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The insider’s guide to… Preparing a car through practice

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Practice makes perfect: At least that's the idea. Potential is one thing, but extracting performance from an F1 car is another matter altogether. McLaren’s young star Lando Norris and the engineers of Car #4 explain how F1 practice sessions are about a lot more than just practice…

A Formula 1 car never races twice. The relentless pace of improvement, and the ever-changing demands of 22 unique circuits ensure any particular arrangement of bodywork and mechanical underpinnings is ephemeral at best. From race to race the car always changes – but more than this, it also changes session to session.

Formula 1’s three practice sessions – two 90-minute periods on a Friday and a final hour on Saturday morning – rarely make the headlines. With attention rightly focused on Saturday qualifying and Sunday’s race, in public perception the four hours of practice serve only as a warm-up act, a chance to watch the drivers in action in a low-pressure environment where time is not of the essence.

For teams and drivers, the three sessions are a lot more intense.

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Lando Norris on the grid with McLaren Race Engineer Will Joseph

While car performance is developed in the wind tunnel and design office, extracting that performance is the part-art, part-science challenge of Fridays and Saturday mornings.

You can see the significance on the timesheets. Look at a pole position time and then refer back to the first flying lap that car did on its softest tyre compound. Usually it’s a couple of seconds slower and there’s a good chance that the initial time wouldn’t have been good enough to make Q3.

Some of the gain is track evolution (rubber going down in the braking zones, improving grip levels) and some is from engine modes and weight reduction. The rest comes from the process of fine-tuning the car – and also fine-tuning the driver. While a large number of people, both at the track and back at base, contribute to the process, the activity centres on the driver working with a race engineer and a performance engineer – and they start a long time before even setting foot at the circuit.

THE BASELINE

“It’s a case of deciding before heading to the circuit, how do I make the best car?” says Will Joseph, race engineer for Lando Norris. “Because the regulations are relatively stable at the moment, our starting point will be last year’s car.

“We’ll add knowledge from similar circuits we’ve visited already this year, as well as learnings from the past few races, and this gives us a place to start. The car may behave better when it’s run in a certain condition, in which case we might be willing to compromise on the things that should obviously be good around a certain circuit for a direction from which this car specifically benefits.”

With few in-season testing opportunities available, the task of testing that baseline car requires the driver to spend a day in a simulator, a facility its engineers are keen to stress is in no way comparable to a video game.

“We start with the basics,” says Norris. “The day begins with a conversation between Will, Jarv [Andrew Jarvis, Norris’ former performance engineer] and myself. We’ll go over our initial ideas for the weekend, and gradually get deeper into it. We’ll recap the previous race, maybe look at what we did differently to Carlos [Sainz] on the other side of the garage, and develop a plan. After that, we’ll spend six or seven hours in the simulator, deciding on a direction.

“Usually, that’s a few runs just getting up to speed, then some proper A/B testing, switching between a baseline and a test with a different downforce level, for instance, or tweaked roll stiffness, or an upgrade part on the car,” adds the 20-year-old rising star. “We’ll try things that Carlos or one of the simulator drivers found useful. The advantage of doing this in the simulator is that the change takes seconds, whereas in the garage, swapping a rear wing or an anti-roll bar might be 20 minutes. We’ll run baseline, change, baseline, change for the rest of the day – or until they kick us out! It really is as simple as that.”

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Sometimes Norris's side of the garage take cues from Carlos Sainz's side in order to find set-up tweaks

TEAMWORK

Every team operates in a slightly different way but the kernel of driver, race engineer and performance engineer is a standard unit. The complexity of a modern F1 car has made the trackside engineering job more than one person can comfortably deal with, and so the task requires that a race engineer runs the operation, liaising with mechanics and looking after the mechanical set-up of the car, while a performance engineer works closely with the driver, concentrating on driving style and the car's functions controlled via the steering wheel – such as differential settings and brake shapes.

“Often, we’ll be looking at the same things, but with different priorities,” says Joseph. “It’s an over-simplification to say it’s spanners versus electronics – but it’s not far off. It’s more driver-plus-electronics and driver-plus-spanners.”

Jarvis, who left McLaren at the end of the 2019 season, adds that his responsibilities concern Norris himself and what he is doing in the cockpit. “I’m much more concerned with the fine details of Lando’s driving,” he says.

“Inevitably that means I’m involved with the electronic systems – what we call the toys – but that feeds into what Will’s doing as well. Think of something like Lando struggling with front-locking over a bump in a braking zone. I could address that by having Lando adjust a setting, or Will could adjust the stiffness of the car.”

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When the driver's out on track, there isn't much discussion of their set-up on the radio for privacy reasons

REALITY BYTES

The first practice session tends to have multiple aims. Teams will use their 90 minutes of track time to test new parts but also to validate the baseline or answer any lingering set-up questions. Thus, it’s common to see teams tinkering with ride-height or trying different rear wings to identify a preferred downforce level. For the first run of the day, however, the primary concern is getting the driver comfortable and making sure the car – in the broadest possible sense – does what’s expected. Because pits-to-car radios are on open channels, there isn’t much discussion until the driver returns to the garage. Once they’re able to speak in private, debriefing begins.

“After that first run, there’s not a lot of discussion about my driving,” says Norris. “The first run is more about getting a feel: getting to know the braking points, the bumps and generally getting up to speed. Other drivers may do it differently, but for Will, Jarv and myself, we’ll usually restrict the conversation to basic elements such as initial comments on the engine and gear changes, whether there’s oversteer or understeer. We’ll also take a first look at Carlos’ data and see if there’s something obviously different.”

Joseph adds: “The first thing I want to hear from Lando is if there are any significant problems with the car. I want to know if there’s something that feels wrong with it, or if the balance is not what we expected. Dealing with those issues takes time, and so we need to know immediately.

“The answer is usually ‘no’, and we can all breathe a sigh of relief. After that, the real conversation revolves around whether or not we’ve got a good baseline. If the starting point is good, then the rest of the weekend revolves around making gentle improvements. The most disruptive weekends are the one where you haven’t found a good starting point.”

However, for all the expert analysis and simulation capability, reality can sometimes bite.

“You can do as many laps as you want on the simulator but still, when you get to the track, it’s real and it’s always different,” says Norris. “That doesn’t invalidate the simulator work, it’s always good preparation – but it isn’t perfect and everything resets for FP1. It could be the wind is blowing from the ‘wrong’ direction, or the tyres aren’t performing as expected, or the latest components on the car haven’t correlated perfectly. You just have to adapt.”

The debrief after the session is where what has initially been a conversation between Norris and his trackside engineers widens, usually via a video conference with engineers at the team’s factory back in the UK.

“After FP1, we’ll probably try to identify in detail how the fundamental balance is, and if Lando felt any difference in the car based on the test items we tried, the tyres we used,” says Joseph. “Then there’s a checklist of items, just to make sure we’re not missing anything. After FP2 you can look in more detail because you have more time and can make changes overnight – but after FP1, you just want to know anything you can do to make the car go quicker in FP2.”

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The focus in the second session is on the race weekend, with heavy fuel loads and a long stint on tyres at the end of FP2

PICKING UP THE PACE

By the time the second session begins, the focus has fully shifted to the race weekend. Teams generally spend the first part of the session testing any set-up options suggested by FP1 data and the debrief. By the midpoint of the session, they will hope to have a clear view on their direction of travel. The second half of the session tends to be devoted to simulation runs: first a qualifying sim, after which a heavy load of fuel is added to the car and the driver is sent back out to spend the final 30-35 minutes of the session simulating a race stint.

After each run, the driver works with his engineers to fine-tune the set-up. “After my initial feedback, Will gets on with running the operation: analysing what I’ve said, and then speaking to the mechanics to outline changes ahead of the next run,” says Norris. “While he does that and the car is being worked on around me, I’ll be speaking to Jarv about my driving. He helps me interpret the data. We’ll be looking at printouts with various laps on an overlay. He’ll point out what worked well – and where I can improve.”

THE FINAL COUNTDOWN

On Friday evening, the crews habitually strip and rebuild their cars. Race gearboxes and power units are fitted, and extraneous weight is removed. There may also be further set-up changes, with data analysis going on well into the night, often with test drivers putting in the hard simulator yards. The reality is that even if the driver has professed himself happy with the car on Friday afternoon, there’s always something else that can be tested.

“Even if the driver says the car is amazing, I would do exactly the same job as if he’d reported the car was terrible: we’re always trying to find performance,” says Jarvis.

Norris agrees, adding: “There will be days when I can come in after a run and want nothing but another set of tyres and to go out and give it another go – but I’m easily persuaded to try something else. I know how the car is driving – but they’ve got all the information, and the engineering science to back it up.

“It’s the end goal that matters. You want to finish FP3 – final practice – in a place where you’re happy with the car, and any adjustments you’re planning to make for qualifying are minor. It could be with the toys, opening the diff a little, or coming up a hole on the front wing, or adding a millimetre of ride-height. Nothing that’s going to make the car feel different, just something that’s going to give you that little bit more confidence.”

The overriding hope is that, after a smooth build-up through the practice sessions in which the baseline car performed as expected and the team were able to work on fine-tuning the details, the car can go into qualifying and then the race capable of extracting maximum performance – or something very close to it. That’s followed by the elation of a good result or the despair of one that got away – and then those feelings are put in their box and the team starts afresh preparing for the next race, because the challenge and the set-up is going to be completely different once again.

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Car launch schedule complete as Red Bull confirms RB16 date

Car launch schedule complete as Red Bull confirms RB16 date

The 2020 car launch schedule has been completed with the announcement that Red Bull will unveil its RB16 on February 12th.

Red Bull’s unveiling will follow Ferrari, which announced a February 11th date for its as yet unnamed car, and falls on the same day as Renault’s launch.

Red Bull has recently unveiled its new cars sporting a test livery before reverting to the familiar blue, red and yellow colour scheme it has typically run since taking over from Jaguar Racing in 2005.

Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon have both been retained for the 2020 season.

There will be six launches between February 11 and 14, with McLaren, Mercedes and Alpha Tauri (formerly Toro Rosso) choosing to hold pre-test launches. Williams and Racing Point will launch on February 17 with the remaining teams launching on the first day of pre-season testing.

F1 2020 Launch Dates

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McLaren won’t be racing for wins until 2023 – Andreas Seidl

McLaren won’t be racing for wins until 2023 – Andreas Seidl

McLaren team boss Andreas Seidl concedes the team won’t be fighting for wins until at least 2023, given the resources of the ‘big three’.

McLaren moved up the order last season following a disappointing period to claim ‘best of the rest’ honours behind Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull and whilst Seidl expects to make further progress in 2020, he’s not expecting a miracle.

“We deliberately won’t do that,” Seidl told Auto Motor und Sport when asked if the team would focus on 2021 at the cost of this year, insisting they need to maintain and build on the motivation 2019 delivered, but their attention would likely switch to next season sooner than it normally would.

“We have to keep up the positive run we have made this year,” he said. “We also want to take a step forward in 2020 – not in terms of position – I still expect a hard fight for 4th place again.

“That is the maximum that is currently possible in Formula 1 given the current strength and budget. 

“We still see enough weak spots in the team that we have to work on. So we have to show that we are developing in these areas and that is exactly why it is important to have a good 2020 season. 

“It is clear to me that a balancing act awaits us in the current year, from when we flick the switch fully to 2021. Logically, this will happen earlier than usual.”

Although a budget cap will come in for 2021, Seidl concedes that only once it has truly taken effect will McLaren be in a position to fight the ‘big three’ for consistent wins and podium finishes, which he expects to happen in 2023.

“The top teams still have more budget, more resources, more people. And they do a better job too. After the start of the new regulations, it will take time for the budget cap to take effect. I therefore expect to be on the podium and win in 2023.”

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Mallya: Racing Point's Aston tie-in "absolutely fabulous"

Mallya: Racing Point's Aston tie-in "absolutely fabulous"

Former Force India Formula 1 team owner says he’s “delighted” that the outfit now known as Racing Point will have works Aston Martin support from 2021.
Current owner Lawrence Stroll has acquired a stake in Aston Martin, and a rebranding of Racing Point for 2021, with a sponsorship from the sportscar maker, is part of the arrangement.

Mallya, who headed the Silverstone team from 2008 until it hit financial problems in the summer of 2018, says he has already congratulated Stroll on the deal.

“I am delighted for Lawrence and I’m delighted for the team,” Mallya told Motorsport.com. “To ultimately become a works team was always a dream.

“Lawrence and I are friends, and in fact I congratulated him this morning on the news. He’s a very astute investor, and his track record proves that. If you look at the share price of Aston Martin today, he’s obviously made a sweetheart deal. Under his chairmanship and with the new range of models that Aston is planning there’s only one way to go, and that’s north.

“For Racing Point it is absolutely fabulous that it will become a works team with support from a great British marque like Aston, with all its heritage. Aston has plenty of followers, and they will all become Racing Point followers as well.”

By coincidence, Mallya had tried unsuccessfully to secure sponsorship from Aston Martin in late 2015. The backing eventually went instead to Red Bull Racing.

“We had conversations with Aston five years ago, not to become a works team, but to have Aston become the title sponsor, and give us some technical support. I don’t know what the deal is with Red Bull, but I don’t think Aston has technical input. Red Bull have the genius Adrian Newey, so I don’t think they need anybody else!”

Mallya, who visited the Racing Point motorhome at the British GP last year, insists that he doesn’t miss his previous close involvement in the sport.

“I had 10 full years in F1. I enjoyed every moment of those 10 years, and now it’s time to do something else.

“I nursed it along for 10 years, I delivered two results of fourth in the constructors’ championship, which I’m very proud of. The team is still in my DNA, and I’m absolutely delighted for the team. I believe the car for 2020 has made some giant strides, and I’m eagerly looking forward to the commencement of the season.”

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Ferrari: F1 politics one of our main weaknesses

Ferrari: F1 politics one of our main weaknesses

Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto has admitted that one area his team must improve against its rivals is in handling Formula 1's paddock politics better.
The Italian outfit found itself at the centre of suspicions about its power unit last year, as rivals pushed the FIA for a number of technical clarifications regarding engine usage.

The responses, as well as comments made by team people and drivers, left Ferrari facing difficult questions at times.

Reflecting on the engine saga in an exclusive interview with Motorsport.com, Binotto said that the situation at the end of last year simply exposed an area where his team was not strong.

"I think that it was maybe showing one of our weaknesses of the season," he said. "We are not good enough in polemics, and there are people who are stronger than us - even in using the media to put pressure on.

"So it is something that we need to understand how to do better, and to better act in the future, because that's part of the overall balance of a season."

Although the focus on Ferrari's engine performance proved the gains the Italian manufacturer had made, Binotto said he did not take any compliment from the fact that rivals were baffled about how the team had done it.

"No, not really," he said. "For me that is more polemics, finger pointing. Which in the end is about putting pressure or extra activity, because you need to reply to the interviews or reply to whatever has been questioned.

"I think it has been a distraction, and something we have been living with – and that is part of the experience. I will always say we are a young team, and being a young team we are facing new situations."

But, Binotto was clear that praise needed to be heaped on Ferrari's engine department for the way in which it had turned around a difficult first year with the turbo hybrids in 2014 to become the benchmark last year.

"I'm very pleased and I know it's not something that happens in a single season," he said. "So when we started in 2014 with a new format, we were a lot behind our competitors, and it has been a long push to challenge them."

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Ex-team owner Fernandes in hot water over Airbus’ sponsorship of Caterham F1 team

Ex-team owner Fernandes in hot water over Airbus’ sponsorship of Caterham F1 team

Former Formula 1 team owner Tony Fernandes has found himself caught up in a bribery scandal over Airbus’ sponsorship of his now defunct Caterham F1 team.

Fernandes is the founder and chairman of Asian budget airline AirAsia, which has been named in the bribery case along with several other airlines, which has already seen European aerospace company Airbus facing fines exceeding €3.5 billion.

Fernandes involvement centres on a sponsorship deal between Airbus parent company EADS, which sponsored the F1 team for multiple seasons. The case alleges that AirAsia’s decision to only purchase Airbus aircraft was therefore influenced by the sponsor deal which was worth millions to Caterham.

Details of the case were issued last week by Dame Victoria Sharp, president of the Queen’s Bench Division of the Royal Courts of Justice.

“The first count alleges that contrary to section 7 of the Bribery Act 2010, between 1 July 2011 and 1 June 2015, Airbus SE failed to prevent persons associated with Airbus SE from bribing others concerned with the purchase of aircraft by AirAsia and AirAsia X airlines from Airbus, namely directors and/or employees of AirAsia airlines where the said bribery was intended to obtain or retain business or advantage in the conduct of business for Airbus SE.

“The improper payment consisted of $50 million (and Airbus employees also offered but did not pay an additional $55 Million) paid to directors and/or employees of AirAsia and AirAsia X airlines as sponsorship for a sports team.

“The sports team was jointly owned by AirAsia Executive 1 and AirAsia Executive 2 but was legally unrelated to AirAsia and AirAsia X.”

Fernandes and AirAsia rejected the claims in a statement issued on Monday, adding that the sponsor deal had no bearing on the decision to purchase Airbus aircraft.

“The involvement of Airbus in the sponsorship of the sports team was a well-known and widely-publicised matter bringing branding and other benefits to Airbus.

“AirAsia’s own sponsorship of the sports team went through due internal assessment and approvals before being considered and approved by the board.”

The airline however confirmed that Fernandes and executive chairman Datuk Kamarudin bin Meranun would step aside from their duties for two months to allow an investigation to take place.

In a separate statement, Fernandes and Kamarudin added: “Caterham F1, the company alleged to have been sponsored improperly by Airbus, was at the relevant time a Formula 1 racing team that had gone round the globe promoting amongst others AirAsia, AirAsia X, GE and Airbus.

“Throughout the period we were shareholders in Caterham, the company made no profit and was eventually disposed of for [£1] in 2014. From start to finish, this was a branding exercise and not a venture to make profit.”

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Mercedes ‘fighting a few little issues’ ahead of W11 unveiling

Mercedes ‘fighting a few little issues’ ahead of W11 unveiling

Mercedes’ engine chief has admitted that the team has suffered a “few little issues” with the development of its power unit for the 2020 Formula 1 season.

The Silver Arrows romped to a sixth successive title in 2019 but faced a power disadvantage to main rival Ferrari, and the German marque has been striving to recover the deficit.

Mercedes is due to unveil its W11 on February 14, five days prior to the start of pre-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

The Brixworth-based HPP [High Performance Powertrains] operation also supplies Racing Point and Williams.

“[There’s] lots going on in Brixworth, lots of improvements across the whole power unit on the ERS side and internal combustion engine side,” said Andy Cowell in a social media post released by Mercedes.

“But we are fighting a few little issues as we pull everything together.

“So, lot’s of work going into building the right spec, getting it long run and then providing the power units to the (customer) teams so they can fire up their cars, and then getting the hardware to go track testing for the car launch on February 14th.

“Then we’ll head of the Barcelona to hopefully have three cars pounding round the track. Just six days of track testing before we’re off to Melbourne.

“And with the race pool, a huge number of those parts are already made, assemblies going together and the challenge of getting everything to the other side of the world. “So, busy time chasing bits of performance, getting the reliability there and getting a huge amount of hardware to the other side of the world.”

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Hamilton is ‘very good, but he’s not God’ – Verstappen

Hamilton is ‘very good, but he’s not God’ – Verstappen

Max Verstappen believes Lewis Hamilton is able to appear more dominant than he truly is because he’s not under the same pressure as his fellow racers, which allows him to “drive at 97-98 per cent”.

Verstappen reckons the Briton – who became a six-time World Champion last year – would be vulnerable and would make more mistakes if Red Bull can produce a car to match the Mercedes and therefore give Verstappen the tools to truly challenge Hamilton’s dominance.

“Lewis is very good,” Verstappen is quoted as saying by the BBC during a media event. “He is definitely one of the best out there but he is not God. Maybe God is with him, but he is not God.

Asked if he could beat him, the Dutchman replied: “Yes. It is very car-dependent, of course.

“When you can put the pressure on, of course it is a lot harder for the guy in the lead. If you never really have pressure, you can drive at 97-98 per cent and you never make mistakes, or maybe one weekend out of 21/22.”

Racing against Hamilton

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Verstappen is looking forward to going wheel-to-wheel against Hamilton more frequently in 2020 but defended his level of aggression, after Hamilton admitted he consciously gave the Red Bull driver more room than he normally would because of the reputation Verstappen has earned over the years.

“If you looked at Brazil, we just raced hard and very cleanly,” added Verstappen. “From my side, I know I race hard but it is because I always want to try to get the best result out of it, and I have always done so.

“But when you fight for a title it is a different mentality. We were not in that fight so you know you have a few races when you can possibly win so you try everything to win that.

“It is a different mindset you have to be in and Lewis has been really good at that to judge when you have to go all out, when you have to be more conservative. So it depends a bit on the situation you’re in.”

“I am looking forward to when we get that fight and we are really close; I am pretty sure we can do better.”

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Ricciardo: Netflix doc put F1 "on the map" in the US

Ricciardo: Netflix doc put F1 "on the map" in the US

Daniel Ricciardo feels the Netflix Drive to Survive series helped put Formula 1 “on the map” in the United States following its successful first season in 2019.
Ricciardo was one of the most visible figures in Drive to Survive, which spent multiple episodes tracking his decision to leave Red Bull at the end of 2018 in favour of a move to Renault.

Appearing on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah on Monday, Ricciardo spoke about the impact the Netflix series had on helping F1’s growth in the United States, saying he could feel a noticeable difference since its release.

“I definitely feel F1 is becoming much more of a thing here in the States. Drive to Survive put it on the map,” Ricciardo said.

“I spend a bit of time in the States, and up until a year ago, not really anyone would say hi to me – not in a bad way, but they wouldn’t recognise me for being an F1 driver.

“And now it’s all: ‘We saw you on Netflix, it was great, Drive to Survive.’ We wear helmets, so not really many people can see our faces a lot of the time, so putting a face to a name, that helped.”

F1 has cited the success of the Netflix series as being key in its growth among young fans, the championship reporting earlier this year that 62 percent of new fans were under the age of 35.

Ricciardo proved a popular figure in the first series, where he was followed both at the circuits and away from it, including segments back in Australia with his family.

Ricciardo said he felt it was important to maintain an element of fun, feeling the more straight-laced drivers “don’t help the sport”.

“I think for me, growing up in Australia, in sunshine, it turns your personality into a bit of happiness,” Ricciardo said.

“I’m doing my dream job. You have to reminded sometimes, you get some competitive. Sometimes [you get so] caught up in it that you do forget, a little bit of perspective.

“It is my dream job, I travel the world to drive cars in circles, which is pretty awesome.”

Season 2 of Drive to Survive premieres on Netflix on February 28 and will feature all 10 F1 teams, with Mercedes and Ferrari providing access after having decided not to participate in the first season.

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The insider’s guide to… The Pit Wall

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Once the red lights go out the pit wall is a team’s closest point of contact with their cars on track. But what are those in the box seats doing during a race? Ferrari Sporting Director Laurent Mekies reveals all...

Seventy years of Grand Prix racing history have bestowed upon Formula 1 certain tropes and motifs. It has the grid and the chequered flag. There are pit stops, podiums, champagne and a substantial amount of fanfare. And at the traditional heart of race management and strategic magic, it has the pit wall.

Over the decades, however, the composition of the people afforded the best seats in the house has changed. Gone are the days of wily moustachioed team owners and glamorous wives and girlfriends clutching stopwatches and lap charts and in their place are larger, more technical and more specifically focused groups of team personnel. The symbolism, though, remains unchanged and whenever TV cameras or photographers want to convey the tension of a race, the shredded nerves of the team as a collective, they point the lens straight at the pit wall.

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Ferrari's Sporting Director Laurent Mekies looks on from the pit wall at the 2019 German Grand Prix

Best seats in the house

In modern F1, every team treats their pit wall differently. Some feature a stripped core team of four, others as many as seven. Some teams reserve pit wall places for the same team members during every session while others have blank spaces or a revolving cast of characters. A seat on the wall could be an operational nest or a demonstration of soft power. Some very senior team staff will confess to taking their seat on the pit wall simply to get out from under the feet of a busy crew working in a cramped garage.

But is it necessary? Proximity to the track was obviously essential when lap charts were written by hand and commands to pit signallers delivered verbally – but in an age of radio communications, timing screens and GPS, is the presence of a pit wall required at all?

Ferrari Sporting Director Laurent Mekies sits towards the centre of the Scuderia’s seven-seat pit wall. He acknowledges technology may have overtaken the original purpose – but argues that placing senior staff on a track-side island still has merit.

“Of course, there is definitely a legacy aspect to it but it’s a legacy we’re all attached to because – and people sometimes forget this – we’re Formula 1 fans too. This is how it is supposed to be in F1,” he says. “On top of that, I think there are many good reasons for having a pit wall. It would be very easy to become lost in numbers and computers if we were sitting in a truck or the back of the garage. You could lose sight of the obvious things: something happening in the pit lane; a sudden change in the weather; even a car – maybe your car – coming past the wall making a different sound. You have to be out there to see it, and hear it, and smell it and really feel it.”

And the Ferrari personnel afforded that close contact are largely those directly connected to what’s happening on track. If you were to stand in the Ferrari garage, staring at the backs of those on the team’s pit wall, from left to right you’d see: Charles Leclerc’s Race Engineer Xavier Marcos Padros; Head of Track Operations Claudio Albertini; Head of Race Strategy Iñaki Rueda; Chief Race Engineer Matteo Togninalli; Mekies; Team Principal Mattia Binotto, and Sebastian Vettel’s Race Engineer Riccardo Adami.

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Race engineers only step up to the pit wall for the race; otherwise they work in close proximity to the car

At the heart of the action

The race engineers fulfil a markedly different role to the other five personnel on the pit wall. In common with other teams, they only go up onto the wall for the race. For practice sessions, and particularly for qualifying, they’ll be working next to the car.

“Proximity to the car is important,” says Mekies. “Race engineers have to be able to see that the set-up changes they’ve requested are being made, and they have to have eye-contact with the number one mechanic and the driver. For the race, they join us on the wall. I think otherwise they’d feel lonely in the garage without a car there!”

Perhaps counter-intuitively, sitting together on the pit wall doesn’t always make discussion easier. Regardless of proximity, every exchange is going to be carried out via intercom, often with people in the garage or back at the factory also part of the conversation. Despite that fact, the seating plan on the pit wall is designed to cluster together those working as a group, making it easier to communicate with a gesture at a data screen, or even a raised eyebrow. Placing the race engineers at the ends of the pit stand is also a common tactic – it allows them a view of the track but also makes them semi-detached from the body language around them and thus more able to work without distraction.

“Like any difficult working environment, we try to minimise the amount of talking and, as far as the pit wall is concerned, we especially try to apply that to the race engineers, disturbing them as little as possible,” Mekies explains. “However, the five of us that sit between the race engineers talk to each other a lot. When it comes to communications, the majority of my time will be spent talking to these four other people.”

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The Head of Track Operations - Claudio Albertini, in Ferrari's case - is responsible for pit stops

The Scuderia’s front line

Ferrari have more people on the pit wall than some of their rivals. With every race team restricted to a specific number of operational staff, this isn’t a case of having more people at the track but rather a choice of how to deploy them. F1 doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all approach to job descriptions, with every team doing it slightly differently. Roles fulfilled by one person in one team might be split between several in another. Broadly, the seats on the pit wall represent each of the primary areas of operation.

In Ferrari’s case, the Head of Track Operations monitors the work of the mechanics and garage technicians and, during the race, he or she is responsible for pit stops. The Head of Strategy coordinates the work of a strategy department, most of whom will be in Maranello, working on individual analysis for the drivers, or studying the opposition. The Chief Race Engineer, meanwhile, acts as a bridge between the two race engineers, providing a conduit for information to pass from one side of the garage to the other – but also working as the primary point of contact for the back-room team providing race support from the factory.

The Sporting Director will look at the overall cohesiveness of the team, interpret rules and, where necessary, liaise with race control (some teams integrate this and the head of track operations task, with the titles Sporting Director and Team Manager being largely interchangeable). The Team Principal has overall responsibility but perhaps takes the least active role of anyone on the pit wall in the normal course of a race – with interventions limited to the difficult decisions that, of necessity, have to be made by the ultimate authority.

Key to making those decisions effectively is having all of the information to hand. While back-room staff will be looking at the minutiae of sensor data, the pit wall personnel tend to take a more holistic approach.

“I’ll be looking at our cars relative to other cars, and trying to have a global view of where we are compared to others; the race engineers are looking more specifically at their own car, how it and the driver are performing,” says Mekies. “The common point is that we have an abundance of information. We have all the telemetry, the GPS data, all the radio comms from every team, even the weather radar. Selecting the information you need is part of trying to work efficiently – particularly in the tough moments. Everyone configures their screens individually, to show what they want to see – so if someone moves one of your windows, you’re not happy!”

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It wouldn't be wise to interrupt a race engineer on the job: The pit wall is a relatively quiet working environment

The eyes of the world

The one screen everybody has open is the global feed. A quirk of F1 is that the people on the pit wall – and in the garage – receive the same broadcast as everyone at home. Given the transmission delay of beaming the image around the world, that does occasionally lead to a momentary disconnect.

“It’s always interesting when you’re outside, bathed in the atmosphere,” Mekies smiles. “You hear the huge roar of the crowd when something happens, before you see the image, and the whole length of the pit wall tenses as they wait for images to catch up, because the race can change in that second. It’s a little more real being outside and having that.”

While crews in the garage tend to wear their hearts on their sleeve, the people on the pit wall, even in those heightened moments, tend to project an air of calm detachment. TV directors have become adept at spotting tell-tale signs that give lie to this, focusing on machine-gun toe-tapping, the drumming of fingers and heads being buried in hands. But despite the tension and the harsh spotlight pit wall crews are sometimes exposed to it’s rare that any of those with access to the best seats in the house would give up the post, as Mekies concludes. “There are cars flashing past on the straight and behind you in the pit lane. The noise from the crowd in the grandstands is deafening, crews are changing tyres, and you’re in the middle of all of that. Where else would you want to be?”

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Plans for a Danish Grand Prix put on hold by government

Plans for a Danish Grand Prix put on hold by government

Plans for a Danish Grand Prix have been put on hold by the Danish government because it “is not a priority”.

Denmark had been investigating whether hosting a race in the country would be a viable option, with several cities including the capital Copenhagen up for consideration.

Danish politician Helge Sander had been working with Saxo Bank co-founder Lars Seier Christensen on plans for a street circuit, which received provisional approval from Formula 1 bosses, before the local mayor withdrew support.

Alternative locations were identified with Sander submitting a feasibility study to the government.

“The Formula 1 organisation mandated me to explore [alternative] possibilities, and I have been in contact with a number of cities. Two of them – Aalborg and Roskilde – were realistic, and there was both municipal support and specific interest from private investors. But such a large project also requires government support,” Sander told BT.

However Business Minister Simon Kollerup issued a statement rejecting the proposal, but didn’t rule it out completely.

“This is a project that is both complex and risky and will require broad support,” he said. “This also showed the course and the previous considerations about F1 in Copenhagen. 

“The project is not a priority for the government right now, but I recognise the green steps that the Formula 1 field is taking and I would like to hear more about this development further down the road.”

Sander described the decision “a big disappointment”, and believes they may miss their chance to join the calendar given the interest from other countries, with both The Netherlands and Vietnam joining this season, whilst Miami is expected to join in 2021.

“These years there are a number of countries struggling to get onto the calendar, and I know from my meetings with the Formula 1 organisation that they would very much like to race in Denmark” he added.

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Haas releases first images of its 2020 car

Haas releases first images of its 2020 car

Haas has published renders of the VF-20, its 2020 Formula 1 challenger, as it bids to climb back up the pecking order after a difficult season.

Haas has reverted to its traditional predominantly grey livery off the back of its short-lived title sponsorship in 2019, ending its spell in black and gold.

Haas slumped to the rear of the midfield in 2019 amid development issues – failing to recognise an update package was a step backwards – and struggles with Pirelli’s capricious tyres in race trim.

The squad returned just 28 points, its lowest tally, reaching the top 10 just once after the summer break, as it finished a distant ninth in the Constructors’ Championship.

Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen will again form the team’s driver line-up.

Grosjean joined Haas upon its inception into Formula 1 in 2016 but endured his worst season in the sport last year, amassing only eight points en route to 18th in the standings.

Magnussen, who joined Haas in 2017, fared slightly better, reaching 16th in the final classification.

“It’s always exciting to see the development of a new Formula 1 car and undoubtedly the VF-20 has to deliver where our previous car didn’t,” said boss Guenther Steiner.

“With the regulations remaining stable into this season, it’s allowed us to improve our understanding of the car and to scrutinise ourselves more in order to find solutions and applications to channel into the design of the VF-20.

“Last year was definitely a set-back, one I would never have asked for, but you learn from such situations – we all have.

“Everybody at the team was forced to look at themselves and understand what they can do better. I’m looking forward to seeing the VF-20 make its track debut.

“As always in testing, you want many things, but lots of mileage, reliability and speed would be welcomed as we ready ourselves for the first race in Australia.2

The VF-20 will be formally unveiled in the pit lane at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on February 19.

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Tech analysis: What we’ve learned from Haas’s early F1 reveal

On the back of a chastening 2019 season, Haas became the first Formula 1 team to unveil its new car for the 2020 season.
The new Haas VF-20 is draped in a new livery and bears some unmistakably familiar features, but will it provide a marked improvement over last year – or will the Ferrari-style design fall flat?

Grand Prix Editor Alex Kalinauckas is joined by Technical Editor Jake Boxall-Legge and new F1 Reporter Luke Smith to assess the new car and discuss the greater implications for the Haas during 2020.

 

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Brawn: No indications Mercedes wants to leave F1

Brawn: No indications Mercedes wants to leave F1

Formula 1 chiefs say there has been no indication that any of the sport's current manufacturers will not commit to the sport's new era from 2021.
While both Mercedes and Renault having faced speculation over recent months about their futures, F1's managing director of motorsport Ross Brawn suggests that the feedback he is getting is that car makers are actually much happier with how things look than before.

Brawn says the looming cost cap – which will initially start at $175 million dollars with a number of exceptions – has given companies like Mercedes the certainty over finances that has been lacking over recent years.

Asked by Motorsport.com about whether he was sure F1 would keep all the current manufacturers from 2021, Brawn said: "I see no sign that we won't.

"In many ways, if you go to board level they like what's happening because they have got certainty.

"Every time that Toto [Wolff] goes to the Mercedes board each winter, he asks for a bigger budget because he needs it to win. So what do they say? No, we don't want to give you any more because we don't want to win any more?

"Now, they're going to know what they're going to spend. So the message that has come through from the Ole Kalleniuses of this world is that they want cost control, and they want certainty of what they need to spend in F1."

Brawn is clear that F1 owner Liberty Media's push for a cost cap, allied to a more equitable prize fund, is key to ensuring that the sport is viable for all teams on the grid – and ensures there is a buffer should a fresh financial crisis hit.

"We want F1 teams to succeed in a much more sustainable way than now," he said. "They think it's okay [right now], but when you get right to the limit, you get a little earth tremor over here and suddenly it stops. And that's what we don't want.

"We want Mercedes to feel that it's such good value for money, there's no way they'll ever stop because why would they? The amount they are spending, they are getting far more return than spending. And if it was a little tremor in their economic environment, it's fine because they can cope with it and it doesn't matter. And that's why we think there's a need for change."

As well as the cost cap pulling budgets back for the top teams from 2021, Brawn says the mechanism can help the sport better react if there needs to be a dramatic reduction in budgets because of problems in the outside world.

"Once we have got it functioning well, if we do have an economic crisis and we need to tune down, then it can be turned down," he said.

"You can say right: there's a need now to to bring in tighter controls and the knob can be turned once the system is working. At the moment, we've got no way of doing that.

"What we do now if there is an economic crisis, is we ban testing, we do this or we do that, which has a great temporary impact but is not sustainable because the teams then find another way around spending of money."

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Verstappen: Early Red Bull renewal was to avoid 'awkwardness'

Verstappen: Early Red Bull renewal was to avoid 'awkwardness'

Max Verstappen feels signing his new Red Bull Formula 1 contract helped avoid any awkwardness within the team through the 2020 season, calling it "the right place" to continue his career.

Red Bull announced last month that Verstappen had signed a new three-year contract, committing him to the team until the end of the 2023 season and ending any speculation of a switch away.

The Dutchman's previous contract expired at the end of the 2020 season, with seats free at both Mercedes and Ferrari for 2021.

Speaking at a Red Bull media event in London, Verstappen said that while he was in no rush to sign a new contract, he was glad to avoid any potential problems uncertainty about his future could create.

"I think I always felt very comfortable in the team and I never really wanted to rush anything because there was no need," Verstappen said.

"I think also it all went very quickly. Last year I never really thought about it too much.

"I think it's also a good thing because it takes away any doubt. There are no question marks anymore.

"I think when you go into a season when your contract is up at the end of the year, at one point, it is going to maybe be a bit awkward towards the next car you know the year after.

"I didn't want to have any of that and for me, this is the right place. I feel really good in the team, there are a lot of good people in the team, and I also see the motivation and hunger to fight for victories and championship."

Red Bull F1 chief Christian Horner said he could notice how invigorated many of the team members were returning from the winter break after learning of Verstappen's extension.

"It was fantastic to get into that deal done early, because of the energy that injected into the whole factory. Everybody came back from the Christmas holiday with a spring in their step," Horner said.

"Everybody knows what the future is. There are no awkward conversations between the driver and the team. He knows exactly what his role is. We're all in it very much together as one unit, as one team.

"It can be awkward if that situation isn't clear during the course of the year, and F1 is a rollercoaster of emotions during the course of those 21 or 22 races.

"To have this out of the way going into the season not to deal with endless speculation, all the social media that goes with that, the unsettling it creates within your own workplace.

"It enables us just to really focus on the job and I'm delighted."

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OPINION: Why this year has to be better for Haas

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Last year was an unmitigated disaster for Gene Haas’ Formula 1 team. They spent all year trying to understand why the car was occasionally fast but mostly painfully slow.

Things got so bad, they ended up reverting to a version of a spec they used at the beginning of the year for the season-finale – something that is unheard of in Formula 1.

Then there were the clashes between team mates Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean on-track, most notably at Silverstone which resulted in both getting the hairdryer treatment from Guenther Steiner. It would be fair to say, the fiery team boss didn't hold back.

Off track, things weren't much better with the shambolic sideshow of their title sponsor Rich Energy, with those across the paddock breathing a sigh of relief when the two parties agreed to part ways. It was an unnecessary distraction when the team was trying to knuckle down and figure out a way out from the hole they were in.

This car crash is not what owner Gene Haas signed up for. He demands success, having enjoyed plenty of it Stateside with the Stewart-Haas Racing Nascar outfit he co-owns.

He’s pumping a lot of his own money into the F1 team and ninth in the championship is not a good enough return on his investment.

Critically, that poor performance means a reduced share of Formula 1’s revenues while the departure of their title sponsor before the end of the contract - and failure to sign Orlen and Robert Kubica as a development driver for this year - means they have taken another financial hit.

It’s true that Gene is a real racer. But he hasn’t become this successful by carelessly throwing his money away. So it is imperative that the American team has a more encouraging start to the season this time round.

A repeat of last year’s antics will not be acceptable.

Speaking on the day the team revealed images of their 2020 car, Gene said he is “trusting” the team have learned their lessons and applied them to making the VF-20 a more competitive offering.

Let’s hope they have because a second successive dismal campaign might be too great a test of their owner’s patience.

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We trust we've learned our lessons, says Gene Haas after 2020 launch

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The 2019 Formula 1 season was a humbling experience for Gene Haas’ team, as they dropped from their fifth placed constructors’ finishing position in 2018 down to ninth, ahead only of Williams.

An aerodynamic instability issue on last season’s Haas VF-19 meant the team scored points in five of 21 races and were left with a tally of just 28 by the final race in Abu Dhabi. But after unveiling his team’s 2020 contender, the VF-20, Haas underlined his hope that the squad had learned their lessons from last season, and could begin the rebuilding process in 2020.

“We’ve been through a real education process, one that comes to all Formula One teams at some stage,” said Haas. “I’m trusting we’ve learned from those lessons and have applied that knowledge into making the VF-20 a more competitive entry.

“Frankly, I’m hoping the VF-20 will return us to the kind of form we ran in 2018 when we finished fifth in the constructors’ championship,” he added. “2019 was a tough season to endure.”

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Haas also admitted that he was happy to see his cars back in the company’s traditional livery, following their sponsor-led switch to a black and gold design in 2019 – and hoped that the colour swap would prove to be a positive sign for 2020.

“I’m pleased to see the car return to the more familiar Haas Automation colours. It’s certainly a livery that people identify with,” said Haas. “It’s important to me that we’re back in the mix and consistently scoring points. We certainly have the capability, and we’ve proved as an organisation we can do it.”

The Haas VF-20 will hit the track for the first time on February 19 – in the hands of the team’s 2020 driver pairing of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen – when the six days of pre-season testing begin at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

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The new season is almost here!  This is good one 2 fronts, it generally means the winter is damn near over here which is good.  Bc i'm bloody tired of the cold and snow haha.

Haas scheme looks sharp.  Kinda reminds me of a Penske car in Indy.

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Nice to see Haas return to their colors now that Rich energy is out of the equation.  Hopefully they can get the car to operate in a competitive manner.  I'd say the arrow is pointing up for this season, but I'll take a wait and see approach knowing that Grosjean remains in the paddock.

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Leclerc kicks off 2021 tyre testing as Pirelli releases schedule

Leclerc kicks off 2021 tyre testing as Pirelli releases schedule

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc kicked off full testing of Pirelli’s 18-inch tyres at Jerez on Saturday, as the company released details of its 2020 programme.

Formula 1 will switch from using 13-inch to 18-inch rims as part of an overhaul of the regulations for 2021, and Pirelli began tentative testing in the latter stages of 2019.

Under current regulations Pirelli is permitted 25 days of private running and all of its allocation this year will go towards developmental work of the 18-inch tyres.

Teams will supply modified 2019-spec mule cars.

Leclerc completed 130 laps of the former Spanish Grand Prix host venue in fine conditions on Saturday.

Ferrari will continue test duties on March 5 at Fiorano, with that day having been allocated for wet weather running

All teams will then be in action across the coming months in Bahrain, Spain, Austria, Britain and Japan.

Pirelli will then bring its finalised product for the open three-day test that is scheduled for the week after the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

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FIA issues 2021 tender for standard fuel flow meter

FIA issues 2021 tender for standard fuel flow meter

The FIA has issued an invitation to tender to find a new standard fuel flow meter supplier for the 2021-2023 seasons, as it looks to clamp down on fuel irregularities in the wake of the Ferrari controversy at the tail-end of the 2019 Formula 1 season.

The move to a standard fuel flow meter is not only part of a cost saving measure, but a way for the FIA to better police the systems in place to ensure teams aren’t tricking the sensor to deliver more fuel than the rules allow, as Ferrari was accused of doing, though no concrete evidence was found to support these claims.

The new tender, which is for the 2021, 2022 and 2023 season, though can be extended to 2024 and 2025, calls for interested parties to submit an application by March 13 – the Friday of the Australian Grand Prix – with a winning bid to be announced by mid-April.

In the tender document, the FIA outlines its reasons for a standard fuel flow meter and confirms the requirement for two units to be fitted to each car – a rule which will come into force for the 2020 season too.

“The FIA issued a Technical Directive (TD/042-19) in 2019 to improve policing regarding fuel flow measurement and has mandated a second fuel flow meter for the 2020 season.

“There are now two sensors fitted at the same time on the car and this will likely remain in place for 2021 and beyond, although this could be reviewed by the FIA at its sole discretion.”

The tender goes on to reveal the maximum allowed price a supplier is permitted to charge for a single fuel flow meter.

“The purchase price of the fuel flow meter shall not exceed £5000 with a warranty of 100 hours running time. The service cost for any 100 extra hours of running time shall not exceed £500. The lifetime of the fuel flow meter shall, in any circumstances, not be less than 400 hours.”

The FIA has set a limit on how many meter’s can be used during a season, with the first sensor limited to eight units and the second limited to four, though non-competition activity, such as testing, does not come under this limit.

The supplier must also loan the FIA seven units free of charge for testing purposes.

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Brawn wants F1 to ditch "gin palace" motorhomes

Brawn wants F1 to ditch "gin palace" motorhomes

Formula 1 could get rid of its extravagant motorhomes at European races in the future, as part of its effort to make the sport carbon neutral.
Last year, F1 announced plans to go carbon neutral by 2030 by reducing emissions of the cars as well as switching to more efficient logistics and travel for the grand prix circus.

While its plans are ambitious, F1 chiefs are optimistic that it is a realistic target and work has already begun on working out how it can best be achieved.

F1 managing director of motorsport Ross Brawn says that the sport is considering using different forms of transport – including more trains or sea freight – and that the days of excessive ‘gin palace’ motorhomes being driven around Europe could be numbered.

“We are looking at transportation and all the equipment that we use,” said Brawn. “So my guys at the moment are looking at all the alternative forms of transport, and train is actually a very efficient way of moving stuff around. Sea freight is also a very efficient way of moving things around in terms of the impact it has. So we're looking at all the logistics and see how we can minimise our impact. 

“Then there is motorhomes. We all go to a grand prix and for nine races of the year we have motorhomes carted around by trucks, a large fleet of trucks, that give the teams the facilities they need.

“For the other 15 races, they are quite happy to use whatever's there when they turn up on Thursday.

“We go to overseas races, for example we go to Baku, and you have a nice set of prefabs all laid out for you. Nobody complains, and it is all workable.

“Then we go to Monza and we have our gin palaces with all the trucks that are needed to transport them. So in the future, we want to move to a motorhome or hospitality facility which could be put up with far less impact in terms of logistics and transportation than we have now.”

As Motorsport.com revealed last year, there are a total of 315 F1 trucks used by teams, Pirelli, F1 and the FIA at European races. The main support series account for 60 more – which represents a massive amount of diesel mileage.

Further adding to the impact is the fact that the calendar is not structured in a way to minimise distance covered.

When F1 races in Austria, Budapest is just 400km away. However, instead of heading straight there, the entire circus travels to Silverstone and then back to Hungary – a round trip of some 3400km.

The difference between those 375 F1 and support event trucks travelling 400km or 3400km equates to some 1.125 million kilometres of extra diesel usage.

Ferrari motorhome

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Grosjean excited by "extraordinary" Saudi F1 plans

Grosjean excited by "extraordinary" Saudi F1 plans

Romain Grosjean hopes the proposed new Formula 1 race in Saudi Arabia will go ahead, calling the project “huge” and “extraordinary”.
Plans for a grand prix in the city of Qiddiya were announced last month as part of a new entertainment and commercial project on the outskirts of the country’s capital, Riyadh.

The all-new circuit is being designed by former F1 driver Alexander Wurz, and could join the calendar as early as 2023 as talks continue between F1 bosses and officials in Saudi Arabia.

Grosjean is the only active F1 driver to have visited the site for the circuit, attending last month’s launch event alongside Nico Hulkenberg, Damon Hill and David Coulthard.

“I sincerely hope that the project will go ahead and that it will progress as it should,” Grosjean told Motorsport.com in an exclusive interview.

“The track Alex has designed is great. He knows what we like and what we don’t like. He’s lucky to have this close relationship with us, he comes to ask us questions.

“For example, we drove around in the simulator and there’s a corner he’s not sure about. I said: “About this one, I don’t know!” And he said he didn’t really know what to do with that corner. It’s great to talk about it, to share our opinions.

“Overall, the project is huge, super beautiful, and the place is extraordinary. I really hope there will be a grand prix.”

Grosjean has served as a director for the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association since 2017, helping to represent the grid’s interests in discussions about the future of F1.

The Frenchman was impressed by the close engagement between Wurz and the drivers over the potential circuit layout in Qiddiya, saying it was unprecedented.

“We are the ones who are on the tracks, the ones who know what is good or not for overtaking and for the fun of it,” Grosjean said.

“When you look at golf, as soon as a new course is built, you go straight to a golf player to get his opinion. That’s not something that's been done in Formula 1.”

MIKA: Wow, a non Herman Tilke track is most welcome!

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McLaren needed to ditch Honda to find own faults, says Brawn

McLaren needed to ditch Honda to find own faults, says Brawn

McLaren’s decision to get rid of Honda was not a mistake despite the success the Japanese car manufacturer has had since with Red Bull, reckons Ross Brawn.
After a difficult partnership that lasted from 2015 to 2017, McLaren and Honda parted ways ahead of the 2018 campaign to allow the Woking-based outfit to switch to a customer engine deal with Renault.

Although Honda’s return to form with Red Bull helped it win three races last year and potentially eye a title challenge this year, Brawn thinks that ultimately McLaren getting rid of the Japanese manufacturer was key to it turning things around itself.

“They've got some sensible people there now, and it took them a while to recognise that,” said F1's managing director of motor sport.

“People say they made a big mistake getting rid of Honda. But, I think funnily enough they almost needed to do that to recognise what they needed to do with the team.

“They were blaming Honda all the time and I think they would recognise now that wasn't true. That wasn't everything. And in getting rid of Honda and getting a benchmark, they recognised they had to do something with the team.

“I don't know how they would have come to that conclusion unless they put an engine in the back of the car that somebody else was racing and somebody else was doing well with.

"In doing that they recognised then that they have some bigger problems other than just the engine and they had to make some changes. And I think they have made some very sensible changes.”

Brawn feels bullish about the prospects for the current midfield teams as the impact of the 2021 cost cap and prize money shake-up comes in to effect.

“They're very challenged economically. That's part of the problem,” he said. “I know there's a little bit of frustration from some of the teams that the cost controls aren't lower because I think we had to put them at a level that was manageable for the top teams.

“But it will still be a dramatic change for the top teams in terms of the change of their structure and so on.

“I think that very process will bring some more parity between the midfield and the top teams in F1. So I think there's a brighter future for the same midfield teams.

“The new commercial deal is much more equitable. The prize money is much more fairly distributed amongst the teams.

"So those teams, some of them are going to have a substantial increase in their prize money, making their economics more sensible.”

Brawn also hopes that Williams is able to turn things around and get back on to a proper footing in F1.

Asked for his views on the Grove-based outfit, Brawn said: “It is a concern. Williams has had a couple of very poor years, and you can't carry on like that. Sponsors will leave, drivers will leave, but you live in hope that they can pull it together because Williams is a great name for F1, with a great history.

“We don't want to lose them. The more equitable prize money distribution will help them a bit, but they can't languish around the back of the grid forever. It won't last. So we keep our fingers crossed that they're going to do a better job in the next couple of seasons.”

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New F1 structure won't allow loopholes to ruin 2021 - Brawn

New F1 structure won't allow loopholes to ruin 2021 - Brawn

Formula 1's managing director of motorsport Ross Brawn says a new governance structure being considered for 2021 will help prevent teams from exploiting blatant loopholes to dominate the championship.
The massive overhaul of regulations for next year, aimed at making the racing better and helping close up the grid, has opened up the risk of a team making use of a grey area in the rules to find a potentially decisive advantage.

But Brawn, whose eponymous team famously used the double diffuser to great effect in 2009 to win the title that year, says the structures being put in place should help avoid such a scenario.

In particular, he cites a new rules-making process between the teams and F1's rule makers as being a key factor in helping matters.

The new structure being proposed compromises of 10 votes each for teams, for F1 and for the FIA. Changes for the following year would require a 'simple' majority of 25, whereas more immediate rule changes require support from a 'super' majority of 28.

This effectively means there are circumstance where if one or two teams have found a way around the rules, then they will not be able to prevent others from shutting it down immediately.

Speaking about the proposed changes, Brawn said: "The governance in the past has been the teams have to all agree to make a change.

"We're pushing through governance where we can make changes, with much more short notice than at the present time. So, if you exploit a loophole in the future, you can be shut down the next race, which you could never do now.

"If one team stands out there with a solution that had never been conceived and had never been imagined, and destroys the whole principle of what's trying to be done, the governance would allow, with sufficient support from the other teams, to stop it. And this is a whole different philosophy.

"And what then happens, someone who has a loophole thinks to themselves, do I want to use it and risk it being stopped? Or do I want to tell the FIA about it because it wasn't intended?"

Brawn does not believe that the new structure will stifle innovation, as he reckons moves to change rules will only be pushed through if there is a clear exploitation of a grey area.

"We want people with an understood set of regulations to be the best at what they do," he explains. "And I think they have to rely on us, and the FIA, that we're not going to penalise someone who has a great idea. And that is subjective.

"But is a great idea the fact that somebody put a comma in the wrong place in the regulation, which means a lawyer can interpret it in a diverse way? I don't think it is.

"I think a great idea is: this is what was intended, we realised we can do this. So it's a fine line, but the governance in F1 is just as crucial a part of the process as the other changes we've made.

"I can accept that maybe, rather like in 2009, someone gets it right, someone gets it wrong," he says, referring to his title-winning campaign when the double diffuser was so influential.

"But I think you have to look fundamentally at the fact that only three teams won [recently], and are only ever going to win, because no one else even came close.

"And you are just leaving things at risk, with the budgets those teams are spending, to a slight downturn in the economy and then suddenly it becomes a problem [for F1].

"So there is a risk. There's a chance that in 2021, somebody will get a jump on the opposition. But I think it's a necessary reset. Otherwise, I don't know we are going to correct the situation we're in."

For Brawn, the mantra about rule stability being all that is needed for a closer fight is a form of propaganda that has been long been used by the top teams to retain their dominant positions.

Asked about the prospect of a super close 2020 because of rule stability, Brawn said: "Yeah. And that's been their defence, if I can put it that way, that as we carry on, then the competition will improve because with stability [things close up].

"But that stability is limited to three teams and it's teams which are spending probably approaching half a billion pounds. We don't think that's a good situation. We want F1 teams to succeed in a much more sustainable way than that.

"We want Mercedes to be in a situation that it's such good value for money, there's no way they'll ever stop, because why would they? The amount they are spending, they are getting far more return than spending.

"And if there was a little tremor in their economic environment, it's fine because they can cope with it and it doesn't matter. And that's why we think there's a need for change."

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