Montreal cancelled and replaced by Istanbul
The Canadian Grand Prix has been cancelled for the second year in a row because of the pandemic. F1 says that international travel restrictions in Canada meant it “became impossible to enter the country without a mandatory 14-day quarantine” for the Montreal event.
Last years race was postponed in April before being cancelled in the summer, this year the sport hoped to run a near to normal calendar. Earlier this month, reports began to emerge that the race would be cancelled because of the country without a mandatory fourteen-day quarantine.”
A statement from F1 said, “We are grateful for the efforts of the promoter and the authorities in Canada, Quebec and Montreal in the past few weeks to try and make the race happen.”
“We will work with the promoter to ensure those with tickets from 2020 & 2021 races get the options of a refund or to transfer their tickets to next year’s race and look forward to racing in Canada in 2022.”
At the same time, a two-year extension to the current contract due to the cancellation in the last two years has been agreed and will now expire in 2031. Meanwhile creating a more logistically friendly double-header in western Asia with the race in Baku.
CEO Stefano Domenicali said, “While it is disappointing we cannot be in Canada this season we are excited to confirm that Turkey will host a Grand Prix in 2021 after an amazing race last season.”
“I know all our fans are excited by the dramatic start to the season and Turkey is a great circuit that delivers great battles on the track. I want to thank the promoter and authorities in Canada for all of their efforts in recent weeks but the travel situation made our plans impossible.”
Last year’s race in Istanbul replaced Interlagos after F1 abandoned its plans to race in the Americas due to the high rates of coronavirus. The weekend, remembered For Sir Lewis Hamilton taking his seventh title, following one of the best drives of his career in wet conditions.
Canada had been the first race outside Europe and the Middle East since December 2019, its cancellation raises further questions about the fly-way races later in the year. Already Melbourne and Shanghai being postponed, the questions about running a normal season in a pandemic is possible.
These fall into two broad categories – events in countries where the virus is under relative control but the government is using immigration restrictions as part of its model to keep it so; and nations that are struggling to contain the virus, or where it is running out of control.
Japan, Singapore and Melbourne are under tight border controls facing similar restrictions. Japan and China which are due to host the Olympic and Paralympics in July/August 2021 and February/March 2022 are unlikely to host mass international events.
Red Bull “delighted” to sign Hodkinson
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says he was “delighted” to lure Ben Hodgkinson away from rivals Mercedes. But says Andy Cowell, who left the F1 world champions earlier this year, is unlikely to be joining Red Bull’s “tremendously exciting” engine project.
Red Bull’s signing of Hodgkinson as technical director for its engine division last Friday has been seen as a big statement of intent following his two decades of experience with Mercedes. Construction of the team’s engine plant begun last week in Milton Keynes with Horner describing Hodgkinson as the “obvious candidate” due to Mercedes’ recent F1 success.
He told Sky Sports, “Obviously Mercedes have done such a wonderful job, not just the last seven years with the hybrid era but also the years before that with the V8 [engines].”
“Of course you do your due diligence, you look around at what is the talent, we have so much of that here based in the UK and Ben’s name absolutely came to the fore. He was an obvious candidate for us, and I was absolutely delighted when he agreed to join the team for this exciting new chapter in Red Bull’s history in Formula One.”
Hodgkinson will join Red Bull when his contract with Mercedes ends. Red Bull is describing the project as one of the ‘most exciting engineering ventures in the last 50 years.’
He distanced himself from the former head of the Mercedes HHP division Andy Cowell who left the German manufacturer in January. There had been obvious links to Red Bull due to the team confirming the creation of their own engine department in preparation for Honda’s exit at the end of the season.
Horner said, the man who helped Mercedes embark on an unprecedented streak of dominance in the hybrid era, “Andy is a tremendously talented engineer, I think everything he’s achieved in Formula 1 speaks for itself. But Andy is keen to pursue other activities, other ventures. Obviously, that’s his priority at this point in time.
He says the team are attracting great talent, with further announcements in due course as we build this venture.
Red Bull has already described the project as “the biggest investment Red Bull have made in F1 since acquiring the team from Jaguar back in 2004”, with the team particularly focusing on the new engines from 2025.
Honda learned lessons from Istanbul which helped in the wet
Honda says that the lessons learned from Red Bull’s terrible wet starts in Turkey last year were key to unlocking its recent brilliant getaways at Imola. Max Verstappen made a brilliant start from third on the grid which allowed him to get past Sir Lewis Hamilton into Tamburello.
The Dutchman’s start marked a breakthrough for Honda, who have previously struggled in the wet because of problems getting the engine mapping and clutch settings right. In Istanbul six months ago, Verstappen and teammate Alex Albon were almost left stationary as they were swapped at the start of the race.
The Japanese manufacturer said that a deep analysis of what happened in Istanbul helped deliver answers about what it was doing wrong, and that allowed it to address things much better for this year.
Honda’s F1 technical director Toyoharu Tanabe said that he was happy the Japanese manufacturer was able to prove that its wet weather weakness had now been sorted. He explained to Motorsport, “We’ve been reviewing with the team the start settings, and thoroughly examining what went wrong in Turkey last year. We had to think about what settings we had to make to improve it.”
“It was achieved through a combination of things: such as clutch control on the car side and output for the required torque on the power unit side. The start system is very complex and we continue to develop it with the team this year. The result is now clear though and we were able to prove the result of this development.”
Tanabe says he thinks it was good that Verstappen was able to pass Hamilton after the dash from the start. Honda said coming into this season they believed they had made progress to challenge Mercedes for the title.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner thinks Honda is now in a ‘similar bracket’ with Mercedes in the power stakes, and has at the very least matched where the German car manufacturer was at the end of 2020.
Horner told Motorsport.com, “Honda have done a super job. I think we can measure that they’ve matched where Mercedes were at the end of last year. And, you know, they’ve obviously thrown a huge amount of effort into this year, their last year in the sport.”
Ferrari battle not changing McLaren development plan
McLaren says that it will not let its fight with Ferrari impact on its decision when it decides to switch its focus on developing next years car, sticking to its “clear plan”. The British team has made a strong start to the season, with Lando Norris taking third in the drivers’ championship.
The battle for third between McLaren, Ferrari and Alpha Tauri appears to be evenly matched, although McLaren is seven points ahead following the opening two races. McLaren is third seven points ahead in the constructors, most teams are currently weighing up when to fully commit their resources to design the 2022 car, with the overhaul of the technical regulations making it a crucial year for the upcoming cycle.
Team principal Andreas Seidl said he would not let the battle with Ferrari and AlphaTauri greatly sway the team from its development plan for next year.
He told Motorsport.com, “I obviously don’t know what Ferrari is planning, but I think from our side, we have a clear plan of what we want to do this year and when we want to switch to next year. Of course, it’s a bit of a live decision, not just depending on how competitive you are at the moment compared to Ferrari and AlphaTauri.”
“It will also depend on if you actually see a lot more potential within some more runs, for example, in the wind tunnel, because you see some promising directions, which then could lead you to say, ‘look, let’s invest two or three more runs because we could actually get quite a bit out of it for this year?’”
He says if it goes in the other direction you could say ‘it’s pretty much done, you need to invest a lot more energy and time in order to make further steps.’ Seidl says that they have a clear plan and flexibility, with McLaren wanting to keep the positive momentum.
McLaren finished third in last year’s constructors’ championship, marking its best season result since 2012 as it continued its recent upward trajectory. The team has previously spoken of its ambition to take advantage of the new cost cap in F1 to fight on a more level playing field with its bigger-spending rivals.
Seidl says the budget cap did not have a bearing on when the team would switch to next years car.
Williams should have been sold earlier – Lowe
Williams former technical director Paddy Lowe believes that the Williams family should have sold the team sooner to prevent the team from falling into a “very negative spiral” that he found “distressing” before his exit.
Lowe left Mercedes to return to Williams at the end of 2016, as well as becoming a shareholder in the team where he worked between 1987 and 1993, winning the world title in 1992 with Nigel Mansell. His return to the team proved to be the start of the slump to the bottom of the constructor’s championship, where they have been for the last three years.
In September last year, the team was sold to Dorilton Capital and the Williams family left the sport, Lowe said that he felt “pleased” when he heard the team had been sold and that the Williams family would be leaving.
He told Beyond The Grid “That’s what they’ve needed to do for a long time, and to be honest, should have done it earlier, for all sorts of reasons which are not to do with any individuals.”
“The team has been in a very negative spiral from a funding point of view. While I was there, I was watching that spiral progress further down the drain, and it’s actually quite distressing. You understand that there’s no good end point apart from a sale. So you may as well cut that now and move on before it’s all gone.”
“I’m very happy that the team was sold for a reasonable price so that Claire and her brothers leave with something to work with from the great things the family has achieved over the years, and the name is kept.” Lowe says that the team’s new owners have the cash to get out of the spiral, but warned it will take time.
He says he doesn’t “really like to dwell on” and that he “didn’t enjoy” the time back at Grove, calling it “really hard work for no reward whatsoever.” But also believed that some of the problems the team had were masked by the Mercedes power unit in 2014.
Explaining “So that gave some, let’s say, false impressions of underlying performance. They were living off a number of other legacy advantages that gradually unwind. When the organisation starts to lose its way because it hasn’t had the right investment or made the right decisions, it doesn’t instantly make bad cars.”