Tagged in: Formula One

Mercedes to leave Formula E after 2022

Formula E champions Mercedes will withdraw from the all-electric series at the end of the Gen2 era in 2022 to concentrate on Formula One, the carmaker said on Wednesday.

The announcement comes three days after Dutch driver Nyck de Vries acquired the Formula E world championship title after finishing eighth in the season’s final race in Berlin, with Mercedes also winning the teams’ title after Stoffel Vandoorne’s third place.

“Mercedes-Benz today announced that it will conclude its ABB FIA Formula E success story as a team entrant and manufacturer at the end of Season 8, in August 2022,” the manufacturer said in a statement.

“Moving forward, the company will concentrate its works motorsport activities on Formula 1, reinforcing the sport’s status as the fastest laboratory for developing and proving sustainable and scalable future performance technologies.”

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In December, German manufacturers Audi and BMW confirmed they would exit Formula E at the end of this year.

Mercedes announced a new strategic direction for its brand in July, with the aim of going all-electric by the end of the decade.

“As part of the new strategic direction, the brand has deliberately chosen to shift resources for this accelerated ramp-up of electrification, including the development of three electric-only architectures to be launched in 2025,” the carmaker said.

“Therefore, Mercedes will reallocate resource away from its ABB FIA Formula E World Championship programme and towards applying the lessons learned in competition to product development in series.”

This decision leaves Mahindra, DS Automobiles, Jaguar Land Rover, Porsche, Nissan and NIO as manufacturers who have committed to the Gen3 rules that will run until the end of the 2025-26 season.

Race teams Andretti Autosport and Envision Virgin Racing are also expected to continue, while Mercedes affiliate Venturi Racing will be required to find a new powertrain partner.

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Hamilton plays down blow of another loss to Verstappen

Mercedes’ seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton played down the pain of his latest defeat by Formula One leader Max Verstappen in France on Sunday and said the race was a real reflection of Red Bull’s pace.

The Briton had won at Le Castellet in 2018 and 2019, with no race last year due to COVID-19, but his hopes of a hat-trick ended when resurgent Red Bull out-smarted the champions on strategy.

The seventh race of the season was a reversal of the Spanish Grand Prix in May when Hamilton hunted down Verstappen, who stated then that he felt like a sitting duck, in the closing laps to win.

This time it was the champion who was on the receiving end as Verstappen made a second pitstop and used his fresher tyres to make up the time and overhaul Hamilton on the penultimate lap.

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Asked how gut-wrenching the feeling had been, Hamilton — now 12 points behind his Dutch rival — said it had not been at all.

“I think we did a great job today and it just didn’t work out,” he added.

“I’m not massively disappointed. I think I did the best job I could today. Of course, there were things we could probably have done slightly better but overall they have been quicker than us all weekend.

“It’s a true reflection of the pace they have.”

Hamilton had arrived at Le Castellet having scored just seven points from the past two races won by Red Bull and lagging Verstappen by four.

The 36-year-old recognized that another chance to win had e slipped through his fingers, his tally still stuck at a record 98 career victories.

“If we look in hindsight for sure if we’d have stopped earlier, before they stopped and come out ahead and just gone onto a two stop, we probably could have won the race,” he said.

“But it would still have been very difficult. Their pace was generally very, very strong.

“If he (Verstappen) had not made a mistake in turn one, they would have just led the race all the way probably.”

Verstappen started on pole but went wide at the start, letting Hamilton to take the lead which the Mercedes driver held until the pitstops, when the Dutch driver got back in front before taking a gamble and pitting again.

“Lewis’s tyres were really worn,” Verstappen said of the closing stages. “It was a fairly easy pass.”

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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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Catalan government gives go-ahead for 2021 Spanish GP

The government of Catalonia has given the go-ahead for Spanish Grand Prix organizers to agree a contract extension with Formula One for 2021.

The May 9 race at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya is listed as subject to contract on the sport’s record 23-round provisional calendar.

The regional government said in a statement it had authorized Circuits de Catalunya SL to sign the renewal. “The signature guarantees the celebration of the 31st consecutive edition of this event at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya,” it said.

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“The F1 Grand Prix is ​​an asset that contributes to Catalonia’s position in the world in the fields of tourism and automotive.”

The circuit agreed last year an extension to cover this year’s race, which was held in August and without spectators due to the COVID-19 pandemic, after fears it would drop off the agenda.

Spain will have two drivers on the starting grid next season

With Carlos Sainz moving from McLaren to Ferrari while double world champion Fernando Alonso makes a comeback after two years out.

Alonso has returned to Renault, the team that took him to his titles in 2005 and 2006 and which is changing name to compete under the French manufacturer’s Alpine sportscar brand.

The 2021 campaign is due to start in Australia on March 21, although how that unfolds will depend on the state of the pandemic. There is also still a slot, vacated by Vietnam, to be filled on April 25.

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Marcus Ericsson signs multiyear IndyCar deal to return to Chip Ganassi Racing

Marcus Ericsson signed a multi-year IndyCar contract Wednesday to return to Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ganassi on Sunday celebrated his 20th overall championship in 30 campaigns of competition across several motorsports series. Scott Dixon won his sixth IndyCar title in the season finale.

Attention then turned to completing the remainder of the Ganassi lineup, which will incorporate Ericsson and seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson. Felix Rosenqvist is not returning to a fourth IndyCar entry but could be substituted by Spanish rookie Alex Palou in 2021.

Ericsson will be back for a second season in the No. 8 Honda. In his first year with the team, the Swede finished 12th in the IndyCar standings.

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Ericsson spent five years in Formula One with a total of 97 starts before moving to IndyCar in 2019.

“I want to thank Chip and the whole CGR organization for their trust in me,” Ericsson said. “Chip Ganassi Racing is one of the best teams in motorsports and I’m proud to be part of the team. The season we’ve just finished has been full of potential and I feel confident that with what we’ve learned together this year will help us succeed in 2021.”

Mike Hull, managing director of Chip Ganassi Racing, credited Ericsson with contributing to the organization’s success this campaign. “That includes being unselfish to his teammates, especially with Scott Dixon who won the IndyCar championship,” Hull said.

“He’s a great foundational piece of our overall program and he fits well within our group. That translates into success on the track, and we’re glad to have him continue to grow and move the team toward into the future.”

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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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MotoGP races in Britain, Australia canceled amid pandemic

The MotoGP races in Britain and Australia are the latest to be canceled on the international motorcycle racing circuit because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Organizers on Friday said COVID-19 pandemic “and resulting calendar modifications have obliged the cancellation of both events.”

The British Grand Prix had been planned for Aug. 28-30 at the Silverstone Circuit and the Australian Grand Prix was set to be staged at Phillip Island from Oct. 23-25.

“I want to thank the stoic British fans for their patience and support,” Silverstone managing director Stuart Pringle said in a statement. “We must now look forward to 2021 when Silverstone will once again host the fastest and most historic MotoGP race on the calendar and work hard to make it a truly exceptional event.”

Carmelo Ezpeleta, chief executive of Dorna Sports, which has the commercial and TV rights for MotoGP, said the British and Australian races couldn’t be rearranged because there was “no way through the logistical and operational issues resulting from the pandemic and rearranged calendar.”

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MotoGP is aiming to start the series in Spain in July.

The first two MotoGP events of the year in Qatar and Thailand were canceled on March 2 because of travel restrictions. At the time, there had been 34 deaths from the COVID-19 illness in Italy and more than 1,100 people had tested positive.

The numbers of deaths attributed to COVID-19 in Italy has risen to more than 33,000, which is the third-highest national toll behind the United States and Britain. Globally, there have been more than 360,000 deaths from COVID-19 among more than 5.8 million reported cases.

Paul Little, chairman of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation also communicated disappointment but backed the decision to cancel.

Globe-trotting MotoGP and Formula One have both been battered by the coronavirus shutdown, with their seasons yet to start and the prospect of a drastically rejigged calendar in the second half of the year.

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