Kvyat: I became a better driver in 2019

Daniil Kvyat’s own synopsis of his performance last season with Toro Rosso is honest and forthright, now the rapid Russian is looking ahead to future success as he continues to prove he is deserving of his second chance on Formula 1.

It seemed only yesterday that Max Verstappen won his inaugural Formula One Grand Prix in a chaotic 2016 Spanish race. Since then he has added seven more victories to his tally. But one man’s gain is always at the expense of another’s fortune, and that unlucky soul in Barcelona was Daniil Kvyat.

Promoted to Red Bull to fill the departing Sebastian Vettel in 2015, Kvyat struggled to match the pace of teammate Daniel Ricciardo and too often fell afoul of the stewards with a myriad of on-track incidents.

The costliest being his double blow into the rear of Vettel’s Ferrari at the 2016 Russian Grand Prix. Living up to his torpedo namesake, Kvyat was duly demoted from the senior team after the race before being completely dropped from F1 after the 2017 season.

But it would be Ricciardo’s shock switch to Renault for 2019 that opened the door for Kvyat’s return to the spotlight. Helmut Marko ultimately decided to offer the Russian a rare second chance to perform for Toro Rosso after concluding that the team had no junior drivers capable of success in F1.

Kvyat then joined a small community of drivers who were offered a second opportunity in F1 after being let go altogether for a period of time. Both Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen also experienced the chance to deliver for a second time despite being dropped previously.

For Kvyat, his approach to 2019’s season was exceptional. The Russian would finish P13 in the drivers’ championship with 37 points and assisted Toro Rosso in finishing P6 in the constructors with a record tally of 85 points.

Kvyat also experienced having to deal with two teammates of two completely different calibres. Initially, Kvyat seemed to dominate Albon across all facets, and by the winter break was six places clear of his teammate.

Arguably frustrated at the decision to promote Albon over himself to the senior team, Kvyat continued to exemplify his ultimate potential in a car that was far from the best.

Pierre Gasly apparently succumbed to the pressure that exists in a top tier team that demands nothing short of success; pressure that is undoubtedly amplified when pitted against Max Verstappen. Thus, resulting in Gasly’s demotion to Toro Rosso before the Belgian Grand Prix.

But for Kvyat, the lack of stress that comes with being situated in a midfield team paid enormous dividends for himself and the team. He was able to orchestrate drives that genuinely reflected his potential.

Kvyat’s superb podium drive in the wet German Grand Prix that eliminated the vast majority of the field would be only the second in the history of Toro Rosso, and a testament to Kvyat’s exceptional aptitude.

For 2020 Toro Rosso will be rebranded as AlphaTauri in conjunction with Red Bull’s fashion line. But for Kvyat the goal remains the same: to develop his driving talent whilst delivering the performances expected on a regular basis.

A similar clearheaded approach to the fresh F1 season that was suggested last year is key to unlocking Kvyat’s true potential.

Team principal of AlphaTauri Franz Tost believes his team must target a top-five finish in the constructors’ championship for the upcoming season.

Tost said recently, “I hope that we will do a step forward and then the target becomes quite clear. We have to improve our performance and we have to finish in the top five in the constructors’ championship.”

AlphaTauri will have the additional advantage of once again having Honda provide their power units for 2020. The Japanese manufacturer have rapidly evolved with Red Bull over the last few seasons and late indications last year suggested that their PU already on par with their more established rivals.

Meanwhile, Kvyat has his eyes firmly set on family. During the weekend of his phenomenal German Grand Prix, his partner Kelly Piquet (daughter of three-time world champion Nelson Piquet) gave birth to the couple’s first child; and the off-season provides the perfect opportunity to develop a family relationship

AlphaTauri are set to unveil their 2020 car on February 14th, one week ahead of the year’s first pre-season test in Barcelona.

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Saudi Arabia target 2021 Grand Prix, building track at Qiddiya

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Saudi Arabia are on course to host a Grand Prix in the country, with former Formula 1 driver Alex Wurz a driving force behind the massive Qiddiya entertainment mega-city project, on the outskirts of Riyadh and are even prepared to host the first two races on a street circuit before moving to the permanent facility.

Wurz, part of the team developing a purpose-built race track in the kingdom, believes the massive project could become the “motorsport capital of the world” and that hosting a round of the Formula E Championship was the proverbial ‘toe-in-the-water’ ahead of an F1 bid.

Wurz is behind the design of the new race track, which has been touted as a future venue for Formula 1 in 2023.

The country already hosts a round of the Formula E Championship, while the new state-of-the-art track will be designed to FIA Grade 1 standards suitable for F1.

Wurz, chairman of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, told Arabian Business website, “The visionary Qiddiya project offers us amazing opportunities to design a track, a true racing arena for drivers, spectators, as well as the viewers at home.

“The design offers amazing elevation changes, making use of the stunning natural landscape. Equally the design is made to challenge drivers and engineers alike. And from our simulation runs, I can assure you it is absolutely thrilling as an on- and off-track experience.

“Qiddiya has all it takes to become the motorsport capital of the world,” added the Austrian.

The track was officially unveiled at an event last week with guests including F1 World Champion Damon Hill, ex-F1 drivers David Coulthard and Nico Hulkenberg, current Haas driver Romain Grosjean and former MotoGP rider Loris Capirossi.

F1 is reportedly in the process of negotiating a $65-million-a-year with organisers whose ambitions appear to be limitless but the construction of a new facility is likely to take at least a couple of years – thus 2023 is a realistic target.

However, Saudi pockets are deep and it is believed that there is a budget to host a Grand Prix as soon as next year, with the option of running the race on a street circuit in Jeddah before the main track comes on stream.

Mike Reininger, CEO of the Qiddiya Investment Company, told reporters, “We are building [a track] so we’re able to host MotoGP events, WEC, regional and national championship events, and all the way up through to F1.

“We’re building the facilities so that we can ultimately host the biggest and the best motorsports events, really in all categories. And Grade 1 is synonymous with F1, so we’re hopeful that that comes to pass for us,” added Reininger.

In November last year, Diriyah ePrix was held in the country while Qiddiya was the location for the final stage of this year’s Dakar Rally.

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Nissany: The goal is to race in Israel in 2021

There may be more than meets the eye with regards to Williams’ signing little known Israeli driver Roy Nissany, as he hinted this may be the first step towards a Grand Prix in the country.

At the post-grand prix test in Abu Dhabi last year, the unknown 25-year-old Nissany was suddenly at the wheel of Williams’ 2019 car.

He was quickly ridiculed, not only because he was several seconds off the pace of Williams’ regular drivers, but because his then 42-year-old father Chanoch was even slower when he did a Friday practice for Minardi back in 2005.

For the 2020 test driver announcement, which will involve Nissany doing several Friday practice sessions, Claire Williams travelled to Roy’s native Tel Aviv.

He has strong Israeli backing, including by the new Tour de France team Israel Start-Up Nation.

“I feel like we are all putting the Israeli flag on the map,” Nissany said.

La Gazzetta dello Sport said it could just be the first step towards a grand prix in Israel, “The goal is to race in Israel in 2021. It would be a dream to be able to drive there, with 350 million people admiring my country on TV.

“For me it has been a long journey – almost 20 years. Formula 1 was never a dream but a goal. Williams is a wonderful place to learn and I am very grateful to be offered this opportunity,” he said.

Israel Start-Up Nation was founded by Canadian-Israeli billionaire Sylvan Adams, who said: “The fast-track plan is for Roy to be an actual F1 driver as early as 2021. Of course, he has a few hurdles to accomplish before he can be selected to be one of the two drivers.”

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Red Mist: Who will replace Seb when he leaves Ferrari?

One of the biggest Formula 1 talking points, until the subject will be resolved later this year, will be the feud for the Ferrari number one seat, or in other words who Sebastian Vettel’s place at the Scuderia.

The quadruple F1 World Champion’s contract with Maranello expires at the end of the year following what has been a pretty barren Prancing Horse stint so far — there’s still a season of that to run, remember…

Anyway, there’s been more than enough flatulence about Lewis Hamilton’s Ferrari future — Italian motorsport bible Autosprint, after all, ran a doctored image of Lewis in a red Ferrari suit to taunt the Tifosi its cover in September 2018 already and there was a literal shitstorm on the subject a few weeks ago, once Hamilton had taken his latest title and surprisingly shortly after we regurgitated the matter again some months ago.

The facts are simple — both Seb and Lewis are out of contract as this current F1 era lapses after this season.

Speculation becomes complicated; Vettel is clearly not the happiest chappie following young Carlito Leclerc’s arrival at Maranello. Unlike with the previous German maestro at Maranello, the Monegasque lad is allowed to beat Vettel, as he can, has and will again, rather than Ferrari having a gorilla in its second car contracted not to beat the number one in Schumi’s superteam years.

So, should he not stop? Is Vettel likely to sail into the twilight of his career having to deal mano-a-mano with superbly talented young upstart? Would you…?

Then the story of Mercedes — the one about the racing team being sold — plausibly as the next acquisition to satisfy Roger Penske’s voracious recent racing appetite — with Merc stepping back to be just an engine supplier – will allegedly see Lewis free to go and allegedly let Toto Wolff follow him to #4 Via Abetone Inferiore.

Both of which juggernauts would suit Maranello just fine — but can Lewis and Toto ever be able to pull off a “Jean Todt” at polemic-infused Ferrari, that is. But evidence suggests that ‘casino’ was a negotiating ploy of sorts and a highly unlikely scenario.

However, I will argue — there’s a dark horse — ready to repeat history.

According to recent speculation in the German press, the honeymoon may be over at Renault. Asked about Daniel Ricciardo’s commitment to the Regie, team boss Cyril Abiteboul said cryptically, “I think my answer would be different today than it was a few weeks or months ago…”

Is that smoke we see there?

Danny’s (Italian roots etc) has also long been tipped to dress in Red sooner or later and should this latest speculation prove to have legs, we would see Dan oust former Red Bull teammate Vettel, this time, from Ferrari.

Thus the possible answers to the question posed in the title are twofold:

  1. Seb stays and things between the drivers remain as they are or get worse because it is doubtful they will improve unless he unconditionally he may have to play the number two role if Carlito keeps betaing him;
  2. Dan arrives with his big smile, chills things up at Maranello and pushes Carlito harder than he has been pushed before without the aggro they are going through now with their current explosive pairing.

No, it is not a given that Seb will leave Ferrari at the end of this season, but the above also applies for when he does leave which should be well before his 22-year-old teammate’s deal ends in 2024.

Step up the Honey Badger!

So over to you: Who will race in Red alongside Leclerc next year?

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Camilleri: There will be significant extra budget next year

Ferrari CEO Louis Camilleri speaking to media lunch at Maranello last week confirmed that the evolution to the 2021 Formula 1 regulation comes at a high price and thus his team will be afforded extra resources for the new era.

Seated alongside team principal Mattia Binotto, Camilleri said that a bumper financial year for the sportscar manufacturer, including the launch of the SF90 Stradale hybrid, had led to “a lot of smiling faces” at Maranello.

Integral to that is the F1 team, he explained, “We are one company and the car business funds Mattia’s business. We’re also prepared to invest and luckily the car business can support those investments, not only in terms of people but also in terms of infrastructure.”

Binotto added “Yes, it will be significantly more expensive. The budget we’ve got available is the one that’s needed. Certainly, the number of projects in parallel are significantly more compared to the past.

“We all started very early on the 2021 car. So yes, there will be significant extra budget next year, not only about money but resources – extra people would be required to run the programs. I think it’s got to be a situation to be managed right now.”

This is exactly what midfield teams did not want to hear, as the extra funding available to Ferrari and of course Mercedes, as well as the Red Bull-Honda partnership, will dwarf what The Rest can bring to the table.

The ‘damage’ is being done right now as 2021 cars are already well into the early stages of production, rendering the $175-million budget cap for the new era almost irrelevant as big money is already being spent.

With regards to Biniotto’s first year in charge of the sport’s most famous team, Camilleri said, “We need patience, we need stability and serenity.

“If you look back in the history of F1, where teams have done very well, be it McLaren, Ferrari in the good old days, Red Bull or today Mercedes, there is one common thread, which was that there was a lot of stability within the team.

“They learned to work very closely together. That is something we are very focused on. Mattia has been spending a lot of time to ensure that we have a cohesive, united team,” added Camilleri.

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Carey: Drivers are our heroes, Lewis among the greatest

Chase Carey does not believe that Formula E, the all-electric racing series, is a threat to the future Formula 1 and cites the hero drivers in the top flight as the biggest drawcard for fans in this era.

The Formula 1 CEO said six-time F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton, a highly visible and vocal advocate of many social movements including veganism, is central to that push and said of the drivers in the top flight, “They’re critical. Sports are based on heroes and our biggest heroes are the drivers.

“Lewis has really been in many cases, you know, an incredible leader in those initiatives. Obviously there are many causes he has been public about that he is interested in pursuing. He’s a six-time world champion. So you know, the importance of him speaks for itself.

“He’s not just one of the great drivers today. He’s one of the great drivers of all time,” declared Carey.

He also admitted that F1 competes with many sports on the global media landscape, but some think Formula E – now filled with top drivers and carmakers – is the biggest threat.

“No, actually, it certainly wouldn’t be Formula E,” Carey told CNN. “I think Formula E is a very different vehicle today, largely a social cause and, you know, it’s a street party.

“I think we compete with everything out there. I mean, certainly other sports but other events and I think it’s important that we make our sport everything that makes it special. It’s a unique sport that combines technology and sport, it’s a sport that shocks your senses.

His comments line up with those of FIA president Jean Todt, who declared this week that it will take “decades” for fully electric technology to catch up with F1 levels of performance.

Carey continued, “It’s a sport that has incredible drivers, taking incredible risks, with incredible talent and it’s a sport that really is a spectacle. It’s not just a two-hour event, we’re here for three days, we’ve got a variety of things going on.

“There’s a depth and richness to it that really makes it unique and I think it’s important for us to highlight what makes us unique against everything else out there. I think Formula E is a very different vehicle today, largely a social cause and, you know, it’s a street party.”

F1 is, however, pushing to be carbon neutral by 2030, and Carey thinks another area of attention for the sport’s owner Liberty Media is “diversity”.

“We want to increase the diversity. We’ve been very public about it. We’re working hard, particularly the female diversity issue, but really on all levels of diversity,” added the 66-year-old American. (Additional reporting GMM)

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Miami Grand Prix future gets six month reprieve

Hopes that Miami will be able to host a Grand Prix in 2021 remain alive for at least another “three to six months”, according to the Florida city’s mayor Carlos Gimenez.

Formula 1 has reached a deal in principle for a race at and near Hard Rock Stadium, but preparations hit an early snag when opposition groups made key blocking moves at the Miami-Dade commission.

Mayor Gimenez used his veto to block the opposition earlier in this month and again this week, as an effort to override the veto failed as commissioners voted 7 to 5 in favour.

“This race isn’t until May of 2021,” Gimenez told CBS Miami. “Sustaining my veto buys three to six months so that we can at least get the parties that are involved together and we can continue to work toward a solution,” he added.

Formula One Management, as well as Hard Rock Stadium CEO Tom Garfinkel, said in similarly-worded statements that they will now use the extra time to work “very hard to address community concerns in a meaningful way.”

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Prost: 2021 Regs a Huge Step Forward

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Alain Prost, four time world champion and current advisor to Renault, says the 2021 regulations can be a “huge step forward” for Formula 1.

In the past days, rumours have suggested the embattled French team and carmaker could actually quit Formula 1 at the end of the season.

But Prost told L’Equipe he sees a lot of positives about the future.

“For the cars to follow one another, the so-called ‘dirty air’, it can be a huge step forward,” he said.

“I also see the cost cap and the redistribution of income as very positive, even if there are things you cannot change much like the weight of the cars. These are hybrid cars and there is the Halo and the larger wheels.”

What the F1 legend is more worried about are Liberty Media’s plans for as many as 25 grands prix per season.

“It wouldn’t fundamentally change the work of the drivers,” Prost said. “We did tests every week.

“But for the mechanics, the rest of the teams, 25 races really becomes difficult. In principle there is more income, but it is not obvious that it will attract more people, particularly young people, if there is so much work.

“And that may be costly if you have to set up double teams,” he warned.

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Abbott: American fans need a hero like Max Verstappen

Rick Abbott, the executive vice president of the Circuit of the Americas, applauds the idea of a second Grand Prix in the USA but says, more importantly, the country needs a driver in the top flight to ignite public imagination as Max Verstappen has done for the Dutch.

During the weekend in Austin, Abbott told Auto Hebdo that he believes the real next step for the development of Formula 1 in America would be a local driver, “Look at how Max Verstappen woke up the Netherlands. Our fans are no different to European fans – they need a hero to cheer on.”

Abbott is also supportive of F1’s efforts to spice up the show, “I appreciate Liberty Media’s efforts in social media, e-gaming. F1 faces the same problems as other sports – we’re all trying to create bridges to attract young people, which is more and more difficult.”

Meanwhile, despite strong opposition from local groups, Liberty Media is trying for a second time to launch a race in Miami, this time mainly on the grounds of the Hard Rock Stadium.

Abbot explained why he supports the project, “A second race would only make us stronger. F1 needs an increased presence in the US to develop its fan base and we would only benefit from it. We are very proud of our facilities.

“We built this facility so that F1 can fully express itself here. I’m not saying that racing in Miami would be a bad thing – quite the contrary. Miami in May or June on an urban circuit, and us in October on a road course, would be complementary.”

But when asked if the race in Austin is now well enough established to compete with a competitor on US soil, Abbott insisted, “Once again, we have more hope than fear about the organisation of a second grand prix.”

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Wolff: Our drivers don’t have 2021 contracts so all doors are open

Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff has vowed to look into the way Valtteri Bottas’ contract uncertainty affects his mid-season performance while revealing that for 2021 the German team have no driver under contract.

Bottas replaced Nico Rosberg for the 2017 season, on a one-year deal. Subsequently, he was also signed one season at a time for 2018, 2019 and now 2020. He admits the constant uncertainty affects him.

“There were a lot of rumours. I had no idea what was going on,” Bottas said of this season, when it was rumoured throughout that Esteban Ocon might take his place.

“As an athlete and a driver, that is certainly not ideal. There was no peace of mind to focus completely on my work, and the situation will be similar again next year. At the moment I’m not too worried because my pace is good and I enjoy driving,” he is quoted by Sport.de.

However, Mercedes boss Wolff has acknowledged the way the uncertainty affects Bottas, “Apparently it has an influence on him so I will try to take that into account and do my job better.”

“In 2021, all the doors are open: none of our drivers have contracts with the team, so it will be a very interesting situation,” he added.

The 2021 season coincides with the coming of age of the new F1 rules package.

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