this is an issue for the entire sport to address.”
Lewis Hamilton tweeted “This week, I have felt so inspired by the thousands of people across the globe using their voices to speak out against racial injustice. Fighting for real change starts with us, whether peacefully protesting, showing support on social media or signing petitions. #blacklivesmatter”
Other teams and drivers, including Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris, have issued messages in support. Hamilton speaking about this is hoped to think why the sport is white male dominate, and to educate the sport on racism.
Yesterday President of the governing body the FIA, Jean Todt in his annual vision statement said they were determined to fight against discrimination of any kind, and sought to improve diversity in motorsport
In a speech outlining its goals for the year ahead, Todt declared the “FIA is a global actor and its role doesn’t stop at the frontiers of motorsport and mobility”.
Todt said: “Our Federation will continue to be guided for all motorsport and mobility matters by the Fundamental Principles of our Statutes which state that the FIA should fight any form of discrimination and notably on account of skin colour, religion, ethnic or social origin.”