Lehto: F1 limiting the number of brake pads is wrong

Lehto: F1 limiting the number of brake pads is wrong

Former F1 driver JJ Lehto has questioned the wisdom of a new Formula 1 rule limiting the number of brake components a driver can use during the course of a season.

Among a raft of changes, the new F1 rules for 2021 will also introduce increased restrictions on the number of times some components, like brake pads, can be replaced. Grid penalties will be handed out from 2021 if drivers have to use more than 22 sets of brake discs and pads.

The number is derived from the number of races on the calendar, meaning that the limit is essentially one set of brake parts per race weekend.

“Wait a minute,” Lehto, Michael Schumacher’s teammate at Benetton in 1994, told Iltalehti newspaper.

“The first thing that comes to my mind is safety. The disc can crack at any time, or there could be human error or a materials fault. In my view, limiting the number of brake pads is wrong,” Lehto warned.

Big Question: Is limiting brake pad use by F1 teams a stupid rule?

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Todt: Today’s Mercedes is better than my Ferrari

Todt: Today’s Mercedes is better than my Ferrari

FIA President, Jean Todt has tipped his hat to Mercedes by acknowledging that the current era Silver Arrows – led by Toto Wolff and star driver Lewis Hamilton – have done a better job than the mighty team the former Ferrari boss built during his tenure at Maranello.

Although some predict that 2020 will be an epic three-way battle involving Ferrari and Red Bull-Honda, as they try to beat Mercedes who wrapped up their record sixth consecutive drivers’ and constructors’ F1 World Championships.

Speaking at the FIA Prize Giving Gala in Paris, Todt, who was team principal during Ferrari’s great Michael Schumacher era at the turn of the century, said of Mercedes, “They’ve been remarkable.

“It’s like an athlete has to lift 200 kilos – and then hold it up. You need a great driver, a great car and a great team, and if you do not have those three things then it can not work.”

As for the current Silver streak of a dozen titles in six years, compared to the Ferrari heyday, Todt said, “I have to admit that they have done a better job.”

Toro Rosso boss Franz Tost told Auto Bild agrees, “Mercedes is the best team ever. Better than McLaren-Honda in the days of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost and more dominant than Ferrari in the Michael Schumacher era.”

In October, Sebastian Vettel said the way Mercedes has become so dominant is a testament to the Brackley based German team, “Mercedes is close to perfection. You could argue that their car was just better than ours, but that’s not the point. It’s a team effort.”

Statistic shows that over the past six years Mercedes have won 89 times and scored 179 podiums, while Ferrari of the naughties notched up 58 victories and 126 podiums from 2000 to the end of 2005.

Big Question: Are Mercedes of this era the best F1 racing team ever?

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Abiteboul: 2021 is a priority for Renault

Abiteboul: 2021 is a priority for Renault

Renault team boss Cyril Abiteboul has deemed the 2020 Formula 1 season crucial to the French team that have been firmly entrenched in the midfield this past year when podiums were their stated goal before the season began in Melbourne.

Although missing its goal of getting closer to the top three teams this year, Abiteboul insists that Renault is making progress despite McLaren, their customers beating them in the championship.

“If you want to win in Formula 1 you must have the best drivers, the best chassis and the best engine,” Abiteboul told Globo. “We are at the top with our drivers, even if Daniel [Ricciardo] took time to adjust to the team and car.

“But drivers were not our problem. The engine is no longer our problem, so by elimination, there is the chassis,” explained the Frenchman.

Indeed, chassis boss Nick Chester has been ousted, as Renault looks ahead not just to 2020 but to the even more important start of the new rules in 2021. Already the focus is on the new era for the sport.

Abiteboul admitted, “Next year will be particularly critical for us. We are aware of the new technical regulations so let’s start the development now. We will need to be balanced between the present and the work for 2021, which is a priority for us.”

Of note is the fact that since the start of the hybrid era Renault power has only tasted victory on three occasions, with Red Bull in 2014 with Ricciardo the driver at the time. Meanwhile, Mercedes have racked up 88 victories during the same period.

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Minardi: Toro Rosso have grown enormously

Minardi: Toro Rosso have grown enormously

Justin Wilson Minardi

The founder of the Formula 1 team today known as Toro Rosso says he is impressed by the way the Faenza-based outfit has bloomed over the years, and particularly this past season.

Giancarlo Minardi, now 72, was born in Faenza, Italy, and initially began entering his Minardi team in Formula 2 races in 1980.

Minardi sold his ailing F1 team to Paul Stoddart in 2000 and then left the team completely when Red Bull bought and renamed it for 2006.

Toro Rosso – to be called Alpha Tauri from 2020 – was initially seen as little more than Red Bull’s ‘B’ team, but this year it finished sixth overall behind McLaren and Renault.

“They have grown enormously since Max Verstappen, who started the progress,” Minardi told Autosprint. “They decided to improve their results from 2018.

“They have succeeded in really addressing their weaknesses with a wonderful sixth place in the championship. Now they have the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of Red Bull in terms of development.”

“Daniil Kvyat certainly did, but especially Pierre Gasly can pat himself on the back. That he kept his head and was not mentally crushed when he lost his seat at Red Bull was the biggest surprise,” said Minardi who reportedly is still in touch with staff at the Faenza factory.

Toro Rosso have changed their name from 2020, whereupon they will be known as Alpha Tauri.

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Formula 1 teams reject 2020 tyres in favour of current spec

Formula 1 teams reject 2020 tyres in favour of current spec

Pirelli’s 2020 Formula 1 tyre offerings have been unanimously rejected by Formula 1 teams who, after recent testing in Abu Dhabi, gave the new rubber a resounding thumbs down which means the tyre-spec used this past season will remain on the menu next year.

The Italian manufacturer produced and tested F1 prototype tyres intending to introduce them in 2020, but following feedback after the recent post-season Pirelli test at Yas Marina, teams have voted unanimously to stick with the current specification. rubber.

The FIA said in a statement: “After having tested and analysed new specification tyres for 2020, a vote for the specification of the tyres for the 2020 Season was carried out according to Article 12.6.1 of the technical regulations.

“The vote resulted in a unanimous decision to keep the 2019 specification tyres for the 2020 season by the Formula 1 teams.

“The FIA would like to thank both Pirelli and all the teams for their work and collaboration to improve the tyres for the 2020 season and beyond. In any case, the lessons leant will be invaluable for the further improvement of the tyres in the future.”

The tyres broke cover during practice for the United States Grand Prix where they were not well received. In Abu Dhabi, after the season finale at Yas Marina, drivers and teams again sampled the proposed new Pirelli tyres, which again failed to impress.

Teams were given the new compounds to run in first practice for the United States Grand Prix earlier this year, before more comprehensive track time in Abu Dhabi earlier this month.

After yesterday’s deadline, Pirelli acknowledged “mixed” reactions from teams, and are reportedly happy to continue with the current compounds in 2020 rather than a new spec if this is the wish of teams and drivers.

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Bloodhound hunts new land speed record in the Kalahari

Bloodhound hunts new land speed record in the Kalahari

A loud hiss rips through the stillness of southern Africa’s Kalahari Desert, it sounds like a fighter jet flying low over the Hakskeen Pan, an isolated dry lake bed in South Africa’s Northern Cape province, near the Namibian border.

Then a thick cloud of sand appears on the horizon, growing steadily as it draws near. In the blink of an eye, a racing car shoots by with a deafening screech and pelts towards the opposite end of the salt pan.

The “Bloodhound” is gearing up to try to break the current land speed record, which stands at 760 miles per hour (1,223.657 kilometres per hour).

There’s still a way to go before the super racer is ready for that attempt, but today driver Andy Green is pleased, beaming as he lifts himself out of the cockpit, helmet in hand he declared,  “We have reached 904 kph (561.72 mph). First thing in the morning, plenty of thrust, nice calm wind, so the car ran absolutely straight.”

The British-built Bloodhound stands sleekly behind him, dust still hovering in its wake. The white parachute that helps it brake lies crumpled on the cracked ochre soil.

“Good parachute deployment,” adds the Briton, as the vehicle is towed into a large air-conditioned tent nearby. “That’s pretty much the perfect run.”

The Bloodhound was designed exclusively for speed — the team hopes, if possible, to get up to 1,000 mph.

The vehicle resembles a wingless jet on aluminium wheels, with a long white body topped by an engine and a stabiliser.

Its design is miles ahead of the bullet-shaped electric car in which French aristocrat Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat set the first land speed record on December 18, 1898 — pushing the vehicle’s spoke wheels to 63.15 kph.

“You can call it that, a jet engine with wheels, but it’s far more sophisticated than that,” said Stuart Edmondson, head of Bloodhound operations.

Chief engineer Mark Chapman described the racer as “part Formula 1” and “part jet fighter”.

“The car, as it is a car, has a steering wheel, has a throttle pedal, has a brake pedal,” he told AFP.

The engine, built by Rolls Royce, once powered a Royal Air Force (RAF) Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jet.

It was recycled from three decommissioned versions of the Typhoon’s engine, released by Britain’s defence ministry, “without the handbooks”, chuckles a Bloodhound team member.

“It’s a car designed to go at 1,600 kph,” said Chapman, adding that at top speed it would be almost 400 kph faster than a Typhoon at the same altitude.

“The big issues were aerodynamics, keeping it on the ground,” he said. “You don’t want it to be a plane.”

As the engine’s nine tons of thrust are still unable to break the sound barrier, Chapman and his team plan to give it a boost with… a rocket engine.

Green is not intimidated by the prospect. The 57-year RAF pilot has held the current land speed record since 1997.

“It’s a very different sensation,” to flying a fighter jet, Green told AFP. “A very different environment… (and) vehicle.”

But the skills and the “second by second” decisions needed to stay in control are like flying a jet fighter “at the limits of its performance”, he added.

Green said the main difficulty was keeping the land vehicle steady, “The car starts to move around at about 300 kph, at 350 kph it starts to almost skate on the surface. It’s like driving on hard-packed snow in a normal car.”

At such high speed, the slightest mistake or technical glitch can be fatal.

In August, the American professional racer Jessi Combs was killed during a test-run for a land-speed record attempt in Oregon’s Alvord Desert in the United States.

In the Kalahari, safety is managed by the Bloodhound team’s only female member, Jessica Kinsman.

The 39-year-old air traffic controller makes sure to minimise any source of danger along the 16-kilometre (9.9-mile) desert track.

Nothing escapes her eagle eyes, be it the wind factor, obstacles or a slight anomaly in the vehicle’s motion.

“Here, it’s almost an airfield, there is a runway, there is an aircraft, more or less,” said Kinsman comparing the car to a plane, from her viewpoint overlooking the desert in the elevated glass-faced control station.

“We have the final say on a number of things,” she added, with a smile.

Meanwhile, a man discreetly oversees the mechanics as the team busies itself around the Bloodhound in the cool-aired tent.

Ian Warhurst is the racer’s proud owner. He saved the failing project last year by buying the Bloodhound, which was on the verge of being dismantled and sold as spare parts.

“I have certainly spent sums of seven figures (in pounds) to get here,” Warhurst told AFP.

Ex-owner of a turbocharger manufacturer in Britain, he said that amount was “nothing” compared to money “you need to spend for projects like, say, Formula 1 teams”.

Warhurst, 50, who retired last year after making his fortune, defended his new carbon-intensive hobby as a source of “inspiration”.

Breaking the record “would obviously be an amazing thing”, he said. “But it’s the journey to get there that is really exciting.”

And he said that he hoped the team’s work would inspire others to advance new technologies, especially in becoming carbon neutral.

“So if we can help to inspire engineers to do that, then we’re doing our part,” added Warhurst who hoped the tests in South Africa would help attract other investors.

This desert tryout, which took place between late October and mid-November, has seen the Bloodhound’s speedometer needle creep up to 1,010 kph.

The car is now headed back to its home base in Britain for more tweaking and the new rocket engine, before its expected return to the Kalahari by mid-2021 for another attempt.

Green is already excited at the thought, I’m very confident there is nothing on the planet with the capability that Bloodhound car has. I’m confident we are going to break the record.”

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Verstappen: This year I was a lot calmer in front of cameras

Verstappen: This year I was a lot calmer in front of cameras

Max Verstappen revealed that he was publically more relaxed throughout the 2019 Formula 1 season, managing his anger and when to release with his anger has been crucial for the fiery 22-year-old.

Although he was chided for some media comments this year, including accusing Ferrari of “cheating”, most agree that the Red Bull driver appeared to have matured this year, perhaps even found a garden of inner peace within himself.

The Dutchman, who is known for the occasional tantrum, told Ziggo Sport, “This year I was a lot calmer in front of cameras. More Zen. Generally, that works better. I never throw things anyway as my father has never allowed it, but sometimes you cannot help being angry.

“That’s just being human but, if I am angry, I have learned to wait before I go in front of the cameras. When I was very angry, sometimes I skipped the media altogether. That was a problem, but I don’t do that anymore,” he explained.

That said, Verstappen thinks he is particularly good at handling the pressure of being one of the top drivers in Formula 1, “I don’t necessarily experience that, no. Maybe that will come when we start the season with a good car.

“We know that we want to win as a team, but for now we are trying to get into that position. We got close to it at the end of the season,” he added as part of his ongoing encouragement for Red Bull and Honda to provide him with a title-winning car at which time he will be happy to have his newfound ‘Zen’ to tap into.

Notably, Verstappen’s teammate is the remarkably calm and comparatively understated Alex Albon, a practising Buddhist, who might be able to teach the Dutchman a thing or two about ‘Zen’.

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Binotto: To unsettle your rival is part of the F1 game

Binotto: To unsettle your rival is part of the F1 game

Team principal Mattia Binotto is convinced Ferrari’s rivals complained about the legality of the Italian team’s 2019 Formula 1 power unit as an old tactic to put his team under pressure this season.

Some rival teams claimed the Maranello-made power unit suddenly became 50 horsepower better in 2019, prompting a late-season round of scrutiny by the FIA that is ongoing.

“The truth is far from that number,” team boss Binotto told Auto Motor und Sport. “We assume a maximum of 20hp, which is still respectable and a big advantage that we are proud of.”

In contrast, Binotto explained that the Mercedes’ advantage in 2014 was more like 80hp and up.

He also doesn’t believe Ferrari’s rivals actually doubt the legality of the engine, “They’re probably using it to put pressure on us because pressure distracts. In Formula 1 to unsettle your rival is part of the game.”

However, those same rivals also point out that Ferrari’s straight-line speed suddenly vanished when the FIA started issuing technical directives on the matter.

“That’s right, but they’re drawing the wrong conclusions,” Binotto insisted. “We did not change the operating conditions of the engines. To generate more downforce, we increased the drag, making us a bit faster in the corners and slower on the straights.”

He also expects the FIA to continue to clamp down on interpretations of the engine rules, “We are satisfied with that because it gives more clarity in a very complex set of rules.

“Will they be completely clear? Probably not. I am sure there are a few more directives to come, but as a team, we support the FIA in eliminating ambiguity in the rules,” added the Italian.

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Binotto: 2021 Formula 1 rules do not convince us 100%

Binotto: 2021 Formula 1 rules do not convince us 100%

Ferrari are still not happy with the 2021 Formula 1 World Championship regulations that will replace the current set that rule the sport at the highest level.

That is despite the fact that the Maranello team, as the only F1 outfit on the World Motor Sport Council, actually voted for them.

“We voted for it, although the rules package still does not convince us one hundred percent,” said team boss Mattia Binotto.

“One vote would not have mattered anyway, so it wouldn’t have made sense to object,” he told Auto Motor und Sport. “We’ve said that the correct approach is to get things going, as there was no unanimous vote by the teams to vote against the rules.”

So with no team yet to sign up to a 2021 Concorde Agreement, Binotto says now is the right time to propose various amendments to the agreed rules.

“In our opinion, there should still be some changes,” said Binotto. “We have succeeded with a few things – the transmission and braking system are no longer standard, and the aerodynamic rules now offer a little more freedom.

“The last package that was voted on was certainly better than the first one,” he added.

One of Ferrari’s initial objections was the budget cap, and Binotto still contends that the measure will affect the Italian team more than others.

“The financial regulations are very complex and we are in the process of testing them and finding out how we proceed,” he said. “If we have to reduce our people, it will be much more difficult for us in Italy than in other countries. We cannot just send people home.

“Our employees will probably switch to the GT department or the streetcars, but we hired a group specifically for this task. The next month will be crucial,” Binotto predicted.

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Sochi confident Russia sports ban won’t affect Grand Prix

Sochi confident Russia sports ban won’t affect Grand Prix

Formula 1 has vowed to closely monitor Russia’s new four-year ban from all sporting events as, at present, it is not clear if the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) ban includes the annual Russian Grand Prix or Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat.

But Sochi promoters Rosgonki say the Formula 1 race will not be affected, “The contract was signed in 2010, long before the events investigated by WADA, and runs until 2025.”

And the Russian Automobile Federation said it has always fulfilled WADA requirements “impeccably” in order to ensure “pure and doping-free sport”.

“The FIA is not an organiser of major sporting events as defined by the world anti-doping code,” the Russian federation said, adding that relocating the Russian Grand Prix is also “not legally or practically possible”.

The statement also said WADA will allow Russian drivers “not involved in anti-doping code violations” to continue to race.

Finally, Formula 1 told Russia’s Championat: “Given RUSADA’s (Russian Anti-Doping Agency’s) right to challenge the decision, Formula 1, in collaboration with the FIA, will closely monitor developments.”

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Provera: Hamilton to Ferrari would not change much

Provera: Hamilton to Ferrari would not change much

Lewis Hamilton joining Ferrari would not much change the Formula 1 fortunes of the Italian team, according to Pirelli CEO Marco Tronchetti Provera in the wake of reports suggesting Mercedes’ six-time World Champion may be flirting with a move to Maranello for 2021.

“Wherever he goes he would be good as he’s a great driver,” Tronchetti Provera told Italian radio Rai. “But we must not forget that Vettel and Leclerc are two great drivers. So it would be a change that would not change much because Ferrari has shown in many races that it has very strong drivers.”

Tronchetti Provera also confirmed that the F1 teams could reject Pirelli’s proposed 2020 tyres, “In the coming days they will tell us if they want to use new compounds or they want to keep the same tyres as 2019 to avoid the aerodynamic changes,” he said.

Finally, Tronchetti Provera urged Hamilton and Valentino Rossi to be careful as they swap their Mercedes and MotoGP machines at Valencia.

“We hope not to see extreme scenes,” he said. “They are two phenomena, two greats, but I hope they do not push too much. If the spirit they use today is the same as usual, there is a risk of seeing extreme scenes.”

Big Question: Would Lewis make a difference at Ferrari?

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Stella: Working at Ferrari is not just a job

Stella: Working at Ferrari is not just a job

Former Ferrari engineers, Andrea Stella and Aldo Costa have shed light on the differences of working at Maranello and any other Formula 1 team in the pitlane, both agreeing that the Italian team now have everything at their disposal to win world titles again.

Now at McLaren as Performance Director, Alonso’s former race engineer Stella says Ferrari lacks no resources compared to the other top teams in F1, “Same equipment, capable and prepared people, so it is not a problem of availability of materials or knowledge. There is everything at Ferrari that they have in England.

“The difference is that in England, F1 is just a job. Your waiter maybe knows you work in F1 but it doesn’t matter that much but, working at Ferrari is not just a job. You leave the office, go to the bar and the bartender asks you when Ferrari will win. You go to a restaurant and they ask if you will win the next race.

“You open the paper in the morning and there is always an article about Ferrari. But in how the teams work, I don’t see any difference. At Ferrari, they have the same methods and approach as the English teams.

“Nothing is missing, especially the experience and skill of someone like Binotto. So it only takes time to get back to winning but, in Maranello, it is the only thing missing so we were always in trouble,” explained Stella who spent 14-years at Ferrari before accompanying Fernando Alonso to McLaren at the end of 2014.

Echoing Stella’s opinion is his former Ferrari colleague Aldo Costa, the engineering boss at Mercedes who was the technical director at Ferrari when Kimi Raikkonen won that last Ferrari drivers’ title in 2007 and their 2008 constructors’ title.

Recalling when he moved to Mercedes in 2012, Costa told Automoto he found a team with a “very pragmatic and flexible way of working devoid of politics and drama. At Mercedes, the staff is put in the best condition to express themselves to the full.”

Costa suggested the same cannot be said of conditions at Maranello, “At Ferrari, you are under constant observation, every moment of the day. There is also pressure from media, from fans, from shareholders, from the barista when he serves you a coffee in the morning!”

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Brown: Seidl took the politics out of McLaren

Brown: Seidl took the politics out of McLaren

McLaren CEO Zak Brown credits new team principal Andreas Seidl for taking “the politics” out of the Woking during his first year in charge of the Formula 1 operation.

In an interview with AS, Brown recalled that when he arrived at McLaren in the wake of the Ron Dennis era, “There were many chefs in the kitchen. Many things were happening in the company and among the shareholders.

“There was a lack of clarity in leadership, but now it all has been put on one person and Andreas has done an excellent job,” insisted the American.

Indeed, from the misery of the Honda era, McLaren bounced back this year, beating Renault to fourth in the F1 constructors’ World Championship.

Brown highlighted Seidl’s achievements, “Obviously he didn’t build the car, because that was done last year. But he has brought clarity and leadership to the organisation with a simpler structure involving James Key and Andrea Stella and a clear mandate for what each person should do.

“He took the politics out of the team because when a leadership position is missing things can become political. With that, better developments have come to the race car and many other things started to come together which is essential for any business. We needed to reverse our bad streak from the past,” explained Brown.

However, the former marketing man acknowledged that McLaren’s next step – catching up to the top three teams – will be even more difficult, “One of the things we have done recently is to recalibrate our expectations.

“We thought that as soon as we changed our power unit we would be back at the front, and clearly we weren’t. But the first thing we had to do was make sure that we are not going backwards.

“We also know that the budget cap will have an impact and will play a role in this process. There is still time for us to get where we want to be,” he added.

Meanwhile, McLaren has teamed up to take on the top level of cycling including the Tour de France.

Already entering a team in Indycar next year, the Woking based outfit has now agreed a 50-50 joint venture with Bahrain to launch the UCI cycling team Team Bahrain McLaren.

The team – to wear orange jerseys in 2020 featuring the names of F1 team sponsors Richard Mille and CNBC, and with top British rider Mark Cavendish in the saddle – was formerly known as Bahrain Merida.

“McLaren’s racing pedigree is founded on decades of performance in the most technologically advanced sport in the world. We now look forward to applying this knowledge to elite cycling,” said new joint managing director John Allert.

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Nissany set for Williams role in 2020

Nissany set for Williams role in 2020

Relatively unknown race driver Roy Nissany looks set to sign up as a Williams test driver for the 2020 Formula 1 season.

At the post-grand prix Abu Dhabi test, the 25-year-old Israeli, who reportedly sat out the 2019 racing season with an injury, tested the struggling British team’s woeful FW42.

Well funded Nissany was several seconds off the pace of the regular Williams racers, but it appears as though he will nonetheless be unveiled in mid-January as a test driver for 2020.

Select media have been invited to attend a press conference in Nissany’s native Tel Aviv on January 14.

Nissany was not specifically mentioned, but Williams said a “special announcement” will be made on that date.

Williams’ third driver role is currently vacant, as Nicholas Latifi steps up to replace Robert Kubica in 2020.

Nissany’s then 42-year-old father Chanoch Nissany, a successful Israeli businessman, did a Friday practice session for Minardi back in 2005, and was 13 seconds off the pace in Hungary before spinning.

Roy Nissany’s finished the 2018 Formula 2 championship 22nd overall.

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Maitland’s Undercut: In a few years a sim-racer will win a Grand Prix

Maitland’s Undercut: In a few years a sim-racer will win a Grand Prix

I’m going to go out on a bit of a limb here, but I’m also extremely confident about this prediction: Within just a few years, a gamer will win a Grand Prix.

I know this is a Formula 1 column (and it really is), but have you ever heard of the simulation hypothesis? Without getting too philosophical on you, it’s the idea that we are all in fact *already* living in a simulated reality. I’m not talking about your PS4 or your whiz-bang sim setup – I mean you, right here, reading this article. It’s not real. You’re in a simulation.

Take it step by step with me:

  • Computer power will continue to improve, right?
  • ‘As good as real’ (or better than real) simulations will inevitably become possible
  • Based on the law of probability, we are therefore already more likely to be living in one of the potential trillions of ‘good as real’ simulations than in the real world.

Did you follow that, Mr Petrolhead? That’s right: we’re not on Planet Earth. We’re running on a hard-drive of the future.

But don’t worry about all that, because here’s the real point – anyone who has bought an Xbox One off the shelf and paired it with a seat and racing wheel and pedals will know that simulations are already getting tantalisingly close to the real thing.

And if you doubt that, you simply haven’t tried it.

Yes, yes, what the teams have in their factories may be five or six steps ahead of what we have at home in 2019. Undoubtedly. But it doesn’t take too much extrapolating to conclude that, without a shadow of a doubt, we will soon *all* be amateur F1 sim drivers if we want to be.

And some of us will be so darn good at it that we may become the actual Formula 1 world champions.

We’re already seeing the crossover between the real and the virtual racing worlds start to happen, as the F1 teams field official teams in the hyper-competitive F1 Esports Series.

No idea what I’m talking about? Google or Youtube it, and you’ll discover an entirely new sport – and don’t be surprised if the Lewis Hamilton of the sim world is a spotty, podgy, vitamin C-deficient 15-year-old.

But I exaggerate, because Renault’s official driver Jarno Opmeer, for one, is actually an real-world racing driver with a Wikipedia page who is in great shape – and his next assignment is slated to be a test in the French works team’s real F1 sim. “You don’t feel the G-force of course,” said Max Verstappen’s 19-year-old countryman, “but it’s so competitive that if you make the slightest mistake, you’ll fall a long way down the grid.”

Like a growing number of top F1 Esports drivers, Opmeer is a former karting champion and Renault Sport Academy member who saw the simulated world as a cheaper and more accessible way to make a living as a professional racing driver. And the real-life F1 team is now starting to take him and his peers very seriously.

Why? Because, exactly like real racing drivers, they’re *damn* good – and there are no testing limits in the 240 volt, Cheetos-powered virtual world.

“We think we’ll be able to get a lot of information and feedback from him for the real development of the car,” said Renault’s director of partnerships Antoine Magnan. Racing IT director Ben Hampshire added: “When you collect the video game data, it’s valid because the circuits match the true Formula 1 exactly.”

So let’s get back to my earlier prediction about sim drivers eventually winning in Formula 1, and take it a step further.

New prediction: Sim racing will eventually become the *actual* Formula 1.

Or, in other words, Esports will become so much better and more sensible than the real thing that it won’t make sense to fly all those fuel-guzzling, environmentalist-infuriating jets all around the world when the *best* version will simply be streamed on Twitch.

The purist, of course, will be recoiling in horror at this point. The flying bits of carbon fibre won’t be real! The wheel-to-wheel action will be bits and bytes and 1s and 0s! Pull the plug! Pull the plug!!

Indeed: At a real-world max speed of zero kilometres per hour, it’s easy to dismiss the talents of these pimply boy sim racers. But hold on for just one moment – they’re still human beings. They still manage to clock laptimes that you and I can’t even imagine in our wildest dreams.

And although the only real safety risk is high cholesterol or a spilled glass of Coke on the keyboard, it’s not fair to say that *just* because they’re stationary and safe can’t mean they’re not the sports stars of the future.

An F1 driver of today is infinitely safer than a Francois Cevert or an Ayrton Senna. Serena Williams is very unlikely to crash and die while she’s playing tennis. But we still watch. And if Esports was the top category of racing, we’d watch that too.

More upsides: the budget caps will be easy to stick to and police! Formula 1 will be infinitely ‘greener’ than Formula E! No more lack of overtaking that can’t be fixed with a few clicks of a computer programmer’s mouse!

There’s obviously *so* much to debate, contemplate and potentially despair about when considering that this could, just *could* be the future of an expensive, fuel-guzzling and eminently inaccessible sport like Formula 1.

But the point of the article is not to argue for one side against the other, but to reveal the obvious conclusion that sim racing might not just rival Formula 1 one day. It might actually *be* Formula 1 one day. One day soon.

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W Series welcome RoKit onboard as future looks good

W Series welcome RoKit onboard as future looks good

The all-female W-Series, which announced its first major sponsor at the weekend, is talking to several global brands amid increased interest in women’s sport at boardroom level, according to chief executive Catherine Bond Muir.

The fledgling series has teamed up with Williams Formula 1 title sponsors ROKiT, who also back the Monaco-based Venturi Formula E team.

A source indicated the deal was worth 10 million pounds ($12.83 million) over three years.

Both Williams and Venturi are run by women, Claire Williams and Susie Wolff, while inaugural W Series champion Jamie Chadwick is a Williams development driver.

“Three years ago nearly 98 percent of global sponsorship was going into male sport. And we all know that the world has changed fundamentally in the last two years,” Bond Muir told Reuters.

“A lot of boards are saying you cannot put our sponsorship into male-only sports any more.”

Bond Muir, who has said her series should break even in year three with sponsorship key to initial revenue generation, pointed also to the Olympic movement’s promise of gender equality across all sports at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

The W Series aims to help female racers climb the male-dominated motorsport ladder towards Formula One, which last saw a woman start a race in 1976, and has plans to expand beyond Europe.

“I think in the next few years we will grow into a global sport business,” said Bond Muir. “Where we’ve been lucky is we launched in a year where female sport exploded and there is increased interest in us for next year.

“We are having some fantastically interesting conversations at the moment, with proper global brands who understand what our journey is and hopefully they will come on board with us for that journey,” she added.

British entrepreneur Jonathan Kendrick, co-founder of the ROK group that includes telecoms company ROKiT, said the W Series sponsorship made business sense and had grown from the involvement with Williams.

“Originally this wasn’t a conscious decision to target female-centric teams,” he said in an emailed response to Reuters.

“As we… got to know Claire (Williams), we met other talented and dedicated women in the sport. I believe if more women were supported, in a sport where women have historically been marginalized, motorsports could open up to an even wider audience.”

Bond Muir also expressed admiration for Alejandro Agag, founder of the all-electric Formula E, and suggested her series could eventually follow his lead.

“Our progression of engine is going to be an interesting story. Are we going to have a more powerful engine in the future or do we stay at this level? I think there are lots of areas and places we could move to,” she said.

“Looking long term into the future, I wouldn’t want to be using a petrol engine. That’s not the way the world is going. Certainly we have to think about hybridisation or electric. Of course we do.”

Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Christian Radnedge

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Hamilton: I want to be part of a system to help heal the world

Hamilton: I want to be part of a system to help heal the world

Six-time Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton has admitted he gained weight this year as he opened up about his vegan journey and aired his concerns about the planet in an in-depth interview on the subject with Options website.

Hamilton said, “I grew up like everyone else thinking dairy and meat was good for you. I thought I was living healthily and was doing right.

“Then I met a few new people who were vegans, and they started showing me some of the things happening in our world that I was completely oblivious to. It freaked me out. I started to read about it and realised that what I was taught to believe was healthy, was not.

“So, I decided to try and gradually move in that direction, slowly getting rid of red meat, then chicken, then fish until I was ready to fully commit. I wanted to feel for myself how big of a difference it would make.”

“I cannot put into words how much better I feel. I used to eat all that stuff and enjoy it like most people do, but I would wake up feeling groggy, have mood swings and my energy level would go up and down through the day. I always had stomach problems and a swollen belly and I thought it was normal.”

As for advice for vegan wannabes, “It is like going to the gym. When you have a friend, you can experience new exercises together. Ask your friend if they want to try out a new vegan restaurant with you or eliminate certain foods for a period of time and see if you notice a difference in the appearance of your skin and how you are feeling.”

This year Hamilton partnered with UNICEF Ambassador Tommaso Chiabra to launch Neat Burgers, a vegan fast food concept venue in London.

The Briton explained, “I used to love burgers. A friend of mine, who is also vegan, took me to a restaurant in Hong Kong and I had this burger that tasted incredible.

“Then I met up with another friend and talked about bringing it to the UK and building this up to make something transcending because people do still like fast food. At least now they know that there are other options.”

When Neat Burgers was presented to him the Mercedes driver saw a unique opportunity, “When I heard about it, I said I would love to be a part of it. I am a massive fan of Arnold [Schwarzenegger] and I watched his training programmes. His career has been incredible and it was really awesome to see his perception and viewpoint shift with the times.”

At the same time, Hamilton has concerns, “We are in a really bad time in society and have this massive crisis of climate change. It kills me to see the stuff that is happening and I just do not understand how people can turn a blind eye.

“People do not always like the stuff I post, but it is fine. Even if they unfollow me, I want them to see it. A lot of this is not part of the news. There are corporations and businesses that are just money-hungry. I am trying to push for sustainability with my team. I am trying to get more involved in Formula 1 and be more conscious.

“Mercedes-Benz is a huge organisation and I [had] a phone call with the CEO to discuss how we can work on getting rid of all the leather supplied to the cars. That is something I want to be involved in. I want to be part of a system that is going to help heal the world and do something positive for the future,” declared Hamilton.

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Verstappen: We have to be competitive from the start

Verstappen: We have to be competitive from the start

As has become a trend, Red Bull came strong towards the end of the season after a wobbly start to their 2019 Formula 1 World Championship campaign, something their ace driver does not want a repeat of as he targets the title with Honda power.

Three podiums in the first eight races was hardly the kind of start the Dutchman or his team wanted, but it has become a habit for the team to start poorly and evolve as seasons develop.

This year was the same thing with the first victory coming at the team’s home Austrian Grand Prix, but that was Round 9 of the 22 round F1 World Championship. Up to that point, Mercedes had won all eight races with Lewis Hamilton bagging six and Valtteri Bottas the other two – no contest.

Speaking during the FIA Prize Giving Gala in Paris, Verstappen said, “For me it had to be the best year. That’s just natural,  I think, just the experience you gain over the years it definitely helps you a lot.

“The package this year, in the beginning, was a bit of a struggle. We couldn’t really fight for victories. Podiums were also quite hard. So it was all about trying to be as consistent as we could be.

“We just hope that we can be more competitive next year. We know that we have to be competitive from the start and want to be able to fight for the title. We are putting all our efforts into that. It’s not going to be easy, but we’re going to go for it. We’re going to try everything we can.

“I have one more year under contract but, I think what’s more important is that we just see what happens at the beginning of the season and then from there onwards we’ll see what happens.”

Indeed 2020 will be a crucial season for Red Bull and Honda to pool their resources to keep their star driver happy, and that is to provide him with a race-winning and title-challenging can.

The big question is: Can they? “Well, that’s what I believe,” insisted the 22-year-old, “That’s why I’m with the team. I think, you know, they’ve shown in the past, they could do it. So it’s not something which is just wishful thinking.

“It’s not easy. You know that the competition is very strong. But like I said before, we’re going to try everything next year, because it’s going to be an important year, and then we’ll see what happens,” added Verstappen.

With much uncertainty surrounding the future of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, and particularly Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari, Team Verstappen have been actively lobbying the sport’s two biggest teams.

With Charles Leclerc set for life a long life at Ferrari, the pair in the same team would be utter chaos and potentially unmanageable.

While at Mercedes, Hamilton is entrenched there until he decides otherwise, and that otherwise is actually two highly unlikely scenarios, namely the world champ quits at the end of next season or he moves to Ferrari.

Nevertheless, when the already started 2020 Silly Season game of musical chairs plays out Verstappen is likely to be a key player, but if Honda rediscover the form of their heyday with McLaren, the Dutchman is unlikely to be looking around anymore.

On Friday night at the FIA Prize Giving gala in Paris, Verstappen received his prize for third place in the 2019 Formula 1 World Championship.

Max was also awarded the best overtaking move of the year, for his enthralling battle with Leclerc at Silverstone, which the Dutchman won.

Big Question: Will Red Bull and Honda provide Max with a championship-winning car in 2020?

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Alonso: Reputation is one thing and facts are different

Alonso: Reputation is one thing and facts are different

Fernando Alonso has often been described as his own worst enemy, a driver who packs a bag full of polemics, not a team player and as a result the implication is that he might have attained much greater success had he made the right choices.

But the Spaniard is adamant that this is a misconception when he told reporters at the FIA Prize Giving Gala in Paris, “Reputation is always one thing and the facts are different. When you see crashing teammates, and things like that, as we saw this year and you see every year between teammates.

“Then there are my images, where you’ll see the slipstream [I gave] at Monza and slipstream in Spa. I know these collaborations. So when we talk about reputation, it is better if we look at the facts.”

Alonso was in Paris to collect his trophy for becoming 2018/2019 World Endurance Champion (WE) with Toyota Gazoo teammates Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima.

The double F1 World Champion continued, “It wasn’t a problem to share with these two guys because obviously, they had the experience in endurance.

“They taught me a lot from the first day of testing. They knew about the car and you knew about the circuit, and they knew about their approach on long-distance races. I was the one always making the mistakes or making the questions.

“It’s not that I was happy jumping out of the car, because I always want to drive, but every time that I was jumping out of the car and they were going in, it was like less stress for me because I knew they were doing the right things. So it was a lot of trust between us.”

Alonso has prioritised the Indianapolis 500 for next season as he continues his quest for the Triple Crown of Motorsport but, before that, he will tackle the Dakar Rally at the turn of the new year.

He explained of his adventure in less than a month, “Do I go there to enjoy the experience? Yes. If I go there to make the most of it? Yes. But if I think of it in terms of winning Dakar, I don’t feel ready.

“I’m perfectly aware of both my lack of experience. I think you know, there are races that I attempted, like Indy, or Le Mans or Daytona, I felt quite competitive and that I could good fight for victory. In Dakar, I don’t think I’m at that level.

“But I will play a different strategy. I will not be the fastest but hopefully, I will be in a good position in the end,” ventured Alonso.

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Wolff: This trophy is the result of our passion and dedication

Wolff: This trophy is the result of our passion and dedication

For the sixth year in a row, Mercedes were the star attraction at the 2019 FIA Prize Giving Gala, as Toto Wolff was on hand to receive the Formula 1 constructors’ Championship trophy and his superstar driver collecting his for the drivers’ title.

Teammate Valtteri Bottas – who drove the mighty Mercedes W10 on stage at the Carrousel du Louvre – was on hand to collect his runner-up trophy, while the late great Niki Lauda was voted the Personality of the Year by accredited F1 media

Addressing the FIA champions and VIPs on the night, Wolff said “This season has been very challenging. We had to raise the bar once again and achieved some remarkable results. I’m incredibly proud and honoured to receive this trophy on behalf of everyone in Brackley, Brixworth and Stuttgart.

“Everyone within this team knows how much hard work, dedication and skill it takes to perform all year long at this level. This trophy is the result of that passion and dedication.

“Congratulations to all those who received awards at this year’s FIA Prize Giving Gala. This event is a great way to bring the motorsport family together, celebrating everyone’s achievements,” concluded Wolff.

The World Champion team wrote in a press release: “It was a special season for Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport as the team wrote Formula One history by winning a sixth consecutive Championship double – something no other team has done before in the 70-year-long history of the sport. In 2019, the team scored 15 victories, 10 pole positions and 739 points.

“Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport lead 696 of the 1,262 race laps that made up the 2019 F1 season. Including every pre-season test, in-season test and all 21 race weekends, the team’s two cars racked up 7,813 laps of running – completing 382,789 gear changes and taking 128,791 corners in the process.

“Mercedes-Benz Power Units completed 21,083 laps. Combined, the six Mercedes-Benz-powered cars scored 813 points, 15 wins, 32 podiums, 10 pole positions and 22 front-row starts.”

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Kubica: Williams thought it could not get any worse

Kubica: Williams thought it could not get any worse

Racing Point has admitted its interest in signing Robert Kubica for the 2020 Formula 1 World Championship in the wake of the Pole’s miserable comeback season.

Earlier, it was believed that the former Williams driver would take his sponsor PKN Orlen to a development and reserve role at Haas.

But now Racing Point boss Otmar Szafnauer has admitted he also wants Kubica, who turned 35 on Saturday and will test a DTM car this week, “We would like Robert to join our team. He can certainly help us.”

Both Haas and Racing Point say Kubica’s role would involve simulator driving as well as the odd actual test in a 2020 car.

Kubica is hoping to combine a F1 role with his desire to race in the German touring car series DTM, but he said, “In the last ten years, I have learned that you cannot try to control everything.

“In 2011 I had a three year Formula 1 contract in my pocket, and suddenly I woke up in a hospital with a damaged body. But I definitely want to race next year.

“It would be a waste to have invested everything I have and to not be in a racing car next year.”

At the very least, Kubica might be forgiven for thinking that after his F1 comeback with Williams, 2020 will at least be an easier year.

“Last year, Williams thought it could not get any worse for them either,” he told Auto Motor und Sport.

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Hanoi: We are 80 percent ready

Hanoi: We are 80 percent ready

Vietnam Grand Prix organisers say they will be ready for the inaugural Formula 1 race in Hanoi in April.

Although Hermann Tilke’s organisation is currently still working on the circuit, Vietnam Grand Prix CEO Le Ngoc Chi told Auto Hebdo: “We are 80 percent ready.”

She said work is currently taking place on the grandstands, the interior of the pit buildings, and the track surface. The race is scheduled to be Round 3 on the 2020 F1 calendar, on 3 to 5 April 2020.

Le Ngoc Chi revealed in the interview, “We expect everything to be completed by the end of the year. I feel nervous when I realise there are only 120 days left,

“I watch a countdown in my office like an advent calendar. But the FIA has confirmed the date on the calendar and our team is working tirelessly.”

F1 circuit architect Tilke admits that time is tight before April, but he insists: “It is not the first time we’ve done this. In Bahrain, we only had 14 months for a full circuit.”

However, he denies that the fact Hanoi is a street track makes it easier. “You would think so, but it’s not true. The public roads must all be completely re-asphalted because they were not designed for Formula 1.”

He also tips the F1 world to enjoy Vietnam, which is the first all-new race added to the calendar by Liberty Media, “It’s a cool city. One part is very exotic, another is very modern. Hanoi is definitely worth a visit.”

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Did Ricciardo make Renault a better team?

Did Ricciardo make Renault a better team?

A respected Formula 1 commentator posed a tricky question when he suggested that Daniel Ricciardo’s arrival at Renault did not improve the team.

After a disappointing first season for the French team’s high-profile signing, The French outfit has now ousted its long-time chassis technical boss Nick Chester.

“The progress we have made on the engine is clear,” boss Cyril Abiteboul is quoted by Speed Week. “But the car’s flaws are still there.”

Ricciardo, who made a questionable switch from proven winners Red Bull on a big-money deal at the end of 2018, admits that 2019 wasn’t good enough with the perennial midfielders Renault have been since they returned to the top flight as a works operation.

Ricciardo told Auto Motor und Sport, “It was important that we at least defended fifth place. Losing that would have been a slap in the face financially and for everybody’s motivation. I have to make sure that the boys stay motivated over the winter.”

Sporting boss Alan Permane says the goal for 2020 is fourth place, “McLaren gave up early in 2018 to be better positioned in 2019, and it worked out for them but they couldn’t do that this year. Fourth place must be our goal.”

At the same time, Renault sees the 2021 rules as a great opportunity to catch the top teams. “The development (for 2021) is mainly on the simulator at the moment,” Chester confirms.

As for Ricciardo, Dutch F1 commentator Olav Mol told Formule1 that he is not convinced so far, “Being the clown of the paddock is not enough.

“In Brazil he came from the back to the front, but other than that I didn’t see enough ‘real Ricciardo’ moments. I did not see him make Renault better. In my view he should be less cheerful and instead hit the table with his fists more often,” added Mol.

Big Question: Did Daniel make Renault a better team?

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Webber: Valtteri is missing that extra bit of hunger

Webber: Valtteri is missing that extra bit of hunger

Valtteri Bottas may be lacking the “hunger” to beat Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes according to Mark Webber, who told Channel 4 that 2019 was a challenging year for the Finn.

Bottas finished runner-up to teammate Hamilton in 2019, but despite his new beard and early strength which signalled a rejuvenated Bottas 2.0, he was ultimately a massive 87 points behind the Champion at the end of the 21-round season.

“Lewis put the masterclass on everyone. In terms of wheel-to-wheel, that hunger, that fight, going down swinging, often Valtteri is missing that extra bit,” explained Webber who spent four years at Red Bull as number two to Sebastian Vettel.

David Coulthard sees it the same way, “Bottas has to start by beating Lewis on Saturdays, which he did well, but beyond that, he also has to stay ahead and keep him behind. That’s where Lewis is one of the best drivers, when things get close he has the edge. ”

As for what Bottas has to do to beat the man he shares a garage with, Coulthard had no real answer, “It’s hard to imagine what else he should be doing because, in the end, everything is about lap times and what happens on the track. The rest is of little importance.”

But another former driver, Paul di Resta, thinks Bottas does have a chance, “He’s not as consistent as Lewis, but he was a new person this year.

“You can tell from the way he fought in the first laps that he was more aggressive, so if he manages to take another step, I think he can beat Lewis,” added Di Resta.

Meanwhile, Bottas began his ”vacation’ winning an asphalt rally at Paul Ricard.

Afterwards, he told reporters he is not ruling out a future off-road venture at some point, “You never know. Right now I enjoy it and it’s good for my driving skills, but I definitely see myself in Formula 1 for a while. I still have a lot to give and many goals to achieve.”

Big Question: Does Valtteri have it in him to beat Lewis as Nico did in 2016?

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Vettel, Verstappen and Hamilton key to 2021 Silly Season

Vettel, Verstappen and Hamilton key to 2021 Silly Season

With his contract up for renewal at the end of next season, Red Bull star driver Max Verstappen revealed that there may be opportunities for a move to another team for 2021 as the futures of both Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel are uncertain beyond the end of next year.

At the FIA prize-giving gala, the futures of the Dutch driver as well as Hamilton and Mercedes boss Toto Wolff continued to be hot topics.

“Of course we want to know what each other’s plans are,” Wolff said, referring to Hamilton and speculation that the Briton might switch to Ferrari, “I see no problem that we do not close doors so soon. Whether we know in April, June or October about who is with us in 2021 does not matter to me.”

Hamilton suggested to reporters at the Paris event that Verstappen, who currently drives for Red Bull-Honda, has been calling Wolff about 2021, “It’s understandable because everyone wants to win and be part of a successful project.

“What we’ve built up over these years is very strong and other teams just don’t have that yet. It takes time to build it,” added the six-time F1 World Champion.

But Verstappen played down the latest Mercedes talk, “I know there will be opportunities next year, but to be honest I haven’t thought much about it. I think it’s more important that we wait and see what happens at the start of the new year.”

Ultimately, Hamilton will make the key decision about 2021, and Fernando Alonso said at the FIA gala: “I don’t know what I would do in Lewis’ situation. I would imagine that loyalty will play a major role, but no one knows how it will go for Mercedes in 2021 and beyond.”

As for Wolff, he has been linked not only with Chase Carey’s top job at Liberty Media, but also with a sensational switch to Ferrari, “I don’t want to take a decision that involves everyone’s future lightly. It will take some time, but I don’t think there will be surprises.”

While Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto insists Sebastian Vettel is with the team for the long run, the arrival of Charles Leclerc as the team’s sure bet for the future has unsettled the four-time F1 World Champion.

What the German decides to do at the end of next season remains to be seen, with speculation ranging from him quitting the sport to a return to Red Bull, plus everything in between.

Big Question: Who will end up where in 2021?

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Berger: Next year Sebastian has to go on a proper attack

Berger: Next year Sebastian has to go on a proper attack

Gerhard Berger has urged Sebastian Vettel to go on the attack next year while backing Ferrari’s explosive driver lineup that has been one of the most entertaining sideshows and talking points of a 2019 Formula 1 World Championship season, which long ago wrapped up.

Charles Leclerc has stirred the pot in his first season with the Scuderia, some believing that the youngster threw quadruple F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel’s entire F1 career into doubt with his performance and attitude in 2019.

The pair also clashed in Brazil, and Berger – once the great Ayrton Senna’s teammate – says it is clear that Leclerc is the next generation for Ferrari and believes the two “alpha” drivers can co-exist at Maranello.

“The advantage is that as a team, you fully squeeze the lemon with your technology in that situation,” Berger told Servus TV. “The disadvantage is that someone has to manage it. But looking back, that’s what the successful teams have always done.

“Frank Williams always had the two fastest cars he could get, and even Enzo Ferrari was careful to put pressure on the number one and be open to making him the number two.”

“For Ferrari, Leclerc is the youth, the next generation. Vettel must defend against this. He clearly recognizes that with Leclerc he has to pull out all the stops to beat him. He will also have to put into practice what four F1 world titles taught him, which will surely be to be even tougher next season.

“Leclerc is fast and fresh, he has also won over the hearts of the Italians. Next year Sebastian has to go on a proper attack,” added Berger who was Toro Rosso team manager when Vettel won his first Grand Prix in 2008 at Monza.

Big Question: Will this end up in tears?

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Brawn Report: We are definitely moving in the right direction

Brawn Report: We are definitely moving in the right direction

Ross Brawn, Managing Director, Motorsport at F1, looks back on a festive Formula 1 season finale in Abu Dhabi where Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton signed off his sixth title-winning season by winning in style under the floodlights of the ultra-posh Yas Marina Circuit.

From the perspective of his vantage point at the top of the sport, this is what Brawn had to say after the Grand Prix weekend:

“The season finale at Yas Marina was in many ways a race that encapsulated a number of the positive aspects we’re seeing in F1 at the moment. We’ll discuss all of them in turn, but let’s start with [Abu Dhabi Grand Prix] winner, Lewis Hamilton.

“The final Grand Prix of the year brought back memories of the opening races of the season, with Lewis Hamilton in truly dominant form and Mercedes in a completely different league to the rest of the field. Proof of that comes from the fact that Lewis notched up his sixth ‘Grand Slam’ of pole, win, fastest lap, leading from starting to finish. The 2019 version of Lewis has been really impressive: 11 wins, 17 podium finishes from 21 races and always finishing in the points.

“Perhaps the most unusual statistic is that he only took pole five times, with Charles Leclerc doing two better on seven. Prior to Abu Dhabi, the last time Hamilton topped the timesheet in qualifying was in Germany back in July, which is all the more strange as he holds the record for pole positions on 88.

“Indeed, the race seemed like a formality. The icing on the cake came in the shape of the fastest race lap, set two laps from the flag. The time set a new track record and even more remarkably it was achieved on tyres that were 27 laps old. It’s impossible to ask for more from this great champion.

“Could one ask for more from Max Verstappen? That would be hard, because, in his fifth year in Formula 1 he finished the championship in the top three for the first time and enjoyed an excellent season overall.

“Max scored the first pole position of his career in Hungary (and then a second in Brazil) and took three wins during the season to take his career total to eight.

“Perhaps more significantly we saw fewer mistakes, which in the past have mainly been due to his impatient nature. Those episodes of hot-headedness have cost him dearly in previous seasons but this year rash moments were few and far between.

“The Red Bull youngster, who only turned 22 a couple of months ago, is now undoubtedly in the most clinical form of his career to date and is now ready to challenge Lewis Hamilton.

“Of course, he needs a car capable of doing that, which was not the case in the early part of this season. However, the Red Bull-Honda partnership took a number of steps forward during the season and is now beginning to produce results that suggest they will be fighting for the championships in 2020.

“One can certainly ask more of Ferrari whose season had many ups and downs. It all looked very promising in winter testing, but by the spring optimism had given way to disappointment and a summary of the first half of the Scuderia’s campaign was a tale of missed opportunities.

“After the summer break, however, the Scuderia found a new injection of pace and as well as six consecutive pole positions from Belgium to Mexico they also racked up three wins in a row from Belgium to Singapore, with Charles Leclerc’s victory in Monza being the obvious highlight.

“However, the final part of the campaign proved more difficult, as was the case this weekend in Abu Dhabi. In his first year as team principal, Mattia Binotto has undergone a baptism of fire in what is probably the most highly pressured role in Formula 1. I am sure, though, that he has all the qualities to kick-start another winning cycle.

“The most positive aspect of Ferrari’s performance this year was without a doubt Charles Leclerc, who in only in his second year in Formula 1 and his first with a top team, won twice, was on pole seven times and finished on the podium on 10 occasions.

“His talent is undeniable and he is destined for greatness over the next decade. Clearly, there is still room for improvement, which is only natural. It was clear that Charles has what it takes to put Sebastian Vettel, a four-time world champion, under pressure, which for Seb must be reminiscent of what happened five years ago at Red Bull when Daniel Ricciardo became his team-mate.

“Back then, Sebastian opted for a change of scene, by moving to Ferrari, but this time he’s staying put to battle it out with Leclerc. Next year it will be an interesting challenge for both drivers and Mattia will have to carefully manage his driver pairing to best suit the needs of the team.

“The biggest challenge, though, will be to provide the drivers with a car that’s competitive on all types of track. On top of that, they will have to try and avoid the reliability issues that occurred too frequently this year.

“Once again, the top three teams were dominant, but there was plenty of interest and excitement elsewhere. Carlos Sainz emerged with ‘best of the rest’ honours thanks to a thrilling final lap move past Nico Hulkenberg to take the point needed to move him clear of Pierre Gasly, while his McLaren team claimed the same prize in the Constructors’ battle.

“The Woking outfit has made good progress, with the highlight of an impressive season being Sainz’s third place in Brazil – McLaren’s first podium since 2014.

“Toro Rosso also did well and the Faenza squad finished sixth, equalling its best-ever finish in the Constructors’ standings, and claimed its first podium finishes in more than a decade.

“The most encouraging aspect of the midfield tussle comes from the performance of an exciting crop of young drivers. Apart from the aforementioned Verstappen and Leclerc, two rookies, Lando Norris and Alex Albon, really stood out, while the third, reigning F2 champion George Russell, couldn’t really show his talent given the performance level of his Williams.

“Their presence and that of other youngsters such as Antonio Giovinazzi and Lance Stroll can only be a good thing for Formula 1, especially as the previous generation, the one that followed on from the Schumacher era, is now inevitably coming to the end of its time in the sport.

“None of those ‘veterans’ wanted to talk about calling time of their F1 career but, in Abu Dhabi, it was time to say farewell, at least for now, to Robert Kubica and Nico Hulkenberg. In 2019 neither got results that matched their talent.

“Kubica could have certainly won more than he did in Formula 1, but for the terrible rallying accident in 2011. But he triumphed over adversity and this year’s point in Hockenheim symbolises what can be achieved with determination.

“Hulkenberg’s career path has been more straightforward, but despite nine seasons of racing in F1 the German driver was never afforded an opportunity to demonstrate what he is really capable of. I am sure Nico strongly feels it’s a case of unfinished business and that he is determined to find a way back to Formula 1 as soon as possible to show what he can really do.

“Interest in Formula 1 continued to grow in 2019. The TV viewing figures available so far are positive and once again this year, as in 2018, the attendance at race weekends exceeded four million. The growth is even more impressive on our digital platforms, while the festivals we organised in various cities around the world attracted a lot of interest.

“The fans are the biggest stakeholders in our sport and we need to hang on to the long-time enthusiasts – the deeply committed fans that relish the detail, follow aero evolution and pore over the strategic complexities of race weekends – but at the same time we need to attract new audiences. We started down this road three years ago and now we are beginning to see results.

“This year also saw the arrival of the framework for the new rules that will come into force in 2021. That was the result of a process that involved the FIA and the teams, with the one true aim of making this sport ever more enjoyable for the fans.

“We are particularly pleased with the largely positive response to the new rules, especially from the fans. In the race, no DRS was available for almost 20 laps because of a technical problem and that only served to emphasise the need for the cars to be able to fight at close quarters. In addition, the performance gap between the teams needs to be reduced, because looking at the race, once again only the top teams completed the full race distance, every other team was lapped.

“These goals are shared at every level by the stakeholders in the sport, especially the fans. An important step has been taken, but there is more to come and we are definitely moving in the right direction.”

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Hamilton and Rossi to swap ‘weapons’ at Valencia event

Hamilton and Rossi to swap ‘weapons’ at Valencia event

Six times Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton and MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi are preparing to swap rides in Spain on Monday, with the Briton “super excited” at the prospect.

Hamilton, who collected his F1 champion’s trophy at an FIA gala in Paris on Friday, will head to Valencia’s Ricardo Tormo circuit for the closed event organised by mutual sponsor Monster.

“I think me and @LewisHamilton will have some fun soon,” Rossi teased on his Instagram feed next to a picture of him sitting in a Mercedes F1 car.

The 40-year-old Italian, a nine-times world champion with seven of those coming in the top MotoGP class, will drive a 2017 Mercedes while Hamilton gets to ride Rossi’s Yamaha.

Rossi has driven a Formula One car before, several times with Ferrari between 2004 and 2010 when there was speculation he could follow in the tracks of the late Britons John Surtees and Mike Hailwood and switch from two wheels to four.

Four times 500cc world champion Surtees remains the only man to win the Formula 1 title (in 1964) as well as top motorcycling honours.

Hamilton is also a keen motorcycle rider, riding to some European tracks and testing a Yamaha superbike but never a MotoGP machine.

“I´m super excited about it,” the 34-year-old told reporters last month. “Just being on the same track at the same time as Valentino is going to be very, very surreal, and a real honour, because he´s such an icon in the sport, and he´s done so much. It´ll be cool to see him in my car as well.”

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Alonso: Winning Indy in 2020 is the main priority for me

Alonso: Winning Indy in 2020 is the main priority for me

Twice Formula 1 world champion and double Le Mans 24 Hours winner Fernando Alonso has played down his chances of winning the Dakar Rally when he makes his debut next month.

The Spaniard, emphasised that his main focus for 2020 will be a return to the Indianapolis 500 to try and complete the ‘Triple Crown of Motorsport’, said on Friday he still had much to learn about rallying.

“If I go there to enjoy the experience, yes,” he said when asked if he felt ready for one of the most gruelling races in motorsport, to be staged for the first time in Saudi Arabia.

“If I go there to make the most of it, yes,” added the 38-year-old, in Paris for the gala FIA prize-giving at the Louvre museum.

“If I think on Dakar in terms of winning Dakar, I don’t feel ready. I’m perfectly aware of my lack of experience. I think in other races that I attempt, in Indy or Le Mans or Daytona, I feel quite competitive in a level that I could fight for victory.

“In Dakar, I don’t think I am at that level and I need to be with feet on the ground. But I will play a different strategy. I will not be the fastest but hopefully I will be in a good position at the end.”

Alonso is entering the race, which has moved from South America, with Toyota. Former motorcycle winner and compatriot Marc Coma is his co-driver.

The Spaniard also won the Le Mans 24-Hours and the 2018/2019 edition of the World Endurance Championship (WEC) with the Japanese manufacturer.

He and Coma have been getting up to speed for the Dakar by taking part in rallies in Namibia, Poland, South Africa and Morocco.

Alonso failed to qualify in a McLaren, his last team in Formula 1, for this year’s Indy 500 after leading the race on his debut in 2017 with Andretti Autosport.

“The intention is to do the Indy 500 next year. That’s the one that I want to win now and the main priority for me,” he said.

“I will prepare the best I can for that race. This year (Indy) was the downside of the season,” he added of an otherwise triumphant year away from Formula 1, which he left at the end of 2018.

“I will need to look at the best possibilities, to be competitive. Last year (2019) it was sad not to be competitive enough or prepared enough.”

Alonso’s options for the Month of May at the Brickyard are with McLaren who have united with Schmidt Peterson to form Arrow McLaren SP powered by Chevrolet for the first time.

An unlikely alternative for the double-F1 World Champion being Andretti Autosport, however there are some major obstacles to such a reunion.

Autoweek reported last week, “Andretti already has a five-car lineup for the 500, with two previous winners in Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay, two rising stars in Zach Veach and Colton Herta, with the fifth car being for his son Marco, who has not won an IndyCar race since 2011.

“With Alonso aboard it might improve the team’s chances of winning again, but it might also overload the organization, and could even annoy the folks at Honda—which might not be the smartest thing to do,” concluded the report.

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2019 FIA motorsport champions honoured in Paris

2019 FIA motorsport champions honoured in Paris

While Lewis Hamilton took home the most prestigious trophy in motorsport after the FIA Awards evening, for winning his sixth Formula 1 World Championship title, there were numerous big names who also stepped up to receive Awards for their achievements in Paris on Friday.

The winners of the other categories, bar Formula 1, were awarded with new-for-2019 trophies, designed by renowned American painter, sculptor and printmaker Frank Stella.

In rallying, Ott Tänak and his co-driver Martin Järveoja have put Estonia on the map, ending French domination in the sport’s top category – the FIA World Rally Championship – that had lasted since 2003.

Tänak said: “When you’ve been targeting something like this for a long, long time, and then you actually achieve it, you feel a kind of relief. In the beginning, it was a dream, and for the last couple of years we’ve been close, but for different reasons, we’ve not managed to be the winners. Now that we’ve finally done it, it feels like I’ve lost a weight from my shoulders.

“It’s not been the easiest journey, I’ve been quite literally through the water and fire, but to achieve the title after all these battles, it tastes even better.” On the manufacturers’ side, Hyundai Motorsport finally clinched the crown, having finished second in the two previous seasons.

In what was the FIA World Endurance Championship’s first Super Season held across two calendar years, 2018 – 2019, Toyota won both the Driver and Team competitions. Endurance racing rookie Fernando Alonso teamed up with sports cars stalwarts Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima to win five out of eight races, including not one but two editions of the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“I remember every lap of this championship, which was strange as it lasted one year and a half!” said Alonso. “In 2018 I was combining two World Championships – F1 and Endurance – which was very intense, but I loved the experience. Every World Championship is unique, and it’s nice to sit here as World Champion again.

“My first Prize Giving was in 1996 when I came with an FIA Karting World Championship, and now 23 years later, I’m sitting here with the FIA World Endurance Championship. It’s been a long career but, as long as you love what you do and you are performing at your best level, it doesn’t matter which category you are here for.

“The spirit and atmosphere you find in endurance racing is quite special – the friendship you have with your team-mates in both cars – all this is unique and you can’t compare with the experiences I had before.”

The series’ LM GTE category also provided fans with a wealth of excitement during the Super Season, stemming from a healthy grid replete with dozens of entries. Winners of the LM GTE drivers’ championship were Kévin Estre and Michael Christensen of Porsche, who claimed their crown with victories at Le Mans and in Fuji.

New team and driver entrants, and the increasingly competitive field, made for a far from an easy ride in the 2018/19 ABB FIA Formula E season. That didn’t stop Jean-Eric Vergne from taking three race victories, winning the championship and becoming the first back-to-back title-winner in the history of the championship.

Together with teammate André Lotterer, Vergne helped the DS Techeetah outfit to clinch their maiden victory in the Teams’ Championship in a giant-killing fashion.

“I’m really pleased to have done it again,” said the Frenchman. “It wasn’t an easy season, but here we are – I would say, in a way this championship was harder than the first, because I think there were four races in a row where I didn’t score any points, with no-one around me believing that I could do it, and I even lost belief in myself.

“But that’s really what I’ve learned from this season is to never lose hope and to find the strength inside you to turn things around. Now that Formula E will become an FIA World Championship from season seven, I will have to come back to the prize giving then so I can be a World Champion!”

In what has been the closest season in the World Rallycross Championship’s history, the drivers’ title fight came down to a gripping finale after which Sweden’s Timmy Hansen was crowned World Champion.

“I had the perfect ending to an incredible season,” said Hansen. “The feeling of winning the title is actually quite different to what I’d dreamed of – I was extremely focused on my own job but looking at it now it was a crazy finale to the season and you couldn’t have written it better if it was a movie!

“I’m really proud of the top parts of my season, but I’m also really motivated to work on the parts where I can improve. I feel really blessed to have achieved this as a family – it’s as important as the title to me.”

The winning drivers, co-drivers and teams from the FIA Rally Championships were also awarded for their incredible achievements in some of the toughest and most varied conditions on tarmac, gravel or in the desert dunes across all the continents.

New to the family this year was the FIA Motorsport Games, an interdisciplinary event with a national focus in which drivers represent their countries, fighting for medals that contribute to overall medal standings determining the winning National Sporting Authority.

On this occasion, it was Russia, with a gold medal in the Touring Car Cup won by Klim Gavrilov, two bronzes in the Karting Slalom Cup won by Olesya Vashchuk and Vladislav Bushuev, and the Drifting Cup won by Ilia Federov.

Individual medals were also awarded at the event, with Hiroshi Hamaguchi and Ukyo Sasahara winning in the GT Cup, Andrea Rosso winning the Formula 4 Cup, and Nina Pothof and Bastiaan van Loenen taking top honours in the Karting Slalom Cup. Dmitry Illyuk was awarded the Drifting Cup gold. Finally, Cody Nikola Latkovski won gold in the Digital Cup.

The FIA’s stars of the future were also honoured in Paris, with champions from across the motor sport spectrum collecting their trophies.

Nyck de Vries was crowned FIA Formula 2 champion following a dominant campaign and takes his success into Formula E for the next racing season. In the new-look FIA Formula 3 Championship, Robert Shwartzman followed in the footsteps of his former and future teammate, Mick Schumacher, and emerged victorious.

FIA Karting World Champions Marijn Kremers, Lorenzo Travisanutto, and Thomas Ten Brinke were also awarded their trophies.

A number of special FIA awards were also handed out. First, the FIA Special Award was given to Violetta Bulc for her commitment to her role of European Commissioner for Transport, and her ongoing work to improve road safety and mobility for all users.

The Rookie of the Year prize, voted for by members of the FIA Drivers’ Commission, was won by F1 driver Alexander Albon, who started the season with Scuderia Toro Rosso before impressing on his promotion to Red Bull Racing. The Thai finished eighth in the drivers’ standings in his debut season, following an impressive performance at almost every race.

The Personality of the Year award, voted for by permanently accredited media from the FIA’s major championship, was awarded posthumously to Niki Lauda, the three-time F1 world champion and executive director of the Mercedes F1 team.

The Action of the Year prize, voted for by fans of motor sport via the FIA’s online channels, was presented to F1 start Max Verstappen, who was honoured for his spectacular battle with Charles Leclerc during the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. The pair raced wheel to wheel, with Leclerc edging Verstappen wide before the Dutch racer came back at him and overtook on the following corner.

The final applause of the year was, of course, fittingly reserved for F1 World Champion Hamilton, and with the curtain brought down on another sensational season, preparations are already well underway for what will surely be another great year for motorsport in 2020.

2019 FIA Prize Winners

FIA Formula 1 World Championship for Drivers 2019: Lewis Hamilton
FIA Formula 1 World Championship for Manufacturer 2019: Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport
FIA Formula 1 Rookie of the Year: Alex Albon (Red Bull)


FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers 2019: Ott Tänak
FIA World Rally Championship for Co-Drivers 2019: Martin Järveoja



LMP FIA World Endurance Drivers’ Champion 2019: Fernando Alonso & Sébastien Buemi & Kazuki Najakima
LMP1 FIA World Endurance Champion 2019: Toyota Gazoo Racing
LMGTE FIA World Endurance Drivers’ Champion 2019: Kevin Estre & Michael Christensen
LMGTE FIA World Endurance Manufacturers’ Champion 2019: Porsche



FIA World Rallycross Championship for Drivers 2019: Timmy Hansen
FIA World Rallycross Championship for Team 2019: Team HANSEN MJP



FIA Karting World Championship – OK for Drivers 2019: Lorenzo Travisanutto
FIA Karting World Championship – Junior for Drivers 2019: Thomas Ten Brinke
FIA Karting World Championship – KZ for Drivers 2019: Marijn Kremers


ABB FIA Formula E Championship for Drivers 2018 – 2019: Jean-Eric Vergne
ABB FIA Formula E Championship for Teams – 2019: DS Techeetah


FIA Formula 2 Championship for Drivers 2019: Nyck de Vries

FIA Formula 2 Championship for Teams 2019: To be announced



FIA Formula 3 Championship for Drivers 2019: Robert Shwartzman
FIA Formula 3 Championship for Teams 2019: PREMA Racing
Formula Regional European Championship Certified by FIA:
Formula Regional European Championship for Drivers 2019: Frederik Vesti
Formula 3 Asian Championship Certified by FIA:
Formula Regional Asian Championship for Drivers 2019: Ukyo Sasahara
Formula 3 American Championship Certified by FIA:
Formula Regional American Championship for Drivers 2019: Dakota Dickerson

National Formula 4 Championships:
Formula 4 Australian Championship for Drivers 2019: Luis Leeds
Formula 4 British Championship for Drivers 2019: Zane Maloney
Formula 4 Chinese Championship for Drivers 2019: Conrad Clark
Formula 4 French Championship for Drivers 2019: Hadrien David
Formula 4 German Championship for Drivers 2019: Théo Pourchaire
Formula 4 Italian Championship for Drivers 2019: Dennis Hauger
Formula 4 Japanese Championship for Drivers 2019: Ren Sato
Formula 4 NACAM Championship for Drivers 2019: Manuel Sulaiman
Formula 4 South East Asia Championship for Drivers 2019: To be announced
Formula 4 Spanish Championship for Drivers 2019: Franco Colapinto
Formula 4 UAE Championship for Drivers 2019: Matteo Nannini
Formula 4 United States Championship for Drivers 2019: Joshua Car



FIA European Truck Racing Championship for Drivers 2019: Jochen Hahn



FIA European Drag Racing Championship Category Top Fuel for Drivers 2019: Anita Mäkelä



FIA Masters Historic Formula One Championship – Classes Head for Drivers 2019: Matteo Ferrer-Aza
FIA Masters Historic Formula One Championship – Classes Lauda for Drivers 2019: Martin Stretton
FIA Masters Historic Formula One Championship – Classes Fittipaldi for Drivers 2019: Henry Fletcher



FIA Masters Historic Sports Car Championship for Drivers Pre 1966 2019: Chris Jolly
FIA Masters Historic Sports Car Championship for Drivers Pre 1966 2019: Steve Farthing
FIA Masters Historic Sports Car Championship for Drivers Post 1966 2019: Jason Wright
FIA Masters Historic Sports Car Championship for Drivers Post 1966 2019: Andy Wolfe


>
FIA European Rally Championship for Drivers 2019: Chris Ingram
FIA European Rally Championship for Co-Drivers 2019: Ross Whittock



FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies for Drivers 2019: Stéphane Peterhansel
FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies for Co-Drivers 2019: Andrea Peterhansel
FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies for Team 2019: Sven Quandt



FIA Middle-East Rally Championship for Drivers 2019: Nasser Al-Attiyah
FIA Middle-East Rally Championship for Co-Drivers 2019: Matthieu Baumel
FIA World Rally Championship Junior for Drivers 2019: Jan Solans
FIA World Rally Championship Junior for Co-Drivers 2019: Mauro Barreiro
FIA World Rally Championship 2 Pro for Drivers 2019: Kalle Rovanpera
FIA World Rally Championship 2 Pro for Co-Drivers 2019: Jonne Halttunen


FIA European Rally Trophy for Drivers 2019: Ondrej Bisaha
FIA European Rally Trophy for Co-Drivers 2019: Petr Tesinsky



FIA R-GT Cup Championship for Drivers 2019: Enrico Brazzoli

FIA R-GT Cup Championship for Co-Drivers 2019: Manuel Fenoli



FIA Motorsport Games ASN Winner 2019: Russian Automobile Federation
FIA Motorsport Games – Touring car cup winner 2019: Klim Gavrilov
FIA Motorsport Games – GT Cup Driver 2019: Hiroshi Hamaguchi
FIA Motorsport Games – GT Cup Co-Driver 2019: Ukyo Sasahara
FIA Motorsport Games – Formula 4 Cup 2019: Andrea Rosso
FIA Motorsport Games – Karting Slalom Cup – Driver 1 2019: Nina Pothof
FIA Motorsport Games – Karting Slalom Cup – Driver 2 2019: Bastiaan van Loenen
FIA Motorsport Games – Drifting Cup 2019: Dmitriy Illuyk
FIA Motorsport Games – Digital Cup 2019: Cody Nikola Latkovskii


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Hamilton: I could be on holiday, they could’ve shipped me the trophy

Hamilton: I could be on holiday, they could’ve shipped me the trophy

Six times Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton laid hands on the Formula 1 winners’ trophy on Friday as his late team boss Niki Lauda was voted personality of the year at the governing FIA’s prizegiving gala.

Motorsport legend Lauda, a triple F1 World Champion and one of the all-time greats as well as the Mercedes team’s non-executive chairman, died in May aged 70 after a lung transplant previous August.

The award was the result of a vote by permanently accredited media from the International Automobile Federation’s various championships.

There was also recognition for the late race-director Charlie Whiting, who died before the season-opening race in Australia, and French F2 driver Anthoine Hubert who died at the Belgian Grand Prix weekend in July.

Hamilton was last to receive his prize but the trophy has become a familiar object, handed to another driver only once in the past six years with now-retired teammate Nico Rosberg winning in 2016.

Appearing on stage in a zip-fronted sky blue suit at the black-tie event in the Carrousel du Louvre, the 34-year-old said it had been the best season of his life but hoped for even better in 2020.

The Briton had earlier told reporters, however, that he was no fan of such events, “I could happily be on holiday right now and it could be shipped to me. I´m not working my year for the actual trophy as such.”

Hamilton said that nonetheless, he enjoyed seeing others celebrate their successes and was inspired by the clips of their achievements.

Hamilton can equal Michael Schumacher’s record seven championships next year and looks set to surpass the great German’s milestone 91 wins, but said he had never been focused on such statistics.

“Every year is a blank slate, every season,” said Hamilton. “I use 44 on my car, I never use number one. I feel like every season number one is there up for grabs for everyone.”

Hamilton’s Finnish teammate Valtteri Bottas, who drove his Mercedes on stage before stepping out to collect the second-place driver’s trophy, might feel encouraged by those words.

Red Bull’s British-born Thai driver Alexander Albon was named rookie of the year, while Dutch teammate Max Verstappen, third in the championship with three race wins, took the action of the year for an overtake on Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

The best promoter’s award went to the Mexican Grand Prix for the fifth year in a row.

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Hamilton: 2019 is the best year I’ve ever had in my career

Hamilton: 2019 is the best year I’ve ever had in my career

The winners of this season’s FIA-sanctioned motorsport competitions have been crowned at the glittering 2019 FIA Prize Giving ceremony at the Carrousel du Louvre in Paris.

The undoubted highlight of the evening was the presentation for Lewis Hamilton, who took the iconic trophy for his sixth Formula 1 World Championship title.

This puts him just one crown shy of Michael Schumacher’s record of seven F1 World Championships.

The 2019 season was a display of supremacy by the British driver, who equalled his 2018 achievement of 11 grand prix victories. Furthermore, Hamilton accumulated a record tally of 413 points in a season, something that has never been achieved before.

The six-time champion said, “It’s been the best year I’ve ever had in my career. I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved as a team. To come into a sixth year, to have fought for a world title at the front and sustained the performance we have collectively I think has been amazing.

“And on the driver front, I’m definitely very happy with my performance this year. There’s been lots of great races, the last few years have been intense with Ferrari, but having another team up there in the loop has made it more challenging for all us.”

Hamilton’s contribution allowed the Mercedes team to secure its sixth consecutive Manufacturer’s Title, another feat that has never before been achieved.

Also on the night, the Rookie of the Year prize, voted for by members of the FIA Drivers’ Commission, was awarded tp F1 driver Alexander Albon, who started the season with Scuderia Toro Rosso before impressing on his promotion to Red Bull Racing. The Thai finished eighth in the drivers’ standings in his debut season, following an impressive performance at almost every race.

The Personality of the Year award, voted for by permanently accredited media from the FIA’s major championship, was awarded posthumously to Niki Lauda, the three-time F1 world champion and executive director of the Mercedes F1 team.

The Action of the Year prize, voted for by fans of motorsport via the FIA’s online channels, was presented to F1 start Max Verstappen, who was honoured for his spectacular battle with Charles Leclerc during the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. The pair raced wheel to wheel, with Leclerc edging Verstappen wide before the Dutch racer came back at him and overtook on the following corner.

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Aston Martin: We’re certainly not actively soliciting

Aston Martin: We’re certainly not actively soliciting

Aston Martin’s two major shareholders are in it for the long term and the company is not actively soliciting participation, the firm’s boss said on Friday after a media report said Lawrence Stroll, owner of Formula 1 team Racing Point, is preparing a bid for a major stake.

“They look to the long term,” Andy Palmer said of the company’s biggest owners. “We’re certainly not actively soliciting any other participation. That’s not to say it doesn’t come.”

Asked about Thursday’s report in Autocar magazine, Palmer said: “You know what we would have to do if there was an official approach. Beyond that, I can’t comment,” he said.

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Hamilton: Change is also sometimes a good thing

Hamilton: Change is also sometimes a good thing

Speaking of the FIA prize-giving in Paris today, Lewis Hamilton played down but did not deny reports of a move to Ferrari in 2020 while revealing that his Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has a busy phone with rival drivers tapping him up for the six-time Formula 1 World Champion’s seat.

The Hamilton-to-Ferrari reports spread like wildfire during the build-up to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and usurped the season finale in terms of headlines which the story continues to generate.

Although not in total denial, Hamilton appeared to pour cold water on the speculation when he was asked what his plans are beyond his current contract which is up for renewal at the end of 2020.

He replied, “I’ve not really put a lot of energy towards it. I love where I am, I love the people that I work with, so it’s really difficult to walk away from something that you love as much as I do. The team, the organization, all the way through to the bosses.

“I’ve been with Mercedes since I was 13 so it’s really hard to imagine myself being anywhere else. What we’ve built over the period that I’ve been there, in the last seven years — but obviously Mercedes have been working longer than that — at the moment is dominant.

“It’s a strong force and I think it’s taken us time to build the strength in depth from within and have the consistency we have. It’s not something that has just come overnight, and other teams don’t currently have the togetherness that we have in place. It takes time to build those things.”

While Hamilton’s name has been linked to Ferrari in recent weeks, o has Mercedes boss Toto Wolff who may also be in line fo the sport’s top job when F1 CEO Chase Carey calls it quits.

The World Champion continued, “Of course, would it be the same without Toto? I don’t think so. But he’s got to do what’s right for him and just like I’ll know what’s right for me when I have to make that decision, he has to make the right decision for him and what’s best for him and his family and his future. Change is also sometimes a good thing.”

There is not the single driver on the grid, bar maybe Charles Leclerc, who would not trade places with Lewis Hamilton or Valtteri Bottas for that matter in the sport’s most dominant team.

Thus no surprise that the Silver Arrows boss at a very busy phone as Hamilton explained, “It’s an interesting time because there are a lot of drivers who are seeking positions everywhere.

“The amount of calls that Toto gets from every driver asking to come. Everyone’s trying to leave their team to come to where we are… which is an understandable thing because everybody wants to win and everybody wants to be a part of a winning formula.

“I don’t think it’s a stressful thing at the moment; there’s always been a clear pathway of communication between myself and Toto, there has never been any secrets so that won’t change,” added Hamilton.

At the end of 2012, the Briton took a big risk to ditch pedigreed (at the time) McLaren for Mercedes who showed no sign of the potent force it was to become when Hamilton made the move.

He was roundly criticised and even mocked by Ron Dennis, but time has shown that the kid from Stevenage made an inspired call when he believed in the vision laid out to him by Niki Lauda and signed on the dotted line. Hamilton and Mercedes have not looked back ever since.

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Renault part ways with Nick Chester

Renault part ways with Nick Chester

Renault have confirmed that technical director Nick Chester will leave the team as part of a restructuring in the wake of a below-par season for the French outfit.

This follows the appointment of Pat Fry to a yet to be announced role as well as former Ferrari and Williams engineer Dirk de Beer.

Press release:

Renault F1 Team have announced a major restructuring plan of their UK technical departments.

Nick Chester will leave Renault F1 Team and has begun a period of garden leave.

The team wishes Nick well for the future and thanks him for his significant contribution to the team’s achievements.

Nick Chester commented: “I have enjoyed 19 years in a team with great spirit and have worked with an incredibly loyal and talented group of people. I am looking forward to a new challenge and wish everybody in the team all the best for the future.”

Cyril Abiteboul, Managing Director, Renault Sport Racing: “Nick has been a key part of Enstone for almost 20 years. His passion for the team has never wavered, despite experiencing some extremely challenging times.

“More recently, his commitment, technical insight and enthusiasm have inspired us to move from the back of the grid to the front of the midfield. We would like to sincerely thank Nick for everything and wish him every success in the next stage of his career.”

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Hanoi organisers release photos of track build progress

Hanoi organisers release photos of track build progress

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The clock is ticking ahead of next year’s inaugural Vietnam Grand Prix and with 121 days to go to the race on 5 April organisers have released a series of photos of showing construction work on the venue at the circuit, Formula 1’s latest destination.

Press Release:

The Vietnam Grand Prix Corporation (VGPC), Promoter of the Formula1 VinFast Vietnam Grand Prix 2020, today released some new images showcasing the progress being made on Formula 1’s newest track, the Hanoi Circuit.

Taking place from 3rd to 5th April 2020, the inaugural Formula 1 race in Vietnam will see the pinnacle of motorsport debut in the South East Asian country for the third round of next year’s 22-race FIA Formula 1 World Championship.

The Hanoi Circuit – which runs to 5607m in length and features 23 corners, some of them inspired by iconic F1 tracks – is a unique hybrid design, fusing a street circuit’s characteristics with a permanent track layout.

The first of its kind to be developed in partnership by Tilke Engineers and F1’s own Motorsports Division, it is set to become one of the most challenging and sensational circuits in the sport.

With high-speed corner sequences not seen at any other pure street tracks and as many as three overtaking points where cars will have the potential to duke it out side-by-side, this is a track designed to deliver spectacular racing.

Overlooking the action will be the awe-inspiring sight of the 300m long Pit Building – purpose built for the arrival of F1 in Vietnam. Its design has been inspired by Hanoi’s famous Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, representing this proud nation’s long history and strong cultural heritage. This stunning permanent structure is expected to be completed by December 31st.

The images released today show the asphalt levelling process in progress along the 1.5km long back straight beginning at the exit of Turn 9 and running down to Turn 11. This section of the track will be the point where the world’s greatest drivers will be able to go flat out as they battle for victory in Hanoi next April, with expected speeds estimated to reach 335km/h. The levelling process is being done on the whole 5607m track and expected to near majority completion by the new year.

The Hanoi Circuit is set to be one of the most breathtaking circuits in F1. A feat of design, innovation & construction, the track will pose a stern examination of the drivers’ strength and skills, whilst providing fans with a weekend of non-stop, adrenaline-fuelled racing action.

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Marko: Ferrari’s €50,000 penalty for fuel offence a joke

Marko: Ferrari’s €50,000 penalty for fuel offence a joke

Straight-talking Helmut Marko has slammed the €50,000 penalty handed out by the FIA stewards to Ferrari, for the fuel infringement saga during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, as “a joke”.

The Red Bull-Honda official admitted that he spread the news about the FIA’s investigation into the incorrect fuel load declared by Ferrari prior to the race last Sunday “so that things are not swept under the carpet.”

Red Bull has been central to the speculation about the legality of Ferrari’s 2019 power unit, which preceded a flurry of technical clarifications that appeared to diminish the Italian team’s performance late in 2019.

But Marko told Auto Bild that the incorrect declaration by the Italian team regarding the fuel-load aboard Charles Leclerc’s car, at the 2019 finale, was a clear rules breach, “The regulations are very clear and the mild punishment they were handed for that offence was a joke.”

Marko also hit back at the claim that Ferrari’s rivals are being opportunistic about causing a lot of noise about the team’s power unit, “It’s about fairness, about compliance with the rules, and about the equal treatment of all the teams.

“Ferrari’s engine was questioned on several points which are probably beyond any grey area, but nothing was done to correct it,” explained Marko.

He warned that Red Bull could step up its confrontation with Ferrari in 2020, “If we suspect that there are any irregularities, we will definitely protest, and then Ferrari will have to disclose everything and the FIA deal with it accordingly.”

Earlier this week, Jos Verstappen told Ziggo Sport’s Olav Mol: “You know it wasn’t a calculation error. I am not going to talk too much about it, because it is a very dangerous subject in Formula 1. I don’t want to burn my fingers on it.

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Webber: Lewis will win the 2020 F1 championship

Webber: Lewis will win the 2020 F1 championship

Mark Webber does not believe that Ferrari or Red Bull-Honda drivers can beat Lewis Hamilton to the 2020 Formula 1 World Championship title, as the Mercedes driver’s consistency over the course of the season will be his ace card.

Most pundits, including 9-time Grand Prix winner Webber, predict that next year will be hotly contested between all three top teams with Max Verstappen spearheading the Blues and Charles Leclerc leading the charge of the Reds in what should be a riveting season.

“Provided Leclerc and Vettel can score points at least regularly, I think Ferrari looks good for the constructors’ championship,” he told Formule1. But I still think that over the course of the whole season he will be superior, Lewis will win the drivers championship.”

Webber is nonetheless full of praise for Hamilton’s rivals – especially Max Verstappen, “We don’t even have to talk about Verstappen anymore. He is now an established name and is on fire!

“I’m looking forward to seeing if Hamilton can match the seven titles of Michael Schumacher while he has to deal with Leclerc and Verstappen,” Webber added

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Antonini: Lewis and Toto started the Ferrari stories

Antonini: Lewis and Toto started the Ferrari stories

Former Ferrari spokesman Alberto Antonini suspects the rumour about Lewis Hamilton potentially switching to the legendary Maranello outfit was started by the six-time Formula 1 world champion himself.

Journalist Antonini, who headed Ferrari’s press office until early this year, was referring to La Gazzetta dello Sport’s recent story about Hamilton meeting twice with Ferrari chairman John Elkann.

Antonini says Nico Rosberg also visited Maranello some years ago, but nothing was made of that by the media.

“In those days, there was talk about Ferrari being ready to go to the market to replace Kimi Raikkonen,” he told Formula Passion. “Think what would have happened if that was filtered to the media. But nothing happened. And it was only Nico.

“In the past, I even saw Toto Wolff in Maranello, and we even went to dinner – not just the two of us. But there was not a line in the newspapers in the following days.

“When you want to keep a meeting secret, you can usually do it,” he added. “So if there were rumours of not one but two contacts between Elkann and Hamilton, it is because someone was interested in putting it out.”

Antonini suspects that it could be Hamilton himself, in cahoots with Mercedes team boss Wolff, who leaked the information, “It certainly was not Ferrari, after the management spent a year juggling hot potatoes.

“They have another year ahead with the same pair of drivers, so it seems to be destabilising to leak rumours of their interest in Hamilton. The rumour is much more likely to have come from someone for whom it is convenient.

“Some will think it’s a way for Lewis to start the tug of war in renewing his Mercedes contract. But I rather see it as a way for Lewis and Toto to convince their bosses in Stuttgart not to turn off the Formula 1 tap,” said Antonini.

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F1 trust chequered flag over new technology

F1 trust chequered flag over new technology

Formula 1’s governing body has ruled for tradition over technology when it comes to deciding the official end of a grand prix.

The FIA said in a statement after a World Motor Sport Council meeting in Paris that the waved chequered flag would be reinstated next season as the “definitive end-of-race signal”.

Under new rules introduced this year, a digital chequered flag mounted on the starting lights gantry took precedence over the physical flag, which was still waved as before when cars crossed the finish line.

The digital display was blamed last October for the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka being ended officially a lap early.

Drivers continued at racing speeds for another lap but, despite the actual chequered flag being waved at the end of the 53rd, the positions after the 52nd lap stood as the final result.

That meant Mexican Sergio Perez officially finished ninth and in the points despite crashing out.

The sport has seen several chequered flag mix-ups in the hands of celebrities.

A miscommunication led to fashion model Winnie Harlow accidentally waving the flag early at last year’s Canadian Grand Prix, an error that led to the digital flag being given precedence.

In Brazil in 2006, soccer great Pele waved too late and missed home race winner Felipe Massa’s Ferrari as it crossed the line.

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Lawrence Stroll eyes major stake in Aston Martin

Lawrence Stroll eyes major stake in Aston Martin

Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll, owner of Formula 1 team Racing Point, is preparing a bid for a major stake in Aston Martin, Autocar magazine reported, sending the carmaker’s battered share price up nearly 15% on Thursday.

The British sports car maker’s share price has slumped since its flotation in October last year. The shares launched at 19 pounds ($24.50) before dropping for months and languishing at around 5 pounds for weeks as sales have failed to meet expectations.

Stroll, who is the father of Formula One driver Lance Stroll, is heading up a consortium looking to take a “major shareholding” in Aston Martin, Autocar said on Thursday.

Aston Martin declined to comment. Racing Point did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

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Pirelli: The deadline is on Monday, 9th December 2019

Pirelli: The deadline is on Monday, 9th December 2019

Pirelli is sticking with a looming deadline to decide whether Formula 1 will use the sport’s exclusive tyre supplier’s 2019 or 2020 offerings for next season.

Given some high profile issues with the 2019 tyres, Pirelli worked on improvements for 2020, but after tests in Austin and now Abu Dhabi, drivers are complaining that they are in fact not an improvement.

“Some have noticed improvements for some tyre characteristics, but not for others,” Pirelli’s F1 boss Mario Isola said in Abu Dhabi.

“The new tyres are about one-second slower,” he admitted. “But it was not our goal to build faster tyres. The assignment from the teams was to increase the working window and reduce the risk of overheating and graining.”

However, some drivers are still not happy with what they have tested.

“To be honest, they are a little slower but they also degrade more,” Antonio Giovinazzi said in Abu Dhabi. “So that’s not very positive.”

But Isola insists that Pirelli has hit its targets with the 2020 tyres, notwithstanding the complaints, “Drivers always want more grip. Only then will then say a tyre is ‘better’.

“But these tyres are designed to be better over long runs and therefore have less of a peak in grip. The drivers notice there is less grip and think ‘aha, this tyre is not as good as the old one’. But that’s not true. We wanted a tyre that is better in the race, not in qualifying.”

Isola says there is a clear (and not negotiable) deadline for the teams to decide which tyres the entire grid will use next year.

“The deadline is on Monday, 9th December 2019,” he announced. “We have to set the compounds for the races within a certain period before the race and for the first races starting in Australia, that’s the final date.

“If seven of the ten teams say ‘No, we want to continue with the 2019 tyres’, then we’ll comply. But it would be a pity if all the development work for 2020 was lost, because we had very specific goals for the new tyre,” explained Isola.

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Red Mist: Hamilton has a very real Ferrari conundrum

Red Mist: Hamilton has a very real Ferrari conundrum

This whole Lewis Hamilton to Ferrari thing has me wondering… Of course, I told you that was a pretty good idea a week or two before it became such a popular news trend.

Who knows, maybe that mention even sparked it, but depending on who you listen to, it is a done deal — Lewis has twice already been in discussion with Maranello, he’s already a Ferrari driver and he is free to go, too.

That’s just a little bit of the flatulence. Of course, whether any of it has any credence remains to be seen, but as they say, where there’s smoke…

Anyway, none of that is my point, however — the whole world would love to see Lewis in red and rest assured F1 itself does, but how easy will the fit be?

Let me tell you a story then, why this whole thing troubles me. And it’s a true story that actually uses Lewis himself to demonstrate his biggest Ferrari conundrum.

How many of you actually remember Lewis’ debut F1 year? I do. it was 2007. Earlier in 2006, McLaren-Mercedes was delighted to confirm it had plucked reigning double F1 world champion Fernando Alonso from Renault to lead its charge the following year, going on to announce Lewis as its number two later in November following Juan Pablo Montoya and Kimi Raikkonen’s unexpected departures from the team.

Things never quite went as planned, however — least of all for Alonso. He and Lewis both won four races in ‘07, but Lewis ended up second in the championship behind Kimi Raikkonen by virtue of his five seconds to the Spaniard’s four. The trouble, however, ran far deeper than just Alonso being beaten by the rookie…

Alonso may have expected to be McLaren’s number one, but boss Ron Dennis protege Hamilton proved an increasingly sharper thorn in his side as the season progressed. Dennis had picked Hamilton up as a 9-year old karter and developed him to the F1 driver he became and from the get-go, Lewis was on the attack passing Alonso off the line on his debut in Australia before ending third behind Alonso there.

Hamilton later claimed that team orders cost him his first win in Monaco, a remark that irked Alonso. “I have a British team-mate in a British team and we know that all the support and help is going to him,” he told the Spanish media. Then Lewis won in Canada and at Indianapolis and Alonso again criticised the team.

Hamilton led Alonso in the title race with the Ferraris well adrift and he was also 6-4 up on teammate in qualifying by Hungarian Grand Prix, putting Alonso under growing pressure at a time when management was sidetracked as the ‘Spygate’ affair rocked McLaren.

Hamilton refused to let Alonso pass as agreed in that Hungarian qualifying and Alonso retaliated by holding his teammate up enough for Lewis to miss his flying lap as Fernando stole pole.

The FIA docked all McLaren’s constructor’s points over the fiasco and the British press lambasted Alonso enough for it to seem that McLaren had taken sides against the Spaniard and then Hamilton stormed to an emphatic victory, leaving Alonso’s relationship with him and the team on the rocks.

The Spygate fiasco rambled on leaving Dennis with significantly bigger fish to fry and the McLaren drivers were at war, enough for the spat to leave the door open for Kimi Raikkonen to come from behind and steal the driver’s title for Ferrari!

Alonso and McLaren part ways at the end of that year in spite of a three-year contract. Hamilton went on to take his first of five titles the following year, while Alonso never won another title.

“That was my first season in Formula 1, alongside a world champion,” Hamilton admitted a year or two anion. “A double world champion and I blew him away!”

“It was very simple,” Ron Dennis explained. “Alonso did not expect Hamilton to be that competitive in his first year. He told that it was my decision to sign a rookie like Hamilton, but that could cost me the Constructors’ Championship. Fernando had calculated everything, but he didn’t figure that Lewis would challenge him and that affected him massively.”

Now, roll on 14 years to 2021 and supposedly Lewis Hamilton arrives at Ferrari all dressed in red.

By then, Ferrari’s ‘chosen one’ may even have just won his first F1 World Championship. But far more significantly, Charles Leclerc would have had three years behind him inside the Scuderia, he will be fully entrenched in the team and blindingly fast — at the absolute peak of his driving career.

That’s a far more compelling prospect than Alonso found in rookie Lewis at McLaren back in ’07 — never mind Fernando was significantly younger then, than Lewis will be in a year and a bit.

If I was Lewis Hamilton, knowing first hand how he sliced up a double F1 World Champion back then, I may just be a touch warier about jumping in as Leclerc’s teammate, especially with the knowledge of the young Monegasque’s already voracious appetite for eating up multiple world champions. Just like Lewis did to Alonso back then…

I may be wrong, but that would trouble me very much!

Big Question: What chance Lewis goes to Ferrari in 2021?

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Maitland’s Undercut: Hamilton-to-Ferrari, I smell a rat

Maitland’s Undercut: Hamilton-to-Ferrari, I smell a rat

Question: Who is the most important person in Formula 1?

Is it the strangely-moustachioed but apparently eminently replaceable Chase Carey? Nah. The Napoleon-in-appearance but otherwise almost completely invisible Jean Todt? Doubt it. The F1-supremo-in-waiting Toto Wolff? *shrug*

No. It’s Lewis Hamilton.

What? Aren’t drivers just overly-priced plug-and-play boys being told what to do with their 58 steering wheel buttons by geeks on a pitwall? Well, they are that too, but it’s important to remember that Formula 1 – while increasingly reliant on the technology – is at its core just the product of human beings who are able to excel in ways their peers cannot.

In that sense, Mr Hamilton is an extremely powerful human being in Formula 1. He’s also a formidable commodity.

Carey, the aforementioned F1 CEO, said in Abu Dhabi that he hopes the new six-time world champion races “forever”, and that’s pretty much more understandable than any other understandable concept ever uttered in the history of everything. No driver, perhaps in the entire glittering history of this sport we all know and love, has created a brand quite as powerful as Hamilton’s.

Did he do it deliberately? Certainly, if you were to walk into a sports bar in the United Kingdom and scream at the top of your lungs “I love Lewis Hamilton!”, you would at the very least create one hell of an interesting conversation.

Try it with Lance Stroll or Antonio Giovinazzi, or even genuinely exciting drivers with actual star power like Charles Leclerc or Max Verstappen. You’ll create conversations, for sure, but it’s hard to imagine any of them ending in fisticuffs. But Hamilton? I’m not so sure!

And for mainstream bums on grandstand seats and millions of worldwide eyes on screens, whether they love him or they can’t stand his gold chains, veganism and cringeworthy showmanship, what you need is those hoarse voices in pubs.

If Hamilton did create that brand deliberately, he’s done a brilliant job and definitely won’t need to consider the prospect of eating cat food in his 80s.

So it’s in that context that the Hamilton-to-Ferrari rumour – which not only sparked up in Abu Dhabi but went off like a petrol-soaked firecracker – is so god damn fascinating.

Another question: Am I the only one who thinks it’s all a little too perfect? All a little too Netflix: Drive to Survive?

Let me explain.

Real rumours tend to make people shuffle uncomfortably in their seats. I’m a big fan of analysing body language, and the body language from everyone involved in the Hamilton-to-Ferrari media fest so far has been … weird.

How did the rumour start? Without getting too forensic, my take is that it was actually started by … kinda everybody. And why the hell would that be?

Until now, whenever the F-word is brought to his attention by the media, Lewis’ answer has been impeccable. Something along the lines of: “I’ve been a Mercedes driver for 800 years, I love this team, who knows what the future might bring, blardy-blardy-blah, I’m more interested in winning and earning a squillion dollars a second and posing for GQ magazine with ‘ma tats and ma doggies’ than I am in driving a car just because it’s coloured red.”

As I said: impeccable.

Suddenly, the narrative changed completely in Abu Dhabi.

Mattia Binotto said out of the blue that he is “happy” that Hamilton is available for 2021. Hmm. Then Hamilton said he enjoyed the rare compliment. Double hmm. Then Toto said something to the basic effect of “Pffft. We can live without Lewis”.

O….k. Then Italian journalists were reporting that Hamilton actually met – twice! – with Ferrari chairman John Elkann. WTF. Then rumours that Wolff might not be replacing Carey but actually switching to Ferrari in the future emerged. This is getting weird!

Now, after almost two decades of immersing myself in Formula 1 news and rumours, I’ve seen plenty of them before. But, so far, this one just needs a big red bow around it to make it even more like a movie script than it already is. It doesn’t smell fishy so much as it sounds a little too … Netflix.

A couple of days ago, Christian Horner – the boss of a top team but someone who is less likely than many others to be involved in grand, complex sub-plots at the Ferrari/Mercedes/Liberty level – wondered why on earth the top teams would be looking to shuffle up their drivers for 2021.

I mean, we have Verstappen in Car A, Leclerc in Car B, and Hamilton in Car C. From a purely sporting perspective, that sounds perfect to him, and it sounds pretty frickin’ perfect to me too.

So what on earth is going on with this Hamilton-to-Ferrari palaver?

The Briton, who would be 36 by the time he gets to Maranello, conceivably might fancy beating Michael Schumacher’s last remaining records in the same-coloured car. And Toto might be playing a sneaky little game of pre-negotiations along the lines of: “We’ve made you richer than Midas, sonny Jim, so don’t you dare try asking us for more!”

Or have Carey and his digital media team started salivating at the amount of global adrenaline (and F1 TV subscriptions) they could whip up with those first images of Hamilton in a bright red suit?

I honestly don’t know. I’m just telling you my scattered thoughts. But as I said, I’ve seen thousands of rumours in my time, and this one looks a liiiiiittle bit Hollywood to me.

Penny for your own thoughts.

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Formula 1 already braced for 22 race marathon in 2020

Formula 1 already braced for 22 race marathon in 2020

When Formula 1 returns in 2020, there will be a record 22 races on the schedule which has triggered renewed concerns about the demands being placed on those who keep the travelling circus on the road.

The schedule has lost Germany but is expanding with the addition of Vietnam and the return after a long absence of Dutch circuit Zandvoort.

Ultimately, commercial rights holders Liberty Media want to structure the calendar so they can accommodate a maximum of 25 races.

“I know they want to make money, but they also have to think about the mechanics who rock up to the track,” Red Bull’s Max Verstappen said earlier this year when asked about the expansion.

“They can file for divorce straight away if there’s going to be more,” the 22-year-old said of the mechanics.

Over the last decade, Formula 1 has spread its wings far beyond its European heartland and added lucrative races in Asia and the Middle East.

Of the 17 races in the 2000 season, only six were outside Europe. Next year, 13 of the 22 races will be long-haul “flyaways”.

“We care deeply about it,” Formula One Chief Executive Chase Carey, appointed after U.S.-based Liberty took over the sport in 2017, told reporters in Abu Dhabi when asked about the toll taken by such a long season. “Ultimately the jobs of the people come from having a healthy sport.

“We need to make the sport healthy but try to do it in a way that is very cognisant of the pressure and the wear and tear,” the American said.

Race weekends are set to be shortened by a day from 2021, running from Friday to Sunday instead of the current Thursday start.

The mandatory curfew, during which team personnel who work on the car are not allowed to enter the circuit, is set to get longer.

McLaren driver Carlos Sainz said he was against further expansion, when asked about the move to a three-day weekend.

“That last extra day that we take off doesn’t fully compensate those 22/25 races that we want to have in the future,” said the Spaniard.

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Jos Verstappen: It wasn’t a calculation error by Ferrari

Jos Verstappen: It wasn’t a calculation error by Ferrari

After trying to diffuse his son’s suggestions that Ferrari were cheating, Jos Verstappen has now added fuel to the embers by revealing he does not think the Italian team made a “calculation error” with the fuel load aboard Charles Leclerc’s car after qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Ferrari escaped with a €50,000, the FIA found that the Reds had provided an “Inaccurate fuel declaration” for the laps required prior to joining the grid for Leclerc’s car.

They found that in the #16 Ferrari “there was a difference of 4.88kgs between the team’s declaration” and the fuel measured by the FIA Technical delegate “an infringement of Article 12.1.2.i of the International Sporting Code.

Prior to that, Max Verstappen ‘kicked hornet’s nest’ when he suggested Ferrari were “cheating” in 2019 with its power unit the fastest of the bunch until an FIA directive reeled in the rampant horses.

Immediately after his son’s contentious utterances his father and co-manager Jos defended his son, “In the end, you can’t prove it so you shouldn’t say too much about it. It might not have been the smartest statement, but I do understand Max. He is very driven and wants to win.”

But Verstappen senior has not let the matter lie and told Dutch commentator Olav Mol on Ziggo Sport after the weekend at Yas Marina, “Olav, you know it wasn’t a calculation error.

“I am not going to talk too much about it, because it is a very dangerous subject in Formula 1. I don’t want to burn my fingers on it. But next season the rules must be tightened,” added the former F1 driver turned Racing Dad.

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Midweek Wrap: Lewis to Ferrari, Vettel-Leclerc Free to Race, Latifi Signs for Williams

Midweek Wrap: Lewis to Ferrari, Vettel-Leclerc Free to Race, Latifi Signs for Williams

It might have been the final race week for the 2019 season, but the past seven days kept the F1 news wire humming along in mid-season form.

Lewis to Ferrari: Well, this kind of exploded this week, didn’t it? Sure, there was always speculation Lewis Hamilton could one-day be a Ferrari driver, but then he was spotted having meetings with John Elkann and Piero Ferrari, and now it’s being talked-about like an actual possibility.

To that end, it’s interesting that Mattia Binotto would announce he is “happy” Hamilton is an option for 2021, when he could’ve just as easily said he planned on retaining his current drivers, and while Sebastian Vettel’s remark is an obvious joke, it still shows he’s feeling the rumbles.

The thing for me is, I don’t see how this version of Ferrari, with all its incompetence, would be that appealing to Hamilton, at least right now. Sitting on six world titles, I would think his priority is on at least matching, if not beating Michael Schumacher’s seven, and if Mercedes remains the best place to do that (title next year or not), he wouldn’t leave until he does so.

Of course, I’m not in his head, and it’s hard to deny the historical appeal of the Scuderia. Where football has Real Madrid, or basketball has the LA Lakers, F1 has Ferrari. Maybe the prestige that comes with it (not to mention the money) is worth jumping ship, regardless of whether they have their act together or not. Indeed, it’s worth bearing in mind that Hamilton’s hero Ayrton Senna had supposedly planned to end his career at Ferrari, and they were going through an even rougher patch back then – such is the allure of wearing red.

Vettel and Leclerc ‘Free to Race’ to start 2020: In more immediate – and concrete – Ferrari news, this proclamation from Mattia Binotto comes as something of a surprise, at least to me.

Even if Binotto doesn’t want to proclaim an outright number-one driver, it seems unwise to start a new campaign under the same rules of engagement that gave us outcomes like Interlagos. Yes, I know they “cleared the air” afterwards, but we’ve seen what happens when two highly competitive F1 drivers come together on a racetrack too many times to expect them to just play nice, and that goes doubly so for Vettel, who isn’t suddenly going to change his nature after thirteen years in the sport. If you’re not at least implementing a “faster driver gets priority” system, you’re going to have more incidents, and that’s as bad for the Scuderia’s title hopes as it is sure to be entertaining for the rest of us.

Latifi to Race for Williams: It may have seemed like a foregone conclusion with Robert Kubica already ousted and Nico Hulkenberg ruled out, but now it’s official: Nicholas Latifi will drive alongside George Russell at Williams in 2020.

Say what you will about Latifi – a driver who, through his first three-and-a-bit seasons of GP2/F2 was a relative afterthought before bursting into title contention this year – but the money he brings with him is clearly the deciding factor here, just as it was with Sergey Sirotkin and Kubica himself. Such is the state of Williams these days.

Whether they can experience a revival, I don’t know. It won’t be until 2022 that they’ll be racing alongside cars produced under the budget cap, and before then it just seems like they don’t have the firepower to keep up. Clearly the brief revival of 2014-15 was more engine-related than anything, and without another such advantage falling into their laps these next two seasons, I think it’s just as likely they go the way of a team like Brabham than have a return to prominence.

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Fittipaldi: I want to have a bigger role with Haas

Fittipaldi: I want to have a bigger role with Haas

Pietro Fittipaldi is keen to have an extended role with Haas but has admitted veteran Robert Kubica could throw a spanner in the works of his Formula 1 plans for 2020.

Last month, we reported the 23-year-old grandson of F1 legend Emerson Fittipaldi’s statement that “negotiations are well advanced” to continue as a development driver with Haas. But he also wants a more significant role for 2020.

“If I continue with Haas, I want to have a bigger role,” Fittipaldi, who combined his F1 role with the German touring car championship DTM this year, is quoted Motorsport-Magazin.com.

“There is no longer an in-season test, so it would be important to take part in free practice sessions,” explained the Brazilian.

But he admitted that uncertainty has been created by Haas’ rumoured negotiations with Williams refugee Kubica, whose sponsor Orlen has also been linked with the American team. It is believed Kubica, like Fittipaldi, is eyeing a split F1-DTM programme for 2020.

“I don’t know exactly either,” Fittipaldi said when asked about that at the Abu Dhabi test.
“We are waiting to see what happens there. I do not know all the rumours and what’s really going on there, but I would like to continue with the team and I’m confident it will work.”

He said another year dividing his time between F1 and DTM is possible for 2020, “DTM could be a possibility but we also look at other options like Super Formula 1. I would like to go formula racing again, because my goal is still Formula 1. That’s my dream and I’ll give everything to reach it.”

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Carey: F1 has too many complicated penalties and rules

Carey: F1 has too many complicated penalties and rules

The ten Formula 1 team have reportedly agreed in principle with the brand new technical and sporting regulations for 2021 and beyond, but are still negotiating new commercial agreements with Liberty Media and the FIA.

“We have got too many complicated penalties and rules,” said Carey during a recent investor conference. “We have got a 100-page regulation book. We have got to get the business to a place where it is easier to follow and has fewer complexities that fans out there really can’t follow.

“It will always be a complicated sport that is a marriage of sporting competition and technology but we need to make it something that is more in line with what the fans want to see and what excites and energises them.”

Carey, who runs the sport on behalf of its owner Liberty, acknowledged that the intrinsic nature of F1 means it will “always” be complex.

An example of this took place at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, season finale, when Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari was found to breach fuel regulations ahead of the race. The Monegasque was allowed to race while his fate was unknown.

It took four hours for the stewards to ratify the findings after the race, until which point it was unknown if Leclerc had finished third or he would be disqualified for the infringement.

The latest incident was one of several this season that have given credence to Carey’s claims.

Meanwhile, GMM reports that teams will have the freedom to pull out of the sport each year once they sign the new 2021-2025 Concorde Agreement.

Big Question: Is modern F1 too complicated?

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How can Ferrari make Vettel-Leclerc work ?

How can Ferrari make Vettel-Leclerc work ?

With a championship long ago decided, the growing feud between Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc at Ferrari has taken centre stage in Formula 1 during the run-down to the season finale in Abu Dhabi last Sunday.

The pair are staying together for 2020, but through most of this season team number one Vettel had his hierarchy challenged by the decade-younger Leclerc culminating in their (inevitable) collision during the Brazilian Grand Prix.

The harsh reality for 32-year-old Vettel is that he is up against a driver ten years his junior, a young gun full of ambition and drive, who represents the future for the Scuderia. Leclerc is there to stay and it is up to Vettel to shape up or ship out.

Mark Webber, who was Vettel’s teammate at Red Bull and knows his modus operandi better than most, believes the German needs to seek professional advice over the “biggest off-season” of his F1 career.

“He’s a winner and a fighter, but a small chink in his armour is that he is not a great listener,” Webber told Channel 4. “But he needs to seek all the different professional advice that he can from people who might have also been on this journey.”

Amid that sort of criticism of his disappointing 2019 season, 32-year-old Vettel headed into the winter break denying that he needs a full rethink.

“It’s not rocket science, it’s about changes in detail. Fewer interviews would help,” joked Vettel.

But not everybody is laughing, La Stampa declared that “The only positive aspect of this black 2019 was the birth of his third child”.

And even the biggest Ferrari fans are losing confidence.

“He has made many mistakes, rightly lost his number one status and will most likely not become a Ferrari world champion,” Luigi Fornito, president of the Ferrari fan club of Cologne, told Kolner Express newspaper.

“To become world champion next year, Ferrari must decide on a number one driver,” he added.

Notably, Leclerc beat Vettel in this year’s championship. The newcomer getting the better of the guy in the garage next door. Rewind to 2014 when Daniel Ricciardo stepped up to Red Bull, where Vettel was fresh off four world titles in a row.

By the end of that season, Ricciardo thoroughly beat his illustrious teammate in the championship that year.

Vettel did not have the same problem dealing with Webber, or Kimi Raikkonen who was happy to play second fiddle to his teammate when they shared a pit at Ferrari, but the young guns have proven to be the quadruple F1 World Champion’s Achille’s heel.

Meanwhile, despite the tensions, team boss Mattia Binotto says he will allow his drivers to continue their fight in 2020, “If you look at the last races, they have been free to race and I think that is how we are going to start the next season.”

Pirelli CEO Marco Tronchetti Provera weighed in on the saga when he told Italian reporters, “All the champions who play on the same team risk stepping on each other’s toes but everyone hopes they can live together.”

However, he said he is enjoying the way Formula 1 is shaping up for 2020, “The competition has become very fascinating again with champions of different generations fighting wheel-to-wheel.”

Big Question: How can Ferrari make Vettel-Leclerc work?

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