Hockenheim ramps up talks over race
Organisers of a German Grand Prix say that talks with Liberty Media about it joining the F1 calendar have accelerated in the wake of fresh doubt about the fate of the British Grand Prix.
The race has been put in doubt after the British government looking likely to not grant F1 personnel an exemption to imminent quarantine restrictions. If F1’s final efforts to the UK government are unsuccessful, then there will be no chance of the race going ahead if personnel have to stay in isolation for fourteen days beforehand.
The uncertainties around Silverstone has resulted in Hockenheim emerging ass the favourite to replace the circuit, should talks fail with the government.
In recent weeks, the circuit having had preliminary discussions over recent weeks. Hockenheim managing director Jorn Teske has now told Motorsport.com that talks with Liberty had recently stepped up and were now focusing on practical matters.
Teske said, “It is indeed true that we are still in ongoing talks with Formula One. We’ve moved from a casual conversation mode to a mode of sounding things out.”
“We are sounding out under which conditions such a thing could be possible – [such as] the approval situation, infection situation, track availability. And, of course, economics. These are all important issues.”
Teske says the standoff between Silverstone, Liberty Media and the UK Government has boosted Hockenheim’s hopes of being back on the F1 calendar, but he was clear that its fate was not dependent on Silverstone not happening.
Adding, “It does indeed look as if the political decision on the subject of quarantine exemptions in England could have an impact on the European racing calendar and therefore on us. However, this does not necessarily mean that we will automatically be out of the race if the British Grand Prix takes place.”
A decision from the British government on whether or not F1 and other top-level sports will be granted exemptions from quarantine plans is expected before the end of this week.
GPDA keen to help a return to racing
GPDA director Romain Grosjean says the trade union of Formula One drivers is keen to help the sport return to racing as soon as is practical. F1 officials working on a July start to the campaign with a double header under strict safety measures and regular testing for COVID-19 in Austria.
Haas driver Grosjean says the grid’s drivers were in regular contact and had recently been briefed by plans by the sport’s officials. Speaking on Sky Sports, the Frenchman said, “We have got a WhatsApp group and it has been very active, I must say. A lot of discussions on different subjects.
“We had a call with F1, Chase Carey and Ross [Brawn]. I just couldn’t make the call, but I know Alex [Wurz, GPDA chairman] and Sebastian [Vettel, GPDA director] were on it, and then I got the feedback.”
“We are trying to be as much as we can involved; trying to help the best we can because to help the teams we need to go racing earlier than later.”
Grosjean says that everyone is doing there best to get measures in place so Austria can go ahead.
“Taking a lot of measures and trying to make sure that everything is great. But maybe in July, the world will be in a much better place and actually, we can ease things up a little bit. As I said, the earlier we can go racing the better.”
Red Bull can’t have two alphas – Horner
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes having two “alpha males” driving for Red Bull in Formula One would not be “conducive” for the team, ruling out once again return for Sebastian Vettel.
Last week, the German announced he would be leaving Ferrari at the end of the 2020 season after talks over a new contract broke down. This paved the way for Carlos Sainz to be signed as Vettel’s replacement, with Daniel Ricciardo taking Sainz’s place at McLaren for next year.
Vettel now faces an uncertain future, which means a retirement a possibility. He won all four of his titles with Red Bull and has remained on good terms with the team. Vettel won all four of his world titles with Red Bull in 2010-13 before leaving at the end of the 2014 season but has remained on good terms with the team.
But Horner said he did not see a scenario where Vettel could return next year, saying that having two drivers expecting to lead the team rarely ended well. He told Sky Sports, “I think it’s enormously unlikely. We have a long-term agreement with Max [Verstappen].”
“Alex [Albon] 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.”
Vettel’s options appear limited and there are no options to join a front-running F1 team for 2021, with a move to join Mercedes alongside Lewis Hamilton seeming highly 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 still very competitive. That’s entirely down to him, and nobody will know that apart from Sebastian what his choices are.”
Horner says Vettel has strong values and integrity, so he believes the German has strong values and integrity, which he believes means he will have thought long and hard about this.
Longer career possible due to the long break – Ricciardo
Daniel Ricciardo believes that the extended winter break caused by the Coronavirus pandemic could help him have a longer Formula One career. The opening ten races of the season have been either cancelled or rearranged due to the pandemic, the hope of it beginning in Austria in July.
Should that plan go ahead it would mean the drivers would have been out of action for over seven months since the 2019 season finale in Abu Dhabi, only interrupted by two days post-season testing in December and six days of pre-season testing in February.
Ricciardo has been spending lockdown at his family farm in Australia with his trainer, Michael Italiano, and hoped by making good use of the additional time to work on his physical condition he can extend his F1 career.
Ricciardo, who was announced last week as a McLaren driver for 2021, told BBC News, “We’ve been able to knuckle down and set up a real training programme that we never really get. You get it at the start of the year, but once you get back to Europe and the travelling starts, it’s so hard to get any routine and consistency.”
“Where now we’ve been able to build like an eight-week block as we’d call it, and starting to see some really good improvements. It’s just nice to have that time.”
“I think part of it is the training, and being able to have this amount to condition my body, and I think the icing on the cake of that as well has been we haven’t been jumping timezones.”
He thinks that the benefits are going to be really nice, but it was important to maximise, which may allow him to have more longevity in my career.”
Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton recently said he had considered taking a break from F1 to rest his mind and body but was now enjoying the current “part-sabbatical”.
Ricciardo explained how fans may form misconceptions about the number of time drivers have to train, particularly when there are back-to-back European races.
Ricciardo said, “Probably everyone thinks Monday you’re back in the gym and you’re training Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, then you get to the track and whatever. But back-to-back is a little bit of conservation mode as well.”
“You want to be fresh for both weekends, so a Monday would look like a rest day, no real strenuous training, you might do some stretching or like a yoga type of day.”
Norris enjoying antisocial life
McLaren’s Lando Norris is enjoying an antisocial life in isolation as his “worst nightmare” is interacting with large groups of people or strangers. The Englishman’s laid bake approach and brilliant debut season has seen him become one of the drivers
Since the aborted Australian Grand Prix, Norris has grown in popularity and is relishing his time in lockdown away from the usual attention he would receive as an F1 driver.
Speaking on the In the Pink podcast, Norris said: “Obviously I have laughs and stuff. It does come across that way on TV, not because it’s not something I am because when it’s me and Carlos [Sainz, his McLaren teammate] joking about and having laughs, that I love doing as well.
“But then I hate the crowds, not the [F1] crowds, I love the fans and everything of course, but I hate big groups of people. My worst nightmare is dinners and having to sit next to someone and getting forced to speak to them.”
He says that he is quite the opposite to the character we normally see in the paddock.
Looking ahead towards this season, he admitted he needs to take a more serious approach to racing for his sophomore season. The Englishman is prominent on social media and streaming service Twitch, where he has set record-breaking esports numbers during the coronavirus pandemic.
Saying “I just enjoy spending time alone and doing things that I love to do. So if I was at home, say, I would still spend the whole day in my room painting or designing or something like that.”
Norris says it’s not being away from everyone else, it’s the fact he is enjoying designing or playing on my simulator or chatting with my friends or something.
Adding, “As long as I still get to do the things that I love to do and like to do then I’m happy so it doesn’t really matter where I am in the world. If I still get to do those things, then I’m still happy with what’s going on.”
US arrests soldier over Ghosn escape from Japan
United States authorities have arrested a former special forces soldier and his son for allegedly helping former Renault boss Carlos Ghosn flee Japan last December.
Former Green Beret Michael Taylor, 59, and his son Peter, 26, were detained in Massachusetts on Wednesday. Japanese prosecutors issued warrants for their arrest in January.
Mr Ghosn, who was detained in Japan on charges of financial misconduct in 2018, made a dramatic escape from house arrest last year. He denies the charges against him.
Despite being monitored 24 hours a day, on 29 December he managed to fly to Beirut, Lebanon, via Turkey. How the Taylors are involved in the escape are unclear. But Japanese prosecutors have said the two were in Japan at the time and helped Mr Ghosn evade security checks as he left.
Earlier this month prosecutors in Turkey charged seven people over the escape. The suspects – four pilots, two flight attendants, and an airline executive – are also accused of helping Mr Ghosn flee.
Ghosn denies the charges of misreporting his compensation package but has insisted he can never get a fair hearing in Japan. Since his arrival in Lebanon, he has told reporters he was a “hostage” in Japan, where he was left with a choice between dying there or running.
Hamilton reflect on Lauda a year after his death
One year on from the death of Niki Lauda, Lewis Hamilton has recalled his first meeting with the three-time champion. The three-time champion played a key role in bringing Hamilton to Mercedes, he described the Austrian as having a “huge impact” on him – while also reflecting on an emotional 2019 Monaco GP.
The three-time F1 champion Lauda, who passed away just before last year’s Monte Carlo race at the age of 70. Known for his on-track speed as well as bravery during a remarkable career, while he was also instrumental in bringing Hamilton to Mercedes as the team’s Executive Chairman.
In a video realised by Mercedes, Hamilton said “Niki is someone who I miss and who I think we all miss dearly. It is a difficult subject to talk about; someone you are so fond of and someone that ultimately the world has lost but I have only the greatest memories with Niki.”
“Probably the most fond memories I have are from my first conversations. We started talking some time in 2012 and I just remember being home during the day, having a call from Niki and he is trying to convince me to come to the team.”
Hamilton says to have the support of someone like Lauda demanded a huge amount of mutual respect, sometimes he didn’t feel valued as a driver.
Adding “Then we sat together in Singapore, he came to my room and we had a good conversation and I think that was the time when Niki was like, ‘Oh my god, you are just like me in so many ways. We have actually a lot more in common than I anticipated and assumed’.
“Probably he would have thought to himself: ‘Actually I shouldn’t jump to conclusion about people necessarily’. From then on, we had a really great relationship.”
He says Lauda always pushed him to improve and learn, believing that was the way to lead a team. Hamilton then referenced Lauda as one of his main influences during his trophy-laden career.
Adding “I feel really so privileged of having the incredible amount of time that I got to spend with this guy and for the laughs. I look at Niki as an incredible supportive role model – such as Ron [Dennis, McLaren boss] – and in the second phase of my career Niki. Two people who have had huge impacts in my career.”