F1 Today – 18/12/2020

F1 Today

Hamilton to sign mega-deal

Mercedes have hinted that a new mega-deal with Lewis Hamilton is imminent. The seven-time world champions contract is due to expire in two weeks, but he has recently said he would like a deal signed by Christmas, a week today, but that appears unlikely.

A tweet, Under the caption #Announce with a quote from Hamilton expressing a desire to sign on for 2021.

the quote read, “I plan to be here next year. I want to be here next year. I think we as a team have more to do together and more to achieve, both in the sport but even more outside it.”

Confirmation of a new Hamilton deal will formally lock in the Mercedes line-up for the 2021 season, with Valtteri Bottas already signed. However, later in the day, the team announced a deal has not been signed as CEO and team principal Toto Wolff agreed a new three-year deal.

Wolff said that there was no concern that things had not been settled with Hamilton yet, and he was clear that there was no urgency to rush things.

When asked about the latest situation, Wolff said, “From my point of view, we had such a successful run at championships in the past seven years, that there is no reason not to continue. He [Hamilton] is on the top of his game and he will be for a while. And that’s why continuing together is a no-brainer.”

Wolff added there was no deadline, in theory, Mercedes have until March to sign a deal, he said in theory the deadline was pre-season testing.

Wolff’s boss Mercedes chairman Ola Kallenius said he did not doubt that the Englishman was the right man for the German car manufacturer. Källenius says that Hamilton was worth the hefty salary.

Saying, “I think Lewis Hamilton is the greatest or one of the greatest race drivers of all time. I’ve known him since he was a teenager. I think his dedication and professionalism when it comes to how he has dedicated his life to being the greatest is remarkable and applaudable. And he’s a nice guy, too.”

Last week the entry list from the FIA listed Hamilton as a Mercedes driver.


Ineos buys a third of Mercedes

Mercedes have announced they have sold a third of the team to Ineos who will become joint owners with Daimler and CEO and team principal Toto Wolff, whose contract has been renewed until 2023.

Daimler is selling some of its shareholding to Ineos and Wolff to create three equal partners. Ineos owned by Britain’s richest man Sir Jim Ratcliffe, became a team partner at the start of this year.

Daimler chairman Ola Källenius, “We are delighted to welcome INEOS to our Formula One joint venture as a fellow shareholder. It is a sign of the strength of the organization in Brackley that we have been able to attract prestigious investors in INEOS, who see real potential for the future growth and development of the team.”

“We remain firmly committed to Formula One, and the forthcoming cost cap along with the new shareholding structure put us in an even stronger position for continued success.”

Källenius says that it was a sign of strength in the team to attract an investor like INEOS who sees potential in the future growth and development of the team. He also says that Daimler remains fully committed to F1, with the new regulations putting them in an even stronger position for continued success.

Mercedes will continue to own the entry with the FIA, with the team officially being entered as ‘Mercedes Benz Grand Prix Limited.’

Perez announced as Red Bull driver

Red Bull has announced that Sergio Perez will join the team next season, replacing Alex Albon. News of the Mexican’s arrival at the team began on Thursday with formal confirmation coming on Friday, he will partner Max Verstappen with Albon becoming test and reserve driver.

For Red Bull, it’s the first time they have chosen a driver from outside its own pool since Mark Webber who joined from Williams in 2007. Perez’s announcement affectedly means that all the drivers have been confirmed for 2021, with Lewis Hamilton expected to sign a new deal with Mercedes in the coming days.

Perez was dropped by Racing Point, which becomes Aston Martin next year, in September when they signed Sebastian Vettel. 2020 was Perez’s best season in F1 he took his maiden win Sakhir a fortnight ago and finished fourth in the championship.

Perez’s options became limited as Alfa Romeo and Haas took Ferrari young drivers, while Williams confirmed Nicolas Latifi and Mercedes driver George Russell.

The Mexican’s performance coincided with Albon’s struggles at Red Bull, he failed to consistently match Verstappen who scored double the number of points. Red Bull said repeatedly that it wanted to give Albon as much time as possible to claim the seat, postponing a decision until after the end of the season.

Perez returns to one of the big teams seven years after leaving McLaren after a single season. His time at McLaren where he replaced Lewis Hamilton, he struggled with consistency as the team began its decline and was dropped after a single season.

His career had appeared in jeopardy at that early stage but he was rescued by what was Force India, where he stayed for the next seven seasons, rebuilding his reputation.

He was key from saving the team from collapse in 2018, throughout his time with Force India / Racing Point Perez proved to be a consistent a points scorer and fast.

Despite missing two races this season after testing positive for coronavirus he finished fourth in the driver’s championship, including his incredible maiden win in Bahrain when he had been last on lap one.


Williams appoint Capito as CEO

Jost Capito has been appointed as the new CEO of William Group from February 2021. The sixty-two-year-old is widely respected and experienced motorsport manager, his most recent position in F1 was as CEO of McLaren Racing.

Capito was with McLaren for five months in 2017 before becoming a casualty of the coup which removed Ron Dennis as chairman. Capito has previously led motorsport programmes for Porsche, Ford and VW.

He said joining Williams was “a great honour during these exciting times for both the team and F1”.

Williams also confirmed Simon Roberts’ appointment as team principal. Roberts was appointed acting team boss when the Williams family stepped away from the team in September.

The Williams family sold the team to the US investment group Dorilton Capital in September.

Dorilton chairman Matthew Savage said: “Jost is an experienced and competitive individual, who has built winning teams and is a winner in his own right. He understands the Williams heritage and will work well with the team in pursuit of our objective to return to the front of the grid.”

Capito carer has been varied, a former motorbike racer who won the truck category of the 1985 Paris-Dakar, he then joined BMW, then managed Porsche’s motorsport division from 1989 before moving to the Sauber F1 team in 1996 as part of their executive committee.

He was Ford’s director of motorsport between 2011-12, overseeing the F1 and world rally championship winning titles in 2006-07. Capito then added four further titles with Volkswagen between 2013-2018 and then joined McLaren briefly.


Vettel and Leclerc’s goodbye messages

Sebastian Vettel has told Charles Leclerc that he thinks he is ‘the most talented driver’ he has seen since he started racing in Formula One. The two are going there sperate ways as 2020 has finished with Leclerc being joined by Carlos Sainz

The pair swapped helmets following last weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, each writing messages to each other. Vettel wrote “To Charles. You are the most talented driver I came across in 15 years of F1. Don’t waste it. But be sure whatever you do, to be happy and smile.”

Leclerc admitted that the pair had a difficult relationship, and admitted he had been slightly intimidated at first about being his teammate.

Leclerc told Vettel, “We’ve had very good moments on track, also others that were less good, but now we can probably say they are very good memories and funny memories to look back on.”

“But thanks for just being who you are. The way you welcomed me into the team, when I arrived. It was not easy. I mean, it’s a huge team. I had you as a teammate, too.”

“I think you know how intimidated I was to be next to a four-time world champion when I arrived in Ferrari. And you welcomed me in the best way possible. I really, really enjoyed being your teammate for two years, and I just wish you the best for the future.”

FIA signs off on 2021 calendar

The FIA has signed off on the 2021 calendar featuring twenty-three races, subject to the coronavirus pandemic. The season is due to begin a week later than the original 2020 calendar in Melbourne on 19 – 21 March and finishing a week later in Abu Dhabi 04 – 06 December.

The only date TBC is the Vietnamese Grand Prix on 23 – 25 April, the race hasn’t been formally cancelled but local issues means it is likely to be cancelled. The Portuguese Grand Prix will likely fill that slot or one of the other circuits which filled the second half of the season.

Portimão the leading candidate, along with Imola which held that spot between 1981-2006 and Istanbul Park.

Saudi Arabia will make its debut on 26 – 28 November.

The biggest change from the original 2020 calendar is the moving of the Dutch Grand Prix from the spring to 03 – 05 September, where it follows a week after the neighbouring Belgian event.

Zandvoort had been due to open the European season in May as it returned for the first time since 1985 this April but was a casualty of the pandemic.


FIA adjusts tyre rule following Russell mix up

The FIA has adjusted the sporting regulations around related to tyre usage that meant George Russell risked being disqualified from the Sakhir Grand Prix after being fitted with Valtteri Bottas’s tyres.

During Russell’s second stop he was accidentally fitted with Bottas’s front two tyres, forcing him to make an extra pit stop. Mercedes brought Russell in on the next lap to move him back onto a set of his own tyres but sparked a stewards’ investigation for mixing up tyre sets.

The team was fine €20,000 after the stewards accepted the mitigating circumstances, the team cited a radio issue,  and that it moved to rectify the mistake as quickly as possible. The stewards also referred the matter to the World Motorsport Council.

On Thursday an amendment was made to the sporting regulations to clear up what happens if the situation arises again.

It now reads, “Any driver who uses a set of tyres of differing specifications or tyres not allocated to him during the race may not cross the line on the track more than twice before returning to the pits and changing them for a set of tyres of the same specification.”

It also states that any driver who doesn’t do this within three laps will be handed a ten-second stop and go penalty. Russell had risked disqualification.

Another amendment was added, one introduced because of the pandemic. Pirelli will continue to supply a standard amount of tyres to teams for each race, moving away from the custom selections that were previously on offer before 2020.

Teams will be supplied two sets of hards, three mediums and eight softs per race weekend.

Due to the increased number of races the window that a race can take no more than three hours to complete.

In practice, this means that a race cannot exceed two hours within a three-hour window, for example, a race starting at 15:10 will run for two hours, if a red flag is shown the race cannot then exceed three hours plus one lap regardless of how many laps remain. Meaning it must finish by 18:10.

The four-hour rule was introduced in 2012, following the 2011 Canadian Grand Prix which was red-flagged for two hours due to a rainstorm, that race took just over four hours.


Interlagos signs a five-year deal

Interlagos has signed a new five-year deal to host the Sao Paulo Grand Prix until 2025. The race has been renamed because of the investment by the city in the race from the promoter of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The announcement means plans backed by Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro to move the country’s Grand Prix to a new circuit in Rio de Janeiro. The plan to move the race to Rio had be criticised by environmental groups.

The plan for a new track in the Deodoro region of Rio has hit problems because it required the felling of a patch of forest. Permission to cut down the trees has not been forthcoming from the authorities in the city and the plan became shrouded in controversy after campaigners – including world champion Lewis Hamilton – opposed it.

The new promoter Brasil Motorsport is controlled by Mubadala which also runs the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The deal secures Interlagos future in F1, the first championship Grand Prix was in 1972 after a spell at Jacarepagua in Rio Interlagos has been the permeant home since 1990.

This year’s race was cancelled because of the Coronavirus pandemic, which has hit Brazil and Sao Paulo hard.

Outgoing F1 CEO and chairman Chase Carey said: “Brazil is a very important market for Formula 1 with devoted fans and a long history in the sport. The race in Brazil has always been a highlight for our fans, the drivers and our partners and we look forward to providing Formula 1 fans with an exciting race at Interlagos in 2021 and over the next five years.”

Sao Paulo mayor Bruno Covas said: “It is a great joy to be able to announce that Interlagos will continue to host one of the most important events in world motorsports. We made a tremendous effort to keep the race in our city.”

Interlagos is one of the most historic venues on the calendar, first holding Grand Prix as non-championship race in 1971 before holding it until 1980. It then became the permeant home since 1990, although this year’s race was cancelled, it has held races every year since.

Interlagos has not been without problems, with crime a major concern for several years after F1 personnel were repeatedly targeted for robberies at gun point.


Austin names first corner

The Circuit of the Americas has named the opening corner of its Formula One track ‘Big Red’ in honour of the circuit’s co-founder Red McCombs.

McCombs was one of the investors in building COTA between 2010-12. The naming ceremony took place at the circuit on Thursday, with the unveiling of the words ‘Big Red’ painted large in the run-off area.

No other part of the circuit has official corner names, but sections of the track are referred to the corners which inspired them. Such as Maggots and Becketts, The Senna S, the Red Bull Rings former Sebring-Auspuffkurve and Hockenheim’s Mercedes Arena and Hairpin.


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