Renault appoint new CEO
Renault and Nissan have agreed to continue their alliance following the resignation of chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn. Michelin’s Jean-Dominique Senard has been appointed as chairman, while Thierry Bolloré will become chief executive of Renault and Hiroto Saikawa of Nissan.
Mr Ghosn was arrested by Japanese police in November over claims of financial misconduct at Nissan. Ghosn denies the charges and is being held in Japan, and applied for bail.
Renault’s board has voted to separate the two functions, previously handled solely by Mr Ghosn. Ghosn faces three charges of financial misconduct in Japan for understating his income and aggravated breach of trust.
Senard will be responsible for managing Renault’s alliance with Japanese carmaker Nissan, while Mr Bolloré will co-ordinate the carmaker’s activities. Senard also backed the alliance.
He said “It’s important that this alliance remain extremely strong. It is our compulsory duty to go forward together.”
Saikawa said “In the big picture, this is a big milestone that we are reaching. We are starting a new chapter. So I welcome this new leadership of Renault.”
Renault has said previously that it has not found any evidence of wrongdoing yet, and an investigation into executive pay has shown no signs of fraud so far.
Meanwhile, Nissan has started preparations to hold an extraordinary general meeting in April to discuss new board members.
French government promises better monitoring
Reports from the French government says that the CEO of Renault Carlos Ghosn has resigned. Finance minister Bruno Le Maire told Bloomberg that the imprisoned chairman resigned on Wednesday.
Mr Ghosn was arrested by Japanese police in November over claims of financial misconduct at Nissan. On Thursday Renault’s board will decide his future.
Ghosn, who was the architect of the Renault-Nissan alliance, faces three charges in Japan of financial misconduct including understating his income and aggravated breach of trust. He denies the charges but could remain in custody for months after his application for bail earlier this week was denied.
Mitsubishi joined the alliance three years ago. While Nissan and Mitsubishi sacked him as chairman after his arrest, Renault had not done so.
Renault is believed to be considering replacing him with two people, Jean-Dominique Senard who is the current CEO of Michelin and Thierry Bollore, the current deputy and acting CEO. Bollore has been the acting CEO of Renault since the arrest of Ghosn.
Bloomberg has also reported that Le Maire wants the alliance between the carmakers, which has been strained by the arrest of Mr Ghosn, to survive. Bloomberg quoted him as saying “I am sure the alliance will stay,”.
Paul Ricard to change pit entry
The pit lane entry at Paul Ricard will be moved ahead of this year’s French Grand Prix after drivers raised safety concerns during last years race. Drivers and teams expressed concerns that the pit entry could put pit crews at risk.
In response as a temporary measure, FIA race director Charlie Whiting reduced the speed limit from 50mph to 37mph after first practice, because there was no scope to change pit entry during the weekend.
Motorsport.com says they can confirm that the pitlane entry, which was previously accessed via the main straight, will be moved for the 2019 edition of the French GP.
The new pit entry will now be between Virage de la Tour and du Point. The circuit will also be resurfaced through all the corners, but not on the straights.
Despite the calls to remove the chicane on the Mistral Straight early on during last years race weekend, it will be retained for this year because it created opportunities for overtaking.
2019 changes cost £13m
Red Bull’s advisor Dr Helmut Marko says that the rule changes for 2019 have already cost the team £13 million. In a bid to increase overtaking this year, the regulations have been tweaked to allow cars to run closer together and create better racing.
The Anglo-Austrian team were against the changes because of the lack of reliable data to support it and the financial impact it would have. Marko believes that while the front wing would improve F1’s overtaking prospects, despite performance level “already at the standard” of mid-2018, “we are €15million poorer”.
He told Motorsport.com, “We have the same [aerodynamic] data as last summer. By the time we get to Melbourne, we’ll probably be better than that. [But] there is now a good basis for discussion between Mercedes, Ferrari and us.
“We agree that regulations must not be determined by technicians. As soon as technicians are involved, the costs increase and everything becomes complicated. Things have to be specified.”
Marko says that Mercedes was behind the changes, despite there dominance of the sport for the last five years. Red Bull do have their frustrations over the changes, but he says the political alliance between the top teams were stronger than before.
As well as a good relationship with Mercedes, Marko claimed that “a lot of sympathy” developed between Red Bull and Ferrari following the death of president and CEO Sergio Marchionne last summer.
2019 could be the year where the political and regulatory debate could be as interesting as the on-track action, as the teams, Liberty Media and the FIA try to negotiate the next Concorde Agreement, engine, technical and sporting regulations all before the 31st December 2020 deadline.
Pirelli outlines tyre colour and codings
Pirelli has outline how to identify its five tyre compounds in pre-season testing following the decision to remove the colours for each different compound.
This season the number of compounds have been reduced from seven to five, as well as the colour for each compound. Instead, Pirelli has gone for three standard colours for each weekend, the hardest compound being white, medium yellow and the soft red.
It has confirmed that those three colours will be used in testing, but as there are more compounds than colours they will be marked differently so people can tell them apart.
Pirelli has decided to adapt the system it wants to use throughout 2019 to avoid creating extra confusion. Compared to last year, Compound 1 is the hardest and is the hard compound from 2018, while Compound 5 is the softest and the same as last year’s hypersoft.
The compounds being brought to each race before they make the decision, but the new system is designed to make it easier for fans to identify and follow.
Vettel a “one trick pony”
Former Ferrari driver Eddie Irvine has called the four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel a “one trick pony” saying that he is “massively overrated”. The Northern Irishman says that he doesn’t understand how the German won four successive titles between 2010 and 2014.
While he described Lewis Hamilton as the best driver of the era, but says he “isn’t even close” to Michael Schumacher. Irvine raced for Ferrari four years and finished runner up in 1999, he also raced for Jordan and Jaguar in a colourful career that included four race wins.
Speaking to BBC News Northern Ireland, he said “Formula 1 was still very, very popular when Michael and I were racing. I think it was a more exciting era but it’s less popular now.” He admitted that he follows the sport less than he did when he was racing.
He believes that Hamilton is in a different league from the other drivers, but is not in the same league as Schumacher. Saying “He’s not in Michael’s league and I don’t even think he is close, although he’s racking up lots of wins. He’s got the best car, there are more races and the competition is debatable.”
“I think Vettel is good if he is at the front and doesn’t have anybody to race. When you watch Lewis race, he’s focused on racing and Lewis is really focused on getting ahead of the other guy.”
Irvine believes that Vettel is too focused on the other driver and where he is going and inevitably crashes into the other guy. He says that Hamilton is not like Schumacher because he has his off days.
But added “Lewis is an amazingly talented driver. When he first came to Formula 1 he was fantastic to watch and his overtaking was second to none.”
“He’s probably a better overtaker than Michael was, but for pace, and consistency over a whole weekend, over a whole year, I don’t think anyone touches Michael, even Senna”
He says that Schumacher was probably the best driver ever and that even Senna’s technique was slightly flawed.