Ferrari not bringing upgrades to Austria
Ferrari has announced they will not be bringing any upgrades to the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix, instead will bring the first upgrade to the third race in Budapest in three weeks.
Team principal Mattia Binotto said in the preview for this weekends race, following the lockdown caused by the pandemic the team has decided to take a major change in direction to find more performance from the SF1000 while knowing that the updates would not be ready for the first two races.
The upgrade programme has been hindered both by the two two-months down agreed in March and Italy’s national lockdown to stop the spread of the Coronavirus. The restart of manufacturing under protocols to stop the spread of the virus has slowed the pace of work.
Binotto said it would have been “counterproductive” to pursue the original car concept that proved disappointing in testing. Binotto said in a team preview, “This weekend the car will run in the same configuration used towards the end of the Barcelona tests.”
“in the very limited time of just five and a half weeks in which we were able to work on the cars, because of the stringent procedures involved in working around the pandemic as well as the total shutdown of activities required by the FIA in agreement with the teams.”
“The truth is that the outcome of the tests led us to take a significant change of direction in terms of development, especially on the aerodynamic front.”
He says they have looked at they would car and with it not being all ready decided to wait until its already to be introduced. But they still are confident of a decent weekend having now got a better understanding of the car.
But Ferrari admits that they don’t have the fastest package and that hasn’t changed since Melbourne, hoping that Budapest is the step forwards.
Honda to bring engine upgrade
Red Bull hopes of taking the fight to Mercedes this weekend’s season-opening Austrian Grand Prix will be boosted by an engine upgrade.
The cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix means the teams are free to bring whatever upgrades they want without incurring penalties for things like gearbox and engine changes.
Speaking in the teams preview ahead of the opening race, team principal Christian Horner said engine supplier Honda is bringing a second upgrade for its power unit. Many of the teams and manufacturers have announced spec-2 cars for Austria.
He said, “We have an engine upgrade, as we essentially introduce what would have been engine number two, which becomes our first engine. So in all aspects of the car, there has been an awful lot of work go into. It’s been a race against the clock to get those updates onto the car since reopening the factory at the beginning of June.”
Red Bull last week unveiled some upgrades during a filming day, the team are bringing the parts intended for the opening races. Horner says they don’t know where they will stand as new upgrades come as well as lessons learnt during the lockdown.
During the teams filming day last week, the team unveiled a raft of upgrades at Silverstone. Horner says that they still don’t know where they will be, as the upgrades are subtle. He praised the teams strengthening relationship between Red Bull and Honda.
Adding, “As we head into our second year of our Honda relationship it feels much more integrated within the team. We enjoyed a great debut season with Honda winning three races, and of course, now we’re looking to build on that.
“They’re ambitious, they share the same ambitions that we do, they’ve been working tremendously hard during the off-season and of course come into this year with higher expectations.”
Zanardi undergoes a second operation
Alex Zanardi has undergone a second operation as a result of the severe head injuries he suffered in a handcycle accident. The former F1 driver turned gold-winning Paralympian collided with a lorry during a race in Pienza on 19th June.
Zanardi remains in intensive care, under sedation with this cardio-respiratory and the metabolic condition is “stable” his neurological condition, however, remains “severe”, with his prognosis is confidential.
A hospital statement said the surgery was “necessary” after “an evolution of the patient’s state”.
Roberto Gusino, health director of the hospital in Siena, said of the two-and-a-half-hour surgery: “The intervention carried out represents a step that had been hypothesised by the team.”
“Our professionals will evaluate the evolution of the situation day by day. In agreement with the family, the next bulletin will be released in about 24 hours.”
The Italian has become a sporting icon, for the strength of will and determination he has shown in overcoming adversity in his career after he lost both his legs in an accident while racing in a Champ Car event in Germany in 2001.
He raced in F1 between 1991-94 and 99, for the Jordan, Minardi, Lotus and Williams teams, scoring a best result of sixth place. He raced in the US-based Champ Car series from 1996-98, winning the title in 1997 and 1998.
It was in a Champ Car race that he lost both legs in 2001 before returning to racing in touring cars. He then turned his attention to hand cycling, where he won four golds in London and Rio, as well as the 2011 New York marathon.
Drivers discussing taking the knee
Lando Norris says that drivers will be discussing taking a knee as a collective show of solidarity against racism ahead of Sunday’s season-opening Austrian Grand Prix.
It is understood drivers will have the opportunity to take the knee in front of the cars during the Austrian national anthem, which is 15 minutes before the start of the race.
Over the last few weeks following the death of George Floyd and in response to coronavirus, Formula One has launched a new initiative called We Race As One last week.
In an interview with PA Media, McLaren driver Norris said: “Some of the drivers have already been speaking [about taking a knee]. If we are going to do it, we should all do it”
“It will be discussed following the drivers’ briefing with the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association on Friday. We will do whatever we can to show that we care and respect everyone. We will do what is right when the time comes.”
Norris has been part of the group of drivers who have been speaking out to end racism over the last month. He says that the sport can have a bigger impact as it reaches millions around the world.
F1’s response has been led by Lewis Hamilton, the six-times champion is the only BAME driver on the grid. In recent week’s he has launched the Hamilton Commission to look at increasing opportunities for BAME people in the sport.
Yesterday, Mercedes team revealed on Monday that they will race with black cars in the 2020 season as part of their commitment to fighting all forms of discrimination, while also improving the diversity of their team.
F1’s loan from Liberty amended
Formula One has been given extra financial breathing space until the end of next year, the sports owners gave a £2.5bn loan to help the sport through the next year because of the Coronavirus pandemic.
£406m credit facility that belongs to F1 is governed by a covenant in which the lenders specify the maximum possible leverage, or ratio of total debt to profit, that F1 is obliged to operate within. Normally, that wouldn’t be a problem as the sport normally keeps its profits within the required limits.
Like the teams, F1 is expecting its business to be hit hard by the crisis, as well as Liberty’s other business. The sport is expecting the profits to be hit hard which put it at risk of breaching its covenant.
Addressing that risk, Liberty negotiating an amendment, which specifies that “subject to compliance by F1 with certain additional conditions, the net leverage financial covenant shall not apply until 1 January 2022.”
This means the conditions of the original covenant have been put on hold until the end of 2021.
McLaren’s future was never at risk
McLaren insists that there was never the risk of the team being unable to continue in Formula One next year, despite the financial difficulties it has faced over recent weeks.
The McLaren Group’s income has been hit hard by the coronavirus by the lack of racing and the global slowdown in car sales. It has recently gone to court to try to push through a refinancing plan that involved the release of securities – including properties and its heritage car collection.
Court documents has expressed the sense of urgency in their need to find £280 million by 17 July to prevent the risk of “a cash flow crisis and a value destructive insolvency”. Most of that cash has come from a £150m loan from the National Bank of Bahrain, which will help give it some stability ahead of racing returning and car production resuming.
Speaking to a group of media on Tuesday, team principal Andreas Seidl said on Tuesday that the team’s future was never in doubt. Saying “With obviously me and Zak [Brown, CEO] having equal knowledge of what was actually going on, we were not at risk of not being able to continue.”
“So there was never a doubt of McLaren not being on the grid next year. I am in permanent exchange with Zak, who always kept me up to date with what’s happening on the financial side.”
Sidel says that the loan from the Bahraini bank was hugely welcome for the team, in allowing it to finally focus on its core activity. Also an extra boost and motivation for the whole team.
Adding, “We can fully focus again on what we like to do most and what we do best: which is focusing on developing a good race car, producing a good race car and racing it.”
When asked by Autosport if the financial problems had impacted the team’s short term prospects, perhaps by not allowing it to spend on updates, Seidl was clear that there was no problem there.
The team put in measures early on with pay cuts and furlough, saying that now they are back on track with the 2020 programme as well as next years car. The team will be bringing regular upgrades to the car while trying to work out how to integrate the Mercedes power unit.
However, the issues could have a longer term problem with them needing to hold off on longer term infrastructure construction projects like a new wind tunnel and simulator having been put on hold.
Seidl said he was now pushing hard to get work on them resumed as quickly as possible, but said that uncertainty over the 2020 calendar meant the team could not commit on its budget plans yet.