Tagged in: F1

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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Verstappen to stay at Red Bull until 2023

Max Verstappen has signed to stay at Red Bull until the end of 2023 in a clear vote of confidence in the former championship-winning team’s Formula One title potential and its Honda partnership.

The announcement on Tuesday leaves two of the top three teams with young driver talent secure for the long-term, with Ferrari announcing in December that Charles Leclerc was staying to 2024.

“I am really happy to have extended my partnership with the team. Red Bull believed in me and gave me the opportunity to start in Formula One which I have always been very grateful for,” Verstappen, 22, said in a statement.

“Over the years I have grown closer and closer with the team and besides the passion from everyone and the on-track performance it is also really enjoyable to work with such a great group of people.

“Honda coming onboard and the progress we have made over the last 12 months gives me even more motivation and the belief that we can win together…I want to win with Red Bull and our goal is of course to fight for a World Championship together.”

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Red Bull concluded third last year in the first season of a new partnership with Honda, which proved an immediate success after the Japanese manufacturer’s failed relationship with McLaren.

Verstappen was best of the rest behind Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.

The rumour mill will now focus more on six-times world champion Hamilton, who is out of contract at the end of this year, and the future of Leclerc’s four-times champion team mate Sebastian Vettel.

Verstappen won three races in 2019, and holds a career total of eight F1 victories, and is seen as a champion-in-waiting.

The Dutchman, who in 2016 became the youngest ever race winner in the sport’s history, had been linked to both Ferrari and Mercedes in paddock speculation.

Formula One is about to enter a new era in 2021 with sweeping rule changes and what owners Liberty Media hope will be a more level playing field.

“Max has proven what an asset he is to the team, he truly believes in the partnership we have forged with our engine supplier Honda, and we are delighted to have extended our relationship with him.”

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F1 teams reject prototype 2020 Pirelli tyre

Formula 1 will stick with 2019-specification Pirelli rubber next year, after teams unanimously voted to reject the new tyres that were being prepared for 2020.

The prototype 2020 spec – which was designed to reduce tyre degradation, provide a wider working range of temperature and lower overheating in dirty air –  had made its race weekend debut during free practice in Austin, but earned largely negative evaluations from the drivers who had sampled it.

As a result, the possibility of sticking with this year’s tyres was broached, such a decision requiring the approval of 70 percent of competing teams, as per item 12.6.1 of the F1 technical regulations.

And while Pirelli said it would be open to such a development, it was hopeful that the two-day post-season test in Abu Dhabi would offer a more representative view of the new tyres. However, GPDA director Romain Grosjean (Haas) said he was left with largely the same impression at Yas Marina – and the FIA has now confirmed a “unanimous decision” has been taken to stick with the 2019 spec.

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“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,” the FIA statement added.

“In any case, the lessons leant will be invaluable for the further improvement of the tyres in the future.”

Pirelli’s motorsport director, Mario Isola, acknowledged peak grip was down on the 2019 tyres, but said that was to lessen the drop off in performance over the tyre’s life.

“The target was to make a tyre better for racing, not qualifying, we were not focusing on qualifying, we were not focused or peak of grip, the absolute performance of the car,”he said.

“The idea was to have tyres where you can push more, this means that probably we have more one-stop races and so on but that was the discussion and agreement we have.

F1 has one more tournament on the current tyres before switching to 18-inch rims for the 2021 season, which will feature a complete overhaul of the series’ cars and rules.

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Williams confirm F2 driver Latifi will replace Kubica

The Formula One grid for next season is done after Williams confirmed its reserve driver Nicholas Latifi will replace Robert Kubica.

Latifi is to step up from Formula Two to make his F1 debut in 2020 after Kubica decided to vacate his seat following the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this weekend. 

Canadian Latifi, who has also been a test driver for Renault and Force India, is second in the F2 championship with one round to go.

The 24-year-old had been expected to partner George Russell next year and his promotion was announced by the British team on Friday.

“I am thrilled to be stepping up as Race Driver for 2020,” said Latifi.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the team this year, supporting them with the development of the car, and assisting wherever I can trackside and at the factory.

“I look forward to the journey ahead with the team, and I am excited to make my Formula One debut at the Australian Grand Prix in 2020.”

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Williams deputy team principal Claire Williams said: “I am delighted to announce that Nicholas will be stepping up to the role of race driver to partner George in 2020.

“All of us at Williams have been immensely impressed at what he has achieved this year in FIA Formula Two, along with his commitment to the team, and the work that he has put in behind the scenes.

“Nicholas has become an established and well-respected member of Williams, and we look forward to him stepping up into this new role, as we look to fight our way back to the midfield.”

Williams has endured the worst season in its history this year after it failed to get its car ready for the opening pre-season test and was forced to play catch up for the rest of the season.

The team has often qualified multiple seconds off the pace and has only scored one point all season when Kubica snatched a tenth place finish in Germany once both Alfa Romeos were penalised over a technical infringement.

Latifi has received substantial financial backing from his family throughout his career and his father, Michael, holds 10 percent of McLaren’s holding company.

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Esteban Ocon to test for Renault in Abu Dhabi

Esteban Ocon will start work at Renault the day after the season-ending Abu Dhabi GP – and drive their 2019 car at the test that follows.

The Frenchman, who has spent this year in a reserve role at Mercedes, is substituting  Nico Hulkenberg in Renault’s line-up for 2020 next to Daniel Ricciardo.

Renault have now confirmed that Ocon will start preparation work for next year in the tyre test at Yas Marina on December 3-4, the final F1 track running of 2019.

“Esteban Ocon will officially join Renault on Monday 2nd December and will take part in both test days at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi on 3rd and 4th December,” Renault stated.

The 23-year-old made his F1 weekend with the Enstone team, then known as Lotus, in Practice One at the 2014 Abu Dhabi GP and spent a half-year there as third driver in 2016 before landing a race seat at Manor.

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Ocon then spent two seasons at Force India before losing his seat for this season.

The two-day post-season test in Abu Dhabi will see teams run the planned 2020 Pirelli tyres, with the Italian manufacturer having worked to develop them outside of race weekends through the year.

The arrival of Ocon at Renault, and the expected promotion of Nicholas Latifi at Williams in place of the departing Robert Kubica, are the only two seats set to switch hands over the winter grid.

The Mercedes reserve driver said in Brazil that he hopes Mercedes lets him carry out the post-race Abu Dhabi test with Renault.

“I hope I can do the test in Abu Dhabi, but the two teams will have to decide if that is possible,” he said.

His most recent F1 track mileage was completed at Paul Ricard in October, when he participated in 2020 Pirelli tyre testing with the current Mercedes W10.

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Giovinazzi to stay at Alfa Romeo in 2020

Alfa Romeo have verified they will keep Italian driver Antonio Giovinazzi on board for 2020, alongside Kimi Raikkonen. The news leaves just four F1 race seats unconfirmed for next year.

Giovinazzi, 25, could be the only Italian driver on the grid once again, as he readies himself for his second season in Formula 1 alongside veteran Raikkonen. He presently lies 18th in the driver standings on four points.

“I am very happy to be staying with the team for 2020,” said Giovinazzi.

“I am grateful for the incredible level of support I received in my first full season in Formula 1: everyone in the team has stuck by my side since I joined and I am really looking forward to continuing our journey together.

“We learned a lot this year and I am confident we can make a big step forward next season. I won’t be a rookie anymore so there won’t be any excuses for me: I want to be competitive right from the start of the championship and repay the confidence the team has shown in me.”

Giovinazzi, who ended 14th in Sunday’s United States Grand Prix, tested for Haas and Sauber in 2017, and for the latter team once again in 2018, before joining the new-look Alfa Romeo squad for this season.

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Team Principal Frederic Vasseur added: “Antonio has done really well this year and I am extremely pleased to be able to confirm he will stay with Alfa Romeo Racing for 2020.

“The way he has integrated into the team and has consistently improved throughout his first full season in the sport are very promising and we cannot wait to unlock his full potential as we continue to work together.

“Antonio has emerged as a very quick driver, even alongside as tough a benchmark as Kimi, and we expect him to develop even further as his experience grows. His technical feedback, work ethics and positive approach will help us continue to push our team forward, and so will the consistency of an unchanged line-up for next season.”

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Hamilton recovers to win Mexico GP

Lewis Hamilton recovered from a first-lap off to win the Mexican Grand Prix but will have to wait at least one more race to clinch the 2019 Formula 1 title.

Hamilton had a trip across the grass at the start of the race after contact with Max Verstappen and fell to fifth, but he executed a one-stop strategy exceptionally to overhaul both Ferraris and score his 10th triumph of the season.

Sebastian Vettel was unable to attack Hamilton after losing track position through strategy and had to settle for second in lead Ferrari, with Valtteri Bottas third.

Poleman and early race leader Charles Leclerc fell to fourth as a two-stop strategy and a slow second stop cost him dearly.

Ferrari had control of the race in the early stages despite Leclerc being lightly nerfed by Vettel after running wide under braking for the Turn 4 left-hander and slowing right down through the tight right-hand turn that followed on the first lap.

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Behind, though, Hamilton had already suffered an early setback as Verstappen challenged him on the inside into the first corner.

Hamilton had already been crowded out by Vettel on the run down to Turn 1 as they chased Leclerc of the line, a move he branded “dangerous” but one that was not inspected by the officials.

At the first corner, Hamilton ran wide and had a big snap of oversteer on the outside kerb, which lurched his car to the right and put him and Verstappen on the grass between the Turns 2 and 3 complex after they banged wheels.

The incident dropped Hamilton behind Alex Albon’s Red Bull and the McLaren of Carlos Sainz Jr, while Verstappen fell to eighth, behind Lando Norris and Bottas.

Hamilton’s win, with Bottas third, extended his championship lead by 10 points but he needed to add 14 points over Bottas to clinch his sixth title.

That means Hamilton now has a 74-point lead with 78 available in the final three races.

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Hamilton wins Russian Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton was handed victory in the Russian Grand Prix after a virtual safety car cost Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc the lead.

Hamilton’s first win in four grands prix inched him closer to a sixth world title and came after Ferrari’s chances of victory fell apart following a controversy over Leclerc’s team-mate Sebastian Vettel disobeying team orders.

Ferrari’s pre-race plan was for Leclerc to tow Vettel down into the first corner to remove the risk of Hamilton, starting second, taking the lead.

Leclerc played his side of the bargain, but once Vettel was in the lead, he refused a demand to let his team-mate back past him. After a series of conversations over the radio, Ferrari decided to do the swap later and Leclerc recovered first place when he was pitted four laps earlier and allowed to benefit from fresher tyres.

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But Vettel’s engine developed a problem in its hybrid system on his first lap out of the pits and when he was told to park the car, that led to the virtual safety car being deployed.

It was bad timing for Ferrari, because it meant Hamilton, who had been promoted into the lead by Ferrari’s pit stops, could stop under the VSC and lose far less time than under racing conditions, allowing him to keep the lead.

Leclerc then lost second place as well when George Russell crashed with an apparent braking problem just as the VSC was ending, bringing out the safety car.

Ferrari decided to pit Leclerc again to swap his medium tyres for softs, the same as the Mercedes drivers, and that dropped him to third behind Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

Try as he might, Leclerc could not quite get close enough to attack Bottas, and Mercedes were able to deliver their first one-two since the British Grand Prix back in mid-July. Hamilton scored an extra point for fastest lap and his championship lead is now at 73 points. Mathematically, he cannot win the title at the next race in Japan – but he could well do it the race after that in Mexico.

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