Masi sacked after influencing title decided
Michael Masi has been removed as F1 race director as part of a restructure at governing body the FIA in the wake of last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Yesterday, FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem announced the inquiry into last years title decider concluded Masi failed to correctly apply the rules in a late safety car period and had a direct impact on the outcome of the title race.
He will be replaced by two race directors Eduardo Freitas, who formerly performed the role in the World Endurance Championship, and Niels Wittich, who did so in the DTM German Touring Car Championship. They will be assisted by veteran deputy race director Herbie Blash, who returns to the sport after stepping down in 2016.
Blash has been appointed to the newly created role of permanent senior advisor.
One of the changes is the announcement of VAR systems based off-site to assist the stewards. Stricter rules are also being introduced and the lobbying of race control which has emerged in recent years, will be banned as well as a review of the unlapping procedure following a safety car.
Speaking in a video issued by the FIA he confirmed that his plan has been approved by F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali and the team bosses in Monday’s F1 Commission meeting in London.
Outlining the changes he said: “Firstly, to assist the race director in the decision-making process, a Virtual Race Control Room will be created. Like the Video Assistance Referee, VAR, in football, it will be positioned in one of the FIA offices as a backup outside the circuit.
“In real-time connection with the FIA F1 race director, it will help to apply the sporting regulations using the most modern technological tools. Secondly, direct radio communications during the race, currently broadcast live by all TVs, will be removed in order to protect the race director from any pressure and allow him to take decisions peacefully.”
“Thirdly, unlapping procedures behind safety car will be reassessed by the F1 Sporting Advisory Committee and presented to the next F1 Commission prior to the start of the season.”
These changes will be put in place from next week’s Barcelona Test. The structural changes are described as ‘crucial’ in the strong development and the legitimate expectation of everyone involved in the sport.
Hamilton admits to losing faith in system
Lewis Hamilton gave his reaction to those changes at Mercedes launch where he admitted that he lost a “little bit of faith within the system.” But Hamilton also stressed that he hadn’t thought of walking away and that the 2021 Abu Dhabi GP wouldn’t define him.
He says that he was determined not to let the scandal define his career, saying that the sport was not defined by “just turning up and driving the car.” Hamilton says that he wants to be the best he can be and being stronger. Hamilton was speaking to the written press just a day after the FIA revealed their first changes as a result of an Abu Dhabi inquiry.
He welcomed the report and said that he wants the FIA to make sure what he’s gone through “never happens to anybody else ever again”.
“Whilst we can’t change the past and nothing will ever really be able to change the way of how I felt at the time and how I feel about the situation, it’s good to see the FIA are taking steps to make improvements.”
“I think accountability is key and we have to use this moment to make sure this never happens to anybody else in the sport ever again. Everything that’s been said by the FIA yesterday, I welcome that.”
Hamilton insisted that he has no issues with Max Verstappen, who he fiercely battled for the title all season. He says the dutchman did everything he would have done, describing him as a “great competitor.” Accepting there were tough moments last season, he said he doesn’t hold grudges with anybody.
He also issued a warning, that he is putting the painful experience solely into delivering this season – with 2022’s rules reset set to shake up the sport.
Mercedes unveils 2022 car
Mercedes has unveiled its new W13 for the 2022 season ahead of its on-track debut at Silverstone on Friday. The team has returned to its traditional ‘Silver Arrow’ livery having raced with a black livery in the past two years as part of its commitment to increase equality, especially from BAME background.
The car features black trim and the fluorescent green of title sponsor Petronas, as well as a star-speckled design on the engine cover. 2022 marks the start of a new technical era aimed at producing better racing, leading to a significant change in the aerodynamic design of the cars.
Mercedes will enter the new season looking to continue its streak of eight consecutive F1 constructors’ titles stretching back to 2014. CEO and team principal Toto Wolff repeated the mindset that the team always repeated, that the “There is nothing from the previous years that will make you win the current championship. No credits to be taken, but also no sense of entitlement.”
Despite Storm Eunice hitting the UK today, the team are still planning to shake down the car at Silverstone.
Wolff added, “I was in the race bays the last few days, looking at this unbelievable machine, and now seeing it complete with its bodywork on is very exciting. It’s quite amazing, but I hope it’s amazing when we drive it in an hour.”
Lewis Hamilton this year once again goes after his eighth world title but says that he hasn’t set any goals initially. But accepted the ultimate was “again raising the bar and doing something that no-one else has done before.”
Hamilton will be partnered by new teammate George Russell, the first fully Mercedes junior to race for the team. He added “When we started working together, we were straight into business. Obviously the relationships were always built over time, but I already knew so many of the people.
“Having worked with Lewis or seeing Lewis work when I was a junior driver, or sitting in the engineering meetings, that will also feel quite natural, being teammates with him and sitting alongside him.”
Never planned to walk away – Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton has played down suggestions that he never planned to walk away from the sport, but said it was important he stepped back from things over the winter. In his first public comments in two months, the Englishman wouldn’t comment on the scandal which has engulfed the sport since he lost the title to Max Verstappen in Abu Dhabi.
On Thursday, the inquiry concluded that then race director Michael Masi had failed to apply the rules correctly apply the rules in a late safety car period and had a direct impact on the outcome of the title race.
Speaking on Friday at the team’s launch at Silverstone, Hamilton explained that, while he needed to get away from everything for a while, he quickly concluded that he would come back in a fighting mood.
Hamilton said “I never, ever said that I was going to stop. I love doing what I do, and it is such a privilege working with this large group of people. You really feel like you’re part of a team and part of a family, working towards that common goal. There’s no feeling quite like it.”
“But yeah…it was obviously a difficult time for me, and it was a time where I really needed to take a step back and focus on being present. I had my family all around me, and creating great moments. I eventually got to a point where I decided I was going to be attacking coming into another season, and working with Toto and George [Russell].”
At the launch early on Friday morning, CEO and team principal Toto Wolff welcomed the findings, after vowing to hold the FIA ‘accountable’ for its failings in Abu Dhabi, said he welcomed the governing body’s response.
Saying “I think it’s very encouraging to see that action has been taken,” said Wolff at the launch of the team’s W13. There is a much more robust structure now and support structure for the racing director.”
Ferrari goes radical with 2022 car
Ferrari unveiled a red and black livery F1-75 when they launched their 2022 car on Thursday. The team were the seventh team to formally unveil on Thursday from its Maranello base.
Following the exit of long-serving major sponsor Philip Morris and its Mission Winnow branding that featured on the car last year.
Team principal Mattia Binotto said Ferrari had taken an “innovative approach” to the revolutionary new regulations. Saying, “This is what I would call a brave Ferrari. We have interpreted the rules thinking out of the box. We hope it will uphold the honour and tradition of the team.”
This season Ferrari will be hoping they can build on the bounce back last year to fourth in the constructors after 2020 was its worst season in four decades. The Italian manufacturer finished third in the constructors, scoring one pole position and four podiums.
Binotto added “In recent years, the results have not lived up to the Ferrari name. It has made the team stronger. This car is the perfect expression of all our efforts.” The Italian says the team would be happy if they were competitive and winning races.
Leclerc added “Expectations are high because we are Ferrari. We are expecting to win all the time. What gives me confidence is the work I have seen the last few months. It has been a long time we have been working on it and I can see how well we have been working.
The car looks very different to the ones unveiled so far, a needle-shaped nose tip, much narrower than seen on any car so far, and unusually shaped side pods which are higher at their outside edge than towards the centre of the car in order to better channel airflow to the rear.
The regulation change for 2022 is set to give Ferrari the chance to fight for its first world championship since 2008, having struggled to compete with Mercedes and Red Bull over the past couple of years.
Austin signs new five year deal
Organisers of the United States Grand Prix have formally signed a new five year deal. The race held at the Circuit of The Americas, has been hugely popular with American fans since the launch of Drive to Survive on Netflix in 2018.
When the race returned following a year’s hiatus due to the pandemic a record crowd of 400,000 was reported. Friday’s announcement was always expected an ensures the Texan capital remains on the calendar until at least the end of the 2026 season.
F1 CEO and president Stefano Domenicali said “We are thrilled to be announcing the extension with the Circuit of The Americas ahead of the exciting new 2022 season. I want to thank the promoter for their ongoing dedication and enthusiasm for Formula 1.”
“Where together we are continuing to grow the excitement around our sport in the US following the huge success of Netflix, the work of ESPN, and the incredible season we had in 2021.”
Netflix series, Drive to Survive, has been instrumental in fuelling F1’s growth in the United States, which will host two Grands Prix for the first time since 1984 this year. The inaugural Miami Grand Prix is scheduled to take place in May. There also remains interest from Las Vegas in potentially hosting a race incorporating its famous Strip.
The success of Austin over the last decade has been seen as repairing the reparation of the sport in America after the 2005 Indygate tyre scandal when only six cars started the race.
COTA CEO Bobby Epstein added, “We are extremely proud it has found a home in Texas – at Circuit of The Americas – and are grateful to the millions of fans who visited us over our first decade. We knew Austin, along with our neighbours in San Antonio and beyond, would be welcoming hosts – and they proved it.”
Szafnauer joins Alpine as team principal
Alpine has announced that Otmar Szafnauer will join the team as team principal, as part of a wider management reshuffle. The appointment has been expected since the end of last year, as part of the teams attempts to challenge for championships. While no date has been set for him to start, but it is expected to start before the opening race in Bahrain.
Szafnauer will work alongside newly-appointed Bruno Famin, who has been made executive director of Renault’s Viry engine operation. The Frenchman is joining from the FIA.
With CEO Laurent Rossi having been open that he wanted a restructure at the top, Alpine has moved away from a previous triumvirate system and will now have a more standard structure with a designated team boss. Meanwhile, racing director David Brivio has moved to a new role as Director of Racing Expansion Projects and will oversee the development of young driver talent as well as look at Alpine’s involvement in other racing categories.
Speaking about the signings, Rossi said that the arrival of Szafnauer and Famin would deliver a fresh impetus to the squad as it looks to challenge for victories and title by the end of this current rules era.
Saying “With Otmar and Bruno joining the team, we move to a new level for 2022. Otmar will bring his unique experience in motorsports and his uncompromising desire to win, while Bruno’s proven track record in building technologies that make a difference in competition and their subsequent transference to road cars is critical for our project as a sports team and as a brand.”
Rossi praised Brivio for his work over the last year in identifying the best people, and to make them perform as well as they can.
Szafnauer has built a reputation at Force India/Racing Point/Aston Martin organisation, which regularly punched above its weight and took a victory at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix. The American has no doubts that Alpine has the ingredients necessary to move to the front of the grid.
He said, “I am thrilled to join BWT Alpine F1 Team and ready to get to work with everyone to achieve our challenge: bring the team to fight for the championship within the next 100 races.”
“My attention is focused on preparing for the start of the season in Bahrain. As one of the three car manufacturers involved in Formula 1, Alpine is fully armed to achieve its ambition, I can’t wait to start the journey!”
Famin’s most recent role was as Deputy Sport Secretary-General at the FIA, was most famously involved in leading the technical programme for Peugeot’s successful Le Mans project.