Stroll pockets $46-Million in Aston Martin deal

Stroll pockets $46-Million in Aston Martin deal

Bloomberg reports that billionaire Lawrence Stroll has already made a return on his investment in the ailing British sportscar maker Aston Martin after their management were given a lesson in how not to manage an IPO.

The Bloomberg report added:

“The maker of Aston Martin sportscars is finally moving to remedy a botched initial public offering that gave it neither the money nor the investors it needed. Friday brought a cash injection, a new shareholder and a shift in strategy. Crisis measures never come cheap and the rescue comes with many strings attached.

“Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings Plc, by its own admission, had become financially stressed. Its debts are overwhelming; liquidity was drying up. The company is raising 500 million pounds ($656 million), the figure analysts thought it needed, selling a 17% stake to luxury and motorsport entrepreneur Lawrence Stroll and then seeking additional funds from its new backer and existing shareholders through a rights issue.

“Stroll is buying in at 4 pounds a share, just shy of the closing price on Thursday. The placing represents the maximum dilution the company can inflict without having to make the deal available to other shareholders.

“The two-part process is necessary because Aston would struggle to raise the funds it needs by relying solely on its existing investors and the market without providing a compelling new investment case and fresh management.

“While Italian private equity group Investindustrial Advisors SpA, a 33% holder, will take up its full allocation in the rights offer, the Kuwaiti investment fund that owns 28% appears unwilling or unable to contribute in full. It will take up a portion of its rights by selling the rest, perhaps to Stroll,” the report concluded.

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Formula 1 will change calendar to avoid coronavirus

Formula 1 will change calendar to avoid coronavirus

Formula 1 is closely monitoring the coronavirus outbreak in China and will modify its race calendar if necessary, amid growing concern about the spread of the virus.

International sports have been postponed and Olympic qualifying tournaments in soccer, basketball and boxing have been taken elsewhere. The latest cancellation on Thursday was equestrian’s Asia Horse Week from Feb. 13-16 in Hong Kong, which is cutting rail links with mainland China as a precaution to limit the virus spreading.

The F1 race in Shanghai is scheduled for April 19 and may be at risk of being postponed or cancelled.

The series’ governing body said in a statement Thursday it “will evaluate the calendar of its forthcoming races” under the supervision of medical commission president Gérard Saillant and, if necessary, “take any action required to help protect the global motorsport community and the wider public.”

The last F1 race to be cancelled was the Bahrain Grand Prix in 2011 because of an uprising and violent protests.

The first race of 2020 is the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 15, followed by the Bahrain GP in Sakhir one week later, and the inaugural Vietnam Grand Prix in Hanoi on April 5.

On Wednesday, the indoor athletics world championships in Nanjing were postponed by one year to March 2021. The first alpine ski World Cup races next month at one of the 2022 Beijing Olympics courses in Yanqing were also called off.

More than 170 deaths in China have been recorded because of the disease.

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Racing Point F1 team to become Aston Martin in 2021

Racing Point F1 team to become Aston Martin in 2021

Racing Point will become the Aston Martin factory Formula 1 team from 2021 after their Canadian billionaire owner Lawrence Stroll bought a stake in the ailing British sportscar maker on Friday.

The deal means Aston Martin’s title sponsorship of former world champions Red Bull, who use Honda engines, will end after the current season.

Stroll will pay 182 million pounds (216-million euros) for a 16.7% stake in Aston Martin, which could rise to 20%, and joins the board as executive chairman.

The 60-year-old Montreal native has been a familiar if publicity-shy presence around Formula One for years, and a paddock regular since his racing driver son Lance made his debut with Williams in 2017.

Lance, 21, joined Racing Point at the start of 2019 after his father bought the assets of Force India, in administration under the co-ownership of financially-troubled liquor baron Vijay Mallya, and renamed the team.

Stroll senior, listed last year by Forbes as the 18th wealthiest Canadian with a fortune of $2.6 billion, made his money through fashion brands such as Tommy Hilfiger and Michael Kors and owns Canada’s Mont-Tremblant circuit in Quebec.

He also has an important and large collection of classic Ferraris.

Former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, who has known Stroll for more than 30 years, said it would be wrong to assume — as some have — that the businessman was only in Formula One to help his son’s career.

“Definitely not the case. He’s a dealer,” the 89-year-old Briton told Reuters from Switzerland, where Stroll also has a residence. “And he’s a guy that loves his racing. He’s a motor racing guy.”

Aston Martin, a 107-year-old firm whose cars are closely associated with fictional British secret agent James Bond, competed in Formula One with a factory team in 1959 and 1960 with a best result of sixth.

Ecclestone, who was also around Formula One at the time, said the Aston name was certainly better than Racing Point and Stroll was a team owner who would be striving to win rather than make up the numbers.

Racing Point use the same engines as champions Mercedes.

Aston Martin chief executive Andy Palmer told Autocar magazine that Stroll understood both the auto industry and luxury brands.

“Lawrence shares a lot of my beliefs and passions…he has a passion for F1, and F1’s ability to sell cars for you, he can see the value of the hybrid V6 and more. And he loves cars,” he said.

“He’s an investor who wants to engage. There would be nothing worse than a disengaged investor.”

The name change will be only the latest of many for the Silverstone-based team that started out as Jordan in 1991.

In 2006 they became Midland, then Spyker in 2007 and Force India from 2008 — always from the same factory, over the road from the British Grand Prix circuit, that Stroll is now setting about expanding.

Aston Martin said in a statement that the agreement with Racing Point, who finished seventh overall in 2019 with Mexican Sergio Perez scoring 52 of their 73 points, was for an initial 10-year term.

It features a five-year sponsorship arrangement, renewable for a further five, from 2021 on “commercial terms commensurate with the company’s current annual F1 expenditure.”

A technology partnership between Aston Martin and Red Bull Advanced Technologies will continue until the Aston Martin Valkyrie hypercar is delivered. The first batch is due at the end of this year.

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Pirelli’s Isola: No going back on 18-inch tyres for 2021

Mario Isola, Pirelli’s head of car racing, says the sport’s move to 18-inch tyres from 2021 is set in stone, with no backpedaling possible on the part of the teams.

Tyres have often been the target of the teams and drivers’ grievances in the past few seasons, whether the criticism focused on durability or grip, or sometimes both.

Pirelli made several specification changes in the past to comply with Formula 1’s requirements or its mandate to help improve the show on the track.

But when changes are met with disappointment, teams have the clout to turn around decisions, as was the case with Pirelli’s 2020-spec tyres that were trialed and tested last year and eventually scrapped in favour of a status quo for this year in terms of compounds.

However, Isola is adamant that there will be no such turnabout in twelve months with regard to the sport’s switch to the Italian manufacturer’s 18-inch tyres.

“There is no chance of going back to the 13-inch tyres,” said the Italian engineer, quoted by Motorsport-Total.

“Fortunately, we already ran three tests in 2019. The initial feedback for the 18-inch tires was good, so I don’t expect any surprises this year.

“When everything is new, you usually expect a problem and that you might have to stop for half a day or more,” added Isola. “But we had no problems at all.”

Pirelli will continue its 18-inch test programme this year, with 25 days of testing scheduled at several venues.

But unlike 2019 when only eight teams took part in the specific tests, all ten teams will supply mule cars for Pirelli’s development programme.

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Marko hints at Verstappen engine contract exit clause

Red Bull motorsport boss Helmut Marko has hinted that Max Verstappen could leave RBR before the term of his contract is completed if Honda quits F1 at the end of 2021.

Earlier this month, Verstappen committed to Red Bull Racing until the end of 2023, a move that should incite Honda to also extend its partnership with the Milton Keynes-based outfit beyond next year according to Marko.

But in an interview with Germany’s Motorsport-Magazin, Marko alluded to a potential exit clause in Verstappen’s contract with Red Bull that could allow the Dutchman to become a free agent at the end of 2021 if ever Honda decides in twelve months’ time to leave F1.

“In principle, this contract is fixed. With a normal course everything is arranged,” said a coy Marko, describing Verstappen’s deal.

“We now have a contract with Honda until 2021. And a Formula 1 car without an engine, that will of course be a difficult story,” added the 76-year-old.

“So it’s clear that we need a competitive engine [to keep Verstappen].”

However, Marko also expressed his confidence in the future, even in light of Formula 1’s regulation overhaul from 2021.

The Austrian is therefore convinced that Red Bull will supply Verstappen with a package worthy of his massive talent, in which case the exit clause won’t matter.

“We are especially happy, this [Verstappen’s contract] gives us stability and gives the entire team an incredible amount of motivation,” he said.

“It is our big goal for Max, who also started with us in Formula 1, to become the youngest ever F1 world champion.”

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Stroll: Investment in Aston Martin ensures ‘financial strength’

Stroll: Investment in Aston Martin ensures ‘financial strength’

Lawrence Stroll’s investment in Aston Martin will ensure the luxury automaker operates from “a position of financial strength” in the future insists the Canadian billionaire.

Aston Martin announced on Friday that a consortium of investors led by Stroll will acquire a stake of up to 20 percent in the troubled automaker whose dire financial situation has forced it to seek outside investment.

Stroll’s partners include JCB Chairman Anthony Bamford, entrepreneur Andre Desmarais, banker Michael de Picciotto, telecoms investor John McCaw and Hong Kong fashion sector investor Silas Chou, all of whom were part of the consortium that took over Force India during the summer of 2018.

The Stroll group’s undertaking will also include an equity stake in Racing Point F1 which will become from 2021 the works Aston Martin team.

“I am very pleased that I, and my partners in the consortium, have reached agreement with the board and major shareholders to make this significant long-term investment,” Stroll said on Friday.

“Aston Martin Lagonda makes some of the world’s most iconic luxury cars, designed and built by very talented people.

“Our investment announced today underpins the company’s financial security and ensures it will be operating from a position of financial strength.”

Disappointing results since Aston Martin’s IPO in October 2018 has led to dwindling profits for the iconic brand which in turn put the company under severe financial stress.

The fresh injection of capital will provide Aston Martin with a crucial lifeline from which it can attempt to turn around its fortunes.

“On completion of the £500m of fundraising I look forward to working with the board and management team in Aston Martin Lagonda to review and improve each aspect of the company’s operations and marketing; to continue to invest in the development of new models and technologies and to start to rebalance production to prioritise demand over supply,” added Stroll.

“I, and my partners, firmly believe that Aston Martin is one of the great global luxury car brands.

“I believe that this combination of capital and my experience of both the motor industry and building highly successful global brands will mean that, over time, we fulfil Aston Martin Lagonda’s potential.”

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Marko: We Will ‘Definitely Protest’ if Ferrari Engine is Suspicious

Marko: We Will ‘Definitely Protest’ if Ferrari Engine is Suspicious

Red Bull’s Helmut Marko has promised his team will “definitely protest” Ferrari’s power unit in 2020 if they suspect irregularities have carried over from the 2019 season.

The German broadcaster RTL quotes team boss Christian Horner as suggesting F1’s governing body struggled to stay on top of the “very complex” engine technology last year.

“I think the FIA does not have the expertise that the teams have,” he said. “So it was extremely important for us to have clarity for 2020.”

Indeed, the situation become calmer in the latter part of last season following a series of clarifications issued by the FIA.

Ferrari, however, denied that it changed anything about the basic operation of its engine, even though its major engine advantage appeared to wane.

“There were several points with Ferrari’s engine that were likely to be beyond any grey area, but nothing was done about it,” Marko told Germany’s motorsport-total.com.

Red Bull and Mercedes were open about being behind the vigorous mid-season push for the FIA to act.

“The increase in performance was blatant,” Marko said. “It was always only on certain laps. But I assume that such things will not happen this year.

“If we do suspect that there are irregularities again, we will definitely protest,” the top Red Bull official warned.

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Williams confirms online launch date for 2020 car

Williams Racing will unveil its 2020 challenger on February at 8 am GMT during an online launch that will reveal only digital imagery of its FW43.

The beleaguered British outfit has endured two successive dismal seasons in Formula 1, scoring just a single point in last year’s Constructors’ championship.

This year, Williams will target a timely roll-out of its car in Barcelona, with pre-season testing kicking off on February 19 at the Circuit de Catalunya, hopefully avoiding the costly delay that undermined the start of its campaign in 2019.

To help turn around its fortunes, Williams has restructured its technical department and hired several new engineers to lead its design staff in 2020.

On the driver front, Williams will rely once again on the talent of George Russell who will embark on his second season of Formula 1.

The young Briton will be flanked by 24-year-old rookie Nicholas Latifi who finished runner-up in 2019 in the FIA Formula 2 Championship.

The full 2020 calendar of the F1 teams’ presentations can be found here.

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Slavica Ecclestone entertaining bids for Paul Ricard track

Slavica Ecclestone entertaining bids for Paul Ricard track

Circuit Paul Ricard owner Slavica Radic-Ecclestone is currently considering several offers from investors to acquire the track according to the circuit’s manager Stéphane Clair.

The former wife of F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone inherited full ownership of the prized asset – which also includes two hotels and the adjacent Castellet airport – as a result of the couple’s high-profile divorce in 2009.

While the home of the French Grand Prix located in Southern France is not officially on the market, its owner claims to be open to offers, and several bids have recently been tabled.

“Like any beautiful product or company, there’s a demand for the Circuit Paul Ricard,” Clair told F1only.fr.

“Slavica isn’t a seller, it’s not her objective,” Clair insisted. “However, there are offers for an eventual sale of shares currently under consideration.

“For us, this is an interesting time as it allows us to conduct a review, to understand what we have and we realise that there are a lot of good things going on.

“It also provides us with an opportunity to see what can be improved, because investors are aware of the iconic track’s history, but they want to assess the circuit’s development potential.

Bernie Ecclestone acquired the Paul Ricard complex in 1999 for an estimated 20 million euros, heavily upgrading its infrastructure thereafter.

After its revamp, the circuit was initially marketed as a high-tech testing and leisure center for the automobile industry.

Eventually however, racing returned to the venue which sealed a contract with Formula 1 for the return of Grand Prix racing to Southern France in 2018.

“We’re receiving offers and we have several files,” added Clair. “But if none are completed, there shall be no sale, neither this year nor next year.

“If one follows through, a transaction could be finalized within the standard legal and administrative time limit.”

Inaugurated in 1970, the Circuit Paul Ricard celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

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Hamilton: FYI Toto and I haven’t spoken about a contract yet

Hamilton: FYI Toto and I haven’t spoken about a contract yet

Six times Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton says he is yet to start talks with Mercedes to extend his contract beyond this year, despite media reports they had stalled already over wage demands.

The 35-year-old Briton denied the speculation in a post, subsequently deleted, on Instagram: “FYI Toto and I have not even spoken about contract yet. Nothing is being negotiated currently, papers making up stories.”

Reports in Italy had suggested Hamilton was seeking $60 million a year.

Red Bull’s motorsport head Helmut Marko was then quoted by Autobild as saying only Ferrari would be willing to pay such an amount for a driver.

Ferrari said last year that chairman John Elkann had met Hamilton socially, fuelling speculation about a future move to the Italian team.

Hamilton’s last contract talks turned into something of a paddock saga, with the eventual announcement of a two-year extension in 2018 following months of speculation.

“I just kept delaying it. I had a contract in place so I didn’t feel like I had to rush,” the champion, who conducted his own negotiations, said at the time.

Hamilton’s future is already in the spotlight after Ferrari last month committed long-term to Monegasque youngster Charles Leclerc and Red Bull made sure Max Verstappen was locked in for four more years.

The pair are both considered Hamilton’s heirs apparent, and their contract extensions mark them out as the future of their respective teams, making a Hamilton move from Mercedes less likely.

The Briton, who joined Mercedes from McLaren at the end of 2012, gets on well with Finnish teammate Valtteri Bottas and has said going elsewhere would not be an easy decision.

Mercedes want the Briton to stay but the situation has been clouded by uncertainty over Wolff’s own future and the German manufacturer’s commitment to a sport it has dominated for the past six years.

Ole Kaellenius, chief executive of parent Daimler, said on Wednesday that Mercedes were not preparing to leave Formula One, after reports that the matter would be discussed at the next board meeting.

Mercedes launch their new car on 15 February, with F1 testing in Barcelona starting five days later.

The season opens in Australia on March 15 with Hamilton chasing several Formula 1 records, including Ferrari great and Mercedes predecessor Michael Schumacher’s 91 wins and seven titles.

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Aston Martin-Red Bull to Part Ways After 2020

Aston Martin-Red Bull to Part Ways After 2020

Red Bull will not continue with Aston Martin as a title sponsor beyond 2020, the team has confirmed in a statement.

The partnership, which began at the start of the 2018 season, has been brought to an end as part of Lawrence Stroll’s purchase of a 16.7% stake in the British marque, which was announced earlier today.

Stroll’s Formula 1 team is to be rebranded as Aston Martin starting with the 2021 season.

The statement, in full, reads as follows:

“Following the Aston Martin Lagonda announcement earlier today, the Team can confirm that the manufacturer will remain title partner until the end of the 2020 season but this contract will not be extended past the end of the current term.

Red Bull Racing has agreed to release Aston Martin from its Formula One exclusivity clause which in turn has allowed it to generate the necessary investment required to re-finance and pursue alternative opportunities within the sport.

Red Bull Advanced Technologies will continue to work with Aston Martin in order to deliver the Valkyrie hypercar, with the first cars scheduled for delivery at the end of the year.

We thank Aston Martin for their support over the past four years in which time we have achieved 12 wins, 50 podiums and six pole positions together. We wish Aston Martin’s employees and shareholders all the best for the future and our focus remains on working together throughout the 2020 season and ending our partnership on a high.”

In addition, the energy drinks manufacturer’s Advanced Technologies department released a statement of their own reiterating their commitment to Aston Martin’s Valkyrie project, which can be found below:

“Following the announcement that Aston Martin’s Title Partnership with Red Bull Racing will conclude at the end of the 2020 Formula One season, Red Bull Advanced Technologies will continue to work with Aston Martin on the Valkyrie project.

Red Bull Advanced Technologies and Aston Martin entered into an Innovation Partnership in 2016 to design the Aston Martin Valkyrie hypercar, which completed its first running demonstration at last year’s British Grand Prix.

The development of the two-seater mid-engine Valkyrie remains a key project for Red Bull Advanced Technologies, with the first batch of the 150 road-going cars due to be delivered to customers at the end of the year.”

Production of the Valkyrie hypercar has been a co-operative project between Aston Martin and Red Bull engineers, including legendary Formula 1 designer Adrian Newey.

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Racing Point to become works Aston Martin team in 2021!

Racing Point to become works Aston Martin team in 2021!

Lawrence Stroll’s Racing Point F1 outfit will become the works Aston Martin team from 2021 following the Canadian billionaire’s acquisition of  a 16.7% stake in the luxury car manufacturer.

It was announced on Friday that Stroll and a consortium of investors will invest approximately 182 million pounds in Aston Martin and help revive the fortunes of the ailing manufacturer whose share price and profits have plummeted since the company’s floating in October 2018.

Overall, Aston Martin is set to raise a total of 500 million pounds which will include 318 million pounds derived from a rights issues subscribed by the company’s shareholders, an injection that should raise Stroll’s stake in the company to 20 percent.

Stroll’s consortium will also give £55.5m in short-term working capital to Aston, while the Canadian will join the company’s board as executive chairman.

Aston Martin Chief Executive Andy Palmer said Stroll who made his fortune in the fashion industry with brands such as Tommy Hilfiger and Michael Kors will bring several benefits to the automaker.

“He brings with him his experiences and access to his Formula 1 team,” Palmer told Reuters.

“We’ve talked a lot in the past few years about wanting to be clearly rooted in luxury and obviously Mr Stroll knows an awful lot about luxury.”

As a by-product of Stroll’s investment in Aston, the company will terminate its current partnership with Red Bull Racing at the end of the 2020 season and receive equity in Racing Point F1, which will become the works Aston Martin team.

The legendary manufacturer has also agreed a five-year commercial sponsorship deal with Racing Point.

Following today’s announcement, Red Bull Racing said that it has agreed “to release Aston Martin from its Formula One exclusivity clause which in turn has allowed it to generate the necessary investment required to re-finance and pursue alternative opportunities within the sport.”

Furthermore, Red Bull Advanced Technologies will continue to work with Aston Martin in order to deliver the Valkyrie hypercar, with the first cars scheduled for delivery at the end of the year.

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Confirmed: Stroll buys 16.7% stake in Aston Martin

Confirmed: Stroll buys 16.7% stake in Aston Martin

Following from our earlier report, Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll will take a 16.7% stake in Aston Martin for 182 million pounds ($239 million) as the ailing carmaker raises funds after a sales drop put pressure on its finances.

Famed for being fictional secret agent James Bond’s car of choice, the 107-year old company’s share price has plummeted since floating in October 2018 and it has come late to the lucrative sport utility vehicle (SUV) market which boosted rivals.

The company will raise a total of 500 million pounds, including a rights issue from existing major shareholders, it said on Friday, as it begins building its first SUV.

Aston had also held talks with Chinese carmaker Geely, a source has previously told Reuters.

Chief Executive Andy Palmer said Stroll and the consortium he will lead bring several benefits to the automaker.

“He brings with him his experiences and access to his Formula 1 team,” Palmer told Reuters.

“We’ve talked a lot in the past few years about wanting to be clearly rooted in luxury and obviously Mr Stroll knows an awful lot about luxury.”

Stroll, who made his money through investing in fashion brands such as Tommy Hilfiger and Michael Kors, has been involved in Formula One and motor racing for years and also owns Canada’s Mont Tremblant circuit in Quebec.

Under Friday’s agreement, Aston Martin said Stroll’s Racing Point will become the Aston Martin F1 works team from the 2021 season.

Stroll will join the board as executive chairman, replacing Penny Hughes, who will step down.

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Sainz life not changed by being sole Spaniard on the grid

Sainz life not changed by being sole Spaniard on the grid

McLaren’s Carlos Sainz says that being Spain’s sole representative in Formula 1 hasn’t changed his life one way or the other.

Sainz started his career at the pinnacle of motorsport in 2015 with Toro Rosso. As the son of rally legend Carlos Sainz Snr, the young hopeful entered the sport with a famous name but in the shadow of countryman Fernando Alonso who garnered most of the attention of the Spanish press back then.

However, Alonso’s departure from F1 at the end of 2018 coupled with Sainz’s move to McLaren put the 25-year-old under his country’s spotlight. Yet Sainz never feels overwhelmed by the additional attention.

“I don’t think about it. It’s normal, it’s nothing special,” he told Motorsport.com. “I can’t comment much about it because I haven’t felt a big change.”

“Yes, there is the Spanish press, they are helping, they are supporting me a lot, which I appreciate a lot.

“But I never felt that the Spanish press was never with me or that it focused more on Fernando or anything like that.”

Because Alonso remains a charismatic and outspoken figure, the media is still attentive to the former McLaren driver’s actions and words. But Sainz is following his own path.

“Fernando is a two-time F1 world champion,” he added. “If he receives the attention he receives, it is because he has earned it.

“And I’m there to create my own reputation and my own way of doing things. So now that I’m here alone, it just hasn’t changed anything, and I don’t feel differently at all.”

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Red Mist: What are those Dutchmen smoking at Zandvoort?

Red Mist: What are those Dutchmen smoking at Zandvoort?

Woke up this morning and rubbed the gunk out of my eyes as I always do, reached for the iPhone, logged into GP247 and soon read the Reuters story about Zandvoort.

Had to wipe the shit out of the eyes a second time — what are those Dutchmen smoking?

Make no mistake, Zandvoort has a great heritage — I have wonderful childhood images of Niki and Clay leading into Tarzan, James’ unlikely Hesketh win; Gilles, well being Gilles and so much more in my mind. But everything changes and like Spa, Le Mans, Kyalami and so many other great old circuits, they are not the same today — no less great mind you, just different to what they once were.

So am I sure will the Zandvoort new prove spectacular … but in what way…?

Already being billed a bit of a Hot-Wheels chute, the revised circuit includes a quite controversial couple of banked corners in a kind of a supercharged Nurburgring Nordschleife Carousel cross-bred with the Indy or Daytona oval, clearly purpose-built for Formula 1 at the forthcoming reborn Dutch Grand Prix.

I however also once again I find myself asking if F1 has not learned from its painful former mistakes?

Just last week I asked why a new 2021 parking lot grand prix in spite of pretty much a 100% statistical chance of that being another Vegas-like failure. And now this…

Remember the last time F1 took to an oval corner?

Allow me to jog your memory — it was at Indianapolis on Friday afternoon 17 June 2005, when Ralf Schumacher’s BMW suffered a huge accident after his Michelin failed under the duress of racing on the steep banking.

The upshot was another F1 farce as six seemingly unaffected Bridgestone-shod cars lined up for another F1 casino after the Michelin runners all pulled out. The French rubber company could not guarantee that its tyres would not fail again on the banking. Farce.

Now, the Zandy brigade touting those embankments as overtaking hotspots — but think, add a hothead or two (you know who they are) and a couple of his daredevil ‘pals’ making those kamikaze moves, they tend to in the mid-pack, and we’re pretty likely to test the recovery crew.

Which begs the question: are F1’s marshals and survival crew ready for the fresh challenges of dealing with an incident on those highly-cambered corners?

Sure, Zandvoort is without already the most talked-about circuit in Formula 1 and organisers are convinced that we will see spectacular racing there. They also promise drivers that ‘one mistake and they are out’ and indeed, Max Verstappen may very well star in the face of the fresh challenge but he can be an incident magnet when the adrenalin is pumping.

On home soil it might count against him, he should ask his mate Dan-the-Man how to cope with the stresses that brings to the party…

But going by history once again, there are also significant pitfalls in taking cars designed for left-right racing onto a banked circuit and I, for one, reserve my judgement on this one and am treating it with trepidation as you do with the unknown.

In closing, I hope no one gets hurt. Sorry, had to put it out there. Now, where’s my cold coffee…?

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Jean Alesi: ‘Formula 1 hasn’t changed, we have’

Jean Alesi: ‘Formula 1 hasn’t changed, we have’

Former F1 driver Jean Alesi reckons that Grand Prix racing is just as exciting today as it was back in the days when the Frenchman when was hustling his Ferrari around the sport’s tracks.

Alesi burst on the scene in 1989 as a young prodigy driving for Ken Tyrrell.

His talent landed him a drive with the Scuderia in 1991, but despite a career than span 12 seasons, Alesi only secured a single win in F1, his moment of glory coming with Ferrari at the 1995 Canadian Grand Prix.

“The years at Ferrari are unforgettable,” Alesi told RadioRai’s ‘I Lunatici ‘ program. “Seeing the fans who still remember me today always makes me very happy.

“I will never forget the victory at the Canadian Grand Prix in 1995. It was my birthday, it was a crazy day.

“On several occasions I came close to winning, without ever being able to bring it home for various problems.

“That Grand Prix in the last laps I had enormous tension. I was trying to be as smooth as possible with the car to get to the finish line.”

Alesi now oversees the career of his son Giuliano, who is a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy and who will soon embark on his second season in the FIA Formula 2 Championship.

The 55-year-old is a frequent visitor to the paddock and casts a much more permissive view on the current state of F1 than the many fans who often complain of the sport’s lack of on-track action.

“It is not true that it is more boring, it is we who look at it differently,” he insisted.

“We are all a little more spoiled. The drivers are prepared and trained, the cars are fast and powerful, Formula 1 always gives great battles. I like it.”

©WRi2

From Ayrton Senna to Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell or Nelson Piquet, Alesi went wheel-to-wheel with some of Grand Prix racing’s greatest legends.

“Fangio was a hero,” he said. “In his day, if you made a mistake you were dead. But Senna impressed me the most.

“He had an amazing car control. The determination, the spectacle and the emotion that he gave me, no one else transmitted that to me.”

As for today’s current crop of young F1 drivers, one man on the grid unsurprisingly gets Alesi’s vote: Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc!

“He’s a phenomenon,” he enthused. “He will certainly be world champion in the near future.”

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FIA ‘Closely Monitoring’ Coronavirus Outbreak

FIA ‘Closely Monitoring’ Coronavirus Outbreak

The FIA has released a statement regarding the ongoing Coronavirus outbreak in China, promising to “take any action” necessary to protect the motorsport community.

With the Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix scheduled to take place from April 17-19, concerns are mounting the event will be unable to go ahead in the country at the centre of the pandemic, with the latest reports placing the death toll at 170 among 7,711 infected worldwide..

The FIA statement, released earlier today, reads as follows:

“Following the coronavirus epidemic that broke out in China at the beginning of the year, the FIA is closely monitoring the evolving situation with relevant authorities and its Member Clubs, under the direction of FIA Medical Commission President, Professor Gérard Saillant. The FIA will evaluate the calendar of its forthcoming races and, if necessary, take any action required to help protect the global motor sport community and the wider public.”

Already this week, Chinese officials have cancelled all motorsport events in the country through the end of March, while only yesterday the World Indoor Athletics Championship — set to run in Nanjing from March 13-15 — was postponed until 2021.

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Pump up the volume: Teams fire up 2020 engines!

It’s that time of the season again, when the Formula 1 teams’ factories come alive with the sound of their new cars.

Slowly but surely, everyone is entering the final stages of their 2020 contenders’ preparation, with pre-season testing in Barcelona now just twenty days away.

Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes all posted a snippet of their respective cars coming alive.

So pump up the volume and check out the sounds.

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W Series confirms FIA ‘super licence’ points allocation

The W Series has confirmed the FIA super licence points allocation associated with the championship which enters its second season this year.

The all-female series has been made eligible for super licence points, with the overall winner set to receive 15 points, a down payment on the total of 40 points necessary to secure the precious FIA licence which allows a driver to potentially take part in Formula 1 events.

The first eight drivers in the W Series championship will all receive super licence points, ranging from 15 to 1.

Reigning W Series champion – and Williams development driver – Jamie Chadwick will defend her title this year.

“Personally, I’m delighted that W Series has been further recognised by the FIA via the allocation of Super Licence points, the holy grail in any driver’s aspiration to become a Formula 1 driver,” commented W Series advisory board chairman David Coulthard.

“Irrespective of where our current W Series drivers may race in future, the FIA’s decision confirms my absolute belief that W series is essential in developing female talent and giving female drivers the opportunity to develop their skills so as to become successful professional racing drivers in the future.

“I would like to thank the FIA president, Jean Todt, for his vision and support ahead of what is only the second season of the W Series championship.”

The FIA Formula 2 Championship and the US IndyCar series are the top categories in terms of super licence points with the winner of either championship earning 40 points outright.

The Japanese Super Formula series, Indy Lights, the Nascar Cup and the WTCC/WTCR all allocate super licence points to their top championship finishers.

W Series will kick off its season in Russia, at St Petersburg, on May 29/30.

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FIA monitoring China coronavirus with ‘relevant authorities’

The FIA has issued a brief statement on the Coronavirus outbreak in China, with motorsport’s governing body keeping an eye on developments in the country that will host in April the fourth round of the 2020 F1 world championship.

China is still battling the epidemic which it is believed originated in the central city of Wuhan which has since been completely sealed off and locked down.

The death toll rose to 170 on Thursday while the number of confirmed cases in China has grown to 7,711 cases, up from 5,974 a day earlier.

The World Health Organization has warned foreign governments to be “on alert” but has so far refrained from declaring the outbreak a global health emergency.

“Following the coronavirus epidemic that broke out in China at the beginning of the year, the FIA is closely monitoring the evolving situation with relevant authorities and its Member Clubs, under the direction of FIA Medical Commission President, Professor Gérard Saillant,” the governing body said on Thursday.

“The FIA will evaluate the calendar of its forthcoming races and, if necessary, take any action required to help protect the global motor sport community and the wider public.”

The Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai is set to take place on April 19, leaving over two and a half months for the epidemic to subside or brought under control.

However, the Chinese round of the Formula E championship scheduled on March 21 on the island of Hainan could fall within a restricted window of public events.

China’s authorities have already canceled or postponed multiple sporting events for February due to the Coronavirus outbreak.

The World Athletics Indoor Championships in Nanjing have been scrapped while all Chinese football matches have been postponed indefinetely.

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Correa criticizes FIA for lack of support during critical period

Correa criticizes FIA for lack of support during critical period

Formula 2 racer Juan Manuel Correa, who was severely injured in the horrific crash at Spa last year that claimed the life of Anthoine Hubert, says he received no support from the FIA immediately after his accident.

Hubert and Correa were both on the receiving end of an unfortunate set of circumstances that unfolded at Spa-Francorchamps.

The young French driver succumbed to his injuries shortly after the crash while Correa suffered multiple fractures to his legs and feet and minor spinal damage.

The Ecuadorian-American driver spent two weeks in an induced coma and battled an acute respiratory distress syndrome that delayed operations on his lower leg before he was pulled out of harm’s way.

“I remember the whole accident until they sedated me when I got out of the car,” Correa told RTL/n-TV.

“I didn’t wake up until the next day in the hospital in Belgium. I saw my legs and noticed how badly they were injured and that I was in a lot of pain.

“But the hardest moment was when I found out that Anthoine had passed away.”

The 20-year-old said he received no support from the FIA in the aftermath of the tragic accident, suggesting that the governing body’s specialized medical assistance could have helped his Belgian doctors in Liège deal with the particular trauma he had suffered.

“Everyone went to Monza the next day after the accident,” he remembered.

“I stayed in the hospital and I almost died four days after the accident. And there was nobody from the FIA or someone who looked after me.

“The reason that I almost died was because of the strong G-forces that you can only have after such a serious accident.

“The doctors in the hospital in Belgium didn’t know what that was because they had never seen anyone who had survived such a big impact.”

Correa’s parents immediately took control of their son’s plight, airlifting him to London where he underwent a series of crucial operations to save his leg.

Now on the mend at home in Miami, Correa still faces a lengthy rehabilitation process to regain his mobility.

Will he return to racing in the future? The determined young man believes he will.

“Yes, I can return, but the timing is unpredictable,” he said.

“It is such a complicated injury that so much can happen that can make a difference between five months earlier or five months later.
“Even if it takes two years to come back, I will come back. I am very sure of that.”

On his road to recovery, there has been no lack of support from fans and the motorsport community for the stricken young hopeful.

But the most heartwarming comfort for Correa has come from the Hubert family.

“A few weeks after the death of their own son, they sent me messages to the hospital and wished me all the best for the operations,” says Correa.

“It was really great for me and mentally it was so helpful to have this support.”

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The Undercut: ‘Woke’ Formula 1 is a major turn-off

The Undercut: ‘Woke’ Formula 1 is a major turn-off

Orange juice and toothpaste. Bathtubs and toasters. Babies and walls. Formula 1 and climate change. Just a few things that, in my humble opinion, should not go together.

Of course, I am well aware that, unlike throwing a baby against a wall, there’s definitely a case to answer when it comes to F1 and the environment. Jean Todt said just a few days ago that, if the sport hadn’t ditched its awesome-sounding and competition-inspiring gaz-guzzlers of the past and swapped them for the ‘green’ hybrid (ahem) power units of today, F1 might already be in danger of being the latest victim of our cancel culture. And I actually agree with him on that one.

Let me introduce you to a ‘woke’ greenie:

Me: Hello. I write about Formula 1.

Greenie: You mean that fuel-burning, earth-killing, eardrum-bursting sport?

Me: Actually, while the details bore me to tears, you should look into that. F1 is actually a pioneer of the sort of green technologies that a greenie like you should be very interested in. And it’s all sorts of concerned about women and fairness and breaking down barriers and all that jazz, too.

Greenie: Groovy.

But while F1 may have dodged that particular greenie’s bullet, and avoided for now the sort of existential threat posed by western governments under pressure to appease the Climate Gods, it is at what cost, exactly?

For instance, I consider Liberty Media – in reality a huge company that exists purely to make mountains of cash – to be what I would regard as ‘woke’.

What’s woke, precisely? Let’s ask our greenie:

Me: Summarise ‘wokeness’ for a middle-aged straight white troglodyte, would you?

Greenie: It’s all about ending social injustice and stuff like that.

Me: Oh cool. Like Lewis Hamilton breaking down F1’s racial stereotypes?

Greenie: Yep.

Me: Or an all-women racing series that tells the men where to go?

Greenie: Now you’re getting it.

Me: Or pretty much guaranteeing a driver can’t get a head injury?

Greenie: Perfect.

Me: Or biofuels and carbon targets and exciting things like that?

Greenie: Groovy.

Me: Or banning sexy grid girls?

Greenie: I’m triggered by your overt sexualisation of women.

Me: Huh?

Triggered, as far as I can tell, is another woke expression that seems to mean that your vision of utopia has just been interrupted by a stark, stone cold, but absolutely valid point.

So here’s what ‘triggers’ me – Formula 1 falling hook, line and sinker for the cultural ‘wokeness’ of the moment. Why? Because it might just be recorded by history as one hell of a turning point not just for the world at large, but for the very oil and testosterone-powered sport that many of us used to love a whole lot more than we do today.

It may even be as existentially ‘dangerous’ (Todt’s word) for F1 as fuel-guzzling engines.

At the end of the day, most of us can for now just ignore the press releases about F1 being carbon-neutral by 2030, look away when the pathetic vacuum cleaners on wheels otherwise known as Formula E whiz past your local city monument, or spend the rest of the night on Google Images when we have a hankering for a bit of grid girl. But ignoring F1’s descent into one particular ideology (because it *is* just an ideology) will be harder to do in the coming years, which raises a very pertinent question:

Does Liberty even care?

If the ‘greenie’ I had the illuminating conversations with above becomes a Formula 1 fan – and the chances of that are increasing by the day – then it will be understandable. F1, after all, will be a platform that fights racism and sexism, celebrates diversity, inclusivity and equity, and wholly embraces the oh-so-important fight against the scourge of climate change. What’s not to like?

Some of us, though, if we haven’t scampered off completely to MotoGP or the UFC, will be watching through a grimaced expression, reminiscing with both delight and sadness about a fuel-drenched, cigarette-sucking real man like James Hunt, who had sex for breakfast and reached for a beer after the chequered flag rather than Instagram. We will remember a sport that was inspired by freedom and competition and sweat and victory and run by a wheeler-dealer-scoundrel, not one inspired by a polarised ideology whose bosses are corporate media moguls who openly moralise whilst furiously monetising.

Clearly I’m just a dinosaur. But I’m a dinosaur who, in our content-saturated digital world, still has plenty of ways to indulge those dinosaur passions. I just fear Formula 1 will soon no longer be among them.

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Hamilton: Papers Are Making Up Stories

Hamilton: Papers Are Making Up Stories

Lewis Hamilton has savaged reports his contract negotiations with Mercedes have hit difficulties, indicating that in reality, he hasn’t even begun discussions.

Taking to Instagram to clear the air in a now-deleted post, the six-time world champion suggested he had been the victim of the media “making up stories”.

“FYI Toto and I have not even spoken about contract yet. Nothing is being negotiated currently, papers making up stories,” the post read.

Entering the final year of his current contract with the Silver Arrows, Hamilton has delivered five driver’s and six constructor’s championships in his time with the team. Per those media reports, the Briton was believed to be looking for a four-to-five year contract, valued at $66 million per season — figures his current bosses in Stuttgart were reticent to commit to with the 35-year-old.

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Källenius: Mercedes Exit Rumours are Not True

Källenius: Mercedes Exit Rumours are Not True

Daimler CEO Ola Kaellenius has hit back at claims Mercedes are set to pull out of the Formula 1 World Championship.

Autocar and the racefans.net website reported earlier that the subject of whether Mercedes should leave the sport as a constructor would be discussed at the next board meeting of parent body Daimler.

“Not true,” Kaellenius said on the sidelines of the German Auto Industry annual reception in Berlin when asked if Mercedes were planning to leave the Liberty Media-owned sport.

Autocar said the next board meeting was believed to be scheduled for Feb. 12, but a Mercedes source told Reuters that was not the case.

Mercedes have won the last six successive drivers and constructors’ titles, with Britain’s Lewis Hamilton chasing his seventh this year in the final season before a major rules overhaul.

Hamilton has been linked to a future move to Ferrari in media speculation, with the Italian team open about having had talks with him last year.

The current commercial agreement with teams and Formula One expires at the end of the year and a new deal has yet to be agreed. Mercedes also compete in the electric Formula E series and Daimler is investing heavily in electric vehicles.

The carmaker warned this month that its earnings had halved in 2019 and it faced further charges of up to 1.5 billion euros ($1.7 billion) related to diesel pollution.

Autocar cited ‘high-placed sources’ suggesting that the decision to leave F1 was under serious consideration in Stuttgart.

Mercedes are committed to remaining as an engine provider, however, with McLaren signed up to switch from Renault to the German power units next year.

Team principal Toto Wolff is also a shareholder in Mercedes F1, but his future role has been uncertain. The Austrian said in November that Mercedes were likely to stay on after 2021 but that could not be taken for granted.

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Alonso to Run Indy 500 With Andretti

Alonso to Run Indy 500 With Andretti

It’s no secret that completing the ‘Triple Crown’ is top of Fernando Alonso’s list of things to do and after falling short in 2017 due to reliability issues and failing to qualify in 2019. Spanish media outlet Diario AS claim an official announcement will be made this week confirming the two-time Formula One champion will partner with Andretti Autosport at the Brickyard.

Alonso’s first crack of the whip in 2017 saw an inspired drive that one would expect from someone in their twentieth-year of oval racing, not a driver making their first foray into the discipline. Perhaps that would be true if the driver in question was anyone but Fernando Alonso. Since his grand prix racing retirement, Alonso has proven his driving ability in all categories taking two Le Mans wins on his way and has also just returned from completing the Dakar Rally.

On 21st January, McLaren made a statement that Fernando had formally parted ways with the team as his ambassador role with the British outfit had not been renewed; a situation that allows the Spaniard some breathing room, free from a tight, contractual grasp holding him to another run with McLaren.

McLaren’s 2019 run at Indianapolis was as far as the team could get from their previous experience. In 2019, McLaren entered as their own entity as opposed to a satellite of the prestigious Andretti Autosport badge. The move was the fatal blow for McLaren as their incompetence showed, wasting precious hours of practice repainting the car as it was slightly the wrong shade of papaya when instead they could have been working on finding the 0.019mph needed to qualify the 500 miles.

Diario AS‘s Manuel Franco now claims that a deal between Michael Andretti and the 38-year old to drive the #29 Andretti Autosports car in May.

The partnership would see Alonso return to a Honda-powered racecar after tensions reached boiling point during his time with McLaren in F1, ultimately resulting in the divorce between the two manufacturers.

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Stroll Lining-Up £200m, 20% Stake in Aston Martin

Stroll Lining-Up £200m, 20% Stake in Aston Martin

Racing Point owner Lawrence Stroll is one of two bidders left in the running to purchase a stake in Aston Martin, according to a report on Thursday.

Per a report in the Financial Times, the Formula 1 team owner is competing with Chinese carmaker Geely to secure the 20% stake and board seat on offer, valued at 200 million pounds.

In the event of a successful bid, Stroll would look to explore ways in which he can further the car maker’s presence in F1.

Currently, Aston Martin is the title sponsor of the Red Bull Racing team, as part of which it also has engineers working in their Milton Keynes base on projects like the Valkyrie supercar.

For his part, Stroll has been a serious power-player in the F1 paddock since his son Lance began racing in the sport in 2017. Debuting with Williams as an 18-year-old, the younger Stroll made the move to Racing Point (formerly Force India) when his father purchased the team from Vijay Mallya in August 2018.

Valued at approximately $2.6 billion, Aston Martin is not the only high-profile purchase Stroll senior has been linked with recently, with rumours circulating he would be first in line to purchase the Mercedes F1 team, should their parent company Daimler decide to exit the sport.

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John Andretti Passes Away at 56

John Andretti Passes Away at 56

 John Andretti, the nephew of Formula 1 world champion Mario Andretti and IndyCar and NASCAR driver, has died at age 56 after a long battle with cancer.

Andretti, part of the well-known Andretti racing family, had wins in CART, IMSA GTP, Rolex Sports Car Series and NASCAR.

He was the son of Aldo Andretti and nephew of Aldo’s twin brother and Indianapolis 500 winner Mario Andretti. He was also a cousin of IndyCar driver Marco Andretti.

“It is with the heaviest of hearts we share that John Andretti has today lost his battle with cancer,” Andretti Autosport said in a statement.

“John was a loving husband and father, a devoted son and a trusted cousin. He was a philanthropist, an advocate for the sport, a dedicated teammate, a driven competitor and most importantly a dear friend.”
Andretti spent decades raising funds for Riley Children’s Hospital in downtown Indiana and when he was first diagnosed with colon cancer in 2017 used his voice to help spread the word on prevention and early detection.

“He fought hard and stole back days the disease vowed to take away. He helped countless others undergo proper screening, and in doing so, saved lives,” the statement added.

“We will forever carry with us John’s genuine spirit of helping others first and himself second. Our prayers today are with Nancy, Jarett, Olivia and Amelia, with our entire family, and with fans worldwide.”

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Daimler boss shoots down Mercedes F1 exit rumors!

Daimler boss shoots down Mercedes F1 exit rumors!

Daimler chief executive Ola Kaellenius has denied that Mercedes is preparing to pull the plug on its F1 operations from 2021.

A joint media report from Autocar and RaceFans.net published on Wednesday claimed that Mercedes’ future in the sport would be considered at a Daimler board meeting tentatively scheduled for February 12.

The report – which also alluded to a potential takeover scenario of the Mercedes team involving Toto Wolff and Racing Point billionaire owner Lawrence Stroll, as well as to an Aston Martin re-branding of the outfit – generated a fair amount of buzz and inevitable speculation about the fate of the Silver Arrows squad from 2021.

However, at the German Auto Industry annual reception in Berlin on Wednesday, Kaellenius was quizzed on the conjecture according to Reuters.

Asked whether Mercedes were mulling a departure from Grand Prix racing, the Daimler chairman responded to the question with a clear “Not true!”, a short response that still leaves the door open to interpretation as it may have signified that the German manufacturer will indeed remain in F1, but only as an engine supplier!

A Mercedes source also informed Reuters that a February 12 board meeting was not on the manufacturer’s current agenda.

Mercedes wasn’t the only party involved in the speculation to rebuff the latest hearsay on Wednesday.

Late in the day, Lewis Hamilton took to social media to deny that he had initiated contract discussions with Toto Wolff for 2021 and beyond.

A recent story published by Italy’s La Gazetta dello Sport stated that Hamilton’s negotiations with Mercedes had hit a snag after the six-time world champion allegedly asked for a four-year deal worth $60 million a season.

Hamilton took to Instagram to ridicule the gossip.

“FYI Toto and I have not even spoken about contract yet. Nothing is being negotiated currently, papers making up stories,” wrote the Briton.

The 35-year-old F1 star will embark this year on his 14th season of Formula 1 with the ambition of matching the great Michael Schumacher’s record of seven world titles.

Mercedes will unveil its W11 challenger entrusted to Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas on February 14 at Silverstone.

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Lammers: Zandvoort is most talked-about circuit in Formula 1

Lammers: Zandvoort is most talked-about circuit in Formula 1

A totally refurbished track featuring two banked curves unique to Formula 1 racing should help Zandvoort permanently reclaim its place in motor sport’s elite class as it returns to the Netherlands for the first time since 1985 on May 3.

Riding high on a wave of Max Verstappen mania, over 100 builders have nearly completed a 15 million euros ($16.6 million) overhaul of the picturesque but outdated circuit designed to make it stand out among the other 21 races.

“We’ve created a truly unique track, with two banked curves, which is something no other track in Formula 1 has,” Dutch Grand Prix director and ex-Formula 1 driver Jan Lammers told Reuters, “This is already the most talked-about circuit in Formula 1. I am convinced we will see spectacular racing here.”

Hemmed in by the dunes and a nature reserve on the North Sea coast some 25 km (15.5 miles) west of Amsterdam, Zandvoort has always had a distinctive character with a swerving track and a number of high-speed corners.

It was home to 30 Grand Prix races between 1952 and 1985, but became outdated as growing resistance among locals and environmentalists meant no one was interested in paying for the much-needed renovation of the track.

But views changed drastically in recent years as Dutch phenomenon Verstappen took Formula 1 by storm, quickly turning from its youngest driver into a serial winner.

Verstappen, the youngest Grand Prix winner and first Dutchman to triumph, already drew tens of thousands orange-clad fans to races in Belgium and Austria and has helped Zandvoort to reach a sell-out crowd of 300,000 for three days of racing.

But the presence of a Dutch contender is not enough to produce an exciting race and when F1 decided to put Zandvoort on the calendar for the next three years many feared it could be a dull event with virtually no chance for cars to overtake.

The totally new layout, however, should put all these fears to bed, Lammers said, “Drivers who leave the pit lane will now enter the track after the first corner, meaning cars can drive side-by-side through the second banked curve and even through the third curve, entering the fast part of the track together so we can see who has the strongest nerves.”

Overall, the track will put drivers to the test, the 1988 winner of the Le Mans 24 hours race added, “None of the drivers has any experience with these banked curves. And we have built a truly authentic track: make one mistake here – and you’re out.”

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Hamilton weighs in on work-life pressures in F1

Hamilton weighs in on work-life pressures in F1

Lewis Hamilton has acknowledged that the pressure of staying on top in Formula 1 inevitably takes its toll on everyone involved in the sport.

He was speaking after FISA president Jean Todt caused a stir with comments suggesting that people working in F1 should feel blessed and privileged rather than complaining about the workload of an expanding F1 calendar, which this season hits a record 22 races for the first time.

Hamilton has described plans to increase the number of races to 25 in future as “pretty hardcore”, and teams have expressed concerns about the stress that the expansion is putting their personnel under – and the resulting costs to health and relationships.

“I think it’s probably similar to most sportsmen and women really,” Hamilton told Crash.net when asked about the sacrifices involved in being successful in F1.

“It maybe slightly different in that we are travelling as much as we are, and you are just away for crazy amounts of time,” he continued.

“That’s probably an additional weight load that makes it really, really tough to hold down a good relationship, if things aren’t quite perfect.”

Hamilton split from long-time girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger in 2016 after seven-and-a-half years together, although they remain friends and posed together for photographs at last month’s London Fashion Awards.

At the time of their split, Hamilton said: “I’m going through a really, really tough time at the moment with the loss of someone really, really special in my life.”

Since then he’s remained single, at least publicly. Meanwhile his Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas announced last week that he was splitting from his wife Emilia after three years of marriage.

“There are many athletes who have generally happy lives in the background,” Hamilton said. “[But it’s hard], having the right mindset and trying to find the right balance of how dedicated you are, as opposed to resting back and enjoying your quality time.

“There are those that manage it – look at Seb,” he added, pointing to his Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel as an example of a top racing driver who famously enjoys nothing better than pottering around at home with the family when not at F1 events.

Lewis Hamilton (GBR), Mercedes AMG F1

“But I for one also find that [balance] incredibly difficult,” Hamilton admitted.

“With your goal to be as competitive as you can be, ultimately you want to be 100 per cent committed because you never want to be any less committed than the person next to you.

“There’s only a certain amount of you as a whole that you can give to everything. It depends how much of a sacrifice you want to make.

“There are certain things that are also added on, responsibilities or extra load bearings that you can take away from that.

“It’s different for everyone, but having spoken and read about other athletes in different sports, it’s obviously quite similar for all of us,” he concluded.

Hamilton has promised to be “a machine” in 2020 as he chases a seventh world championship, which would put him level with all-time great Michael Schumacher in the F1 history books.

He told his fans on social media that he would be “on another level than ever before” after turning 35 earlier this month, leading to a quip that he was going to have to pay Kimi Raikkonen to stay in the sport in order to avoid the dubious accolade of being the oldest driver on the grid.

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Japanese GP tweaks start time for 2020 event

Japanese Grand Prix organisers have tweaked the timetable for next October’s race at Suzuka, with Sunday’s race starting an hour earlier than usual.

Formula 1 amended the championship’s 2020 schedule, announcing that the Japanese Grand Prix will start at 13h10 local time, or 04h10 GMT (06h10 CET).

However, Friday’s free practice will start an hour later, with the day’s 90-minute sessions starting respectively at 11h00 and 15h00 local time.

Saturday’s running remains unchanged, with FP3 starting at 12h00 and qualifying beginning at 15h00 local time.

Check out here-under the timing for each round of the 22-race 2020 calendar.

2020 F1 Calendar Session Times (all local)

EventFP1FP2FP3QualifyingRace
Australia12:00-13:3016:00-17:3014:00-15:0017:00-18:0016:10
Bahrain14:00-15:3018:00-19:3015:00-16-0018:00-19:0018:10
Vietnam11:00-12:3015:00-16:3012:00-13:0015:00-16:0014:10
China10:00-11:3014:00-15:3011:00-12:0014:00-15:0014:10
Netherlands11:00-12:3015:00-16:3012:00-13:0015:00-16:0015:10
Spain11:00-12:3015:00-16:3012:00-13:0015:00-16:0015:10
Monaco *11:00-12:3015:00-16:3012:00-13:0015:00-16:0015:10
Azerbaijan13:00-14:3017:00-18:3014:00-15:0017:00-18:0016:10
Canada10:00-11:3014:00-15:3011:00-12:0014:00-15:0014:10
France11:00-12:3015:00-16:3012:00-13:0015:00-16:0015:10
Austria11:00-12:3015:00-16:3012:00-13:0015:00-16:0015:10
Great Britain11:00-12:3015:00-16:3012:00-13:0015:00-16:0015:10
Hungary11:00-12:3015:00-16:3012:00-13:0015:00-16:0015:10
Belgium11:00-12:3015:00-16:3012:00-13:0015:00-16:0015:10
Italy11:00-12:3015:00-16:3012:00-13:0015:00-16:0015:10
Singapore16:30-18:0020:30-22:0018:00-19:0021:00-22:0020:10
Russia11:00-12:3015:00-16:3012:00-13:0015:00-16:0014:10
Japan11:00-12:3015:00-16:3012:00-13:0015:00-16:0013:10
United States11:00-12:3015:00-16:3013:00-14:0016:00-17:0014:10
Mexico11:00-12:3015:00-16:3010:00-11:0013:00-14:0013:10
Brazil11:00-12:3015:00-16:3012:00-13:0015:00-16:0014:10
Abu Dhabi13:00-14:3017:00-18:3014:00-15:0017:00-18:0017:10

* FP1 and FP2 on Thursday

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Red Bull adds 14-year-old F4 charger to junior roster

Red Bull has recruited 14-year-old American hopeful Jak Crawford for its junior programme which will be led by Juri Vips and Yuki Tsunoda.

Crawford appeared on Red Bull’s radar after an impressive maiden campaign in the NACAM Formula 4 series in 2019 which the ambitious teenage charger finished second overall after clinching six wins and 14 podiums.

This year, thanks to Red Bull, the American will hone his skills in the German and Italian F4 championships, racing with the front-running Van Amersfoort team.

Crawford will be joined on the F4 grid by fellow Red Bull junior, British young gun Jonny Edgar.

Further up the ladder, Red Bull’s leading juniors in 2020 will be Juri Vips, who heads to Japan for a season of Super Formula, and former fellow FIA F3 racer Yuki Tsunoda who steps up to F2.

Red Bull’s junior roster will also include 17-year-old Kiwi Liam Lawson who will remain in F3 this year, young Aussie Jack Doohan and Norwegian hopeful Dennis Hauger, both of which will join Lawson in F3.

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Crucial Mercedes board meeting to seal team’s F1 future!

Crucial Mercedes board meeting to seal team’s F1 future!

An all-important upcoming Daimler board meeting could seal the future of the Mercedes team in F1 and perhaps set in motion a series of sensational events involving the Silver Arrows squad and Lewis Hamilton.

According to a ‘joint investigation‘ from RaceFans veteran F1 reporter Dieter Rencken and website Autocar – two very credible sources, a crucial board meeting is expected to take place on February 12, although the date was not confirmed by Daimler’s representatives.

At stake, the future of Mercedes in F1 beyond 2020 and whether the German manufacturer will continue as a works team or remain solely as an engine supplier.

The joint report suggests that Mercedes may be inclined to pull the plug on its F1 team, having reaped the benefits of its outstanding supremacy in the sport since the introduction of the hybrid era in 2014, but also in light of the automobile manufacturer’s drop in profits and subsequent cost-cutting measures which would perhaps put Daimler at odds with the lavish spending required to maintain its the Mercedes team’s presence in Grand Prix racing.

Furthermore, from a strategic point of view, given the ongoing electrification of the automobile industry, Formula 1 could be perceived as a potential technological dead end for Mercedes in the mid-term, hence its involvement in Formula E.

Should Mercedes decide to quit its works outfit, the question begs of what would become of its Brackley headquarters and of Hamilton?

RaceFans and Autocar speculate that Racing Point owner Lawrence Stroll, whose team is powered by Mercedes’ engines, could partner with Wolff to take over the current Silver Arrows team, and pick up in 2021 where the manufacturer will have left off, albeit under a new Aston Martin banner.

Why Aston Martin you ask? Because Stroll has recently taken a keen interest in the prestigious luxury car maker and could attempt a buy-out to turn around Aston’s fortunes following the dwindling of its financials and stock price in 2019.

Mercedes currently supplies engines to Aston Martin for its road cars, so a Merc-powered Aston F1 car is not an absurd proposition.

As for Hamilton, Mercedes’ retreat would likely leave the six-time world champion with just three options: a commitment to the new entity managed by Wolff, a sensational transfer to Ferrari or a well-deserved departure into the sunset.

Both Hamilton and Wolff have expressed their hope of continuing their collaboration with each other and with Mercedes from 2021.

It’s all speculation and conjecture for now, and there are suggestions that Mercedes is simply brandishing a quit threat to Liberty Media to strengthen its position at the negotiation table, where discussions over the sport’s future Concorde Agreement are still ongoing.

Wait and see…

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Red Bull ‘not putting any extra pressure on Albon’

Red Bull ‘not putting any extra pressure on Albon’

Red Bull principal Christian Horner says that the team has no intention of piling the pressure on Alexander Albon in 2020.

Albon made his F1 debut in the 2019 Australian Grand Prix after a late call-up to the grid which came from Toro Rosso at the end of 2018. He was subsequently promoted to the senior team over the summer break in a swap with Pierre Gasly.

Albon impressed in his first outings with Red Bull, at times matching or even out-performing his new team mate Max Verstappen. But Horner acknowledges that the 23-year-old London-born Thai driver is still very much a work in progress.

“There’s no specific goals, he’s just got to continue his development,” he replied when asked by Autosport magazine whether Albon had been tasked with meeting specific objectives in 2020, having been retained by the team for a full second year.

“You’ve seen every race he’s done with us. He’s just got better and better,” Horner continued. “I think he’s driven brilliantly well. First year, two teams plus the pressure of coming here and having Max as your team-mate.

“He’s handled that really well,” Horner added. “He has impressed the whole team with his approach and his attitude, with his feedback, and with his pace that continues to grow.”

The team boss even paid Albon arguably the biggest compliment of all, by suggesting he was similar to Verstappen in key ways.

“He shares many of the same virtues that Max has, with that ability to cope with pressure, that determination.”

Albon’s best result in 21 starts to date was fourth place in Japan. Horner said that the driver had been “unlucky” to finish his rookie season without a podium, after being spun out on the penultimate late of the Brazilian GP by Lewis Hamilton.

“You see people’s make-up in adversity,” Horner commented. “Alex has had a lot of adversity to deal with during his career.

“I think he’s shown that determination, that character, and I’ve got no doubt he’ll benefit from stability now [staying at Red Bull for 2020].”

“It’s probably the first time since his karting career that he’s had that [stability],” he said. “He’ll only benefit from that.”

Former Formula 1 driver Karun Chandhok agreed that Albon had been through a lot in recent times, and predicted that he would get his first shot this season to show what he can really do behind the wheel.

“You shouldn’t forget what a turbulent year Alex had [last season],” the Sky Sports F1 technical expert told the Autosport International Show this month. “His promotion [into F1] came late, and after six months he was put in a top team car.

“There was a lot of pressure to perform while driving alongside [Verstappen], one of the strongest drivers of this generation,” he continued. “So it’s only in 2020 that Alex will get his first real chance.

“I wonder what he can show, now that he’s had a full winter to recharge the batteries and prepare himself?” Chandhok mused. “He is a very good driver and he knows the team just as well as the team knows him.

“I am curious to see how close he can get to Max.”

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Marko: No Team is Willing to Give Hamilton $66 Million

Marko: No Team is Willing to Give Hamilton $66 Million

Helmut Marko

Red Bull’s Helmut Marko has waded into the ongoing contract saga between Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes, suggesting the Briton may find it difficult to get the compensation he is asking for.

Having just re-signed his own driver Max Verstappen to a new three-year contract, Marko thinks the $66 million dollar number being tossed around in reports is indeed what Hamilton is asking for, but might be too much for the Silver Arrows.

“Lewis is a six-time world champion and very important for Mercedes in terms of both sport and marketing,” the 76-year-old told Auto Bild.

“I think that he is aware of his value and from there he pushes towards certain requests… [however] I believe that no team, not even Mercedes, will be willing to spend such sums on a driver. Or maybe only Ferrari.”

With his contract set to expire at the end of the 2020 season, Hamilton caused quite a ruckus in the F1 paddock late last year after reports emerged in the Italian press that he had had two meetings with Fiat boss John Elkann. If Marko is correct about his demands, the Scuderia could end up being his only suitor.

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Alonso: No one is pressing Hamilton’s ‘weak’ button

Alonso: No one is pressing Hamilton’s ‘weak’ button

Fernando Alonso believes there are chinks in Lewis Hamilton’s armour which his rivals aren’t exploiting, the Spaniard not dismissing taking on once again the six-time world champion in 2021.

Hamilton’s supremacy in F1 has brought the Briton within striking distance of Michael Schumacher’s record of seven world titles while the Mercedes star is just seven wins short of equaling the great German’s historic tally of 91 victories.

Hamilton’s rein in the last six years, interrupted just once – by teammate Nico Rosberg in 2016, has gone hand in hand with Mercedes’ hegemony in Grand Prix racing since the advent of the hybrid era.

Alonso recognizes Hamilton’s strengths, but the former McLaren driver also sees holes in Hamilton’s guard.

“He’s made a step forward – he is more competitive, more prepared,” Alonso told F1 Racing.

“He still has some weak points that have not been stressed yet – no-one is pressing that button, that weakness.”

Alonso believes Hamilton’s forte is his ability to prevail or extract a good result on weekends when his car isn’t as competitive, something his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas has struggled to achieve.

“He’s raised the level the last couple of years, especially in 2019 when the car has not been as dominant as other seasons,” explained the two-time world champion.

“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.

“If you study Lewis’ season, there is always a common trend. He starts the year slowly and no-one takes the benefit of that. We all get excited that it will be the year of Bottas, but it’s not,” Alonso added.

“It would be nice to compete against him in a proper fight. Maybe his weak points are not real and everything is calculated but it would 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. The mistakes are different and your radio communications are different.

“We need to see him when the pressure is on.”

Alonso hasn’t dismissed a return to the F1 fray in 2021, but that’s a prospect the 38-year-old contemplate more seriously after his endeavor next May at the Indy 500.

In the interim,  one can count on Max, Charles, Seb and Valtteri to turn up the heat on Hamilton this year and exploit those chinks.

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Alonso: Would Be Nice to Have a ‘Proper Fight’ with Hamilton

Alonso: Would Be Nice to Have a ‘Proper Fight’ with Hamilton

Fernando Alonso has hinted again at his desire to return to Formula 1 with the goal of challenging six-time champion Lewis Hamilton.

Speaking to F1 Racing, the 2005 and 2006 Driver’s World Champion suggested the Briton has weaknesses that no one on the current grid has tested.

“He’s made a step forward – he is more competitive, more prepared… [but] he still has some weak points that have not been stressed yet – no-one is pressing that button, that weakness.

A one-time teammate of Hamilton’s at McLaren in 2007, the two featured in one of the sport’s most heated rivalries in recent memory — both drivers finishing with four wins and 109 points before Alonso left the team at the end of the season.

Having been out of F1 since his second stint with McLaren ended in 2018, the 38-year-old maintains he still has the goods necessary to battle the Briton, even as he concedes the 35-year-old has improved as a driver.

“He’s raised the level the last couple of years, especially in 2019 when the car has not been as dominant as other seasons. If he cannot win, he’s a very close second – not 20 seconds further back, which is what happens a little bit with Valtteri [Bottas]. A weekend when the car is not as competitive, Bottas is fifth or sixth or a minute behind – but Lewis is not.”

“If you study Lewis’ season, there is always a common trend,” the Spaniard continued. “He starts the year slowly, and no-one takes the benefit of that. We all get excited that it will be the year of Bottas, but it’s not.

“It would be nice to compete against him in a proper fight. Maybe his weak points are not real and everything is calculated, but it would 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. The mistakes are different and your radio communications are different. We need to see him when the pressure is on.”

Long rumoured to be targeting 2021 for a return to the top flight, Alonso has nevertheless busied himself in the interim by competing in a variety of motorsports, including most recently, the Dakar Rally. His next event will be the 2020 Indianapolis 500 with Andretti Autosport, with reports in the Spanish press indicating an official announcement will take place this week.

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Red Bull Announce 14-Year-Old Addition to Junior Team

Red Bull Announce 14-Year-Old Addition to Junior Team

Red Bull Side

Red Bull have announced only one new addition to their junior team for 2020: 14-year-old American Jak Crawford.

The pipeline through which the energy drinks outfit has found Formula 1 drivers Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, among others, Crawford is its youngest member and only American.

Set to race in both the ADAC German Formula 4 and Italian F4 Championships, Crawford will compete alongside stable-mate Jonny Edgar for Van Amersfoort Racing.

Elsewhere in the programme, Jack Doohan, Dennis Hauger, and Liam Lawson will form the contingent racing in Formula 3, while Yuki Tsonoda — also part of the Honda “Formula Dream Project” — will be the lone entry in F2, and Juri Vips will feature in Japan’s Super Formula.

The full details for each driver are below:

Jak Crawford – USA – 2nd May 2005
ADAC Formula 4 Series – Van Amersfoort Racing
Italian F4 Championship – Van Amersfoort Racing

Jack Doohan – AUS – 20th January 2003
F3 Asian Championship – Pinnacle Motorsport
FIA F3 Championship – HWA Racelab

Jonny Edgar – GBR – 13th February 2004
ADAC Formula 4 Series – Van Amersfoort Racing
Italian F4 Championship – Van Amersfoort Racing

Dennis Hauger – NOR – 17th March 2003
FIA F3 Championship – Hitech Grand Prix

Liam Lawson – NZL – 11th February 2002
Toyota Racing Series – M2 Competition
FIA F3 Championship – Hitech Grand Prix

Yuki Tsunoda – JAP – 11th May 2000
Toyota Racing Series – M2 Competition
FIA Formula 2 Championship – Carlin Motorsport

Jüri Vips – EST – 10th August 2000
Super Formula – Team Mugen

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Williams Announces Two New Hires to Technical Team

Williams Announces Two New Hires to Technical Team

ROKiT Williams Racing is delighted to announce two new appointments that will strengthen its technical team.

David Worner, who will be Chief Designer, and Jonathan Carter, who will be Deputy Chief Designer & Head of Design, both have many years of experience in the sport. They will take up these positions in the near future.

Worner is currently responsible for the Red Bull Racing/Scuderia Toro Rosso Synergies initiative and has been working in Formula 1 since 1997, when he joined Arrows as a Design Engineer. He gained experience in both stress and design engineering with Rolls Royce Aero, who he was with for 18 years from 1979. He moved to Jaguar Racing in 2003, transitioning to Red Bull Racing the following year as Senior Suspension Designer. He became Head of Suspension and Driver Controls for them in 2007 and was appointed Deputy Chief Designer in 2014.

Carter began his motorsport career in 1979 with Reynard Racing Cars before also working for Arrows as a Design Engineer for six years. He then moved to McLaren in 2002 and was responsible for their first composite maincase, before leading a team responsible for advancing the team’s monocoque. He then went on to be Principal Engineer Car Integration before becoming Deputy Head of Vehicle Design in 2012. He is joining Williams from the Renault F1 Team where he has been Head of Composite Design since 2015.

Coincident with the above appointments, Adam Carter is appointed to the position of Chief Engineer and will be responsible for the integration and coordination of activities across the core engineering functions and delivery of vehicle programmes.

Deputy Team Principal of ROKiT Williams Racing, Claire Williams, commented: “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.”

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Lauda’s stake in Silver Arrows team returned to Mercedes

Lauda’s stake in Silver Arrows team returned to Mercedes

The late Niki Lauda’s ten percent stake in the Mercedes AMG F1 team will return to the manufacturer according to the Austrian’s son, Mathias Lauda.

Lauda passed away in May of last year following health complications linked to the lung transplant undergone by the F1 legend during the summer of 2018.

Both Lauda and Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff held a ten percent stake in the world championship winning team, with the remaining 80 percent held directly by Mercedes.

However, upon Lauda’s untimely passing, his shares have not been transferred to his family’s estate but will be returned to Mercedes, according to a pre-established agreement with the team’s principal shareholder.

“His shares will return to Stuttgart, to Mercedes itself, during 2020,” Mathias Lauda told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“They will not move on to other families. This was already agreed in a written agreement a couple of years ago.”

©GEPA

Nine months on, Lauda’s family is still adjusting to their tragic loss.

“When I wake up in the morning I still cannot believe he is this legend of motorsport,” said Mathias, speaking in Daytona last weekend where the 38-year-old raced for Aston Martin in the Rolex 24.

“I think about him every day. It’s already eight months since he has gone and that was when I started a new chapter in my life. I try to do the best to make him proud.

“Motorsport was everything for my dad. He started very young without the support of his family and won three Formula 1 titles.

“He was the only driver to stop after a terrible accident and come back to win a title.”

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Red Mist: Botched data, split agendas and plenty hot air at Ferrari

Red Mist: Botched data, split agendas and plenty hot air at Ferrari

The story of Ferrari’s pre-season woes before the testing even starts, continues to rise to level of hysteria one would expect from a rock and roll groupie screaming at the feet of her performing hero at her first concert.

Of course, this story has been about for a few weeks already and while I for one believe this to simply be the latest creation of fake news nouveau, it seems it refuses to go away and in typical Ferrari freak news style, the myth continues to morph as it progresses.

Enter former F1 minnow Minardi’s one-time test driver, Grand-Am racer and in this case, Sky Italia reporter Matteo Bobbi, who has a somewhat different take on affairs.

Now Bobbi predicts that Ferrari will take a leaf out of Mercedes’ pre-season Formula 1 testing book when teams commence their on-track preparations in a week or two.

He reminds us that Mercedes last year brought a basic version of its 2019 car to the first week of winter testing, last year giving the factory time to comfortably finish the final version, which the test team then put through its first paces in the second test week.

Bobbi reckons, “It is said that Ferrari could bring two versions of the car to the pre-season testing like Mercedes did last year.

“That means they can work out the new car’s reliability puzzle and gather basic aerodynamic basic data in the first week, before using the second week to concentrate on the final version of the 2020 car, which will be a very close specification to the one they will take to Melbourne,” he added.

Bobbi suggests that Ferrari has modified the new car’s aerodynamic concept to see it generate more downforce in the corners, an aspect other commentators have deduced has resulted in an aero defect.

So being, should Bobbi’s theory of a split test agenda prove to be, observers surmise that could well be proof of that botched aero legend doing the rounds. Is that wind tunnel air really all that hot? Time will tell…

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Gasly: Being dropped by Red Bull was ‘unfair situation’

Gasly: Being dropped by Red Bull was ‘unfair situation’

Pierre Gasly says that he remains determined to prove wrong all those who criticised his driving during his brief tenure at Red Bull last year.

Gasly was promoted to the top team at the start of 2019 to replace Daniel Ricciardo, but Helmut Marko and Christian Horner grew frustrated with his inconsistent form compared to team mate Max Verstappen.

They eventually decided to swap him back to the Toro Rosso squad in exchange for Alexander Albon over the summer to see out the remaining nine races of the season.

Both drivers appeared to be boosted by the change, and Gasly went on to pick up a podium with second place in the penultimate race of the season in Brazil.

“There was this swap and I just felt like, okay, this was an unfair situation,” he told Motorsport.com in an exclusive interview. “Now it’s up to me to prove basically to everyone that it was just not the right way.

“I thought now I’ve got these nine races basically to prove my point and prove the speed and prove the skills I have,” he continued. “I needed to just focus on myself, because at the end of the day I’m the one that will make things happen.

“It’s a bit the way I’ve been educated, and also the way I grew up – that I’ve had to fight for everything I wanted in life.

“Nobody ever gave me this and I never took anything for granted,” he added. “Everytime it wasn’t sure if I would continue the year after.

“It wasn’t sure if I will get these seats unless I delivered or performed exactly on that day. Otherwise everything will not be happening. I always had this mentality.”

©RedBull

Gasly admitted that he was disappointed by how quickly everyone had seemed to turn against him when things didn’t immediately click at Red Bull.

“I’ve always been competitive, since I started in single seaters. And then in these six months everybody then starts to question: ‘Okay, does he have the talent?’ ‘Does he have the speed?’ ‘Has he forgotten how to drive?’ ‘Has he forgotten how to brake?’

“It’s not something you forget in two-three weeks, you know!” he responded. “It was people talking s**t without having the information, or having partial information, or not even knowing.

“So for me it was really important to give 110 per cent of myself,” he added. “To make sure I was on top of my game for these nine races, and basically just show the speed I have to stop the BS.”

Gasly ended the season in seventh place in the standings, with a total of 95 points – 63 from his 11 outings at Red Bull augmented by 32 picked up after his return to Toro Rosso. That put him three ahead of Albon and just one behind Carlos Sainz.

As a result of his late season surge, Gasly retains his seat on the grid for 2020 with the team now rechristened AlphaTauri, where he will get another opportunity to show what he can do in F1.

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Renault Sport Academy signs up French F4 champion

Renault Sport Academy signs up French F4 champion

The 2019 French Formula 4 champion Hadrien David has been announced as the newest addition to the Renault Sport Academy.

It’s part of the reward the 15-year-old receives as a result of winning the regional title last year, in his debut season in single-seater racing that saw him clinch seven wins and seven podiums across the 21-race campaign.

“It’s a dream come true to join the Renault Sport Academy on the back of my French Formula 4 title triumph last season,” said the young Frenchman who hails originally from Royan.

He will now spend this year competing in the Formula Renault Eurocup with MP Motorsport. Last year’s winner of that title, Australian hopeful Oscar Pisatri, has also just been signed up by the Renault driver development programme in advance of a maiden season in Formula 3.

“I can’t wait to be wearing Renault team colours in 2020 and competing in the Formula Renault Eurocup, a championship I’ve been watching since I was young,” said David.

“It’s going to be a very competitive series, and I’ll be the youngest driver on the grid too, but that’s a challenge I’m looking forward to taking on,” he continued. “It’s going to be great having the Academy’s support and I’m sure we can achieve good things this season.”

His rapid rise at such a young age means David is already firmly on the radar of Formula 1 team bosses.

“Hadrien is very young, and it’s impressive that he already has a single-seater title on his CV after winning French Formula 4 last year,” agreed Renault Sport Academy Director Mia Sharizman.

“The Eurocup provides an excellent platform for him to develop and prove the exciting talent that he is. We’ll be doing our best to help him develop this year.”

2019 French Formula 4 champion and Renault Sport Academy driver Hadrien David

© Renault

As well as David and Piastri, existing Academy drivers Guanyu Zhou, Christian Lundgaard, Max Fewtrell and Caio Collet have all been retained for 2020.

“This year’s line-up is the strongest we’ve had in the last four years of the Renault Sport Academy,” commented Sharizman. “We’ve struck a balance between experienced and rookie drivers and we believe we can compete for titles across all junior championships in which we’ve entered.

“As the years progress, we are moving closer to the point where we want to have an Academy driver in contention for the Formula 1 race seat. We remain hopeful that this year is a breakout year for this to happen.

“We already know what Max and Christian can do, and they are entering their fourth year on the programme. We were also pleased with how both Zhou and Caio performed in their first season with the Academy. All drivers have their own targets this year, which they know they have to meet.”

Monday also saw Renault Sport Racing announce a new partnership with oil, fluid and lubricant brand Castrol.

Already the official lubricant supplier of the Enstone technical centre and Viry-Châtillon engine operations base, Castrol will now be supporting Renault in series including the Clio Cup France, Clio Trophy France and Formula Renault Eurocup, as well as Clio Cup Italia, Spain, UK and Central Europe.

“We are extremely happy to begin a new chapter of our relationship with Castrol,” commented Renault Sport Racing managing director and F1 team boss Cyril Abiteboul. “Castrol is an industry leader in its field with a rich heritage in motor racing and feeder series.

“We are proud to be able to count on a partner of such renown and expertise,” he added. “It also shows the attractiveness of our customer racing activities in the eyes of major players in the sport and the industry.”

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Matthias Lauda: Hard to believe he is no longer around me

Matthias Lauda: Hard to believe he is no longer around me

The passing of Formula 1 icon Niki Lauda is still hard to fathom for family members, particularly his son Mathias who wakes every morning still coming to terms with the absence of his legendary father.

While the headlines of Niki’s incredible life and the final battle with his health have subsided, behind-the-scenes his family are dealing with the estate of the great man.

Speaking Gazzetta dello Sport, Mathias revealed: “When I wake-up in the morning I still find it hard to believe that he is no longer around me.”

“I always have him in my thoughts and I miss him very much. It is a feeling that anyone who has lost a parent knows very well. Eight months have already passed, since then a new chapter has started in my life. I am trying to do my best , in my life, to be able to make him proud from up there.

“Motorsport was really everything for him. He started very young without family support and won the Formula 1 title three times, showing all his worth. And then he was the only driver in Grand Prix history to continue after such a terrible accident and return to conquer another world title.”

Apart from the legacy he left in F1, Lauda was also an accomplished businessman with interests in the airline industry and, of course, one of the main players in creating and establishing the modern Mercedes team into an unrivalled force, the best team in the history of the sport.

Matthias continued, “My father was a successful entrepreneur, as he demonstrated by returning to F1 with a different role and winning several titles with Mercedes. This year, his shares in the team will return to Stuttgart, to Mercedes itself, a condition in the contract.”

At the time of his death last year, Niki Lauda was worth around $200-million according to celebrity wealth sources.

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Mick Schumacher ‘must really prove himself’ in 2020

Mick Schumacher ‘must really prove himself’ in 2020

Former Formula 1 driver turned Sky Sports F1 presenter Johnny Herbert says that Mick Schumacher has to show what he can really do in 2020 – and quickly – if he’s to keep alive the dream of following his famous father into Grand Prix racing.

The 20-year-old clinched the FIA F3 Euro title from Dan Ticktum in 2018 which earned him a place in the prestigious Ferrari Driver Academy, and a full-time race seat in last year’s Formula 2 championship.

However he failed to make much initial impact in the support series. A run of bad luck meant he finished in a distant 12th place in the final drivers standings, although he did clinch a maiden race victory at the Hungaroring along the way.

But Herbert – who was Michael Schumacher’s team mate at Benetton in 1995 – pointed to the success of previous series champions such as Charles Leclerc and George Russell as the kind of breakout performance that Schumacher needs to pull off if he wants to catch the eye of any F1 team bosses.

Although they missed out on the title, 2018 also saw runners-up Lando Norris and Alex Albon do enough to win instant promotion promotion to F1, while last year’s champion Nyck de Vries is now a Mercedes Formula E driver and second-place man Nicholas Latifi has joined Williams F1 in place of Robert Kubica.

Now the pressure is on Schumacher to follow in their footsteps, with a second season at F2 at top team Prema in store.

“It’s probably an important season this year [for Mick],” Herbert told the media at the 2020 Autosport International Show in Birmingham earlier this month. “He has to do it, in my eyes, this year.

“His race win in Hungary was very well controlled, very mature in the way that he was able to look after his tyres in the manner he did, but keep the pace he needed to.

“It was a good win [but] nothing that I would class as startling like we saw with Lando [Norris] and George,” he said, pointing out that Schumacher failed to build on the momentum of that victory.

Lando Norris (GBR) McLaren with Johnny Herbert (GBR) Sky Sports F1 Presenter.

“In my experience, when you have a win like that your confidence grows: you go to the next race and your performance goes up. [But his] performance didn’t go up, he was around seventh or eighth.

“Results speak, that’s the big thing.”

While acknowledging that 2019 was just a rookie season after all for Schumacher, Herbert emphasised that the really great drivers had succeeded in making their presence felt straight away in F2.

“It was his first season, but all of the guys that make a statement in the lower formulas go in and go bang! It’s the George and Lando situation, and past drivers have also done the same thing.

“If you stay there for too long – if you do a four-year stint, which has happened a couple of times with drivers like Maldonado and Palmer – it hasn’t really turned into anything particularly brilliant.”

Herbert concluded by saying that Schumacher was “good but needs improvement,” and said it was too soon to tell if he would make the grade and get to F1.

“It’s a bit early for Mick on that front, but his demeanour is very good,” he commented. “He’s a very nice young man and they’ve brought him on in a very nice way.”

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Pirelli rules out holding further tyre tests at GPs

Pirelli rules out holding further tyre tests at GPs

Formula 1’s tyre provider Pirelli says it won’t be holding any further development testing at Grand Prix events in 2020, after receiving negative feedback from teams following last year’s trial at the United States GP.

“It is not good to plan any test of validation during the race weekend,” Pirelli’s motorsport boss Mario Isola admitted to Autosport magazine.

“If we have to test a completely new tyre it’s probably the wrong way to do that.”

He said that attempting to cram in tyre testing had been too much of a distraction for teams who already had limited time available to prepare for the imminent race.

“When they are focused on their race weekends, they have to set up the cars for the race weekend. Sometimes they have to test new parts,” Isola explained.

A further complicating factor was how much the track changed as it cleaned up and rubbered in, making it time-consuming to establish a baseline performance.

“There is track evolution in every race. If we also [do] a comparison of a new tyre compared to the baseline, it is too much,” he acknowledged. “It is impossible for a team in only three hours of free practice in total [on Friday].

“They have to find a compromise to fit additional tyre tests into a schedule that is already full of other stuff to do,” he continued. “And that means in that condition it’s very unlikely that they can make a proper tyre test.”

The specific purpose of the extra tyre test at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas last November was to allow teams time to evaluate proposed new compounds in 2020.

However cold conditions frustrated the effort and resulted in teams responding negatively about the new tyres, which were ultimately dropped as a result.

F1 will stick to existing compounds this season, before introducing new 18-inch tyres next year. The tyre manufacturer has expressed concerns that the rubber could now face overheating issues in 2020 due to advances made by the teams over the winter.

“We supplied the prototypes to everybody, so it was a good opportunity to see how the prototype worked,” Isola said, defending the decision to undertake the test in the first place.

But he confirmed that Pirelli would now concentrate on running dedicated full-day tests with teams away from race weekends.

“The car is there. They can set up the car. We can make proper comparisons. Long runs, short runs, different conditions, cambers calm, pressures calm, other stuff.

“That’s why we prefer to say focus on tyre development tests where we have a whole day available,” he added. “We can have a proper evaluation.”

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Williams boost technical staff with new signings

Rokit Williams Racing has recruited two new engineers to boost its senior technical staff, with David Worner and Jonathan Carter expected to join the British outfit “in the near future”.

Worner will assume the role of chief designer, transferring from Red Bull, while Carter will move in from Renault to assist the former and also and head Williams’ design office.

“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,” said Williams deputy team principal Claire Williams.

“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.”

Worner is currently responsible for the Red Bull Racing/Scuderia Toro Rosso Synergies initiative and has been working in Formula 1 since 1997, when he joined Arrows as a Design Engineer.

Carter’s career in motorsport started in 1979 with Reynard Racing Cars, the British enfineer also working for Arrows as a Design Engineer for six years.

He then moved to McLaren in 2002 where he eventually became Deputy Head of Vehicle Design in 2012.

Carter is joining Williams from the Renault F1 Team where he has been Head of Composite Design since 2015.

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Haas joins Alfa for pitlane launch in Barcelona

The Haas F1 Team will be up at the crack of dawn on February 19 to prepare for the unveiling of its 2020 challenger at 8h00 local time in the Barcelona pitlane.

Haas will join Alfa Romeo Racing and indeed precede the Swiss outfit by 15 minutes at the Circuit de Catalunya, launching its VF20 on the first day of pre-season testing in Spain.

After a disappointing campaign last year, the US outfit hopes to turn around its performance this season and fight for a spot Grand Prix racing’s top midfield contenders.

After dismissing its former title sponsor last summer, Haas is expected to shed its black and gold robe and revert to the grey, white and red corporate colors of Haas Automation.

Ferrari will kick off the presentation season when it pulls the cover off its 2020 prancing horse in one of Italy’s grandest theatres, the Teatro Valli in Reggio Emilia in the north of the country.

The full updated calendar of the launches and the dates of pre-season testing can be found here.

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Vettel: Remove the Batteries, Double the Cylinders

Vettel: Remove the Batteries, Double the Cylinders

Formula 1 needs to ditch the hybrid power units and go back to conventional combustion engines, says Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.

The sport moved away from its fuel-hungry and famously-loud fully normally-aspirated engines at the end of 2013, replacing them with the hybrid 2.4 litre turbo V6s that persist today.

Now, it is reported that F1’s next move for 2025, alongside a push for carbon neutrality, could be a move to two-stroke engines, powered by innovative green, bio or synthetic fuels.

But Vettel, an avowed racing ‘purist’, says that if he was in charge of F1, he would do something different.

“My first act would be to double the number of cylinders,” the Ferrari driver, spotted at Kitzbuhel last weekend with Bernie Ecclestone and Red Bull, is quoted by Kolner Express.

“I would also remove the batteries. I do not think they are needed, except to start the car,” Vettel added.

However, F1 legend Gerhard Berger’s vision of the future of the series he leads, DTM, is vastly different. The former Ferrari and McLaren driver envisions fully-electric 1000 horsepower touring cars capable of well over 300kph.

“We are talking about high-performance driving machines that, like the DTM, will enable spectacular wheel-to-wheel racing,” said the former Ferrari and McLaren driver.

Nico Rosberg, who invests heavily in green innovation, is also open to motorsport’s electric future.

“The hybrid engine is more efficient than the combustion engine, even with synthetic fuels,” said the 2016 world champion.

“Electric power will become even more sustainable thanks to new battery technology. I already said in 2018 that Formula 1 will eventually merge with Formula E.”

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Boullier Promoted at French Grand Prix, Promises Changes

Boullier Promoted at French Grand Prix, Promises Changes

Eric Boullier has been promoted to Managing Director of the the Formula 1 Grand Prix de France, the race’s organisers announced on Monday.

Formerly team principal at Renault/Lotus and racing director at McLaren, the 46-year-old Frenchman had previously joined the French GP organisation as a Strategic Sports and Operational Advisor and Ambassador in February 2019.

“I am happy and proud to be more involved in this beautiful project that is the Formula 1 Grand Prix de France. I look forward to continuing to contribute to the success of this great motor sport event on French soil. I would like to thank Christian Estrosi and the GIP Grand Prix de France – Le Castellet for their trust. “ said Boullier in a press release.

Furthermore, in an interview with Dieter Rencken at RaceFans, Boullier promised he would use his new position to push through a “redesign” of the Circuit Paul Ricard’s first sector, in an effort to increase overtaking.

Since rejoining the calendar in 2018, the race has seen two largely processional races, both won by Lewis Hamilton. Boullier hopes to alleviate this with modifications to turns three and four.

“There is a target which is to make the lap time a bit faster and maybe push the F1 teams to run lower downforce level,” said Boullier. “But we [will] also create another big opportunity for overtaking. Clearly this one [will] help also the second one, which is before the chicane.”

The chicane Boullier refers to is at the end of the Mistral straight, and is something he has promised will “stay in place” despite its unpopularity with some drivers.

Currently the plans are pending approval with the FIA, but Boullier promises the changes can be made in time if they are approved in short order.

The 2020 French Grand Prix will take place on June 28th.

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