Tagged in: F1

Australian Grand Prix cancelled for second year in succession

The Australian Formula One grand prix has been cancelled for a second consecutive year, with Melbourne now set to lose its prestigious season-opening status.

The multi-million dollar race had already been rescheduled from March to November before it was scrapped altogether on Tuesday, while the October Australian MotoGP will also not go ahead at Phillip Island.

The 2020 Australian GP at the Albert Park street circuit was called off at the last moment at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Victorian Sports Minister Martin Pakula stated Formula One and MotoGP management needed assurances this week that Australia was unable to deliver on.

He said the country’s low vaccination rate and the Federal government’s recent decision to slash international arrivals had forced their hand. The motorsport organizations have a set of conditions for each race and that could not be managed if drivers and their crews were required to quarantine.

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“Formula One and MotoGP required assurances and undertakings and guarantees this week about the conduct of those events,” Pakula said on Tuesday.

“There’s a few months to go, but they need to plan, and they need to have contingencies in place.

“Given the very low national two-dose-vaccination numbers, and given the decision of National Cabinet on Friday, we’re simply not in a position to give F1 management or MotoGP the sorts of assurances they require.

“Some 1600 visitors in November, with the bespoke quarantine arrangements needed … really makes it extremely difficult for us to give those organisations the guarantee they require.”

Formula One already has a race programmed in Brazil for November 5-7, leaving little time for a two-week hotel quarantine before November 19-21 when the Melbourne event was scheduled, while there was no wriggle room with the final two races in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi in early December.

Australia is not alone with Singapore and Canada both cancelling their races for a second year due to safety and logistic concerns connected to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Pakula said he had spoken with Formula One boss Stefano Demetocarli and there was an expectation the event would go ahead in 2022.

Pakula said April was a prospective date, meaning Melbourne would lose its prestigious season-opening status.

Bahrain jumped in to host round one this year when the Australian event was rescheduled and will be rewarded with hosting the race in 2022.

“We’ve been talking April with F1 for some time, ” Pakula said.

“As you know this year other events went into that first and second slot and I think F1 are keen to continue with those events.”

Pakula downplayed losing the first race on the calendar, saying there were always changes and the later date suited Melbourne.

He said he didn’t have figures available on the economic impact of surrendering the fixture for a second year.

Formula One and the Victorian government have a contract to run the race in Melbourne until 2025 while the MotoGP is contracted to 2026.

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Hamilton ready for new contract talks with Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton is ready to start new contract negotiations with Mercedes, meaning he would stay in Formula One beyond the end of 2021, and is hoping to have a new deal in place by August.

After eight years at Mercedes, the seven-time world champion signed a one-year deal over the winter, meaning he will be out of contract again at the end of 2021.

The one-year deal came as a surprise following a rushed negotiation period at the end of the year, which resulted in team and driver agreeing to start their next contract talks earlier this year.

“We never want to be in the position that we were in in January, in February [this year],” Hamilton said. “It ruined my whole winter and I’m sure it wasn’t helpful for Toto’s, in terms of being out to be off and relaxed, so it felt like we didn’t really have much of a break.

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“I think we have to be sensible. Naturally we don’t have to rush anything, but I think we have to be sensible and start conversations.

“They’re very complex, it’s never a super simple procedure and so hopefully soon we can start, as long as it doesn’t interfere the actual job.

“We still have 19 races to do, but it would be great to get something in place before the break so then we could, again, be in that break and have a clear picture of the future.”

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff is confident Hamilton will commit to F1 for more than a single year under his next contract.

“Yes, it should be [more than a year],” Wolff said. “We don’t want to be in a stressful situation every single year where we are absolutely flat-out trying to win races and needing to negotiate. I would rather that doesn’t happen every year.

“We just need to spend a day or two together, put it out there and decide which are the difficult components.

“We will then lock the door and won’t walk out until it is sorted. That works best for us, and it has worked best for us in the past.”

At 36 years old, Hamilton stated he still feels fit enough to continue in F1 over the coming years.

“There’s still some life in this old dog!” he joked. “I would say I’m more conscious than ever about my body, about my training regime.

“I’ve been training myself for a long time now but constantly growing and learning how to look after, naturally, the vessel that I’m given and feeling great.”

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Horner sees great races ahead for Perez despite Imola blank

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner forecast great races ahead for Sergio Perez despite the Mexican failing to score from his first front row start in Formula One on Sunday.

The 31-year-old driver, now a veteran of 193 races, concluded 12th in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola while Dutch team mate and title contender Max Verstappen won from third on the grid.

Perez lost out at the start as Verstappen took the lead from Mercedes’ seven-times champion Lewis Hamilton, on pole, with the Mexican dropping to third and then fourth as Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc went past.

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He then collected a 10 second penalty for overtaking while the safety car was deployed but was fourth again by the time the race was halted halfway through. Following the restart he spun and dropped to 14th.

“It was tough for him, he had such a good Saturday. The race just didn’t go his way,” said team boss Christian Horner.

“A couple of little mistakes, particularly the spin behind the Ferrari. Tough for him because we should have taken a lot more points out of Mercedes.

“He had good pace in the race and there’s still a long, long way to go.”

Horner stated Perez, a winner in Bahrain with Racing Point (now Aston Martin) last year, just needed time to get used to the adjustment of car.

“It’s different to what he’s used to. He did a mega job to put it on the front row, only just missed out on that pole position,” he said.

“There’s great races to come from him in the future. We could see in clean air his pace was strong.”

The Mexican ended fifth in his first race for Red Bull in Bahrain after starting in the pit lane.

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Hulkenberg joins Aston Martin as reserve, development driver

Nico Hulkenberg has been presented as Aston Martin’s official Formula One reserve and development driver this season, the team stated on Thursday.

The experienced German stood in for Mexican Sergio Perez and Canadian Lance Stroll last year when the Silverstone-based team competed as Racing Point, with both drivers testing positive for COVID-19.

Perez has since moved to Red Bull, with Germany’s four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel arriving from Ferrari.

Hulkenberg, 33, is a Le Mans 24 Hours winner and has started 176 F1 grands prix in a career that started with Williams in 2010 and included stints with Racing Point’s predecessors Force India.

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“It’s great to get this deal signed up with plenty of notice,” Hulkenberg said in a statement. “Last year, I didn’t have quite as much time to prepare before jumping in the car.

“Obviously, I’m hoping that Sebastian and Lance enjoy uninterrupted seasons this year, but the team knows it can rely on me to step in and do an excellent job.”

The German had also been linked to a reserve role at champions Mercedes, who provide Aston Martin’s engines.

Mercedes have Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne and Dutch driver Nyck de Vries as reserves but both are competing in Formula E and the calendars overlap at some races this season.

The role has become more important during the pandemic, with Mercedes calling on Williams driver George Russell in Bahrain last December when seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton contracted the virus.

McLaren have an agreement with Mercedes to use their reserve drivers if needed.

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Alonso discharged from hospital following cycling accident

Alpine Formula One driver Fernando Alonso has been discharged from hospital following a road traffic accident last week.

Alonso was knocked off his bike while cycling in Switzerland on Thursday and underwent corrective surgery on his upper jaw as a result of his injuries.

After a period of 48 hours observation following the surgery, Alonso left hospital on Monday and will keep his recovery at home.

“He will now have a short period of complete rest before progressively resuming training to undertake preparation for the start of the season,” a statement from the Alpine team said.

Alonso, a two-time F1 champion, returns to the series this campaign after two years racing in other categories.

He became a two-time World Endurance Champion with Toyota while away from F1, which incorporated two victories at the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2018. His quest to become only the second driver to collect the Triple Crown — victories at the Monaco Grand Prix, Le Mans and Indy 500 — has been put on hold.

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Alonso entered the Indy 500 in 2017 and 2020, and failed to qualify in 2019, but will not be competing in the event while he is contracted to Alpine’s F1 operation.

He is due to take part in pre-season testing in Bahrain between March 12-14 before the first race of the new season gets underway on March 28 at the same circuit.

The incident did lead to some doubt over Alonso’s fitness ahead of the new campaign, only for Alpine to say last week that it expected him to be “fully operational to undertake preparation for the season.”

Alonso tweeted last Friday that he was “OK and looking forward to getting 2021 underway”, with his extending first outing in the Alpine A521 car due to come in pre-season testing in Bahrain.

Alpine is yet to ratify launch plans for its new car, but will take the covers off prior to the start of the running at the Bahrain International Circuit on 12-14 March.

The new season will then get underway on 28 March with the Bahrain Grand Prix at the same circuit. It will mark Alonso’s maiden outing with the Enstone-based team since his final appearance with the squad in 2009, having also won both of his world titles in Renault colors in 2005 and 2006.

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Williams family stepping down from its F1 team

The historic chapter-closing move comes a fortnight after the famous Grove outfit was sold to US investment firm, Dorilton Capital.

The Grove team will continue to run under the Williams name into its new era, but will no longer be run by the family.

Sir Frank, who founded the outfit with Sir Patrick Head in 1977, has been one of the most successful team principals/owners in history with seven drivers’ and nine constructors’ championships.

Claire has been in day-to-day control since 2013 in the role of deputy team principal.

She first joined the team in an official capacity in 2002. She stated the new owners had encouraged them to continue on but they had decided it was the right time to step away, having secured the team’s future via the sale and signed the new Concorde Agreement.

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“With the future of the team now secured, this feels like the appropriate time for us to step away from the sport,” said Claire Williams.

“As a family, we have always prioritized Williams. We have demonstrated that by our recent actions with the Strategic Review process and we believe now is the right time to hand over the reins and give the new owners the opportunity to take the team into the future.

“We have been in this sport for more than four decades. We are incredibly proud of our track record and the legacy we leave behind. We have always been in it for the love of it, for the pure pleasure of going motor racing, so this is not a decision that we have taken lightly but after much reflection and as a family”.

Williams have concluded bottom of the standings in each of the past two campaigns and are the only outfit without a point so far in 2020.

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Ferrari, McLaren and Williams commit to F1 until 2025

Ferrari, McLaren, and Williams have all committed their futures to Formula 1 by signing the latest incarnation of the Concorde Agreement.

The Concorde Agreement is essentially a commercial contract that defines significant commercial aspects of a team’s involvement in F1.

By signing the agreement all three teams have committed themselves to the championship until 2025.

“F1 has taken another important stride on the road to a sustainable, strong future with the new agreement,” stated McLaren CEO, Zak Brown.

“This is the right deal at the right time for the sport, its owners, its teams and, most of all, the fans.

“A more equitable sport is better for everyone: greater balance in the sharing of revenues among all the teams and clearer, simpler governance that cuts through vested interests and puts the sport first.

“This agreement will only make the F1 constructors collectively stronger in the long term.” Louis Camilleri, Ferrari CEO, added: “We are pleased to have signed up again to what is commonly known as the Concorde Agreement, which will regulate F1 for the next five years.

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“It is an important step to ensure the stability and growth of the sport.

“We are very confident that the collaboration with the FIA and Liberty Media can make F1 even more attractive and spectacular, while preserving its status as the ultimate technological challenge.”

The latest incarnation of the Concorde Agreement, which has essentially been in place since the early 1980s, marks arguably the greatest change in its history.

Key among the changes is a more equitable distribution of prize money, helping close the financial gap between those at the front and back.

“The new Concorde Agreement represents a major step forward, for both Formula 1 and Williams,” reasoned Claire Williams, Deputy Team Principal of Williams Racing.

“As one of the sport’s longest running teams, we are pleased to see the future direction of Formula 1 confirmed for the next era of racing.

“Our expectation, aligned with Liberty Media, is that this next era will be characterized by closer and more exciting racing as a result of the new platform of regulations, which include more equitable revenue distribution and a first ever cost cap for our sport.

“The Agreement is a major milestone in the development of Formula 1, and also represents a significant opportunity for Williams to continue on our journey back towards the front of the grid.”

All seven remaining teams are estimated to sign the agreement, the deadline for doing so having been pushed back from last week.

Then, Mercedes stated that it was not ready to sign the document, though that position changed over the course of the Spanish Grand Prix weekend. The Concorde Agreement came into being in an effort to end the ‘FISA-FOCA’ war that waged between the FIA (FISA) and teams (FOCA) in the early 1980s.

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Hamilton wants three more years in F1

Lewis Hamilton expects to stay in Formula One for at least three more years, revealing he is motivated to stay in the sport by its lack of diversity and his desire to prove he deserves a space on the grid.

The six-time world champion is out of contract with Mercedes at the end of 2020 but is expected to negotiate a renewal with the team over the upcoming months.

Speaking ahead of this weekend’s British Grand Prix, he revealed that he is targeting a minimum of three more years in the sport but confessed that nothing was concrete.

“I think you still have to earn the right to be here in terms of how you perform and continue to deliver,” he said. “So my goal is to continue to deliver as long as I can. I do see myself going for at least another three years.”

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Hamilton made his F1 debut in 2007 with McLaren, won his first title in 2008 and moved to Mercedes in 2013.

Since then he has added five more titles and looks set for a record-equaling seventh this year if he can fend off Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.

Hamilton said the delayed start to the season due to the coronavirus pandemic may have inadvertently extended his career by giving him time to rest and reflect.

“The COVID lockdown meant the first part of the season was cancelled, and while that was a negative in many, many ways, in some ways it gave a lot of life and energy to focus on some other things and that bit of time off was really a bit of breathing space. It has kind of giving me a renewed bit of energy to perhaps go longer.

“Ultimately I want to be able to perform at the level I am performing at now forever, but obviously there is a point at which physicality and the mental side can tail off. I don’t know when that’s going to be, but I don’t see that happening in a particular short term in the next two or three years, so I am definitely going to be here for the foreseeable future.”

Speaking about his motivation to stay in the sport, Hamilton cited the lack of drivers from his background in junior categories.

The 35-year-old is F1’s only Black driver and has taken the lead in campaigning for greater diversity in the sport.

Speaking about his motivation to stay in the sport, Hamilton cited the lack of drivers from his background in junior categories. The 35-year-old is F1’s only Black driver and has taken the lead in campaigning for greater diversity in the sport.

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Renault confirms it will stay in F1

Hot on the heels of Formula 1 and the FIA revealing a raft of rule changes – including the reduction of the revolutionary new budget cap from $175 million to $145 million for 2021 – Renault have confirmed that they plan to stay in the sport for the foreseeable future.

The team, which returned to Formula 1 in a works capacity in 2016, have suffered setbacks in recent times, losing star driver Daniel Ricciardo to McLaren for 2021 after a 2019 campaign which saw them fall from fourth to fifth in the constructors’ standings – while McLaren will also switch to Mercedes power units from next season, leaving Renault without a customer team to supply.

The Renault parent company have also recently declared nearly 15,000 job cuts worldwide as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, as part of a €2bn cost-cutting plan.

Despite that, the company’s Acting Chief Executive Officer Clotilde Delbos revealed in an online presentation with the media that Formula 1 was still where Renault – who first entered the sport back in 1977 – wanted to be.

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“We have said publicly, and we confirm, that we intend to stay in Formula 1,” said Delbos.

“Actually the news about new regulations, a new cap in terms of investment, is very good for us because we had less investment in this area than some of our competitors, who were spending a lot of money. So F1, we’re here and we’ll stay.”

Renault’s restating of their commitment to Formula 1 could be seen as a boost to the team’s probabilities of luring Fernando Alonso out of retirement, as sources have indicated the Spaniard has had talks about a potential return to the squad with which he won his two world titles in 2005 and 2006. But with the team believed to have paid top dollar to secure the services of Ricciardo in 2019, it’s unclear in the current financial climate whether they’d be prepared to commit to the high salary demands that would likely come with the signing of Alonso.

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Silverstone agrees terms with F1 for races

Formula One and Silverstone have agreed terms for two races without spectators at the circuit this season, subject to government approval, the track’s managing director Stuart Pringle said on Friday.

The British Grand Prix, a home race for Mercedes’ six times world champion Lewis Hamilton as well as seven of the 10 teams, is planned for July 19 but that could change as the sport redraws a calendar ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic.

F1 is seeking to make up the numbers after three races, including this month’s traditional Monaco showcase, were cancelled and seven others postponed.

More are also looking unlikely to happen due to travel controls and measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

“We’re not talking dates because F1 are still trying to knit their calendar together and there seems to be a certain amount of flexibility,” Pringle told Reuters.

He said both parties were happy with the settlement, without giving details. Media reports earlier in the week had suggested the sides were arguing over money, with the hosting fee waived but Silverstone unable to sell tickets and still seeking a payment to cover costs.

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The British Grand Prix was the best attended race on the calendar last year, with 351,000 people over the three days and 141,000 on race Sunday.

The races would be back-to-back at the circuit that is celebrating the 70th anniversary of hosting the first Formula One world championship race.

Pringle stated there was still no presumption that any race would happen, however.

The British government has said it plans to announce a quarantine period for most people arriving from abroad, which could make F1’s plans for Silverstone almost impossible unless an exemption is granted to teams.

The sport is planning to start the season with two races in Austria in early July, also behind closed doors and in carefully controlled medical conditions with teams flying in on charter flights and staying isolated. “It is very much subject to government approval. If the government aren’t happy, it won’t happen,” Pringle said of the Silverstone races.

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