Esports weekend: When and where to watch the action

After last weekend’s frantic action that took place across all platforms from Monaco to Berlin to Indianapolis, we’ve earmarked just three virtual motorsports events today and tomorrow.

Here’s the schedule:

©FormulaE

Race at Home Challenge: Round 6 of the ABB Formula E sim series which helps raise money for UNICEF’s coronavirus relief fund swoosh into action on the streets of Brooklyn in the heart of the Red Hook neighborhood. Nissan e.dams’ Oliver Rowland will be out to try and emulate his winning performance in Berlin last week, but championship contenders Pascal Wehrlein, Stoffel Vandoorne and Maximilian Guenther will be doing their to make sure that doesn’t happen. The big story this week on the FE front was the firing of Daniel Abt by Audi following the German driver’s ill-advised ringer scheme that blew up in his face in Berlin. It’s unfortunate for the talented 27-year-old, but Audi’s decision goes to show that racers are being held to the same high standards in the Esports arena as they are in the real world.

When: Saturday, at 3:30pm UK time (10:30am EST – 4:30pm CET).

Venue: Hong Kong – rFactor2

The field: All 24 regular Formula E drivers are scheduled to take part in the event.

Channel: Formula E website, Youtube, Facebook, Twitch


The Race All-Star Series: The Torque Esports-run series will occupy the latter part of Saturday and will, as usual, begin with its Legends Trophy segment of its program. After last week’s epic battle between Fernando Alonso at Indianapolis, the veterans will return to a classic track and car combo, which has yet to be announced.

Round 6 of the main All Star event – the Pro Cup – will once again include teams from Mercedes, BMW, Bentley and Aston Martin and a vast selection of pro racers.

When: Saturday 5pm UK time (12pm EST – 6pm CET)

Venue: TBA – rFactor2

The field: The Pro Cup series will feature a collection of drivers from the single-seater, GT and endurance categories, while the Legends trophy is set to include the likes of Jenson Button, Jan Magnussen, Emanuele Pirro, Emerson Fittipaldi, Dario Franchitti and Juan Pablo Montoya.

Channel: YouTube, ESPN, Eurosport


©SRO

SRO E-Sport GT Series: The SRO E-Sport GT Series enters a crucial phase this weekend with a trio of one-hour races setting the virtual championship up for its deciding battle. The multi-event competition features real-world drivers (Pro Series), leading sim racers (Silver Series) and public qualifiers (Am Series) using Assetto Corsa Competizione, the official video game of SRO Motorsports Group. Once the initial championship is decided the best performers from each class will progress to a winner-takes-all grand finale. Among the wildcards that will join the grid in Barcelona will be McLaren boss Zak Brown at the wheel of the brand’s 720S.

When: Sunday 13:00pm UK time (07:00pm EST – 14:00pm CET)

Venue: Barcelona – Assetto Corsa Competizione

The field: A host of pro GT racers.

Channel: GT World YouTube, SRO Motorsports Twitch and Facebook pages

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Ecclestone advises Vettel 'to take a year off'

Former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has advised his good friend Sebastian Vettel to take a year off from Formula 1 and observe the sport’s changes before deciding on his future.

The shock announcement of Vettel’s departure from Ferrari at the end of this season has sparked a lot of speculation about the four-time world champion’s next move.

On paper, opportunities exist at Renault and Mercedes for 2021, but there are also good reasons for Vettel not joining either team.

Oddly, the prospect of the German driver taking a sabbatical has seldom been mentioned, but at 32-years-old – two years young than Lewis Hamilton, Vettel could afford to spend 12 months on the sidelines.

And that’s exactly what Ecclestone has advised his friend to do.

“I’ve been talking to him quite a bit and maybe he should take a year off,” said the 89-year-old in an interview with the Evening Standard. “So, come back in 2022 with the rule changes.

“It gives him a chance to wait and see how F1 is going to change. But I think what he’d like to do is drive for Mercedes against Lewis.”

Watching from afar, Ecclestone has taken note of the changes that will sweep F1 from next year, like the introduction of a $145m budget cap.

But Mr. E hasn’t been impressed by the amount of emphasis put on discussions about the cost-cap level.

“It’s been complete rubbish,” he said. “They were messing about over £5million, which is a tiny percentage of their budget, when there’s other things that need to be done.

“When I owned Brabham, we used to spend a lot less than Ferrari and we still won and they didn’t. It’s about the people, not the money.

“The money’s become an ego competition rather than a real competition, one guy just wanting to spend more than the other guy. But again, the public don’t care.”

Bernie Ecclestone (GBR) with Fabiana Flosi (BRA) and Christian Horner (GBR) Red Bull Racing Team Principal.

As for the sport’s truncated 2020 season, Ecclestone reiterated his belief that the entire campaign should have been called off in light of the disruption due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s a funny championship, isn’t it?” he said. “You have the Austrian Grand Prix and the next week the same thing but called something else.

“So, you’ll look at the championship, someone wins and you’re not quite sure what they’ve won. And people will forever say that it was a lucky win because it wasn’t really a championship.”

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Claire Williams: Team sale 'to ensure its future success'

Claire Williams says the sale of Williams’ F1 team is being contemplated to ensure the Grove-based outfit’s continued presence in Grand Prix racing.

On the back of depressed financial results for 2019 compounded by F1’s current crisis linked to the coronavirus pandemic, Williams announced on Friday that it was conducting a strategic review of its business, and considering a sale of Williams Grand Prix.

Founded over four decades ago by Sir Frank Williams, F1’s third most successful team behind Ferrari and McLaren has held on to its family ownership through thick and thin over the years.

But current economic headwinds are proving hard to counter for Sir Frank, although the 78-year-old racer is no longer involved with the day-to-day running of the company.

“Frank has always ensured he puts the team, business and our people first, and that’s what we’re doing now,” Claire Williams told selected members of the media on a Zoom call on Friday.

“Frank is always aware of and up to speed with every decision the board takes and is supportive.

“I feel very much that seeking inward investment at this juncture is absolutely in line with that philosophy we’ve always had — to protect our team’s future, to protect the people that work for us.”

Williams added that the company aimed to complete its review process “within the next three to four months”, insisting the group was “fully funded throughout the remainder of this year”.

Putting a value on the Williams F1 team for a potential acquirer is likely to be determined in part by the team’s most recent period of under-performance which began in earnest in 2018.

Williams’ FW43 showed glimpses of progress in pre-season testing but only a return to racing will offer a real opportunity to measure just how much the British outfit has evolved.

However, Claire Williams refuted the often expressed view among pundits that the team was locked in a spiraling decline.

“We’ve had two bad years,” she said. “Any team can have two bad years and it’s what you do as a result of those two bad years and learn from your mistakes and pull yourself up. That’s the work that we’ve been doing over the past year and into this year.

“Unfortunately because we couldn’t go racing this year, we couldn’t show people that we’ve made progress.

“Obviously prior to those two years we’d had some quite considerable success in ’14 and ’15, finishing third and third and then ’16 and ’17 finishing fifth and fifth.

“So I think to say that Williams has been in a long term spiral of decline is probably slightly exaggerated or erroneous.”

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F1 season to kick off with run of 8 races in Europe

F1’s revised 2020 calendar will start with a collection of eight races in Europe taking place between early July and September 6.

Formula 1 is still in the process of organizing its “biospehere” for its European events that will all take place behind closed gates. An environment in which social distancing and safety measures shall be applied will govern the work of all ten teams and track and organization personnel.

The provisional schedule will kick off as planned on July 5 at the Red Bull Ring in Austria where teams will race on consecutive weekends.

F1 will then head to Budapest for the Hungarian Grand Prix on July 19, a move that pushes back the original dates earmarked for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

Despite the quarantine that will likely be in force in the Britain this summer, PM Boris Johnson has vowed to help the government accommodate F1 and exempt its community of the country’s isolation measures.

To help Silverstone’s chances of hosting a double-header, Formula 1 has slotted the British event’s double-header into August.

Teams will undergo a non-stop five-week stint during the month and beyond, heading to Spain immediately after Silverstone and setting up shop at the Circuit de Catalunya for the Spanish Grand Prix on August 16.

From there, the community will head north to Spa for the Belgian Grand Prix before trekking back down to Monza for the Italian round of the F1 world championship.

After its grueling European tour, which is schedule to include Formula 2 and Formula 3 support events, F1 will be looking to race in Asia and in America before concluding its truncated campaign in the Middle-East.

While F1 is still seeking to re-schedule Vietnam and China’s rounds, Singapore is expected to be canceled, with the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku taking its September 20 slot just one week before Sochi hosts its September 27 Russian Grand Prix.

The 2020 season will likely end in Abu Dhabi as originally planned but at a later date in December.

  1. July 5 — Spielberg, Austria
  2. July 12 — Spielberg, Austria
  3. July 19 — Budapest, Hungary
  4. August 2 — Silverstone, Great Britain
  5. August 9 — Silverstone, Great Britain
  6. August 16 — Barcelona, Spain
  7. August 30 — Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium
  8. September 6 — Monza, Italy

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Williams to revamp FW43 livery following ROKiT exit

Williams will reveal a new livery for its FW43 ahead of the start of the 2020 season following the termination of its sponsorship contract with ROKiT.

Williams announced on Friday the end of its commercial partnership with the telecommunications company with immediate effect although no reason was given for the unexpected split.

“I can’t go into detail on the ins and outs,” said deputy team principal Claire Williams. “What I can say is that we met all of our contractual obligations to ROKiT.”

Williams is expected to revert to a predominately white and dark blue color scheme when the season gets underway in Austria in early July.

“Obviously the livery is something that we’ve got to look at when we go racing again, hopefully in July,” she said.

“F1 has put a marker in the sand for the sixth of July. We will unveil our new livery before we hit the race track.”

Williams also disclosed on Friday that the company was conducting a strategic review with its financial advisors that could lead to the sale of its F1 operations.

However, in the near term, Claire Williams is confident the Grove-based outfit will secure a new title sponsor for the remainder of the year, with the outfit relying particularly on its relationship with sports and entertainment agency 1920 Worldwide.

“We very much feel that we look after our partners in a fantastic way,” she said. “There’s been plenty of evidence of that over the years, with many of Williams’ partners remaining with the team in the long term.

“We have also just put in place, over the past three months, a whole new process around our commercial proposition.

“We’re working with a new agency, and we’re very much redeveloping the way in which we go and take Williams to market, and we have huge confidence in that.

“Williams has always done a good job of attracting new partners into our sport, into our team and I believe and have every confidence that we will continue to do so.

“This is a great brand. It is a great team. And we’re on a very exciting journey.”

Despite the team’s bleak prospects in light of the current crisis and its interest in selling itself, Claire Williams is adopting a confident posture in the face of uncertainty.

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Mercedes rubbishes 'unfounded and irresponsible' F1 exit reports

Mercedes has moved to dismiss reports that emerged in the German media on Thursday claiming that an exit of the German manufacturer from F1 was well underway.

Reports from AutoBild and F1Inside.com alleged that Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff was on the verge of resigning from the Brackley squad but would retain his 30 percent ownership in the team while Daimler’s 70 percent holding would be traded for shares in Aston Martin in which the German manufacturer already owns a 5 percent stake.

The operation would thus leave Wolff and Aston Martin – the latter headed by executive chairman and Racing Point owner Lawrence Stroll – as the new owners of the Silver Arrows outfit.

The reports also described Aston Martin Lagonda’s recent appointment as CEO of ex-Mercedes-AMG boss Tobias Moers as a precursor move to Daimler’s increased involvement in the legendary sportscar manufacturer.

While the story theoretically has legs, it was quickly dismissed by Mercedes as “unfounded and irresponsible”, with the three-point star brand confirming its commitment to F1 as a works outfit, especially in light of the sport’s most recent regulation changes.

“Speculation regarding a potential withdrawal from Formula One continues to be unfounded and irresponsible,” said Mercedes in a statement to the media.

“The sport has taken the right measures to address the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic and its future financial sustainability, and we welcome these steps.

“It is our clear intention to continue competing in Formula One as a Mercedes-Benz works team in the years to come, and to do so with our managing partner Toto Wolff.”

However, Wolff has yet to confirm his involvement in F1 with Mercedes beyond this year, with Lewis Hamilton’s future also undetermined at this point.

Also, Wolff’s personal investment in Aston Martin, albeit small at 0.95 percent, represents a de facto link between the Austrian and the company.

So speculation regarding a possible partnership between Wolff and Stroll in the future will likely continue until Mercedes F1’s top man clarifies his future.

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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 considers sale – terminates ROKiT sponsorship!

Williams Grand Prix Holdings is considering a partial or full sale of its assets, including its Formula 1 team, as financial pressure mounts on the group amid the coronavirus crisis.

Formula 1’s economic downturn on the back of the global pandemic, with a 2020 season that has yet to get underway, is forcing several of the sport’s smaller teams to undergo strategic reviews or consider contingency plans to ensure their survival.

After McLaren’s decision to lay off 1200 people, including 70 members of its F1 team, and seek an injection of fresh capital, Williams Grand Prix Holdings is now also facing liquidity issues, inciting the company to consider an outright sale of its operations, including its F1 outfit.

“The WGPH board is undertaking a review of all the various strategic options available to the Company,” Williams said in a statement released on Friday.

“Options being considered include, but are not limited to, raising new capital for the business, a divestment of a minority stake in WGPH, or a divestment of a majority stake in WGPH including a potential sale of the whole Company.

“Whilst no decisions have been made regarding the optimal outcome yet, to facilitate discussions with interested parties, the Company announces the commencement of a “formal sale process.”

While various investment opportunities are currently considered, Williams made clear that no concrete approaches had been received by the company or its joint financial advisers.

“The Company is not in receipt of any approaches at the time of this announcement and confirms that it is in preliminary discussions with a small number of parties regarding a potential investment in the Company,” it added.

“There can be no certainty that an offer will be made, nor as to the terms on which any offer will be made. The WGPH board reserves the right to alter or terminate the process at any time and if it does so it will make an announcement as appropriate.

“The WGPH board also reserves the right to reject any approach or terminate discussions with any interested party at any time.”

Williams’ strategic review was announced at the same time as it disclosed its 2019 financial numbers which resulted in a loss of £13 million compared to a profit of £12.9 million the year before.

WGPH revenue declined from £176.5m in 2018 to £160.2m in 2019, while F1 revenue fell from £130.7m in 2018 to £95.4 million in 2019, with losses of £10.1 million compared to a profit of £16 million the previous year.

Furthermore, Williams announced that it has terminated its sponsorship deal with ROKiT which was due to run until the end of 2023.

“The financial results for 2019 reflect the recent decline in competitiveness of the F1 operation and the consequent reduction in commercial rights income”, said Williams CEI Mike O’Driscoll.

“The 2020 Formula 1 season has, of course, been disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and this will have an impact on our commercial rights income this year.

“The Team have also served notice to terminate its relationship with its title partner, ROKiT, and major sponsor, ROK Drinks. In common with many other businesses, we have taken extensive action to mitigate, including a prolonged furlough period for much of our staff.

“As this awful global crisis recedes, everyone at Williams Racing is looking forward to the start of the new season.”

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Ricciardo admits talks with Ferrari before McLaren deal

McLaren-bound Daniel Ricciardo says he held talks with Ferrari regarding a move to the Italian outfit for 2021 but admitted not “diving too deep” into the discussions.

Ricciardo’s transfer from Renault to McLaren next season was announced earlier this month, the Aussie replacing Carlos Sainz who will fill Sebastian Vettel’s seat at Ferrari.

Ricciardo was often cited as Vettel’s successor at the Scuderia even before the news of the German driver’s departure from Maranello. And the 30-year-old — who had been linked to Ferrari in the past — confirmed that the most recent speculation was not wide of the mark.

“There have been discussions already from a few years back, and that continued all the way through to now,” Ricciardo said in an interview with CNN.

“I won’t deny that, but obviously it’s never really come to fruition.

“I’ve never really chose to dive too deep into it. Everyone says it would be a good fit, obviously, with my name and all the background stuff, but I try not to get emotionally caught up in any kind of situation.”

Ricciardo believes that Ferrari’s decision to recruit Sainz was a logical one.

“I see how Carlos is a fit for the team. So I don’t really look at it like ‘why not me?'” he said.

“Carlos had a very strong 2019. He’s a bit of hot property right now, and I guess it’s a good fit for where they are at.”

Regarding his decision to not extend his two-year contract with Renault, Riccardo said the choice had not boiled down to a specific issue or aspect associated with the French outfit, insisting there is no “black and white answer”.

“There wasn’t any moment, which was like a light bulb and said: ‘Yes, that’s what I need to do,” explained the Aussie.

“Equally, there wasn’t something I saw in McLaren, which created that or there wasn’t something in Renault, which created the moment of ‘I have to move on.’

“The discussions with McLaren go back to even before 2018, and I guess continued over time.

“Obviously it’s not an overnight decision. I guess to compare as well the two [teams], I don’t think that’s fair.”

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Abiteboul admits 2021 regulations 'go in Renault's direction'

Renault F1 boss Cyril Abiteboul believes the French manufacturer is the team on the grid that could benefit the most from Formula 1’s 2021 regulation overhaul.

The technical and commercial changes that shall be introduced from next year will hopefully steer the sport into a new era, in which a more equitable sporting and financial playing field among competitors will emerge.

Renault’s five-year plan, initiated in 2016, to chase down F1’s front-runners and challenge for the title in 2021 now appears to lag by a couple of years.

The French squad’s performance has stagnated in the past few seasons, with Renault even ceding its spot as best of the rest to engine customer McLaren.

But Abiteboul is confident his team faces a massive opportunity ahead, not only to bridge the gap to its rivals but also to consolidate its future in the sport at a time of disruption for the automotive manufacturer’s top brass.

“I think we are the main beneficiary of the 2021 deal and set of regulations,” he told Motorsport.com.

“I can’t say that they’ve been engineered for us, but for sure it goes in our direction.”

However, there’s an axe hanging over Enstone in the form of an internal strategic review currently conducted by Renault interim management, the potential outcome of which could annihilate the F1 team’s future.

“From my perspective everything that we’ve built we’ve done it with 2021 in mind, and everyone is aware of that, including at Renault corporate,” insisted a confident Abiteboul.

“The figures speak for themselves. Having said that, until a decision is made the decision is not made.”

However, Renault’s C-suite will take its time to assess the pros and cons of remaining in F1, as implied by the sport’s next Concorde agreement, the crucial legal document that governs the teams’ financial relationship with F1.

“I think it’s a parallel stream,” explained Abiteboul.

“On one side there is what the team is committed to do, with the FIA, with FOM. There is lots of discussion going on about the documentation itself.

“We’ve seen hundreds of pages of contract, and it takes a while.

“There’s also the stream having to keep on moving and improving and progressing in terms of our own performance in parallel.

“Renault is indeed making its own strategy and plans. We still have a management in interim, so we are indeed in contact on a regular basis with that management.

“The two will happen in parallel, and I hope will develop in a nice way. In my opinion it’s more for Q1/Q2.”

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