Russell wins Monaco Virtual Grand Prix
George Russell took back to back victories in F1 eSports in a dominant win at the Monaco Virtual Grand Prix, which saw many scraps and incidents between the drivers. Russell’s usual rivals were left fighting among themselves.
Russell put in a dominant performance to build a lead of thirty-nine seconds over the Mercedes’ Esteban Gutierrez. For the first time in his career, Charles Leclerc finished on the podium, however, dropped behind the Mexican after a crash exiting the tunnel which put the Monacan third.
Things didn’t go better for Arthur, the younger of the two brothers lost out to Alex Albon in a wheel-to-wheel fight for fourth place which lasted several corners, including the ultra-tight Lowes Hairpin.
David Schumacher, son of six-time F1 Grand Prix winner Ralf, took his maiden pole position with a lap time four-tenths quicker than Russell’s fastest attempt. Russell got past Schumacher on the run to Sainte Devote, before going on to take victory by thirty-nine seconds.
Charles fought with the Mercedes of Gutiérrez for second looking comfortable second place until he was quickly caught by the two-stopping Gutierrez. The duo collided with less than three laps to go on the exit of the tunnel.
Leclerc was sent spinning down to third place while Gutierrez earned his best result in the series in second place. However, Charles hung on to take his fifth consecutive podium finish, with Red Bull’s Alexander Albon charging from ninth on the grid to fourth place.
Albon spun early on following a collision earlier in the race when he tangled at Tabac with Gutierrez. Arthur finished fifth in the sister virtual Ferrari ahead of Haas F1 reserve Pietro Fittipaldi and McLaren ace Lando Norris.
Russell’s team-mate Nicholas Latifi was the last driver on the lead lap in eighth place with Louis Deletraz. The Haas driver won the Formula Two race, while pole-sitter Schumacher finished tenth.
It was a difficult debut for Valtteri Bottas, he was spun down to last place on the opening lap after a clash with Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi. Bottas started seventh and recovered to finish eleventh. Fellow rookie Esteban Ocon qualified in a dismal seventeenth place and failed to start the race.
Ex-F1 driver Vitantonio Liuzzi was disqualified from the race with five laps to go after amassing too many corner-cutting penalties.
Round seven takes the series to the streets of Baku for the Azerbaijan Virtual Grand Prix.
Teams approve changes to regulations
Formula One teams have approved a radical set of rule changes aimed at securing the future of the sport in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, according to Motorsport.com.
Following weeks of discussions between teams, the FIA and F1 bosses about potential changes aimed at cutting costs and improving the show, the ‘New Deal’ proposals were put to a team e-vote on Friday.
The website says that multiple sources have told them that the changes where agreed, including reducing the budget cap from $175m to $145m from next year, and other rules including an aero development handicap system and the use of open-source parts.
Smaller teams want a cap of $100m, but Ferrari is adamant that it would not be happy to accept anything below $145m. With that figure being proposed for next year, with a glide path down to $140 million in 2022 and $135m after that, it is understood that the Italian outfit was happy with the compromise and gave its support.
The other measures in the package of rules included a radical aero development handicap system, where the worst-performing teams are allowed more wind tunnel and CFD development time compared to the more successful outfits, plus the allowance for the use of open-source parts.
The rules will now need to be ratified by the World Motor Sport Council, with an e-vote expected sooner rather than waiting for the meeting in mid-June.
British GP talks continue with government
Silverstone’s managing director Stuart Pringle says that the British Grand Prix could switch to a date in August to save the race following the UK government’s latest quarantine measures.
The Northamptonshire circuit had been hoping to hold back-to-back F1 races on 24 – 26 July and 31 July – 02 August behind closed doors as part of the push to get the 2020 season started amid the Coronavirus Pandemic.
However, these plans were put in doubt after the government set out quarantine requirements of fourteen days on arrival into the UK. It is understood that potential solutions for elite sports continue to be explored.
Pringle believes there is “clear desire at a national level to see sport return” and says he is “encouraged” that there has been progressed for the resumption of sport in general in recent days. The government detailed plans for how elite sportsmen and women can make a phased return to close-contact and competitive training.
Speaking to Sky Sports, he said, “All of these things are relevant for Formula 1 because we have to start going through some degree of change that we need to work towards what a solution for Formula One will look like. I’m encouraged there’s progress in the right direction.”
Silverstone has already agreed to host two races, subject to government approval. But there may be some flexibly throughout August to find dates for the race, but Pringle called for the government to give the go-ahead.
Stating that F1 is an “awful lot more than a ninety-minute race”, with more than 40,000 jobs linked to the UK motorsport industry, Pringle said: “Formula 1, as a championship, needs that exemption and needs to understand where it is because they’ve got to plan.
Renault won’t rush Ricciardo replacement decision
Cyril Abiteboul has also announced Renault will not decide on who will replace Daniel Ricciardo in 2021 before the start of this season. With the Australian signing a contract to join McLaren for 2021, Renault needs to fill a vacancy it has in its outfit alongside Esteban Ocon.
While several top drivers have been linked to the team, including Fernando Alonso, Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel, the team says it does not want to rush a decision on the matter. Abiteboul says it is essential Renault knows how competitive its 2020 car is before it makes a call on the type of driver it takes for next year.
Abiteboul told Motorsport.com, “We’ve not done a race, we’ve not done even a session. We’ve [just] done the winter test. Our performance was encouraging, but it’s just winter testing, and frankly, as I’m speaking, I don’t know the competitiveness of our car.”
“Typically the competitiveness of the car is a representation of the competitiveness of the team and the new people that we have.” He says that the team would make a properly informed decision as the driver would probably stay for 2022.
Abiteboul says that knowing the road map, and the shift in the regulations the team’s ambitions have not changed. He also predicted another domino effect in the coming months.
He admitted he was ‘disappointed’ that Ricciardo had elected to leave Renault before seeing how much progress the team had made with its 2020 car, but he suggested a push from McLaren and Ferrari to settle their driver line-ups early forced the Australian’s hand.
Asked about Ricciardo’s decision, Abiteboul added, “First it’s important to remember that we have one year, one season to do together, and we expect more out of that season than from last season, that is for sure.”
“I’m a bit disappointed because I don’t think that you can build anything without stability. That goes for drivers, but frankly, that’s also true for the rest of the organisation.”
Liberty may change the business model
Liberty Media says that some adjustments may need to be made to its business model which is based on live events in the post-coronavirus world if people change their behaviour.
F1 is suffering financially because of the lack of racing, while sister company Live Nation, which promotes concerts worldwide, is also taking a hit. Recently, Liberty shuffled assets between its subsidiaries, giving F1 a safety net of $1.4bn of cash with which to tackle the crisis.
Speaking at Liberty’s AGM, which was held virtually, CEO Greg Maffei says it was impossible to predict what might happen.
Asked about the future of live events he said, “That’s the great unknown. I think we’re taking a cautious attitude to the belief that things will adjust and change, that we can build businesses that can operate in a post-COVID world.”
“Whether that’s through therapeutics or a vaccine, or just changed procedures, there will be ways to have live events. Will they be as scale or profitable as historically? I think that remains to be seen, so we’re taking a step-by-step cautious attitude.”
He says that one of the reasons for strengthening F1 was the potential, that things may not be as positive going forward and particularly in the case of FWON, which may need to provide support for some of the teams.
Maffei says that they are hoping for a vaccine, but was not counting on it as they try to create attractive vehicles that have upside in any situation.
Liberty founder and chairman John Malone pointed out that F1’s income doesn’t rely solely on people physically attending events, should there be a change in behaviour in the years to come. He believes that there is going to be a depression in value.
Adding, “it presents the opportunity for those of us who believe in the longer term thesis that this is a good place to be, live events, particularly when you have a substantial part of the revenue has little to do with gate attendance and a lot to do with television, and ultimate digital distribution.
Wolff growing as a human being in lockdown
Mercedes F1 CEO and team principal Toto Wolff says he has been “growing as a human being” as he’s been able to switch off and relax during the enforced break from the sport.
The Austrian says that at the start of lockdown he kept himself busy, but latterly he has realised that switching off and simply enjoying a quiet life has its benefits. He said in a Mercedes video, “I think what corona taught me and Susie is that slowing down can actually be pretty enjoyable.”
“At the beginning, it was very difficult, we packed our days with activities that were allowed, and tried to keep ourselves busy in the gym, working out, going for a run or a bike ride, once it opened up. And obviously, F1 being very present.”
Wolff says in recent weeks he has adjusted and found time for reflection, as well as finding time to enjoy with his three children. Saying for the first time in his working career that he remembers being in a single place for more than two weeks.
He says that he doesn’t remember a period where I would be in the same place for more than two weeks for a holiday, believing that It’s changed our lives, and for the better. Adding, “I kind of dived through the moment of what are we going to do next? And it’s a little bit like somebody who moves onto an island, and is depressed for three weeks, and suddenly he finds the bliss.”
“I have started to enjoy the days with less planning, less meetings, with less phone calls. It’s something I’ve experienced which has made me grow as a human being.”
Wolff says that people need to be considerate, because this virus is still making many lives very bad. In Austria, the lockdown restrictions still allowed people to move about, but he says this isn’t a joy run.
Asked about his drivers Wolff revealed that he’s had more contact with Lewis Hamilton than Valtteri Bottas.
Saying, “When there is nothing urgent I leave it to them to manage communications. I haven’t spoken to Valtteri. I think he’s in a good place personally, and I’m happy about that. Lewis I’ve been very much in contact, we’ve spoken regularly, we’ve WhatsApped very often, keeping each other up to date.”