Sprint race will be only for ‘grand slam’ races – Brawn
Formula One motorsport and technical managing director Ross Brawn says that if the sprint races prove successful this year they will be used only at certain ‘Grand Slam’ Grands Prix.
On Monday, the F1 Commission agreed to trial three sprint qualifying experiments later this season to see if the format is good for the sport. The first two sprint races will take place at Silverstone and Monza, with the final one to take place at an unspecified flyaway location.
There is hope that the sprint races are a hit with fans and race promoters, F1’s managing director of motorsports Ross Brawn has made it clear that it is unlikely to make the format an ever-present fixture at all Grands Prix.
Brawns suggested that if F1 decides to go ahead with sprint races into 2022 then they would likely be only run at specifically chosen venues. Brawn wrote in his column, on F1.com, “I’m not sure this format would be as successful at Monaco.”
“We’re considering these weekends being Grand Slam events, spread through the season, so it is something different. I don’t think it’ll go to the whole season. I think it’ll be a limited number of races, but that is to be decided.”
Yesterday the plans were given unanimous support from teams, F1 and the FIA, there remains some divided opinion among fans about whether or not a Saturday race is a good idea. Brawn says he believed the new format will be a good thing for the sport and was a solution that suited both fans, teams and drivers.
He says it was a challenge to find “a format that had the right balance between giving us an opportunity to have exciting Friday and Saturday running – perhaps a shorter format race but one which did not take anything away from main event.”
Brawn says the balance also needed to work economically and logistically in a way that didn’t impact the teams too severely. It “had to find a solution that worked with them without compromising the event.”
He says that the drivers are open-minded about the format, so we can evaluate this event and then we decide if in the future it forms a feature of the F1 season.
Alpha Tauri not planning change 2021 approach
Alpha Tauri says despite its strong start to the season they have no plans to switch focus to next years car. The Italian team finished seven in the constructors’ championship last year, but believed that it can break into the top five following impressive opening two races.
Pierre Gasly qualified fifth for both races, and although the team only scored eight points across the two rounds, it appears to have a pace advantage over rivals Aston Martin and Alpine. The Frenchman also managed to fight back to seventh at Imola after dropping down the order while teammate Yuki Tsunoda was able to score points on debut in Bahrain, showing the pace of the AT02 car.
Alpha Tauri technical director Jody Egginton said the team was “firmly in the midfield” currently, and is targeting P5 after feeling it has made a step forward compared to last year.
Egginton told Motorsport.com, “Our target is to mix it for fifth in the championship, that’s what we’re aiming for. Whether we’re solidly there or not yet, it’s too early to say. But I feel the car is more competitive than last year.”
“We achieved most of our technical objectives over the winter, and they were targeting closing the gap and making the car better performing and operate over a wider operating window. I wouldn’t be naive enough to sit here now and say, ‘watch this space, we’re going to show them all how it’s done’, because that’s not the case.”
This year most of the teams have been talking about the challenges of developing this year’s cars while trying to work on next years regulation changes when the cars are designed to be closer.
When asked if a change of plan was a consideration, Egginton says that the team was not in his mind. He believes there wasn’t any compromise to be had with next years car with the challenge to be to maximise what we do with this car, with the resources they have it, as they migrate resources over to the other car.
He added, “There’s a lot of resource in the technical group being assigned to the new car already. We’re not putting all our eggs in one basket in the belief that this is our opportunity. We’re trying to get better ever year.”
Domenicali not scared of a repeat of FIA-FOTA dispute
Formula One CEO Stefano Domenicali believes football would do well to follow F1’s cost cut crusade in the wake of the Super League controversy. In what appeared to be a similar threat to the FIA-FOTA dispute in 2009, leading clubs threatened to form their own league.
F1 is no stranger to breakaway threats itself. There was talk of a Grand Prix World Championship in the early 2000s, while the now-defunct Formula One Teams’ Association (FOTA) announced in 2009 that it was pushing for its own series in 2010 amid frustration about the terms teams were being offered to race.
Domenicali was a member of the group which threaten to walk away as the then Ferrari team principal, but the threat was dropped when FOTA, Bernie Ecclestone and then FIA president Max Mosley reached a compromise over future governance and financial terms.
As well as teams receiving a greater share of the sport’s profits in recent years, F1 has put a big emphasis on cost-cutting too. New rules have tried to limit team spending, while the introduction of a budget cap for 2021 has finally ensured there is a ceiling to expenditure.
Over a decade on and the teams finally agreeing to a budget cap last year, the Italian believes the new deal reached in October 2019 and then revised last April following the pandemic, has removed the danger of a breakaway and believes football bosses may need to tackle club finances similarly.
Speaking to Sky Italia, Domenicali reckoned that F1’s mindset in reducing costs for teams has helped deliver a solid foundation for the long term.
Speaking about what happened with the Super League, Domenicali said: “In Formula 1, we have already had a situation twice in which there was the risk of a breakaway championship to try to bring home [to the teams] more results from the point of view of income.
“In F1 at the moment, we started with the opposite approach: of trying to control costs. It is no coincidence that this year is the first year of the budget cap, which gives a different dimension of financial sustainability to the teams. I think this is the first issue that the world of football if I can say it, must tackle, and in a fairly rapid way.”
Beyond the costs issue, Domenicali believes that technology plans, for a hybrid and biofuel future, ensured the sport of a sustainable future that would keep manufacturers and teams interested.
Ilott to make practice debut in Portimao
Callum Ilott will have his first practice outing of the season in first practice with Alfa Romeo at this weekends Portuguese Grand Prix. The British driver is both Alfa’s and Ferrari’s reserve driver, this year he is racing in the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup for the Iron Lynx team, it has not announced whether he will replace Kimi Raikkonen or Antonio Giovinazzi in the session.
Ilott will join the team’s reserve driver Robert Kubica, who took the teams only race win in Montreal in 2008, filling in when Kubica is not present due to other commitments.
Having driven for Alfa Romeo in last year’s post-season F1 test at Abu Dhabi, Ilott has prior experience with the Sauber-run team and will “take part in a number of FP1 sessions” for the team this year.
Ilott was due to make his FP1 debut last October at the Nürburgring with Haas, however, poor conditions saw Friday’s running cancelled. Ilott said, “I am really happy to be joining the team for this season and I’d like to thank Alfa Romeo and the Ferrari Driver Academy for the trust they have put in me.”
“The two sessions I had with the team in the last two years have been extremely useful in getting me accustomed to the way a Formula One team works and I am confident I can hit the ground running in my new role as one of the reserve drivers at Alfa Romeo.”
Ilott finished runner up to Haas driver Mick Schumacher in last years F2 championship, he also finished third overall in GP3 in 2018 and stepped up to F2 with the Charouz Racing System team, which then had an affiliation with the Sauber junior program.
He moved to the UNI-Virtuosi team to contest the title last year, finishing 14 points behind champion Schumacher and one point clear of AlphaTauri F1 driver Yuki Tsunoda.
Alfa Romeo team principal Fred Vasseur added, “I am delighted to welcome Callum to our team. His journey through the junior series has been an impressive one and he is, without doubt, one of the most talented young drivers coming through the ranks.”
“He has worked with us before, each time leaving a lasting impression thanks to his work ethic and good feedback, and I have no doubt he will be a very positive addition to Robert Kubica, who will be unavailable on various occasions due to his other racing programmes.”
Seidl backs Ricciardo’s criticism of F1 social media
McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl has backed his driver Daniel Ricciardo’s stance that F1’s social media strategy can do better than just focusing on crashes. The Australian recently criticised the sport for its obsession with playing up accidents.
In an interview with Square Mile, Ricciardo let rip at the way that the sport had tried to glamourise smashes. He said “I think last year, F1 put on their social channels, like, ‘top 10 moments of the year’ or something, and eight of the ten were crashes.”
“I was just like, you guys are f*****g idiots. Maybe 12-year-old kids want to see that kind of content, and that’s cool because they don’t know any better, but we’re not kids. Just do better, guys. Do better than that.” Ricciardo has apologised for using ‘aggressive’ language, but stood by his belief that F1’s approach to showcasing the sport was wrong.
Seidl agrees with Ricciardo, that the sport has many better points to excite fans than just accidents but equally says that the sport’s social media team have done a good job in recent years of increasing awareness.
He told Motorsport.com, “From our point of view, F1’s social media team has done and is still doing an excellent job of promoting our sport. I think if you look at the numbers also, they have delivered rapid growth in the engagement in recent years. Also, managing to connect the sport to a lot of new audiences.”
“Our sport is one of the most exciting ones in the world, with plenty of interesting stories on and off track. While I would say the danger may be a part of the appeal to some fans, I agree with Daniel that there’s a bigger and more positive story to be told about the sport: which F1 is also doing”
Seidl says however that Ricciardo simply didn’t use the right language.
The Australian was also critical of the decision by F1TV’s world feed to keep replaying footage of Romain Grosjean’s fiery crash in the red flag stoppage race before the restart.
Steiner admits ‘difficulty’ in saying the right thing to rookies
Haas team principal Gunther Steiner has admitted that he finds it ‘difficult’ at times to say the right things to his new rookie drivers. The British based American team, openly admits that it is facing a difficult season, having decided back of the grid.
The teams’ rookies Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin have endured some tricky times as they get used to F1 machinery, Steiner is well aware that he needs to carefully manage the situation.
While Steiner has a reputation for being brutally honest with his feelings on drivers, as was often seen in the Netflix: Drive to Survive series, he says he is having to be more cautious in what he says.
Speaking on the podcast In the Fast Lane, produced by the Australian Grand Prix corporation, Steiner explained that saying the wrong thing to his drivers could end up having a negative impact. He said, “I need to think a lot more and analyse a lot more where we can make the quickest gains,” he said. “It’s difficult sometimes because the wrong words maybe do the wrong things. So, for me, the biggest challenge is to give them the confidence that they are confident in what they are doing.
“Think about that you’re a 21-22 year old guy, which comes into Formula 1, and all the pressure is on you. It’s not easy, just in your head, to deal with it. Never mind to race one of these cars, which are very tricky….So it’s just like trying to fill in, where I can see weaknesses where they struggle most.”
He also says that experienced drivers like Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen needed encouragement at times to deliver to their best. Steiner says that when Magnussen joined the team in 2017 the Dane joined the team he was insecure and not believing in himself.
He says that the team will take the same approach with Schumacher and Mazepin, along the lines of ‘we are here for you guys, we are your first helpers, you know, you need to trust us, we are doing the best we can to help you.’
Steiner says that Schumacher is ‘very humble’ in his approach to the job, while his teammate Nikita Mazepin has had a more difficult start in the wake of some early season incidents in Bahrain and Imola.
He believes Mazepin made a big step at Imola as he gets to grips with the car, and he is getting his act together in the moment and can see that he’s making progress.