Renault €2 billion cost-cutting plan spares F1 team

Carmaker Renault is set to slash 14,600 jobs as part of a massive €2bn cost-cutting plan that has fortunately spared the group’s Formula 1 operations.

Amid an economic crisis sparked by the global coronavirus pandemic, automotive manufacturers have been severely impacted by the downturn.

Renault, which was already experiencing a fall in demand before the COVID-19 crisis, will slash jobs across all its operations, cut production numbers and repurpose plants as it undergoes one of the deepest restructuring programs in its history.

The company, which is in the process of receiving a €5bln loan guarantee from the French government, will also stop selling combustion engine cars in China, with Dongfeng buying out its joint-venture partner.

However, amid the drastic measures, Renault interim CEO Clotilde Delbos said the manufacturer will retain its works involvement in Formula 1, buoyed by the sport’s recent regulation changes, including the introduction next year of a $145m budget cap.

“F1 we said publicly, and we confirm that we intend to stay in F1,” said Delbos, speaking on a conference call with analysts on Friday.

“Actually the news about new regulations, new cap, in terms of investment is very good for us, because we had less investment in this area compared to some of our competitors which were spending a lot of money.

“So, F1 we are here, and we stay in Formula 1.”

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Williams rates Ticktum as 'one of the best'

Williams F1 deputy team principal Claire Williams says that the squad’s new development driver Dan Ticktum is one of the best drivers that they have seen in the simulator.

Ticktum was formerly a part of the Red Bull junior driver programme and was runner-up to Mick Schumacher in the 2018 FIA Euro F3 Series.

He had been touted as Helmut Marko’s preferred candidate to step into F1 with Toro Rosso, but lacked the superlicence points to do so and the spot went to Alexander Albon instead.

The 20-year-old Londoner was subsequently dropped by Red Bull after a disappointing start to his 2019 Super Formula campaign, just three races into the season.

Williams has now picked up Ticktum as part of its revamped test and development programme after being particularly impressed by his work in the simulator.

“When we put him in our simulator, the guys said he was one of the best drivers they’ve ever seen,” Williams told MotorsportWeek.com this week.

“He’s got great talent. I think it needs harnessing, but we have experience doing that,” she added. “It’s going to be really interesting with Dan and we’re looking forward to working with him.”

Ticktum’s split from Red Bull came amid rumours that Marko wasn’t happy with his professionalism. Previously, he had been handed a lengthy ban from motorsport in 2016 for deliberately crashing into a rival behind the safety car during a MSA Formula race.

But Williams wasn’t concerned about how he would fit in at Grove, and said there was no question of any prima donna behaviour.

“He knows what’s expected of him and how he needs to behave,” she insisted. “Everyone has to roll their sleeves up and do the job in the way that is expected of them.

“He’s one person in a team of 750,” she continued. “We’ve always had the attitude at Williams that no one is more important than anyone else.

“Dan knows and understands that,” Williams added. “With the experiences that he’s had now, I think he’s matured a lot and is willing to get his head down and just do the job that we’re asking him to do.”

As well as joining the Williams’ Formula 1 Driver Academy, Ticktum will also take part in the 2020 Formula 2 championship where he will be driving for reigning team champions DAMS.

It’s a second chance for Ticktum, who looked at the verge of being permanently left out in the cold after his split with Red Bull.

“[Dan is] a great British talent that shouldn’t be lost in our sport, for whatever reason,” Williams insisted.

“The way testing is now in Formula 1, it’s so difficult for these guys to get any kind of air-time to showcase their talent, or the develop their talent.

“Programmes like the academy are so important, so that we can take that talent that can potentially be lost and give them the opportunities,” she continued.

“The FP1 sessions – or the test days, whatever – in order to see what they can do, so we don’t potentially lose talent that otherwise may be lost.”

However Ticktum won’t be the team’s official reserve driver, a position that has instead gone to Israeli driver Roy Nissany who took part in post-season testing with the team at Abu Dhabi last month. Like Ticktum, Nissany will also be racing in F2, for Trident.

And the Williams simulator duties will be shared with W Series champion Jamie Chadwick, who confirmed earlier this month that she had been retained in her development role at Williams for a second season.

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Ferrari enrolls Arthur Leclerc into its Driver Academy!

Arthur Leclerc may soon follow in the footsteps of his illustrious brother following Ferrari’s decision to sign the 18-year-old hopeful to its prestigious driver academy.

Charles Leclerc’s younger brother took part last season in the German F4 championship, scoring seven podiums and a win in the competitive feeder series.

Arthur’s enrollment into the Ferrari Driver Academy is accompanied by a campaign in the 2020 Formula Regional European Championship with Prema Powerteam, the outfit for which Charles Leclerc won the 2017 European Formula 2 Championship.

At Prema, Leclerc will race alongside fellow FDA member, Brazilian Gianluca Petecof.

“I am really happy to announce that I will drive in Formula Regional with one of the best teams in junior series,” said Arthur Leclerc.

“I did my very first test in single seaters with Prema two years ago and I have always dreamed to race with them.

“This great opportunity comes with another big chance for me, as I am proud to announce that I am joining the Ferrari Driver Academy.

“I am very grateful for the support and the trust given to me. I cannot wait to be back in the racing seat.”

Prema team principal Angelo Rosin says Leclerc is “an outstanding addition” to the team.

“We are absolutely looking forward to having him in our talent pool,” Rosin said.

“In the early stages of his career he made the most out his chances to race, so we are confident about the potential for 2020 especially given how we saw him perform as a contender.

“He is an outstanding addition to the team, and our side we are determined to work as hard as we can to make the difference for our drivers.”

In addition to Arthur Leclerc Ferrari has also added 16-year-old hopeful Dino Beganovic he showed his class in karting, with two Swedish titles already to his name and a second place in the WSK Euro Series in 2019.

The Swede will be making his single-seater debut, with Formula 4 as the natural first step. He too will come under the wing of the Prema Powerteam.

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Marko: Sainz is fast, but he's no Verstappen!

Red Bull motorsport boss Helmut Marko has no regrets about not retaining Carlos Sainz in the energy drink’s bull pen, insisting the Spaniard is fast but “not a Verstappen”.

Sainz was a pure product of Red Bull’s Junior Team who rose through the junior ranks to graduate to Formula 1 in 2015 with Toro Rosso.

In his third year with the Faenza-based squad, Sainz was loaned to Renault, undertaking a full season with the French squad in 2018 before Marko released him from his contract with Red Bull, a decision which led to his move to McLaren for 2019.

Given Sainz’s good results with the Woking-based outfit and the disappointing performance of Pierre Gasly which led to last year’s mid-season swap with Alex Albon, one could be led to believe that Red Bull now views dismissing the Spaniard as a mistake. But Marko harbors no regrets.

“Carlos was confronted with one Max Verstappen,” Marko explained, speaking in his home town of Graz to Motorsport.com.

“The choice [in 2016] then actually went between the two: who do we promote? And then you get to the heart of it.

“Carlos is fast – otherwise we would not have picked him up at all – but he is not a Verstappen.”

Marko’s choice of betting on Verstappen by swapping the Dutchman with Daniil Kvyat after just four races in 2016 was validated by Verstappen’s sensational debut triumph with Red Bull Racing in Spain.

For Sainz, his former teammate’s win was likely a tough moment to endure. But Marko believes Red Bull and Sainz made the most of their relationship.

“We helped Carlos in his career and didn’t have to let him go,” added Marko.

“But we made the transition to Renault and later McLaren possible.

“We have a good relationship, but at that particular moment we also had Verstappen in the team and there are differences between them.”

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Formula 1 wired up fans to gauge emotions during races!

Formula 1’s research into improving its show has extended to an in-depth analysis of the emotions of its fans on race day.

F1 chief technical officer Pat Symonds revealed this week that selected fans had been wired-up last year in front of their screens to monitor the intensity of their emotions during a race and therefore correlate excitement with specific moments occurring during an event.

“We absolutely are focused on what’s good for the sport and what makes a good race,” explained Symonds, speaking o Thursday at the Autosport International Show in Birmingham.

“You’d be amazed at the amount of analysis we’re doing on that.

“It’s even down to things like we have people who are wired up while they watch races, and we look at that galvanic skin response to see their emotions while they’re watching races.

“From that we’re starting to understand what are the things that are important.

“The human galvanic skin response refers to changes in the sweat gland activity that reflects the intensity of emotions – so judges properly how excited people are at a specific moment.”

Symonds says that breaking down the analysis puts the emphasis on specific actions or circumstances in a race, which then provides the potential to improve the spectacle on the track by adjusting, among other things, rules or procedures.

“Safety cars are a very good example, because sometimes they enliven the race and sometimes they kill the race.

“So it is looking at all these various research areas that we’re doing, and the many others, to really start to build a picture of what makes good racing.

“And then we can try and design, not just the technical rules but also the sporting rules as well to ensure that we get a higher percentage of those good races.

“You’re not going to get 21 races like Germany last year, it’s not going to happen. But what you can do is you can ensure that you get 15 really good races, and the other six are pretty good as well.”

Symonds said that F1’s analysis had revealed that the fans’ assessed a race more positively when its most exciting moments occurred towards the end rather than in its early stages.

“It is actually a well-known psychological factor called peak effect,” said Symonds. “

“If the end of a race is good people judge the race as being good. If the middle of the race is good but the end of the race is a little bit predictable, they don’t judge it as highly.

“We are aware of that. We’re working an awful lot with Mario [Isola from Pirelli] to try and figure out how we design the tyres that give this type of sporting spectacle that leads to this peak-end effect.”

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Aston Martin confirms potential investor talks

British luxury supercar manufacturer Aston Martin has confirmed that it is in talks with potential investors as part of a funding review.

A statement from the 106-year-old business came after days of speculation that Racing Point co-owner Lawrence Stroll was interested in taking a stake and bringing the Aston Martin name into F1.

“The Company confirms that is reviewing its funding requirements and various funding options,” the statement read.

“It is also engaged in early stage discussions with potential strategic investors in relation to building longer term relationships which may or may not involve an equity investment.

“A further announcement will be made as and when appropriate,” the statement concluded

Autocar and RaceFans.net broke the news of Stroll’s interest in the company earlier this week, reporting that the Canadian billionaire had held talks with Aston Martin representatives in recent weeks.

Aston Martin is currently the title sponsor of the Red Bull Racing F1 team. However, if Stroll were to become a significant investor then it’s likely that would change and Racing Point may become a fully Aston-branded team.

Aston was mentioned as one of the carmakers who might be interested in joining F1 as a manufacturer alongside the likes of Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault and Honda. However its interest waned when the sport’s rule makes opted to retain the current power unit specification into 2021 and beyond.

The Financial Times said on Friday that in addition to Stroll, other rival car makers as well as firms based in the Middle East, India and China were also looking into taking a stake in the firm.

Lawrence Stroll (CDN) Racing Point F1 Team Investor.

While Fiat and Peugeot have been among the names mentioned, Aston itself intends to remain independent in the style of Ferrari. But the cost of research and development into electric technology has forced many firms to seek partnerships, alliances or even mergers in recent years.

Aston is seeking more funds after suffering a big third-quarter loss and confirmed that they were facing lower full-year wholesale volumes due to falling demand in Europe and Asia.

The new Aston Martin DBX SUV is model is set to hit the market next year, but needs strong sales to help the company turn its financial situation around.

The carmaker has seen its shares slump since its flotation in October 2018, after sales proved disappointing and missed market expectations. Shares fell 9.5% lower amid the speculation this week.

The shares are currently priced at 556.8p, compared to £19 when it was floated just over a year ago. The firm is now believed to be valued at only around £1.27 billion.

Stroll himself is estimated to be worth in excess of £2 billion from investments including Tommy Hilfiger, Pierre Cardin, Ralph Lauren, and Asprey. His famed car collection includes what is thought to be the most valuable collection of classic Ferraris in the world.

He led the consortium that bought Force India from administration in 2018, with the team rebranding to its current Racing Point identity at the start of this season with drivers Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll.

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Binotto: Engine suspicions just a scheme to 'pressure' Ferrari

Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto believes the speculation surrounding the Scuderia’s power unit in the second part of 2019 was just a ploy used by its rivals to pressure the Italian outfit.

Ferrari’s sudden boost in form after F1’s summer break had its rivals trying to figure out where the Scuderia’s power advantage was coming from.

A query from Red Bull led to scrutiny from the FIA and a to series of technical directives clarifying potential non-compliant tricks, the likes of which could help boost an engine’s power output.

But Binotto contends that the suspicions from Ferrari’s rivals were perhaps feigned and used as a mere ploy to pressure and “distract” the Scuderia.

“I’m not sure they really doubted us,” Binotto told Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport.

“They probably used the circumstance to put pressure on us. Pressure distracts. It is part of the game of Formula 1 to unsettle the opponent.

“Our business isn’t just about a sporting and technical competition. Anything that harms the opponent is good to use.”

Intrigue emerged in Austin when Ferrari’s straight-line speed advantage suddenly vanished on race day, 24 hours after the release by the FIA of its first technical directive.

Binotto says that Ferrari’s rivals were right about the red cars losing their edge, but for the wrong reasons.

“They drew the wrong conclusions,” said the Swiss engineer.

“We didn’t change the operating conditions of the engines. In order to generate more downforce, the increased the drag. Therefore, we were a bit faster in the corners, but slower on the straights.”

©Ferrari

While Binotto was proud of the progress achieved by Ferrari’s engineers on the engine front in 2019, the Scuderia boss said the Scuderia’s unit did not enjoy the 50-horsepower advantage its rivals claimed it had.

“The truth is far from this value,” he added. “We assume a maximum of 20 bhp, which is still a respectable number.

“At a time when the engine performance is converging, 20 bhp are a big advantage which helps you in qualifying and in the race.

“I am proud of this development. I can still remember the first hybrid year in 2014. The gap to Mercedes was huge – it was over 80 bhp!

“We have made tremendous efforts at the factory in Maranello to fill this gap. I have to say that we have done a great job in this field.”

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Pirelli to boost tyre pressures to cope with Zandvoort banking

Pirelli will have no other choice but to boost tyre temperatures next year at Zandvoort given the banked configuration of the Dutch track’s final corner.

Formula 1 will return to Zandvoort’s dunes next season for the first time since 1985. While the legendary circuit’s layout will remain largely unchanged, the track’s final right-hand ‘Arie Luyendijk’ sweep will be modified and feature an 18° banking!

“The corner will be banked 32 percent,” said Zandvoort CEO Robert van Overdijk. “So the difference in height from the bottom of the corner to the top will be around 4½ metres. That’s considerable.”

Indeed, the incline will be twice as steep as the turns at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where the banking wreaked havoc on Michelin’s tyres in 2005.

Pirelli head of car racing Mario Isola said that tyre pressures will be the only recourse available to help deal with the extra load at Zandvoort next year.

“The only thing we can do is to react with the pressure, and we will have to increase the starting pressure,” said Isola, quoted by Motorsport.com.

“If you look at the regulation we are obliged to stay on the same construction and same specification for the whole year, so we cannot design a tyre for the banking and we cannot design a specific construction, for Zandvoort.

“So the only possibility is to try to manage the prescriptions in terms of camber and pressure.”

Worn Pirelli tyre on the Ferrari SF90 of Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari in parc ferme. 23.06.2019

With the help of Zandvoort’s architects, Pirelli has started running simulations to test the resistance to load of its 2020 tyres.

“We have also made a simulation of the track being completely flat and with the camber, so you can see the difference in terms of additional load on the tyre,” explained Isola. “That was what we had in mind to calculate.

“But now to make a proper investigation, we need to receive the simulation from the teams and then we are in a position to define the pressure.”

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Renault declines to appeal Japanese GP exclusion

The Renault F1 team has decided not to appeal the FIA’s decision to exclude its cars from the 2019 Japanese Grand Prix, arguing that it would have no new evidence to present to the stewards.

Following a protest by Racing Point at Suzuka, which claimed that Renault’s brake-balance system contravened the F1’s technical rules, the FIA conducted an investigation into the matter.

Last on Wednesday, the governing body found that Renault’s brake system did not violate the technical regulations but did breach the FIA’s sporting rules as the brake-balance device constituted a driver-aid.

“We regret the Stewards’ decision and, in particular, the severity of the sanction applied,” Renault said in a strongly worded statement issued on Thursday in which it waved its right to appeal.

“In our opinion, the penalty is not proportionate to any benefit the drivers derived, especially when used within the context of a system confirmed fully legal and innovative.

“It is also inconsistent with previous sanctions for similar breaches, as acknowledged by the Stewards in their decision, but expressed without further argumentation.

“However, since we have no new evidence to bring other than that already produced to demonstrate the legality of our system, we do not wish to invest further time and effort in a sterile debate in front of the International Court of Appeal concerning the subjective appreciation, and therefore sanction, related to an aid that reduces the driver workload without enhancing the performance of the car.

“We have therefore decided not to appeal the Stewards’ decision.”

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Binotto: Ferrari 'determined to win' in Mexico

Ferrari is clearly smarting at missing out in the last two races in Sochi and Suzuka, with team principal Mattia Binotto insisting that they will bounce back this weekend.

The team lost out to Mercedes in Russia after an early spat over team orders, while in Suzuka a stuttering start from Sebastian Vettel allowed Valtteri Bottas to sweep into an unassailable lead at the start.

“After two races in which we could have done better, we arrive in Mexico determined to win,” he said in the team’s preview for the Mexican Grand Prix.

“We will be aiming for our sixth consecutive pole, before looking to convert that into a victory.

“The Mexican track has plenty of elements that can catch you out, some of these linked to the fact we are racing at over 2000 metres above sea level.

“That makes fine tuning the settings on both the chassis and Power Unit side particularly complex, as the requirements are very specific to this track.”

Last year’s race saw Red Bull on top, with Daniel Ricciardo starting from pole and Max Verstappen clinching victory in the race. But Vettel and his then-Ferrari team mate Kimi Raikkonen were second and third, after a hydraulic failure sidelines Ricciardo.

©Ferrari

“Over the past couple of years, we have been on an upward trend in Mexico,” confirmed Vettel. “Although Red Bull has been the team to beat.

“I think the gaps between us are getting smaller, so let’s see how we get on this year.

“Obviously racing at altitude has an impact on how the car feels,” he continued. “We are racing with maximum downforce level in terms of car setup.

“But since we are racing so high above sea level, the air is very thin and the cars actually produce very little downforce.

“On the long straight, I think we see the fastest top speeds of the season, which makes it difficult to manage the corners because we’ve got so little downforce physically on the car.

“The car is moving around a lot and it’s difficult to get the tyres to work. In fact, it’s hard to get the whole car to work and to get the right feel from it. It’s a relatively short lap but not an easy one.”

Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari SF90 and Sebastian Vettel (GER) Ferrari SF90.

Vettel’s current team mate Charles Leclerc made his Mexican GP debut 12 months ago with Sauber, and managed to finish in the points in seventh place albeit two laps down from the leaders.

He’s hoping to me much nearer the front come Sunday.

“I have done one FP1 and one race there, so it’s one of the tracks that is still pretty new to me,” he commented.

“I really enjoy driving there, especially because the walls are quite close and this is something I like as a driver.

“The circuit in Mexico is an unusual one. We race at such a high altitude and all the teams try to put as much downforce on the car as possible. Despite that, it still feels quite weird and the grip is extremely low.

“The atmosphere is amazing,” he added. “Driving through the stadium part of the track is truly unique, because you can see all the fans in the grandstands.”

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