F1 needs exemptions from government
Formula One says it would be unable to hold a British Grand Prix if personnel are not given exemptions from plans to quarantine international travellers. The UK government will “soon” require all arrivals from abroad to self-isolate for fourteen days.
An F1 spokesman said: “A fourteen-day quarantine would make it impossible to have a British Grand Prix this year. Additionally, it has a major impact on literally tens of thousands of jobs linked to F1 and supply chains.” F1 had been hoping its own plans would exempt it from this and remain in discussions with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.
A DCMS spokesman said no decisions on exemptions had yet been reached. F1 has drawn up plans to ensure its races are coronavirus-safe as much as possible.
Teams will be kept apart from each other at the tracks, and stay in separate hotels, to which they will be driven in buses. Also, all personnel would be tested before travelling and every two days while at the races.
An F1 spokesman said, “We would be travelling back to the UK on F1-only occupied aircraft and all staff would be tested, making a quarantine totally unnecessary. If all elite sport is to return to TV, then exemptions must be provided.”
The government’s plans also threaten football’s attempts to revive the Champions League this summer.
According to a provisional calendar released last week, the season with two races in Austria on 5 and 12 would be able to go ahead, but the British races planned to follow on after that would have to be dropped.
They would be replaced by other races in Europe, with the teams returning to the UK for two weeks before travelling again, until the measures were eased by the British government.
The European leg of the championship is expected to be confirmed by the end of the month which is expected to run between July and mid-September, then head to Asia until November before a double header in Bahrain on 04 – 06 December and Abu Dhabi on 11 – 13 December.
FIA learned lessons from Melbourne
The FIA says they have learned from the season’s aborted opening event, so that Austria, unlike Australia, would go ahead even amid positive test for Coronavirus.
FIA President Jean Todt and the medical commission chairman Gerard Saillant believe they can avoid a repeat of what they considered “unpredictable” circumstances that caused Melbourne’s cancellation in March.
Todt told Sky Sports in a wide-ranging interview, “I think it is very unfair to attach blame to what happened in Australia. Things were moving so quickly. You know that 24 hours before the start of free practice there was no reason not to do the event.”
“The government was in favour of hosting the event and the organisers were also in favour; the promoter, the local motorsport federation, everybody was [in favour].” He says that in Melbourne the problems just got bigger and moments before practice when it became clear the event was not possible anymore.
Todt continues: “It happened in other parts of the world, in other events. One week after Australia, we were running the WRC Mexico Rally and then on Saturday, during the event, due to emotional pressure we decided to stop the rally early.”
“The day after, in France, were the mayoral elections. On Sunday there were the elections. On Monday all was stopped. That’s why I said It would be unfair to criticise [what happened in] Australia. It was just unpredictable.”
He said when we get to the first race, the aim was not to face the same unpredictable situation. A ‘biosphere’ has been outlined by the sport and social distancing enforced to stop teams interacting. Professor Saillant drew red lines, beyond which, continuing would be out of the question?
Saillant said “I think the situation is quite different between Melbourne and Austria now. The knowledge of the virus is quite different. It is possible to prevent and to anticipate a lot of things.”
“If we have one positive case, or maybe even 10, it is possible to manage perfectly with a special pathway for the positive case.
Riccardo convinced of McLaren’s prospects
McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown believes Daniel Ricciardo is now convinced of the team’s progress and future prospects, two years after turning them down. The team soon moved to sign the Australian when it became clear Carlos Sainz was going to Ferrari.
McLaren held talks with Ricciardo when the Australian was last in the final year of a contract two years ago, but the Australian instead chose to move to Renault from Red Bull. At the end of that 2018 season, Renault finished in a promising fourth place with nearly double the points of McLaren.
However, the team made a major step forwards last year to finish fourth in the constructors’ championship. Also have made changes to the structure and technical team, as well as returning to Mercedes engines for 2021. Brown believes these changes have to lead to Ricciardo buying into their long term plan.
He told Sky Sports, “Getting a Grand Prix winner like Daniel definitely is a sign we’ve going in the right direction. He believes in that. We went after him a couple of years ago before he made the decision not to join us.”
“I’ve talked to him about it since and he went ‘you were coming off a pretty poor season’ – which was putting it politely – ‘but also there was a lot of this is what we’re going to do to rebuild the team’.”
He says that Ricciardo was made promises by Renault and that he liked how McLaren was making changes to the set up of the team as well as going back to Mercedes engines. Brown believes that the team is moving in an upwards direction.
Speaking about the pairing with Lando Norris, Brown is excited by the impending arrival of a driver of Ricciardo’s stature, one of the grid’s most established and high-profile drivers.
“I think he’s definitely worth it otherwise we wouldn’t have done it. What’s been reported [on wages] is not accurate, but he is a very well paid driver. I think he’s worth it,” insisted Brown.
Greater F1 driver salary control – Abiteboul
Renault F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul says there needs to be a greater “rationale” from teams over driver salaries amid ongoing talks about making the sport more sustainable.
Over the last month teams have agreed to lower the budget cap to £130m as they expect the financial fall out from the Coronavirus pandemic. The cap originally had exempted drivers salaries despite some wanting them to be included.
Abiteboul has confirmed that discussions over driver salaries are part of the ongoing talks between the teams regarding cost control, which many are hopeful of resolving shortly. However, admitted there were legal issues given the individual driver contracts and the length of their deals, he felt it was important for F1’s future to get them under control in the budget cap era.
Abiteboul said on Sky Sports, “It’s part of the debate, part of what’s on the table, [but has] an additional complexity of legality, because we need to make sure that it’s legal, in the sense that we need to make sure that it’s forceable.”
“Also, the extra complexity that you have some drivers that have already very long-term contracts – so congratulations to Max [Verstappen] in that respect.” He said that they needed to make exceptions for systems that will be healthy.
Abiteboul says that a bit of rationale on driver salary when several people are going to be made redundant.
Ricciardo is understood to be one of the highest-paid drivers on the grid, having left Red Bull for Renault at the end of 2018.
Odiham becomes base for project pit lane
RAF Odiham is to become the base for the consortium of Formula One teams who are building ventilators for the NHS, according to local media. The teams have been making the medical devices for the health service since the start of the outbreak.
The medical ventilator trolleys manufactured by the F1 teams are then stored at the helicopter base at RAF Odiham before they undergo further work at the Surface Technology International (STI) production facility in Hook.
This support from the RAF is part of the ongoing Military Aid to Civil Authorities. The seven UK teams working under the ‘Project Pitlane’ banner have been joined by Airbus, Ford, GKN and Smiths amongst others.
RAF Odiham is providing secure storage and 24/7 access with the items stored on DHL articulated trailers before moving forward to Hook at a rate of up to two trailers per day.
Mark Norris, the Race Operations Director (Marketing) for McLaren said: “McLaren is immensely grateful to the Royal Air Force and all the staff at RAF Odiham and everyone at DHL who have been helping us support the critical management of logistics with the Ventilator Challenge UK consortium.”
“The enthusiasm and assistance from everyone involved has been amazing and the assistance from RAF Odiham will play a key role in the project’s mission to support the NHS and help save lives.”
Vettel “enormously unlikely” to return to Red Bull
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes it is “enormously unlikely” Sebastian Vettel could return to Red Bull for the 2021 season but is confident the German is not short of options.
Last week, Vettel announced that he would be leaving Ferrari at the end of the 2020 season after talks over a new contract broke down. That paved the way for Carlos Sainz Jr. to be signed as Vettel’s replacement, with Daniel Ricciardo taking Sainz’s place at McLaren for next year.
The moves have left Vettel facing an uncertain future in F1, making retirement a possibility. Vettel won all four of his titles with Red Bull before leaving for Ferrari.
Horner said he did not see a scenario where Vettel could return to the team next year, echoing comments made by Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko and preaching his faith in current drivers Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon.
Horner said on Sky Sports, “I think it’s enormously unlikely. We have a long-term agreement with Max. Alex is doing a good job. We’ve got a good dynamic within the team.”
“Experience shows that two alpha males, it doesn’t tend to pan out well. Sebastian is still a very competitive Grand Prix driver. I don’t think it would be conducive for our team to have two alphas.”
Horner says the team is happy with the driver line up at the moment, but Vettel does have options going forward. However, options at a front running F1 team for Vettel appear unlikely.
Renault has a vacant seat following Ricciardo’s switch to McLaren, but the team has previously said it is keen to get one of its young driver academy members on the grid by 2021.
Asked if he thought it was possible Vettel would retire altogether from F1, Horner said: “That ultimately is his choice. He’s still relatively young, he’s in his early 30s. If he chose to stay, he’s obviously still very competitive.
“That’s entirely down to him, and nobody will know that apart from Sebastian what his choices are. He’s got strong values, he’s got strong integrity, and I’m sure he will have thought long and hard about this.
Monaco outlines plans for 2021
Organisers of the Monaco Grand Prix have outlined plans to host three events, the F1 Grand Prix, Formula E and the Historic Grand Prix next year, following the cancellation of both the Historic Grand Prix and the F1 race this year as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The Automobile Club de Monaco has moved quickly to set out its plans for next year. Since 2015 the Historic Grand Prix and ePrix have alternated taking place a fortnight before.
Preparations for the races will be brought forward to late February to adjust to the new requirements following the pandemic. Christian Tornatore, the General Commissioner of the Automobile Club de Monaco said, “To organise three races in the space of one month will be a first for us all at ACM.”
“The logistical side promises to be complex, but not impossible to manage. Because of the new constraints, we shall need to start setting up the track earlier than usual, at the end of February, instead of 15 March.
“We will then integrate the technical aspects, on and around the track, required by every category that will be involved. In order to achieve this, we will count on the experience and flexibility of all the persons involved, in order to achieve our objectives.”
The statement seemed to suggest this was a one off move given the Coronavirus and that the ePrix and Historic Grand Prix would alternate yearly. Also announcing the 2022 Monaco Grand Prix should be the weekend 26-29 May.