Quarantined McLaren members return home
The McLaren team members who were placed in quarantined after coming into contact with the coronavirus ahead of the aborted Australian Grand Prix will return to the UK this week.
The British team withdrew from the race, which was ultimately cancelled after one of its team staff tested positive for COVID-19 the night before the race’s opening practice sessions were due to take place. Another fourteen members were also placed in isolation with senior staff voluntary staying in Melbourne.
It was later determined that seven McLaren employees required testing to check if the symptoms they displayed were coronavirus-related, but the tests came back negative.
Announcing the news that the quarantined crew are now able to return home, McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl said: “They’re doing well, I stayed out with them for a couple of extra days and some senior members of the team are still there with them. All the team members who had been tested as a precaution tested negative, which is fantastic news.
“The person that had tested positive is now feeling well and we look forward to welcoming everyone back to the UK this week.”
CEO Zak Brown says the team was looking forward to the season being but says protecting the wellbeing of the team was the priority. Saying, “We have a duty of care to our people, fans and wider F1 stakeholders, and that’s why we informed Formula 1 and the FIA of our withdrawal shortly after hearing on the Thursday night that a member of the team had tested positive.”
Seidl explained that McLaren would be allowed to make changes to its 2020 car to allow it to the run Mercedes engines next year. The chassis is frozen after the decision to postpone the regulation changes by a year. Mclaren has been a leading supporter of the changes.
He added, “From the outset, we have been a leading supporter of the new sporting and technical regulations for 2021. They present the opportunity to deliver an exciting new era for Formula One.”
Seidl says the sport is facing severe pressures at the moment, in delaying the regulations was made in the same vein as the one to postpone races.
Optimism that Canada can go-ahead
The promoter of the Canadian Grand Prix Francois Dumontier is still “optimistic” that the race can still go ahead on 12th – 14th June. The race is currently due to open the season after the first seven races were postponed due to coronavirus.
On Monday, it was announced that the Azerbaijan Grand Prix was also postponed. The circuit is not a fully permeant venue with building work needing to begin within the next few weeks to get the grandstands built. Dumontier told Motorsport.com, “As you can imagine I’m in discussion almost every day or every two days with Formula One. I’m also in discussion with the local authorities here, the city and the government.”
“It’s still on the calendar as planned, June 14. We are optimistic, but we are also realistic. We still have a few weeks – I would say two or three weeks in front of us – before we would have to start erecting the grandstands and preparing the site.”
However, says there needs to be a decision would need to be made around Easter on the race. Yesterday construction was halted after the regions prime minister Francois Legault, ordered non-essential businesses to close. That means no work can take place.
While Dumontier hopes that the race can go ahead as planned, the circuit has more flexibility unlike other street circuits because it is on an island. There have been suggestions it could be slotted into the Americas leg which currently starts in Austin on the 23 – 25 October.
He added, “We don’t have any dates so far – I guess F1 will have to scramble and play with it. For us let’s say after mid-October it’s impossible to run the race.”
The race is state-funded with limited private backing, but all the parties are in contact. While they are optimistic of an October date, he echoed the message of others saying the race was not important in the current situation.
Adding, “If we need to postpone the event we will, because if we do the event we need to do it in a safe environment for drivers, spectators, workers, everybody.”
Monaco’s cancellation “hurts”
Daniel Ricciardo says the cancellation of the Monaco Grand Prix “hurt”, as the reality of the delay to the start of the season. The opening eight race of the year has been postponed admit the coronavirus pandemic, with Australia and Monaco being cancelled completely.
Monaco’s cancellation was confirmed last Thursday, marking the first time since 1954 the principality will not host its grand prix. With most countries now enforcing self-isolation and lockdown on the public, F1 drivers have returned home where they continue with their training programmes.
In a Q&A on Renault’s Instagram, the Australian said “I’m not like racing laps in my head yet, because I don’t know what track we’re going to be racing on”
“I watched an onboard of Monaco last night and got a bit sad. I don’t really know where we’re going to be. That one hurt me. They’re all going to hurt, for sure, Melbourne being so close as well. The reality is setting in, unfortunately.” F1 CEO Chase Carey says he is expecting 15-18 races this year, which would start in the summer and extend into December.
The Canadian Grand Prix on 14 June currently stands as the opening race yet to be called off, but doubts still remain when F1 will return as sporting events as far away as August – such as the Tokyo Olympics – continue to be postponed.
Life on the farm with Ricciardo
Daniel Ricciardo has explained how he is spending his time at home on the farm – and the tractor video that got Instagram talking. The Australian has stayed in Australia amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Renault driver has certainly been doing just that on his parents’ farm.
In a video which has been viewed more than three quarters of a million times on Instagram, Ricciardo sings along to music while trundling along in a tractor.
He explained, “Dad’s livelihood is earth moving so he has driven those pretty much his whole life. That’s his business. They prepare all the land to build house, and levels and stuff like that.”
“They had a spare on the side, it’s a bit of an older one but they leave it on the farm so I can build things and be a kid. I’ll do training and whatever and then I’m not training every hour of the day when I’ve got some free time I get on that. It’s pretty fun.”
Ricciardo says that when he wasn’t training, he was watching Netflix or the stars. But training was keeping him in a competitive mindset adding, “Training is definitely the thing that’s keeping me with that competitive mindset. You get some anger out when you train so that’s my medicine for now.”
Like many in the sport, drivers are working towards an unknown start point for activities to resume – with all Grands Prix called off until mid-June at the earliest. He admitted the extended wait for racing was starting to hit home.
On Monaco’s cancellation, he said, “I watched on an on-board of Monaco last night and got a little sad. They’re all going to hurt, Melbourne, of course, being so close. But we’ll get it back.”
When the season does get underway, it will be at least seven months without a race, Ricciardo predicted “mayhem” in that qualifying session.
Biofuels the next development battleground
Formula Ones move to biofuels with its new generation of cars looks set to trigger a surprise development battleground thanks to a change it brings in engine cooling characteristics.
As part of the sports push to go carbon neutral by 2030, the regulations originally due to be introduced next year but delayed until 2022, the teams are required teams to run their engines with a 10% blend of advanced sustainable ethanol.
Work has already begun among F1’s fuel suppliers to optimise the potential of the biofuel, and Ferrari’s technical partner Shell has revealed a fascinating characteristic of the new product. The fuel manufacturer believes the ethanol could open up better-cooling characteristics.
Shell’s F1 development manager Benoit Poulet told Motorsport.com: “The interesting aspect of the car performance is similar to when you put a [ethanol based] cooling gel on your fingers – you can feel the cooling effect that you get. It will be the same for the engine.”
“It will be able to cool some parts of the power unit and that could be quite beneficial. We are working hard on it. The properties are certainly quite interesting for combustion, and I think we can do some interesting things.”
Ethanol delivers the cooling benefit as it has nearly three times the heat of vaporisation as regular fuel – which means there is a cooling effect for the incoming charge during the combustion cycle. This allows the engine manufacturers to chase horsepower and/or run the engine at lower temperatures which then effects the engine power.
Engine manufacturers could chase this straight horsepower gain, or could opt to change the overall design and cooling characteristics to run the engine at a different temperature. Benoit said that Shell has been working on the new biofuel ever since the regulations came out last year.
He added “It’s a big challenge but we are really happy to switch to E10 fuel – and to be honest we would be happy to have even more than 10%. We have people working on the project, and people who are familiar with E10.”
The move to biofuels was originally planned for 2021 but was delayed by a year because of coronavirus.
Ferrari should have promoted Leclerc sooner – Briatore
Former Renault team principal Flavio Briatore says that Ferrari wasted 2019 ‘going nowhere’ with Kimi Raikkonen and should have promoted Charles Leclerc earlier.
The Monacan proved himself last season as one of the sports top scorers last season following his move to Ferrari, with Briatore saying that the Italian outfit should have moved earlier to give the Monegasque youngster more top-line experience.
Instead, when Ferrari had the chance to put Leclerc in its car for his rookie season rather than going to Sauber, it stuck with veteran Raikkonen instead. He told Beyond The Grid, “Leclerc is young. [He has] big balls because he’s demonstrating [that].
“I believe if I was at Ferrari, I would have put Leclerc already two years ago to replace Raikkonen, because, you know, with Raikkonen you are going nowhere.
“You’ll never win [anything] with him. You know at the time I would take the risk and put Leclerc [in the car]. Leclerc is a really, really strong guy.” However, Briatore believes the lack of experience means he is not at the same level as the superstar’s Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.
He described Leclerc as not recognisable, saying that Verstappen is a gladiator with the fantastic way he is overtaking.
While the main stories of the season is expected to be Hamilton going for Michael Schumacher’s record seven championships, Briatore thinks their achievements are not directly comparable.
He said, “Michael was fighting with the big guys: like [Ayrton] Senna. You need to recognise that when Michael arrived, the [competition] was tough: you are talking about Nigel Mansell, you are talking about Senna.”
“Now, is less, the competition. You have two drivers, three drivers….the competition is less than before. For Hamilton, again, nobody put the pressure on to him: he can walk away.”
Briatore explained that a true test of a driver is when they are put under pressure by a rival.
“It is the same for everybody. When Schumacher, somebody get close, he put a mistake, Fernando [Alonso] he put a mistake. Everybody put the mistake. If he’s driving like a taxi driver and is winning everything it’s because he’s a super driver, it’s fantastic.”