Lowe takes “leave of absence” from Williams
Williams announced late on Wednesday that chief technical officer Paddy Lowe has taken a “leave of absence” from the team two weeks before the start of the season.
The announcement comes after a difficult start to the year when the British based team missed the opening two days of testing because of delays in the build of the 2019 car, the FW42. In a statement, the team said, “Paddy is taking a leave of absence from the business for personal reasons.”
The Grove-based team did not elaborate on the short statement and whether their chief technical officer will return. Lowe’s future with the team has been under question, following the step backwards last year and delays with the 2019 car.
Deputy team principal Claire Williams admitted that she was “embarrassed” with her teams start to the year, one where they had planned to make a step forward. Lowe joined the team from Mercedes, however, failed to bring the improvement in results and step forwards in the championship.
Last year the team finished bottom of the Constructors’ Championship for the first time in their forty-two-year history.
Asked directly about Lowe’s position at the first Barcelona test, Williams said: “I’ve been reading a lot of speculation in the media recently about Paddy’s position. Right now, all I’m focused on, all the team should be focused on, is the car and making sure the car is in the right place.”
Lowe, who started his career at Williams in the late 1980s, said at last week’s second test that he believed he retained the support of the team’s senior management.
Williams forced to make modifications
The Williams team has been forced to modify part of its front suspension and mirror design to make sure the car complies with the regulations ahead of the Australian Grand Prix.
The team’s unconventional wing mirrors and suspension parts were some of the stand out parts when the team started testing. However, Motorsport.com says that it understands that the FIA was not happy with elements of these designs and Williams will modify them to ensure it does not encounter a problem in Australia.
The FIA technical regulations state that only six suspension members are permitted: four wishbone members, one pushrod and one steering arm. Williams introduced a thin, seventh member that runs along the edge of the lower wishbone.
Williams introduced another element which runs along the edge of the lower wishbone. This will be removed from the suspension for the first race.
Points for fastest lap
The World Motor Sport Council has approved a plan to award an extra point to the driver who sets the fastest lap during a race from the opening race of the season in Melbourne.
The idea was not included in the minutes of the meeting but has now been passed for an e-vote by the F1 Commission to be approved to go on the Sporting Working Group and the Strategy Group, and would usually go to the Commission before the WMSC. However, on this occasion, the e-vote was not completed beforehand, so the usual approval procedure was reversed.
However, the extra point will only be awarded to a driver who is in the top ten this is to stop drivers who are outside the top ten from making a last minute stop for fresh tyres.
The change takes F1 back to its roots, as a point was awarded for fastest lap over the first ten years of the World Championship in 1950-’59. However, the move could be controversial as in 1958, the point allowed Mike Hawthorn to beat Stirling Moss to the title.
Had an extra point been awarded for setting the fastest lap in 2008, Felipe Massa would have beaten Lewis Hamilton to that year’s title – with the proviso that none of the drivers were competing on the basis that scoring fastest lap was relevant.
FIA to push for standardised parts
Formula One’s governing body the FIA has underlined its push for standardised parts after the World Motor Sport Council approved the issuing of further invitations to tender.
At last month’s WMSC meeting, the council asked for bids for a supplier to give standardised gearbox cassette to be used by all teams from 2021 to 2024. Yesterday’s WMSC gathering approved further initiatives, although no details have been given regarding what areas of the car or power unit might be covered.
A statement from the FIA said, “the council approved the launch of a series of tenders within the context of the ongoing development of the 2021 Technical Regulations.” The governing body has been working closely with the sports owners Liberty on standardising some parts.
The plan is to standardise parts which fans don’t see in a bit to reduce the cost of the sport as well as closing up the grid, creating closer racing. Speaking to Motorsport.com, F1’s managing director for Motorsport and technical director Ross Brawn said “We need to close up the differential between the car in terms of overall performance. We’ve got a division one and division two at the moment.”
“We need to stop that, we need to have a much closer performance gap between the teams, and the cost control will be part of that, the regulations that are evolving will be part of that.” He believes by removing parts like a fire extinguisher teams will not race to create the lightest one possible.
He says where the big teams can invest in one they will pull ahead and before you know it they are a second ahead, leaving the other teams to catch up.
Frustrating talks and no deal’s no worry – Brawn
F1 managing director for motorsport and technical director Ross Brawn, says its “frustrating” that Liberty and Silverstone have so far failed to reach an agreement to save the British Grand Prix.
In 2017, the circuit triggered a break clause in its seventeen-year contract because it was unable to afford the cost of the race, which was making a loss. The circuit has until the end of the year to agree on a new deal or face losing the race.
Speaking to BBC News, Brawn said “We want to find a solution with Silverstone. But we are differing in our views of what’s reasonable. We’re not far apart. It’s frustrating that we can’t find a solution.” Liberty has made the commitment to keep the race on the calendar.
The sports owners have also hinted that they would be looking elsewhere if no deal can be reached. But there aim ahead of the eighth championship is to keep the home of Formula One on the calendar ahead of the 2020 season.
Brawn added “most of us here can remember it being held at Brands Hatch and it didn’t seem that strange that we had a race at Brands Hatch one year and Silverstone the next. We are determined to make sure we keep a British Grand Prix, and hopefully at Silverstone, but there’s no certainty.”
F1’s owners, the US group Liberty Media, have considered a race in London, and sources say a street track in the Docklands area, close to where a race in the all-electric Formula E series will be held next year, is under consideration.
However, Brawn says that’s not being considered as a replacement and that a race in London would be in addition to the calendar. It is thought that Formula E’s return to the city at a new circuit in the Docklands has been thought of as a potential circuit for F1.
Speaking with under a month to go until Britain leaves the EU and with warnings from his successor at Mercedes Toto Wolff of a “nightmare”, if no deal is agreed, Brawn says he is not worried about the risk to F1 from Brexit.
He added “There will be some bureaucracy that will come from Brexit, which is a bit painful. but apart from that, I’m sure we can make lots of arguments for the negatives and positives, but F1 teams are pretty resourceful and capable and this is not going to stop them racing”
Raikkonen believes Alfa’s place is a mystery
Kimi Raikkonen believes that Alfa Romeo’s place in the pecking order is a “big mystery” after the team is after the team found it difficult to try and explore the car’s potential in testing.
The former Sauber team appears as if they are going to be in a tight midfield battle, but not as close as the team expected after the first week of testing. Raikkonen, says that he is yet to find the limit of the C38, but believes that the same is true for the rest of the teams.
Speaking about the position of the team, he told Motorsport.com, “It’s a big mystery. We’re going to give our best and see what we get in the first race and just work from there. We’re not 100% where we want to be, but if you asked anybody they’d probably say the same.”
Asked if he had been able to explore the car’s full potential, Raikkonen said: “I don’t think we are where we probably want to be, exactly. The conditions are always different to race weekends because of the cold weather, and we didn’t really push for the best lap time.:
“We tried different tyres and we have things to learn from them also. It was a bit tricky to get a lap time out of the softer tyres.” The former champion says he is hopeful things will be better in Melbourne.
Ferrari drops Mission Winnow
Ferrari has decided to drop Philip Morris branding from its car over concerns that the Mission Winnow initiative amid concern about tobacco advertising.
The team announced on the FIA entry list that it was changing its name to Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow, but now a revised entry list has seen the team drop Mission Winnow. Italian media quoted Ferrari chief executive Louis Camilleri confirming the move at the Geneva Motor Show on Tuesday.
There had been concerns at the time it was announced last October that the branding could break Australian, US and EU law on tobacco advertising. Philip Morris says Mission Winnow is focused on raising awareness of smoke-free “heat not burn” products.
The Week Ahead
Next week F1 heads to Australia for the opening race of the season, this race is unpredictable and can through up some surprises. For the first time, we have a launch show on Wednesday, this should give us an understanding of the driver’s expectations going into this season.
The natural media focus will be on Daniel Ricciardo, more so this year because of his move to Renault. It will be interesting how the team handles the pressure and are they able to spin things in a good way. I don’t want to repeat too much what’s in the Prixview.
Off track, we will see the negotiations about the next set of regulations continue, a new season with the same talks going on. The clock keeps ticking down and teams attention will turn to Westminster on Tuesday as British MPs debate Brexit. We know teams are worried about a no deal exit and they need certainty.
Drivers will be trying to be positive without appearing too confident, they all start from zero and want to be in the fight this year. Next Saturday, we will be able to say what the pecking order really is, but Mercedes believe they are on the back foot.
There are so many sub-plots this year, Melbourne could give us an idea of what could be another cracking season!