Zhou takes victory in Bahrain
Chinese driver Guanyu Zhou took victory in the virtual Bahrain Grand Prix. The Renault driver overtook pole-sitter Philipp Eng in the Red Bull midway through the shortened 14-lap race.
The race featured a mix of current and former drivers, rising stars, and other celebrities as they raced against each other remotely on the F1 2019 PC game. Arranged by Formula One following the postponement of the race in Sakhir due to coronavirus.
The current and former drivers Lando Norris, Nicholas Latifi, Nico Hulkenberg, Johnny Herbert and Anthony Davidson taking on Olympic cycling legend Sir Chris Hoy, golfer Ian Poulter and singer-songwriter Liam Payne.
Mercedes reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne over took Eng late in the race to take second. Former F1 driver Herbert provided most of the drama, he crashed in qualifying started from sixteenth, and made a good start but was handed a penalty.
Esports regular Norris experienced technical problems of his own with his sim system at home, leaving the McLaren driver unable to take part in qualifying. The computer AI ‘bot then took over his car for the first part of the race as the problems persisted.
In the closing moments when he was in fourth, he had a dramatic collision Jimmy Broadbent sent the 20-year-old’s car into the barriers. However, hung on to fifth ahead of the Williams of Latifi.
McLaren switch Mercedes will go ahead in 2021
McLaren will continue with the move to Mercedes power units for 2021, despite the chassis freeze for next season. The coronavirus pandemic has to lead to the teams agreeing to hold off on the technical changes until the following year.
Furthermore, the current 2020-spec chassis and gearbox designs will be frozen into 2021 to further limit costs. This was expected to be a problematic scenario for McLaren, who had signed a deal to use Mercedes power plants to coincide with the now-postponed technical changes.
The team has moved to deny any speculation that it would not go ahead with its rekindled partnership with Mercedes. Speaking to F1.com, “We will be using the Mercedes engine in 2021 as planned and we will accommodate it in the current base chassis.”
The team currently uses Renault engines after signing a three-year deal in 2017, after an acrimonious split from Honda following a three-year spell of underperformance.
Although the initial season with Renault was poor, McLaren’s second year in partnership with them yielded vastly improved fortunes as the team secured fourth in the constructors’ championship.
Azerbaijan Grand Prix postponed
Organisers of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix have announced the opening race of the season has been postponed. The race was due to be the eighth race of the season, but last week became the opener. Now has also been postponed due to the Coronavirus.
In a statement, the Baku City Circuit said, “In coming to this conclusion, BCC’s primary concern throughout has been the health and well-being of the Azerbaijani people as well as all visiting F1 fans, staff and championship participants.”
“In coming to this conclusion, BCC’s primary concern throughout has been the health and well-being of the Azerbaijani people as well as all visiting F1 fans, staff and championship participants.”
“BCC shares its fans disappointment at not being able to experience the pinnacle of motorsport race through the streets of Baku this June. To that end, we will continue to work closely with Formula 1, the FIA and the Government of the Azerbaijan Republic to monitor the situation with a view to announcing a new race date later in the 2020 season.”
The announcement was expected as the outbreak continues. The race which will open the season expected to be the French Grand Prix, at the moment. The Canadian Grand Prix has not been cancelled/postponed, but overnight became the first country to withdraw from the Tokyo Olympic Games, which starts in July.
Hamilton in self-isolation
Lewis Hamilton has gone into self-isolation but says he healthy, after attending an event where other guest tested positive for the coronavirus.
The six-times champion attended an event in London also attended by Idris Elba and the spouse Canadian prime minster Sophie Trudeau who have tested positive for the virus.
The publicity associated with his attendance, Hamilton wanted to reassure fans that he has not been affected. He wrote on social media, “There’s been some speculation about my health after I was at an event where two people later tested positive for Coronavirus.”
“I wanted to let you know that I’m doing well, feeling healthy and working out twice a day. I have zero symptoms, and it’s now been 17 days since I saw Sophie and Idris. I have been in touch with Idris and [I’m] happy to hear he’s OK.”
He says that he is in contact with his doctor to see if he should be testing and he didn’t as he wasn’t showing symptoms. Hamilton has been in self-isolation since returning home from Melbourne, where he practiced social distancing.
He added: “The most important thing everyone can do is stay positive, social distance as best you can, self isolate if you need to, and regularly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.”
Verstappen pleased with Zandvoort
Max Verstappen says he is pleased that Zandvoort has managed to retain its old-school track characteristics despite undergoing renovations for the revival of the Dutch Grand Prix.
The circuit completed extensive redevelopment work over the last year ahead of its return this year were completed last month. That allowed Verstappen to complete a demonstration run in a 2012-spec Red Bull RB8 at the start of March.
Verstappen was able to sample the new banked corners at Turn 3 and Turn 14, designed to aid overtaking and allow drivers to take multiple lines. He told Autosport, “I think Turn 3 and the last corner, they look pretty impressive when you are going through the corner.”
“It looks really nice. They did a really good job in renovating the track. It was a lot of fun to drive already with a V8 car, so I think already with these cars, it will be even better.”
The circuit which should host the race later in the year remains tight and twisting, offering few obvious overtaking opportunities. But Verstappen did not see any issues with this, saying that as the old-school feel of the track had been retained, it would punish any errors made by drivers.
He added, “It’s the same at Monaco, or when you go to Suzuka, it’s also very old school and it’s not very wide. I don’t think that is a problem. I actually quite like it.”
“It’s better than having tarmac everywhere, and when you make a mistake you just run wide. It’s just going to depend a bit on whether we are able to overtake and stuff.”
Norris plans different helmets for every race
Lando Norris says he is planning to use a one-off helmet at every race this season after the FIA lifted the ban on design changes for 2020. Earlier this year the regulation saying that drivers were only allowed a one off change during the season.
However, the governing body announced before the cancelled Australian Grand Prix that it had removed the ruling. Norris has taken great interest in designing his helmet and race suit throughout his career but was limited to a blue and yellow colour scheme through last season.
The McLaren driver used one of his permitted changes to pay tribute to MotoGP star Valentino Rossi for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. Asked by Motorsport.com how he was planning to take advantage of the rule change, Norris said it was “one of the best things about this year”.
Adding, “I’m planning to hopefully try and have one new special every race. I have them all on my wall at home. They’re one thing I get to remember every race by, there’s something about them.”
“Now we can mix it up a bit more, and I can have some more exaggerated designs and more custom and colourful and stuff like that. I’ll still be keeping with the same concept of what I have because that’s still me.”
Norris says he wants to use the same basic outline of his current helmet based on L 4 N (His initials and race number), but adapt the colours to the country.
Norris said he was “a bit tight on time” to make a special helmet design for Melbourne after the ruling, opting to add some kangaroos to it.
Many drivers were planning to run special helmets in Melbourne which were due to auctioned off to aid relief efforts following the bushfires earlier in the year.
Paul Ricard 95% towards carbon neutrality
Paul Ricard boss Eric Boullier says the circuit is ninety-five per cent there to complete Formula One’s plan to be carbon neutral by 2030 in November as part of an increased environmental focus, as well as wishing to make all events “sustainable” by 2025.
the circuit was the second to be awarded the FIA’s Three-Star Environmental Accreditation in January, the highest level of recognition for sustainability programmes awarded by motor sport’s governing body.
Speaking to select media including Motorsport.com at the BHMSE conference in Baku, recently-appointed French Grand Prix managing director Boullier said Paul Ricard was “ahead of everybody” in F1 with its sustainability drive.
He said “I’m not saying this trying to help my ego or whatever. We recently had a forum with FOM and all the promoters, and we were presented this plan of sustainability they would like promoters to stick to and be ready for before 2030.”
Boullier says that they are looking to work towards three stars, by pushing for an electric park and ride services. They are looking at a way of collecting rainwater, following new laws to go plastic-free and monitoring the bees.
The former team principal believes that getting to ninety-five per cent is the easy part, the final five per cent was the most difficult and costly part.
One of the ideas from motorsport and technical managing director Ross Brawn was to build team hospitality units as they have at flyway races so that they don’t bring motorhomes to circuits. Boullier described it as a “good idea,” but warned the change would need time.