Reporters – 31/05/2020

Features

Sebastian Vettel’s future has been in the spotlight since he and Ferrari decided to part company at the end of the year. Despite the spilt, team principal Mattia Binotto still believes that Vettel remains passionate about F1…

Vettel still passionate about F1 – Binotto

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto believes Sebastian Vettel remains “passionate” about Formula One but does not know what the four-time world champion will do next when he leaves Ferrari at the end of 2020.

Speaking to Sky Sports Italy the Italian admitted that going for Sainz did represent a “gamble” for the team, given the new partnership with Charles Leclerc will give them their youngest line-up since 1968. But he is confident it is one worth taking to begin a “new cycle” as they bid to end their long wait for F1’s world titles.

Speaking about Vettel’s decision to leave the team at the end of the year after he said, “I think it was the right thing for him and for us. Only Seb knows what he will do in the future. He’s a great driver and he’ll make the right choice.”

“He spent six years at Ferrari and the team has a special place in his heart. We have a good relationship with him, which isn’t to be taken for granted when there’s a parting of ways.”

Vettel’s future remains unclear, with McLaren signing Daniel Ricciardo and both Red Bull and Mercedes unlikely to sign him. Binotto says that the German will have a few things to think about.

That ‘long-term project’ means Ferrari now have two of the grid’s most highly-rated youngsters signed up for the next few years. Sainz is 25 years old, with Leclerc three years younger. But, unless Leclerc wins the title this year, Ferrari will start 2021 without a world champion in their line-up for just the second time in the last quarter of a century.

But despite this Binotto says he has faith and is pleased with the direction they have taken, saying the world has changed and that they need to look at F1 in a different light.

Adding “Carlos Sainz is a young driver and Ferrari haven’t had such a young driver pairing in 50 years. It’s a gamble for us and we’re happy to be taking on this challenge. We want to begin a new cycle.”

“It’ll be a tough path, but putting faith in youngsters is also geared towards that, not just for the drivers, but also for the mechanics. Sainz is a very nice and intelligent guy.”

 

The fiasco which caused the cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix following an outbreak of Coronavirus will not be repeated, even if there is another outbreak in the paddock. The FIA believes measurers are in place to allow any race to go ahead but why?  

FIA learned lessons from Melbourne

The FIA says they have learned from the season’s aborted opening event, so that Austria, unlike Australia, would go ahead even amid positive test for Coronavirus.

FIA President Jean Todt and the medical commission chairman Gerard Saillant believe they can avoid a repeat of what they considered “unpredictable” circumstances that caused Melbourne’s cancellation in March.

Todt told Sky Sports in a wide-ranging interview, “I think it is very unfair to attach blame to what happened in Australia. Things were moving so quickly. You know that 24 hours before the start of free practice there was no reason not to do the event.”

“The government was in favour of hosting the event and the organisers were also in favour; the promoter, the local motorsport federation, everybody was [in favour].” He says that in Melbourne the problems just got bigger and moments before practice when it became clear the event was not possible anymore.

Todt continues: “It happened in other parts of the world, in other events. One week after Australia, we were running the WRC Mexico Rally and then on Saturday, during the event, due to emotional pressure we decided to stop the rally early.”

“The day after, in France, were the mayoral elections. On Sunday there were the elections. On Monday all was stopped. That’s why I said It would be unfair to criticise [what happened in] Australia. It was just unpredictable.”

He said when we get to the first race, the aim was not to face the same unpredictable situation. A ‘biosphere’ has been outlined by the sport and social distancing enforced to stop teams interacting.  Professor Saillant drew red lines, beyond which, continuing would be out of the question?

Saillant said “I think the situation is quite different between Melbourne and Austria now. The knowledge of the virus is quite different. It is possible to prevent and to anticipate a lot of things.”

“If we have one positive case, or maybe even 10, it is possible to manage perfectly with a special pathway for the positive case.

 

The controversy around last year’s Ferrari power unit continues with teams still calling for the investigation to continue. While Ferrari hasn’t been cleared or found guilty of wrongdoing, one of the legacies for motorsport is the creation of a whistleblowing hotline…

FIA sets up whistle-blower hotline

The FIA has set up a whistle-blower hotline in a bid to help expose competitors or companies that are breaking the rules. The hotline is designed to improve the integrity of motorsport and the automotive world, the governing body has created an Ethics and Compliance Hotline for rule breaches to be brought to light.

The hotline can be used to anonymously report suspicious behaviour or misconduct. This includes violations of FIA ethical principles, including financial misconduct, bribery, corruption, and fraud; issues related to sporting integrity and the manipulation of competitions, or alleged violations of the FIA anti-doping regulations.

The governing body for global motorsport says the hotline is available 24 hours per day, seven days per week and that: “anyone can use it for raising legitimate, reliable and documented concerns of misconduct regarding.”

Any breaches of the rules will be assessed and ‘full confidentiality’ for whistle-blowers will be guaranteed through the whole process. The FIA is clear that the hotline must only be used for ‘legitimate and documented’ concerns related to the specific categories of ethical principals, sport integrity and doping.

They have also warned that if the hotline is used in bad faith then the FIA warns that criminal and civil action could be taken against the reporting person.

The FIA adds: “Using the platform intentionally, recklessly or negligently in order to make a false or misleading representation for causing harm will result in a discarded report and possible disciplinary measures (including civil claim or criminal charges).”

This is being seen as a response to the inquiry last year over Ferrari’s power unit, which was expanded following revelations from a whistle-blower revealed details about the behaviour of the engine, although the FIA’s probe had already begun.

FIA president Jean Todt told Motorsport.com earlier this year: “Saying that, we didn’t need to do that [investigation], just because somebody who was a kind of whistle-blower is telling us. But we need to make sure that each single team is running their show legal.”

Ferrari and the FIA reached a secret agreement over the matter because it could not be proved that the Italian outfit had broken the regulations.

 

Could the Coronavirus pandemic have a benefit and the ‘part sabbatical’ over the past few months could lead to drivers having longer careers? Daniel Ricciardo believes it could…

Longer career possible due to the long break – Ricciardo

Daniel Ricciardo believes that the extended winter break caused by the Coronavirus pandemic could help him have a longer Formula One career. The opening ten races of the season have been either cancelled or rearranged due to the pandemic, the hope of it beginning in Austria in July.

Should that plan go ahead it would mean the drivers would have been out of action for over seven months since the 2019 season finale in Abu Dhabi, only interrupted by two days post-season testing in December and six days of pre-season testing in February.

Ricciardo has been spending lockdown at his family farm in Australia with his trainer, Michael Italiano, and hoped by making good use of the additional time to work on his physical condition he can extend his F1 career.

Ricciardo, who was announced last week as a McLaren driver for 2021, told BBC News, “We’ve been able to knuckle down and set up a real training programme that we never really get. You get it at the start of the year, but once you get back to Europe and the travelling starts, it’s so hard to get any routine and consistency.”

“Where now we’ve been able to build like an eight-week block as we’d call it, and starting to see some really good improvements. It’s just nice to have that time.”

“I think part of it is the training, and being able to have this amount to condition my body, and I think the icing on the cake of that as well has been we haven’t been jumping time zones.”

He thinks that the benefits are going to be really nice, but it was important to maximise, which may allow him to have more longevity in my career.”

Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton recently said he had considered taking a break from F1 to rest his mind and body but was now enjoying the current “part-sabbatical”.

Ricciardo explained how fans may form misconceptions about the number of time drivers have to train, particularly when there are back-to-back European races.

Ricciardo said, “Probably everyone thinks Monday you’re back in the gym and you’re training Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, then you get to the track and whatever. But back-to-back is a little bit of conservation mode as well.”

“You want to be fresh for both weekends, so a Monday would look like a rest day, no real strenuous training, you might do some stretching or like a yoga type of day.”

 

One of the changes brought about by the pandemic could be the additional restrictions on car development to cut costs. How would this work?

Handicap development curbs to close the gap

Formula One will introduce its first handicap system for aerodynamic development from next year after the FIA signed off on an extensive package of cost-cutting and sporting rules announced by the FIA for forthcoming years.

The move is designed to accelerate by the onset of the coronavirus crisis,  this is a significant change to the way F1 regulates development work carried out by teams. For the first time in the sport’s history the bigger teams will have limits on development depending on the success of the team.

The change centres on the amount of time teams will have to develop cars and parts in wind tunnels and on Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) systems at their factories. CDF is one of the biggest costs for the teams, as they produce models to test ideas in wind tunnels, twenty-four hours a day.

Already the postponed 2021 regulation changes had cut the amount of wind tunnel, with the teams receiving an amount of time-based on their championship position.

The allocation for the first six months of the year will be based on the results of the previous season’s Constructors’ Championship, while the second half will be formed on where teams stand as of June 30 of that season.

For an example of the regulations were in place this year, Mercedes would run at ninety per cent of its base level (36 runs a week) while Williams who finished last would run at a hundred and twelve per cent (45 runs a week.)

From 2022, the gap between front and back increases, with increments of five per cent. So whereas the first-placed team would be allowed 28 runs per week, the 10th team would have 46.

Essentially, the teams further down the grid will have more time to spend working on designs in the wind tunnel to try and close the competitive gap.

 

That’s all from Reporters this week, goodbye

Jack

Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.