Liberty set to outline future plans
Liberty Media will meet with all of the teams on Friday morning to outline their plans for the future of the sport. The sport is yet to agree on the next set of engine and technical regulations, as well as the commercial deals which are due to expire at the end of 2020.
Technical director Ross Brawn is expected to lead the presentation, which should give the clearest idea of Liberty’s future plans for the sport. Brawn has worked with a group which has been tasked to come up with rules that encourage overtaking and get more teams fighting for wins.
The other is expected to be far more contentious, as Liberty is expected to outline plans for the restructuring of prize money and a cost cap throughout the season. The focus will be on Ferrari, the sports most popular team who have threatened to walk away if they don’t like the new plans.
Ferrari has also accused there former technical director Brawn, of taking the sport in “a direction that is not in the DNA of the sport”. Brawn responded to this by saying he found the suggestion he is trying to dumb down the series as “personally offensive”.
Mercedes is also apprehensive about the direction Brawn wants to take the sport and has warned F1’s owners to take Ferrari’s threat seriously. Red Bull boss Christian Horner has said F1 should issue an ultimatum to teams like Ferrari and present a take-it-or-leave-it set of proposals for all.
Hamilton waits for Liberty’s vision to decide future
Lewis Hamilton says that how long he stays in Formula One may be impacted by the plans that Liberty Media is due to set out on Friday.
Ross Brawn is expected to outline the clearest idea of Liberty’s future plans for the sport. Brawn has worked with a group which has been tasked to come up with rules that encourage overtaking and get more teams fighting for wins.
The details of the plans could determine how long Mercedes stays in the sport, with the team’s existing commercial deal with F1 due to expire at the end of 2020. It has already made clear that it was not entirely comfortable with parts of the engine plans presented by Brawn and the FIA last year.
Speaking ahead of that meeting, the four times champion said that one of the factors will be the regulations. He said when asked about his contract, “We’re still in discussions. I’m very relaxed about it. There’s not really much to say. I’m not really in a rush.”
“Tomorrow there’s some sort of announcement or discussions of what is happening in F1 moving forward. It’s always good to wait to hear some of those and see the future of F1. For sure that could or could not have an impact on decisions you make in terms of length or whatever it is you end up doing in F1.”
Asked if there was anything which could impact on his discussions, he said there is nothing in particular and it could affect the wider driver market. He said it was important not to rush and says that the team aren’t talking to other drivers.
Hamilton has started to think about his plans after F1 and believes the next contract will be the most important one of his career. “The last contract was the most important up until that point and then next one will be even more important than the last one.”
“Also the length, your decision to how long you want to commit to being in F1 is becoming more and more important moving forwards for me being at the latter end of my career.” He added.
Drivers seek own interests if they
Kevin Magnussen says that says that the sports owners Liberty Media shouldn’t listen to the drivers about improving racing as they will seek to serve their own interests. Instead he says they should trust their own insist.
The Haas driver insists that himself and the other drivers have no vested interest in making race weekends more entertaining and could advocate for changes that are personally advantageous when giving their input to Liberty.
He told Motorsport.com “I think, as I said, Liberty should just do their own research and not listen to the drivers because the drivers will just say what’s in their best interests.”
“I enjoy [racing] most when I win. I don’t care about the racing – if I win, that’s it. All the drivers, their feedback will be in their own best interests. None of us drivers care about making the show better, we want the best for ourselves.”
His comments were prompted by his dissatisfaction at F1 extending one of the DRS zones in Bahrain in a bid to aid on-track action. The extra DRS zone in Melbourne didn’t create more overtaking and Magnussen says the zone was the result of a “typical” F1 overreaction.
He said “You know, I think a typical thing that everyone tends to do, overreact when you have one bad race, make a big change.And then you go too much the other way and the race becomes boring because it’s just easily passing everyone.”
Vettel says lead doesn’t disguise current pace of Mercedes
Sebastian Vettel has admitted that his current lead of the championship doesn’t disguise the current pace supremacy Mercedes hold over Ferrari.
Vettel claimed a surprise victory at the season-opener in Melbourne ahead of Lewis Hamilton, thanks to a timely Virtual Safety Car. However, ahead of this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix, Vettel believes that the team has a four-tenths behind Mercedes.
He told Sky Sports, “If you look at the pace in testing and the first race, then clearly Mercedes is fastest. A three or four-tenths gap – that’s also what we saw in the race.”
Hamilton’s response was “The cars are a lot closer than people seem to think. If you look at last year, from the first race to the second race everyone was a lot closer. The Ferrari always goes well here and we didn’t win the race last year”
After the Australian GP, Vettel admitted that he wasn’t entirely comfortable in the car and said the team needed to close the gap to Mercedes. Adding “I think this year we have a better car but we need to get it to work.”
“I’m confident the car has potential but we need to make progress and catch up quickly to be there fighting for wins, just as we did in many races last year.”
“Crucial” to be fighting for podiums – Alonso
Fernando Alonso says that the next six Grand Prix’s will be “crucial” for McLaren’s ambition of competing of fighting for podiums this season. The two times champion was fifth in the Australian Grand Prix, but McLaren is a long way from their ambition of matching Red Bull for pace.
Alonso told BBC News “There is still a lot to improve to catch the top three teams [Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull]. It’s quite a reasonable gap to close but it is up to us now.”
McLaren has switched to Renault engines, the same as Red Bull, this season after three years of poor performance and reliability with Honda, who now supply Toro Rosso. However, the Spaniard admitted that the team had a difficult start to the season.
Alonso was eight tenths off Red Bull in qualifying but recovered thanks to the intervention of the virtual safety car, which also decided the lead battle between Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
Asked if he felt it was realistic to talk about fighting for the podium after starting the season so far from the pace, Alonso said: “Yes. We were two places from the podium in Australia. Anything can happen. If you are close to that position, sooner or later that opportunity will come.
Alonso said: “The next two months are crucial for us. If it is not a world championship fight, it will hopefully be some podium positions. It is probably the first time in the last three years it is up to us – the car has the potential.”
The Weekend Ahead
This weekend, we should get a better understanding of where the teams are in terms of on track performance. If the past four years are anything to go by Mercedes should be leading in pace, however, FP1/3 doesn’t give us a real understanding of the pace.
FP2 should be very busy as that is the most reprehensive session as the qualifying and the race takes place in the evening. There is a drop in air temperatures bring down the lap times. So what we tend to see is longer runs in the afternoon then the hard times early in FP2.
Bahrain could also a better understanding of the pecking order, it is very similar to Shanghai where we are going next weekend with the straight.
Off track, this could be a huge weekend politically, as Liberty is due to outline the vision they have for the sport. The question will be how the teams and manufacturers react? This should also show how strong the alliance between Mercedes and Ferrari over future regulations is.
Formula One Vault will bring you LIVE and full coverage from 11:45 on Friday with first practice on our LIVE Twitter account @F1VaultLive. We will bring you race coverage from 15:40 on Sunday with the race starting at 16:10 UK Time.