British GP moved into August
A revised calendar has swapped the Hungarian Grand Prix to the 17 – 20 July, if the UK government doesn’t grant an exemption to the quarantine restrictions allow personnel to travel freely at that time. The latest version of the European leg of the 2020 calendar is expected to be announced on Monday.
The doubleheader at Silverstone scheduled for the last weekend in July and the first in August were placed in doubt after the government announced a fourteen-day quarantine for UK arrivals from 8 June obliged F1 to build in a safety net and put Silverstone later, with Hungary moved into a July slot.
However, increasingly positive noises from the UK government – including the news that prime minister Boris Johnson has told his ministers to help make the races happen – has given the organisation the confidence to reserve 31 July – 02 August and 07 – 09 August for the British races.
In theory, there will be a review of UK quarantine restrictions after three weeks, which would be late June, but the prospect of extra exemptions is already under discussion. F1 is understood to be in talks with the government this week.
As previously reported, Silverstone boss Stuart Pringle has made it clear that later dates than those originally discussed are viable. On Monday he told Sky Sports, “We’ve got our original dates that we’ve been holding and talking around in mid-to-late July, but actually we’ve got a degree of flexibility through August as well.”
The Spanish Grand Prix remains in the date of 21 – 23 August, before Belgian and Italian Grand Prix’s in their original dates, 28 – 30 August and 04 – 06 September.
Rule changes give clear decision for manufacturers
Haas team principal Gunther Steiner believes that the reduced Formula One budget cap from 2021 will make involvement in the series a “clear cut” decision for interested manufacturers.
The World Motor Sport Council is set to ratify a radical set of rule changes the teams have agreed as a response to the coronavirus on Thursday. This includes a reduction in the budget cap from £150m to £125m, as well as new rules on aerodynamic development handicaps and usage of open-source parts.
The changes are designed to keep all the teams in F1 beyond 2022, with FIA president Jean Todt pushing to try and secure a “new deal” that will help make F1 more sustainable in the future.
Haas was the last new team to join the F1 grid in 2016, while the grid has featured the same four manufacturers – Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault and Honda – for the last five years, with little sign of fresh interest. With Steiner believing that the potential to break even could help stimulate more interest from manufacturers to join the grid.
Steiner said on Sky Sports, “It’s a lot more interesting now. We need to push more that we can make this a break-even business at least going forward. That’s one of my jobs to do for Mr Haas, trying to get this to a point where his investments are smaller.”
“For teams coming in, when a budget cap is discussed, there are always some people out there which think they can make money with it. It’s still a very expensive sport. You still need to invest a lot of money to get somewhere.”
“I think what the good thing is for the manufacturers, if a board of directors see there is a cap, they know how much they’re going to spend as a maximum.” He says that F1 teams don’t want things to quadruple in five years, there was now a stake where you now know the maximum is.
Talks over reducing the budget cap for 2021 accelerated in recent weeks as the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic became clearer. The leading F1 teams were initially uneasy about plans to reduce the budget cap by such a large amount but ultimately agreed to the idea.
Vettel’s time at Ferrari not a failure
Felipe Massa says Sebastian Vettel’s s time at Ferrari should not be classed as a failure, saying the team’s twelve-year wait for another world title is not only down to their drivers.
In Sky Sport’s F1 Vodcast, Ferrari special featuring the Brazilian and his former race engineer Rob Smedley, along with their former team principal Stefano Domenicali, were reunited to reminisce about their years together at F1’s biggest team.
Massa, who missed out on the 2008 championship, said, “You cannot forget that the last time Ferrari won the [constructors’] championship was in 2008.”
“It’s true that many good drivers [were] passing through the team and were not able to win. Including after 2008, I was there, and we never had really the car or the team to win.”
“Fernando [Alonso] definitely made an incredible job in 2010. He arrived really on the limit fighting for the championship. But maybe, to be honest, the car was not able to win in that year. In my opinion, he did an amazing job.”
Massa says that recent drivers like Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen were unable to complete this because they were unable to complete the perfect season. Saying Vettel did many great races and was always in front of Räikkönen.
Vettel’s supremacy was unquestioned, until last year’s arrival of Charles Leclerc. Adding, “We can’t really forget what Charlie did. He’s a driver I’m watching since karting and he showed that he’s really a big talent and can be a champion, or can be a top driver in whatever team he raced.:
Massa says that it was “not a surprise” that his former team and Vettel decided to go their separate ways at the end of 2020. Saying now he would not be shocked if Vettel retired from the sport.
Believing, “I’m not surprised that maybe he decides even to stop. Definitely, in his position, to stay, he needs to find a team that gives him the opportunity, or maybe the talks or the ideas, that he’s sure that, ‘OK, it’s good to stay’.”
“Beautiful” the combined efforts to restart F1
Chairman of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association Alex Wurz says Formula One’s combined effort to ensure the safety of the paddock for its return to racing in July has been “beautiful”.
The Austrian has been the drivers reprehensive in the meetings between Liberty, the teams and FIA about the way the sport can resume with minimal risk in Austria.
Wurz compared efforts to minimise the risks of spreading COVID-19 at closed doors F1 events with the regular focus on safety that the sport has pursued since the 1994 Imola tragedies. Wurz said in a Sky Vodcast, “It was not a negotiation. It was just to discuss and debate and use the collective brainpower of everyone involved in our sport to ensure that we can come back as early and also as safely as we can.”
“Motor racing, especially since the [Ayrton] Senna/[Roland] Ratzenberger accidents in Imola, even though we’re pushing every day the driving to the limit, we became an incredibly safe industry. Everyone in the motorsport world, from the mechanics, the team bosses, the officials, is used to very strict safety protocols.”
Wurz says it was beautiful to see that everyone was involved throughout the process, to ensure the safety of participants, and also for the nation. Stressing that F1 will only visit countries where the local medical system won’t be affected by hosting an event such as a Grand Prix.
Adding, “We’re not going to nations and we’re not going to places where the crisis is so acute that there is not enough capacity in the medical system – the medical system within our closed circuit, but definitely in the medical system around in the nation or the region.”
Norris & Verstappen team up for Virtual Le Mans
Lando Norris and Max Verstappen have teamed up to take part in the Virtual Le Mans 24 Hours, sharing an LMP2 car for sim race outfit Team Redline.
The race will take place with the support of the organisers after the race was postponed to September because of Coronavirus. Red Bull’s Verstappen and McLaren’s Norris are the first current F1 drivers confirmed for the virtual event.
They will share an ORECA 07 LMP2 car, the race’s top-class alongside GTE, for well-known sim race outfit Team Redline. Sim racing veterans Atze Kerkhof and Greger Huttu complete the team’s line-up.
Last week’s entry list revealed 50 entries from regular WEC teams and manufacturers, dedicated sim race teams and American powerhouse, Team Penske.
Porsche previously announced four Porsche 911 GTE entries with a roster including Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet, as well as former Porsche LMP1 stars Andre Lotterer and Neel Jani, factory driver Matt Campbell, Porsche junior Jaxon Evans and Simona de Silvestro.
Princess Charlene of Monaco will drive for Ferrari GTE team with WEC drivers Francesco Castellacci and Giancarlo Fisichella, as well as former Ferrari F1 star Felipe Massa and sim racer Tony Mella.
The Virtual Le Mans 24 Hours will be streamed on 13 June at 14:00 BST.