Hello, the news this week has been dominated by events in Ukraine the sport probably imposed the strictest sanctions on Russia probably since 1985 when South Africa was stripped of there race because of apartheid. I have never seen a story that isn’t about the sport dominating the sport, but this is prof may be that the sport is serious about the commitment to international law and human rights.
Ukraine continues to dominate the headlines and on Monday both the IOC and the Ukrainian motorsport federation has called on the FIA to place a ban on Russian licence holders, including Nikita Mazepin, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (FAU), which has called for the governing body to ban on those racing with licenses issued by Russia and Belarus’s federations from racing in competitions outside their home countries.
In a statement the IOC said it made the decision “in order to protect the integrity of global sports competitions and for the safety of all the participants”. On Tuesday, a special WMSC meeting ruled that Mazepin would be allowed to race under the ‘FIA Flag’ and has a neutral driver.
The FIA said that no Russian or Belarusian national teams could compete in international competitions until further notice. This means that drivers from Russia and Belarus will complete under the ‘FIA Flag’, with a “specific commitment and adherence to the FIA’s principles of peace and political neutrality, until further notice.”
On Wednesday, the UK governing body announced that Mazepin would not be allowed to race at Silverstone after deciding not to recognise licenses of competitors from Russia and Belarus until further notice. Motorsport UK’s decision follows many other UK sporting bodies, I think this is obviously a complicated situation, and I think they felt they had to follow the FA and other bodies to act to put pressure on Russia.
On Friday, the governing body outline the terms which Russian drivers must follow the key points are:
- The display of Russian/Belarusian national symbols, colours or flags are banned in public and on social media platforms.
- Russian/Belarusian flags, emblems, symbols, and words linked to the country are banned from display on uniforms, clothing, accessories and other personal items.
- The singing or playing of the Russian/Belarusian national anthem at any event or area controlled by the FIA is outlawed.
- Comments, actions or conduct that is prejudicial to the interests of the FIA, and in particular any support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine, is banned.
Overnight on Friday, Haas decided to terminate the contract of Mazepin, it was my feeling over the last week it was in my view growing untenable given the sanctions on Russia and the family’s personal links to Vladimir Putin.
I know fans online haven’t liked Mazepin because of his behaviour of him after Abu Dhabi 2020 and on-track performances, but you can’t help but feel sorry for him as he is collateral damage and those other athletes from Russia and Belarus are unfairly being caught up in this war.
Organisers of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix have outlined further details on the planned track changes to the Jeddah Corniche Circuit ahead of this month’s race. One of the problems we heard drivers were the number of blind high-speed corners and we did see last year’s race interrupted by red flags because of accidents.
Turns 2, 3, 14 and 21 will see the barriers will be moved back between 1.5m and 2m.
Mercedes CEO and team principal Toto Wolff has told a Sky documentary which will air this weekend that Michael Masi was “turned” by Red Bull at the end of last season and that a “bromance” helped Max Verstappen beat Lewis Hamilton to the title. The preview shows the Austrian frustrated and hurt by the way the championship was decided.
I haven’t seen the documentary yet, but these claims are shocking and don’t really help with rebuilding trust between the FIA, drivers, teams and fans. Masi wasn’t well supported that has to be the conclusion of everyone in the sport, you need to think that the changes will make race control work better.
Masi, I think and the consensus appears to be that he was not supported, like we have said before there will be changes and maybe future race directors will remember what happened in Abu Dhabi last year.
Max Verstappen signed a new contract which will see him remain with Red Bull until 2028, as predicted the contract is worth £40m a year I think that shows that the team are wanting a long term relationship. Christian Horner, I believe rightly described it as a statement of intent, they are becoming more a manufacturer rather than just selling energy drinks.
We also know that Verstappen spoke about being with Red Bull for life, but there has been no comment from the team or Verstappen. Last year, following Abu Dhabi, he said “I hope we can do this for 10-15 years together. There’s no reason to change ever. I want to stay with them for the rest of my life.
Carlos Sainz says Ferrari has “no clue” where it stands among front-runners despite a promising first pre-season test in Barcelona this week. the Italian manufacturer led the way in terms of mileage, with Sainz completing two hundred and thirty-six laps himself.
Ferrari set the pace on day two in Barcelona, and as we often have said in This Week they have put a lot of focus on this year’s car. The poor performance in 2020 has given them more wind tunnel time, Ferrari is also hoping that the decision not to focus too much on last year’s car sees them return to the front.
The other interesting announcement was by Mattia Binotto who said that they will not bring any big updates for the Sakhir test, that’s surprising as we expect Red Bull and Mercedes are waiting until the Bahrain test to reveal some of the most aggressive aero developments that they hope will help them start the season at the front.
Mattia Binotto also believes that at next week’s test Mercedes will be bringing a big upgrade making it difficult to judge where the team is. He says “it’s very difficult today to judge the performance and the relative competitiveness between the teams.”
McLaren says it doesn’t understand why it wasn’t affected as much by the porpoising problems which affected serval teams during last week’s Barcelona test. Technical director James Key admitted the team were not clever enough to create a car which specifically addressed the problem
He told Motorsport.com, “We had a couple of test items which appeared to promote it a bit more. But then removing them reduced it, so you can fix it aerodynamically as well.”
Key explained it simply saying says it involves the stiffnesses of the tyre, which if in tune with the chassis, that’s when you see it go off when you get a natural frequency. There is front mass as well, the issue depends on loads and ride height, hoping that they can iron out the issues.
Alpine says although it hasn’t run Renault’s new power unit in its top mode it is encouraged by the performance shown. Ahead of this year’s engine freeze, the French manufacturer has developed a new power unit, including the split turbo concept Mercedes have been using throughout the hybrid era.
The engine hasn’t yet been run at its full potential so when we get into qualifying in Bahrain it will be interesting to see how it stands up. But it a good start as the reliability is good, and the only real negativity that appeared to be driveability were made, but they soon resolved that concern by playing around with engine modes and mapping.
Aston Martin team Mike Krack believes the team are on target with team owners Lawrence Stroll’s ambition of challenging for titles by 2025. The German has widespread experience in motorsport engineering and management, having been a race engineer with BWM Sauber.
He accepted, as whenever I hear the phrase ‘five-year plan,’ they don’t always come together, with the regulation change this year you are kind of hoping if you are a team to take advantage of these changes. But can the continue to be value for money, that’s a big question I think that is going to be key.
Krack told BBC News, “We have everything we need but we need to make the right decisions. It doesn’t come by itself. It is hard work over many days, weeks and months. I agree that five-year plans do not always come to success.”
Alfa Romeo officially launched there 2022 car a week ago, after used a black-and-white camouflage livery, during testing. The team retains the traditional colours of the Alfa Romeo brand for this season, but has switched from a majority white livery to a chiefly red design.
At the launch, Valtteri Bottas has admitted that Alfa Romeo has work to do before the season starts. Again this was another team to be affected by the porpoising issue, it also had reliability issues with the car in Barcelona.
The Week Ahead
Next weekend the second test takes place in Bahrain, as ever we will Prixview that on Monday and Thursday. The talking point I think will be the normal spin we get going into weekends, the talking point and feeling is they didn’t show everything. I think the build-up will be about teams and updates and whether they will hold off until the race weekend.
I think we will see the drivers asked questions about Ukraine in press conferences yes, but it will drift off the F1 agenda sooner than the news. I think testing week build up as this is the second test will be more like a race weekend, given the normal break we have had between races.
We may see some interest if teams announce updates, that’s the thing to watch for.