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BINOTTO: WE DEVELOPED THE CAR IN THE WRONG DIRECTION

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Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto explains exactly why his team is lagging behind Mercedes in this year’s Formula 1 World Championship, admitting that his team took the wrong development option when designing the SF90 and now face the challenge of reversing their error.

In retrospect, the Reds were lulled into a false sense of security before Melbourne where Ferrari were caught lacking as well as flat-footed and have been chasing ever since.

Victory still eluding them this year, after seven rounds, despite the benefit of the best engine bolted to the back of the cars of Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc.

Speaking to Auto Motor und Sport, Binotto explained, “For a straightforward comparison in Barcelona between test and race, we were worse for one simple reason: We developed the car in the wrong direction because we misjudged the weaknesses and limitations of our package.”

“Our vehicle concept does not work with the 2019 tyres. The car is not one of the best in terms of maximum downforce.”

“Over the last two years, we have done well evolving our aero package, but it no longer works with these tyres. Because we lack downforce, we have difficulty warming up the tyres and keeping them in the window where they provide optimal grip.”

In Canada, Vettel delivered a stellar lap to claim pole position at the power-hungry Circuit Gilles Villeneuve and looked good for victory until he made a mistake while leading.

Despite losing the race, tifosi might have been inspired by the fact that they had a package on par with, if not a little better than, Mercedes, but Binotto was not so sure, “We hadn’t changed the car since Barcelona, so we drove in Montreal with the same weaknesses and limitations as four weeks ago. Only the result was different.”

The mystery of the disappearing horsepower between Barcelona in February testing and at the first race still lingers for the team chief, “If I look at the performance of all teams in the first race of the season, then we were where we all expected to be after testing. The only exception was Mercedes. So, it was not just us who did not deliver compared to them.”

“It’s always difficult to judge what a rival team is doing during testing. We delivered what we had during the winter tests, but Mercedes was a bit of a surprise in the first races.”

The ‘surprise’ is likely to have come from the different directions taken by the two top teams when the new aero rules kicked in. Ferrari opting for a solution producing more outwash from the front wing, which at the time seemed the way to go.

So much so that in between tests Mercedes is said to have produced a similar solution but ditched it because they found that developing the concept during the ‘arms-race’ between rounds would be limited. Results show they were spot-on. Ferrari were not.

Teams tested the 2019-spec tyres in Abu Dhabi last year (old aero rules) and again during the two Barcelona test sessions, but Ferrari and other teams were still unable to predict how the new Pirelli tyres would behave under proper race-style conditions.

Binotto revealed, “In Abu Dhabi last year, the warm-up problem was masked by the hot weather and track layout. During the winter tests in Barcelona, we may have been misled by our good performance. If you think you are good against others, then you become kind of relaxed.”

“We didn’t treat it as the biggest problem we had. In retrospect, the tyre problem has hurt us the most. To a certain degree, every team has problems with the warm-up process, even with the softest compounds.”

“Many complain about not finding the ideal operating window. The tyres also do not wear out, now there are only one-stop races and I think the show suffers. That should be sorted out for the benefit of F1.”

“For us, there are two factors. First the tyres, of course, we can not influence that. What we can do is change the concept of our car.”

“That means finding more downforce, something we cannot correct in one day. The process will take several weeks because we also have to make sure that all of our changes to aerodynamics are indeed heading in the right direction.”

While the team at Maranello work around the clock to produce updates for their car, Binotto downplayed expectations, “Don’t expect a B-version of our car for France. It’ll take two or three upgrades before we’re able to challenge Mercedes everywhere.”

“The title is not the question right now. The priority is that we recognise the problem correctly and react to it in the best way so that we can regain our strength as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile, pressure in Italy is at fever pitch, many pundits and journos declaring the season over for the Scuderia. Many question the ability of the engineer-turned-Ferrari-boss to run the sport’s most famous team solo and have slammed both President John Elkann and CEO Louis Camilleri for their hands-off management style, accusing them of doing too little to support their homegrown team chief

“You can imagine that the pressure is high,” acknowledged Binotto. “Everyone immediately expects answers, namely victories by us but we are so busy with our tasks that we barely perceive the pressure from the outside.”

“From experience, I can say that stability and continuity are now the most important thing. It takes time to catch up. We can only do that if we focus on ourselves,” added the Ferrari team chief whose team trail Mercedes by 123-points in the F1 constructors’ standings ahead of Round 8 in France this weekend.

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BROWN: NO F1 SEAT AVAILABLE FOR ALONSO AT MCLAREN

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While Fernando Alonso is very much part of the McLaren family, there is no Formula 1 car for him unless they allow teams to field three cars as the team are more than content with their current drivers who CEO Zak Brown believes are key to the future of the team.

Alonso, fresh from adding a second Le Mans victory and the WEC crown to his CV, is still at the peak of his career at 37 and in an ideal world would still be driving with a top team in F1.

Destiny decided otherwise and right now, after his final race as part of the Toyota Gazoo Racing WEC programme, the Spaniard’s future is not yet confirmed but he has hinted at a “big project” on the horizon.

That big project may well be that he spearheads McLaren’s foray into the hypercar-based WEC which kicks into effect from 2020. But at this point, a return to F1 with the team is not on the cards for Alonso.

Instead, Carlos Sainz is on a multi-year contract with the team and has adapted well to the team that have embraced his enthusiasm, while Lando Norris is proving to be the real deal as he impresses in his first season in the top flight.

In a wide-ranging interview with Auto Motor und Sport, Brown said of his two drivers, “They’re doing a great job. Fifty percent of the time they have made it into Q3. Their feedback about the car is very good. They get along well and I don’t worry when they battle each other on track.”

“I feel like they’re both driving for the team. Lando has not made a rookie mistake yet. Carlos is thriving here. Previously, he always drove with one-year contracts. Now he can plan for the future with us.”

“That makes it easier for him, compared to Red Bull where he was under much more pressure. I believe that our way of doing things gets more performance out of our drivers.”

Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that the shadow of Alonso looms large over Woking and when asked what would happen if the veteran of 311 grand prix starts came calling for an F1 seat, Brown said, “Then I’d have to ask Chase Carey if we can run three cars!”

“Both our drivers are under longer-term contracts and we are happy with them. Fortunately, Fernando has not called yet… And if he does? “There are no cockpits available at McLaren right now,” replied the team boss.

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HAAS: FRANCE IS NOT MAKE-OR-BREAK FOR US

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The French Grand Prix June 23 at Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet, France kicks off the summer stretch of the FIA Formula One World Championship with five races in seven weeks.

And with a third of the season growing ever smaller in the mirrors of teams, this slate of races becomes incredibly important before the FIA-imposed, two-week shutdown in August following the Hungarian Grand Prix as organizations look to either solidify their standing or find the necessary gains to climb upward.

Rich Energy Haas F1 Team falls into the latter category, as the American outfit is currently eighth in the constructors’ standings with 16 points, one mark behind seventh-place Toro Rosso and three ahead of ninth-place Alfa Romeo. The team started the year fourth in points thanks to a sixth-place drive by Kevin Magnussen in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, but that is one of only three point-paying finishes earned thus far in 2019.

The misfortune Rich Energy Haas F1 Team has endured so far this year is shared by its midfield counterparts as only six points separate sixth-place Racing Point from ninth-place Alfa Romeo. And fourth-place McLaren is an attainable 14 points ahead of Rich Energy Haas F1 Team and fifth-place Renault enjoys just a 12-point margin.

For Magnussen and teammate Romain Grosjean, the French Grand Prix marks a new start, much in the same way it did last year when Magnussen finished sixth to kick off a run of five point-paying finishes in a span of six races.

Grosjean joined the fun, finishing a season-best fourth a week later in Austria before rattling off back-to-back top-10s in Germany and Hungary that carried through the summer shutdown as Grosjean posted a seventh-place finish in Belgium with Magnussen right behind him in eighth. Fifty-seven collective points were earned in this time, allowing Rich Energy Haas F1 Team to strengthen its fifth-place constructors’ position.

The French Grand Prix beckons once more, and in a series boasting the most sophisticated racecars in the world, Circuit Paul Ricard is a fitting venue. The 5.842-kilometer (3.630-mile), 15-turn layout in the heart of the region’s Bandol vineyards is one of the most technically advanced in the world. In fact, it is the first entity to be designated as a “Centre of Excellence” by the FIA.

This rejuvenation of the facility brought Formula One back to Le Castellet in 2018 after a 28-year absence, as Circuit Paul Ricard was home to the French Grand Prix from 1971 to 1990, where it hosted Formula One 14 times.

Its long-awaited 15th grand prix last June was a strong reminder of Formula One’s evolution and provided a springboard for Rich Energy Haas F1 Team. That history will be on display again June 23, and Rich Energy Haas F1 Team seeks a repeat performance.

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal

We’re now a third of the way through the 2019 season. Can you provide an assessment of where Rich Energy Haas F1 Team stands in relation to your goals and where it stands in relation to its counterparts?
GS: “We’re obviously behind in points which we should have scored, but for one or another reason we didn’t get them. We weren’t there at the right time to pick them up. What we have to do now is roll our sleeves up and work even harder to try to get some of the points back that we lost in the first-third of the season.”

The team’s last series of upgrades to its Haas VF-19s came in early May at the Spanish Grand Prix. How have they performed and are more upgrades coming as Formula One begins its European swing?
GS: “The upgrades performed very well. Everything went to plan there. We don’t have an issue with the pace of the car, we just need to understand the tires better. We’ll bring on more developments for the rest of the season. They won’t be as big as the Barcelona upgrade package, but we’ve got quite a few smaller ones coming.”

You’re coming up on a slate of five races in seven weeks, beginning with back-to-back grands prix in France and Austria. Is this the make-or-break part of the season for teams?
GS: “I wouldn’t say it’s make-or-break. Before the summer shutdown, we’re a little bit more than halfway through the season. I wouldn’t call it make-or-break but, for sure, it’s an important phase of the season.”

Beyond the continued understanding of this year’s Pirelli tire lineup, is there a specific area of improvement the team is targeting in these next few races?
GS: “No, that’s a job big enough trying to understand the tires this year or trying to get them to work consistently. It seems to be very troubling, especially for us, so there’s nothing else we’re targeting. The normal targets are obviously more downforce – which is better, being more efficient is better – but our biggest focus is on the tires.”

In addition to managing the week-to-week and race-to-race elements of the team, you have to simultaneously look at next year and even 2021, where a budget cap, new technical regulations and a possible expansion beyond the current 21-race schedule are all on the table. How are you managing it all and when do you need to know definitively what you’re doing next year and in 2021?
GS: “We’re pretty clear regulation-wise what we’re doing next year. That’s all being planned, as normal. Every year at this time you’re planning for the following year. Obviously, for 2021 there will be new regulations. They’re in a discussion, and it takes quite a bit of energy at the moment to attend all the meetings and to think about what’s going to be best for Formula 1  in our opinion for 2021. It’s just one of those years where big decisions are being taken for the future, both for the team and for Formula One. There’s just a little bit more effort needed, but that’s what we need to do.”

Romain Grosjean

We’re now a third of the way through the 2019 season. Can you provide an assessment of where Rich Energy Haas F1 Team stands in relation to your goals and where it stands in relation to its counterparts?
RG: “I think it’s been an interesting year – not the one we were hoping for at the beginning. We’ve got a very good car. We’ve had some very good races, but we’ve also had some bad luck and a car that’s been very complicated to use sometimes. So, our performance has been a bit up and down, which is not what we were looking for after last year where we were very consistent. We’re working really hard trying to understand that and to get the best from the VF-19.”

The team’s last series of upgrades to its Haas VF-19s came in early May at the Spanish Grand Prix. How have they performed, or after competing at back-to-back city circuits in Monaco and Montreal, will France be a truer test of how the upgrades are performing?
RG: “The upgrades have worked well from Barcelona onward, and I think they work well everywhere. France will definitely be a circuit where the aerodynamics are more important – more so than Monaco and Montreal – so yes, it will be a good test. Again though, our main focus is getting the whole package working, meaning tires and so on.”

You’re coming up on a slate of five races in seven weeks, beginning with back-to-back grands prix in France and Austria. Is this the make-or-break part of the season for teams?
RG: “Yes, it’s an important part of the season with a lot of races in a row. It’s five times 25 points to take, which is quite big, so I guess it’s an important part of the season.”

Beyond the continued understanding of this year’s Pirelli tire lineup, is there a specific area of improvement you’re targeting in these next few races?
RG: “We just have to keep learning, keep improving and keep getting the relationship with my engineers better and better. It’s only seven races we’ve done together as a new group. Obviously, when the tires are working things are smooth and easy, but when they’re not, things are very complicated.”

The French Grand Prix is your home grand prix, and last year was the first time you actually had a home grand prix. What was that like and how will that experience help shape your routine for this year’s race?
RG: “Last year was a very good experience. I really enjoyed my time at Le Castellet and the support from the fans. I’m looking forward to this year again. I’m hoping for a better result, as last year was not the race I wanted. So, let’s hope it’s a good weekend, a good race, make sure we don’t spend too much energy outside the track, but on the other hand, I want to share a lot with the fans.”

Kevin Magnussen

We’re now a third of the way through the 2019 season. Can you provide an assessment of where Rich Energy Haas F1 Team stands in relation to your goals and where it stands in relation to its counterparts?
KM: “I think it’s fair to say we’d hoped for more points than we’ve scored. Since we have such a good car, it’s disappointing not to have scored more points than we have. At least it’s good to know we have great potential in the car and we’ve proved that many times in qualifying. We just need to work harder to better our understanding of the tires for the races.”

The team’s last series of upgrades to its Haas VF-19s came in early May at the Spanish Grand Prix. How have they performed, or after competing at back-to-back city circuits in Monaco and Montreal, will France be a truer test of how the upgrades are performing?
KM: “The upgrades that we’ve been bringing have been positive. They’ve been steps forward and have worked as expected. I think France will be similar to those other races where the car has performed well, at least in qualifying conditions.”

You’re coming up on a slate of five races in seven weeks, beginning with back-to-back grands prix in France and Austria. Is this the make-or-break part of the season for teams?
KM: “I don’t know if it’s the make-or-break part, but it’s certainly an intense part of the season where a lot of points are won or lost. We’re obviously hoping to win a lot of points.”

Beyond the continued understanding of this year’s Pirelli tire lineup, is there a specific area of improvement you’re targeting in these next few races?
KM: “Hopefully, we’re going to be able to perform as well in the races as we are in qualifying.”

Last year’s French Grand Prix proved to be the starting point of an excellent summer stretch for you. You finished sixth and proceeded to score points in four of the next five races, with a high of fifth in Austria. Did you find something specific during that stretch of races that worked for you or was it a matter of momentum, where one good race weekend made for subsequent good race weekends?
KM: “It’s hard to say why it went well last year, but we’re positive going into these European races. We know we have a great car, so hopefully looking ahead we’re going to be able to get lots of points from those races. We know the car from last year could do it and we have some good data to compare with, so hopefully we can repeat those good results.”

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RENAULT: FRANCE IS CLEARLY AN IMPORTANT MILESTONE

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Renault F1 Team previews the eighth race weekend of the 2019 FIA Formula 1 World Championship, the Pirelli French Grand Prix.

Drivers Nico Hülkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo share their thoughts on the challenges of Circuit Paul Ricard, while Cyril Abiteboul and Engine Technical Director Rémi Taffin give the latest on the team and on the 2019 package.

Cyril Abiteboul, Team Principal: “We enter the French Grand Prix on the back of a strong team result in Canada. We demonstrated our ability to recover from a disappointing start to the season in a controlled and professional manner.”

“The execution of the weekend was good with Daniel and Nico delivering strongly in both qualifying and race. The result, and the manner in which we achieved it, should give us the confidence and motivation to push on through a demanding period of races with five Grands Prix before the summer break.

“France is clearly an important milestone. Not only is it our home Grand Prix at Le Castellet, but also the opportunity to demonstrate a further improvement in our competitiveness. While Canada, a power sensitive circuit, underlined the gains made in engine performance, France will see the introduction of several development items on the chassis.”

“One thing is clear: we cannot dwell on Montréal and to aim for a repeat of that result and keep striving to reduce the gap to the front.”

Rémi Taffin, Engine Technical Director: “There’s a very good feeling in the team, especially after Montréal. Staff members enjoyed that race – maybe for the first time this season. That’s a real boost for the team heading into our home race. When you race at home, you can feel the warmth of the people and their energy and pride. At the same time, it also gives you an extra motivation to deliver, albeit with a bit of added pressure.”

Nico Hülkenberg: “I’ve driven a lot of laps there in the past in different machinery, including last year for my first French Grand Prix. The circuit has a nice flow to it and the characteristics are maybe quite similar to the last round in Montréal with long straights, high top-speeds and big braking zones at the end of them.”

“Sector one is quite tight and there was some excitement at Turn 1 on race day last year. Sector two brings a long straight into a sharp chicane and then sector three begins with the very fast run through Signes, which is a lot of fun, and a flowing complex of turns to the start-finish straight.”

Daniel Ricciardo: “I’m really looking forward to embracing the French atmosphere and hopefully doing the team proud. I know it’s a significant race for them and how much it means to everyone involved. The target for France has to be repeating the form of Canada.”

“The team had good pace at Paul Ricard last year, so there’s certainly a good feeling there. We have some upgrades, which should mean the start of a trend of our true pace. It’s coming along well and, as the car gets better, I’m also growing in confidence and I’ll keep getting better with it.”

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RED BULL DRIVERS PREVIEW THE FRENCH GRAND PRIX

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Red Bull drivers preview the French Grand Prix weekend, Round 8 of the 2018 Formula 1 World Championship, at the Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet.

Pierre Gasly: “It’s a really special weekend coming for me, my home race, so I’m really excited to be on track there with all the fans and extra support. I’m fully focused and dedicated to get the best result I can and it would be a special moment to do well in front of my home fans. Quite a lot of people are coming to support me which makes the weekend extra special.”

“It brings good vibes and creates a special atmosphere. Paul Ricard is also a track I quite like because I had really strong results there in the past, I raced there for the first time in 2011 in F4 and won. To go back there this year with a Red Bull, in a competitive car, makes me excited and I’m ready to give it my all!”

Max Verstappen: “France is still a very new Grand Prix for F1 which makes it naturally more of a challenge for all teams and I had not raced there before 2018. Last year was good for us, we got the strategy spot on and finished second on the podium which was a good Team result.”

“It’s not an easy track with very wide open entries to corners which is different to most other tracks we race on. I think in general it’s good to have a Grand Prix in France. It’s a historic track which is well known for its safety, it also attracts lots of fans who love the sport which is great to see, especially for Pierre.”

“It’s also not far from home, which makes life a bit easier. We maximised things in Canada and we are working hard to improve all aspects. I feel comfortable in the car so I hope we will be able to challenge the frontrunners more closely in France.”

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TORO ROSSO DRIVERS PREVIEW THE FRENCH GRAND PRIX

Toro Rosso drivers preview the French Grand Prix weekend, Round 8 of the 2018 Formula 1 World Championship, at the Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet.

Daniil Kvyat: “I’ve raced at Paul Ricard before, but it was a long time ago – 2011 in Formula Renault Eurocup… I came second in one race and third in the other and I think the layout we used then was more or less the same as this weekend’s, although one corner was different. I don’t remember much about the circuit from all those years back and a Formula Renault is very different from an F1 car. Of course, I’ve tackled the track in the simulator, but I am keen to get out on track on Friday and learn it as quickly as possible.”

Alex Albon: “Ricard is actually a track I know fairly well, as I raced there quite a bit in the junior formulas, making it one of the circuits where I have driven the most… It features on the calendars for lots of categories. It’s a very modern facility with big run-off areas and coloured stripes, where the paint man went a bit crazy!”

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Feature: F1’s curious history of the first finisher not finishing first

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A race really should be simple. You get to the end before anyone else, you win. That’s how it works. Right?

Well, in Formula 1, only usually. Here things are never necessarily quite so simple. We had our latest demonstration in Canada last weekend. As has been much ruminated on during and since, Sebastian Vettel getting to the chequered flag first was in fact an optical illusion, and we knew as much in advance.

As he was getting five seconds added to his race time for an earlier incident where he rejoined the track ahead of his pursuer Lewis Hamilton. After the punishment was confirmed, Hamilton sat on the Ferrari’s gearbox to a nicety, and – officially – got the win.

On the penalty, for what it’s worth, Damon Hill’s take was the closest to my own. That “there was enough doubt to let them carry on”. And where there’s doubt – i.e. if the case is marginal – officialdom’s default should be to butt out. But still given the way the regulations currently are – and as noted the offence was at least give-able – I can forgive the stewards for coming to the conclusion they did. Beat that for fence sitting.

Also the strict rules and application to an extent exist for a reason, as a common complaint in recent years has been the lack of stewarding consistency. As has often been noted, and not just in F1, a quest for consistency begets strict rules. As you can’t simultaneously have consistency plus a flexible posture for ‘common sense’ (whatever that means) to be applied in certain cases. So, not for the first time, the bottom line is F1 folk needing to decide what they want F1 to be.

Given that time penalties are often handed out like sweeties these days, perhaps the most remarkable thing is that it had been over a decade since the previous time a winner changed due to the stewards adding to the time of the one first to the chequered flag. In that preceding case, ironically enough, Hamilton was the victim and Ferrari the beneficiary, when Lewis got 25 seconds added post-hoc in Spa 2008, for a late pass of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, which came just after he’d cut a chicane. Raikkonen later binned it, meaning his Scuderia team-mate Felipe Massa, never a win contender on the road that day, got elevated to victory.

Yet there were plenty of parallels then with what happened in Montreal: a marginal call, based on strict interpretation of current rules and precedent. That went down like a lead balloon.

But there were times before that too, albeit of a variation. The history of F1 penalties is a curious thing. For the most part penalties barely existed. The stop-go didn’t come in until 1991, Pierluigi Martini getting the dubious distinction of being the first to serve one, in Monaco that year for some blocking. The range of time penalties, so familiar today, came in even later.

And prior to 1991, beyond the ubiquitous threat of fines, essentially the only sanction available to stewards for driving offences was the ultimate one of a disqualification (though, amusingly, for a long part of F1 past a black flag meant only going into the pits for a telling off by the clerk of the course before getting back on with it, rather than being thrown out altogether).

The restricted options created two common consequences. That sometimes outrageous pieces of driving would not be punished at all. And that trifling offences sometimes received the ultimate penalty of being scratched from the race. “It’s like the death penalty for a parking offence,” was a persistent refrain back in the day.

Yet, in penalty terms, there was one exception. That a jump start would get a one-minute penalty. And on three occasions in history we had a similar occasion to last Sunday in Montreal, that we reached the end of a race knowing that the guy in first wasn’t actually first as far as the time-keepers were concerned, as they were getting docked a minute. Curiously, two of the three were at the self-same Montreal circuit for the Canadian Grand Prix.

And one of them altered not only the race victory, but the outcome of the championship. Well, it at least brought forward confirmation of where the title would probably have gone anyway.

The year was 1980 and Nelson Piquet’s Brabham and Alan Jones’s Williams were contending for the crown at Montreal, the penultimate round of that year. Come the race, Piquet cleared off in the lead, then his engine failed. This meant a race win for Jones, now leading, would ensure the title for the Australian. Trouble was, Didier Pironi in the classic Ligier JS11 was all over him like a bad suit.

But at almost the same moment word emerged that Pironi had been penalised a minute for jumping the start. He soon was by Jones and moving clear. But him being first to the flag was converted to third in the results. Jones was champion.

The next one was 10 years later. Gerhard Berger had moved to dominant McLaren-Honda but was having a tricky baptism. In Canada he joined team-mate Ayrton Senna on the front row, but moved before the starting signal. It didn’t do much for him as he arrested his forward momentum before the green light came on, but the minute’s penalty was just the same. If you’re going to do the time Gerhard, you may as well do the crime…

In a wet-dry race that McLaren had to itself, Senna seemed happy to ‘let Berger go’. And indeed the Austrian put in a fine and aggressive drive, and finished first on the road by the tune of 45s. But, somehow in doleful keeping with his tricky McLaren initiation, it converted to a Senna win and Berger classified just fourth.

The third of these cases was the first chronologically. It came in the tragic 1978 Italian Grand Prix; indeed the tragedy may have contributed to it. At the initial attempt at a race get-go the starter did the standard Monza trick of showing the green light before all of the field had come to a halt in their grid slots. This, with cars at the back having greater forward momentum than those ahead, may have contributed to the resultant startline carnage, after which Ronnie Peterson would die on the operating table.

Then in the re-start attempt some time later, the starter went apparently to the opposite extreme and waited an interminable time before shining the green. A young and excitable Gilles Villeneuve, starting on the front row for the Ferrari home team, eventually twitched and decided to go before the light changed. Mario Andretti, starting alongside, resolved to go with him.

The rest never saw them again, as pair then contested the lead in a race of two. Most assumed that this being a Ferrari in Italy, the stewards would turn a blind eye. But no, the PA burst with the news, to the gasps of those watching on, that the front pair were each having a minute added. Andretti beat Villeneuve to the flag, but sixth and seventh respectively was their reward. Niki Lauda was declared an unlikely winner for Brabham.

And yes, there have also been winners changed post hoc due to disqualifications. Though again F1 went decades without so much as the concept of such a thing. Indeed, when, briefly, James Hunt’s McLaren was disqualified from his 1976 Spanish Grand Prix victory, Peter Windsor noted that at the time a disqualification in scrutineering was an “unheard of situation…something that nobody in Formula 1 really was prepared for”. Indeed, F1 regs until then for the most part could fit on the back of a paper napkin while the maximum car dimensions, of which Hunt fell foul, thanks to using bulgier tyres than before, had only just been brought in.

Hunt a few weeks later became the first winner to be permanently disqualified, when he had his British race win taken away for not completing the opening lap when the race was stopped for a first-corner pile up.

In early 1982 Nelson Piquet was scratched from his Brazilian Grand Prix victory, as was Keke Rosberg’s Williams from second place, as officialdom struck back against a wheeze employed by the non-turbo and therefore lighter Cosworth-powered brigade to run under weight – with a water tank supposedly for brake cooling which they could handily fill up before being weighed by scrutineers. Renault’s Alain Prost got the win. Oddly, other Cossie runners using exactly the same wheeze weren’t kicked out and were elevated in the Brazil results.

As if to demonstrate yin and yang, Prost then lost his 1985 San Marino Grand Prix victory to Elio de Angelis’s Lotus after the event. The Imola race was notoriously tight on fuel consumption, and Prost did too good a job of eking it out. His McLaren with almost literally no fuel in it turned out to be marginally under the minimum weight. Yes, you’ve probably twigged by now that silly F1 sanctions are far from an exclusive preserve of the modern age.

In 1989 Prost was the beneficiary as Senna, in a well-trodden tale, lost his Suzuka win, thus confirming Prost’s third championship. While Michael Schumacher lost the 1994 Belgian Grand Prix to Hill’s Williams due to excessive plank wear.

And there was another case of the driver home first not winning, though not due to stewards’ sanction.  Another way things were done differently in the past was when a race was stopped mid-way through, then restarted for its completion. Now it’s a simple restart. Then they sought to factor in the gaps established in the first part of the race, and based the final result on an aggregate time of parts one and two. It meant the picture on track was not the picture on the timing screens.

In the 1987 Mexican Grand Prix, Piquet lost a tonne of time in a first-lap contretemps with Prost. The race was then stopped at half-distance due to a big Derek Warwick crash. Piquet then seized the lead at the restart and was first to the flag, but by then he’d only made back 19 of the 45 seconds he’s lost to his Williams team-mate Nigel Mansell in part one. And so Mansell was the victor. Piquet getting the unwanted status of twice being first home and not first in the results.

Vettel by comparison maybe should count himself lucky.

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RACING POINT: PLENTY MORE UPGRADES IN THE PIPELINE

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Racing Point preview the French Grand Prix weekend, Round 8 of the 2018 Formula 1 World Championship, at the Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet.

Lance Stroll: “I’m feeling good heading into this weekend. The performance we had in Canada on race day gave us all a boost and I really enjoyed it. I always say it’s Sunday that counts so to come back and score points in my home race after such a tough Saturday felt really special.

“The Paul Ricard circuit is almost the other extreme from Montreal. There are massive run-off areas and it’s a very different experience. That’s not something I enjoy because if you run wide, you can get away with it quite easily. It’s just less of a challenge for the drivers. I remember last year it was really hot and the forecast looks similar this year.

“I visited Paul Ricard when I was racing in Formula 3, but my memories of last year’s F1 race are not great. I had a puncture in the race and it wasn’t my weekend so I hope my luck changes this year.”

Sergio Perez: “It’s been a busy time since Canada. I spent a few days in the factory working with the engineers and doing simulator work for France. It’s a circuit that is challenging because there are quite a few different racing lines you can take through the corners and it’s not easy to know which is the best one to use.”

“My favourite part of the lap is turn 11: the double right-hander with a double apex. You feel the car compress through the corner and it’s a really enjoyable part of the lap.

“It’s still a new race and I need to explore the area properly. It was great to see how many fans came last year. It’s important to race in countries that love our sport. I remember there was lots of interest and good energy from the fans, even though there was a lot of traffic.

“My advice to the fans is to bring their rain jackets because there’s always a risk of rain. There was a big storm just after the race last year when everybody was trying to leave the track.”

Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal: “This weekend’s race in France means we’ve already done a third of the season. We’re sitting in sixth place in the championship and have scored points in five out of seven races.

“It’s very tight in the midfield and I can see the fight going all the way to the last race. That’s why it’s paramount that we continue scoring points consistently. It’s fair to say race pace has been our strength, while we need to improve our qualifying performance.

“We have taken some good steps forward with the car since the start of the year and there’s plenty more upgrades in the pipeline too. When the middle of the grid is separated by tenths of a second, you’ve got to bring performance steps to the track as soon as you can and that’s our focus in the lead up to the summer break.”

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SCHUMACHER’S FERRARI F2002 SET TO BE AUCTIONED

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Michael Schumacher’s iconic title-winning Ferrari F2002 will go under the hammer in Abu Dhabi later this year and is likely to fetch close to $10-million if not more.

Based on the price of $7.5-million paid for the Formula 1 legend’s  Ferrari F2001 in 2017 which made it the most expensive modern era F1 car ever sold at auction. Now, it’s illustrious successor – the F2002 – could well break that mark.

Press release:

Formula 1 together with RM Sotheby’s have announced early entries for the auction at the 2019 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on 30 November.

The auction will take place on the Saturday evening of the race weekend from the first floor of the Formula 1 Paddock Club overlooking the pitlane and the main straight.

Fans and registered bidders will be able to view the cars up for auction over the Grand Prix weekend. The cars will then be paraded down the start/finish straight, and driven along the circuit’s pitlane before auction. The lots for sale will be open for bidding from registered auction attendees, as well as online and telephone bidders.

For their first major car auction in the Middle East, RM Sotheby’s will provide a significant number of highly-curated cars and memorabilia for sale. In keeping with the premium nature of the sale the first headline lots to be announced are Michael Schumacher’s Championship-winning 2002 Ferrari F2002, alongside a beautifully restored, low-mileage, 1990 Ferrari F40 signed by four-time World Champion and current Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow driver Sebastian Vettel.

The Ferrari F2002, chassis no. 219, was a pivotal piece of machinery in the 2002 season. Michael Schumacher drove that car in three out of his eleven victories of that year: Imola, Zeltweg and Magny-Cours, the last of which would secure Schumacher his 5th World Drivers’ Championship title. With six races remaining in the season it remains the shortest time in which a World Drivers Title has ever been won.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the F2002 will be donated to Michael Schumacher’s Keep Fighting, Never Give Up Foundation. The not for profit foundation was established by Schumacher’s family to unite everybody inspired by Michael Schumacher to believe they should keep fighting and never give up.

Kate Beavan, Director of Hospitality and Experiences at F1 said: “We are very excited to announce Michael Schumacher’s 2002 Championship winning Ferrari as the star lot to be auctioned off at the season finale in Abu Dhabi. Together with the Ferrari F40 signed by World Champion Sebastian Vettel, our first ever auction hosted with RM Sotheby’s is already shaping up to be a spectacular occasion.”

“Fans, Paddock Club guests, and bidders will have an incredible opportunity to get up close with these iconic cars and share in the excitement as they are auctioned off. We are proud to be able support Michael Schumacher’s Keep Fighting Foundation with proceeds from the sale.”

Oliver Camelin, Car Specialist, RM Sotheby’s: “We are delighted to come out of the gate for our inaugural auction in partnership with Formula 1 with such an amazing cornerstone consignment to the Abu Dhabi event.”

“The Michael Schumacher F2002, chassis no. 219, is truly special; it represents one of the last Rory Byrne-designed, V10 era cars and was like a guided missile in acquiring wins on route to a Championship won with sheer racing dominance. As a result, it remains as one of the most dominant Formula 1 racing cars in history and is fittingly joined by the ultimate in Ferrari supercars in the virtually as-new Ferrari F40.”

“As we proceed with considering consignments for the Abu Dhabi auction we look forward to an exciting year in partnership with Formula 1 that will include an RM Sotheby’s presence at some of the most notable circuits around the world.”

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CAREY: IT’S BETTER TO DO IT RIGHT THAN TO RUSH IT

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Formula 1 chief Chase Carey is keen to allow the proposed sport’s work-in-progress regulations to mature until October before they are permanently inked into law ahead of the 2021 season, side-stepping concerns regarding delays in providing a road-map for the future of the sport.

In the wake of the latest postponement, speaking as a guest on Servus TV, Carey said, “It makes sense to allow the new regulations to mature until October.”

It would have taken brave leadership to rewrite a revolutionary Formula 1 mandate for the future, but it appears that the FIA, Liberty Media and other F1 stakeholders have agreed on watered down version of the current regulations, with the elephant in the room being the question of a cost cap which is set to be $175-million per year per team.

But not included in that amount are a bunch of extras – such as driver salaries, marketing costs etc – costs likely to boost those figures substantially, while at the same time providing teams a grey area that will dilute plans to close the gap to the ‘haves’ and level the playing field for the ‘have-nots’ in the new era.

Carey explained, “We are a global sport so there is always a lot to do because we have to take care of many things. The Paris [stakeholders] meeting is about the future of the sport, what F1 should look like, how the sport can bring more drama to the fans.”

“We discussed this the teams, we spoke with our partner the FIA and we came to the conclusion that it makes sense to extend the deadline for the 2021 regulations and beyond. It’s better to do it right than to rush it, so we decided to extend until October.

“The fans are the reason why we race at all. On the other hand, we need the expertise of professionals to make the right decisions. We want to protect the sport and retain what has made it great. We have to improve the on-track competition, while races should be exciting and dramatic.”

A raft of suggestions are on the table, for example: a ban on tyre blankets, no driver-to-pit radio communication, a change in race weekend format are among numerous ideas being considered.

“We have a whole list of recommendations, from A to Z,” acknowledged Carey. “Several pages long. We appreciate the suggestions, whether from teams or from fans. Which decisions we ultimately implement are still unclear. There are many ideas that we now have to work through point-by-point. And then we have to decide which path we think is correct.”

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Top five drivers opt for different tyre selections for Austria

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The top five drivers in the Formula 1 championship standings have chosen different tyre selections for the Austrian Grand Prix later this month.

The selections vary within the teams too, with only the McLaren and Racing Point team-mates making the same choice as one another.

Championship leader Lewis Hamilton has opted for two sets of both the white Hard (C2) and yellow Medium (C3), then nine sets of the red Soft (C4). Whereas team-mate Bottas has an extra set of the Medium compound over the Hard.

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel has chosen two sets of the Hard, but only seven sets of the Soft, which is the same as Charles Leclerc, whose options differ on the Hard and Medium.

Whilst Pierre Gasly has selected the same as Bottas, his Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen has opted for just one Hard set, four of the Medium and eight of the Soft.

The Soft tyre is by far the most preferred, with seven the fewest sets chosen by both Ferrari and Racing Point.

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Karting left Grosjean "more tired" than an F1 race

Karting left Grosjean "more tired" than an F1 race

Romain Grosjean says time spent driving a 125cc gearbox kart reiterated how Formula 1 needs to change, because it left him "more tired" than racing in a grand prix.

The Haas driver and Grand Prix Drivers' Association director has been a key advocate of F1's rules changing so drivers can push more during races.

While this is often expressed in the form of F1 moving away from tyres that are too sensitive to overheating or degradation, world champion Lewis Hamilton has been vocal this season in his desire for a car that is more physical to drive.

Asked by Motorsport.com recently whether he shared that view, Grosjean said: "I went go-karting with my friends with a 125cc gearbox and I was more tired than doing a Formula 1 race.

"Why? Because you push all the time, you don't play safe. And most importantly we manage the tyre all the time [in F1].

"At Barcelona it feels like you are driving at 40%, 50% of the capacity of the car, and it's not hard.

"If it was only qualy laps, you would push as hard every lap and then you'd be completely fucked by the end. You'd be tired.

"If we had to refuel you'd be even more tired. When you have to lift and coat for fuel and for tyres, how is it hard on the body, how is it hard on the concentration?"

Hamilton's team boss Toto Wolff has suggested removing power steering to make the cars a greater physical challenge.

But Grosjean said "we've asked many times" for the tools he reckons drivers need.

"I think if we run out of power steering we can't turn the steering wheel," he said. "So I don't think they're going to change much.

"What we need is a car that we can push. Bring refuelling in and then the car is not 100kg [heavier with fuel] at the beginning.

"Have 30kg for each stint and then you go a couple of seconds faster, if not more, and so you are much more tired."

Grosjean admitted he does not have the "magic" solution to F1's apparent problems but stressed the importance for drivers to be willing to make suggestions, even if they get dismissed.

"We're all aware there's room for improvement in a lot of areas," he said. But if we don't change anything, obviously nothing's going to change.

"Maybe what I am saying is bullshit and I am missing completely part of the equation. When I say we should do this, maybe I forget some reason why we shouldn't.

"But at least I'm sending ideas. They could be absolutely wrong, they might be not feasible, but I'm trying."

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Why Renault's big French GP upgrade is a "massive gamble"

Renault will be under even more pressure than usual at its home Formula 1 race in France this weekend, where it is expected to unveil a major car upgrade package that it has been promising for weeks.

Ben Anderson and Jake Boxall-Legge join Glenn Freeman to explain why such an approach to car updates is becoming increasingly rare, why it may not work out for Renault, and they also assess the team's season so far.

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Red Bull defends parc ferme overhaul plans

Red Bull defends parc ferme overhaul plans

Giving teams a set amount of homologated parts to use at a grand prix has been tipped as a "sensible solution" to Formula 1's proposed major 2021 schedule change.

F1 rulemakers have proposed shifting Friday practice to later in the day and applying parc ferme conditions before those two sessions even begin.

Under the current rules this would force teams to commit to major set-up choices before running on track, in the hope of reducing costs and increasing unpredictability as well as the primary aim of the schedule change to reduce the number of days team personnel have to spend at the track.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes the way to make it work is to avoid parc ferme being as strict as it is now.

"When parc ferme was originally introduced it was going to be dangerous, and was certainly frowned upon," Horner told Motorsport.com.

"We need to give these things a try and see if it works and see if it does have an impact on the costs. What you want to avoid is the potential unintended consequences of introducing a regulation like that.

"So, maybe rather than being a totally strict parc ferme, you should still have the ability to alter springs and wing levels, but the parts should maybe be homologated so you have a set amount of parts instead of something totally binary.

"If you have an amount of homologated parts that you were able to utilise that would seem a sensible solution."

Under the current parc ferme rules, suspension set-up changes and aerodynamic tweaks are forbidden beyond front-wing levels.

In theory, reducing the opportunities to test and use new parts over a grand prix weekend would deter teams from spending money on such developments.

One side-effect would likely be that teams shift their focus to greater simulation work and dyno-testing, which would raise costs on that side.

However, Horner believes that changing parc ferme rules in conjunction with a cost cap – believed to be targeted at $175m – would reward intelligence as much as resource.

"The smarter teams will always find an advantage," he said. "You see it in Formula 2. There are teams that, with an identical car, some cars are better than others.

"That's down to the people that are involved at the end of the day and how they commit their resource. F1 is a much more extreme version of that."

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Why Paul Ricard provides the ultimate test for an F1 car

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The Circuit Paul Ricard, which hosts this weekend’s French Grand Prix, does not place an extreme demand on the cars in any one specific area. Rather, it demands a mix of excellence in every area in much the same way as Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

The first sector, with its multiple tight turns, demands a lot of a car’s braking, agility and low speed balance and downforce, with sector two incorporating the Mistral Straight and the very fast Signes corner asking a lot of a car’s power and aero efficiency. Then it’s back to agility and direction change in sector three.

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After the extremes of Monaco (high downforce) and Montreal (low downforce) we'll be back to Barcelona-style settings in Paul Ricard

In terms of braking, the biggest stop on the circuit is at Turn 8 (the chicane that punctuates the Mistral). Here, the cars approach at around 332kph (206mph) and brake down to 192km/h (119mph). They shed 140km/h (87mph) in just 1.51s, according to brake manufacturer Brembo.

Although the circuit isn’t particularly demanding of the brakes around the lap (unlike Montreal), that’s still a very big single braking demand. Lap time will still be shaved by finding the best compromise solution between braking power and brake cooling via the size of the aerodynamically disruptive ducts. Improving the cooling efficiency of the carbon fibre discs will allow you to minimise the duct size.

The latest disc by Carbon Industrie, as modelled on the Red Bull since Monaco (combined here with a Brembo caliper), shows how sophisticated this cooling has now become. As well as featuring over 1,200 cooling holes in the disc, they are arranged part diagonally and part inline, enhancing the swirl of the airflow through them, effectively inducing the air to pass through them faster and thereby increasing the cooling effect.

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Note the distortion in the hole pattern on Red Bull's brake disc, designed to enhance cooling

In terms of aerodynamics, after the unusual high and low downforce set ups from Monaco and Montreal respectively, we'll be back to conventional rear wing levels here, similar to Barcelona. It will be interesting to monitor whether Red Bull will retain the ‘no-hole’ nose it used at Monaco and Montreal or whether the original ‘nose with hole’ returns. The latter will boost the airflow capacity to the underfloor, helping create more total downforce, but more specifically at the rear than the front. Around the slow corners of both Monaco and Montreal it was felt that front end downforce to give an adequate front-rear balance was more important than total downforce.

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Will Red Bull run with the hole in their nose or not?

Similarly, the ears around the S duct exits of the Alfa and, at Montreal, the McLaren, which speed up the flow from the duct, may be deemed counter-productive on a track with a more conventional balance of faster corners and straights. Expect to see McLaren continue with the aerodynamically aggressive mirror mounts introduced in Montreal. The mounting pillar connecting the mirrors to the bargeboards has enabled the aero team to make accompanying changes that enhance the separation of the outwash airflow around the tyres from that down the body sides.

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McLaren's mirrors are now mounted to the barge boards as well as the chassis

Paul Ricard is deemed moderately demanding of the tyres by Pirelli and the compound choice made here is the same as at Melbourne, China and Baku, harder than at Monaco and Montreal, softer than in Bahrain and Spain. Because of the re-alignment of the compounds since 2018, they are slightly harder than were brought here last year. However, because Paul Ricard was one of the few tracks at which the – now universal - thin gauge tyres were used in 2018, the effect won’t be magnified. The thinner gauge effectively makes the tyres harder in compound.

The tyre is essentially an energy store and as the contact patch is squeezed into the tiny gaps between the track surface granules, so the energy is stored and then deployed for either braking or cornering load. The further into the gaps the rubber can be pushed, the greater the store and therefore the available grip. This is partly why a soft compound is faster than a hard and also why more downforce equals more tyre grip. For this year the track has been resurfaced, and although it’s of a very similar roughness to previously, typically the release of substances from the asphalt itself can make a fresh surface relatively gripless – thereby even further enhancing the power of downforce.

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F1 PENALTIES: A REGULAR DISTRACTION OVER THE YEARS

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The last one took place in Canada, causing Vettel to lose the Grand Prix, but in the past it was the turn of other champions: Senna and Prost, Rosberg and Hamilton

With the 2019 Formula 1 championship a third of the way through, the resounding seven out of seven score from Mercedes since the Australian Grand Prix has seen only one small blip. That blip is coloured red, because at the Canadian Grand Prix on June 9, Mercedes didn’t quite have it all their own way.

Instead it was Sebastian Vettel in front from start to finish – until he made a crucial mistake. Towards the end of the race, his Ferrari went straight over the right-left chicane around halfway through the lap, flew over the grass at 200kph, and somehow managed not to spin.

Then Vettel fought his way back onto the track, ending up right in front of Lewis Hamilton, who had been following him closely lap after lap. That day, the Mercedes driver knew that the Ferrari was just a bit too quick for him, so he could only wait for its driver to make a mistake.

The rest is history. The stewards looked into the incident, and a five-second penalty was handed down swiftly to Vettel. The race finished with the Ferrari ahead of Hamilton, but only as far as spectators and television were concerned.

The official timing showed them in the opposite order. Then there was the well-publicised aftermath: a furious Vettel refused to go to parc ferme, instead heading to Ferrari’s hospitality.

When he finally made it to the podium – under threat of greater punishment – he stopped first at the deserted parc ferme and swapped round the finishing numbers between Hamilton’s car and the only Ferrari that was parked there, belonging to Charles Leclerc, who had finished third. According to Vettel’s classification, the order was Ferrari 1, Mercedes 2.

As a grim-faced Vettel finally stepped onto the podium, controversy raged in his wake: did he really need to be penalised? Wouldn’t it have been better to have left a racing incident unpunished, which would have been absolutely tolerated back in the old days? More than a few people felt a tug of nostalgia for that less complicated era…

Yet what happened at the Canadian Grand Prix is actually a perennial debate in sport as a whole: was it a penalty or not? Did he do it on purpose or by accident? There’s plenty of material there for endless bar stool debates, but this is nothing new in a sport that’s been characterised by penalties, investigations and tribunal hearings since time immemorial.

Who could fail to recall, for example, the clash between Senna and Prost in the closing stages of the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix? Both had been battling for the title throughout the season, in a duel embittered by personal vendetta and mutual suspicion.

After they clashed at the chicane before the Suzuka pit straight, Prost jumped out of his stricken car while Senna got going again, en route to a fightback that would culminate in victory and what he thought was another title. But the sporting powers-that-be would deny him. Senna was penalised for an illegal re-start, his victory was disallowed, and Prost became champion.

The feud would last for another whole season: at the 1990 Japanese Grand Prix, Senna drove into Prost (who was by then driving for Ferrari) at the first corner. The title race was over and Senna was champion, despite having to explain himself to the sporting authorities, who even threatened not to renew his racing licence for the following year.

And more recently: Spain 2016. The two dominant Mercedes got underway from the front row and Rosberg was ahead of Hamilton into the first corner. Less than a kilometre later, Hamilton mounted a blind attack; his teammate put him onto the grass and this set in motion a chain of events that eliminated both cars.

In this case, the investigation took place internally, behind closed doors. Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda spoke to both drivers, who each said their piece. But Lauda had some clear ideas already: two Mercedes retired, and that was clearly somebody’s fault. That somebody, according to Lauda, was Hamilton: he should have waited a bit longer rather than just go charging after his teammate like there was no tomorrow.

There was no formal punishment handed out, but Lewis would eventually pay the price by losing the championship to Rosberg by just five points at the end of the year. If he had just hung on for a few more corners in Spain before attacking and passing his teammate – as he probably would have been able to do – then the title could have been his.

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PIRELLI: DRIVERS CAN PUSH HARD FROM START TO FINISH IN FRANCE

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The French Grand Prix at the Circuit Paul Ricard near Marseille is being run for only the second time since it re-appeared on the Formula 1 calendar last year.

Pirelli will bring the C2 compound as the hard, C3 as the medium, and C4 as the soft tyre: the same nomination as Australia, China, and Azerbaijan. France, followed by Austria the next weekend, also marks the first of five back-to-back race pairings this year.

Track Characteristics

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The circuit has been extensively resurfaced since last year, with nearly all of the corners – approximately a third of the lap – getting new asphalt. This is of similar specification to the existing asphalt, which should provide a consistent surface over the course of the entire lap.

The asphalt is quite smooth, meaning that tyre degradation is generally low. The expected warm weather at this time of year in the south of France could lead to some thermal degradation though.

The Circuit Paul Ricard is much more about lateral forces than traction and braking. This should make it easier to find the right balance between front and rear tyre temperatures – even though the long 1.8-kilometre Mistral straight (intersected by a chicane) can cool down the front tyres, and there are some heavy braking zones.

Turn 13 at Paul Ricard has the second-highest continuous energy demands of the year, after Turn 1 in China.

A one-stopper was the winning strategy last year, used by most competitors. The strategy in 2018 was influenced by an early safety car, which came out after the opening lap for five laps.

At 5.8 kilometres in total, this is one of the longest laps of the year, with a number of overtaking opportunities.

Mario Isola, Head of Car Racing, “Our tyre choice this weekend is slightly more conservative than the 2018 soft, supersoft and ultrasoft tyres that we brought to France last year, as the supersoft is no longer part of the 2019 range. Consequently, the drivers should be able to push hard from the start to the finish of each stint.

“Along with Barcelona and Silverstone, we used the thinner gauge tyres in France last year, so we can again make a direct comparison about how the cars have evolved from 2018. Although a large part of the circuit has been re-asphalted, it should not make much difference to the track’s characteristics.

“With this being only the second time at the circuit, teams still do not have a full complement of data, so we will see plenty of learning. We have already used Paul Ricard for testing this year, but that has been on a much shorter, separate configuration rather than the full grand prix circuit”.

Other Pirelli News

The French Grand Prix is another race where Pirelli is title sponsor, following straight on from the title sponsorship in Canada.

Unlike recent races, the top three teams have made virtually identical tyre selections. The only exception is Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who has chosen an extra set of mediums compared to his rivals. Generally speaking, the emphasis is on the red soft tyre.

Formula 2 returns alongside Formula 3 in France this weekend. The first proper test of the 18-inch tyres for Formula 2 next year takes place this week in Spain, following a shakedown at Mugello last month.

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ALFA ROMEO: CONFIDENT WE CAN GET BACK IN FIGHT FOR POINTS

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Formula 1 seasons are not a continuum. The succession of races provides teams and drivers with the chance of a fresh start every two weeks, a clean slate at the beginning of each race weekend on which to build.

Such turning point is in Antonio Giovinazzi’s sights as we head to the French Grand Prix in Le Castellet, the eighth round of the 2019 season.

The young Italian roared past throngs of his excited countrymen last Saturday, with thousands lining the streets between Faenza and Brisighella: as he collected the Trofeo Bandini award, a prestigious acknowledgement of his career path from karting to F1, the love and affection of his compatriots reminded him of the importance of his role as the first Italian in F1 since 2011. He was waved and cheered on, every metre of the way.

“Joining the champions who received the award is an honour but also a great responsibility. It’s a big push to do better and demonstrate I deserve this recognition. I believe hard work is the only way to achieve great results and it’s not going to be different in F1. I’m focussed on my goal, no matter how tough the way to get there is, and I want to make sure we get the rewards for our work, those rewards that have eluded us so far.

“I am not losing confidence, I know we can do it as a team. Only those who don’t fight have already lost, and we’re never going to give up.”

It’s last weekend’s outpouring of public emotion that Antonio will harness to get the confidence boost his season requires: the energy hit to turn his results around and fulfil the great expectations his talent warrants.

After all, it worked in the past: all previous winners of the Trofeo Bandini went on to reap great success, such as Fernando Alonso in 2005, Sebastian Vettel in 2009, and last but not least a certain Robert Kubica, claiming his sole win just a few weeks after receiving the award in 2008.

“It felt incredible to drive surrounded by all these fans,” Antonio said. “I’m going to turn all this affection into a driving force for me.”

Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal: “The last three races didn’t go to plan, but it would be too easy to put it down to bad luck or unfortunate circumstances. As a team we need to do fewer mistakes and we need to work harder, which we have done after coming back from Canada, to get the full potential out of our car.”

“At the same time there is no reason to talk ourselves down, we’re showing fighting spirit and we’ll make the most of the developments we have lined up for the next few races. I am confident we can recover the speed we showed earlier in the season and get back in the fight for points.”

Kimi Räikkönen: “Recently we struggled with grip and therefore we didn’t have enough speed. Some corners were fine, while in others the car felt very strange. We’re getting some new parts on the car for France so this should help us to get back to the performance we had at the beginning of the season.”

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HONDA EXPECT POWER SURGE WITH SPEC-3 PU UPGRADE

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Honda’s relentless development programme continues after the Japanese manufacturer were sorely exposed at the power-friendly Circuit Gilles Villeneuve last time out but they are bouncing back with an upgraded version of their Spec-3 power unit package for all four Red Bull-backed cars.

Over the first half dozen races of the season, Honda progress was nothing short of remarkable and appeared to have drawn ahead of Renault, but when the big muscle was needed on Saturday in Montreal they lacked the firepower.

Previewing the forthcoming French Grand Prix weekend, also at a power-hungry venue, Honda tech boss Toyoharu Tanabe, revealed, “At the Paul Ricard circuit we will be running an upgraded Spec 3 Power Unit on Max, Pierre and Daniil’s cars.”

“The changes to the previous specification are mainly around the ICE and the turbocharger. In this instance, our engineers at the Sakura, Japan R&D facility have worked closely with other departments within Honda, specifically the Aero engine development department.”

“Their work and ours has many common technical features. For example, our 2018 update to the MGU-H, which dramatically improved its reliability, came as a result of our collaboration with them.”

“In producing this Spec 3 PU, we have updated the turbocharger thanks to the knowledge and technology of the Aero engine department in the area of aerodynamic design, working alongside turbocharger manufacturer IHI.”

“Our test bench data shows a power increase over the previous version of our PU, however we know that we have not yet matched the figures from the manufacturers currently leading the championship.”

“But it’s a step in the right direction and we will continue our development throughout the rest of the season, calling on the resources of the whole company.”

“Paul Ricard has a long tradition in F1 and returned to calendar last year. It features a wide variety of corners, including many long radii turns, as well as one of the fastest corners on the calendar, Signes at the end of the Mistral straight,” added Tanabe.

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F1 should have experimental tyres like MotoGP - Grosjean

F1 should have experimental tyres like MotoGP - Grosjean

Formula 1 should take inspiration from MotoGP and have an experimental tyre compound that changes throughout the season, reckons Romain Grosjean.

F1 tyre supplier Pirelli homologates five compounds for the season and picks three of those compounds for each grand prix, with teams required to use at least two during the weekend.

Pirelli reduced the thickness of its tyres by 0.4mm for 2019 to eliminate blistering and reduce overheating, but that has triggered criticism as some teams believes it has handed an advantage to Mercedes and made performance too random because these tyres are difficult to warm up.

Some teams have called for a return to Pirelli's 2018 tyres but the manufacturer can only alter the specification it sets for the season on safety grounds.

Haas driver and Grand Prix Drivers' Association director Grosjean believes that instead of arguing over the predetermined compounds, F1 would benefit from having a "prototype" tyre.

"It's one thing I learned about MotoGP which I find amazing," Grosjean said when asked by Motorsport.com about the current F1 tyre debate.

"I'm good friends with Fabio Quartararo, and I asked him, 'Why do you use the hard tyre in qualifying when you have the hard, medium and soft'?

"He says that at every race the hard tyre is a prototype tyre, new technology that they [Michelin] bring.

"It doesn't mean it is the hardest of the compounds, but it's a new technology. We know we don't have the best product here, why don't we try that?

"A soft and medium [compound] that you know, and bring a new technology [as the third compound and] make it different every race.

"We don't have to use it if we don't want to use it. At least we could develop the product in that way."

Valentino Rossi, Yamaha Factory Racing tyre

What does MotoGP do?

While MotoGP follows a similar solution to race weekend compounds in Formula 1, with hard, medium and soft options available to riders, Michelin's range is far more dynamic from race to race.

The nature of bike racing necessitates this, but it also has the knock-on benefit of making the racing more unpredictable and more exciting.

Michelin's return to the series as sole supplier in '16 and '17 had them altering actual tyre construction from race-to-race.

This wildly complicated how teams approached races, and though the racing benefited greatly as a result, this practice was ultimately stopped for '18.

Constructions are now mostly locked for the start of the season, but changes are still occasionally made on safety grounds. Despite this, the compound range has remained dynamic, with no one compound the same from week to week.

This generally allows all three options to be raceable, creating greater strategic opportunities, which again impacts the race positively as it does not limit a rider into running a tyre they do not feel comfortable on without much of a penalty.

F1 adopting something similar would move drivers away from being generally locked into running the more durable options, ultimately leading to more strategy diversity and better racing.

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Todt "not worried at all" about F1 2021 rules delays

Todt "not worried at all" about F1 2021 rules delays

FIA president Jean Todt says the decision to delay finalising Formula 1's 2021 overhaul eliminated his usual worry that "nobody agrees" with each other in grand prix racing.

F1's rulemakers, teams and leading figures agreed to delay the presentation of the 2021 regulations until October after a final meeting in Paris last week.

Draft proposals had been presented to teams before the Canadian Grand Prix but there was still concern over some elements of the rules, and the FIA was struggling to get unanimous support to delay the 2021 regulations being finalised.

Though that has now been successfully pushed back, it has raised concerns that the major overhaul – which comprises sporting and technical rules, crucial financial elements and governance procedure – may get watered down as time runs out.

Asked by Motorsport.com if he was worried about the impact the delay could have on the final ruleset, Todt said: "I'm not worried at all. Very often in F1 I'm worried because nobody agrees.

"For once, we managed to have the 10 teams agreeing, the commercial rights holder and the regulator of the championship. So, now, we must make sure everybody is working.

"I'll ask the team principals, team directors, drivers and tyre manufacturer to work together and to try to come out with the best solution for the championship."

In order to secure the delay, it has been reported that the FIA was able to get teams to sign a letter agreeing the budget cap – agreed at $175m – would not be changed.

Todt, speaking during the 2019 edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours, compared the "big responsibility" of completing the F1 rules to the World Endurance Championship finally committing to the Hypercar regulations it will implement for its top class in 2020/21.

"We're talking now, in June 2019, for regulations that will start in 2021 for five years," said Todt. "So we must make sure that good solutions are taken.

"That's why I think if we can work for three or four months, all together, to try to address what can be addressed, I think it's a very good situation."

The FIA's summit in Paris last Thursday took place one day before the World Motor Sport Council meeting in the French capital.

That represented the last opportunity to discuss the rules before the International Sporting Code-mandated deadline of the end of this month, which has now been pushed back.

The WMSC therefore featured no major F1 update, and was instead "updated with the current status of the draft 2021 sporting, technical, financial and governance regulations".

"The full presentation and deliberation by the Council will take place before the end of October 2019," the FIA's WMSC release confirmed.

"While the core objectives outlined for the future set of regulations of the championship have been defined, in the interests of the sport it was agreed that the best outcome will be achieved by using the extra time for further refinement and additional consultation."

 

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Ocon hopes his F1 future is sorted "very soon"

Ocon hopes his F1 future is sorted "very soon"

Mercedes reserve driver Esteban Ocon hopes his future will be sorted "very, very soon" in his bid to return to a Formula 1 race seat next season.

Ocon lost his Racing Point drive following the takeover of the Force India team by a consortium led by Lawrence Stroll, whose son Lance moved across from Williams to partner long-time Force India driver Sergio Perez for this season.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has made it clear he expects Ocon to get an F1 seat for 2020, although it is not clear where he will fit in.

Ocon said he can "only be relaxed" as his management and Wolff work to get him a drive somewhere.

"Our goal, not only mine, is to get back in the car as soon as possible," Ocon told Motorsport.com.

"At the moment my whole management, including Toto, is working for me to get back in a race seat next year and I think discussions are already starting.

"I think [getting the plans confirmed] as soon as possible, that would be great. That would be the best. I hope my future will be sorted very, very soon.

"I trust the people around me to do a good job and that's the only thing I can do."

Loaning Ocon to Renault was an option for Mercedes before Daniel Ricciardo's unexpected move from Red Bull for 2019.

That means his immediate future may not be restricted to Mercedes-engined teams, which should boost Ocon's chances.

Mercedes has the option to continue partnering Lewis Hamilton with two-time 2019 race winner Valtteri Bottas at its works team next year.

Ocon would have to fight Perez/Stroll for a return to Racing Point, while Williams, the other Mercedes-engined team, currently has rising star George Russell and Robert Kubica with well-backed Formula 2 points leader Nicholas Latifi on its books as well.

After committing to a season as Mercedes' reserve driver and undertaking simulator work, Ocon says "the only target" is to return to the F1 grid stronger next year.

"It's been a good year of work," he said. "I think what we've done at the simulator, me coming then to the races having some good information from it, has helped the team to perform properly.

"It helps them quite a lot to perform, so it's going well. Being part of this fantastic team, you always learn a lot of stuff. The knowledge they have is priceless.

"They've won since the hybrid era started so they have so, so much knowledge. And of course being part of them, when I will come back I will be more ready and even more complete as a driver.

"It's a great chance that I have to be around with this team."

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F1's budget cap may force Renault to increase spending

F1's budget cap may force Renault to increase spending

Renault has admitted that it may be forced to actually increase its spending because Formula 1's budget cap level has been set so high.
F1 teams and the FIA have agreed for a $175 million spending cap – with certain exclusions like travel and driver salaries – to come into force for 2021.

The level is higher than a number of smaller teams had hoped for, and Renault in particular says it is actually having to evaluate whether or not it will need to ramp up its budget to have a chance of closing down the top three teams.

Speaking exclusively to Motorsport.com about how the $175 million level will affect Renault, Abiteboul said: "We are well below. In no shape or form is it a saving opportunity for us.

"We are just thinking what we need to do: whether we need to freeze the current level because we think it is way below but high enough to be competitive, or we need to increase.

"We may have to increase because it [the budget cap level] is higher than we were anticipating. Substantially higher. But it is a discussion that we need to have with our shareholders because that is not a decision I can make myself."

Cyril Abiteboul, Managing Director, Renault F1 Team

Abiteboul is also unsure if the $175 million budget cap will provide enough of a 'shock' to the top teams to help close the grid up.

"It is a question that you need to ask to most of the top teams because here again, I am missing some information about their actual level of expenditure," Abiteboul told Motorsport.com.

"I keep on hearing very different figures on the level that they are operating at now. If that $175 million means that they need to save $10 million per year, it is a lot of money for you and I, but for companies like that, which are massively inefficient from an economic perspective, it would make absolutely no difference.

"But sometimes they say they will need to save $40/50/60 million – and that would make a difference. So the real question is to what extent that figure will create a shock in their organisation. And that, I frankly don't know."

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GASLY: NO MASSIVE GAIN EXPECTED FROM HONDA UPDATES

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Red Bull can expect better performance from their Honda engines at this weekend’s French Grand Prix but Pierre Gasly has played down hopes of a big step up in front of his home crowd.

Honda are introducing a new specification engine, their second upgrade in eight races, at Le Castellet for Gasly and Dutch teammate Max Verstappen as well as Toro Rosso’s Russian Daniil Kvyat.

Kvyat will take a grid penalty for exceeding his season’s engine allocation, with Thai teammate Alexander Albon staying with the old specification to avoid both Toro Rosso drivers taking a drop.

“We have a new, third spec Honda,” Gasly told reporters on Thursday. “The last was more on the reliability side, this one will be a bit more focused on the performance.

“But we don’t expect a massive gain from it. I think the overall performance will be slightly increased but it’s not like it’s going to change massively,” added the Frenchman.

“Let’s see what we can do during the weekend which will give us a bit more in the race, but it’s not going to be a massive difference in qualifying.”

Mercedes have won all seven races so far this season, world champion Lewis Hamilton taking five victories and returning to the southern French track where he won from pole position last year.

Verstappen has also been competitive, finishing on the podium twice with four fourth places. Gasly, who moved up from Toro Rosso at the end of last year, has yet to finish higher than fifth.

“The changes to the previous specification are mainly around the ICE (engine) and the turbocharger,” said Honda’s technical director Toyoharu Tanabe.

“Our test bench data shows a power increase over the previous version…however we know that we have not yet matched the figures from the manufacturers currently leading the championship.”

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