Mercedes forced to make changes to rear brake ducts

Mercedes forced to make changes to rear brake ducts

Mercedes has been forced to make changes to the rear brake ducts of its new W11 contender ahead of this weekend’s season opener, the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

The changes were made after the FIA issued a new technical directive following a complaint from Red Bull, which questioned the legality of their rivals’ braking system.

Red Bull’s engineers felt that the Mercedes rear brake vents did not comply with Article 11.5 of Formula 1’s technical regulations relating to how far air ducts around the rear brakes are allowed to protrude within the existing rules.

Details of the new technical directive circulated to teams this week have not been publicly released.

However, according to Auto Motor Und Sport, as a result Mercedes was left with no choice but to make changes to their car in order to comply with the new requirements.

It’s not the only potential headache for Mercedes this weekend. The innovative but controversial new Dual Axis Steering system – which allows drivers to change the toe-angle of the front wheels by pulling the steering wheel toward them or pushing it away – is also likely to be a point of contention.

“From our perspective the system does not comply with the rules,” Red Bull motorsports consultant Dr Helmut Marko told the German publication this week.

“Our lawyers are checking whether the DAS system is legal,” he added. “We will protest when Mercedes uses the system in Melbourne.”

Mercedes isn’t the only team facing official protests this weekend, with Renault also said to be planning an immediate complaint to the stewards about the design of this years Racing Point RP20, which closely resembles last year’s Mercedes.

Meanwhile Mercedes itself is concerned about the reliability of its new 2020 power unit after the squad and its customer teams suffered a number of engine-related problems during last month’s pre-season testing.

The issues had different causes, with cooling problems with the MGU-H in the first week of testing and bearing failures in the second.

However the latest word from the team is that they have investigated the causes behind these glitches and believed them to have been satisfactorily resolved.

“We managed to get through most of our programme as planned at the winter tests,” said team principal Toto Wolff. “However, we faced some reliability issues that we needed to resolve.

“We’re glad that we encountered these issues in testing rather than at a race weekend as we could work on fixing them without any penalties.”

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Ocon glad of advice and support from Hamilton

Ocon glad of advice and support from Hamilton

After an unwanted year’s sabbatical from Formula 1, Esteban Ocon will be fired up on all cylinders for his Grand Prix return this weekend in Australia.

Already a veteran of 50 races, first with Manor and subsequently with Force India, Ocon will be wearing Renault team colours in 2020.

But the former Mercedes junior also retains close links with the Silver Arrows, for whom he worked as a reserve and development driver in his year away from front line competition.

He revealed this week that Lewis Hamilton has been particularly helpful and supportive in the last year.

“I had a good chat with Lewis, who gave me good advice,” the 23-year-old Frenchman told Motorsport.com. “Not really the sport side, more the managing side.

“The moment where it was a bit crucial, where there were discussions [for 2020] but nothing was signed,” he explained.

“He knew how to give me good words and gave me directions, where to go,” he said. “Definitely among a lot of people he was also a good teacher in all those paths.

“I won’t go into details because that would be giving his secrets, but definitely how he used his time. It’s very impressive.

“The way he worked with his engineers, and the life the has,” Ocon continued. “All around he has a very busy life, but when he does something it’s 100 percent. Forget the rest.

“He does his things very precisely. But once he’s done it, boom, he doesn’t lose time, does something else.

“This is something in Formula 1 it’s quite easy to not do well,” Ocon pointed out. “You need to refocus on other things.

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 with Esteban Ocon (FRA) Mercedes AMG F1 Reserve Driver.

“You could’ve gone to the Fan Zone, whatever, and then you come back to your engineering debrief,” he explained. “You only have 10 minutes to speak with your engineers, but you took three to refocus.”

In contrast, Hamilton always seemed able to swap focus without missing a beat.

“He straight away managed to switch very clearly from that, and I think this is why he has such a successful life everywhere.”

As for achieving a successful life on the race track, Ocon said that his experience working alongside Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas last season would be a big help to him in his new role at Renault.

“I came out of my environment – with my experience, driving, using stuff, knowing what’s best, what’s not – and then going to see how they do their things [was] definitely very, very useful for me.”

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Todt writes to teams to defend ‘secret deal’ with Ferrari

Todt writes to teams to defend ‘secret deal’ with Ferrari

FIA president Jean Todt has robustly defended his decision to reach a ‘secret deal’ with Ferrari over the legality of the team’s 2019 power unit.

The governing body revealed at the end of February that it had “reached a settlement” with the team over issues surrounding the fuel-flow rate in last year’s Ferrari engines used by the works team, Alfa Romeo and Haas.

But rival teams were upset that the details have been kept confidential, and that there has been no public confirmation that Ferrari actually broke the rules. A letter from all seven non-Ferrari affiliated teams demanded more details and answers.

The teams raised a number of questions in a lengthy submission that gave Todt and Formula 1 CEO Chase Carey five days to respond, which they have now done.

“Three options were available,” Todt explained, according to the Daily Mail newspaper. “Closing the case, bringing the matter before the International Tribunal, or entering into a settlement.

“Such decisions fall to the president of the FIA, in accordance with the FIA judicial and disciplinary rules.

“The president informed and consulted with several other key FIA officials as well as the Formula 1 CEO with the objective of building a consensus on how best to address the case.

“He solicited and received recommendations from the FIA technical, legal and financial teams and also took advice from an external experienced attorney.”

For his part, Carey himself somewhat distanced himself from the decision, saying that neither he nor his colleagues at Liberty Media had played any part in the investigation. However he stated he was broadly in support of the FIA’s approach to the issue

Chase Carey (USA) Formula One Group Chairman with Jean Todt (FRA) FIA President.

A former Ferrari team principal during the Schumacher championship years, Todt agreed that the FIA was “not fully satisfied” that the Scuderia’s engine had been legal “at all times” last season.

But he said that the complexity of the systems involved had made it impossible to prove beyond doubt that Ferrari had transgressed the rules. He added that the terms of the settlement with Ferrari meant the FIA could not release further details with the team’s permission.

A new sealed fuel-flow sensor has been added to this year’s technical regulations in an attempt to ensure the same potential loophole cannot be exploited again in the future.

But that has done little to assuage the anger of the other teams in the paddock. The newspaper reports one anonymous team member as demanding: “If they can’t regulate the sport technically, is the FIA fit for purpose?”

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Coronavirus: Three F1 personnel ‘self-isolating’ in Melbourne!

Coronavirus: Three F1 personnel ‘self-isolating’ in Melbourne!

Three Formula 1 team members are reported to be ‘self-isolating’ in Melbourne after being tested for coronavirus in Australia ahead of this weekend’s Grand Prix.

According to Reuters, one member of the McLaren contingent and two from Haas were swabbed at Albert Park’s bespoke quarantine stations after displaying symptoms of having a fever, one of the early signs of having contracted COVID-19.

The results of the tests won’t be known for some hours, but F1 teams are taking no chances given how closely everyone works within the paddock during Grand prix weekends. Australia currently has 112 confirmed cases of the virus across the country.

As a result, the affected team personnel have returned to their hotel rooms where they will ‘self-isolate’ to ensure that there is no risk of passing anything on to their colleagues.

“Two members of team have been quarantined and remain in their hotel rooms. They displayed symptoms of a cold,” said a Haas spokesperson.

A representative of McLaren confirmed that “One team member has self-isolated in the hotel as a precaution, in line with our policy, after showing symptoms similar to Coronavirus.

“We expect to receive the results overnight. The team is operating as per our normal schedule,” the team added.

After the news broke, Renault pulled Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon from a team media event in order to safeguard the drivers from any potential exposure.

It’s not clear what the consequences of a positive test would be on this weekend’s event, after Formula 1 management said that they would be taking a scientific approach to the situation.

At the moment, the season opener is expected to run as planned before a full crowd of spectators estimated at around 100,000 people. However, the usual driver autograph sessions have been dropped in response to the situation.

Circuit atmosphere. 11.03.2020.

“Autograph sessions will now be conducted as Q&A interview sessions,” said a brief statement issued by the Australian Grand Prix Corporation. “Drivers will continue to utilise Melbourne Walk but will not be closely interacting with fans for selfies, autographs or other direct engagement.”

However the following race in Bahrain has already been restricted to ‘participants only’ which means it will go ahead as a ‘TV-only’ event behind closed doors with no one in the grandstands.

Next month’s Chinese Grand Prix has already been indefinitely postponed due to the risk of coronavirus, as have several upcoming MotoGP motorcycling events. Formula E has also been forced to cancel multiple races including e-Prix planned for Sanya, Rome and Jakarta.

In the wake of Italy’s national government putting the entire country under a travel ban until April 3, Australia has ramped up precautions at airports for those arriving from overseas.

No Italians will be permitted into the country under new rules introduced on Wednesday night. That won’t affect F1 as teram personnel from Ferrari, AlphaTauri and Pirelli had already arrived in Melbourne.

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Renault team unveils new R.S.20 livery and title sponsor

Renault team unveils new R.S.20 livery and title sponsor

Renault unveiled in Melbourne on Wednesday the 2020 livery of its new R.S.20 as well as the French outfit’s title partner, logistics company DP World.

During pre-season testing in Barcelona, Renault ran its 2020 contender in an all-black livery, but the team’s car has reverted to a familiar matte black and gloss yellow scheme ahead of this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix.

Based in Dubai, DP World – a world leader in trade and a leading provider of smart logistics solutions – will see its name included in the team’s official appellation which becomes ‘Renault DP World F1 Team’ as from the 2020 season.

“We are delighted and honoured to welcome DP World to the Renault family,” said Renault Sports Racing chairman, Jérôme Stoll.

“This is an extremely interesting and exciting collaboration across multiple disciplines. We look forward to working with DP World, a leading global logistics provider, to explore ways of improving our efficiency and mitigating our environmental impact.

“After the ambitions expressed by Formula One to become fully carbon neutral by 2030, we are constantly evaluating ways to reduce our carbon footprint and our turnaround time.

“We expect that working with DP World will reveal opportunities for tangible solutions to some of the logistical challenges faced by our F1 team’s supply chain and by extension, the automotive industry at a larger scale.

“We also look forward to cross-fertilising our engineering skills through shared innovation.”

Renault F1 Team RS20 - livery reveal. 11.03.2020. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Preparation Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Moy / XPB ImagesRenault F1 Team RS20 - livery reveal. 11.03.2020. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Preparation Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Moy / XPB Images(L to R): Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Renault F1 Team with Cyril Abiteboul (FRA) Renault Sport F1 Managing Director - livery reveal. 11.03.2020. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Preparation Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Bearne / XPB Images(L to R): Esteban Ocon (FRA) Renault F1 Team with Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Renault F1 Team - livery reveal. 11.03.2020. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Preparation Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Bearne / XPB Images(L to R): Esteban Ocon (FRA) Renault F1 Team with Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Renault F1 Team - livery reveal. 11.03.2020. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Preparation Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Bearne / XPB Images(L to R): Esteban Ocon (FRA) Renault F1 Team and Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Renault F1 Team - livery reveal. Australian Grand Prix, Wednesday 11th March 2020. Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia. 11.03.2020. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Preparation Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images(L to R): Esteban Ocon (FRA) Renault F1 Team and Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Renault F1 Team - livery reveal. Australian Grand Prix, Wednesday 11th March 2020. Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia. 11.03.2020. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Preparation Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images

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Formula E: Coronavirus forces Jakarta E-Prix postponement!

Formula E: Coronavirus forces Jakarta E-Prix postponement!

After Rome and Sanya, Jakarta has become the third venue to adjourn its Formula E race due to the global coronavirus outbreak.

The inaugural event in Indonesia’s capital was scheduled to take place on June 6, roughly three months from today.

Following Jakarta’s postponement, the preceding May 3 race planned in Seoul, South Korea must now be considered under threat, with the potential of wreaking more havoc on FE’s 2019/20 season.

Furthermore, the April 18 Paris E-Prix could also be put on the back burner after France’s decision to defer the Le Mans 24 Hours motorbike endurance event from April 18-19 to early September.

FE issued the following statement on Jakarta:

“As instructed by the governor of Jakarta Anies Baswedan – and in consultation together with Formula E, the FIA, Ikatan Motor Indonesia (IMI) and the organising committee of the Jakarta E-Prix (OC) – it will no longer be possible to race in Jakarta on the scheduled date of June 6, 2020.

“Due to the outbreak of COVID-19 and the escalating number of cases in Indonesia and Jakarta, the decision has been taken as the most responsible course of action, to protect the health and safety of championship participants, staff and spectators.

“We will continue to monitor the situation closely with the relevant authorities and the organising committee of the Jakarta E-Prix, in order to assess the possibilities of rescheduling the race at a later date.”

©FormulaE

Formula E is still in the process of re-scheduling its Italian and Chinese rounds, but so far no definite replacement dates or venues have been decided.

FE co-founder Alberto Longo revealed that the all-electric series, which typically races on street circuits, could stage replacement races on permanent tracks as part of its contingency plans.

“With the growing number of COVID-19 cases in countries where Formula E currently has events scheduled to be held, we are evaluating contingency plans to lessen the potential impact of coronavirus and maintain the highest possible number of races on the calendar for season six,” said Longo.

“It is a fluid situation, developing on a daily basis and we remain realistic and flexible in our approach to alternative options, which will be communicated in due course.

“These include adding double-headers to existing events, using permanent facilities and racing behind closed doors if necessary and advised to do so by local authorities in any given location.”

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Ferrari-Red Bull opt for conservative tyre choices for Bahrain

Ferrari-Red Bull opt for conservative tyre choices for Bahrain

Ferrari and Red Bull have made identical tyre choices for next week’s Bahrain Grand Prix in terms of Pirelli’s softest compound, the pair taking a conservative approach compared to front-running rival Mercedes.

While Mercedes has stocked up on 7 sets of the soft C4 tyre, its main opponents have gone for just six sets of the red-walled rubber.

Ferrari and Red Bull are the only teams with the low C4 inventory while McLaren, Renault, Alfa Romeo, Haas and Williams have all chosen 8 sets of the soft tyre.

Furthermore, with regard to Pirelli’s medium tyre, choices are staggered among the top teams’ drivers, with Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Alex Albon set to received 5 sets of the yellow compound with their respective teammates taking on 4 sets of the C3 rubber.

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Brundle: Hamilton at Ferrari would be ‘a great story’

Brundle: Hamilton at Ferrari would be ‘a great story’

Sky F1’s Martin Brundle would love to see Lewis Hamilton join the enemy in 2021 and move to Ferrari, although the former F1 driver isn’t holding his breath over such a prospect.

Hamilton heads into the final year of his current contract with Mercedes and all signs point to the six-time world champion extending his stay with the Silver Arrows outfit before sailing off into the sunset at the end of his F1 career.

Yet Brundle would love nothing more than for Hamilton to defy the odds and pass through the gates of Maranello at the end of the year.

“I hope he does go to Ferrari because that would be a great story,” Brundle told Standard Sport.

“To match Michael Schumacher and win a championship with three different teams, that would be impressive.”

Hamilton considers Mercedes as his extended family and one with whom he could also enjoy an appealing and lucrative after-life once he hangs up his helmet.

Furthermore, with Charles Leclerc locked down by the Scuderia until the end of 2024, only Sebastian Vettel’s departure would allow for Hamilton’s arrival, while a Leclerc-Hamilton line-up could also generate more than a few headaches for Ferrari’s management.

As enthusiastic as Brundle feels about a potential move to Italy for F1’s super star, the chances are slim.

“I asked him this question the other day and he said ‘I’ve got red in my crash helmet, red’s one of my favourite colours’ but he’s got his feet under the table at Mercedes,” admitted Brundle.

“They’re probably the best team, paying him a shedload of money and he can be a Mercedes ambassador for the rest of his days.

“You’ve got to think long and hard before you walk away from all of that really just to change the colour of your team.

“We’ll see what Ferrari do this year but, do they look like they’ve got the might of the current Mercedes team? I don’t know. W

“We don’t know where Mercedes are heading in the future so let’s wait and see.”

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Newgarden: F1 ‘silly’ to look down on US drivers

Newgarden: F1 ‘silly’ to look down on US drivers

Two-time IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden laments the fact that Formula 1 looks down on American drivers, insisting the pinnacle of motorsport lives in a bubble in Europe.

For all the legendary American drivers rooted in the history of motorsport, the country has only contributed two world champions to F1’s 70-year history: Phil Hill and Mario Andretti.

The most recent American driver to compete in Formula 1 is Alexander Rossi, who entered five races with Marussia F1 in 2015.

However, Rossi left Grand Prix racing at the end of the season to compete in IndyCar where he went on to win the Indy 500 in 2016.

In 2018, Guenther Steiner, the team manager of US outfit Haas, suggested that there were no drivers currently in the US ready for a promotion to F1, a comment that sparked an angry reaction on the other side of the Atlantic, with the likes of Andretti calling Steiner’s stance “wrong and arrogant”.

Newgarden cut his teeth on European tracks during his early years in the sport, racing in British Formula Ford and in the then GP3 championship.

The Penske driver would have gladly remained in Europe and perhaps tried his hand at F1 had he not run out of funding.

“Yeah, definitely. When I was 17, I got to go to Europe,” he told the New York Times.

“I wanted to stay over there and try for Formula 1. I did really well, but then ran out of money after my second year.

“Formula 1 is very glitzy and glamorous, but if you’re not in a Ferrari or a Mercedes you might as well not show up. There’s zero chance you’re going to win the race. That’s demoralizing.”

Lotus boss Colin Chapman, with Mario Andretti in Germany, 1978

© F1-photo.com / Cahier Archive

Given a decent opportunity, Newgarden would still like to give F1 a shot, but the 29-year-old feels there’s still prejudice against American drivers.

“I’d like to do it. But nowadays, it’s kind of hard for any American,” he added. “There’s a Formula 1 bubble in Europe.

“I’ll be honest, they look down on Americans a bit over there. It’s really silly.

“There’s American talent that if they got the right seat at the right time, they could win championships, no problem.”

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Formula 1 signs up energy group Aramco as global partner!

Formula 1 announced on Tuesday a new long-term global sponsorship deal with Saudi Arabian energy group Aramco.

The deal will see Saudi Aramco become the sport’s sixth global partner alongside well-known sponsors DHL, Emirates, Heineken, Pirelli and Rolex.

In a statement released on its website, F1 said that Aramco selected motorsport’s premier category for its “dynamic appeal and growing global fan base”, while F1’s international platform will connect the giant oil and gas producer to “an engaged audience of 500 million fans and allow it to better communicate its success stories to the world”.

Anyone even remotely in tune with the world’s business affairs might be struck by F1’s partnership with a company that is also the world’s single biggest contributor to greenhouse gases, or in other words, the world’s biggest polluter.

F1’s deal with the state-owned giant comes just a few months after it announced a comprehensive sustainability plan and green campaign that will lead to the sport having a net zero carbon footprint by 2030.

The era of fossil fuels is slowly but surely drifting away, but where some might see a counter-intuitive – if not destructive – commercial move by F1 in terlms of reputation, the sport’s chief executive Chase Carey sees an opportunity to profit from its partner’s “technological innovation” in the energy sector.

“We are delighted to welcome Aramco to the Formula 1 family as a long-term Global Partner as we start our 2020 season,” said Chase Carey.

“We are looking forward to sharing our combined expertise and working with Aramco on technological innovation and we will benefit hugely from its capabilities and expertise in the fuel and energy sector.”

Aramco’s presence in F1 clearly implies that a Saudi Arabian Grand Prix is likely just around the corner.

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Renault seeking ‘clean first weekend’ in Melbourne

Renault seeking ‘clean first weekend’ in Melbourne

Renault F1 Team boss Cyril Abiteboul is targeting a smooth start to 2020 for the French outfit in Australia after a productive period of preparation.

Formula 1’s midfield is set up for another fierce battle this season and Renault aims to recoup the honorary title of ‘best of the rest’ it ceded to McLaren last year.

Renault’s new R.S.20 fared well in pre-season testing at the Circuit de Catalunya, both in terms of performance and reliability.

Abiteboul hopes the productive period of preparation bodes well for its opening race weekend in Melbourne, although the Frenchman remain guarded in terms of Renault’s position in the pecking order.

“The start of a Formula 1 season is always a very exciting time,” said Abiteboul ahead of this week’s Aussie GP.

“After a good end to pre-season testing in Barcelona, we head to Australia with ambition but with a hint of caution given the relative unknown of the competition level of our rivals.

“The first race is the time everyone on the grid shows their true hand.

“We are as best prepared as we can be for the start of the year thanks to the hard work across Enstone and Viry over the winter months.

“These efforts were exemplified in pre-season testing with solid engine reliability and a performance level, which fitted with what we expected to see.

“Now we aim to see the benefits of our preparation come to fruition at a race weekend.”

Renault will rely once again on the outstanding talent of Daniel Ricciardo to help the team inch closer to the front-runners, while the equally gifted Esteban Ocon returns to the fray after a year on the sidelines.

“The car and driver line-up have great potential for a good season,” said Abiteboul.

“Daniel is highly motivated for 2020 and especially for his home race. Esteban too has a hunger in his eyes to prove why he deserves to be on the grid, and I believe this combination is the perfect recipe for success.

“As a team, we need a clean first weekend, everything to run as smooth as possible and then we will almost certainly reap the rewards from it.

“The season is going to be long and there will be some opportunities along the way, which we have to seize.

“Our objectives are set, we are well prepared and we’re looking forward to opening the season.”

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Honda supports Verstappen’s target of podiums at every race

Honda supports Verstappen’s target of podiums at every race

Honda is pulling out the stops to fight for the championship this year, a determination that supports Max Verstappen’s target of securing a podium finish at every race in 2020.

Honda achieved a breakthrough last season with Red Bull Racing when it returned to the winner’s circle for the first time since 2006, courtesy of Verstappen’s triumphs in Austria, Germany and Brazil.

But the Japanese manufacturer’s ambitions, which match those of RBR and its star driver, is to help bring the title back to Milton Keynes, and its worked tirelessly over the winter to prepare for that objective fine tuning the performance of its power unit but more importantly, strengthening its reliability.

“It’s always a balancing act but maintaining the good reliability comes first,” said Honda F1 boss Masashi Yamamoto ahead of the start of the season.

“Then on top of that we have tried to deliver more power so both teams can be as competitive as possible.

“We had very good races towards the end of last year, especially in Brazil, and also the development in the factory has gone really smoothly during the off-season.

“So I was looking forward to seeing the car on track in testing and now I can’ wait to see how we race in Australia.

“This year, testing went more smoothly than at any time since we returned to the sport, without any big issues.

“Overall, both teams were able to replicate an actual race weekend and that was also very good. We feel that we are now well prepared for the season ahead.”

©RedBull

Speaking of “both teams” – Red Bull Racing and Scuderia AlphaTauri – Honda’s unchanged supply deals for 2020 has helped it maintain its focus on development.

“It gives us huge stability in terms of our team management,” added Yamamoto-san. “Everybody looked very, very positive in the garage during testing and quite confident, so we’re really looking forward to the season.

“Basically, we have kept the same structure internally this year because we just want to focus fully on the development.”

AlphaTauri is by no means considered to be of inferior importance to Honda, but Red Bull and Max Verstappen logically carry the biggest hopes of clinching the title.

“We are making every effort to be there and fight for the championship,” said the Japanese engineer.

“We had some unfortunate races last year, losing out in some of them, but we must avoid having those sort of races this year.

“Max says he wants to get on the podium at all the races, which is an aim we must support.

“From my point of view it’s all about management. The structure is really efficient and there are many things we have learned from our first year with Red Bull, such as how to put personnel into suitable positions and what is the most efficient way to operate.”

©RedBull

Red Bull motorsport boss Helmut Marko typically forecast RBR’s win tally over the season, but Yamamoto-san won’t go out on a limb and offer any bold predictions.

“There are no real specific targets,” he admitted. “But speaking about last year, Helmut kept saying five wins and my view was probably four wins.

“In the end we had three wins, but there were a couple of races where we missed out such as Mexico, and the other one was probably Monza, so we could have won more.

“As Honda we have to make sure that we provide everything for Max and Alex [Albon] as well for them to be able to race and maximise each potential result. Then we will be able to see how many we can win.

“Last year we had 11 podiums – nine for Red Bull and two for Toro Rosso – so my view is there are 11 circuits where the Red Bull teams have some sort of an advantage.

“We have to see how many we can win among those 11, because those are the ones where we have opportunities.”

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Mercedes: ‘Massive’ 2020 challenge will have knock-on effect on 2021

Mercedes: ‘Massive’ 2020 challenge will have knock-on effect on 2021

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff views 2020 as a “massive challenge” that will have knock-on effects on 2021 as teams prepare this year for next season’s regulation changes.

The reigning world champions head to Australia as outright favourites after dominating pre-season testing in Barcelona.

However, it wasn’t all clear sailing for Mercedes at the Circuit de Catalunya, with several engine failures encumbering its reliability record in Spain and forcing its engineers to resolve the issues ahead of this week’s curtain raiser in Australia.

“It’s finally time go racing again and we’re looking forward to the new season,” said Wolff in the Silver Arrows outfit’s Australian GP preview.

“The team has worked very hard to build a new car and we’re excited to see what it can do when it’s driven in anger.

“We managed to get through most of our programme as planned at the winter tests; however, we faced some reliability issues that we needed to resolve.

“We’re glad that we encountered these issues in testing rather than at a race weekend as we could work on fixing them without any penalties. ”

F1 teams will carry the weight of a double workload this year, managing their season while also preparing for next year’s regulation overhaul.

Wolff believes that any set-backs or complications that could emerge in 2020 will have an effect on the team’s efforts and preparations for 2021.

“The new season will be exciting to watch both on-track and away from it as everything we do this year will have a knock-on effect for our competitiveness in the future,” said the Austrian.

“We face the challenge of the biggest technical changes our sport has ever seen combined with a budget cap, so the work that we do this year will determine the start to 2021.

“This makes the 2020 season a massive challenge – a challenge that everyone in Brixworth and Brackley is looking forward to.”

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Ferrari hopes Aussie GP will ‘put a smile’ on Italy’s face

Ferrari hopes Aussie GP will ‘put a smile’ on Italy’s face

Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto says the Scuderia will do its best in Melbourne to put a smile back on the face of the Tifosi amid Italy’s ongoing coronavirus crisis.

The Ferrari team has safely managed to make its way to Australia despite the strict lockdown forced upon the Lombardy region and 11 provinces, including Modena, the home of the Italian outfit.

Ferrari didn’t exit pre-season testing with a great sense of confidence in its ability to fight for a win in next weekend’s curtain raiser at Albert Park, but before heading Down Under, Binotto ensured the red squad would give it its all, for it self and for the good people of Italy.

“After a long winter working on building and developing our car, the time has come to get a first indication of our performance level and how effective are the improvements we have introduced over the past few months,” Binotto said in the team’s Australian GP preview.

“We know that the opposition is strong, but we also know that it is the start of a long season where development rate, reliability, and our operational effectiveness will be key.

“We are gearing up to tackle all these challenges as a united team, conscious of the progress that needs to be made and proud of the support of our fans worldwide.

“At what is a difficult time for Italy and the world as a whole, as part of a global sport, it is our obligation to try and put a smile on people’s faces as they prepare to watch the first race of the season with the same sense of anticipation as ourselves.”

The Scuderia enjoys a good track record in Melbourne, its drivers delivering eight wins to the team since 1996, with Sebastian Vettel securing Ferrari’s last two triumphs in 2017 and 2018.

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F1 taking ‘scientific approach’ to protect sport against COVID-19

Formula 1 says it is taking a ‘scientific approach’, in consultation with official health authorities, to assess risks and protect its community against the coronavirus outbreak.

In an update long awaited by the media and fans on the global COVID-19 crisis as it relates to the Formula 1 World Championship, the sport insisted “the health and safety of the F1 fans, family and wider communities” is paramount.

F1 also highlighted the protective measures the sport and promoters will put in force at upcoming races to minimize disruption and contagion.

“Due to the fluid nature of the virus, F1 will continue to take a scientific approach to the situation, acting on daily advice from the official health authorities and the advice or measures each host promoter may enact,” F1 said in a statement published on its official website.

“F1 has itself implemented a number of measures based upon advice from Public Health England, including the suspension of all non-essential travel.

“Dedicated teams of experts will be deployed at airports, transit points and at circuits to safeguard personnel, focused on the diagnosis, management and extraction of suspected cases.

“Bespoke quarantine points are being installed by promoters for any suspected cases.”

F1 confirmed that Bahrain organizers, which will hold its March 22 race behind closed doors, will “implement screening procedures on entry and specialist medical facilities onsite, as well as enhanced sanitation at the circuit.”

Unusually, Formula 1 offered no update on the current situation in Vietnam, a country where new cases of just emerged.

It repeated however that it remained “in constant dialogue with promoters, governmental bodies and expert health authorities to ensure the safeguarding of everyone inside and around the sport”.

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STRAW: Why Albon can succeed where Gasly failed

STRAW: Why Albon can succeed where Gasly failed

Forces of nature do not yield to the will of mere mortals. At best, human beings find a way to co-exist with such powers: working with rather than against them, and keeping out of the way when things get dangerous. You cannot tame these forces, and those who attempt to do so are often destroyed in the process.

This is something Alex Albon will be all too aware of in taking on Max Verstappen at Red Bull in 2020. While he realistically is unlikely to win this battle given how formidable Verstappen is, he can do what his predecessor, Pierre Gasly, didn’t and make his place at Red Bull secure for the long-term.

So what does Albon have that Gasly lacked? Certainly not speed because Gasly has that in abundance, as he proved once he returned to Toro Rosso last year. It’s not that he’s more determined, for Gasly dug deep during his horrendous first half of 2019 and didn’t give up even though there were times when he ran out of ideas for how to improve. And Albon doesn’t even have a better CV to fall back on, given his junior single-seater career was patchier than Gasly’s. The ultimate potential of the pair on most measures is, at best, the same and you could make a strong case that Gasly’s is higher overall.

Yet Albon has something Gasly needed but couldn’t find in the first half of last year, and it’s all in the mind. Albon’s mental strength, the capacity to bounce back from mistakes, to dig in and focus on extracting the best from himself under the most intense of pressures is the piece of the jigsaw Gasly appeared to, if not have lost entirely, misplaced last year.

Up against a force of nature like Verstappen, that quality is paramount because you are going to spend a lot of time on the back foot. The key is to be close enough to back up Verstappen and bring home big points – something Gasly failed to do.

Mental strength is an essential quality of any elite sportsperson. The most successful ones all have it to some extent, or the most intense process of natural selection that exists in sport would have eliminated them before they ever got to the top table of their chosen discipline. But with every rung you climb up the ladder, the atmosphere becomes more rarified, ever-thinner. There is further to fall, the pressures rise and you are judged by rising standards. As a Red Bull driver, Albon is in that elite group of just six drivers – he is compared to Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton, Charles Leclerc – and the only way to stay in that position is prove that you belong. The standards he is judged by are, as a result, brutal.

Despite his relative inexperience, Albon’s place in one of F1’s ‘big three’ teams means he is judged against the sport’s very best. Image by Etherington/LAT

So far, Albon has stacked up well enough to earn himself a crack at a full season with Red Bull. But while he has not proved to be out of place in that company, he’s yet to prove emphatically that he belongs there.

Over nine races last year he did, however, prove that he was not overawed. Only twice did he finish behind any of the midfield cars: at Monza, when he was beaten by the slippery Renaults, and at Interlagos, where he was tipped into a spin by Hamilton. While Hamilton carried the can for that one and earned a penalty, Albon did also own some of the responsibility as he, by his own admission, left the door wide open because he wasn’t anticipating an attack until the main straight.

Albon will have had time to reflect on that, and other aspects of his game, over the winter. In that regard, while slightly less experienced than Gasly was heading into last season, Albon has a big advantage given he already has half a season with Red Bull under his belt. While he has set big targets for this season, the fact he has already banked that experience and, crucially, convinced the team that he has that fighting spirit about him that allowed him to deliver the attacking drives that Gasly couldn’t, is a big boost. Twice in his first four outings for Red Bull he converted back-of-the-grid starts into fifth-place finishes.

“I want to be up there fighting Mercedes, fighting Ferrari and fighting Max, of course,” said Albon during pre-season testing. “At the minute, I’m focusing on myself more than anything. Having that winter period to sit down with the team and look at the areas where I wanted a bit more feedback on what I’m doing, working with the team, in the simulator, everything. In a race year, you are always at the track and straight into FP1, so it was good to have the time away from the circuit to relax and speak about the goals for this year.”

Gasly’s ambitions were similar, although he went into the season on the back foot thanks to two crashes in pre-season testing. It wasn’t so much the accidents themselves, but rather the circumstances that stung. The second, on the penultimate day of testing, happened when he was under strict instructions not to damage parts given Red Bull was very short, and the accident also ruined Verstappen’s final day of running.

Gasly is clearly a confidence driver and that, combined with a tricky run of races, got to him. It’s no coincidence that one of his best performances in the first part of the season was in qualifying in Azerbaijan, when he was under no pressure as he’d already picked up a back-of-the-grid penalty for missing the weighbridge during practice. But the more Red Bull urged him to try and dial back the intensity and let his underlying ability and instinct come to the fore, the harder it became.

A driver who thrives on confidence, Gasly became increasingly vulnerable at Red Bull with every misstep in early 2019. Image by Bloxham/LAT

Whether or not Gasly was harshly treated by Red Bull, a common criticism of its attitude to drivers, despite it having done more to foster young talent in racing than anyone else over the past 15 years, is irrelevant. The situation, being in a top team, is an external factor that is far more significant than anything the team can do. Gasly put himself under pressure and seemed unable to adapt to the esoteric demands of the RB15 in a situation that asked more of him than any he has encountered before in racing.

That was a source of frustration for the team, particularly with Gasly focusing effort on producing a string of new seats in an attempt to get more comfortable in the car rather than focusing on himself. Too often, there were times when he got lost on set-ups while trying to optimize the car for one corner, which then led to losing out elsewhere. He struggled to get the overall compromise right. Albon avoided going down this rabbit hole.

He still has significant improvements to make, but Albon’s good start at Red Bull has bought him the time he needs to chip away at himself. There are two key areas where he needs to improve. First, he needs to close the pace gap to Verstappen after having been, on average and with anomalies discounted, 0.433 seconds behind him on qualifying pace last season. Red Bull will not expect him to close that gap to nothing, but it will be looking for Albon to settle in somewhere around the 0.1-0.2s bracket.

Albon also needs to minimize the crashes. While he didn’t do anything as catastrophic as the two shunts Gasly had in pre-season testing last year, he found the wall too often – in Australia, China, Hungary and Singapore, Russia, Mexico and Brazil. Admittedly, he usually bounced back from these well, never more so than in China, where he charged from a pitlane start to score a point for Toro Rosso in 10th place. But while a team will accept this from a rookie feeling his way, Albon will need to reduce the mishaps.

Most of all, what will serve Albon so well is that he has a phlegmatic reaction to things going wrong. While Gasly appeared to be pitched into a downward spiral by his problems and struggled to get into the right place mentally to regroup, Albon has shown he can do this. After all, his situation heading into last season was hardly perfect given his first F1 test came in pre-season testing and resulted in him binning it on his out-lap!

But he also passed other tests with flying colors. His first experience in the wet in an F1 car was in the German Grand Prix, in which he excelled. Arguably, he was the driver of the day on his way to sixth and avoided the mistakes made by many rivals. His performance was overshadowed on the day by Toro Rosso teammate Daniil Kvyat grabbing a podium with a risky switch to slicks. That’s the Albon Red Bull will want to see regularly.

Red Bull won’t expect Albon to beat Verstappen this year, but it will be looking for him to close the gap in qualifying. Image by Portlock/LAT

Albon is a driver who has been through a lot over the years, being dropped by Red Bull early in his single-seater career then facing up to the reality that the F1 dream was over before landing a shock call-up for Toro Rosso. Those tough experiences have cured him as a rock-solid competitor, one who should have the mindset needed to get the best out of himself this year. Then it’s just a question of whether that best is good enough.

As for Gasly, his response on the return to Toro Rosso was astonishing and a reminder of how capable a driver he is. Perhaps by rebuilding his confidence there, he might be able to convince Red Bull that a second go in the top team will have a different result? Certainly, he will have been cured into a harder character by the whole experience, and that will only serve him well.

But Albon is still on his first shot and usually you only get one of those at the very top of elite sport. That’s why the mental strength is so critical. You can have all the potential you want, but it’s the bit between the ears that draws it all together and allows you to manifest that underlying ability in the most high-pressure of circumstances.

The question then is whether he’s fast enough, good enough at managing the tires and consistent enough to be close enough to Verstappen to satisfy Red Bull.

Albon, so far, appears to have that strength and that is what gives him every chance of making 2020 the year he proves he belongs at F1’s top table.

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McLaren aims to ‘hit the ground running’ in Melbourne

McLaren aims to ‘hit the ground running’ in Melbourne

McLaren F1 boss Andreas Seidl says the papaya squad aims to kick start its 2020 campaign by hitting the ground running in Melbourne next weekend.

McLaren enjoyed a productive two weeks of pre-season in Barcelona during which it worked diligently to understand its 2020 car.

And the time has now come for the team and its drivers to put their knowledge of the MCL 35 to good use.

“Following a successful pre-season testing, we feel prepared for the challenge of 2020 but conscious of where we need to focus,” Seidl said.

“The Australian Grand Prix is where we first see how competitive all the teams are without the usual caveats of testing, so there is plenty to learn.

“We aim to hit the ground running at Albert Park and set ourselves up well for the rest of the season.

“Building our understanding of the MCL35 early in the year is crucial to our positive development.”

Seidl took the reins of the McLaren team in the spring of 2019, so it will be the German’s first race Dow Under with the Woking-based outfit;

“I’m looking forward to seeing all the fans and taking in the amazing atmosphere,” he said.

“Starting the season with a back-to-back always raises challenges, but thanks to the hard work of the entire team both back at the factory and trackside, we head into the first two races prepared.

“Together with Carlos and Lando we’re ready to go again for 2020.”

As a side note, McLaren heads to Melbourne with a new sponsor – Japanese investment and marketing form Buzz and Co – just added to its roster.

“This innovative new partnership with Buzz & Co will allow us to deepen our connections to businesses and fans alike in our key market of Japan,” said McLaren boss Zak Brown.

“I am pleased to welcome Daisuke-san into our extended team and look forward to taking to track together this season.”

Buzz & Co joins Unilever and FAI Aviation Group as McLaren’s latest partners. The company’s logo will appear on the inside rear-wing endplate of the new McLaren MCL35.

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Brawn: Netflix ‘Drive to Survive’ series not ‘hugely profitable’ for F1

Brawn: Netflix ‘Drive to Survive’ series not ‘hugely profitable’ for F1

Formula 1 managing director Ross Brawn says the sport hasn’t reaped a big financial benefit from its Netflix’ “Drive to Survive” series, but the F1 chief insists the deal isn’t currently about money.

The popular docu-series which chronicled the 2019 season with a behind the scenes and ‘fly on the wall’ approach that appealed to the fans has just kicked off its second season on Netflix.

It’s unknown how much Formula 1 receives from the streaming company, but Brawn hinted that it wasn’t a significant figure, insisting instead that the deal was primarily an investment for the future of the sport.

“I think it was really great to show the fans the other side of F1, because most of the fans have only seen what goes on at the track or the interviews at the track,” Brawn said, speaking at an F1 sponsorship event last week.

“Suddenly you see behind the scenes, both at the race tracks and at the factories and the bases the teams operate from. I think it gave people a fascinating insight.

“What we’ve discovered is it’s been very appealing to the non-race fan: in fact it turned them into race fans!

Last year, The Circuit of the Americas boss Bobby Epstein revealed the considerable boost provided to the US Grand Prix by ‘Drive to Survive’, while Mexican Grand Prix promoters noted a significant increase in female attendance at their event which they also traced to Netflix’s series.

“Some of the promoters in the past season have said they’ve definitely measured the increase in interest in F1 that has come from the Netflix series,” Brawn added.

“And while Netflix in itself wasn’t for us a hugely profitable venture, in terms of giving greater coverage for F1, it’s been fantastic. And that’s the type of initiative that we’re doing, we’re looking at taken an holistic view of how we can lift F1.”

The F1 chief says the sport’s involvement in the virtual world through its ‘F1 E-Sports Series’ follows a similar investment approach which aims to attract a new demographic to F1.

“E-racing, for instance, is a fascinating crossover,” he said. “The new generation are very engaged in E-Sports of all sorts. And we want to make the connection between F1 and Esports.

“Our E-Sports initiative has been a fantastic success. All of the F1 teams have put teams forward. And it’s really engaging a new area, a new age group, and a new interest in the sport.”

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Racing Point expecting ‘harder than ever’ tyre challenge

Racing Point expecting ‘harder than ever’ tyre challenge

Racing Point technical director Andy Green expects teams to be challenged by Pirelli’s tyres this season despite the product’s unchanged specifications.

Formula 1’s exclusive tyre supplier had initially planned to introduce a new-spec tyre for 2020, but the Italian company’s product was unanimously rejected by the teams following unsatisfactory tests conducted in the latter part of the season.

Pirelli is therefore supplying the same spec tyre as last year, but teams are now forced to run higher pressures to compensate for the increase in downforce levels of the 2020 cars, and Green fears that change will prove troublesome for teams.

“I think the tyres are becoming more and more challenging,” said Green, quoted by Motorsport.com.

“As the load from these cars increases, and because we’re left with the same fundamental tyre and construction, I think it becomes a lot harder for us to get to run these tyres.

“We are saying that already, and I think with directives that are coming out regarding the way we can use the tyres as well, that is going to make it even harder.

“So I think that the tyre challenge, it’s probably harder now this year than it’s ever been. It definitely is for us.

“Even though the construction and compound have stayed the same, the cars have evolved, and that’s fundamentally the challenge.”

Green’s worries follow those expressed by Lewis Hamilton during pre-season testing in Barcelona, where the Mercedes driver highlighted Pirelli’s inflated and “pumped up” tyres.

But Green sees the issue especially playing out for drivers on race day.

“I think one lap is still relatively straightforward, but over a long distance it is a very, very big challenge,” he added. A very big challenge.”

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Alfa’s Vasseur says first race already feels ‘like a milestone’

Alfa’s Vasseur says first race already feels ‘like a milestone’

Alfa Romeo boss Frédéric Vasseur says this week’s opening Australian Grand Prix is akin to a “milestone” event for the Swiss outfit after a winter of hard work and testing.

Like its rivals, Alfa Romeo will have a clear idea where it stands in F1’s pecking order and among its midfield opponents, an estimate that always amounts to futile guess work during pre-season testing when teams typically play their cards close to their chest.

“The season may only be starting, but the first race already feels like a milestone after all the months of work in the factory and the two weeks of winter testing,” Vasseur said before heading Down Under.

“We come to Melbourne eager to find out how we compare to our rivals: whatever the outcome, we will not rest on our laurels or despair.

“This first round is the start of a new chapter, one in which we aim to make progress week after week: the goalposts move every new race as we, as well as our rivals, develop our car, so we will need to be delivering our best from here to Abu Dhabi.”

Kimi Raikkonen expressed a more pragmatic view of next weekend’s opening round, rightly arguing that each race distributes the same amount of points, regardless of when or where it takes place.

“It doesn’t really matter if it is the start or the end of the season, every race is worth the same amount of points and is an occasion to do our best,” said the Finn.

“It is always hard to predict our performance for the first race of the season.

“Even though we gave our best during the six days of winter testing in Barcelona, we will first know where we really stand after Australia.

“All the team worked hard to improve even more the car in comparison to last year. We all did our homework and I am confident that we can achieve good results in Melbourne.”

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Magnussen: Albert Park track ‘doesn’t fit my driving style’

Magnussen: Albert Park track ‘doesn’t fit my driving style’

Kevin Magnussen has a couple of fond memories of the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, yet the Haas driver admits the Albert Park layout doesn’t fit his driving style.

Melbourne was the scene of Magnussen’s F1 debut in 2014 with McLaren, an experience that delivered a fantastic second-place finish to the Dane behind race winner Nico Rosberg.

Magnussen also finished in the points last year with Haas, but the 27-year-old insists the venue doesn’t particularly cater to his strengths as a driver.

“I don’t actually think Albert Park suits my driving style, but that said, it’s not a track I dislike at all, I do like driving the circuit,” he says ahead of this week’s curtain-raiser.

“It’s a pretty normal track for me and I think I’ve just been fortunate to have had good races there.

“I can’t really point out any reasons why Albert Park should be any better for me than other tracks. I think it’s just coincidence I’ve had good races there.

“Of course, when you have had good races at circuits, you always look forward to going back because those good memories create a good vibe.

“I guess you feel a little bit more excited going back to those tracks.”

©Haas

Melbourne’s status as Formula 1’s traditional opening round means the event basks in a very special atmosphere.

“It’s obviously long been associated with being the season opener, which gives it a buzz and a certain excitement level,” Magnussen confirms.

“For me, it’s one of the best races of the year because of that, and everyone’s excited to see where they are and go racing for the first time in the new season.

“I like Melbourne as a city as well, I enjoy going there.”

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Sette Camara returns to Red Bull as test and reserve driver

Brazilian racer Sergio Sette Camara has been nominated as a Red Bull test and reserve driver for the 2020 season, a role which will involve duties with both Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Alpha Tauri.

The 21-year-old former McLaren junior who finished 4th in last year’s FIA Formula 2 Championship, a result that earned him an F1 super license, will embed with both Red Bull teams during the F1 season and assist fellow test and reserve driver Sébastien Buemi with simulator work.

Sette Camara will also perform F1 show runs for Red Bull’s promotional programs.

“I am extremely happy to join the Red Bull family as Official Test & Reserve driver for the 2020 Formula One season alongside Sébastian,” said the Brazilian.

“I’ve been watching F1 since I was five years old and I’m humbled to have been given this opportunity to work with Aston Martin Red Bull Racing and Scuderia AlphaTauri.”

Sette Camara began his career in Brazilian Formula 3 and was signed by Red Bull after an F3 campaign in Europe.

The young hopeful enjoyed his first official F1 outing with Toro Rosso at a young drivers test at Silverstone in the summer of 2016.

However, he was dropped from Red Bull’s young driver program in early 2017. He then joined McLaren as a test and development driver for 2019.

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Australian GP boss says fans won’t be banned from event

Australian GP boss says fans won’t be banned from event

Australian Grand Prix boss Andrew Westacott says the opening round of the 2020 F1 world championship in Melbourne will not be held behind closed doors, despite the coronavirus threat.

The COVID-19 global epidemic has forced the cancellation of next month’s Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai while Bahrain Grand Prix organisers have banned fans from next week’s race to minimize risks of contagion.

But Aussie race fans will be able to cheer on drivers next weekend at Albert Park insists Westacott.

“Not a chance,” Westacott told radio brioadcaster SEN when asked if there was a chance the race could be held behind closed doors, like Bahrain.

“When you look at 86,000 at the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) last night, and the footy the week after, we’ve got to go around things sensibly and keep moving on through life while taking the necessary precautions.

“The interesting thing is the Italian freight. The AlphaTauri cars and the Ferrari cars are on their way from Avalon [airport] as we speak, so it’s really good. The key personnel are on their planes.

“Interestingly, the only two people who didn’t hail from Italy were Sebastian Vettel, who came out of Switzerland, and Charles Leclerc coming out of Monaco via Nice.

“All the others are on their way, and we’re expecting [them] in the next 12 to 24 hours.”

©AustralianGP

Yesterday, Ferrari confirmed that the team’s travel plans were unfolding as expected despite the lockdown imposed by Italy on the Lombardy region and 11 provinces, including Modena, the home of the Scuderia.

After next Sunday’s Grand Prix, team members will head directly from Melbourne to Bahrain for the second round of the season the following weekend.

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Ecclestone: FIA leaves teams ‘no choice but to sue’

Ecclestone: FIA leaves teams ‘no choice but to sue’

Former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone says that the FIA has left teams with no choice but to sue the governing body over how it has handled the row about the legality of Ferrari’s 2019 car.

Following complaints from other teams, the SF90 was closely examined by the FIA during the course of last season with the focus being on its fuel-flow system.

Rival teams suspected the car of dodging restrictions on the rate of fuel that a car could use during a race, explaining the sudden jump in the performance of Ferrari’s power unit mid-season.

Ferrari denied the allegations and appeared to have been cleared of any wrong-doing by the FIA. But last week, a statement from the FIA revealing that it had reached a “confidential settlement” with Ferrari over the matter reignited the controversy.

Red Bull motor consultant Dr Helmut Marko said that losing out on second place in the constructors championship had cost his team about $24 million in potential lost prize money.

“We knew from our GPS data that something was wrong. We didn’t have enough evidence, so we didn’t officially protest,” he told F1-Insider.com.

And now Ecclestone has waded into the debate, saying that the way the FIA has handled the matter leaves it open to being sued by the seven non-Ferrari affiliated teams.

“The teams have to sue the FIA,” he insisted this week. “It’s about millions that I think they [the teams] deserve back in money.”

Ecclestone was unimpressed by the FIA’s argument that it had lacked concrete evidence to bring charges under the sporting regulations, and the reason it opted for a confidential settlement with Ferrari instead.

“If Ferrari were clean and innocent, why did they even agree to a deal with Jean Todt? That alone seems like a confession to me,” countered the 89-year-old.

He maintained that the row would never have been allowed to escalate to its current proportions back in his time as F1 supremo.

“There were often fires that I, as a kind of top firefighter, had to put out,” he acknowledged.

“In my time, however, it was always possible to find a common consensus between the teams, the FIA and myself. But it’s too late for that now.”

The FIA maintains that its right to reach a confidential settlement with a team is part of the sport’s disciplinary regulations introduced by President Jean Todt in 2010 to protect the sport’s image or in the event of a unwinnable legal dispute.

But in a response to the FIA’s initial statement, the seven teams not using Ferraripower units threatened to take further action over the matter “within the FIA’s due process and before the competent courts”.

“The FIA threatens to discredit the entire sport in which we all invest huge amounts of money each year,” thundered Marko. “That can not be tolerated any longer.”

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Carey criticises former management for ‘complaining, not fixing’

Carey criticises former management for ‘complaining, not fixing’

Current Formula 1 boss Chase Carey has criticised the way that the sport was run under his predecessor before Liberty Media took over at the start of 2017.

Carey used some blunt language as he explained how the previous regime run by Bernie Ecclestone had been too negative about F1, over issues such as the introduction of the controversial V6 hybrid engines in 2014.

“The sport had gotten a little too critical of itself,” Carey told Autosport magazine at the BHMSE conference in Baku last month.

“Crapping on the engines, Bernie saying ‘I wouldn’t buy a ticket’,” he continued. “It’s complaining, not fixing.”

Unhappiness with the change from V8 engines was just one of a number of issues that had still been plaguing F1 when Carey took over.

“People complained about it, but they weren’t doing anything about it,” he explained. “There were problems but there wasn’t enough action to address the problems – like the costs.

“Usually in life, if you’ve got issues, you fix them,” he added. “I do think the issue with things like costs got to a place that should have been dealt with before.

“There were things that the sport needed to get on top of that it hasn’t,” Carey continued. “I think the sport probably did not organise itself.”

Carey said that the new management’s root-and-branch reform of sporting, technical and financial regulations for 2021 was an effort to address the issues that had not previously been adequately tackled.

“There were questions about the promoter side of our business, and I think the strength of that has been indicated and been a real positive,” he said.

“I think the strength is first and foremost just demand, realistically. We have the good fortune of having a lot more demand than supply for races.

“We want to be selective and we want long-term partnerships, but that has been a positive,” he noted. “The interest that is there wasn’t being tapped into because the sport wasn’t doing things that you need it to do.”

As for those controversial V6 hybrid engines, Carey felt that the negativity of the previous management meant the technical achievement in developing the revolutionary power units had not received the full recognition they deserved.

“I’ve talked about the hybrid engine and the incredible technology involved in it,” said Carey. “Yet the years preceding us mostly was all people crapping on it.

“[They should have been] saying: ‘This is the most efficient engine, it’s an incredible piece of technology’,” he said. “It was really a step for the sport to deal with an important issue.”

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Leclerc intent on keeping focus and ‘ignoring talk’

Leclerc intent on keeping focus and ‘ignoring talk’

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc insists that he’s not paying attention to chatter about which teams are looking strong heading into the first round of the 2020 Formula 1 world championship next weekend.

Analysis have been pouring over data from the two pre-season tests held in February at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya to try and work out who goes into the new season as favourites.

So far, the verdicts have made for gloomy reading for Ferrari which appears to be struggling to find the sort of form it needs to challenge chief rivals Mercedes and Red Bull for race wins and championships.

Even team boss Mattia Binotto has appeared downbeat, warning the team recently that it can’t realistically expect to be in a winning position in Melbourne.

But Leclerc is not listening to that sort of idle speculation, and is instead just working on the things within his control.

“I just focus on driving to be honest,” Crash.net reports Leclerc as saying this week. “I’m just focusing on my own job and trying to improve from where we are.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do so I try to focus as much as possible on what’s concerning me, he said. “Anything that is talk, talk doesn’t really matter in the end.”

Leclerc has insisted that despite his dominane in the sport in recent seasons, Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton is not invincible.

“Nobody is unbeatable. Not even Lewis, who is obviously a great champion,” he told Italy’s Il Resto del Carlino.

“He is certainly much more experienced than me,” the Monegasque driver acknowledged. “He has been in Formula 1 since 2007, while I’ve only been here since 2018, so Hamilton is more complete than I am.

Asked for an example of where he needed to improve, Leclerc suggested: “I must learn to manage the tyres better in a race. Lewis is phenomenal at that.”

©Ferrari

Rather than obsessing about how the team starts the season, Leclerc said that it was more important how much progress Ferrari made over the ensuing races.

“Last year we had quite a big improvement from the first race to the last race,” he pointed out. “We got closer to Mercedes.

“We just need to put our head down, try to focus on ourselves as always.

“I’m confident that we will make the steps forward, and the ones we need to get closer in the case we are behind at the first race.”

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AlphaTauri sets September deadline for 2021 gearbox spec

The AlphaTauri team says that it will need to have finalised specifications for its 2021 gearbox by September if it’s to make next year’s grid on time.

The gearbox design is provided by sister team Red Bull as part of a closer working relationship between the two squads, which also includes a shared approach to suspension and hydraulics.

The sport is set to introduce wide-ranging changes to its sporting, racing and technical rules and regulations over the winter.

That means all teams will need new components in 2021 and can no longer rely on year-old ‘cast-offs’ as has sometimes been the case in the past.

“We will not wait or we cannot wait until November/December because then we don’t get a gearbox,” explained team principal Franz Tost.

“It will be decided in August/September whether Red Bull decides, ‘Okay this is the gearbox we run’, or whether they are still in the wind tunnel,” he told Motorsport.com.

“We will get the parts which are ready with the design in September,” he said, not ruling out the suggestion that Red Bull could continue developing the unit beyond that for use on its own RB17.

“If Red Bull Technologies still investigates for their car, then they could have something different, but it will not be completely different.

“Maybe the driveshaft is a little bit lower or higher, or the differential is lower, higher or further forward,” he mused. “This will only be a few millimeters.

“Maybe we get the gearbox which is designed in September,” he acknowledged. “But for a team like Red Bull Racing, it’s important [to continue working] because these small changes – or many small changes – can become a big performance differential.”

Tost confirmed that as a result of the rule changes allowing more sharing of certain specified parts of a car’s design, the co-operation between his squad and Red Bull would increase in 2021.

“We will get also next year the front suspension, rear suspension, the gearbox and the hydraulics,” he acknowledged.

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Bahrain shuts its doors to fans, but race to go ahead

Bahrain shuts its doors to fans, but race to go ahead

The Bahrain Grand Prix on March 22 will be held behind closed doors, with the grandstands empty of spectators due to the global spread of the coronavirus.

Ticket sales for the event has already been suspended on Friday, but after further meetings it was decided that fans will be locked out of the event. Only team and FIA personnel together with accredited media will be able to attend.

It’s the first time in Formula 1’s history that a race will be held with no spectators present.

An official press release from the organisers of the event at the Bahrain International Circuit stated: “In consultation with our international partners and the Kingdom’s national health Taskforce, Bahrain has made the decision to hold this year’s Bahrain Grand Prix as a participants-only event.

“As an F1 host nation, balancing the welfare of supporters and race goers is a tremendous responsibility.

“Given the continued spread of Covid-19 globally, convening a major sporting event, which is open to the public and allows thousands of international travellers and local fans to interact in close proximity would not be the right thing to do at the present time.

“But to ensure that neither the sport, nor its global supporter base, is unduly impacted, the race weekend itself will still go ahead as a televised event.”

The news came just hours after Italy’s national government imposed a strict travel ban on the northern Lombardy region and 14 neighbouring provinces. No one will be allowed in our out of the affected area without permission.

Ferrari’s Maranello headquarters is right in the middle of the affected area. However, it’s hoped that all key personnel had already departed for Melbourne in advance of the first race of the F1 season.

Italy has been one of the nations worst-hit by the spread of the coronavirus, but there have also been cases reported in Bahrain.

Even so, the Kingdom’s rules hopes to keep the number of new cases under control by measures including banning events with large attendance figures, such as the Bahrain Grand Prix.

“Bahrain’s own early actions to prevent, identify and isolate cases of individuals with Covid-19 has been extremely successful to date,” the official statement noted.

“The approach has involved rapid, proactive measures, identifying those affected by the virus, of which the overwhelming majority of cases relate to those travelling into the country by air.

“Aggressive social distancing measures have further increased the effectiveness of preventing the virus’ spread, something that would clearly be near impossible to maintain were the race to have proceeded as originally planned.

“We know how disappointed many will be by this news, especially for those planning to travel to the event, which has become a cornerstone event of the international F1 calendar, but safety has to remain our utmost priority.”

Bahrain immigration and health authorities have sought names and flight details of all F1 personnel who work for teams, administrators, broadcasters or media who passed through, China, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Egypt, Lebanon and Thailand in the 14 days before their arrival in the country.

In addition, passengers arriving via the United Arab Emirates are also expected to be screened at Manama airport on arrival. They will be allowed into the country if they do test negative for coronavirus.

The Chinese Grand Prix has already been indefinitely posponed from April 19 due to fears about the virus which was first detected in the nearby Wuhan province.

Formula 1 still hopes to hold the first Vietnam Grand Prix on April 5 as planned, but it monitoring the global situation for developments.

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Abiteboul remains unhappy with FIA over ‘Ferrari-gate’

Abiteboul remains unhappy with FIA over ‘Ferrari-gate’

Renault F1i team principal Cyril Abiteboul has made it clear that he is still less than satisfied with how the FIA has handled the row over Ferrari’s fuel-legality

The FIA announced a week ago that it had reached a confidential agreement with Ferrari over certain undisclosed technical matters related to last year’s car. The seven non-Ferrari affiliated teams responded this week with a strongly worded statement criticising the settlement.

Despite a further clarification on the matter from the FIA, and the World Motor Sport Council subsequently wading into the row by giving its “unanimous support” to the stance taken by the governing body and its president, Jean Todt, teams remain unhappy.

“Clearly the statement last Friday came as a surprise,” Abiteboul told Autocar magazine in an exclusive interview. “What’s important for us is to try to understand the governance that led to it.”

He said that the teams had decided to protest the FIA’s statement “not necessarily to change it, [but] we’d like to understand if it is something that would be available for everyone.

“Regulations and access to them should be the same for all participants.

“It refers to some extra measures that are being taken to police what is going on from the teams’ side,” he added. “We’d like to make sure we comply.

“We’ve made a statement and the FIA has responded, which confirms the fact it was something not clear,” he continued. “Otherwise it [the FIA] would not [make] such a settlement.

“So what’s the next move? We will discuss with the six other teams because [the FIA clarification] does not really respond to what we ask for.”

The statement by the seven teams made a clear reference to seeking legal redress if necessary, “within the FIA’s due process and before the competent courts”.

But Abiteboul stressed that he hoped such an extreme breach within the sport would be avoided. “I don’t think we want this to become a legal matter,” he insisted.

“What we’d like is to get to a place where both the FIA and F1 – for the reputation of the championship – appreciate that they need to provide light on this story to put this matter behind us.

“We want to put this matter behind us, but we need a bit of reassurance before we do that.”

Red Bull motorsports consultant Helmut Marko said this week that by pursuing a confidential financial settlement rather than imposing sporing penalties on Ferrari, the FIA had potentially cost his team millions of dollars in prize money.

“We should actually have instructed Red Bull Racing team boss Christian Horner to demand $24 million in prize money that we would have been awarded for second place in the constructors’ classification, had Ferrari been punished accordingly,” he told German publication Der Spiegel this week.

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Northern Italy under draconian lockdown – Ferrari impacted?

Italy has imposed a draconian lockdown of the Lombardy region and multiple provinces in response to the coronavirus outbreak, a decision that could potentially impact Ferrari.

The Italian government has issued an extraordinary decree that requires approximately 16 million people living in the Lombardy region – including its capital Milan – and 14 surrounding provinces to avoid any movement into and out of the designated areas.

The provinces to which the decree applies are Moderno – where Ferrari is based – Parma, Piacenza, Rimini, Reggio-Emilia, Pesaro and Urbino, Treviso, Venice, Padua, Asti and Alessandria, Novara, Vercelli and Verbano Cusio Ossola.

The quarantine went into effect early on Sunday morning and will last until at least April 3, restricting citizens’ movements except in the case of “undeferrable work needs or emergency situations” – which may apply to Ferrari personnel bound for Melbourne.

Italy is also planning a strict monitoring process of the lockdown, with anyone violating the quarantine possibly subject to a fine or jail time. The police or the army could be brought in to enforce the stringent precautionary measures.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said that schools, gyms, pools, and ski resorts will be closed, and all events in “public and private spaces” suspended for the duration.

“For Lombardy and for the other northern provinces that I have listed there will be a ban for everybody to move in and out of these territories and also within the same territory,” he said. “Exceptions will be allowed only for proven professional needs, exceptional cases and health issues.”

Italy has been hard-hit by the COVID-19 epidemic, with 5883 cases as of Saturday and 233 deaths, a situation that has compelled local authorities to restrict public and sporting events.

On Friday, Formula E announced that it was cancelling the Rome E-Prix which had been scheduled for April 4.

F1i understands that part of Ferrari’s personnel has already departed for Australia while the remainder should have been on its way before the lockdown began. But a full-blown quarantine in the Modena province could still disrupt activities in Maranello and significantly impact the Scuderia in the short term.

As far as Scuderia AlphaTauri is concerned, the team’s Faenza base is located out of northern Italy’s restricted red zones. Reports indicate that staff and team members are already on their way to Melbourne, from where everyone will travel directly to Bahrain after the Australian GP.

The global COVAD-19 crisis has wreaked havoc on global travel, impacting entire sectors and industries in many countries, in addition to disrupting local life and economies, not to mention a tragic death toll increasing on a daily basis.

Yet for Formula 1 it remains all systems go, at least as far as the first three races of the 2020 season are concerned. So far the only collateral damage sustained by F1 has been the Chinese Grand Prix which was recently indefinitely postponed by its Shanghai organisers.

But Formula 1 and its entire community are still at risk of being hit hard by the ramping COVID-19 outbreak, meaning Liberty Media could soon regret not canceling the opening rounds of the F1 world championship.

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Renault team to unveil 2020 livery in Melbourne

Renault team to unveil 2020 livery in Melbourne

The Renault F1 Team says its new R.S.20 will be rolled out with its new 2020 livery next Wednesday in Melbourne .

The French team’s car appeared in an all-black robe during pre-season testing at the Circuit de Catalunya, but will likely revert to the automaker’s traditional its black and yellow colors ahead of next weekend’s opening round of the F1 world championship.

The Renault F1 Team will pull the covers off its 2020 contender on Wednesday at 5PM in Melbourne.

In Barcelona, Daniel Ricciardo clocked in with the third fastest lap overall in pre-season testing, just behind pacesetter and Valtteri Bottas, driving for Mercedes, and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

The Aussie delivered a positive assessment of the R.S.20’s progress and performance in Spain.

“I think we have improved the overall balance of our car, and I feel the rear now is better,” Ricciardo said.

“We were able to get out of the corner a bit harder, so there have been improvements. So far the reliability and stuff is strong. That is something that Renault was really pushing for this year, and so far so good.

Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Renault F1 Team RS20.

Ricciardo believes the French squad’s engineers have ironed out part of the weaknesses that impacted its 2019 design.

“The individuals on the car build this year have done some things to address it,” he explained.

“Without going into details there is more suspension travel and stuff like that to help on some bumpier parts of the circuits.

“This track [Barcelona] you don’t really get an indication because it is very smooth and the curbs are flat, so you have to go to Melbourne and something bumpy and harsh to find out if it is better.”

Ricciardo is joined this year at Renault by F1 returnee and French hopeful Esteban Ocon.

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Wickens: Alonso to bring ‘whole new dimension’ to Arrow McLaren SP

Wickens: Alonso to bring ‘whole new dimension’ to Arrow McLaren SP

Arrow McLaren SP consultant Robert Wickens says Fernando Alonso’s ruthless work ethic will bring a “whole new dimension” to the team at this year’s Indy 500.

Alonso was signed up by the new Arrow McLaren SP entity as a third entry at the Brickyard where the Spaniard will race alongside the IndyCar’s squad’s full-time drivers Patricio O’Ward and Oliver Askew.

Wickens is still in rehabilitation mode following his horrendous IndyCar crash at Pocono in 2018 which left the Canadian with a damaged spinal cord.

However, the 30-year-old former Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports driver is on the road to recovery and slowly regaining his mobility while also working as an advisor to Arrow McLaren SP.

“It’s going to be really exciting. In fact, as a fan of the sport, I think it’s going to be incredible,” Wickens enthused, referring to Alonso’s active involvement with the team at Indianapolis.

“For me, it’s going to be my first time working side-by-side with a world champion so that’s going to be fun.

“I’ve always heard how ruthless his work ethic has been throughout his entire career, and I see little bits of me when I hear about how he likes to work.

“So I’m assuming we’ll have fairly good chemistry and we’ll click.”

Alonso aims to qualify for his second Indy 500 next May, having missed the cut last year with McLaren’s failed Carlin-run effort.

Regardless of the two-time F1 world champion’s personal ambitions, Wickens believes that Alonso’s presence will spur on O’Ward and Askew, the team’s young drivers.

“Fernando’s always been known to push teams very heavily, push as hard as he can, and for our two ‘kids’ it’s going to be good for them to see what it takes from a work ethic standpoint,” he said.

“I think some young drivers in their early years as professionals don’t realize that the driving side is often the easy part once you reach this level.

“It’s what they do behind the scenes that will set them apart from the competition.

“So it’s a going to be really cool for them to watch him at work and share feedback and information.

“Alonso is so talented and well-rounded and diverse, he’s going to bring a whole new dimension to our team.”

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FIA tweaks 2021 regs – adds ‘drastic improvements’ to chassis strength

FIA tweaks 2021 regs – adds ‘drastic improvements’ to chassis strength

The FIA has confirmed several updates to F1’s 2021 technical regulations, one of which entails “drastic improvements” to the strength of next year’s chassis.

The rule adjustments were announced after Friday’s meeting in Geneva of the World Motor Sport Council and include changes that will hopefully impact both the show on the track and competitors’ safety.

The WMSC approved an increase in minimum mass of next year’s cars from 745kg to 746kg due to the addition of new elements to monitor the Power Units.

Changes to the cars’ front wing profiles have been implemented to prevent downwash which “would have resulted in a severe compromise to the overall objectives to allow cars to race more closely”.

Also, front wing endplates, top bodywork and rear wing endplates have been modified to give the teams more commercial space.

On the safety front, likely taking in the lessons learned from the tragic accident that occurred at Spa last year in Formula 2, where young hopeful Anthoine Hubert lost his life, the FIA has made “drastic improvements to the strength and energy absorption of the chassis in front, lateral and rear impacts”.

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Furthermore, the FIA also added “a number of updates to considerably improve electrical (high voltage) safety on the cars”, while tethers will be made mandatory for a car’s rear wing and rear impact structures.

Kulite – a world leader in pressure transducer technology – has been appointed as the official supplier for Power Unit pressure and temperature sensors from 2021 to 2023.

Finally, regarding the introduction next year of F1’s budget cap, the FIA said that “changes to the Financial Regulations for 2021 and beyond will allow monitoring activities to be performed by Cost Cap Administrators at any point in time, remotely or at F1 Teams’ premises.”

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McLaren’s Key: F1 engineers should out-develop, not copy

McLaren’s Key: F1 engineers should out-develop, not copy

McLaren technical director James Key believes the essence of an F1 designer’s job is to out-develop his rivals rather than merely copy a car’s concept.

McLaren midfield rival Racing Point rolled out in Barcelona what many believe is a carbon copy of Mercedes’ 2019 championship winning W10.

Key acknowledged the pink squad’s approach and the impressive performance of its 2020 contender in pre-season testing.

But the British engineer admitted that following such a path would fail to spur his engineering mind.

“The last thing you want to do is copying your neighbour because you want to be out-developing him with better ideas,” Key said, quoted by Crash.net.

“The pictures tell the stories of these things and there’s been a lot of discussion but from our side we are much more concentrated on ourselves.

“Of course we have got to keep an eye on the competition and we can see Racing Point has clearly taken an enormous leap in performance. I think we’d been silly not to recognise that and acknowledge it.

“From an engineering point of view as an engineer you want to go out and beat everyone else, that’s what motivates most people.”

Key suggests that replicating an entire design diminishes an engineer’s contribution to performance.

“Engineers are competitive people, we are, certainly when you work in F1, and you’re always up against competition from a company or another team,” he added.

“What makes F1 unique is it’s teams versus teams as well as drivers versus drivers. And as an engineer you want to be the best on the grid at your particular discipline, that’s what motivates a lot of people, it’s certainly what motivates me.

“It’s difficult to know how others feel about it but personally I like to feel responsible for the performance directly.”

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Brawn on COVID-19 crisis: ‘F1 can’t just shut down completely’

Brawn on COVID-19 crisis: ‘F1 can’t just shut down completely’

F1 managing director Ross Brawn says the sport is between a rock and a hard place amid the coronavirus outbreak, insisting the sport can neither take “unnecessary risk” nor shut down completely.

The ramping COVID-19 crisis which took root in China earlier this year has so far led to the infection of over 100,000 people around the world and almost 3,500 deaths.

Many countries have implemented travel restrictions and canceled public and sporting events. Formula E has postponed its Rome E-Prix in Italy, a country hit heavily by the coronavirus epidemic, while F1 was forced to temporarily scrap the Chinese GP from its calendar.

The evolving situation has led to a veritable logistics nightmare for F1 for its first three races of the 2020 season taking place in Australian, Bahrain and Vietnam.

Yet, everyone is heading Down Under to Melbourne for the curtain-raiser event, but challenges and threats remain according to Brawn.

“We are all facing the challenge of the coronavirus,” explained Brawn, speaking earlier this week at an F1 sponsorship event at Silvestone.

“I think the key thing is to try and maintain the sport in the safest possible way. We can’t take unnecessary risks, but we can’t just shut down completely.

“I mean if the whole economy shut down completely, that would have a much more serious impact than the coronavirus. But the coronavirus is a very serious threat, so we have to take the necessary reactions.”

Brawn said that Formula 1 was actively monitoring the situation with the sport’s teams, the race organizers and with local government authorities. But circumstances remain fluid.

“For every country we’re working with the local health authorities to decide what are the appropriate actions to take,” he added.

“All the teams for instance are minimising the amount of staff that travel. So we’re taking every sensible precaution we can, and we have to follow the advice of the health authority.

“At the moment, the first three races are going ahead. But this is a situation that is changing day by day. So we have to react and we have to respond accordingly.”

Meanwhile, the FIA announced on Friday the creation of a special coronavirus “crisis cell” to deal with the impact of the outbreak.

Professor Gérard Saillant, the President of the FIA Medical Commission, gave a detailed presentation on the development of the Coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak.

“An FIA Crisis Cell has been established and convenes every second day to consider the latest developments around the world,” read a statement from the FIA.

“The FIA continues to closely monitor the situation and its implications, together with its Member Clubs and Promoters, and follows the advice of relevant authorities including Governments and the World Health Organization.

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

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WMSC adds to Ferrari-gate tensions – endorses FIA stance

The World Motor Sport Council took sides with the FIA on Friday, predictably endorsing the governing body’s settlement with Ferrari and opposing the statement released this week by seven F1 teams.

Mercedes, Red Bull, McLaren, Renault, AlphaTauri, Racing Point and Williams joined forces to condemn a confidential agreement signed by the FIA and Ferrari.

In a statement released this week, the seven teams believe the lack of transparency regarding the FIA’s investigation into the legality of the Scuderia’s 2019 power unit calls into question the sporting authority’s governance and integrity.

Gathered in Geneva for its first meeting of the year, the WMSC – the most powerful body of the FIA which decides on motor sport’s rules and regulations, and which consists of 28 people, including FIA president Jean Todt and F1 boss Chase Carey – expressed its “unanimous support for the FIA President and the FIA Technical Department in regard to the overall management of the case”.

The WMSC also “strongly opposed any comments that undermine the reputation and image of the FIA and the Formula One World Championship”.

Get your popcorn folks, for the full-blown Ferrari-gate crisis is just getting started!

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Coronavirus forces Formula E to postpone Rome E-Prix

Due to the coronavirus threat, Formula E has been forced to postpone the electric series’ sixth round scheduled to take place in Rome on April 4.

After the Sanya E-Prix in China which was cancelled last month, the race in the ancient city has also succumbed to the global virus outbreak. The Rome E-Prix is the first European motorsport event to be postponed since the start of the coronavirus crisis.

In Europe, Italy is the country worst hit by the epidemic, with a cluster of 3,800 cases erupting in the northern part of the country and leading to a death toll of 48.

Italy has adopted drastic measures in response to the coronavirus outbreak in Europe, closing schools and universities until at least March 15, and ordering all sporting events to take place behind closed doors.

Formula E released on Friday the following statement:

“As a consequence of the ongoing health emergency in Italy and according to the provisions set out in the ministerial decree concerning measures to counteract and contain the spread of COVID-19 in the country – which includes sporting events with large crowds and spectators in close proximity – it will no longer be possible to stage the Rome E-Prix on April 4, 2020.

“Formula E, in agreement with the relevant authorities in Rome, EUR S.p.A and together with the FIA and Automobile Club d’Italia (ACI), will work closely with championship partners and stakeholders in order to assess and review alternative options to postpone the Rome E-Prix to a later date once restrictions have been lifted.

“All ticket holders will be contacted through the appropriate channels in the coming days.”

Unfortunately, Formula E’s upcoming spring schedule doesn’t bide well for the series as the next two events are to be held in Seoul, South Korea and in Jakarta, Indonesia, two countries close to China where the virus initiated its outbreak.

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Hamilton: ‘Nothing new for me to have a target on my back’

Hamilton: ‘Nothing new for me to have a target on my back’

Lewis Hamilton heads into the 2020 season as the prey his rivals will seek to hunt down, but the feeling is nothing new for the Mercedes driver whose always had a target on his back.

Hamilton’s outstanding talent coupled with the mighty Mercedes squad’s excellence has yielded five world titles in the last six years, with former nemesis and teammate Nico Rosberg the sole driver to outrun the Briton since 2014.

Despite the supremacy of the Hamilton/Mercedes package, pundits are predicting a challenging campaign for the 35-year-old whom they believe will have a hungry pack of wolves trying to chase him down.

But that’s pretty much been the norm for Hamilton ever since he started his stellar career in racing.

“I’ve had a target on my back since the day I won my first championship when I was 10 years old so it’s nothing new to me,” he said.

“I’ve always been the only black driver there, I’ve always been generally at the front of the championships, so it’s no different to any of the other 27 years of driving – so I’m quite comfortable in that space.

“It’s also a positive when people are targeting you and looking to try and beat you because you want everyone to bring their ‘A-Game’.

“So if we do manage to pull it off and finish ahead, it feels even better.”

As routine as his success has become in the sport, Hamilton insists there’s been nothing “coincidental” about his or his team’s accomplishments.

“When I joined this team I believed we would be winning at some stage,” he explained.

“Did I think we would win as much as we have? Absolutely not.

“But I don’t feels it’s a coincidence that we have won as much as we have. Because the whole organization, the whole team, absolutely every individual is so focused.

“And you’ve seen our consistency over the years, it doesn’t come easy. But it comes from really great work, a lot of great communication.

“We’re very critical of ourselves, everyone’s very open, we’re not treading on eggshells around anyone. So it is the perfect team.”

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Hopes rising for Miami GP in 2021

Formula 1’s management team is encouraged by the progress it has made towards hosting a Miami Grand Prix in 2021, according to CEO and chairman Chase Carey.

A potential roadblock to the event — an attempt to force through anti-F1 legislation that would have required Miami Gardens’ approval in order to host the race — failed last month, moving the project at Hard Rock Stadium a step closer. Speaking on a Liberty Media earnings call, Carey says the recent developments have given added momentum to F1’s plans to add a second race in the United States.

“We were thrilled with the progress in the last few weeks in Miami as we come closer to finalizing that potential tent-pole event on future calendars,” Carey said. “We’re excited to partner with the (NFL) Miami Dolphins to bring a world-class event to the region and our second race to the U.S.”

“Positive steps the last couple weeks — we’re actively engaged with them,” he said. “I think we’ve got meetings over the next week or two to continue to nail things down. And we feel good about where we are with that race for 2021.

“I think, first and foremost, we want to make sure it’s a great race, a race that will live up to the potential of what that race is — which is a real tent-pole race for us, not just in the U.S., but around the world, a race that will capture the world’s imagination. So we want to make sure we do the race.

“We’re still focusing on trying to get things in place for 2021. Obviously, time gets shorter. But we are actively working on it and engaged with it and I think making good headway. We feel that (new races) are complicated. So nothing new — we’ve been through this before.

“The steps and processes we go through to ultimately finalize a race always have degrees of complications to them. But I think we feel good about the path we’re on, and we feel good about the opportunity to make the race in Miami a reality in the short term.”

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Ricciardo used ‘nice guy’ reputation to dummy rivals on track

Ricciardo used ‘nice guy’ reputation to dummy rivals on track

Daniel Ricciardo says he used his unassuming “nice guy” reputation in the early part of his career to surprise his rivals on the track.

After a maiden season with HRT and two formative years with Toro Rosso, Ricciardo was promoted to Red Bull Racing in 2014 to race alongside four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel.

The Aussie’s broad smile and cheerful personality quickly became his trademark traits. But it was also a “nice guy” persona that his rivals felt could easily be exploited in the ruthless world of F1.

But Ricciardo eventually turned the tables on those who judged him in that light.

“At first I felt other competitors would take advantage of me being the nice guy,” the Renault driver told Will Buxton in an interview for Formula 1’s official website.

“Especially when I got into F1 it was like, ‘He’s too nice, we’re going to bully him on the track’ and I think they did for the first six months.

“I felt like that was going to be a reputation that was going to stay with me unless I quickly adapted.

“Then it was really 2014 when I felt everyone was still saying, ‘He’s got a fast car now but he’s still a soft touch’ and I could play to that and surprise them on track.

“That’s where these dummy overtakes, these lunges, I feel I really caught everyone by surprise and that was very powerful for me.

“I know what I’m capable of. Even know I’m smiling, but I’m quietly killing with a smile. It’s good.”

Ricciardo opened his current tally of 7 wins in F1 in Montreal in 2014. But the 30-year-old admitted to being disappointed to have not yet secured a world title in the sport, or even several.

“It’s what I certainly aimed to have,” he said. “But if I’m really honest with you, after my year in 2014, if I then look at 2020, I would’ve expected a world title or three.

“From 2014 onwards, I’m certainly not surprised, if anything I’m a little bit underwhelmed.

“But in 2011, to put myself here and to know the impact I’ve had in the sport and where I’ve put myself, then for sure I’m happy, I’m proud.

“But I’m not there yet and not done.”

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Racing Point ‘halfway’ through understanding 2020 car

Racing Point ‘halfway’ through understanding 2020 car

Racing Point is still getting to grips with its 2020 car according to technical director Andy Green, but so far the Silverstone-based outfit likes the numbers it’s seeing from its new pink charger.

The team’s RP20 has been branded a Mercedes W10 look-alike by its rivals, a perception Green understands given the almost identical design and aero approach followed by this year by the team.

The concept appears to be effective based on Racing Point’s performance in pre-season testing. But Green insists the team is only halfway through fully understanding its 2020 contender.

“I’d say we’re still in the experimental stage,” Green said, quoted by RACER. “Still running through lots of different set-ups.

“It’s a very different car to anything we’ve ever had before. So as we expected really, it’s taking a bit of time to understand how we go about changing the balance of the car for the different types of conditions, different types of corners, different tires.

“There’s a lot of work to do and I’d say we’re probably about halfway through it,” he added.

“So it’s going to be interesting going to Melbourne, which is really where we turned our focuses (during testing), trying to understand how we change the car for all the different tracks that we’re going to, not necessarily optimizing it for Barcelona.

“But, so far so good. The car is responding, which is great, and we can move the balance from one end to the other and I think the drivers can feel the car underneath them.

“It gives them confidence to drive and gives them confidence to push, which is good.

“When conditions got tricky (in Barcelona), the car exhibited some really good trace compared to last year’s car, so it was very encouraging.”

When it comes to validating on the track a car’s wind tunnel and simulator data, the numbers don’t lie. And Green is happy with the underlying correlation registered so far.

“I’d be lying if I said we weren’t happy with where we are, we are happy,” he said.

“The level of performance that we’re seeing from the car is – it’s sort of as we expected after we got the data out of the tunnel, we got it in the simulator when the drivers drove the car a couple of weeks ago they were massively enthusiastic about it.

“They were prepared for what was to come, we were just unsure whether we’re going to realize the full potential of what we’re seeing in the simulation work.

“Everything that we’ve seen so far suggests that we’ve transferred across from the model size to the full size.”

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Williams still not looking to change ‘manufacturer’ model

Williams still not looking to change ‘manufacturer’ model

Williams deputy team principal Claire Williams says the British outfit will remain an independent manufacturer in F1, insisting that Racing Point’s 2020 model with Mercedes “wouldn’t have worked” for it.

Racing Point’s 2020 contender was directly inspired by the design of last year’s championship winning Mercedes W10, with the pink squad’s technical director Andy Green relying on the same aero philosophy and an almost identical engineering approach.

The team’s RP20 drew criticism from rival teams who believed the car was nothing more than a secondhand Silver Arrows, although Green took exception with the claim, insisting that all parts had been designed and manufactured in-house at Racing Point.

The Silverstone-based outfit’s approach doesn’t follow the specific technology sharing model embraced by Haas with Ferrari, the likes of which has been heavily criticized by Racing Point, but its ‘carbon copy’ concept isn’t all that dissimilar.

Despite the effectiveness of Racing Point’s approach, based on the RP20’s performance in pre-season testing, Williams has no intention of going down a similar path with its Mercedes engine supplier.

“I wouldn’t criticise another team’s way in which they go racing as long as its within regulations, which it is, and it is their decision in how they want to bring a car to racing,” Williams said, quoted by Crash.net.

“We’re very proud of the fact we are an independent constructor and we manufacture our car ourselves and it’s not a model that we’re looking to change at the moment.

“If it works for them this year, the last year prior to a new regulation change, great, but it wouldn’t have worked for us and that’s why we’re continuing on the road we are.”

As F1’s third most successful team, Williams finds itself up against the wall this season, its goodwill eroded by two years of dismal performance, with the Grove-based outfit scoring just a single point during its miserable 2019 campaign.

Contrary to last year, Williams completed its new FW43 on time for pre-season testing, thanks partly to the fact that it outsourced some of its manufacturing to avoid the delays that crucially undermined the debut of its 2019 car.

And the team also enjoyed a productive two weeks at the Circuit de Catalunya, void of any major dramas.

There’s no question Williams heads to Australia in a better place and with the hope that it will finally begin to pull itself out of the doldrums.

“I’m feeling a lot happier, probably inevitably,” Williams added.

“That’s not going to come as a surprise to anyone, things at Williams have definitely taken steps forward but that’s been off the back of a lot of hard work that everybody in the team has done over the last 12 months to ensure that’s been the case.

“But we know we’ve still got a lot of hard work to do if we are to achieve our ultimate goals and that’s to get Williams back to where we want to see it and that’s podiums and races, but that in reality is a way off.

“This year the target is to make clear progress. I think just coming to testing and having achieved what we’ve done here in these last six days demonstrates that, but we’ve got to get to Melbourne to see where we truly are.”

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Bahrain freezes ticket sales to assess COVID-19 situation

Bahrain International Circuit has halted ticket sales for the March 22 round of the F1 world championship as organizers gauge the current coronavirus situation.

However, Thursday’s statement from the BIC said the organizer could release additional tickets to the public, or offer refunds, depending on the evolution of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Bahrain has mobilized all relevant government departments to help limit the impact of the novel virus in the country.

“In light of the continued global outbreak of COVID-19, the BIC has announced that it will be phasing the sales of Grand Prix tickets to ensure appropriate social distancing guidelines are met,” said the statement.

“As further facts emerge, the BIC is in close communication with both Formula One Management and the Kingdom’s health authorities to assess the developing situation and release further tickets or refund the face value of tickets depending on circumstances and updated medical advice.”

Bahrain will also rely on special medical facilities and implement screening measures at Sakhir.

“This precautionary step has been introduced along with a number of public health measures ahead of the Grand Prix to ensure the safety of all spectators, teams and circuit staff,” Bahrain added.

“These include screening procedures on entry, specialist medical facilities onsite, enhanced sanitation at the circuit, additional hand washing stations, information points for fans, as well as specific medical protocols to manage any suspected cases of COVID-19.”

Bahrain Grand Prix organizers have been working with Formula 1 to help expedite the safe entry into the Kingdom of team staff and members of the F1 community originating from Italy.

However, entry restrictions, which include travelers from Dubai, are complicating F1 teams’ logistics involving travel routes from Melbourne to Bahrain.

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Racing Point excited by untapped potential in RP20

Racing Point is enthusiastic about the potential of its 2020 car and is still only halfway through learning about it after pre-season testing, according to the team’s technical director Andy Green.

The RP20 bears a striking resemblance to last year’s Mercedes W10, with Racing Point utilizing the Mercedes power unit, gearbox and wind tunnel among other aspects. The car is a big departure from last year’s RP19, and Green admits that means the team is still not able to exploit its full potential as it takes longer to gain a full understanding of its characteristics.

“There’s a lot of work to do and I’d say we’re probably about halfway through it. So it’s going to be interesting going to Melbourne, which is really where we turned our focuses (during testing), trying to understand how we change the car for all the different tracks that we’re going to, not necessarily optimizing it for Barcelona.

“But, so far so good. The car is responding, which is great, and we can move the balance from one end to the other and I think the drivers can feel the car underneath them, it gives them confidence to drive and gives them confidence to push, which is good. When conditions got tricky (in Barcelona), the car exhibited some really good trace compared to last year’s car, so it was very encouraging.”

Despite suggesting there is a lot more to come from the car, Green says there is clear correlation between what was developed in the wind tunnel and the performance that is being seen on track.

“I’d be lying if I said we weren’t happy with where we are, we are happy,” he said. “The level of performance that we’re seeing from the car is – it’s sort of as we expected after we got the data out of the tunnel, we got it in the simulator when the drivers drove the car a couple of weeks ago they were massively enthusiastic about it.

“They were prepared for what was to come, we were just unsure whether we’re going to realize the full potential of what we’re seeing in the simulation work. Everything that we’ve seen so far suggests that we’ve transferred across from the model size to the full size.”

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09

FIA admits to doubts over Ferrari’s power unit legality in 2019

The FIA has hit back at demands from seven Formula 1 teams that it disclose details of its settlement with Ferrari over its power unit in 2019, but admits it was not fully satisfied the Italian team’s power unit usage was legal.

A statement last week revealed the FIA had reached an agreement with Ferrari – the terms of which would remain confidential – following “thorough technical investigations” into the operations of its power unit. The seven non-Ferrari-powered teams – Mercedes, Red Bull, McLaren, Renault, AlphaTauri, Racing Point and Williams – all signed a joint statement on Wednesday calling for “full and proper disclosure” from the FIA, and threatening legal action if it didn’t feel teams are being treated fairly and equally.

“The FIA has conducted detailed technical analysis on the Scuderia Ferrari Power Unit as it is entitled to do for any competitor in the FIA Formula One World Championship,” the FIA statement read.

“The extensive and thorough investigations undertaken during the 2019 season raised suspicions that the Scuderia Ferrari PU could be considered as not operating within the limits of the FIA regulations at all times. The Scuderia Ferrari firmly opposed the suspicions and reiterated that its PU always operated in compliance with the regulations. The FIA was not fully satisfied but decided that further action would not necessarily result in a conclusive case due to the complexity of the matter and the material impossibility to provide the unequivocal evidence of a breach.

“To avoid the negative consequences that a long litigation would entail especially in light of the uncertainty of the outcome of such litigations and in the best interest of the Championship and of its stakeholders, the FIA, in compliance with Article 4 (ii) of its Judicial and Disciplinary Rules (JDR), decided to enter into an effective and dissuasive settlement agreement with Ferrari to terminate the proceedings.

“This type of agreement is a legal tool recognized as an essential component of any disciplinary system and is used by many public authorities and other sport federations in the handling of disputes.

“The confidentiality of the terms of the settlement agreement is provided for by Article 4 (vi) of the JDR.

“The FIA will take all necessary action to protect the sport and its role and reputation as regulator of the FIA Formula One World Championship.”

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Hamilton says ‘psychological battle’ is for the ‘weak-minded’

Lewis Hamilton is oblivious to the comments of those talking up Mercedes’ chances of success in Melbourne, insisting those games are for the “weak-minded”.

Mercedes emerged from pre-season testing as the favourite to take top spoils in Australia, the Silver Arrows outfit demonstrating that its W11 is the class of the 2019 field.

Valtteri Bottas topped the timesheet at the end of the two-week test in Barcelona, and Mercedes’ rivals are predicting the Brackley squad and Hamilton will pick up at Albert Park where they left off in Abu Dhabi at the end of last year.

But the six-time world champion is ignoring the buzz and forecasts.

“I don’t pay attention to anybody or to anyone else through testing,” he told Sky Sports.

“We literally just focus on our job and I have no idea what other people have been saying.”

Hamilton says he’s been around the F1 block once too often to take the bait and succumb to an overwhelming sense of optimism purposefully instilled by his rivals.

“I’ve been here a long, long time so I’m aware of people bigging us up and talking themselves down so that they can potentially overachieve unexpectedly or whatever,” he added.

“It doesn’t make a difference. Some people think that it’s a psychological battle but it’s really not.

“Only for the weak-minded maybe but it doesn’t affect us whatsoever.”

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FIA responds to F1 teams – insists Ferrari settlement ‘legal’

FIA responds to F1 teams – insists Ferrari settlement ‘legal’

The FIA has responded to the joint action undertaken by seven F1 teams regarding the confidential settlement reached by the governing body with Ferrari.

The agreement between the FIA and Ferrari was published last Friday and sought to put an end to the former’s investigation of the latter’s 2019 power unit amid suspicions that the Scuderia’s engineers had found an innovative ploy to circumvent fuel flow limitations.

However, the settlement’s terms were deemed confidential by the FIA, a lack of transparency that prompted an angry reaction from all non-Ferrari teams who are threatening legal action to achieve the full disclosure of the agreement.

The FIA responded to the teams’ group action on Thursday with the following statement:

“The FIA has conducted detailed technical analysis on the Scuderia Ferrari Power Unit as it is entitled to do for any competitor in the FIA Formula One World Championship.

“The extensive and thorough investigations undertaken during the 2019 season raised suspicions that the Scuderia Ferrari PU could be considered as not operating within the limits of the FIA regulations at all times. The Scuderia Ferrari firmly opposed the suspicions and reiterated that its PU always operated in compliance with the regulations.The FIA was not fully satisfied but decided that further action would not necessarily result in a conclusive case due to the complexity of the matter and the material impossibility to provide the unequivocal evidence of a breach.

“To avoid the negative consequences that a long litigation would entail especially in light of the uncertainty of the outcome of such litigations and in the best interest of the Championship and of its stakeholders, the FIA, in compliance with Article 4 (ii) of its Judicial and Disciplinary Rules (JDR), decided to enter into an effective and dissuasive settlement agreement with Ferrari to terminate the proceedings.

“This type of agreement is a legal tool recognised as an essential component of any disciplinary system and is used by many public authorities and other sport federations in the handling of disputes.

“The confidentiality of the terms of the settlement agreement is provided for by Article 4 (vi) of the JDR.

“The FIA will take all necessary action to protect the sport and its role and reputation as regulator of the FIA Formula One World Championship.”

©Ferrari

In summary, the FIA believes it has the law on its side according to the institution and regulators’s own legal “Judicial and Disciplinary Rules”.

However, the question of the legality of Ferrari’s engine in 2019 remains, with the governing body admitting that it does not have the ability to clearly prove the Italian outfit’s potential regulation transgression. Which begs the $100 million question: is Ferrari still breaching the rules?

It’s unlikely given that the very aim of the settlement was to ensure that the FIA, based on the knowledge it acquired during its investigation, has at least the means to prevent the red squad from tempting fate and its engine from infringing the rule book

But the controversial case has also clearly demonstrated that Formula 1’s engineering complexities – or rather the expertise of Ferrari’s engineers – have surpassed the FIA’s competence.

The ball is back in the teams’ court…

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Binotto tells staff that Ferrari can’t win in Melbourne!

Binotto tells staff that Ferrari can’t win in Melbourne!

Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto has reportedly written to the Scuderia’s workers, telling staff that they must be resigned to the fact that the team’s SF1000 does not have the potential to win in Melbourne.

Ferrari’s season is set to start under a massive dark cloud, with the Italian outfit having to contend with the under-performance of its 2019 car as well as with the ire of its rivals following the confidential agreement signed with the FIA and announced last week.

The House of Maranello is at the center of a full-blown crisis in F1 and is unlikely to find any solace next week in Australia.

Ferrari-gate: Marko incensed by ‘scandalous’ attitude of FIA

According to a report from Motorsport.com Italy, Binotto has warned team members not to get their hopes up next week, or even in the first three races of the season.

However, the Scuderia boss believes that the SF1000’s level of performance will be improved for the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort in early May.

A candid Binotto admitted last week in Barcelona that Ferrari’s performance in pre-season testing had not lived up to expectations.

While many believed that Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc had perhaps sandbagged at the Circuit de Catalunya, Binotto insisted Ferrari had not played any games although the Swiss engineer admitted the long pace of its SF1000 was better than its speed over a single lap.

“If you look at the picture of the winter testing I think we have got relative to the others a better, but doesn’t mean the best, race pace compared to the qualifying pace,” Binotto said, quoted by Motorsport.com.

“I think we’re suffering a bit more on qualifying simulation compared to the race simulations, and that is something on which we need again to understand, analyse and eventually address it.”

Ferrari has worked over the winter on achieving downforce gains relative to last year’s car which was optimized for straight-line speed. But the improvements and subsequent trade-off have hurt the SF1000’s velocity.

“We worked very hard over winter, and I think our car is a step forward,” commented Vettel last week.

“Currently it does come with some more drag, but I think we are aware.

“We are pushing as hard as we can to get rid of the drag and make it more efficient. But we also believe that come race day, it gives us an advantage the way it is set up now, so we will see.”

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Verstappen ecstatic about ‘amazing’ Zandvoort bankings

Verstappen ecstatic about ‘amazing’ Zandvoort bankings

Max Verstappen gave a big thumbs up to Zandvoort’s revamped track after sampling the circuit on Wednesday, labeling as “amazing” the layout’s two banked corners.

The legendary F1 seaside venue which returns to the calendar this year received a makeover which includes a few significant modifications.

The original layout remains practically the same as the one last visited by F1 in 1985, but the Hugenholzbocht and Arie Luyendijkbocht corners have been re-profiled and both now feature a steep and challenging 18-degree banking.

After taking an old-spec Red Bull RB8 for a shrieking spin around the new track, Verstappen was impressed and expects the bankings will be “a lot of fun” for drivers next May.

“It was a great opportunity to be the first person to drive an F1 car at the new Zandvoort Circuit and the track is really cool – especially Turn 3 where the banking is amazing,” said the Dutchman.

“I didn’t expect the banking to be that big but it’s really cool to drive an F1 car on. The last corner is the same.

“It’s also pretty banked and with the new cars and DRS open through there it will be a good challenge and a lot of fun.”

©RedBull

Verstappen insists his new home track definitely has its own challenges.

“The whole track is very demanding,” he added. “There are a lot of fast corners and still not that much run-off.

“That makes it really challenging to go on the limit, but that’s good. That’s what we like.

“Does it give me a head start coming here today? Maybe a little.

“It’s always good to drive a track for the first time and see how it feels and what it’s like. I definitely enjoyed it.”

©RedBull

The grandstands were empty on Wednesday, but Verstappen can’t expect a sea of orange lining the track’s main straight when F1 rolls into town in May.

“I’m really looking forward to coming back here for the Grand Prix,” he said.

“To have a home grand prix will be even more crazy than usual in terms of support.

“I hope it’s going to be a highlight of the season, but it will all depend on the Sunday result. But we’ll do everything we can to make sure it’s a good one.”

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Ferrari-gate: Marko incensed by ‘scandalous’ attitude of FIA

Ferrari-gate: Marko incensed by ‘scandalous’ attitude of FIA

Red Bull motorsport boss Helmut Marko has lambasted the FIA for sealing a confidential agreement with Ferrari, with the Austrian labeling the governing body’s dealings as “a scandal”.

The FIA announced last Friday that a settlement had been reached with Ferrari regarding the Scuderia’s 2019 power unit and how it may have breached F1’s technical regulations by circumventing fuel flow restrictions.

However, the FIA chose not to disclose the terms of the settlement or any details related to its investigation of Ferrari’s engine.

The governing body’s complete lack of transparency and the possibility of Ferrari escaping a sanction despite its breaching of the rules enraged its rivals.

On Wednesday, all non-Ferrari teams published a letter in which the “surprised and shocked” group of seven denounced the FIA’s secret deal with Ferrari and threatened legal action against motorsport’s institution to obtain a full disclosure of the agreement.

If it was revealed that Ferrari had cheated last season, it could call into question its position in the 2019 Constructors’ championship, with a demotion or exclusion potentially worth millions of dollars to his rivals.

“The behavior of the FIA is the real scandal,” Marko told Germany’s Der Spiegel.

“We should actually instruct Red Bull Racing team boss Christian Horner to sue [the FIA] for $ 24 million in prize money.”

Indeed, Ferrari’s exclusion would elevate Red Bull to second, a promotion worth the hefty amount cited by Marko.

“We lose a double-digit million amount by finishing third instead of second,” Marko told Auto Motor und Sport.

“Not just because more money is distributed for second place, but because our sponsorship contracts are also performance-related. I assume that the other teams are similar.”

Marko also believes that a massive fine should perhaps also be thrown at the House of Maranello if it breached the rules to gain a significant advantage.

“If they really cheated, 10 or 20 million would be far too cheap,” said Marko.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, who united the teams against the FIA and Ferrari through Wednesday’s joint action, says the Scuderia and the governing body must be held accountable.

“The whole thing is a huge mess,” Wolff said. “It’s not okay what Ferrari did, but even less so how the FIA treats it. All the other teams are upset.”

Gallery: The beautiful wives and girlfriends of F1 drivers

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