Caution needed on 2026 power units
Mercedes F1 CEO and team principal Toto Wolff has cautioned that Formula One should focus on costs when deciding upon new power unit regulations for 2026.
Wolff says that the sport made a mistake when the current hybrid V6 rules were drawn up because they have proved to be overly complex and too expensive. These regulations are set to remain in place until 2026, with discussions already underway on what will replace them already underway.
F1, the FIA and the manufacturers are keen to find the right balance of hybrid and internal combustion power, with sustainable fuels playing a key role. There is also a focus on the cost element as part of an attempt to appeal to new manufacturers.
Wolff told Motorsport.com, “The discussion was very good. One of the positives. It’s interesting where the auto industry goes because everything develops in the direction of electric mobility, but there is also a new look at the internal combustion engine and the combination with electric drive.”
“I believe we should look at the costs. Developing a completely new power unit is not somewhere we should go. We know that we made that mistake in 2011 and 2012 when we made a highly sophisticated and also very efficient power unit, but it got very complex.”
Wolff seemed to agree with comments made by Formula One’s director of strategy and business development Yath Gangakumaran, that a combination of ICE and hybrid power was required for the future.
Wolff stressed that the cost of an engine programme and the use of sustainable fuels are the important elements for Mercedes.
Adding “I don’t think it’s about simplifying, it’s just about trying to not have escalating costs. Apart from the more electric component with potentially larger or more powerful battery pack, sustainable fuels are definitely the future.”
Speaking to investors last week outgoing CEO Chase Carey said the 2026 regulations were a key part of the carbon-neutral target for 2023. Saying “At the top of our priorities for both sustainability and our sport is building a road map for the combustion engine that addresses the environmental goals of our automotive partners and society.”
Norris wants to do his bit in final triple-header
Lando Norris says he wants to do his bit to ensure McLaren achieves its best finish going into the final triple-header which finishes of the 2020 season.
In a season that has seen the closest battle for third in recent years, four teams including McLaren are in the battle behind both Mercedes and Red Bull. Racing Point currently leads McLaren by five points going into the last triple-header.
Meanwhile, Renault and Ferrari have made advances in recent races thanks to their respective returns to the podium. Norris’s form has fluctuated recently with a pair of eighth-place finishes following a run of three non-scores that have dropped back to eighth in the driver’s championship.
The Englishman is feeling confident for the three races in the middle east which will take place over three different circuit layouts, two in Sakhir and one in Abu Dhabi.
Norris told Crash.net, “We’re ending the season just like we started it with one final triple-header, and I can’t wait get back into the rhythm of racing back-to-back again. It’s definitely going to be a tough challenge as we haven’t had a triple-header in a while, but we’re going to give it everything.”
“Turkey showed that we’re still in the fight and anything can happen. We just need to make every session count and most of all focus on ourselves.”
Norris believes that Bahrain normally delivers good wheel to wheel racing, and it was one of his best race of the season last year.
Human rights groups condemn Bahrain Race
Human rights groups have once again condemned this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix. Since the beginning of the Arab Spring and the clampdown on protestors in 2011 the race has been used to highlight the issues in The Gulf kingdom.
In 2015, F1 adopted a commitment to respecting human rights in its operations globally. On Tuesday thirty cross-party MPs have written to the F1 CEO, Chase Carey, insisting it is properly implemented.
“We urge F1 to use maximum leverage to compel Bahrain to end suppression of protests against the race, secure redress for victims and ensure the rights of Bahraini citizens are defended,” they said.
The Grand Prix has been a focal point for protests and highlighting the human rights abuses in the country by the government. Bahrain is scheduled to host three of the next five races.
The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (Bird) have also written to Carey claiming that the Bahrain Grand Prix “has become a focal point of popular protest and serious human rights abuses have been committed by Bahraini security forces against protesters”.
F1 believes that it can be a positive force for change, but that has lead to the accusation of the sport whitewashing and “normalising the violation of human rights in the country.”
The Bahraini government has issued a statement strongly denying any accusations of sports washing.
Human Rights Watch said in January that the human rights crisis in Bahrain had worsened since 2011. They accuse the authorities of a “systematic campaign of retribution”, including documenting the “routine use of torture” in prison against activists opposed to the regime.
Human rights organisations have requested that if F1 must race in Bahrain, it should act to secure justice for victims of abuse such as Yusuf and to ensure that individuals peacefully protesting should be protected from persecution.
Saudi’s dismiss whitewash of human rights
Saudi Arabia has also dismissed the claim of a whitewash of human rights ahead of its debut next year, but the countries governing bodies boss says it fully understands fans scepticism about his country being added to the Formula One calendar.
The country has signed a deal to host a night race on a new street circuit in Jeddah from next year. The Grand Prix will then switch to a new purpose-built facility at Qiddiyah from 2023. That has prompted Amnesty International issuing a statement warning F1 about the country using F1 as way to divert attention from other issues.
Felix Jakens, Amnesty International UK’s head of campaigns, said: “Formula 1 should realise that a Saudi Grand Prix in 2021 would be part of ongoing efforts to sports wash the country’s abysmal human rights record.”
Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al Faisal, president of the Saudi Arabian motorsport federation, is well aware that some are unhappy about the country joining the F1 schedule. He says that the race is part of the process of opening up to the outside world.
He believes that the race is part of the countries ‘Vision 2030’ programme which aims to reduce Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil, diversify its economy, and develop public service sectors such as health, education, infrastructure, recreation, and tourism.
Asked about his response to some fans not being happy about Saudi Arabia being on the F1 calendar, he said: “I don’t blame them, when you don’t know a country, and when you have a certain image of a country.
“I remember myself when my parents used to tell me we’re going to go to the US, especially to New York, I was frightened. I would think that I’m going to walk in the street and somebody will come and shoot me because I’d never been there.”
Prince Khalid says he doesn’t know why there are people worried about the human rights situation because opening up will make maybe people change their mind.
Prince Khalid said that there had been similar resistance before motorsport events like Dakar and Formula E being hosted there, but feelings changed once people saw it first hand.
He says he has a conversation has been had with Liberty on human rights, but added there needs to be some understanding about Saudi Arabia having a different culture and history to other countries.
he explained, “We definitely had a conversation on that, and I know, maybe this is a thing that a lot of people talk about with Saudi Arabia, but we are not like the other countries.”
“We know that we are different. We have our culture. There are things that people can do in other places that they can’t do here. But we respect our differences, and we are opening our country to anyone.
Outer circuit will be “bonkers” – Russell
George Russell believes Bahrain’s Outer Circuit which will be used for next weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix will be “bonkers,” while Lando Norris believes it is going to be similar in its flat-out nature to Thruxton.
For next weekends race in the gulf kingdom Formula One will use the shorter circuit which cuts out the twisting infield with a connecting section, and it will see sub-60 second lap times in F1 for the first time since the original short Dijon format was used for the 1974 French Grand Prix.
In recent weeks drivers have had a taste of the circuit on simulators before heading to the gulf for the final triple-header of the season. Russell told Motorsport.com, “It is definitely going to be bonkers, that’s for sure. I think it’s exciting because the lap times are going to be so close.”
“I reckon everybody will probably be within a second in qualifying, which means if you make one small mistake, you can be losing loads of positions on Saturday.”
“I think it’s going to be giving absolutely everything you’ve got, making sure you nail the lap, because there more than anywhere if you do make a mistake, you don’t have enough corners to make that lap time back.”
Russell also predicted a messy qualifying with everyone looking for a slipstream, he also says there was probably not enough space to fit all the cars onto the track.
Lando Norris added “The only one it kind of reminds me of in a little bit of a way is Thruxton, just because it’s not many corners, they’re small, sharp corners, the ones we have in Bahrain. But at the same time, it’s a small, oval kind of shaped track, and very short as well. It should provide a lot of racing.”
McLaren’s Carlos Sainz Jr believes that choosing the optimum level of downforce won’t be easy, given the need to trade-off between the winding upper part of the circuit, the long straights and the low-speed corners. He described it as not a typical circuit.
“Because it’s not a typical track in F1. You never go to this kind of circuit with only long straights and two or three corners to really drive around. It’s going to be a bit of an experiment really for F1.”
“I think it will generate some different kind of racing. There will be a lot of talk regarding rear wings, what downforce level you run, and all of that.”