Renault Group committed “for eternity” – Meo
Renault Group CEO Luca de Meo says the French manufacturer is committed to F1 “for eternity”. Renault opted to rebrand its works F1 team as Alpine ahead of the 2021 season as part of a wider overhaul of the group’s brands and car companies.
The Alpine brand will make its F1 debut in Bahrain this weekend, the latest name for r the Enstone-based squad, which has served on-and-off as Renault’s works F1 team over the years. It is now the only team to race with Renault power units after the manufacturer’s final customer, McLaren, switched to Mercedes engines after last season.
De Meo who took over as Renault CEO last July has begun what has been described as a ‘Renaulution,’ made abundantly clear that F1 remained a core part of its image moving forward despite the push to cut costs.
de Meo told Motorsport.com, “For the commitment of Renault, it’s true that we went back and forth, but we have been always there, for 44 years, as an engine producer, or engine and chassis, with our brand.”
“I’m a car guy, so when I came to lead Renault, I said to myself, ‘I’m not going to be the one that is going to stop forty-four years of history of Renault. I’m not going to be that guy’.” He says as long as he is boss the F1 team doesn’t need to worry about its long term future, saying they need to create a profitable business model and image with Alpine being the background.
In the long term, Renault are looking to convert Alpine into its fully-electric performance road car brand in the future, with de Meo saying he sees the company as a mix of a “mini Ferrari” and a “mini Tesla”.
De Meo says he wanted to see Alpine like Ferrari, despite the push for electrification on the automotive side.
de Meo said, “At Ferrari, you take the Gestione Sportiva out, and Ferrari is a different thing – it’s the same [for Alpine]. It’s a mini Ferrari, and with all the humility, I have to say, but it’s a mix of a mini Ferrari and a mini Tesla because we’re going to propose electric cars to the consumer.
Williams appoints new technical director
Williams has announced that Francois-Xavier Demaison will join the team as technical director from Volkswagen. The announcement is the first appointment to the team by its new CEO Jost Capito, who joined from the German manufacturer last month.
Demaison, who was once chief engineer of the Subaru world rally team, will have overall responsibility for the technical side including design and aerodynamics and will report to Capito. The team has not had a formal technical director since the departure of Paddy Lowe in 2019.
Capito said, “Demaison, who was once also chief engineer of the Subaru world rally team, will have overall responsibility for the technical side including design and aerodynamics and will report to Capito.”
“I have seen his technical capabilities first-hand, and his sporting successes speak for themselves. I have no doubt that his knowledge will contribute to us taking another important step towards our ambitions of winning again
Demaison, said. “I am really looking forward to joining Williams Racing, as they begin an exciting journey to turn their performance around. It’s going to be a great challenge, but one that I am eager to start.”
0.“They have a great team of talented people, and I hope I can work with them and the senior management team to help carve out a direction for the future, to help the team achieve its ambitions.”
“Foolish” to underestimate Mercedes
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has warned it would be “foolish” to underestimate Mercedes’ powers of recovery for the start of the F1 season after a difficult pre-season test for the world champions. Meanwhile, Max Verstappen says the team are not the favourites going into this weekend.
The team’s performance in Bahrain last weekend is expected to translate into near parity or even a timesheet lead against Mercedes, F1’s dominant reigning champions of the past seven years, in Bahrain.
Mercedes had their worst test since the beginning of the hybrid era, suffering with balance issues and are believed to be behind Red Bull. However, speaking to Sky Sports Horner insists that “no one is getting too excited here at the moment” despite acknowledging that they enjoyed a successful first test with the new RB16B.
Saying “Mercedes’ test was probably a bit scrappy by their standards, but they are such a quality team it would be very foolish to underestimate them and their ability to bounce back. We saw that a couple of years ago where they looked to be underperforming in Barcelona [testing] and won very comfortably the first race in Australia.”
In the teams preview for this weekends race, Max Verstappen appeared cautious about reading too much into testing. He says that Mercedes has to be the favourites after winning seven titles in a row
Adding “I’m sure Mercedes also want people to think we are the favourites and put the pressure on us but we are just focused on ourselves. You can be sure that everyone in this team and at Honda is pushing to beat them and anyone else who may be quick this year.”
Verstappen says he sees every season as a new opportunity to be Mercedes but says it would be stupid to not expect a fight and believe the team are ahead. The Dutchman won the final Grand Prix of 2020. However Red Bull, despite four title doubles in 2010-13, have only once in their F1 history started a new campaign with a race victory, ten years ago in 2011.
Following the fast and reliable test in Bahrain, Red Bull are nonetheless feeling optimistic about their preparations for what they hope will be a sustained title challenge to Mercedes.
Alpha Tauri in better shape this year
Pierre Gasly believes that Alpha Tauri is in better shape than this much better shape than this time last year, saying “there are good reasons to be excited” for the 2021 season. The Frenchman was one of the stand out performers last year and took a surprise win at Monza.
Alpha Tauri’s 2020 car allowed Gasly and former teammate Daniil Kvyat to be firmly in the midfield mix, the pair scoring points seventeen times as the team finished seventh. Despite the limited developments for 2021, he believes that the team has made another step forward.
Last weekend in Sakhir testing his teammate Yuki Tsunoda set the second-fastest time, a tenth slower than Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, albeit with the help of extensive DRS usage.
Gasly said he hoped the excitement around Alpha Tauri is justified but warned that it was still too early to draw conclusions ahead of this weekend’s season opener at the same venue.
During testing in his press conference, the Frenchman said, “here are good reasons to be excited and I hope we’re going to be able to put on some strong performances early on in the season.”
“We have a good package, but I don’t want to draw any quick conclusions because things will be very different [during the race weekend]. At the moment we are just looking at ourselves. There are always things to improve but to be honest after three days we are a lot better than when we were at the same time last year in Barcelona. I’m really happy.”
Alpha Tauri’s s confidence has been boosted by an upgraded Honda engine, Gasly says the driveability has been perfect on all three days. While he did not want to get excited before qualifying but believes they can be in the fight for some good points.
Schumacher prepares for anticipated debut
Mick Schumacher makes one of the most anticipated Formula One debuts in history this weekend. The twenty-two-year old’s debut has long been seen as a question of when not if, the son of seven times champion Michael has had an impressive junior career.
Mick will have the eyes of the world on him this year like perhaps no other debutant in F1 ever has before. But if that adds weight as he embarks on the most difficult challenge of his life, you will not know it.
In an interview with the BBC broadcast on Monday, he was asked how he handles carrying the legacy of his father back into F1, he said, “It is motivation and pride. I am happy to be here; I am happy to have brought back the Schumacher name into F1.”
“I have done it with championships on my back so we have proven I am able to drive a race car. So I don’t feel a blink of pressure from it.” Schumacher seems optimistic ahead of a life long dream, and a journey full of possibilities.
Adding “It’s an amazing feeling being with the team and knowing this is it and I’m getting close to my first race in F1. I got my pass – you know, the proper red F1 pass – and I was like, ‘Woah!’”
“I remember seeing my dad having one and I was always, like, I wanted one, but obviously I didn’t get one. I have one now and it’s amazing and I am really looking forward to it.”
Mick is seen as a mix of his father and mother Corinna, an accomplished horse rider and breeder. While his sister Gina-Maria followed her mothers’ footsteps as a non-professional rider.
Thirty years on from his father debut at Spa with Jordan, now Aston Martin, Mick makes his debut with a similar team Haas at the back of the grid. It also marks the start of the fourth decade that the Schumacher name has been on the Grid.
Mick sees himself as continuing his father’s legacy, at last years Eifel Grand Prix he hinted he would like to regain the records equalled or broken by Sir Lewis Hamilton if he gets the opportunity.
Schumacher embraces the legacy of his father and sees himself continuing a family journey is underlined by the fact that he asked F1 to alter its usual practice of using the first three letters of a driver’s surname as his shorthand on the timing screens.
Mick describes his father as his idol, and he decided he wanted to follow in his footsteps from a very early age – or “right at the beginning,” as he puts it. His early karting career started in 2008 and was overseen by Michael up until the skiing accident in December 2013.
Mick added “As I grew older and grew in the categories, I understood how much sacrifice it takes. It was when I was around 12, 13 years old when I understood I really wanted to do this on a professional level.”
Since the accident in 2013, the family has been keeping the condition of Michael a private matter and Mick says this area is off-limits. The last details of the seven times champions condition emerged in a court case in 2018, when Schumacher’s sued newspapers when the lawyers for the family revealed he “cannot walk”.
Unconfirmed reports last year in the Italian press reported, while Michael’s condition continues to improve, he was said to have muscle atrophy and osteoporosis from six years of bed confinement.
It will be harder for Mick to do the same, just because the team he is racing for Haas finished ninth last year, and were often slowest of all. Asked what successful season from his point of view would mean “an improvement from the beginning to the end of the year.”
Russell elected as a director of GPDA
George Russell has been elected by drivers to replace Romain Grosjean as one of the three directors of the Grand Prix Drivers Association. The Englishman will work with fellow director Sebastian Vettel and chairman Alex Wurz on the body, which represents the interests of all F1 drivers on the grid.
Grosjean stood down from the role at the end of 2020 when losing his seat with Haas. Russell said he was proud that his fellow drivers had put faith in him.
he said, “It is an honour and privilege to be nominated director of the GPDA. I appreciate the support of my fellow drivers in entrusting this role to me and recognise the responsibility it entails. In its six decades of existence, the GPDA has been an integral part of supporting and shaping F1 safety, for the sport and our fans.”
The organisation is a registered trade union and company in the UK. Grosjean will remain as an advisor for 2021 to help finish the ongoing work he is conducting on safety and lessons learned from his fiery crash at last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix.
The job of the GPDA is to give a collective voice to the drivers, with a focus on safety as well as ensure the sport delivers in terms of the sporting spectacle.
For the first time, it has appointed a non-driver to a directors post, it has promoted a long time legal advisor Anastasia Fowle as legal director to help support its businesses and activities.
she said, “After several years working alongside Alex, Sebastian and Romain, I am proud they and their fellow drivers have nominated me for the first non-F1 driver board position. I am passionate about the sport and the industry and am honoured to be able to support the GPDA in its endeavours.”
Drivers free to take a knee or make gestures
Formula One drivers will be free to take a knee before the start of races this year. At the start of 2020, the drivers were given a platform to display their anti-racism stance with a special time set apart during the moments on the grid before the start.
But the gesture of taking a knee divided opinion among drivers, with not all opting for it. Six drivers, Charles Leclerc, Carlos Sainz, Max Verstappen, Daniil Kvyat, Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen did not take a knee despite supporting the campaign. In the first few races, this appeared disjointed as the message recorded before the anti-racism gesture was introduced.
The issue of whether or not to continue the moment was discussed between drivers and F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali at a meeting during Bahrain testing and a new plan has been agreed upon.
With F1 eager to tweak the approach to its ‘We Race as One’ messaging this year, with the iconic rainbow having been dropped, it will be altering what is done on the grid.
The new protocol ahead of the race will see a period set aside before the anthem where drivers can do what they want to raise awareness of the importance of the issues close to their hearts, such as sustainability, diversity and inclusion.
The drivers will be left completely free to choose any gesture they want during this period, so those wishing to continue taking the knee can continue to do so.
An F1 spokesman said: “The whole of Formula 1 is united in its support for #WeRaceAsOne and the drivers will all show their own support for the initiative ahead of the grand prix. The drivers will be free to show their commitment in their own way before the race and there will be no requirement for them to make a specific gesture.’
“The important thing is all of them being together in full support of our initiatives on sustainability, diversity and inclusion and community.”