Chinese GP under threat from Coronavirus
The Chinese Grand Prix could face cancellation as the country continues to combat the coronavirus, the race due to be held in April. Formula One and the FIA are monitoring the situation to consider their options should the outbreak continue to be a threat over the next two months
The coronavirus virus has now infected more than 4,500 people worldwide and caused 106 deaths. Although it originated in Wuhan, the Shanghai Health Commission has said thirteen new cases were identified on Monday in Shanghai, taking the total to 66.
One case in the city has already ended fatally and two other people remain in critical condition. Speaking to The Guardian a senior expert at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control in Stockholm has warned that he does not expect the virus to be eliminated any time soon.
Dr Sergio Brusin said “It is not going to be easy,” he said. “We are in for the long run. It is not something that is going to disappear next week, it will be quite a lot of work to contain.”
“What happens between now and April is extremely difficult to predict but if the infection keeps on spreading at this pace I would not be optimistic at having an F1 ticket in my pocket.”
If cancelled in April, it appears unlike that this year’s race can be rescheduled. A spokesman for the FIA said, his decision would be made by F1, the promoter and National Sporting Association (ASN), which is the Federation of Automobile Sports of China.
Adding “We are monitoring the situation in close collaboration with F1, the promoter and with our ASN which is our conduit on the ground in China. We are all monitoring it together. At this stage not much we can do except watch the situation and react if necessary if recommendations are made by the relevant authorities.”
Hamilton “raised his level” – Alonso
Fernando Alonso says that his former teammate Lewis Hamilton has “raised his level” in the last two seasons but still has weaknesses others are not exploiting. The Spaniard who left the sport at the end of 2018 is pondering a return next year, saying that it “nice” to test Hamilton.
The Spaniard told F1 Racing magazine: “He’s made a step forward – he is more competitive, more prepared. He still has some weak points that have not been stressed yet – no-one is pressing that button, that weakness”
Alonso says that the Englishman’s superiority over his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas was obvious from the weekends when the car was not competitive. He believes that Hamilton has raised the level in 2019 and that his car wasn’t always dominant in recent years.
He added, “If he cannot win, he’s a very close second – not 20 seconds further back, which is what happens a little bit with Valtteri. A weekend when the car is not as competitive, Bottas is fifth or sixth or a minute behind – but Lewis is not.”
Alonso pointed out that Hamilton always starts slowly before building, where Bottas starts strong then drops away. He says that it would be nice to see the Finn compete against Hamilton properly, which will be nice to discover.
“When you have a good package and the other guys crash and you extend your championship lead, everything seems calm. If you are only one point behind or 10 points behind, the stress is different. We need to see him when the pressure is on.”
Speaking about Vettel, Hamilton’s main rival whose errors in 2017 and 2018 cost him a chance of the title, he says that he does not rate the German on as high a level as he does Hamilton.
The 38-year-old, whose last four seasons in F1 were spent in an uncompetitive McLaren, has made it clear he is open to a return to F1 in 2021 if the right opportunity arises, and believes the new rules being introduced next year should close up the field.
Those options appear limited, as Hamilton is expected to sign a new contract with Mercedes for two or three more years, and there would appear to be no return to Ferrari.
That leaves Renault as Alonso’s most likely option should he decide to return to F1 in a year in which he will turn 40 in the summer.
Gasly can be “great” again – Marko
Red Bull adviser Helmut Marko believes that Pierre Gasly has what it takes to win a place back at Red Bull and become “great” again in Formula One. Last season the Frenchman was demoted from the senior team in the summer.
Gasly then had a brilliant recovery in the second half of the season, including a sensational podium finish at the Brazilian Grand Prix left the team and Marko deeply impressed. Speaking exclusively to Motorsport.com, Marko said, “It was a blossoming that was incredible. There, you can see what psychology is all about.”
“If I would say now that I had expected this, it would be a complete lie. In contrast to [Daniil] Kvyat [who was moved to Toro Rosso in 2016], Gasly has risen again. Thank God for him and for us. I think he will have learned his lessons from these six months at Red Bull.”
The team always said the swap with Alex Albon was to ease the pressure on him and allow him to regain his confidence. Marko says he wouldn’t describe the move as a demotion as he remained in Formula One, but did say that Gasly at first didn’t understand the reason, however, now sees it differently.
Adding “The only reason why this happened to him in such a way, that he could bring all his strengths to bear in Toro Rosso, was that the Toro Rosso was easier to drive and the pressure was naturally lower.”
Marko says that Gasly needed to accept that Verstappen was faster and his own shortcomings.
Paul Ricard proposes changes to be made in “four days”
Organisers of the French Grand Prix organisers say Paul Ricard changes to improve overtaking could be made “in four days” once approved by the FIA.
In December Autosport reported that Paul Ricard believes the racing spectacle can be made better if tweaks are made to the first section of its track. New managing director Eric Boullier told some media, plans had submitted to the FIA and the hope is that the revamp can be ready in time for this year’s race.
He told Autosport, “We’ve been working for several months now, and we’re at the final stage. We have made a track change request following all the work that has been done with FOM.”
“There has been a lot of back and forth simulation work with FOM, and things are well advanced as there’s a version that’s now in the homologation stage with the FIA.”
The plan is to open up the tight first sequence of corners to be opened up, which will then deliver a much bigger first braking point at the Sainte-Baume area of the circuit. According to the simulations the cars are clearly getting closer, and if they can’t get past at Sainte-Baume, you’ll do it at the first chicane.
While Paul Ricard is eager for the changes to happen, they need to get signed off by the FIA first. No final decision has been made on that front, there is no urgent rush for a call on that yet.
Speaking about the chicane on the back straight, which hasn’t been liked by everyone, Boullier announced it would remain in place. Saying “We’re keeping the chicane, of course. You must know that if you want some overtaking, you have to make 90-degree turns and, at the end of the straight, it’s a flat out corner.”
Williams bolsters technical team
Williams has appointed David Worner as chief designer with Jonathan Carter looking as if he will take up the role of deputy chief designer and head of design, with the two joining from Red Bull and Renault respectively.
Worner has been in the sport for over two decades with his most recent role being overseeing the synergies between Red Bull and its sister team, Toro Rosso. Worner previously served as Red Bull’s deputy chief designer. Carter steps away from Renault after working as its head of composite design since 2015. He previously worked with Arrows and McLaren.
The appoints continues the teams restructuring which it began a year ago following the departure of chief technical officer Paddy Lowe.
Williams confirmed that Adam Carter has become the team’s chief engineer, in which role he “will be responsible for the integration and coordination of activities across the core engineering functions and delivery of vehicle programmes”.
Deputy Williams team principal Claire Williams said: “Dave and Jonathan bring enormous experience, knowledge and skills to the Williams team, and we are delighted that they are joining us in the near future.
“They will strengthen our design capabilities and work closely with Adam Carter, our Chief Engineer, and the other senior members of the Engineering team on the design and development of the next generation of Williams F1 cars.”
Japanese start times confirmed
Formula One has confirmed that the Japanese GP will start an hour earlier than last year. When the start times were released earlier this month the times the race was listed as TBC with the start times.
The race will move to 13:10 local time (05:10 BST) and has become the third race to have a new time relative to 2019. As previously announced the British GP has been moved from 14:10 to 15:10, and the US GP from 13:10 to 14:10 (20:10).
Haas confirms Barcelona launch
Haas has announced they will unveil their car at the start of testing at the Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya. The US Team was the first team to reveal its livery for the season last year, but on this occasion is due to wait until 19th February.
The car will be unveiled at 07:00GMT, fifteen minutes before Alfa Romeo the other team leaving its launch until the very start of pre-season testing takes the covers off its own 2020 car
The team has an unchanged line-up of Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean. Last season, the team started strongly in testing but that failed to translate into results and they had their worst season in their short history.
The VF-19 had run in black-and-gold livery following the arrival of Rich Energy as title sponsor. The deal had been terminated by September, and Haas has been tipped to return to its customary red, white and grey colours for its 2020 car.
The outfit becomes the eighth F1 team to officially confirm a launch date for its 2020 campaign, with only Williams and Red Bull still to do so.