F1 still exploring exemption from quarantine measures
Silverstone boss Stuart Pringle says he “remains optimistic” that the British Grand Prix will be able to take place this summer. The British interior minister Priti Patel on Friday confirmed government plans for a fourteen-day quarantine for travellers arriving in the UK from June 8.
Sky Sports says it understands that the government will continue to explore special solutions for elite sports, including Formula One. Under strict and extensive ‘biosphere’ conditions with the testing of personnel for Coronavirus every two days and using charter aircraft.
F1 has been working on a plan to start the season with two races in Austria the start of July before heading to Silverstone at the end of that month for two more events at the Northamptonshire track.
Pringle says he is confident F1 can prove its personnel can enter the UK safely without the need for quarantine. He told Sky Sports, “It’s a very complex sport to get going because it’s a global championship with a huge logistical tail. So Formula One does need to know that it can set off on its global travel and be able to come in and out of its home base.”
“I am very clear that the importance of the industry is understood by government. I remain very optimistic that they will find a way. I’m very, very conscious that it’s extremely complicated drafting these things and working up against ever-moving deadlines – it’s not a task I’d wish to undertake.”
Pringle still is optimistic that a sensible and pragmatic solution can be found, and “100% confident” that the procedures put in place would be deemed sufficient to run the event, adding: “They have already got a highly-developed set of procedures in place.”
Although it is already confirmed that the planned events would run without fans in attendance. Pringle said the significance of the British GP was about more than just about sport, with seven of F1’s 10 teams based in the UK.
He said “This isn’t just ninety minutes of an exciting sporting race. This is about getting an industry back to work This is about forty-plus thousand’s people’s livelihoods being ignited.”
Budapest could hold a doubleheader
Hungary could be holding the second doubleheader of the season, with the British government expected to confirm at today’s daily briefing that F1 will not get the exemption it had lobbied for.
The measures are/include visitors and returning residents to give an address where they will self-isolate. Spot checks will then be made, and offenders will reportedly subject to a fine of £1000. Only special cases, such as truck drivers, will be exempt.
The quarantine restrictions will be reviewed every three weeks, which could see a change in policy and the possibility of an airbridge between Spielberg and Silverstone being created.
The intention was for the season to begin in Austria on July 5 and 12, followed by races at Silverstone on July 26 and August 5. The plan now is to have at least one and possibly two events immediately after Austria so that UK personnel stay out for up to a month, before self-isolating at home before the next trip.
Hockenheim remains favourite to follow Austria, but Hungary is now in the frame as an alternative second venue, which would mean a race on July 19 and possibly another the following week.
That would be followed by a break of one or two weekends, which would see UK personnel self-isolate, before a second round trip that would start at Hockenheim.
The F1 European season is dependant on restrictions being lifted or exemption from various restrictions designed to stop the spread of Coronavirus.
One team insider told Motorsport.com: “It’s all still very much up in the air. The one thing that is very clear is all that teams want to start racing and will do whatever is necessary, including a quadruple-header and even being on the road for a couple of months, if that’s what it takes. As long as it’s safe to do so.”
F1 had hoped to gain an exemption for travelling personnel, especially as they would be carrying evidence of negative COVID-19 tests as part of the requirement for the season restarting.
Despite support earlier in the week from the secretary state for digital, culture, media and sport, Oliver Dowden, the definitive government position is that exemptions for sport would lead to complaints from other business and industries.
Austin says large events unlikely this year
The United States Grand Prix is the latest race to be thrown into doubt because of coronavirus after Austin’s senior public health official says that large events are unlikely to take place in the Texan city before the end of the year.
The Texan capital is now operating to Stage 3 of its reopening plan after an initial lockdown, which allows groups of up to 10 “low risk” people to gather. That status would have to move to Stage 1 before major events are even considered.
The Circuit of the Americas remains closed, although it hosted a charity event earlier this month when members of the public were allowed to pay to drive a lap of the circuit.
Acting medical director Mark Escott and the health authority for Austin Public Health stressed that allowing large gatherings is not a priority.
He told the Austin-Statesman, “The large events are the first thing that we turned off and are going to be the last thing we’re going to turn back on because of that risk of exposing lots of people to one another, particularly individuals of the same household.”
He says that is the incentive for us to work hard at that social distancing, and ensuring people stay at home so they can get a handle on the crisis.
Aside from the local regulations, COTA is in a difficult situation because its race-hosting fee is underwritten by the Texas State Major Events Trust Fund programme, on the basis that race visitors bring money to the city, and pay local taxes.
That means even if a race held behind closed doors with no fans is allowed by the local authorities, it would almost certainly not be eligible for the state funding.
COTA boss Bobby Epstein would not elaborate on the current prospects for the race. He told Motorsport.com, “I really can’t comment. But right now, the law prohibits gatherings of any significant size, and our business is not allowed to open.”
Eight drivers to take part in Monaco Virtual GP
Valtteri Bottas and Esteban Ocon will make their F1 eSports debut on Sunday in the Monaco Virtual Grand Prix. The announcement means that eight drivers will be taking part in the race.
This includes Bottas and Ocon, both of whom have yet to make any formal eSports appearances during the current break enforced by the Coronavirus pandemic. Ocon has been involved in several events on the Gran Turismo Sport platform in recent weeks, working with Renault’s eSports partner, Team Vitality.
The Frenchman will race alongside ex-Renault Formula E driver Nicolas Prost in the Virtual Monaco Grand Prix. Regular participants Alexander Albon, Charles Leclerc, Antonio Giovinazzi, George Russell, Nicholas Latifi and Lando Norris are all confirmed to return for the Monaco race, along with other stars from the sporting world.
Other sports stars include footballers Pierre-Emerick Anbameyang who will partner Norris, with Thibaut Courtois joins Giovinazzi at Alfa Romeo. International surfing star Kai Lenny and Latin American singer Luis Fonsi will also make their Virtual GP debuts.
F1 head of eSports Julian Tan said, “The Virtual Grand Prix series has proven to be a fantastic live spectacle with over 20m viewers to date, providing fans with some racing entertainment during these challenging times.”
“We are delighted to announce our strongest line-up of current F1 drivers alongside a star-studded list of global talent from the worlds of sport and entertainment, as we all stand together to put on great racing entertainment around the historic streets of Monaco, virtually.”
Crutch meeting for financial future
New rules designed to secure the future of Formula One including an aero development handicap system and the use of open-source parts in F1 could be approved later on Friday. As part of measures to reduce cost in response to the coronavirus and the financial fallout.
In recent weeks, the teams have been working on the reduction in the budget cap, other regulations aimed at improving the sport have formed part of a ‘New Deal’ that has been championed by FIA president Jean Todt. The raft of rule tweaks will cover chassis and engine rules, sporting regulations as well as the wider spending limits.
The teams are set to vote at the next week on whether they support the lowering of the cap, from $175m to $145m next year and then a three-year reduction of $5m.
The fight over the level of the budget cap has been intense, with Ferrari in particular resistant to calls to radically slash the limit because of the impact it would have on its staff, with it fearing it could be forced to make mass redundancies.
Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said recently that the $145 million limit was as low as his team would like to go. He told The Guardian “The $145m level is already a new and demanding request compared to what was set out last June.”
“It cannot be attained without further significant sacrifices, especially in terms of our human resources. If it was to get even lower, we would not want to be put in a position of having to look at other further options for deploying our racing DNA.”
Teams like McLaren wanted a lower budget cap, the future glide path plan looks set to be a compromise that most teams can accept.
Beyond the budget caps, the team are also set to vote on a range of other rules tweaks to reduce costs, including potential for tokens on chassis developments.
There is also a proposal for a radical aero development handicap system, this would allow the smaller teams are allowed more wind tunnel and CFD development time compared to the more successful outfits.
In the past the sport has stayed away from more obvious handicap systems such as success ballast, it is understood that the aerodynamic development plan has gathered support as it is felt to be much less artificial.
Teams will also be asked to back the idea of the use of open-source parts in F1, where the designs of standard type items like steering columns and pedals are shared so smaller teams can save research and development costs.
F1 will be in a good place – Brawn
Formula One’s motorsport and technical managing director Ross Brawn believes F1 will be in a “great place” in six months and says holding onto good memories is key to staying motivated for its comeback.
Brawn has faced one of the most challenging few months in his long and varied career as he helps to plot the recovery of the sport from the coronavirus. Speaking to Autosport, after being voted as F1’s best technical director in a video series creating the sport’s Greatest F1 Team, Brawn said he was boosted by the accolade and said it had fired him up for the future.
He said, “I just want to thank everyone for this tremendous accolade of the award for technical director. It’s something that means a lot to me. It is very special. I think these very difficult times we’re facing at the moment.”
“It’s great to remember the fantastic times that we’ve had in Formula 1, and indeed the fantastic times we’re going to have in the future. It gives us inspiration to find our way through these difficult times. F1 was in a great place six months ago, and it’s going to be in a great place in another six months.”
Any team lucky to have Vettel – Todt
FIA president Jean Todt says any Formula One team would be “very lucky” to Sebastian Vettel in their line-up for 2021. The German will leave Ferrari at the end of the season, with his options of a front-running drive already appear very limited.
However, Todt, Ferrari’s most successful team boss of all time, believes the German should not be written off. Todt told Sky Sports, “Sebastian Vettel is one of the greatest talents in motorsport.
“An announcement has been made that he will not drive for the team beyond 2020. There are a lot of other opportunities. We can only wish him the best and I mean that. Whoever will take him will be very lucky,” he added.
The ideas of a move to McLaren were quickly quashed when the Woking team signed Daniel Ricciardo to replace the Ferrari-bound Carlos Sainz. While Mercedes and Red Bull have also ruled out signing Vettel with Christian Horner saying “enormously unlikely” they will pair the German with Max Verstappen.
While any prospect of Mercedes teaming Lewis Hamilton up with Vettel also appears remote. Renault will need to replace Ricciardo, but Fernando Alonso and others are in the frame there too.
Although only in his early-mid 30s, Vettel could also conceivably walk away from the sport for either a break or for good.
Leclerc to start in a controversial driving movie
Charles Leclerc could be set for a starring role in a remake of the controversial driving short movie ‘C’etait un Rendezvous’, with filming set to take place this weekend.
According to French media, the roads of Monaco will be shut for several hours on Sunday morning to allow Leclerc to help film scenes from a new project being put together by legendary director Claude Lelouch. The city’s government has confirmed roads will be closed to motorised and pedestrian traffic between 6.45am and 9am on the morning when the Monaco GP was supposed to take place.
Lelouch shot to fame in 1976 when he released a short movie that captured a high-speed drive across Paris. The nine-minute sequence across the French capital was shot in one take, using a camera that was strapped to the front of Lelouch’s own Mercedes 450 SEL.
Beginning in Porte Dauphine, and featuring some close calls as the car tops 145mph at times through the city streets, the film ends with the driver meeting his girlfriend at the famous Sacre Coeur basilica.
The Parisian authorities are not impressed with what had happened. A request to shut the streets of Paris for filming had been refused, but Lelouch went ahead anyway early one Sunday morning.