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Ferrari hit testing snag with rules

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Several years ago, Formula 1 clamped down on testing, as well as extravagant car launches, in order to “save money”. To be fair, the teams had reached a point where they were testing all the time with their own dedicated testing teams so the point was well made when they banned it.

Now the FIA only allows brief pre-season testing which makes it very difficult if you have gotten something wrong in your design or on your car. Such is life.

There are guidelines about what you can test and ever since the testing ban, there was language that stated you could test older cars.

“Testing of Previous Cars (TPC) shall be defined as any track running time, not part of an Event, in which a competitor entered in the Championship participates (or in which a third party participates on behalf of a competitor or a supplier of a homologated power unit), using cars which were designed and built in order to comply with the Formula 1 Technical Regulations of any of the three calendar years falling immediately prior to the calendar year preceding the Championship.”

Before addressing that, let’s consider what motorpsort.com presented in their article which was that the teams have suggested that last year’s car is dramatically different than the new regulations and that teams feel there would be little performance advantage in running them despite not being at least two years old aunt he regulation above would suggest.

This has presented Ferrari with a bit of an issue as the were set to engage in a four-day test at Fiorano with last year’s car. As the regulations have not been approved yet as they are also tied up with other changes that need to be approved such as the 60-minute practice sessions (instead of 90 minutes) and the Sprint Race which seems to be a major sticking point.

Ferrari said: “The test program that Scuderia Ferrari was to carry out starting today on the Fiorano track was changed this morning.

“Waiting to receive an update from the FIA on how the definition of ‘Test Previous Cars’ will be applied in 2022, which establishes which car can be used in this type of test – it was decided in the session that a 2018 SF71H will be used. The detailed program will be announced later.”

So with the lack of clarity, Ferrari will run a 2018 car instead. It’s an interesting issue in that one might suggest you couldn’t gain much given the high downforce and 13” wheels etc but the hybrid engine is still the same and I wonder if the FIA or other teams would feel this is just too similar to what the 2022 car would be.

Also, I wonder if it is more expensive to run the 2018 program than it is the 2021 car given the older engine most likely has different challenges to it and I wonder how many spare parts that have for those cars? There is a notion that if the 2022 regulations are as radically different as they say they are, then why not allow the 2021 car to be tested? Time will tell.

Mt. Rushmore of F1 | The Parc Fermé F1 Podcast Ep 767

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Join Grace, Paul and me as we discuss the Formula 1 news of the week. We cover track upgrades, sprint races, Zak Brown, Zak Brown and more Zak Brown and even discuss VW, Audi and Porsche. Of course we have Albon’s Cats and Todd’s “No S*%$! Headlines”.

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Sprint races threaten cost caps and a looming vote

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Source: McLaren Media

I still have mixed feelings about the Formula 1 Sprint Race. There, I said it. It’s not that they didn’t offer more excitement during a race weekend, they did do that to a marginal degree, but its that I was constantly worried that a team could blow up an engine and incur a penalty for adding a 4th engine to their inventory and that would artificially impact the championship. I was worried that someone could get silly and cause lots of damage to a championship-leading driver/car and that was going to be hard to absorb in the era of the cost cap.

If you are going to race F1 cars twice as much during a season or a third as much, then the operating costs will increase quite a bit and with the cost cap established before the sprint race concept was ever thought of, this adds complexity to affording the feature in 2022.

For this reason some teams are lobbying F1 for an increase to the cost cap if they demand that these teams run Sprint Races in 2022. The sport concurred and offered $500k to the bucket but there are some who feel this is woefully low given the risk of damage the teams face.

This has drawn pointed criticism from McLaren boss Zak Brown who feels the amount of increase some teams are asking for is ridiculous but the issue is, it could stall the entire concept of the Sprint race for 2022.

“some teams still look for excuses to raise the cost cap and win world championships with chequebooks”.

“Teams continue to demand a raise to the cost cap by an inordinate amount of money, despite the clear evidence that little damage was incurred during these races last year, in a thinly veiled attempt to protect from their competitive advantage being eroded,” he stated.

Brown then added to reporters, per The Race: “A couple teams – one team in particular – wanted a $5m budget cap increase, which was just ridiculous with no rational facts behind it.

“And then when you challenge those facts, they then go, ‘Yeah, but what if and what could and you’ve got to have it just in case’. And you just sit there and you go, ‘It’s just nonsense’.”

My issue with the Sprint race is that it adds more action but is it really additive to the event and world championship. Or is it just an opportunity to wear out parts and incur penalties to replace those parts which can do serious damage to a driver’s championship fortunes? I still feel like three engines for the entire year (23 races and now a host of new Sprint races added on top of that) is an anemic number of power units and all this does is set the teams up for grid penalties.

Taking grid penalties for new engines or gearboxes is frustrating and it impacts the race weekend and championship in a very anticlimactic way. It is very frustrating to be excited about a race weekend only to learn, quite matter-of-factly, that Lewis Hamilton will start 20th on Sunday because of a gearbox change.

Those are my personal issues but that’s not what Zak is frustrated by. He feels the Sprint race is being used by big teams to radically increase the cost cap and this flouts the very reason the cost cap was introduced.

The FIA have a way of making a rule intended to throttle back the expense of F1 only to introduce something that works directly against their desire to reduce costs. In 2014 it was the astronomically expensive Hybrid engine that bankrupted two teams and left three others on life support.

If saving money were the main goal, then the Sprint races must rank below the desire to have a cost cap and that means that a critical vote is coming in February to determine if they continue with the concept.

The way that F1 works with regards to rule changes within a calendar year is that eight of the 10 teams must agree/approve the idea.

Time is of the essence here and there is believed to be more than one team pushing hard for an increase in the cost cap to cover the Sprint races.

If F1 is looking at rule changes for the following year, only five of the teams need to agree. Brown says F1 should push through sprint races for 2023 first before voting on this year.

“I think we should go ahead and lock in now for ’23 with no budget cap raise at all, if you want to be hard about it,” he stated.

“And then maybe either there can be a compromise made and we can raise it a little bit when we go ahead and start in ’22. Or we skip ’22 – and I think a couple of these teams should have to explain to the fans why there’s no sprint races.”

Time will tell but I see Zak’s point. He doesn’t want to spend more money on F1 than has been prescribed by the cost cap and why would he? It is difficult for smaller budget teams to absorb the crash damage by using a portion of their cost-cap budget to replace parts because this would remove those dollars from being used for car development but maybe that’s the point.

Maybe the point is locking these big teams into this situation so they can’t simply out-spend everyone else in car development. Imagine Mercedes stuck in a situation where they don’t have the budget left to develop their car for a third of the season? Not very likely but you get the point.

Zak and other teams can’t out-spend the likes of Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull so this cost cap is a real game changer if the FIA can police it correctly. Adding millions to the cap starts to dilute the reason for the cap in the first place. If the Sprint race means the entire notion of a cost cap has now been compromised by adding millions to it where teams can outs-pend in car development, then I suggest they ditch the Sprint race idea and stick with curing F1’s expense issues first.

Letting go of Prost

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A week ago, we were calling on the F1 world and paddock to take a second look at how we view Alain Prost. Let’s face it, we have a 4-time legend who battled the mighty Senna still involved with our sport and yet very little is made of it.

No sooner were we extolling the wonder of having Prost still involved in F1, and complaining that it was largely being overlooked, when it was announced that Alpine were parting ways with the champ. There was one problem, it wasn’t managed by Alpine but leaked and Prost was not happy.

“I am very disappointed how this news has been announced today,” Prost posted.

“It was agreed that we would announce together with Alpine! No respect sorry!

“I have refused the offer made to me in Abu Dhabi for the 2022 season because of a personal relationship and I was right!

“To the Enstone and Viry team, I will miss you.”

There is no doubt that the Renault, now Alpine, team have not achieved what they would have hoped for over the last few years and the most recent leadership team did seem a little top heavy. If things aren’t working, you make changes and they recently released Marcin Budkowski with many suggesting that Otmar Szafnauer could enter the frame.

Regardless of the speculation, this clearly isn’t the way you would have expected the team to part ways with a 4-time champion and in some sense you can understand Alain’s comments. Perhaps we’re missing some glaring issue but from our perspective, we should be celebrating Prost, not firing him.

Almost Cheese | The Parc Fermé F1 Podcast Ep 766

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Join Grace, Paul and me as we discuss the 2022 Formula 1 regulation changes. We cover each element of the changes and discuss their possible implications.

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Aston Martin hire Mike Krack as team boss

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Aston Martin didn’t take too long to replace departing team boss Otmar Szafnauer as they announced this week that Mike Krack would be joining the team as Team Principal.

Aston Martin Press Release:

Prior to joining Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One™ Team, Mike Krack was leading BMW’s global motorsport operation, having worked for the Munich-based company since 2014.

In that role he was in charge of BMW’s Formula E, GT and IMSA programmes, as well as its planned expansion into the new LMDh formula for IMSA & WEC, including the Le Mans 24 Hours.

Prior to that Mike worked in a senior motorsport role for Porsche. He has worked for a decade in Formula One before, for Sauber then BMW-Sauber.

Mike Krack, Team Principal, Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One™ Team, said: “It is a thrill and an honour to have been appointed to the position of Team Principal of Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One™ Team, and I am very grateful to Lawrence [Stroll] and Martin [Whitmarsh] for giving me such a fantastic opportunity.

“Aston Martin is one of the greatest automotive brands in the world, and to have been asked to play a leading role in delivering the on-track Formula One success that such an illustrious name so richly deserves is a challenge that I plan to embrace with energy and enthusiasm.

“I have been working in motorsport for over 20 years, and worked in Formula One with Seb Vettel in 2006 and 2007 when I was a BMW-Sauber engineer and he was the team’s test driver.

“I have huge respect for his speed and ability, and it will be fantastic to be reunited with him. Lance Stroll is a seriously fast and talented driver, too, with 100 Grands Prix starts to his name, and I am very much looking forward to working closely with him.

“Team Silverstone has always impressed me. It is full of talented people and real racers. That racer’s culture and values are what is required to succeed in motorsport – I know that and my new colleagues at Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One™ Team know it, too. We will work incredibly hard. We want to win. Together, we will.”

Marcin Budkowski to leave Alpine F1 Team

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Fernando Alonso (ESP) Alpine F1 Team A521. British Grand Prix, Sunday 18th July 2021. Silverstone, England.

There were rumors that Otmar Szafnauer could leave Aston Martin to join Alpine late last year and with the recent announcement that Otmar has, indeed, left Aston Martin and then today’s announcement that Marcin will be leaving Alpine, one might be forgiven for connecting the dots.

At the time of the press report, Otmar said it was speculation but it does seem that there are dots to be connected however this press release from Alpine does not mention Otmar’s assignment. Instead it says that Laurent Rossi will step in to oversee things temporarily. Perhaps that Otmar situation was, as described, speculation or his gardening leave hasn’t expired. Regardless, here is Alpine’s press release.

Alpine F1 Team and Marcin Budkowski, Executive Director of Alpine F1 Team, announced today their decision to end their collaboration as of January 13th 2022.

Laurent Rossi will temporarily ensure the team’s management to allow everyone to focus on the next season’s preparation.

Laurent Rossi, CEO Alpine, declared: “I would like to thank Marcin Budkowski for his commitment and contribution to the team’s results over the last four years. The team is fully focused on getting the car ready for the first race in Bahrain and deliver a step beyond in performance.”

Marcin Budkowski declared: “I truly enjoyed being part of the leadership team of Renault then Alpine F1 Team, working with such a talented and dedicated group of people. I will be watching the Teams’ progress fondly in the seasons to come.”

McLaren against budget cap increase but what about engines?

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Photo by: www.kymillman.com/f1

At the dawn of a new season, the teams are toiling away with production and fabrication. They are test-firing their engines and working as hard as they can to prepare for the new 2022 campaign.

It’s a quiet time for fans as they rustle through the holidays and wonder what will happen with Lewis Hamilton who is also quiet. They contemplate F1’s upcoming season, debate regulations and wonder what the new FIA president will do regarding Abu Dhabi and many other issues such as Michael Masi, race stewarding, COVID and much more.

Behind all that noise there is a cost cap in 2022 of $140m and with a proposed six Sprint Race feature to the longest calendar in F1 history, some teams are suggesting they need a budget increase to accommodate such a demanding schedule due to potential Sprint race damage.

McLaren boss Zak Brown says they are adamantly against increasing the budget cap for teams despite the increased amount of Sprint races.

Quote from Motorsport.com:

“Some want to take the opportunity to raise the cost cap, a few of the teams,” Brown said.
“We’re adamantly opposed to raising the cost cap on anything. So we’re going to need to work through that issue.”

In 2021, teams were given an allowance of $450,000 for taking part in the three sprint races, as well as an additional $100,000 for accident damage.

But Brown said that “a couple of teams” were looking to raise the budget cap “by a ridiculous number” for 2022 despite the limited number of first-lap incidents.

“The reality is there was very little damage last year,” Brown said. “When this was proposed to us a year ago, they did a report on the damage that was incurred on opening laps, and it was also in the report that showed there was very little damage.

“We came into this thinking there could be very little damage, [and it] turns out there was very little damage.

“And yet a couple of the teams still want to take the opportunity to raise the budget by a ridiculous number, by almost, ‘well, what if I write off a car every race?’ From what I’ve seen, I saw more crashes in practice than I have in the sprint races.

“It might be new to some teams to actually have to manage a budget, but I think that’s in the spirit of the sport, so you can certainly match the revenue to the expense and resolve that.

“But I think the revenue will grow over time, and I think we need to be very careful to be fiscally sustainable, that certain teams take the opportunity to try and raise that all the time. We need to resist that.”

All of that seems like a reasoned position but what surprises me more is not just the potential for damage but the increased wear and tear on their engines and as they allowed only three during the season, how does this additional mileage play into their strategy?

There may very well be data the teams have that I certainly don’t see and that data could suggest that I am worrying for nothing as the engines are fully capable of delivering a 23-race season with six Sprint races on top of that.

Perhaps I am living in the past when the engines were more brittle and perhaps the sport has made a much larger step in engine reliability that I am simply not accounting for.

While that may very well be true, I am defending myself on the fact that Valtteri Bottas had numerous new engines introduced into his inventory garnering serious penalties. Even Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen had additional engines brought into their inventory garnering penalties of their own.

For me, that’s an imbalance of regulations versus the demand asked of the teams. If you consider that this year will see a homologation of the engines that will be frozen until 2025 and these new engines must use at least 10% advanced sustainable ethanol or E10, it seems to me there are potential issues already and the season hasn’t even begun.

I hope I am wrong on this and that I can look back at this article in 12 months and chuckle at how ridiculous Iw was to worry but I’ve been watching F1 for a very long time and it is these types of things that can hamstring the series throughout the season. Let’s hope that isn’t the case in 2022.

Top 10 Things | The Parc Fermé F1 Podcast Ep 765

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Join Grace and me as we share our top 10 list of things we are excited to see in the 202 Formula 1 season. We also read your mail and have an Albon’s Cats session.

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Aston Martin announces departure of Otmar Szafnauer

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After a long history with the team, Aston Martin has announced the departure of team principal and CEO Otmar Szafnauer. The rumors had been swirling since late last season with complete denial from Szafnauer but it seems his move to the Alpine team is correct.

“Otmar Szafnauer has left the company and his role at Aston Martin Cognizant Formula 1 team will be managed within the leadership team until a replacement is appointed,” the statement reads.

“We would like to thank him for the service provided to the team over the past 12 years and wish him well for the future as he will undoubtedly take on new challenges.

“Fortunately, we are led and managed by a strong group of individuals, and we are comfortable to take a little time to explore options before announcing a new team structure.

“The focus of the team is currently on preparing the most competitive car possible for the start of the 2022 season.”

Otmar has had a long history of leading this team when it was an under-funded underdog called Force India. He joined the team back in 2009 and was instrumental in keeping things together during the financial meltdown in 2018.

Otmar did a lot to keep the team whole and keep it in the points but if I’m honest, I got the impression there was some tension between him and Aston Martin owner Lawrence Stroll. I don’t know that for sure but the body language was certainly evidentiary in the Drive to Survive series on Netflix.

When Aston Martin hired former McLaren boss, Martin Whitmarsh, as CEO, perhaps the writing was on the wall.

It is expected that Otmar will now move to Alpine.

Should Merc have chosen Lando?

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SOCHI AUTODROM, RUSSIAN FEDERATION - SEPTEMBER 25: Pole man Lando Norris, McLaren, celebrates during the Russian GP at Sochi Autodrom on Saturday September 25, 2021 in Sochi, Russian Federation. (Copyright Free for Editorial Use Only. Credit: FIA Pool / LAT Images)

I read an article regarding a podcast in which former F1 driver Jolyon Palmer said he would have picked Lando Norris over George Russell if he were at the helm of Mercedes for 2022.

II understand the sentiment as Lando had a terrific year besting a seasoned teammate in the form of Daniel Ricciardo. Much was made back int eh day when Ricciardo bested Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull so being bested by Lando speaks volumes but would that have been the right choice?

If I were at the helm of Mercedes, I would have made the same choice. I would have replaced Valtteri with George. In fact, I probably would have done that last year to be honest and said as much on our podcast.

George is a Mercedes driver and on the payroll so to speak, Lando is not and thus, getting Lando out of his McLaren deal would have been expensive to do. Like you, I’ve watched both drivers mature at their respective teams and I’ve seen them both overachieve in a car that hasn’t been that interested in doing what they ask of it.

I’ve also seen them both mature and develop their race craft. Sure, they’ve both made mistakes and taken chances that ended in crushed carbon fiber but I’ve also seen them perform extraordinarily well under immense pressure.

On the balance it it, I think George is the right choice because we have a marker in which to judge by. With George filling in for Lewis last year and, effectively, winning that race had it not been for some issues that were team derived in what I can only say was very odd for a team that good, he showed that he had the measure of Valtteri Bottas and was doing a terrific job in the champ’s car no less.

I am a fan of both drivers and I do think Lando has made a huge step in his evolution as a top-flight F1 driver this year. There is certainly enough to warrant even considering him over Gorge for the post at Merc but in the end, I don’t think we have much in George to be reticent about either.

What do you think? Is George the right choice or would you have chosen Lando?

Mental Health | The Parc Fermé F1 Podcast Ep 764

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Join Grace and me as well discuss mental health, the 2022 regulations, Bernie’s predictions and much more.

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