Tag Archives: f1 2020

Opinion: Why Giovinazzi had a better 2020 than most think and what is in Store for 2021?

Martina Franca in Italy is not the most noisy or touristy part of a truly magnificent country, whose charm stems
from the fact that it isn’t yet overwhelmed by large swathes of visitors.

This elegant destination of around 50,000 inhabitants consists of the famous Centro Storico, a historical centre that blends a sense of serenity with free-flowing twisty white alleys.

It’s just the kind of place where one can’t have enough of what’s essentially a maze, given that most structures, despite made of pure white colour and nothing more than winding alleys, make for an ideal spot for shutterbugs.

Is that the only maze about Martina Franca?

One of the biggest mazes of the city belongs to the topsy-turvy but ultimately incredibly captivating world of Formula 1. He is tall. He is promising and has got himself a renewed contract with a Ferrari-powered team.

Despite not being some incredibly fast and mean killing machine kind of driver, Antonio Giovinazzi has found himself in business for 2021.

So what’s this maze then?

What could be exciting about a tall bloke with Tarzan-like hair? He’s not even in some powerful midfield car. In 2020, he was anything but a threat to an AlphaTauri or to any team faring marginally upward than the Italian stable.

Little fault of the driver’s then that the car Gio was aligned with was only as quick as the several mules who form a key part of the animal population in the driver’s Italian hometown.

But then some things are tied to fate, aren’t they?

In a sport where Ferrari are, despite their recent string of results, bellied with more heartbreaks and anxieties than excitement. Antonio Giovinazzi is the only Italian driver on the grid. He’s therefore the only current link between the most charming Italian bloodline in Formula 1; a team that flows in the veins of countless who regard it as their lifeline in F1.

And unless the grid changes rapidly with more Italians suddenly emerging, Giovinazzi will constantly spike someone’s adrenaline considering a question that’s become quite a maze in modern F1:

READ MORE: IN THE PIT LANE – THE UAE FLASH THE CASH

Will an Italian driver finally get to race for Ferrari, Giancarlo Fisichella being the last man to do so in 2009?

Now, while that is still very much stymied by the unpredictable, what’s nearly certain is that the doors to Maranello aren’t going to be open anytime soon. At 27, Antonio Giovinazzi is as old at a Kvyat, a few years younger than a Perez, and only a few months older than Sainz.

READ MORE: IN THE PIT LANE – STROLL SEALS THE BIG DEAL AGAIN

Drivers with more points and experience than him have found themselves being handed the stick. And in 2020, despite gathering only four points, Antonio Giovinazzi found himself a 2021 drive.

Miracle? So, some extra brownie points for a model-like frame?

No.

Remember, 2020 was an extremely dull year for Alfa Romeo. Compared to 21 races in the 2019 Formula 1 season, only 17 races could be held last year in 2020, which for a small backmarker was several races less from which to score.

Even Kimi Raikkonen struggled to score points for Alfa in 2020. Image: EssentiallySport

Even in the races where it seemed the driver who was contesting in only his second F1 season, he took his chances and emerged cleanly. How is that?

If you count the negatives, then surely there are a few that just do not side with Antonio, proving clearly that he’s yet to demonstrate the steely resolve that one would expect from a young guy.

READ MORE: IN THE PIT LANE – WILL ALFA ROMEO AND SAUBER’S RELATIONSHIP CONTINUE?

Raikkonen, the sport’s oldest driver, after all, finished with exactly the same points as the much younger Italian. But if you see the positives, you’d know Antonio did the job expected of him quietly so, despite having all this while a sleepy, tawdry C39.

Antonio Giovinazzi was the first of the two drivers to open his account, and thus his team’s in 2020 – not Kimi Raikkonen. A fine P9 at the very venue where he’d collected his first Formula 1 points was a flying start no less for a driver not exactly considered a brutal force in the sport.

Think of it – his maiden 2020 drive – the P9 at Spielberg’s curtain-raiser– was actually an improvement over his last year’s result, this being with a slower car, that lacked front-line speed.

READ MORE: WHY FORMULA 1 NEEDS TO BE FREE TO AIR

Even as the next two rounds at Styria and Hungry would yield results where Kimi would win the teammate battle, Antonio bounced at Silverstone with a fourteenth, a drive which even though fared lowly, was even better than Hulkenberg (DNF, began P13) and the likes of Kvyat and Raikkonen.

While Giovinazzi didn’t once allow Nicolas Latifi and either among the Haas drivers to undermine him, despite functioning in a car that often looked even slower than the American side, the fireworks didn’t exactly belong to the Italian.

The midfield battle of 2020 was a packed battleground

But that didn’t stop Antonio Giovinazzi to make heads turn- for that’s the truth- at tracks where one would have so easily undermined him. This is because he had, never in his life stepped onto some newly introduced tracks in a Formula 1 car until last year.

And that too in the midst of a world championship with all the mounting pressure of lost chances and the persistent worries of contending in a barely-there car.

Even as he failed to put a recalcitrant machine into Q2, something Alfa achieved for the first time thanks to Kimi (P14 in quali) at Spain, the simpleton shined brightly at tracks like Imola and the desperately dangerous Nurburgring.

Two in three occasions where Antonio Giovinazzi slipped into a top-ten finish in the 2020 championship, came courtesy his P10 results. One each at Imola and the Nurburgring, the latter also the setting of a widely-watched Kimi-Gio video on YouTube!

After beating his teammate at Russia (P11- a fine improvement over his 2019’s P15), where the Finn did well enough to bag a podium once early on in his second Ferrari stint, Giovinazzi fared stronger in the final few rounds.

In a season where those who were quite literally battling to save their careers and didn’t in the end, think Magnussen, think Grosjean, as also the Russian Torpedo, all of whom have bagged podiums (the Frenchman ten of them), Antonio’s keep-it-simple-and-give-it-all approach was affable and perhaps career-saving.

Come to think of it!

Does it even occur to us fans obsessed with numbers that Antonio improved his results (via grid performance on race-day) at no fewer than Austria, Britain, Hungary, and Russia?

Have we even given him credit for it?

Actually, think of what might have the Italian managed with a slightly better package, higher downforce and at least, better straight-line speed than the sobbing (rather depleted) force he had all of 2020 had the season not been a
truncated one?

It’s easy to pass snide remarks at someone who may not immediately seem impressive akin to a “Last Lap Lando!” or a “Super Perez,” both of whom have commanding machineries and indeed, smooth race craft?

But what about the boy with dreamy eyes who made the most of the chances afforded to him.

Think Interlagos 2019! Did Giovinazzi not pounce on his chance with that P5? Did we even think that he’d lead a Grand Prix? Think Singapore that same year? As the famous saying goes – we do not know what the future holds for us, but we do know who holds that future.

In his case, the Vasseur-led side, keen to improve, hungry to outperform its closest set of rivals, has vested faith in a man who’s as stranger to shenanigans as is summers to the Arctic.

Knowing his penchant to give his honest best to every race, fair to say-Giovinazzi’s future is being held by this hope to certainly improve in the times to come.

That’s all one can say at the moment.

2019 vs 2020 Results

      2019   Grands Prix      2019   Race result     2020   Race result
  Australia  P15  –
  China  P15  –  
  Azerbaijan  P12               –
  Spain  P16  P16
  Monaco  P19              –
  Canada  P13  –
  France  P16  –
  *Austria   Round 1   Round 2      P10   –      P9   P14
  *Great Britain   Round 1   Round 2    DNF   –      P14   P17
  Germany  P13  –
        Hungary  P18  P17
  Belgium  DNF  DNF
Italy*   *Monza for 2019   *Tuscany for 2020    P9       –    P16       DNF
  Singapore  P10  –
  Russia            P15  P11
  Japan  P14  –
  Mexico  P14  –
  USA  P14  –
  Brazil  P5  –
  Nurbrugring  –  P10
  Portugal  –  P15
  Imola  –  P10  
  Turkey  –  DNF
*Bahrain   Round 1   Round 2    P11    P16   P13
  Abu Dhabi   P16

F1 2020 Game: A Radical Solution that could make for a Great Game Mode

If there is one topic in Formula 1 that is guaranteed to spark debate and it is how best to improve the show.

Everyone has a different answer, from the sensible – less tyre management, simpler engines – to the more radical – binning blue flags entirely.

In a Motorsport Magazine article last year, Tony Dodgins put forward one such radical solution: a proper drivers’ championship where drivers are rotated between teams during the season, rather than driving for a single outfit.

While perhaps too radical for real-life F1, it would certainly make for an interesting new mode alongside Codemasters’ usual fare.

A True Drivers’ Championship

A season where every driver gets the opportunity to get behind the wheel of each car at least twice could provide a truly dynamic championship battle. The ebb and flow of results provided by drivers swapping machinery each weekend would throw major swings into the championship table.

Drivers would pick in last year’s championship order, with the World Champion picking 1st for every round. 2nd place would then pick their team, followed by 3rd and so on. For the final three races, drivers could pick again in either the same order or current championship order, with the championship leader picking first.

READ MORE: THE PROBLEM WITH WRC COVERAGE

This reimagining of what a Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship could be could force the player to make some interesting and difficult decisions when it comes to selecting which car to take in each round.

Tough Decisions

Where and when do you play the Ferrari?

If you’re playing as Hamilton, which races do you decide to take in the Williams? And which do you decide to take in the Mercedes? These are all questions that players will have to decide for themselves to ensure they achieve the greatest possible haul of points.

A weekend in the Mercedes is an opportunity to take maximum points. An outing in a slower car, such as the Williams or HAAS, is all about damage limitation, where a single point is a victory unto itself.

READ MORE: 2021 LE MANS HYPERCAR REGULATIONS EXPLAINED

For Monaco, do you go with the Red Bull and try to make up the difference to the faster Mercedes with skill alone? Or do you try to pull a slower car into the points at a track where the driver can make the difference?

The likelihood of you actually making it through Turn 1 in each car at each track would also be an important element to consider. Something else to take on board are your chances of actually finishing that race in that car. A retirement in a Mercedes would be incredibly more costly than parking an Alfa Romeo.

READ MORE: THE DEVIL’S IN THE DATA: WHAT PEREZ COULD BRING TO RED BULL

Add to this the likelihood of the Safety Car making an appearance, or it raining during qualifying or the race, along with the component management system that exists in the main career mode, and there is potentially a lot of strategic depth there.

How would you play your hand? How would the car you’re in change how you approach certain races?

Something On The Side

Given that Codemasters has already introduced driver transfers, I imagine a mode like this shouldn’t prove too difficult to implement.

The Riskiest Sundays: a weekend in a Mercedes could end in glory… or tears.

There are certainly some things that would need to be fully thought through, such as how many races ahead drivers can pick their cars for and whether they can change their selection once it’s locked in, amongst other things.

It would certainly provide a new way to play a season, managing risk and reward as you hop in and out of different seats, scraping together the maximum points your car will allow at each venue.

READ MORE: WHY FORMULA 1 NEEDS TO BE FREE TO AIR

And what better time to introduce it than after a year where we’ve seen numerous drivers, including George Russell and Nico Hulkenberg, called up at last minute to perform in machinery they’re in no way familiar with.

For the die-hard purists, it’s a nonsense, a waste of time and resources that could be better spent on improving the already stellar first-in-class career mode. But if it could be done on the side, with little time or effort required to get it out the door, it could be just the thing to jump into once you’ve burned through the more serious stuff the game has to offer.

In the pit lane – 2020 in Helmut Marko quotes

As 2020 draws to a close it has been another ‘interesting’ year reading Dr Marko’s quotes. Let’s take a look at the highlights.

Prospects for the 2020 season

Marko came out all guns blazing, telling Motorsport-Total.com, 

“We want to fight for the World Championship, and we know that we have to be competitive with the chassis right from the start, so from the very first race. 

“Honda has made gains for next year and, after everything that has been achieved so far, we assume that this [fighting from the start of the season] will happen.

“That means we have no excuses.”

READ MORE: F1 2021 REGULATION CHANGES: EXPLAINED

Coronavirus

It all started earlier in the year when he famously suggested a ‘coronavirus camp’ to infect the Red Bull and AlphaTauri drivers, telling Austrian television station ORF,

“We have four Formula 1 drivers and eight or 10 juniors, the idea was that we organise a camp to mentally and physically bridge the dead time and that would be the ideal time for the infection to come.

Image: PlanetF1

“These are all strong young men in really good health. That way they would be prepared whenever the action starts. And you can be ready for what will probably be a very tough championship once it starts.”

Asked how his vision was taken by Red Bull officials, he added: “Let’s put it this way, it has not been well received.”

Drivers

With his usual bluntness, he effectively dismissed Daniil Kvyat when asked if Kvyat had done enough with a strong performance in Imola he told Sky Germany,

 “No (laughs), it was a good performance but it will not help him in the future or to position himself in the future.” 

Image: AlphaTauri

It wasn’t much better for poor old Pierre Gasly. After his win at Monza, which led the Frenchman to hope for a return to Red Bull, only to hear Marko tell Sky Germany,

“That is currently not a consideration. “Gasly is one of our Red Bull drivers, he is currently with AlphaTauri and is doing a great job there. But we also need a team leader there.”

READ MORE IN THE PIT LANE: F1 SEEING DOLLAR SIGNS

Marko had been uncharacteristically supportive of Alexander Albon commenting, 

“Everyone falls away against Max. But the criticism of Albon is not entirely fair. He’s been very unlucky this year and we made strategic mistakes that affected his performance.

“If Alex Albon performs well then he stays. If not, there will be deliberation. We would then see which drivers that are good are on the market. But that’s not an issue at the moment.”

Perez’s win in Bahrain saved his Formula 1 career

Fast forward to November when he told f1-insider.com, “Sergio Perez’s victory in Bahrain has no influence on our decisions,” and of course Red Bull subsequently signed Perez.

George Russell’s chances of a Red Bull seat ended when the good doctor proclaimed, “Firstly, he is a Mercedes driver, and secondly he is managed by Toto Wolff.”

READ MORE IN THE PITLANE: FORMULA 1’S CONFLICT OF INTERESTS

Then we have the golden child Verstappen who did not escape the cold judgment on his title chances after back-to-back retirements left him 80 points adrift leading Marko to announce in Sept, 

“It means: world title, goodbye! You have to be realistic.”

Max Verstappen was the only driver from outside Mercedes to win multiple races in 2020

Then Marko had his little spat with Lewis Hamilton after he accused Hamilton of lobbying Horner to replace Gasly with Albon during the 2019 season.

“We don’t care. The one he wanted to get rid of last summer has now won the Italian Grand Prix with our AlphaTauri team. So much for his expertise.

“I have no idea why Hamilton always feels the need to interfere. But it doesn’t matter to us what opinion people from the outside have.”

Engines

In what must be one of the biggest put-downs in F1 history, Marko, when discussing the matter with Speedweed, said of Christian Horner at the announcement of Honda’s withdrawal from F1, 

“We work in all directions because we knew about Honda’s decision for a long time.

“Mr. Horner is a team principal, but not involved in strategic matters. Mr. Mateschitz and I have known for a long time.” 

Ouch! That must have stung.

Then he has been accused of blackmailing the teams into agreeing to an engine freeze so Red Bull can take over the Honda programme simply telling Auto Bild, 

“The deciding factor is whether the engines will be frozen in their development from 2022. Otherwise, we don’t have the capacity to operate these very complicated engines. This is not blackmail, this is a fact.”

READ MORE IN THE PIT LANE: SAFETY DOESN’T HAPPEN BY ACCIDENT

To be fair to Marko, he came out with credit after Lewis Hamilton basically accused him of racism after reading a quote attributed to Marko which it turned out was incorrect. Marko said that as far as he was concerned, the matter was dealt with, “in good faith.”

Marko mused that his sympathies lay with Hamilton telling Motorsport.com,

“He is emotionally very involved. As a racing driver, he is not obliged to do research whether this is true or not. In that respect, his reaction is understandable to me.”

Another eventful year in the life of Dr Marko

Is he going to be around next year? Well, he told Germany’s Motorsport-Total.com,

“I have a deal with [Red Bull founder] Dietrich Mateschitz: as long as I can do it mentally and physically, I will.”

On a footnote: He was always destined for a life in motorsports. After all, his parents started the ball rolling when they named him Helmut!

Garry Sloan is the author of “In the pit lane – F1 exposed” details at inthepitlane.com
Copyright ©2020 Garry Sloan

[Note: The opinions expressed on this website are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors and/or publishers.]

Formula 1 2020 season review – The Strangest Season Ever

In my 13 years of watching Formula 1, the 2020 season has to be one of the strangest I’ve ever seen. 13 podium sitters, 2 new race winners, tracks holding their first-ever F1 race and a driver walking away from an accident that seemed impossible to walk away from. One thing did remain the same though – Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton’s utter dominance in the hybrid era.

Mercedes-Benz – Class of the field

It was arguably Mercedes’ most dominant season since 2016. Unfortunately, this did result in some races which were completely one-sided and difficult to watch. On the other hand, when Mercedes weren’t at their best and usually, when they made a mistake, this resulted in some fantastic races.

Lewis Hamilton won 11 of the 16 races he competed in 2020, leading some to brand the sport as predictable

Faltering Ferrari allows more podium sitters

I don’t think anybody was truly expecting Ferrari to be as bad as they ended up being this season, but what that did result in was the opportunity for many drivers and teams to capitalise when one of the standard three podium sitters this season – Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas ran into an issue of any kind.

Sergio Perez was one of two shock winners in 2020

Notably in Monza and Sakhir, when the safety car was deployed, Mercedes made crucial errors which cost them races they were banked on to win. From a fan’s perspective, this was brilliant as it gave us our first winner from outside the top three teams since 2013.

Watching Pierre Gasly cross the line to take his first win in Formula 1 was unbelievable considering the dominance of Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari teams since 2014.

READ MORE: F1 2021 REGULATION CHANGES: EXPLAINED

I’d forgotten what it felt like for a complete surprise winner, but at a time when the sport was going through a pretty bad phase, Gasly’s win in Monza really was a brilliant result not just for him and his team, but for Formula 1.

Not too long after, Sergio Perez claimed his first win in the sport after 190 races and capped off what has been surely his best season in Formula 1 which has rightfully earnt him a seat at Red Bull Racing next year.

Tumultuous Time at Red Bull

I won’t go too much into Red Bull’s young driver programme and the teams interesting decisions over the last few years in terms of driver signups. But in short, I don’t think Alex Albon did enough to keep his red bull seat, something that not many can argue against.

That isn’t to suggest though that I don’t feel at least a bit for him. I personally think Red Bull have made some bad decisions in the past few years which have hampered a few drivers’ careers. Including putting Albon into a high-pressure seat when he clearly wasn’t ready.

That aside, I am really intrigued to see what Checo can do in a Red Bull next season alongside one of the best drivers on the grid.

READ MORE: IN THE PIT LANE – F1 SEEING DOLLAR SIGNS

I have a feeling Max will comfortably beat Perez over the course of the season, but I assume what Red Bull will expect from the consistent Mexican is him to be at the front during races to give them strategic options against the two Mercedes. As good as Verstappen may be, it’s hard for him to do much when it’s 2 vs 1.

If Perez performs poorly, this will indicate that there is something wrong with the team or the car rather than the driver. Sergio has proven over his career that he is one of the best drivers out there.

What could 2021 bring?

I sensed a lot of excitement and optimism after Verstappen’s dominant win in Abu Dhabi and hopes that 2021 can finally be the season Red Bull take the fight to Mercedes. But haven’t we said the exact same thing for the past 5 to 6 years? Why is 2021 going to be any different?

Verstappen has ended the season well, but can he and his team carry it into 2021?

Considering there are not any major regulation changes for next year, I am keeping my hopes very low for any real challenge for the Silver Arrows in 2021. Another argument is that now Red Bull have two very good drivers so they should be able to beat Mercedes.

Wasn’t that the case when they had Ricciardo though? They weren’t able to mount a credible challenge back then.

READ MORE: IN THE PIT LANE – FORMULA 1’S CONFLICT OF INTERESTS

I am a little more optimistic that Ferrari can at least get back to 3rd in the Constructors’ Championship after what was surely just a one-off bad season for the Scuderia. You would think a team with the amount of resources they have would be able to find a way back to where they should be on the grid.

One of my drivers of the season was Charles Leclerc, who carried his car way higher up the pecking order than it should’ve been on many occasions.

READ MORE: IN THE PIT LANE – SAFETY DOESN’T HAPPEN BY ACCIDENT

As for his teammate, I suspect Sebastian Vettel was the happiest to see the chequered flag in Abu Dhabi after what has been a horrid season for the 4-time world champion. Coupled with his poor race performances, his relationship with Ferrari has deteriorated so significantly over the course of his five years there.

I hope he goes to Aston Martin and performs like the Sebastian Vettel who we are used to watching.

Carlos Sainz, Daniel Ricciardo and Pierre Gasly also deserve recognition for their brilliant performance this season. It will be exciting to see what Ricciardo can bring to a McLaren team on the up and how Sainz can fit into a Ferrari team which has become increasingly focused around Charles Leclerc.

The strangest season ever

When I said at the start of this review that this season has been very strange, what I meant was how topsy-turvy it has been. We have had fantastic and sometimes crazy races such as Austria, the 70th anniversary Grand Prix, Turkey and Sakhir.

Pierre Gasly’s shock win in Italy epitomised the season.

When a race was bad, though, it was often very bad. At one point, it looked as if we potentially weren’t going to have a 2020 Formula 1 season, but in the end, we got a real calendar shake up with with tracks like Imola, Mugello, and Portimao all featuring.

I hope we can see some of these tracks on the calendar in the future but realistically, I don’t think we should expect to see some of these appear again.

READ MORE: F1 BLAST FROM THE PAST: KOBAYASHI STUNS ON DEBUT

Out of all the surprises this season, including a Racing Point and AlphaTauri winning a race, the biggest surprise for me this season was seeing Romain Grosjean survive what has to be the worst accident I can remember in Formula 1.

Romain Grosjean’s crash in Bahrain was a testament to the safety of modern F1 cars

It’s incredible to think how a driver could survive his car splitting in half and being able to climb out of his car after just experiencing a 52G impact. I think it was a stark reminder for everyone just how dangerous Formula 1 can be. But also, a reminder just how much has been done since Bianchi’s tragic death in 2015.

Overall, I really enjoyed the 2020 season. Even though it was lacking a title fight, which I hope we can see next year. But as I have finished previous season reviews, I just can’t see anybody stopping Lewis Hamilton from running away with it again.

In the pit lane – F1 seeing Dollar Signs

McLaren Racing announced at last weekend’s Abu Dhabi race that they had agreed to sell a third of the company to a group of United States-based investors. MSP Sports Capital will inject £185m by the end of 2022 giving them a 15% stake rising to 33%.

McLaren were delighted with the news

McLaren Racing chief Zak Brown stated:

“This investment bolsters our plan to return to contention for wins and championships in F1 and IndyCar.”

McLaren has taken a long-term strategic decision to separate the funding for the race team from the automotive and engineering divisions effectively ring-fencing the F1 team.

McLaren Group executive chairman Paul Walsh hit the nail on the head when he explained, “We stopped making cars because our factory was locked down. If you don’t make cars, you don’t sell them – and if you don’t sell them, you don’t get the cash flow.

READ MORE IN THE PIT LANE: FORMULA 1’S CONFLICT OF INTERESTS

“But we had the racing team that was continuing to spend money, as they should. That tension made everyone acutely aware that the fundamental model needed adjustment.”

MSP’s arrival increases North American interest in F1, as demonstrated by the purchase earlier this year of the Williams team by U.S.- based Dorilton capital.

But who are MSP?

MSP Sports capital was established in 2019 by Jeff Moorad, who began his career as a sports agent before becoming involved with Major League Baseball with firstly the Arizona Diamondbacks and then the San Diego Padres.

So, no doubt Moorad and Liberty Media (who own the MLB team the Atlantic Braves) have had dealings in the past. Moorad has motor racing experience through his previous ownership of NASCAR team Hall of Fame Racing. 

Moorad’s partners in MSP include Arne Rees who was previously a senior executive at sports broadcasting network ESPN, a subsidiary of the Disney Corporation, and Jahm Najafi.

READ MORE IN THE PIT LANE – SAFETY DOESN’T HAPPEN BY ACCIDENT

Najafi runs Najafi Companies, a Phoenix-based private-equity firm in which he only invests his own money and is part owner of the Phoenix Suns NBA team. 

MSP has put together a consortium that includes Najafi companies and UBS O’Connor, a hedge fund subsidiary of Swiss investment banking firm UBS. UBS are no strangers to F1 as they were previously global partners and are currently sponsors of the Mercedes team.

READ MORE: F1 2020: THE YEAR OF THE HONEYBADGER

UBS is also no stranger to the courtroom either, with numerous tax-evasion and avoidance investigations undertaken by U.S., French, German, Israeli, and Belgian tax authorities. This was a consequence of their strict banking secrecy practices and resulting in numerous large fines amounting to billions of dollars.

Najafi who has two fingers in the pie through MSP and Najafi companies will become vice-chairman of McLaren Racing under the deal, whilst Jeff Moorad of MSP and Rodrigo Trelles Zabala of UBS O’Connor will join the McLaren Racing board as non-executive directors.

READ MORE: PRAVAIG – A PREMIUM PURE-ELECTRIC CAR

It is fair to point out that both Moorad and Najafi have a track record in philanthropy with Najafi being the founding partner of Social Venture Partners, a philanthropic venture capital fund that invests in emerging non-profit organisations.

But why now?

Why have the recent investors of Lawrence Stroll, Dorliton Capital, and MSP decided owning a F1 team is a sound investment? 

It would appear that Liberty Media’s strategy of maximising revenue with an expanded calendar to circuits/countries that will pay top dollar along with the promised land that the likes of Disney (ESPN) and in the not-too-distant future Amazon offer in terms of TV contracts seems to have hit the mark.

Investor confidence is further raised with the new Concorde agreement establishing a budget cap and a more equitable sharing of the revenues.

READ MORE: FORMULA 1 ANNOUNCES SAUDI GP, BUT DO WE REALLY RACE AS ONE?

The proposed ‘dilution’ fund has also increased the value of a team as it is a significant barrier to entry resulting in the supply/demand balance in favour of the teams.

Stroll, of course, has ambitions for the Aston Martin road car project but upon his purchase of Force India, he told the New York Times, “I looked at it as a business opportunity the value of an asset like this, treated properly, cherished over time significantly appreciates.

“I never really anticipated owning a team, wanting a team. But, put simply, this was a phenomenal business opportunity that presented itself.”

READ MORE: DANIIL KVYAT: NOT DONE YET

Dorliton capital is interested according to their PR in ‘partnering with incumbent management to create value over the long term’. 

MSP seems to have reached the same conclusion as Stroll, with Moorad commenting, “We believe that Liberty’s business plan of creating more franchise-like values on the teams are going to flow in part from the cost cap.

“All of these pieces of a thoughtful business plan will ultimately create franchise values for each of the teams in the sport.

“That’s our bet, to be frank. We’re betting on the long-term future of Formula One.”

Gene Haas must be looking on with considerable interest at recent developments!

So, time will tell if the private equity investors will see a return on their investment but in the short term when teams recently faced financial meltdown due to the pandemic it is probably overall a positive development.

On a footnote: Moorad appeared in and served as technical consultant for the film Jerry Maguire. Moorad was the inspiration behind the Jerry Maguire character played by Tom Cruise with a catchphrase suitable for F1,

 “Show me the money.” 

Garry Sloan is the author of “In the pit lane – F1 exposed” details at inthepitlane.com
Copyright ©2020 Garry Sloan

[Note: The opinions expressed on this website are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors and/or publishers.]

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Preview: Bizarre 2020 Season Ends at Yas Marina

In a season that has seen multiple drivers miss races due to illness and teams/drivers winning races that usually do not, the 2020 Formula 1 campaign ends at Abu Dhabi with drivers and constructors points positions still to be determined. 

The mundane Yas Marina circuit will host the season finale after Racing Point’s Sergio Perez earned his first Grand Prix win in his 190th start at the Sakhir Grand Prix.  Will Lewis Hamilton clear COVID-19 protocols to race after last week’s absence?  Who drives for Haas in place of Romain Grosjean?

Track Guide

Sunday’s race at the 5.554 km Yas Marina Grand Prix layout marks the end of a three-week Middle East trek. Yas Marina is known for the unique architecture, lights and pit road exit underneath the track itself. However, the racing here leaves a lot to be desired. 

Outside of two long straightaways with DRS zones connected by a chicane, the remainder of the track is low to medium-speed corners, which usually provides a processional race.

READ MORE: IN THE PIT LANE – FORMULA 1’S CONFLICT OF INTERESTS

Grip will be at a premium early in the weekend, but will improve through practice and qualifying. Track position will be at a premium with the lack of overtaking areas and tyre wear not being as severe like Bahrain.

Last Time Out

With Hamilton missing a Grand Prix for the first time in his career, Mercedes AMG Petronas teammate Valtteri Bottas took pole for the Sakhir Grand Prix on the Bahrain outer layout. Alongside was teammate and Hamilton substitute George Russell.

Sergio Perez became the first Mexican to win a Formula 1 race in half a century

The young Englishman took advantage of a great start to lead going into the first turn.  Behind him, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Perez made contact which collected Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. The crash ended Leclerc and Verstappen’s races on the spot while Perez fell to last. 

However, the veteran Mexican driver (who is still looking for a 2021 seat) charged through the field on hard tyres and made crucial overtakes through the pit-stop sequences.

READ MORE: THE DEVIL’S IN THE DATA: WHAT PEREZ COULD BRING TO RED BULL

Jack Aitken replaced Russell at Williams and his crash off the final turn caused a comedy of errors so bad that Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff to drop an expletive during a live post-race interview. 

In the process, Russell lost the lead due to having Bottas’ tyres mounted after a late call to pit under the full safety car. Bottas was stuck on his hard tyres which proved costly in the end.

READ MORE: FORMULA 1 ANNOUNCES SAUDI GP, BUT DO WE REALLY RACE AS ONE?

Russell was able to claw back through the field and was within two seconds of Perez before suffering a puncture which ended Russell’s chances and gave the soon-to-be unemployed Perez his maiden victory. 

Ocon scored his first career podium and Stroll took his second podium of 2020 after the equally insane Italian Grand Prix. 

Points Battles and Who Is Driving?

Bottas comes into Abu Dhabi with a 16-point advantage over Verstappen in the chase for second in the drivers’ championship. Perez’s win vaulted him into a 13-point lead over Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo for fourth. 

Ricciardo could still finish 4th in the driver’s standings

There’s an 11-point gap between four drivers (Leclerc, Carlos Sainz, Alexander Albon, Lando Norris) to decide sixth in the drivers’ championship. Qualifying will be a major factor in who comes out on top in these battles.  

On the constructors’ side, Racing Point has a 10-point lead on McLaren for third after a double podium in Bahrain, while McLaren leads Renault by 12 points.  Each organisation has shown great pace and performance at different circuits, so this battle will go down to final lap.

READ MORE: DANIIL KVYAT: NOT DONE YET

Lewis Hamilton will return to driving for Mercedes this weekend. This means that George Russell reverts back to Williams and Jack Aitken’s Formula 1 cameo comes to and end.

What is known is that Pietro Fittipaldi will be in the Haas again this weekend, as Romain Grosjean’s burns are still too severe to race. His horror-crash in Bahrain has effectively retired the Swiss-born Frenchman from Formula 1. He should get a test in an F1 car when he is fit again to say goodbye to the sport.    

READ MORE: IN THE PIT LANE – SAFETY DOESN’T HAPPEN BY ACCIDENT

Session Times

Practice 1: 11 December         9:00 – 10:30 (4-5:30 AM EST)

Practice 2: 11 December         13:00 – 14:30 (8-9:30 AM EST)

Practice 3: 12 December         10:00 – 11:00 (5-6 AM EST)

Qualifying: 12 December       13:00 – 14:00 (8-9 AM EST)

Race: 13 December                 13:10 – 15:10 (8:10-10:10 AM EST)

(Session times are UK GMT time, unless stated)

Grid Talk Podcast

Want more content to preview your Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend?  Host George Howson with panellists Mikael Kataja, Alex Booth and Garry Sloan stared in Grid Talk’s Abu Dhabi Prix Preview.  Video and audio versions of the show are linked below:

F1 Blast From The Past: Kobayashi Stuns On Debut

A Formula 1 debut is a special thing. It’s a driver stepping onto the world stage and saying “this is who I am and this is what I can do – take notice”. Whether it be a shot in the fastest car on the grid, or just an opportunity to take part, first impressions are everything.

The 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix saw three such debuts. Two drivers who had never raced in Formula 1 before, in Williams’ Jack Aitken and Haas’ Pietro Fittipaldi, took to the starting grid for the first time. The third was George Russell, who was finally given the chance to squeeze into the coveted Mercedes seat to show the world exactly what he can do.

For Aitken and Fittipaldi, there wasn’t much to write home about.

George Russell in the Mercedes, though, was another story. Quickly ushered into the vacant Mercedes seat to fill in for seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton. He impressed from the get-go, easily challenging Bottas for top honours in what was surely his opening act in a Mercedes.

It was an electric performance, made all the more impressive by his lack of experience behind the wheel of the W11 – a car he’d never turned a wheel in until Friday.

His debut now stands alongside the all-time best: Hamilton in ’07. Verstappen winning first stab in the works Red Bull in ’16. Schumacher at Spa in ’91. All great performances, all great debuts.

When it comes to the ballsiest entrance in recent years though, that honour can only ever go to one man: parachuted into the Toyota for the final two races of the 2009 season, Mr. Kamui Kobayashi.

Elbows Out, No Prisoners

Kobayashi made his Formula 1 debut at the 2009 Brazilian Grand Prix. The Japanese driver was filling in for an injured Timo Glock, who had been side-lined after a heavy crash in qualifying at Suzuka the race before.

Glock’s nasty crash in Japan ruled him out for the remainder of the season

A solid effort on the Saturday put him 11th on the grid, only just missing out on Q3 in a rain-sodden qualifying session. It would be in the race, though, where Kobayashi truly came alive. After a collision on the first lap that claimed three cars, and a pass on Kazuki Nakajima’s Williams off the restart, Kobayashi was up to sixth.

Behind though, Jenson Button was carving through the field, making easy work of Romain Grosjean and Kazuki Nakajima. A few laps later, he was on to the back of Kobayashi.

READ MORE: FORMULA 1 ANNOUNCES SAUDI GP, BUT DO WE REALLY RACE AS ONE?

But the Japanese driver wasn’t such easy pickings. An early send up the inside nearly got the move done for the World Champion-elect, but Kobayashi emphatically hung onto the position around the outside.

Button haunted his mirrors for the next 17 laps, but the young Toyota man, in his first ever Grand Prix, didn’t put a foot wrong. Despite immense pressure, Kobayashi appeared unfazed.

READ MORE: CHARLES LECLERC: F1’S NEXT NEW WORLD CHAMPION

And when Button finally slipped through on Lap 24, Kobayashi found some more victims to play with. He immediately repassed fellow compatriot Nakajima around the outside of Turn 1 after falling victim to him on the pit-straight.

Then later on in the race, dive-bombed Giancarlo Fisichella for 10th, a move he’d put to good use in later seasons. The new kid on the block certainly wasn’t afraid to get stuck in.

READ MORE: IN THE PIT LANE – FORMULA 1’S CONFLICT OF INTERESTS

Kobayashi went on to finish a respectable 10th in his maiden Grand Prix, but it was his brawl with Button in the early stages that had everyone talking. Here was a driver in his first race comfortably going wheel-to-wheel with some of the best in Formula 1. For a rookie, it was mightily impressive.

Not a flash in the pan

Two weeks later in Abu Dhabi, Kobayashi and Button found themselves fighting over the same piece of track again. This time, it was Kobayashi that came out on top.

As the chequered flag fell on the 2009 season, the young Japanese driver had well and truly established himself as one to watch for the future.

READ MORE: IN THE PIT LANE – SAFETY DOESN’T HAPPEN BY ACCIDENT

Two strong outings with Toyota were enough to land him a drive with Sauber for the following season, where he put in some stunning drives, most notably at Valencia and Suzuka. Two years later in 2012, he’d secure his first and only podium on home soil, the first Japanese driver to do so in 22 years.

Kobayashi will always be remembered for his Hollywood-style overtakes and merciless approach to wheel-to-wheel racing. But his gutsy drives at the tail end of the 2009 season will also live on as one of the greatest debut performances in recent years.

Fast. Aggressive. Ruthless. It was a perfect display of talent and style, a mix any driver looking to cause a stir in Formula 1 would do well to emulate.

Grid Talk Podcast

Want more content to preview your Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend?  Host George Howson with panellists Mikael Kataja, Alex Booth and Garry Sloan stared in Grid Talk’s Abu Dhabi Prix Preview.  Video and audio versions of the show are linked below:

2020 Sakhir Grand Prix Preview: Shaken-up Grid to Provide Entertaining Race

The casual racing fan might have been tempted to turn away from F1 and it’s predictability after Lewis Hamilton put the final nail in the championship coffin several rounds ago.

It’s understandable; both titles already belong to Mercedes while second place handily sits with Red Bull. That fan might be thinking there is little left to fight for. But they would be wrong. 

The Track

Bahrain’s outer “almost oval” circuit shares Turns 14 through 4 with the standard layout. The rest has never been touched by an F1 car. Lap times in qualifying are set to be under one minute, while the race will take place over 87 laps.

Average speeds won’t be at the fastest of the year though, Monza, Spa and Silverstone are still faster.

Last Time Out – 2020 Bahrain GP

Having never run on Bahrain’s outer ring configuration, there isn’t anything precise to judge this weekend’s grand prix against. However, the standard track setup shares half it’s layout with the outer one and F1 put rubber to road there less than a week ago. 

While Romain Grosjean’s crash (and his miraculous survival) has rightfully dominated headlines since Sunday, there are still other big picture items to note. Red Bull, crucially Alex Albon, cleaned up what was left from Lewis Hamilton’s win and Valtteri Bottas’ lackluster day.

READ MORE: IN THE PIT LANE – SAFETY DOESN’T HAPPEN BY ACCIDENT

Third place in the Constructor’s was and is where the fiercest fight remains. Racing Point and their pink Mercedes had an awful day while Renault was unable to capitalise in the same way McLaren did by finishing in fourth and fifth place.  

A Wide-Open Weekend

In the wake of Lewis Hamilton’s contraction of COVID-19, we’ll finally get to find out what F1 would be like without him for a weekend. Mercedes have announced that George Russell will step-up to replace the world champion, so we’ll find out how the Brit can do in a fast car.

Who will replace Russell at Williams isn’t clear, but it’s believed to be either Jack Aitken or Stoffel Vandoorne.

Romain Grosjean will also be out of action this weekend. The Haas driver has been released from hospital, though, the team have confirmed. Pietro Fittipaldi will get his F1 debut this weekend in place of the Frenchman.

READ MORE: CHARLES LECLERC: F1’S NEXT NEW WORLD CHAMPION

In the midfield battle, the team from Woking now has a lead, but a vulnerable one, for third place. With two races remaining and a points gap of 27 between all three teams, don’t expect Racing Point or Renault to give up the chase.

Sergio Perez had shown every indication of a podium finish before his Mercedes engine packed it in. And it’s almost asking for a miracle for McLaren to repeat their showing from last weekend. 

READ MORE: THE DEVIL’S IN THE DATA: WHAT PEREZ COULD BRING TO RED BULL

In addition to the Constructor’s battle, Ricciardo, Perez and Charles Leclerc are  separated by only four points in the battle for fourth while seventh is within touching distance of Lando Norris, Carlos Sainz and Albon (who is fighting to keep his race seat).

To say Sunday should be exciting would be an understatement. 

READ MORE: F1 2020: THE YEAR OF THE HONEYBADGER

While the casual fan may be forgiven for feeling a little blasé about F1’s predictability the seasoned fan knows better. That kind of F1 fan knows the most compelling reasons for watching F1 are just now reaching a boiling point. 

Third place in the Constructor’s Championship, with its accompanying respect and prize money, is a dogfight between three closely matched teams. And a race win is on the line in a way it normally is not. Every tenth of a second counts on Saturday and every move has to stick on Sunday to emerge victorious. 

Session Times

Practice 1: 27 November 14:30 – 16:00 (9:30-11:00 AM EST)
Practice 2: 27 November 17:30 – 19:00 (12:30-2:00 PM EST)
Practice 3: 28 November 14:00 – 15:00 (9-10 AM EST)
Qualifying: 28 November 17:00 – 18:00 (12-1 PM EST)
Race: 29 November 17:10 – 19:10 (12:10-2:10 PM EST)

READ MORE: F1 ANNOUNCES SAUDI GP, BUT DO WE REALLY RACE AS ONE?

In the pit lane – safety doesn’t happen by accident

In Bahrain, the F1 community witnessed the horrific crash of Romain Grosjean and at the same time what only can be described as some sort of miracle as Grosjean appeared from the flames into the brave hands of Dr Ian Roberts.

Grosjean is no stranger to a crash or two, prophetically commenting in a recent interview, “I’ve hit the wall at over 200mph and I’m still here.”

Many questions need to be answered over the coming weeks and lessons will need to be learned as F1 can never be complacent when it comes to safety.

There have been a series of safety-related issues in recent race weekends with incidents involving the safety car, marshals on the track, and in a chilling reminder of Jules Bianchi’s fatal accident back in 2014, there was a recovery truck in use when qualifying had restarted in Turkey.

So, worrying times for F1.

How we got to this point

F1 has come a long way in safety terms from the days when deaths were deemed to be an acceptable part of racing with the sport viewed as some sort of gladiator’s spectacle.

In years gone by, Leclerc’s crash in 2018 would’ve been fatal

Back then, the statistics were brutal, for example, between 1957 and 1961, 20 drivers were killed.

Grosjean’s accident was a reminder of drivers who often died in a horrific fireball with trackside marshals wearing civilian clothing tackling the inferno with nothing more than bog-standard fire extinguishers.

Sir Jackie Stewart was a vocal and active safety campaigner over many years alongside the late Professor Sid Watkins and Charlie Whiting, but it was an uphill battle.

All this was to change due to in no small part two men Max Mosley FIA president and Bernie Ecclestone the commercial rights holder.

The ill-fated weekend of the San Marino GP in 1994 which saw the tragic deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna was a game-changer.

READ MORE: THE DEVIL’S IN THE DATA: WHAT PEREZ COULD BRING TO RED BULL

The sport was plunged into crisis with attacks from all sides.

Governments around the world pondered banning the sport and manufacturers questioning their involvement with F1.

TV companies started to make threats about withdrawing coverage and cancelling contracts, but the greatest risk was sponsors exiting the sport after being nervous about the link between their products and the loss of life.

READ MORE: F1 ANNOUNCES SAUDI GP, BUT DO WE REALLY RACE AS ONE?

Something had to be done. So, Mosley launched a zero-mortality goal and announced the formation of the Advisory Expert Group chaired by Professor Sid Watkins, to research and improve safety in motor racing. 

Advances in safety have been ongoing ever since with the introduction of safer cars due to carbon fibre survival cells, wheel tethers, the HANS device, visor panels, and Halo to mention a few.

Procedures and facilities at race weekends were developed with highly-trained medical extraction teams positioned trackside and state-of-the-art medical facilities built.

READ MORE: F1 2020: THE YEAR OF THE HONEYBADGER

Safety and in particular research were always hampered because it was expensive so how was all this progress paid for all?

The funding came through a deal signed in 2001.

After a bit of clever negotiation between Ecclestone and Mosley, the FIA sold a 100-year licence to then owners CVC capital partners for an initial payment of $313 million and an annual dividend.

Mosley stated at the time: “Over the totality of the contract, and on an annual basis, the sum we have accepted represents billions of dollars. Looked at from that point of view, it is a huge amount of money.” 

READ MORE: DANIIL KVYAT: NOT DONE YET

So, the FIA Foundation was established with one of its aims to further road safety including motorsports.

It has been a successful transformation with only one fatality in F1 with the death of Jules Bianchi in 2014 from injuries suffered during the Japanese Grand Prix. 

Long may it continue.

The Current System

A feature of race weekends is the deployment of the safety car when the all-powerful Mercedes AMG GT R springs into action.

The commercial arrangements for the safety car are confidential but it cannot be underestimated the value to Mercedes.

Mercedes have supplied the safety and medical cars since 1996.

The TV coverage to millions of fans globally when the safety car is on-track provides Mercedes with a rolling advert and plays to a key Mercedes marketing strategy, safety.

The subliminal message to car owners is when there is an accident you can rely on the safety of a Mercedes car.

Unconfirmed reports state Mercedes have ‘allowed’ Aston Martin to do a deal with F1 to provide the safety and medical cars at more than half of the F1 races next season.

Underlying the marketing significance of the safety car Aston Martin will provide the cars in countries where it has a larger market share, with Mercedes retaining the rights in countries such as the US and China.

On a footnote: The first use of the Safety Car in F1 was at the 1973 Canadian Grand Prix. It was to be an eventful introduction as the Safety Car took its place in front of the wrong driver resulting in some cars deemed to be incorrectly one lap down.

The chaos took several hours to resolve before the actual winner could be announced, no surprise then it was a further 20 years before the safety car was ever used again. 

The car in question, a yellow Porsche 914.

Garry Sloan is the author of “In the pit lane – F1 exposed” details at inthepitlane.com
Copyright ©2020 Garry Sloan

[Note: The opinions expressed on this website are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors and/or publishers.]

Bahrain Grand Prix Preview: Midfield Battle Takes Centre Stage


With Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton clinching the Constructors and Drivers titles, the focus in the closing three weeks will be on the tight midfield battles in both championships.

Hamilton clinched his record-equalling seventh World Drivers Championship with a Turkish Grand Prix victory after cold temperatures, rain and a resurfaced track wreaked havoc all weekend.

Racing Point’s Sergio Perez and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel rounded out the podium. Perez currently sits fourth in the drivers’ championship with four points separating him, Charles Leclerc for Ferrari and Daniel Ricciardo with Renault.

Track Guide

Sunday’s race will be the 14th time Formula 1 has raced at this version of the Bahrain International Circuit. Racing under the lights and three separate DRS zones will produce plenty of overtaking and slipstreaming battles.

This track has plenty of paved runoff areas and initially starts low-grip due to the wind and sand blown onto the track. However, the circuit usually improves over the weekend.

Most of the turns are sharp angles allowing for hard braking but there are sweepers opening up into DRS zones so medium to high-speed cornering and downforce will play a huge role.

Those DRS zones will emphasise the better power units and teams that can balance the trim and grip necessary to overtake and keep the tyres alive.

Last Time Out

Lance Stroll won his first career pole for Racing Point and led twice for 32 laps but suffered front wing damage which cost him an opportunity for his first win. Hamilton led the last 22 laps of the race to earn his 94th win and tie Michael Schumacher with seven World Drivers Championships.

Valtteri Bottas had a nightmare race, spinning six times and finishing a lap
down in 14th, which ended his opportunity to win the title.

Perez finished 31.633 seconds behind in second and continues to perform even with no drive as of this writing. Vettel earned his first podium since Mexico in 2019 after teammate Leclerc’s last-lap attempt to get second went awry.

McLaren’s Carlos Sainz finished fifth with less than three seconds separating positions 2-5.

Red Bull teammates Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon finished sixth and seventh, followed by McLaren’s Lando Norris, Stroll and Ricciardo.

Four-way Midfield tussle

As mentioned earlier, the battle for fourth in drivers and third in constructors takes centre stage since the main titles are decided. Perez and Racing Point are five points ahead of McLaren in constructors with Renault a further 13 points back.

Ferrari’s recent resurgence brings them within 24 points of Racing Point with vital aero development time on the line depending on their finish with the new cost cap in play for 2021.

Perez is still looking for a ride in 2021 and could finish best of the rest with Leclerc and Ricciardo both standing in the way of his best points finish of his career.

Session Times

Practice 1: 27 November 14:00 – 15:30 (6-7:30 AM EST)
Practice 2: 27 November 18:00 – 19:30 (10-11:30 AM EST)
Practice 3: 28 November 14:00 – 15:00 (6-7 AM EST)
Qualifying: 28 November 17:00 – 18:00 (9-10 AM EST)
Race: 29 November 17:10 – 19:10 (9:10-11:10 AM EST)

READ MORE: F1 ANNOUNCES SAUDI GP, BUT DO WE REALLY RACE AS ONE?

Grid Talk Podcast

Want more content to preview your Bahrain Grand Prix weekend? Host Louis Edwards with panellists Owain Medford, Garry Sloan and Soumil Arora stared in Grid Talk’s Bahrain Grand Prixview.

Video and audio versions of the show are linked below:

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