Sprint race signed off by teams
Formula One teams and the sport’s bosses have unanimously supported the plan for sprint qualifying trials this year, with the first event set for the British Grand Prix. On Monday the F1 Commission signed off on the plans.
These races are to take place at Silverstone and Monza. A final decision on the flyaway, which has long been expected to be Brazil, will be taken nearer the time. Once they are ratified by the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council before being put in the rule book, this should be a formality.
F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali welcomed the move, which he felt would deliver an added entertainment factor for fans. He said “We are excited by this new opportunity that will bring our fans an even more engaging race weekend in 2021. Seeing the drivers battling it out over three days will be an amazing experience.”
“I am sure the drivers will relish the fight. I am delighted that all the teams supported this plan, and it is a testament to our united efforts to continue to engage our fans in new ways while ensuring we remain committed to the heritage and meritocracy of our sport.”
Only the top three finishers in the sprint race, three points for the winner, two for second place and one for third. Qualifying for Saturday’s race will take place on Friday afternoon in place of FP2, with FP3 being scrapped and replaced by FP2 on Saturday morning.
In the event of wet conditions:
- Three sets of wet tyres and four sets of intermediate tyres will be available at the start of the event
- If FP1 or qualifying is wet, teams will receive an additional set of intermediate but must return a used intermediate set before the sprint race.
- If the sprint qualifying is wet, teams may return one set of used wet or intermediates after – which will then be replaced with a new set of intermediates.
- There will be a maximum of nine sets of wets and intermediates in total
Meanwhile, cars will enter a semi-parc ferme at the start of qualifying, with limited changes being made before the start of the sprint race. The teams will also be allowed to change the cooling of the gearbox and power units if there is a ten degrees centigrade swing between Friday and Saturday’s qualifying/sprint race sessions.
For now, F1 has not confirmed where the sprint races will be, merely stating that there will be two in Europe and one at a flyaway event.
However, it is understood that the first two sprint trials will take place at Silverstone and Monza. A final decision on the flyaway, which has long been expected to be Brazil, will be taken nearer the time.
FIA president Jean Todt added, “F1 is showing itself to be stronger than ever with all stakeholders working together in this way, and much has been done to ensure that the sporting, technical and financial aspects of the format are fair.”
Hamilton predicts season-long Verstappen battle
Sir Lewis Hamilton believes the head-to-head battle with Max Verstappen which has been the talking point this season, will continue through the year, as F1 heads to Portimao for round three this weekend.
Following two dramatic races in Sakhir and Imola, it’s one win each with the drivers just a point apart in the championship, in what is expected to be a season-long battle for the title.
Hamilton told Sky Sports “I think this is really the first time in a long time that Red Bull have had a championship-winning car So I think it’s going to be close all the way through the year, and it’s just going to be, hopefully, more and more of these battles.”
Verstappen, who could take the lead of the world championship for the first time in his career if he beats Hamilton again this Sunday, says, “It’s great to be fighting against Lewis, Mercedes who, I think, as a team, they have been so dominant and they’re very difficult to beat.”
“So to be able to sit here now, now two races in a row, we were very, very competitive, that’s very promising but no guarantees.” The next seven weeks sees five races before July, the performance of the teams could prove pivotal going into the Autumn and winter leg.
The Algarve International Circuit, known as Portimao, the nearby port city, for the second time in half a year after a successful, and popular, debut for the venue last autumn.
Allison explains reasons for stepping back
James Allison says he decided to step away from the role of Mercedes was because he didn’t want to become an ‘old embarrassment’ for the German manufacturer. Earlier this month, it was announced he would move into a new position as chief technical officer in July, with technology director Mike Elliott stepping up to replace him.
Since joining Mercedes in 2017, he made it clear that he did not want to stay on beyond the point where he felt he was at his best. When his contract was renewed in 2019, there were already signs he was looking to hand over responsibilities in best shape.
Allison told Autosport, “I wanted to make sure that I could be true to this team, to make sure that I committed to being a technical director over a period where I could earn my salt but not to outstay my welcome, and to know when the right time to step away was.”
“I would much rather that was done while I was still useful than becoming an old embarrassment, and that was what was playing on my mind at the time. During the period I was really comfortable and confident to commit to as technical director.”
Allison says he has been collectively working with Elliott to secure a successful transition, and give the team all the benefits and vigour that comes from having a new person in charge. There had been speculation that by stepping away Allison could have left the team altogether.
However, CEO and team principal Toto Wolff believed it important that Allison keep close ties with the outfit, which is why he has elected to move him into a new CTO position.
Saying, “When I felt this was the right thing for me, and the best thing for the team to do, to step away, I very much thought that I would be stepping away to my sofa to cheer the team from the side-lines as a punter.”
Allison says Wolff saw it as important for him to contribute to the team but with the absolute backstop of not undermining the importance of having a technical director. He says he wanted a role where he could focus on long wave stuff and the challenges they face in the future.
while Allison reckons his time at Mercedes has been the most fun period he has had in his F1 career, he is convinced he is doing the right thing in taking a step back.
Adding, “I’m sure it is the right thing to do but a huge part of me is screaming at me saying ‘what on earth are you doing?’. It is definitely the right thing for me and it is definitely the right thing for the team. The second of those two is the more important.”
Allison believing his time at Mercedes was a golden period, he was lucky to have late in his career.
Suzuka signs three-year contract extension
Formula One has announced the contract with Suzuka to host the Japanese Grand Prix has been extended to 2024. The figure-of-eight track first held the race in 1987 and has been on the calendar for all but three years ever since, setting the drivers’ championship eleven times.
However, October’s race remains in doubt after last years race was cancelled due to the pandemic, with the country placing strict border controls. F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali said the three-year extension shows a “long-term commitment to growing the sport in Asia”.
Adding “Japan holds a special place in the hearts and minds of F1 fans all over the world, and Suzuka has played host to many of the sport’s most legendary moments, with 11 drivers’ titles being decided there.
“The Japanese Grand Prix has always showcased gripping, edge-of-your-seat drama, and I am thrilled we can continue to bring the action and excitement that is Formula 1 to the passionate motorsport fans of Japan.”
Questions about the future of the race had been raised because of Honda’s withdrawal at the end of 2021, who also own the circuit. However, the early performance of AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda means there is likely to still be Japanese interest on the grid in the coming years.
President representative director of Mobilityland, operator of the circuit, Kaoru Tanaka added, “As a result of repeated negotiations with Formula 1, we have been able to conclude a contract on hosting the event from the year 2022 and onward.”
“We would like to express our sincere gratitude to Formula 1 members, including first of all Mr Stefano Domenicali, for the great understanding that was shown during the negotiations.”
2022 also marks the diamond jubilee of the Suzuka circuit opening in 1962, the circuit began built and the fifty-nine years since the first Grand Prix at the circuit as a non-championship race.
Tanaka saying the track will mark the milestone by taking on “new challenges for the future while also cherishing the history and traditions of the sport so that we may provide fans with surprises, joys and emotional experiences.”
Alonso impressed by “dedicated” Ocon
Fernando Alonso says he has been “impressed” by Esteban Ocon’s dedication since becoming teammates with the French driver at Alpine for 2021. The two-times world champion made his return to the sport last month in his third stint with the team following a two-year break from the sport.
Alonso has a reputation for being particularly dominant against teammates through his F1 career, notably seen in 2018 when he beat Stoffel Vandoorne 21-0 in qualifying head-to-heads over the year. However, Ocon has out-qualified and finished ahead of Alonso in both races this season. Marking the first time Alonso had been out-qualified by an F1 teammate since the 2017 Malaysian Grand Prix.
Asked by Motorsport.com how he was finding working with Ocon, Alonso was full of praise for his young teammate. Saying, “Definitely I’m impressed and I’m happy to have Esteban alongside me. He’s very professional, he works very hard, not only here trackside but also in the simulator. We shared a lot of stuff. While either of us is in the simulator, we try to be connected and work towards a better car.
“I know that he puts a lot of dedication into the team. It’s good for both drivers when you have a teammate who works very hard, so he’s doing that.” The Spaniard admits that you naturally want to be faster than your teammate.
Ocon has also relished the chance to go up against Alonso, believing it was a great chance to work with a world champion. He says he had heard a lot about Alonso before they started working together, saying they have very similar comments about the car and it is working really well.
Seidl calls for more testing in 2022
McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl wants to see an extended pre-season testing programme return in 2022 after this year’s reduced running. Due to the pandemic and to help the teams financially, testing this year was reduced to three days in Sakhir.
That put extra pressure on any teams that suffered mechanical problems at the test and lost track running, and it also made life difficult for drivers settling into new teams, including McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo. Seidl says that they expected Ricciardo to struggle, as well as other drivers who have changed teams.
He told Motorsport.com, “I won’t say it’s a surprise. We know it’s not just straightforward to jump from one car into another one, when you only have one and a half days of testing.”
“I think there’s no point complaining about the one and a half days of testing, because that was an agreement between all teams in order to only have one test this year to save costs. So no point going into that too much.
“We all hope that for next year, we go back to more testing days again, especially knowing that we have completely new cars next year.” Seidl is hoping that if two tests with an interval takes place between the two tests to allow teams to understand what they have learned.
The Woking outfit, which had the added challenge of switching from Renault to Mercedes power, made a special effort to complete its new car early. They used both there filming days in order to help Ricciardo settle in and the team itself to learn about its new power unit with enough time to react before the Bahrain test.