F1 Today – LIVE Edition – 18/01/2022
Brown says teams have “too much power”
McLaren CEO Zak Brown believes that teams “have too much power and it needs to be reduced” as he described the controversial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as a “symptom rather than cause” of issues with rulemaking and governance.
Although the American did not name any team directly, he claimed “at times it has seemed the sport is governed by certain teams,” while he also likened the lobbying from team management to Race Control over the radio during races as a “pantomime audition.”
In his column on the team’s website, which we reported yesterday, he wrote about a wide range of issues expressing strong views on several key topics in F1 – especially around the formation of regulations.
He says he is hoping that the election of new FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem “provides the opportunity for collective reform of the way Formula 1 operates”.
The FIA is currently holding an inquiry into the events of last month’s 2021 season finale, the report is currently scheduled to be released on 17th March ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Brown added, “It is obvious to focus on the events of Abu Dhabi at the end of last season, which are the subject of an FIA investigation, but this was a symptom rather than cause in my view.”
“There have been systemic issues around alignment and clarity on who makes the rules – the FIA or the teams – that have manifested themselves in the past couple of years, at times in a high-profile way.”
The McLaren CEO said the 2020 Australian and 2021 Belgian Grands Prix were hallmarked by a seeming lack of preparation for the events unfolding and temporary a “inertia on the solutions.” He calls for greater clarity on the roles of the FIA and F1/Liberty Media in the future.
Brown seemly appeared to suggest that the shift towards democracy and a more consultative approach with teams and stakeholders, maybe had gone too far but was the right one to take. Repeating his message that now the teams have too much power which needs to be reduced because it might not be always what is best for the sport overall.
While he agrees that teams should be consulted on regulations and long-term vision, he believes they have “contributed to the inconsistencies in the policing of the regulations as much as anyone” in recent years.
He says the lobbying and discussions over penalties between the stewards, both trying to limit penalties for themselves and get penalties for other teams, has been unedifying for the sport and “felt like a pantomime audition rather than the pinnacle of a global sport.”
Writing about the budget cap, and the attempt by some teams to raise the cap because §w30of more sprint races, he didn’t name the teams, but says “to protect their own competitive advantage, are effectively holding the sport hostage from what’s best for the fans and therefore the sport at large.”
Prost blames Rossi for his departure from Alpine
Four-time champion Alain Prost has blamed Alpine boss Laurent Rossi for his decision to leave his position as a non-executive director of the Renault-owned team. The Frenchman says he was cut out of decision-making last year and accused Rossi of “jealousy”.
Prost joined the team in 2015 when the French car manufacturer joined Renault as a consultant when the company bought back the F1 team – based in Enstone, Oxfordshire, and was appointed non-executive director of their F1 project in 2019.
Speaking to the French newspaper L’Equipe, “Laurent Rossi’s desire is to be alone, not to be polluted by anyone. He told me he no longer needed advice. There is a real desire to put a lot of people on the sidelines”
Alpine did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Prost’s remarks.
Prost said he was offered a new contract at the end of last season but refused it because of the way he had been treated throughout the year. He says its still believes in the project which has “restored incredible motivation at the level of the group.”
Last year despite a did in competitiveness overall last season, the team did take their first win since 2008. But Prost says it was “very disruptive,” with him feeling like the old ones at the team had to go, as well as being cut out of the decisions.
Adding “Even as a member of the board of directors, I discovered certain decisions at the last minute. One might not be able to be heard, but at least one should be warned in time.”
The team is currently going through a management restructure with former Aston Martin team principal Otmar Szafnauer is widely tipped to join as the replacement for executive director Marcin Budkowski.
He also revealed he had “come very close” to running for the presidency of governing body the FIA, but said that in the end it was “too late”.
Norman leaves role as F1 marketing boss
Formula One’s head of marketing Ellie Norman has left the organisation after four and a half years in the job. Norman was one of the first key executives hires after Liberty Media officially acquired F1 in January 2017.
Her appointment in the top marketing role was announced in June that year and started in August, reporting Sean Bratches, then managing director of commercial operations. Before being appointed to F1 she had worked at Honda Motor Europe, where she was communications manager, and Virgin Media, also owned by Liberty, where she was head of advertising and was responsible for sponsorship.
F1 commercial and marketing department has undergone several changes since Liberty took over, Sean Bratches stood down as managing director in 2020 while head of digital and licensing Frank Arthofer left in January 2021. No replacement for Norman has been named thus far.
She said in a statement “I have completed what I set out to do at F1, and it’s time for my next challenge. It’s been an honour and great privilege to have been part of the leadership team transforming this world-class, unique sport into the modern sports and entertainment company it is today.”
F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali paid tribute to Norman’s contribution to the progress that the organisation has made in recent years.
Saying “During the past five seasons, under Ellie’s leadership of the marketing team, we have rebranded F1 and modernised its approach to fan engagement, which has led to strong growth in our fanbase across the world.”
“During that time F1 has become a global brand on social media, in digital content and partnership collaborations, has built a robust direct-to-consumer acquisition business though F1 TV subscriptions and premium hospitality lead generation, and created a fan database and customer relationship management programme, to provide a single customer view and focus on the ‘value of a fan.’”
Domenicali thanked Norman, who is yet to announce what she will do next
FIA to improve flexi wing tests this year
The FIA says it uncovered no ‘monkey business’ with its ramped-up rear wing flexibility tests last year, but it wants to further improve its checks for 2022. As the bitter battle between Mercedes and Red Bull went on in the latter part of the season, Red Bull accused its rivals of using flexi-wings to increase its straight-line speed.
The suspicion was that Mercedes had found a clever way for its main plane to flex down at high speed to help reduce drag. Red Bull even went as far as suggesting that marks seen on the Mercedes endplate were evidence of the wing moving, even though its rival was always adamant the marks, the governing body began a fact-finding mission to better investigate the behaviour and characteristics of the rear wings of all the teams.
While the new tests had no regulatory value, so were not to check on the legality of cars, it was hoped that they would provide some answers about whether or not the regulations needed to be tightened up for the future.
Speaking about those tests, the FIA head of single-seater matters Nikolas Tombazis explained that nothing out of the ordinary was uncovered. However, suggested that the governing body would be looking at ways to improve the manner in which wings can be checked going forward to help ensure teams were not finding clever ways to make wings flex.
He told Motorsport.com, “In Qatar, there was no monkey business identified, or anything like that. We didn’t find something that was concerning. It was not a bad test, but it can be improved. So we’re thinking how to maybe make some improvements to it for next year , potentially.”
Tombazis explained that one of the issues that needed looking into was the way forces were applied to the main plane to help expose any clever aeroelasticity characteristics that teams could be employing.
Adding “If you load it in the downward direction, it’s quite stiff, so we want to manage to load it in a direction that is normal. But then it’s a bit more difficult because we can’t use gravity. So we need to fine-tune it, and it needs a bit more give to be prepared for it. It’s not impossible, of course.”
Pirelli explains why tyre allocation set to be fixed
Pirelli believes that teams will go back to having a free choice of compounds for each race weekend, with the supply choices to be fixed again for 2022. Between 2016 and 2019 in a bid to add variability to each grand prix, teams were able to choose how aggressive they wanted to be with their tyre selection for grand prix events.
While they were limited as to the total number of tyres sets they had available, teams were able to vary the spread of compounds within that, either opting for softer or harder rubber depending on their strategy choices for each individual track.
These measures were brought in at the start of 2020 in response to the pandemic to save cost, with Pirelli handed out the same compound selection to each team. That rule stayed the same last year and will also now carry over into 2022, when Pirelli will introduce its new 18-inch tyres for the first time.
Speaking at the tyre manufactures launch in Monaco on Tuesday, the Italian tyre manufacturer’s head of F1 and car racing Mario Isola explained why he thinks the days of free choice may be over.
Isola explained, “We had to find this solution for the pandemic to be quicker in reaction. But then the teams came back to us saying, actually the system is quite good. We want to keep it for the future. So, it was not our decision at the end to continue with this fixed allocation.”
While the possibility of opening up the compound choices remains something Pirelli is happy to consider in the future, it seems that teams are actually not especially eager for it to happen. He also says the teams were more comfortable being told what the allocation was rather than devoting resources to picking tyres themselves.
He added, “So in 2020, they said we want to continue for 2021. In 2021, with the new product for 2022, nobody was confident in deciding on the compounds and breakdown and so they want to continue [for now]. I don’t know if in 2023 they want to change but for the moment, this is the answer.”
The new tyres will make their first on-track run at the first test in Barcelona next month. But Pirelli is confident that the new rubber should allow drivers to push harder than they were able to on the previous generation of tyres.
Reflecting on what was learned from the post-season Abu Dhabi test, Isola said: “There is less overheating. Drivers had the possibility to push more, and that was important in Abu Dhabi, because in Abu Dhabi, we had also some traffic.”
Mercedes announces launch plans
Mercedes has become the latest team to reveal the launch date of its 2022 car. The eight-time back-to-back constructor’s champions announced on social media that the W13 would be revealed on Friday 18th February.
The team will launch digitally from Silverstone before carrying out the shakedown and systems check of the new car later in the day. The German manufacturer is expected to be one of the final teams to launch but has already fired up its car.
As well as the car being built for the new 2022 rules, the W13 is also widely expected to see Mercedes return to the silver colour scheme that it has run throughout much of its F1 history.
The team is hoping that the new car will allow it to continue a run of strong form it has enjoyed in F1 throughout the turbo-hybrid era.
It has won every constructors’ championship since 2014 but lost out in the drivers’ battle to Red Bull rival Max Verstappen last year following a controversial finish to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton hasn’t spoken publicly since the race last month, that has prompted some doubt about whether Hamilton will continue, although it’s still expected he will be chasing his eighth championship. CEO and team principal Toto Wolff and FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem admitted that he was disillusioned with what happened.