Johnson orders government to ensure British GP
The British prime minister Boris Johnson has reportedly ordered the government to create a quarantine exemption for the sport’s travelling personnel by asking his ministers to make the British Grand Prix happen.
On Monday The Times reported that Johnson is keen to help the two planned Silverstone races take place, and has kickstarted the process. A source has confirmed that the subject was discussed in a cabinet meeting last week.
This means that the government sees the importance of holding the races and keeping the 2020 World Championship alive. Although the sport hasn’t been classed as essential, the government have seen the resuming of sport as important for national morale.
However, there have been suggestions that the government was concerned about facing pressure from other businesses or industries that do not receive exemptions.
With the door has been left open to relax the quarantine with further special case exemptions when the rules are reviewed after three weeks, which would be around June 29.
As well as allowing Ferrari, Alpha Tauri and Alfa Romeo access to the country its also hoped that the exemption will allow the seven other teams easier access to mainland Europe for the other races.
An F1 spokesman told Motorsport.com that hopes remain high that a solution will be found. Saying “We are working constructively with government on our safe restart to the season, and discussions are ongoing.”
Although F1 has remained optimistic that racing personnel will eventually be included the late June deadline has made it difficult to commit to the planned Silverstone dates of July 26 and August 2, because of the lack of lead time, which is why Hungary and Germany are now being considered for those dates.
Vettel won’t risk reputation in midfield
Haas team principal Gunther Steiner believes Sebastian Vettel will not risk his career by s signing for a midfield team in 2021. With Carlos Sainz coming in at Ferrari next year, Vettel has been left without a seat and the German.
Both Red Bull and Mercedes have appeared to distanced themselves from the four-time champion, as they are likely to stick with lead drivers Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton. Retirement has long-been mooted as a possibility for Vettel, so have potential openings at teams lower down the grid.
Speaking about Vettel, Steiner told Sky Sports, “I think Sebastian, being a four-time world champion, I wouldn’t say he’d want to go to the midfield anymore.”
“If you have a successful career, what you don’t want to do is to take too many risks. I’ve got a good relationship with him but I haven’t offered him a seat. I think somebody else with a lot deeper pockets than me will do that!”
Vettel was unable to end Ferrari’s fifteen year wait for a drivers championship, despite winning four consecutive championships with Red Bull.
Although Mercedes would be interested and haven’t ruled Vettel out, F1 CEO and team principal Toto Wolff has said they are likely to look internally for Hamilton’s teammate, should he as expected re-sign for the team.
Valtteri Bottas will remain the favourite to remain with Mercedes, as Russell appeared to say it was too early in his career for a chance with Mercedes. Saying “Obviously it’s a lot about timing as well, there’s only two seats per team and at Mercedes, you’ve obviously got Lewis doing the business and he and Valtteri have been a great pairing for the last couple of years, winning the championship.”
Also, it is understood that Mercedes haven’t told Bottas that he is surplus to requirements next year, but is looking at his next move. This could be seen as a bargaining chip in contract negotiations.
Russell hoping to run car before Austria
George Russell is hoping that he will be able to get some running in an F1 car before the season begins in July. The opening ten races of the season were cancelled or postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic with the plan to start the season in Austria.
When it does start, it will be the first Grand Prix in seven months and the first time since winter testing that the drivers would be in the cars since February. Some drivers believe it will take time for them to get up to speed once the season begins.
While there are no plans for any official F1 testing before the season begins, Williams driver Russell is hoping to complete some private running to help him shake off any rust that has built up in recent months.
Speaking to Sky Sports Russell said, “That’s something I’ll really be trying to do. I think realistically karting will be the first opportunity I get. As soon as I can, I’ll be karting.”
“But ultimately I want to try and jump in a Formula 1 car before we go back racing again. So whether that’s in a Williams or in a Mercedes, we have to wait and see, just to get some laps under our belt.” Russell says that anything which has four wheels and can go around a track.
The regulations ban the teams from testing cars made in the last two years, meaning drivers would be free to privately run in 2018-spec F1 models. Some drivers have already completed some karting as lockdown measures ease in countries they are currently in, including Kevin Magnussen and Pierre Gasly.
While Russell is yet to return to the track, he has upgraded his simulator equipment at home to help him keep sharp during the break. Russell said, “Unlike other sports, you can’t have a race circuit with a Formula 1 in your back garden. It’s not like a footballer who can just go out and kick a football and do their own training.”
A third of McLaren Automotive made redundant
Sky News understands that McLaren is to make a third of its automotive division redundant with 1,200 jobs set to go, as the global car industry feels the impact of the Coronavirus.
The redundancies although not directly linked to its Formula One division although some jobs will go, it highlights the pressure which car manufacturers are under. Later in the week, Renault’s parent company Nissan is expected to announce up to 20,000 redundancies this week.
McLaren will brief employees on the proposed cuts as it seeks to borrow up to £275m against the value of its classic car collection and spectacular Surrey headquarters. The redundancies are twenty-five per cent of its workforce, spread across its F1, road-car and Applied Technologies operations.
Although largely driven by the global slow down in car sales, next years budget cap in F1 is expected to be cited as one of the factors behind the restructuring. With no racing so far this year, declining sales and the cost of the Coronavirus teams are facing a black hole in finances.
In a statement issued in response to an enquiry from Sky News, Paul Walsh, the company’s executive chairman, said it was “undoubtedly a challenging time for our company, and particularly our people, but especially those whose jobs may be affected”.
Walsh added that the company had already “undertaken dramatic cost-saving measures across all areas of the business”.
The plan to use cars as insurance to get fresh funding by mortgaging its assets has faced opposition from shareholders, and a £150m bailout from the government has been rejected.
In March, the company’s shareholders, who are led by Mumtalakat, Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund, injected £300m of equity into McLaren. Smaller shareholders, including Mansour Ojjeh, a wealthy Saudi Arabian-born businessman, also participated in the fundraising.
On a call with investors last month, Paul Buddin, McLaren’s chief financial officer, told investors: “We are looking at a number of very credible sources, and that includes all [those we] might be expected to ask, including government, including third parties.”
Aston Martin appoints new CEO
Aston Martin has announced the appointment of Mercedes-AMG chairman Tobias Moers as its new CEO. Moers, who will take up his role on the 1st August, comes as part of a revamp of the company by executive chairman and shareholder Lawrence Stroll.
Former CEO Andy Palmer has stood down with immediate effect, with current vice-president Keith Stanton being appointed as temporary COO until Moers’ arrival. Stroll believes that Moers, who built a strong rep g reputation for his management approach after lifting AMG’s fortunes, will be a big boost to the company.
He said, “He is an exceptionally talented automotive professional and a proven business leader with a strong track record during his many years at Daimler AG, with whom we have a long-standing and successful technical and commercial partnership, which we look forward to continuing.”
Stroll believes throughout his career Palmer has delivered product expansion and strengthened the brand, delivering profitability. Adding “Our ambition for the company is significant, clear and only matched by our determination to succeed.”
Aston Martin is to race under its own name in F1 next year when the Racing Point team is rebranded as an official works effort.
FIA sets up whistle-blower hotline
The FIA has set up a whistle-blower hotline in a bid to help expose competitors or companies that are breaking the rules. The hotline is designed to improve the integrity of motorsport and the automotive world, the governing body has created an Ethics and Compliance Hotline for rule breaches to be brought to light.
The hotline can be used to anonymously report suspicious behaviour or misconduct. This includes violations of FIA ethical principles, including financial misconduct, bribery, corruption, and fraud; issues related to sporting integrity and the manipulation of competitions, or alleged violations of the FIA anti-doping regulations.
The governing body for global motorsport says the hotline is available 24 hours per day, seven days per week and that: “anyone can use it for raising legitimate, reliable and documented concerns of misconduct regarding.”
Any breaches of the rules will be assessed and ‘full confidentiality’ for whistle-blowers will be guaranteed through the whole process. The FIA is clear that the hotline must only be used for ‘legitimate and documented’ concerns related to the specific categories of ethical principals, sport integrity and doping.
They have also warned that if the hotline is used in bad faith then the FIA warns that criminal and civil action could be taken against the reporting person.
The FIA adds: “Using the platform intentionally, recklessly or negligently in order to make a false or misleading representation for causing harm will result in a discarded report and possible disciplinary measures (including civil claim or criminal charges).”
This is being seen as a response to the inquiry last year over Ferrari’s power unit, which was expanded following revelations from a whistle-blower revealed details about the behaviour of the engine, although the FIA’s probe had already begun.
FIA president Jean Todt told Motorsport.com earlier this year: “Saying that, we didn’t need to do that [investigation], just because somebody who was a kind of whistle-blower is telling us. But we need to make sure that each single team is running their show legal.”
Ferrari and the FIA reached a secret agreement over the matter because it could not be proved that the Italian outfit had broken the regulations.