Hamilton concerned by rising cost of junior motorsport

Lewis Hamilton has said that he’s worried that the spiralling costs of competing in junior-level motorsports championships might be putting off potential world champions of the future.

Hamilton himself came from a working-class background and only got his break in racing thanks to his father working extra jobs to find the money to finance his early karting competitions.

But Hamilton says he’s worried by how the cost of taking part in the junior and intermediate levels of the sport is putting off aspiring drivers who come from similar backgrounds and lack the family wealth to fund those crucial first steps.

“I think where motorsport has gone, if you look at Formula 3, it’s not the same as it used to be,” he told Motorsport Week.

“GP3, GP2 – those things are getting continuously more expensive, and don’t generally need to be,” he continued.

“Formula Renault isn’t the stepping stone that it used to be,” he added. “Karting is getting more and more expensive, but it doesn’t really need to be.”

Hamilton recently spoke about his hopes to make motorsport and F1 in particular more diverse and accessible, and said that he couldn’t wait to see a powerful woman driver come along and ‘blow the field away’/

Helping young drivers get into the sport and achieve their full potential is also firmly on the six-time world champion’s to-do list as he focusses on defining his legacy.

Race winner Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 celebrates with fans after the podium.

“I’m just trying to think about what I can do,” he said. “Diversity is a continuous issue, and will continue to be an issue for a long time.

“There’s only a certain amount I can do,” he admitted. “But it is at the top of my priorities in terms of what I want to do long-term.

“I am trying to think about what it is I can actually do and work with,” he continued. “How I can work with F1, rather than it just be a tick on their list of things to add to what we also do.

“[I want to] actually have something that is really implemented, and actually making an impactful difference being made.

Hamilton admitted that it was hard for him as a driver to full comprehend what went through the minds of decision makers in the business sphere.

“It’s because the business heads are not aligned with my thought process,” he sighed. “So I’m still trying to understand that.”

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F1 TV audience figures crash in Britain

Sky Sports F1’s new contract for broadcasting Formula 1 in the UK caused an 8.6 million drop in viewers, according to The Independent.

The new terms which Sky signed, pushed through by F1’s former boss Bernie Ecclestone, may have seen Sky’s annual fee double to £120 million, but as F1 is getting richer, viewers are turning away.

Sky now have exclusive rights to show all but one of the races live, while Channel 4 have gone from having ten live races to just one in 2019 – that being the British GP, meaning F1 fans in the UK miss out on the vast majority of live F1 action unless they pay for it.

The Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (Barb), which is partly owned by six TV stations, including Sky and Channel 4, have revealed an alarming drop in Channel 4’s F1 highlights show viewing figures with a cumulative total of 34.7 million in 2019, a 10.8 million drop from 2018.

The overall decline was offset somewhat by an increase of 2.2 million in Sky’s viewers to 20.1 million, but the total number of UK viewers was still down by 13.6 per cent to 54.8 million.

It was expected that Channel 4’s 2019 prime time slot for their highlights show would result in a surge of viewers, but in the end only the Japanese and French GP’s saw an increase on the 2018 figures.

Ironically the French GP turned out to be the least entertaining race of 2019.

The United States GP lost the most viewers for Channel 4, down by 2 million compared to 2018 when the race was shown live, even though Lewis Hamilton secured the 2019 Drivers’ Championship at the Circuit of the Americas.

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Grosjean wants F1 to stay complicated

Formula 1 is ever-growing in complexity, and while that is a problem for some, Romain Grosjean thinks F1 should be complicated.

Haas slumped to P9 in the 2019 Drivers’ Championship as they struggled to understand the issues which plagued the VF-19, while Grosjean scored only eight of their 28 points for the season.

Particularly in the engine department F1 is rapidly embracing more complicated technologies, something which irked Sebastian Vettel when he retired from the Russian GP and asked for the V12 engines back, but Grosjean feels F1’s complexity is its “beauty”.

“It’s the pinnacle of motorsport,” Grosjean is quoted by GPToday.net. “Whenever you want to get to the top of whatever you do, it’s always going to be complicated. On top of tennis, or any sport or business, it’s complicated.

“I guess if we do it, it is because we love it and we have people that are willing to do it behind us. It must stay complicated, it’s just the way it is.

“It’s the most complicated car on the planet and it’s the fastest on the planet. Sometimes, yes it goes too far but that’s also the beauty of it. The development of driving the future of what we will see in cars.”

Formula 1 will look to reduce the gap between the top three teams and the midfield with new financial, technical and sporting regulations for 2021, and Grosjean admits that currently it’s a war of interests from all ten teams.

“Is Formula 1 perfect at the minute? No.” Grojean questioned. “Is the midfield great? Yes. Can we learn from it? I think so.

“Is [the 2021 regulations] enough? The midfield teams say no, the top teams say yes. It just is always going to be a war between the big and the small.

“But I think Liberty are trying and I have got good hopes that we are going to have some good fun in the future.”

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Steiner feared Grosjean and Magnussen were 'unmanageable'

Haas F1 boss Guenther Steiner has admitted that there were points during the 2019 season when he feared that the team’s two drivers were simply no longer manageable together.

Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen clashed at several points in the first half of the season, with the worst incident coming early in the British Grand Prix where contact between the pair on the first lap sent both cars into retirement.

For Steiner, it was almost the final straw in a season that was already proving to be a deeply disappointing one for the squad.

“After Silverstone I was to a point where I could not see this working anymore,” he told Motorsport.com. “We were struggling with the car, then we were struggling with the drivers.

“If I cannot control the drivers, how can that be good for the team? I put a lot of pressure under them to work, to do everything good, and then they get together at turn 5.

“At a certain stage I thought it is not manageable anymore,” he admitted. “[They] forgot about that points are for the team and not only for them.

“They didn’t think about the team anymore at a certain point. They just saw the opportunity to do good like in Barcelona and Silverstone

“Was it because they were under too much pressure? I’ll find out maybe never. It could be as well just the pressure mounted dramatically for the team.”

The situation appeared to be largely defused over the summer. While the team’s on-track performance continued to be below expectations, the tension between Grosjean and Magnussen eased and both drivers ended up being retained for 2020.

Guenther Steiner (ITA) Haas F1 Team Principal and Kevin Magnussen (DEN) Haas F1 Team.

From his point of view in the cockpit, Magnussen felt that the reports of friction with his team mate had been blown out of proportion by the media.

“It was annoying because it became such a big subject, especially in the press around the time,” he told Motorsport.com. “[It] created like a sense of emergency kind of thing. It wasn’t really any issue.

“Me and Romain had no issues,” he insisted. “We were on the phone to each other the week after Silverstone, there was absolutely no bad thing.

“Of course the team feels that we let them down, but there really was no intention,” adding that he didn’t take any offence from Steiner’s typically forthright comments. “The good thing about Gunther is that what you see is what you get.”

And in fact, Magnussen suggested that the struggles of 2019 might prove to be good for the Haas squad in the longer term.

“I think all of that stuff is made us closer and closer because of all that and the whole experience of this year,” he offered. “This made us closer as a team.”

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Norris: I haven’t been as serious as I should be

McLaren’s Lando Norris feel that at times in his rookie F1 season he joked about too much and wasn’t serious when he needed to be.

It didn’t seem to hold the British driver back on the race track as he won the McLaren qualifying battle 11-10 against Carlos Sainz, while he drummed up one of the best relationships with his team-mate F1 has seen in a long time.

Norris’ antics also helped him to build up a strong social media following as the sport looks to reach out to younger viewers.

Despite the jokes though McLaren would finish P4 in the Constructors’ Championship in 2019, their best result since 2012, and Norris played a big role in that achievement.

But, he still feels like he can do a better job of being more serious.

“In some ways I think I’ve been almost been too relaxed, and had too much fun,” Norris told Autosport.com.

“When it’s become more serious, I haven’t focused as much as I should do and so on, and worked on as many areas as I should do, I think I started to take a little bit for granted.

“It’s been good and I’ve been able to have fun in my first season, I’ve not just come in and been surrounded by too many serious things and people.

“At the same time and I think that’s also helped in my ability to work on several things and improve as a driver.

“Maybe sometimes I’ve pushed it a bit too much in terms of making it too jokey, and not focusing as much as I should.

“There’s a compromise, I still just want to have fun sometimes, wear my own jumper [instead of McLaren team gear] and things like that.”

Norris also built a bond with fellow prankster Daniel Ricciardo with the pair hilariously bringing the British GP driver press conference to a halt with their laughter.

But, Norris says that unlike himself, Ricciardo’s experience and achievements in the sport gives him the right to be relaxed.

Asked if Ricciardo showed that it was okay for drivers to show a jovial side, Norris replied: “Yeah, but at the same time he’s in his whatever [ninth] year of F1 and in his very few years of F1 I don’t think he was as jokey and fun with everything compared to what he is now.

“Not because he wasn’t [fun], but because he took it seriously and had to prove what he could do and then he was able to be more himself.

“I have to make sure I don’t let people use what I do and who I am as an excuse – ‘it’s his first year and he doesn’t take it too seriously’.

“Over time maybe I’ll become more relaxed like him but I think I still have to look more serious from the outside sometimes than I’d want to be just so people don’t use things that aren’t true as excuses.”

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Ferrari warns F1 will ‘die’ without budget cap

Ferrari CEO Louis Camilleri says his company’s F1 team support the budget cap and have made “sacrifices” to help the smaller teams, because without doing so F1 would “slowly die”.

From 2021 the sport will introduce new financial, technical and sporting regulations aimed at making F1 more competitive but also financially sustainable.

A major part of that will be the $175million-per-season budget cap that will come into force, a cap which Ferrari could have vetoed but chose not to, seeing it as an important part of F1’s future.

The 2020 season will see teams managing two projects as they aim to be competitive in that campaign while also preparing for 2021, and Ferrari have already confirmed that they have increased their budget significantly for this.

But, at the same time Camilleri says Ferrari have made “sacrifices” to help the smaller teams, while he also thinks the negotiations for 2021 have helped to create a fairer financial landscape for F1 – the series wants to return to more of a unified Concorde Agreement as opposed to the individual team deals which affects the share of wealth.

He also hopes going forward that the budget cap can be widened to cover more costs – under the current plans engine development, driver salaries, and wages for the company’s top three earners will be exempt.

Speaking to Motorsport.com, Camilleri said: “I think we’ve reached a relatively good compromise in terms of the cost cap, which today applies to the chassis.

“We’ve been in favour of it because we think it’s good for the economic sustainability of Formula 1.

“In time that budget cap should encompass more of the car, the power units, the drivers as well, various other things. Because ultimately if the sport is not economically viable, it’s slowly going to die.

“So, we viewed it as our responsibility to ensure that it will be economically viable. And in doing so, I have to say that we have and others, that we principally have made certain sacrifices, so that the smaller teams would get more money.

“We’re not quite there yet on many details, but I think in terms of the actual principles, we are essentially OK.

“When you have 10 teams with all sorts of different views, there will always be continued discussion.”

Ferrari will see their heritage bonus cut under the new deal. Their previous arrangement meant they were the highest-paid team in F1, but Camilleri says Ferrari’s history in F1 makes it important to look after everyone’s interests.

“This year was critical in terms of trying to finalise the Concorde Agreement and the various chapters of the financial regulations and technical regulations,” he explained.

“And then, there’s the governance aspects. And I think there’s been significant progress.

“We as Ferrari have taken very much a leadership role because of our history, because of the importance of Formula 1 to Ferrari.

“I’m quite confident that an agreement will be reached by all in the best interest of everybody.

“My experience in the past on other things, other businesses, is that when you get competitors, it’s always very difficult to match everybody’s intentions. But ultimately, they do see the benefit all around.

“Mattia [Binotto, team principal] in particular, has played a leadership role with the FIA, with the other teams. So, I think we’re quite pleased with the progress on that front.”

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Bottas says it's a 'no brainer' to stay at Mercedes

Valtteri Bottas is heading into his fourth season with Mercedes knowing he once again has it all to prove if he wants to remain with the team beyond 2020.

The 30-year-old Finn joined the squad as Lewis Hamilton’s team mate at the end of 2016 following Nico Rosberg’s shock retirement decision and has been on a rolling one-year contract ever since

This year he emphatically proved himself with four race wins and his best ever finish in the drivers championship, claiming second place behind Hamilton from Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel.

Bottas certainly doesn’t want to be anywhere else than Brackley for the foreseeable future, and hopes that he will get another contract extension to take him through into a new era of sporting rules and regulations.

“If I could decide on my future for 2021 it would be a no brainer to continue with this team,” he candidly admitted to GPToday.net

“I really enjoy it here, we are performing better and better, and I am becoming a better driver all the time.”

It’s not just Bottas who will potentially be out of contract at the end of next year. After a relatively stable transfer market in 2019, there are many big names who will potentially be free agents in 12 months time.

Hamilton, Verstappen and Vettel will all be negotiating new contracts in 2020. Only Leclerc’s long-term future is secure after Ferrari recently announced a new five-year contract with its rising young star.

“I can’t remember a time where so many people are expiring with contracts,” Bottas acknowledged. “I think it’s going to be an interesting season for sure.

“Of course, I – like every other driver – will look at all the possible options,” he added.

However, Bottas isn’t pinning all his hopes on staying in Formula 1 and has also been exploring future possibilities in rallying, just as his compatriot Kimi Raikkonen did during his own sabbatical from F1 in 2010-11.

©Mercedes

Driving a Citroen DS3 WRC, Bottas won a recent event held at the Circuit Paul Ricard. And earlier this year he was fifth in the Arctic Lapland Rally behind the wheel of a Ford Fiesta WRC.

“It’s a fun thing for me to do and I like it,” he said of his recent rallying endeavours. “It’s good for me to try it and to have something different for my skills.

“You never know what’s ahead in life or what’s gonna happen,” Bottas continued, while insisting that F1 remained his chief focus.

“I haven’t thought that far and I still see myself in Formula 1 for quite some time,” he said. “I would say never say never [but] there is still lots to give and lots to achieve [in F1], for sure.

“One day I’ll see what I want to do, but for the moment I find it a lot of fun.

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Steiner thought Grosjean/K-Mag were finished in 2019

Haas principal Guenther Steiner admits that after the British GP he thought Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean were “not manageable anymore”.

Clashes between the two drivers became a hot topic around the middle part of 2019, with their first incident in Spain followed by a far bigger collision at Silverstone which led to both drivers retiring from the race.

A further knock between Magnussen and Grosjean happened at the German GP, but both escaped to record a double-points finish.

Haas have chosen to remain with the same line-up for 2020, though Steiner wasn’t about to hide the fact that he thought it was all over for the pair in 2019.

Asked by Motorsport.com if he thought the relationship between Grosjean and Magnussen was untenable, he said: “Absolutely, yeah. After Silverstone I was to a point where I could not see this working anymore, because we were struggling with the car, then we were struggling with the drivers.

“It was just a struggle, and I’m not really moaning because I am under pressure at all. It’s also for the team to motivate the team.

“If I cannot control the drivers, how can that be good for the team? I put a lot of pressure under them to work, to do everything good and then they get together at Turn 5. At a certain stage I thought it is not manageable anymore.”

Steiner feels like the pressure that Grosjean and Magnussen were under caused them to stop thinking about Haas’ interests.

“They didn’t think about the team anymore at a certain point, they just saw the opportunity to do good like in Barcelona and Silverstone, they qualified good and had the opportunity to get points and forgot those points are for the team and not only for them.

“They threw that one overboard, but was it because they were under too much pressure? I’ll find out maybe never. It could be as well just the pressure mounted dramatically for the team.”

Magnussen made it clear though that there were no issues between himself and Grosjean, and said Silverstone was blown out of proportion like the incident involving Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc in Brazil.

“It was annoying, because it became such a big subject, especially in the press around the time,” he explained.

“And that created like a sense of emergency kind of thing. It wasn’t really any issue – like me and Romain had no issues.

“And we were on the phone to each other the week after Silverstone. There was absolutely no bad thing.

“Just seen it with [Sebastian] Vettel and [Charles] Leclerc, how little it takes. It doesn’t even need to be tension for the tyres to explode and then that’s what happened with me and Romain.

“Of course the team feels that we let them down. But there really was no intention. So I think all of that stuff has made us closer and closer because of all that and the whole experience of this year, this made us closer as a team.

“The good thing about Gunther especially is that what you see is what you get.”

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