F1 announces plans for the opening race
Formula One has announced the latest plans for the start of the season is for the Austrian Grand Prix to be the season opener before Silverstone hosts the British and European Grand Prix’s.
The first nine races have all been postponed as a result of the global coronavirus crisis and F1 is facing a moving target as it seeks a start date. The lockdown restrictions in Austria are expected to be eased by the start of July.
The tentative plan was outlined to teams by F1 bosses at a meeting on Thursday at which proposals to reduce the sport’s budget cap to $130m (£104.6m) by 2022 were also discussed. The proposals for multiple races at Silverstone is dependent on the situations.
F1 bosses have said they do not want to start the season if they cannot carry it on. Austria this week became one of the first European counties to loosen restrictions, allowing thousands of shops to open, although people are still being advised to work from home if possible.
Meanwhile, the UK government has announced a three-week extension to its social distancing guidelines, as the virus spread has not yet peaked, while France has banned mass gatherings until mid-July.
Also, the teams continued to disagree on whether to set a budget cap for the next two seasons and beyond, but all sides in the debate described it as positive and constructive. The main thrust of the discussion was a plan to set a cap of $145m (£116.6m) next year and lower it to $130m in 2022.
The other proposal was for a sliding scale of allowance for aerodynamic research, with less successful teams allowed more. The idea in F1 would be that the team who finished first in the championship would be allowed to do the least aerodynamic research the following year and the team who finished last the most.
Liberty rejected that idea saying they would prefer the single cap, but want to push forward with the aerodynamic handicapping system. The budget cap is likely to be a sticking point, as there are attempts to lower it.
The lack of racing means an inevitable drop in revenue because of the disruption of the sport’s main income streams of race-hosting fees, broadcasting rights and sponsorship.
Several measures have already been adopted, including postponing a major regulation change by a year to 2022 and forcing teams to race the same cars next year as this.
Monza warns about a repeat of Melbourne
Organisers of the Italian Grand Prix have warned that Formula One “can no longer afford to make the mistake” of cancelling races at the last minute, like the opening Australian Grand Prix.
The fiasco in Melbourne when the weekend was cancelled hours before first practice after a member of McLaren tested positive for Coronavirus. That led to hordes of fans were already waiting outside the gates of the Albert Park circuit unaware of what was going to happen. Several McLaren members had to remain in self-isolation in Melbourne before being able to travel back to their families.
So far, nine races have been either postponed or cancelled. The French and Belgian Grand Prix’s are likely to be added to the list, after the countries governments both countries extended their ban on mass events.
The Automobile Club of Italy, which promotes Monza’s Italian Grand Prix on September 6, says a repeat of the Melbourne scenario would be a “disaster” for the sport.
ACI president Angelo Sticchi Damiani told Gazzetta dello Sport, “We can no longer afford to make mistakes like in Australia when the GP was cancelled with the public already at the track. That was a setback for everyone, from Liberty Media to the teams, to the local organisers. To start again and then be forced to stop would be a disaster.”
Monza is situated in the Lombardy region of Italy, which has been one of the worst regions hit by the coronavirus and remains under strict lockdown. With no end to the crisis in sight, Damiani urges F1 to remain cautious.
“We are going through a situation of great uncertainty and in this moment we must act with caution and attention,” he added.
Damiani says he hopes that F1 can be restarted by July and the ninety-day notice, which could soon become critical for early September’s Italian Grand Prix.
Adding, “The teams have asked for 90 days’ notice to start again and if we think about July we would already be late. Maybe there will be a rethink and 60 will be enough.”
Contract negotiated in shutdown – Vettel
Sebastian Vettel believes the shutdown of Formula One will give himself and Ferrari the chance to “cover ground” with his contract talks. The four-times champion has a tough 2019, and his contract with the Italian team expires at the end of the season.
The team has already signed his teammate Charles Leclerc on a five-year deal, prompting speculation about Vettel’s future with Ferrari after his contract end of the season.
There have been rumours that several drivers are being lined up to replace him, however, it is likely Ferrari will retain Vettel. Who admits there is now plenty of time to negotiate with the campaign delayed until at least the end of June due to the coronavirus crisis.
Vettel told Sky Sports, “We still have some more time in the next weeks, by the looks of it the first Grand Prix is not due for a while, unfortunately. For sure it will give us some more time to cover ground in this time.”
Adding “There is a chance we will have to make a decision before there will be that first race. We will make progress, but I don’t think there’s a real timeline. Whether that’s before the first race or not, depends on when we have that first race.”
There has been a suggestion that the 2020 seas could continue into 2021 to fit in more races, although there is no indication so far as to what would happen to drivers who see their contracts expire before then.
The current plan is for an eighteen race calendar between the first weekend in July and probably the weekend before Christmas. Vettel says that regardless of how many races there are, it wouldn’t make winning a championship any less special.
he explained “A season is a season, whether 10, 20 or 25 races. So you still have to be the one who is most consistent with less races, and every race is then more important.”
Vettel joins sim racing
Sebastian Vettel has revealed he will join many of his F1 rivals and start sim racing soon, having taken delivery of his own rig over the past few days.
The four-times champion has so far avoided joining the race to eSports which has been dominated by younger drivers like Max Verstappen and Lando Norris. Having witnessed his own Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc enjoy a venture into sim racing, Vettel says he put an order in for a sim and is now ready to start competing.
Asked by Motorsport.com ahead of the Chinese eSport Grand Prix, if he was tempted by sim racing with his rivals competing so much, Vettel said: “Well the truth is, I didn’t have a simulator until a couple days ago so I have not been tempted because I didn’t have the chance.”
“But I have heard a lot of things about it so I thought I might get one and try, but I need to still set it up properly. Generally, I’m not going to foresee a career in sim racing. I think it’s more something to try for fun.”
“I grew up with some of the stuff and I’ve been playing some games, but to be honest since I had kids it’s not the first thing on my list to do. I will see how much time there will be.”
Leclerc won the first official round of the season at Albert Park a fortnight ago and has also been instrumental in setting up a charity tournament. Vettel is clear that, while open-minded about sim racing, he will always prefer the real thing.
Adding, “I think I still consider it a bit more of a fun thing. I think races still have to happen in the real world outside. So that’s still where the focus lies.”
A quarter of grid enter Virtual Chinese Grand Prix
The quarter of the grid will take part in this weekend’s Virtual Chinese Grand Prix after Carlos Sainz announced he would join teammate Lando Norris. The third race of the official series will be held around the Shanghai International Circuit on Sunday, now feature over one-third of the F1 grid.
F1 has announced the current entry list including both McLaren drivers as well as, Charles Leclerc, Antonio Giovinazzi, Alexander Albon, George Russell and Nicholas Latifi.
Another entry will be Alfa Romeo’s Juan Manuel Correa, who will partner Giovinazzi at Alfa Romeo. Correa has been part of Alfa Romeo’s young driver programme since March 2019.
Since the accident at last years Belgian Grand Prix, which claimed the life of Anthoine Hubert, Correa has used sim racing as part rehab and to keep his brain sharp.
Correa’s former F2 team-mate, Callum Ilott, will race alongside Leclerc for Ferrari this weekend, while Red Bull driver Albon will be joined by Real Madrid footballer Thibaut Courtois.
The remainder of the field is still to be confirmed but is set to be made up once again by a mixture of junior formula drivers and other recent F1 racers.
Norris, Leclerc, Giovinazzi, Albon, Russell and Latifi will all feature in the final round of the charity ‘Race for the World’ series on Friday night. So far the Race For The World has raised £40,000
McLaren resurgence may be harmed by Coronavirus
McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl believes the team’s attempts to return to the front of the grid could be hampered by the coronavirus.
The British team has been heading in an upward directory, moving up from sixth to fourth in the constructors’ championship, before the coronavirus outbreak put a halt to F1’s calendar for the foreseeable future.
Seidl is confident that McLaren can continue the upward trajectory when action resumes but concedes the current shutdown might delay McLaren’s ambitious plans to close the gap with the top teams.
Seidl told selected media, “First of all, the most important thing at the moment is to go through this crisis and survive it as a team and as Formula One.”
“It’s a tough situation for everyone, but I’m confident that as soon as we are through this crisis that we simply can continue the positive momentum we had before we all went into the shutdown.” The UK lockdown has to lead to knock-on effects to the off-track efforts to make its way back to the front of the grid.
Seidl is overseeing a wide-ranging overhaul of the team’s structure and several improvements to the team’s infrastructure, including a planned new wind tunnel.
“Also here, still difficult to know exactly how big the delays will be. One thing is for sure, the entire factory apart from the ventilator production is in full shutdown at the moment, so this means also the infrastructure projects are on hold.”
McLaren is hoping the 2022 regulation changes are an opportunity to bridge the gap to Mercedes. The changes were due to be introduced next year but to ease the pressure now face by teams because of Coronavirus.
Seidl admits the team were pushing for these changes but accepts and fully accepts why they need to be delayed. However, some of the midfield teams may have concerned an extra year of development could allow the big manufacturers to pull ahead.
Seidl adds, “But at the same time, that’s the challenge we’re in. We have a clear plan in place of what we have to do in the next months and years in order to move up the grid again.”
The lives of the Hamilton brothers
Nicolas Hamilton has explained how his half-brother Lewis helped him when he was struggling at school due to bullying, admitting he is the F1 champion’s “biggest fan” because of his actions on and off the track.
The twenty-eight-year-old has spoken to Natalie Pinkham’s about his cerebral palsy his remarkable career as a racing driver and his brother Lewis.
The twenty-eight year old now racing in the British Touring Car Championship despite being told he would likely never walk because of his condition. He told Pinkham how he turned to brother Lewis, who is seven years his elder and was just about to become an F1 star, for advice.
Explaining, “It was actually my brother that I went to when I first started struggling. I said, ‘Lewis, what do I do? I’ve got these kids now just taking the mick out of me being in a wheelchair’.”
“His answer was that I just need to continue to be myself. He said, ‘if people are laughing at this wheelchair that you’re in, then why don’t we make it cool and do some cool things in it?’” Nic says that Lewis taught him how to do wheelies in this his wheelchair.
He says that Lewis taught him how to do wheelies and stuff in the wheelchair, almost became like a Tony Hawk skateboarder his wheelchair.
As children, Nic and Lewis lived in the same house growing up and share the same father, Anthony. He and his parents were “conscious decision not to let his condition define him,” saying they wanted to let him fight his own battles.
Lewis has regularly claimed that his younger brother, who joins him at as many races as possible, is an inspiration to him. And the feeling is definitely mutual. Saying “I could talk about him forever because my life has revolved around him – but not through hateful eyes, just pure pride. I’m his biggest fan.”
The story of the Hamilton’s is one of poverty to multimillionaire, Lewis has become one of the most influential sporting athletes in the world, means so much to Nic.
Hamilton says “Now it’s ‘I want to be the next Lewis Hamilton’. You see helmets of Lewis. And now different colours of creeds are being involved in motorsport, and I think that’s down to Lewis’ impact on the sport.”