Skip to content

“WRC: Four or Five Events Possible – Matton”

© Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

© Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

The FIA’s Rally Director, Yves Matton, believes four-to-five more events will be necessary to validate the World Rally Championship this season.

Yet as the year reaches its halfway point, the task of finding replacement rallies is becoming a trying task, as he tells World in Motorsport.

“It’s not like in racing. We are not able to make rallying without any public,” says Yves Matton firmly.

At one time the Team Principal of Citroën’s post-Sébastien Loeb era, the 52-year-old became the FIA’s Rally director at the beginning of 2018 and although rallying has endured its fair share of difficulties over the past two decades, it is unlikely that Matton has experienced anything quite like this.

With event after event falling due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Matton and his team at the FIA, in conjunction with WRC Promoter are desperately attempting to scramble a revised calendar.

As it stands, the WRC has completed three events before the pandemic took hold – Monte Carlo, Sweden and Mexico – but nothing since March. However, unlike circuit racing events, which take place in enclosed spaces, the very nature of rallying means that it is more susceptible to disruption due to the virus.
On the other hand, the precarious nature of this arm of motorsport means public support is necessary if it is to continue at pre-COVID-19 levels, as Matton reveals. “For sure, we are highly linked to governments. The constraints are different. It is impossible to say that we could have some events without any public – this is not in the DNA of rallying, because you are going close to the people.
“We are going into their villages, you are going on their roads, so you cannot say to the people that they are not allowed to be there and it [the access] is more difficult to control also.”

Matton reveals that a report detailing the restart of international rallying will be released this month; however, he is in no way downplaying the hugely significant task ahead. “There is a lot of things that we are able to do, and I saw some processes that some organisers issued – I can give you one example; there is Rally Roma [ERC], which runs in July. They have issued a quite precise process to run an event that is controlled to public social distancing and all those things to be able to restart competition at rally level.
“What I can say based on the huge work that the FIA has done for the restart of competition in racing, the huge work they have done for Formula One starting in July, we are working also on a guidance to restart competition at the rally level.”

So far this season, WRC events in Portugal, Kenya, Finland, New Zealand and Great Britain have already been abandoned, with Germany and Japan expected to announce further cancellations shortly. All this in addition to the already cancelled Rally Chile, which was binned late last year, with organisers citing civil unrest in the South American country as a reason for not running the rally.

With so many events having fallen by the wayside, there are now to plans to co-opt some European Rally Championship events – such as Rally Ypres and Rally Liepaja – into the WRC, in order to bolster the 2020 calendar and provide a suitable number of events to validate the season. “We consider that we could have a level number of events to make a title with the right level of value, in a quite specific year,” he says.
Matton concludes, “With the information we have today, we are confident to have four and five events between now and the end of the year and we consider that if we are able to run five events with the three events we ran at the start of the year, we would have had a [representative] level of competition.”

“Super Formula: Provisional Calendar Revealed” (*Updated*)

Juri Vips

The Japanese Super Formula Championship has revealed a reconfigured calendar for the 2020 season.

The rejigged schedule will see all seven rounds crammed into the final four months of the year.

Following many questions and numerous delays, a new provisional calendar for the 2020 Super Formula season has been released.

The provision schedule is as follows, although Super Formula have been keen to emphasise that this could still change at short notice:

Round 1: Motegi (August 30th)
Round 2: Okayama (September 27th)
Round 3: Sugo (October 18th)
Round 4: Autopolis (November 15th)
Round 5: Suzuka (December 5th)
Round 6: Suzuka (December 6th)
Round 7: Fuji (December 20th)

Although not confirmed as of yet, the series is looking to hold two days of testing just prior to the opener at Motegi, possibly over August 27th and 28th. In this instance, practice for Motegi may still run on Saturday (29th), with qualifying moving to raceday morning and a race of between 160-190km to be run that Sunday.

For the Suzuka pair, extensive practice may run on the Friday of the race weekend, with qualifying for both rounds being held on Saturday and Sunday morning’s, followed by races for rounds five and six later on those days.
The December 20th finale at Fuji Speedway will prove to be the latest Super Formula has ever completed a season.

The calendar is no doubt proved tricky to organise. While Super Formula may only contain seven race weekends, due to the high number of competitors who also compete in Super GT, it was necessary to balance calendars against each other to ensure neither championship clash.

There may still be changes to the driver line-up for Super Formula due to current quarantine restrictions in place in Japan that are not due to lifted for some time yet. As it stands, both reigning champion Nick Cassidy and Super Formula rookie Sacha Fenestraz are based in Tokyo and will not be required to quarantine.

However, both Jüri Vips and Tatiana Calderon are based in Estonia and Spain respectively and it is therefore unclear as to whether they will be allowed to compete – at this point, they may miss rounds of the championship, unless Japan softens its stance.
TheMotorsportArchive.com has reached out to Sergio Sette Camara and Charles Milesi, but has not had confirmation from either party as of yet.

Japan’s quarantine rules do contain quarantine exemptions for exceptional circumstances, but as yet, this does not include sporting exemptions.

*Update (June 18th, 2020)
B-Max by Motopark racer Charles Milesi confirmed today that while he tested at Fuji earlier in the year, he is not based in Japan and is currently based in France. According to the 19-year-old Milesi, he acknowledged that “For us the situation is not really clear for the moment, we don’t really know how the situation will be in August but the Japanese embassy told us that they will have more information about that end of June.”

“WRC: Rallying Needs to Act, Not React If It Wants to Survive – Adamo”

For Hyundai’s WRC team boss Andrea Adamo, the pandemic is yet another sign that a new way of thinking is needed if motorsport is to survive.

“If we don’t react now, or if we don’t act now, we will find a problem.”

Andrea Adamo is not a man known for pulling punches. The Italian has a reputation for not dispensing bullshit and getting straight to the point.

It is an approach that some find jarring, but for others, his approach is a breath of fresh air that has earned him a great deal of respect.

With drivers Thierry Neuville and Andreas Mikkelsen, alongside part-timers Sebastien Loeb and Dani Sordo, Adamo and his crew delivered Hyundai’s first WRC Manufacturer title, following several seasons of playing 2nd fiddle to Volkswagen, M-Sport Ford and Toyota.

However, as costs have grown under the WRC’s current Group R regulations, the 49-year-old Adamo is adamant that more need to be done to secure the future of teams and manufacturers. “I’m working with my colleagues and working internally to try to protect 2021, because 2020 is in danger, but I think 2021 is even more dangerous situation, because I cannot see how I can have the same budget I had this year,” says Adamo.

With rivals Toyota pushing hard with an-already stellar Yaris and M-Sport clipping at their heels in the Ford Fiesta, Adamo knows significant financial input will be necessary to ensure a fair and convincing title push.

Yet as manufacturers analyse budgets amidst the 2nd global financial meltdown in less than 15 years, Adamo is keen to press that only a budget geared for success will win out. “When we ask for the 2021 budget, if we don’t have a proper action to reduce costs, the risk is that maybe someone has no more money to compete. When you ask the board for the money, they ask ‘how much you need to win’, not ‘[how much do you need] to hang around.’ If they are not able to give me the money to win, they will simply tell me, ‘we won’t give you the money.”

It is no secret that while the current set of WRC cars are incredibly fast and impressive to watch, they are also the most expensive machines the category has ever produced. Reductions in costs are expected when the 2022 regulations come to pass; however, the Hyundai man is keen to press that the FIA and WRC Promoter need to be proactive in times of crises. “We have to act, because if we react to the problems, it will be too late,” warns Adamo. “The problem very clearly, which I already tried to explain to the FIA people and the promoter, is that this thing is not a momentary illness – this is a big problem that we will have in the future.”

While costs remain a worry for the future, Adamo is looking forward to the introduction of the new car in 2022. Although delivering a new car will no doubt bring higher initial costs, the reductions in running WRC machinery thereafter is thought to be encouraging. If not, the fallout could be significant for the WRC. “We have to be smart and make rules that will not oblige us to spend the huge amount of money to make these cars. If it is affordable, we will be there and if not, my bosses tell me what to do.”

There is no doubt that the latest Group R machines made many take another look at the WRC, yet despite this, Adamo thinks the current regulations has turned the top-level of rallying away from its true identity and he cites Malcolm Wilson’s M-Sport model as the way forward. “The direction that has been taken with very specific WRC car cannot last forever. It is not in the DNA of rallying and it is not in the DNA of the categories, it is not what is needed. The best example is with what Malcolm has done. He had a market for these cars that sold, so everyone could use them.”

Adamo continues, “If you want to do Formula One [as] rally, you will kill [rallying]. We have seen in the past there has been tried to have a Formula One [in rally] and it has never been a big success.
“Rallies are rallies. Full stop. The DNA is there. You cannot transform rally in Formula One; it will never work.”

Andrea Adamo. © Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

There is little doubt that the advent of Coronavirus has dealt a crushing blow to motorsport activity in 2020.

“OPINION: Bringing it All Back Home”

© Williams Racing

This may come as something of a surprise, but while motorsport’s return to action amidst the Coronavirus slowdown is welcome, the breath and silence the enforced break offered will be missed.

When the green went down at Texas Motor Speedway for the restart of the NTT IndyCar Series on Saturday night, it is certain that feelings of relief and delight were not only mine.

The anxiety of January and February, that fed to the fear, inactivity and insulation through the following months brought death and hardship not felt for generations. A vast majority of outdoor activities to a halt and has severely crippled countless industries and businesses.

From territory to territory, lockdowns followed – some more severe than others – as governments, oppositions, media, scientist, doctors, the ill, the ill-informed and the plagiarists argued their points endlessly.

And just as Formula One dithered and twiddled thumbs and fingers in Melbourne, the curtains of motorsport drew to a slow close and have only in recent weeks began to twitch back into life.

The quiet life has been just that. Avoiding the sim-racing boom for the most part, the past few months has allowed for time to restart work on the next World in Motorsport and also catch up other projects that had been put to one side. What it also did was reduce waste.
With less to report on, the reduction in utter garbage that passes for written content has been notable, as publications moved toward well researched an interviewed works, as opposed to the rambling, inarticulate and often pointless “news” posts that usually fill the void.
In this, the only blip has been the Vettel/Sainz/Ricciardo merry-go-round, but even that died out quickly. By the looks of how things tailed off, no one seems to give a shit who drives the 2nd Renault next year.

There is no doubt of my love of motorsport and in particular Formula One, but I have argued for quite some time the current calendar expansion could be dangerous and recent events have only reinforced that feeling.
Rather than an endless procession of non-descript Grand Prix – most of which could be held anywhere – a direction Formula One seems determined to undertake, one cannot help but believe the top level of our sport requires a selection of high-quality events, that make each race special and not just another Grand Prix.

The extended break offered not just a breath, but also the opportunity to enjoy my work in motorsport far more. Soon the pummelling will start again and I will love it, but also be exhausted by it.

© Indycar

“I Have a Passion for Racing – Barrichello”

© Full Time Spots / Carsten Horst

With 11 wins from 322 Grand Prix over 19 seasons, Rubens Barrichello is fondly remembered as one of the quickest and most highly respected drivers in the history of Formula One.

However, as 2020 stutters along amidst the seemingly endless Coronavirus pandemic, Barrichello – now a stock car racer in South America – is more than just a competitor; he is also a sporting father, as he tells World in Motorsport.

There is an ill-founded propensity for some motorsport followers to assume racing finishes outside the boundaries of Formula One; but even the world feels like it has stopped, on one Thursday morning in Brazil, Rubens Barrichello is a busy fellow.

Despite the long list of cancelled racing activities globally, Barrichello is still a popular interviewee. With slots booked either side of my time with Sao Paulo native, it is for a good reason, for Barrichello can talk easily and at length, without forsaking the listener’s attention, such is the wealth of his knowledge and experience in motorsport.

Having recently turned 48-years-of-age, Barrichello shows no signs of stopping and if anything, is expanding his racing commitments, with his stock car racing programme expanding to include campaigns in Brazil and Argentina.
In the meantime, Barrichello is experiencing one of the happiest periods of his life, especially since embracing the mantle of ‘Racing Dad’. “I had heard that people got into depression and [get] really ill, because all they had known was racing,” Barrichello observes. “I never had that, because although it did feel that I was racing a lot less, my kids were racing go-karts and I started to race back home in go-karts.” This all proved useful for the motorsport veteran, who had enjoyed a brief stint in IndyCar following his departure from Formula 1, before taking up a drive with the Chevrolet-powered Full Time Sports entry in Stock Car Brasil.

While his children Eduardo and Fernando raced, Barrichello joined them on occasion, eventually catching the karting bug. “I started to race shifters. In 2015, I went to Peru to have a chance to qualify for the world championship in Rotax and I qualified in the senior final in Portimão and finished 4th in the world championship.
“I had people calling me, like [Giancarlo] Fisichella and [Jenson] Button… people who were just amazed by that and that showed that I was still so competitive regarding racing and I truly have a passion for it.”

Through Eduardo’s karting and early forays of car racing, the elder Barrichello has been keen to offer some guidance to his son, but knows also that the time has come to begin to withdraw and allow Eduardo to make his own path, as Barrichello relates. “My problem is that I don’t want to be there the whole time, because I know I’m in the middle of a conversation with the engineer and I know that a click of rebound on the rear damper might do the job, but I need to leave him alone. Emotionally, I want to keep on doing, but I need to leave the kids alone.”
Of course, Barrichello’s advice has not always been merely technical. “Once, Eduardo came to me at the beginning of his career and he said, ‘Dad, the kid behind me, he’s giving me so many bumps before the start that it’s taking my attention away.’ I told him, ‘Look, you are in 6th position, so take the guy running in front of you and whenever [the guy behind] bumps you force 1, you give force 2 to the guy in front.’
“He said, ‘Dad, this is not right, the guy in front is nothing to do [with me]’ and [I told him] ‘Just do it.’ After the race, he came to me and said, ‘Dad, it worked – I had a great start, but why did it work?’ I said him, ‘You changed your focus. You were not worried anymore about the guy behind; you were worried about the guy in front.’”

Having recently moved to the US, Eduardo will be competing in his 2nd season of USF2000 this year and Barrichello’s feelings of excitement and anxiety are clear. “I am the worst, because I suffer, I suffer emotionally. I cry a lot, I know what’s going to happen – not that I know what’s going to happen, but I have a feeling for it.”
Eduardo was preparing to compete in the opening round of his campaign – only for the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic to see the event cancelled after first practice – at a time when Rubens was in Melbourne to take part in a Grand Prix-supporting Formula 5000 event. “I woke up at 2.45am in Australia to watch his times on the first practice and if I could have opened champagne, he was 1st in practice, I would have done that,” beamed a delighted Barrichello.

Whereas Eduardo has embraced motorsport through his teenage years, Barrichello’s youngest son, Fernando, declared to his father of his desire to play football instead. “When [Fernando] was 13, he came to me and said, ‘Dad, I love karting, but you know how much I love soccer – would you mind if I tried for some time to be a soccer player?’ I said, I don’t mind. I think it’s so courageous, because it’s a different thing.’
“The Barrichello family were all players, they were all soccer players,” he remembers. “It’s not difficult to believe that Fernando would try that and as long as you play sport, I am very, very happy, so I was super happy for him to try that. He raced with us in the 12 Hours here in Brazil and he was so competitive, but I want him to follow the love that is in his heart. I think that’s more important than anything else.”

The pair enjoy football practice at their home, allowing them to connect in a similar way that Barrichello had done with his own father many years beforehand. “I’m doing something that my Dad did with me without knowing,” says Barrichello. “What my Dad with me, for example, the first time when it rained, I had no money to buy wet tyres and he sent me out on slicks, and I became one of the good drivers in the wet maybe because of that.”
Although Barrichello acknowledges that he lacks knowledge or experience of football, the detailed methodology and philosophy that made him such an asset in Formula One still has a part to play. “I don’t have the knowledge of soccer and I don’t have the means to know what to do, but I told him the other day that we have to practice that kick; [the ball] needs to come lower. We developed a way, where he is kicking that ball so strongly and the ball is coming lower, so we test various things and because we are together, we can as two sportsmen we can do that.

“Today we went out and I said, ‘Do you want it tough or do you want it easy,’ and he said, ‘Tough.’ So, I said, ‘Let’s go, 20 seconds uphill, 40 seconds down and then we’ll see how many we can do,’ and he was done by the end of the time. That keeps me excited to keep on training, because he’s only 14,” says Barrichello, laughing in tandem.
“I’m inventing this, and it keeps us happy. You can ask: ‘Rubens, do you exercise as much as you did when you were in Formula One? No, but I’m 75% on it,’ so if I make up one day a week more or do some different stuff, I’m still so competitive.”

For now, neither of Barrichello’s 2020 stock car campaigns have begun, but given the circumstances globally, that is no surprise. From 141 starts, the Brazilian has taken 13 race wins and the Stock Car Brasil title in 2014; however, following seven years behind the wheel of a Chevrolet, Barrichello and his Full Time Sports squad this year opted for Toyota power.
“I had a lot of fun driving those cars. I adapted really fast, didn’t take me that long to win my first race, so therefore I had a lot of fun. It was no virtually pressure or at least a lot less pressure and I was able to keep on doing what I was [doing].”

Stock cars may not have the ultra-intensity of Formula One, but Barrichello is clearly having fun and is still the happy and competitive person that made him a fan favourite for so many years.


For the full version of this interview, as well as conversations with WRC’s Richard Millener, Andrea Adamo, Yves Matton and Colin Clark, come back for the next issue of World in Motorsport, to be published in July.

© Stock Car Brasil / Duda Bairros

“F1: It Was Clear for Me to Change My Life – Gerhard Berger”

Hockenheim II: DTM Hockenheim II 2018 on October, 12, 2018, (Photo by Hoch Zwei)
Pressekonferenz: Gerhard Berger, Vorsitzender ITR e.V.,

Gerhard Berger may be fondly remembered as one of the jokers of Formula One’s past, but with ten victories over the course of fourteen seasons, he is also one of the most highly respected drivers of the 1980s and 90s.

Now 60 and long retired as a Formula One driver, the Austrian tells World in Motorsport of his final year as a driver at motorsport’s top level.

“Y’know there was a funny thing,” Gerhard Berger says dryly. “There was Monza and I was staying in a hotel and I was in the top floor in the penthouse, and when it starts raining.”

Situated toward the rear of the DTM’s paddock motorhome with a few deft touches of the table-top, Berger motioned the changing conditions with the tips of his fingers. “You hear the [rain] tap, tap, tap, tap, because you wake up and over all the years I used to say, ‘Oh great, there’s rain, I have an extra chance and an extra risk.’

“Then suddenly I heard the tap, tap, tap, tap, and I said, ‘Oh shit, it’s raining tomorrow, it’s dangerous’, and I said to myself that it was a clear sign.”

Berger came into the 1997 Formula One season looking to improve on what had been a tough previous year. Having moved from Ferrari to Benetton at the end of 1995, neither Berger nor teammate Jean Alesi were able to come close to emulating the success enjoyed by the Italian team and their German pilot, Michael Schumacher.

From race winners and champions, Benetton were resigned to collecting occasional podia amidst a smattering of points finishes. Indeed, of the 16 Grand Prix held in 1996, Berger failed to finish in eight, including – most gallingly – that year’s German Grand Prix at the Hockenheimring, where the Austrian retired three laps from the end, having dominated the event. On the other side of the garage, Alesi fared little better.

Although rumours floated that he was in discussions with Williams and Sauber for 1998, Berger admitted to World in Motorsport that his decision to leave Formula One was made relatively early in 1997, revealing that, “It came from all sides at the same time and it was clear for me to change my life.”
Despite an early season podium at Interlagos, followed by the birth of daughter Heidi the next day, Berger’s season began to unravel after the Spanish Grand Prix in May. Surgery to tackle an inflamed sinus, followed by an aggravated infection and additional surgery, kept Berger out of his Benetton seat for three Grand Prix. During this period, Berger’s father Johann was tragically killed in private aeroplane accident in the mountain regions of Tirol.

Upon his return to Grand Prix competition at the German Grand Prix, Berger once again dominated at the Hockenheimring – this time taking pole, winning the race and apart from the pit stops, he led every lap. It proved a popular victory and is considered the finest of his ten race wins in Formula One. “All the stories are known. The thing with my father, the sickness, the difficult period I had with my team,” he remembers. “Still it worked out. And it wasn’t really a car where we had an advantage to the others and it became so clear – pole position, quickest lap, winning the race.
“My mind said prove again what you are capable of doing and it showed me how much the mind can actually [do]. It’s unbelievable, it proved it even to myself what the mind is able to move and to do.”

Time was moving on however, and at the end of the season, Berger officially announced his retirement from Formula One. “It felt very welcome in the paddock, because I felt people liked me, but at the same time, it was like, ‘What are you doing here? Your time is over.’”
Since retirement, he led BMW’s return to Formula One in the early-2000s, before becoming 50% owner in the early days of Toro Rosso (now Alpha Centauri).
For three years, he was also President of the FIA Single Seat Commission and later became chairman of the ITR – the promoter of the DTM. Although he may not be competing anymore, Berger continues to push and use some of the lessons from his racing in his business dealings.

“This mixture between discipline, killer instinct and competition – you can use it in different ways in business,” says Berger. “I find it is an extremely good advantage. Also, I have my logistics business and my business meetings, and, in the discussions, it is quite interesting, because what you don’t measure has no value. You have to measure numbers, how long you need for this and people are sometimes surprised.
“My life was always measured by a stopwatch and the watch wasn’t lying, the numbers weren’t lying, so forget all your feelings and all these things – get it measured and then get judged by your performance. This basic way of thinking helps you in a lot of ways.”

For the full version of this interview, as well as conversations with and Rubens Barrichello – Formula One’s most experienced driver – and WRC’s Richard Millener, Andrea Adama, Yves Matton and Colin Clark, come back for the next issue of World in Motorsport, to be published in July.

Klettwitz: DTM Lausitzring Test 2019, Klettwitz on April, 16, 2019, (Photo by Hoch Zwei)

“WRC: Safari Rally return pushed back to 2021”

© FIA

The retuning Safari Rally has been pushed back to 2021, it was confirmed today, as the Coronavirus pandemic claimed another victim.

Scheduled for mid-July, this was due to be the event’s first appearance on the WRC calendar since 2002, where the late-Colin McRae took his final win.

However, as countries were forced into lockdown and quarantine procedures in an effort to slow down the spread of the COVID-19 infection, the viability of the event came under question.

Following discussions between the WRC Promoter, FIA and the Government of Kenya, it was decided to postpone the return of the Safari Rally until 2021. “We greatly regret this decision but there was unfortunately no choice given the current global situation,” commented Oliver Ciesla, managing direct of WRC Promoter. “The championship has a duty of care to all stakeholders as well as the wider community and this remains our key focus.

“The return of Safari Rally Kenya was due to be one of the highlights of the WRC season and we extend our gratitude to President Uhuru Kenyatta, the Government of Kenya and the entire team at the WRC Safari Rally Project, headed by Phineas Kimathi, which has worked so hard.
“We look forward to Safari Rally Kenya in 2021.”

“WRC: ‘It’s almost at the point where we say ‘bin the season’’ – Colin Clark”

Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia of team Toyota during Rally Mexico. © Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool // AP

One of the WRC’s leading commentator’s, Colin Clark, believes that it may be time for the FIA to cancel the rest of the season in light of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking to World in Motorsport this week, Clark mused that, while there doesn’t appear to be a specified number of events required to complete a WRC season, he believes there may need to be at least four more events to validate the championship.

Beginning in January, the WRC was able to run three events before the spread of the deadly Coronavirus stopped the season in its tracks during Rally Mexico in mid-March.

According to Clark – a regular reporter for the online magazine DirtFish, following several years as stopline report for WRC Rally Radio and All Live – a number of events may potentially be viable, but quarantine measures could hamper event participation and preparation.

“Remember M-Sport are based in the UK, a lot of the media, an awful lot of the WRC infrastructure is based in the UK,” says Clark. “This quarantine period that [the government] are introducing into the UK – if we have to spend two weeks in quarantine every time we come back to the UK it makes the whole thing very, very difficult. Difficult to schedule and difficult to logistically manage.”

One of the most respected and knowledgeable voices in the Service Park, Clark thinks there are opportunities to run the likes of Rally Turkey and Rally Germany, but beyond that, the championship could struggle to pull events together. “I think they’ll struggle to get four more rounds before the end of the year. Very much doubt we’ll go to Italy; GB’s in a lot of doubt; we pretty much know we’re not going to Kenya; Argentina I’m certain won’t be rescheduled and Japan also has to be in a bit of doubt, so I think we’ll struggle to get four rounds by the end of the year.”

So critical are the circumstances, Clark admits that it may be time for the FIA to cancel the rest of this season’s WRC competition, particularly as advice from various governments remains fluid and open to change and differing interpretations. “It’s almost at the point where we say, ‘bin it, bin the season.’
“We need to plan; we need to sit down and talk. We should use the time to address what it is going to be for manufacturers, for privateers, for media, for everyone – it’s going to be a challenging three or four or five years. Rather than constantly firefighting […] because things are changing, or working through potential scenarios, then it changes the following week, just bin the whole thing and let’s plan for a very difficult period to come.”

Beyond the current campaign, Clark also believes the economic aftereffects of the pandemic could also frustrate plans to introduce the new Rally 1 technical regulations. The new rules – planned to begin in 2022 – would see the introduction of a common hybrid drivetrains, as well as a standardised safety structure and a number of common parts.
However, with the collapse of car sales due to the pandemic, Clark believes that a rethink may be required. “We can’t go ahead with plans that were formulated before this virus and this crisis. I think any plans that were formulated, that were discussed, that were decided upon before the virus need to be reworked and looked at again, in particular, the 2022 regulations need to be considered again.
“Now is the time to do that. Now there’s plenty of time for people to virtually sit around the table and discuss, work out and address what are going to be enormously challenging times.”

For the full version of this interview, as well as conversations with Richard Millener of M-Sport and Rubens Barrichello – Formula One’s most experienced driver – come back for the next issue of World in Motorsport, to be published in July.

“F1: Williams recruit Simon Roberts from McLaren”

Simon Roberts will join Williams Racing from June 1st as Managing Director of their F1 programme.

Welcoming Simon Roberts to the team, Deputy Team Principal Claire Williams said, “Simon will bring enormous experience and knowledge to the Williams team, and we are delighted that he is joining us when we head back to work after this long enforced F1 shutdown.”

Previously the Chief Operations Officer of McLaren’s F1 programme, Roberts will takes responsibility for the team’s technical, operational and planning functions, reporting to CEO Mike O’Driscoll.
Roberts also enjoyed experience with Force India (now Racing Point F1 Team) as Chief Operations Officer, as well as a additional stint with McLaren as Operations and General Manager, which he joined in 2003 from Alstom Group.

Williams added, “[Roberts] will lead a highly talented team that’s looking forward to designing & developing the next generation of Williams F1 cars.” Roberts has also previously had broader engineering positions in the car industry, having previously had roles with BMW/Rover & Perkins Engineering.

“The Folly of Licence Points Systems”

Raghunathan struggled throughout his F2 tenure. © Formula Motorsport / LAT

Discussions regarding the application of a drivers’ points system were raised in Formula 2 following Mahaveer Raghunathan’s lack of performance, speed and ability.

But is this the correct way to proceed and does this imply a reaction, rather than a clear solution?

‘At what point does a driver’s lack of ability potentially harm the hard-fought reputation of a championship?’

This is a question that gets raised every-so-often. Generally, it is uttered when a driver proves to be so slow or so completely out of their depth, that they hinder not only their own progress, but also that of other competitors.

In years previous, one could easily look to the likes of Sergio Canamasas or Carmen Jorda for drivers promoted well beyond their capabilities. Last season, Mahaveer Raghunathan joined that list.

Raghunathan was regularly the slowest driver in the field, often some 1.5-2s adrift of the next slowest driver in qualifying. During practice and qualifying sessions, he garnered a reputation for blocking and in races, his pace was such he would either be lapped or come close to being lapped.
In reality, the likes of Raghunathan are blips. Rarely do they reach the heights of Formula 2 and for the most part are rarely so slow as to get lapped during what are relatively brief races with identical cars.

Yet, there are those who point to introducing an entry criterion based on earned licence points – similar to Formula One’s Super Licence – for drivers wishing to race in Formula 2.
While this will undoubtedly cut out drivers that are clearly unqualified for such a level and may also tighten up the overall competitiveness of a given field, as lower quality fluff is replaced with apparently able talent, it may prove too hasty a step and too harsh a barrier. Encouraging top talent and increasing competition are laudable, but there may be too many cons for it to truly be a success.

The narrowing of the driver pool could conceivably create a swath of long-termers in the series – drivers that end up as perennial competitors in the 2nd tier: unable to push forward or unwilling to move aside.
Financial pressures could also be an unintended consequence of this points system. In an already daftly expensive category – cars at Formula 2 level require huge investment to be run to their full potential – several teams have experienced some severe financial difficulty. These pressures often manifest themselves as mid-season driver changes, when larger income – real or promised – becomes more attractive than the numbers already offered by existing racers.

“See also: Costing a Season of European Formula 3”

The business model below Formula One is utterly different and one needs to examine the structure from another angle. If one looked at this process as drivers hiring teams to deliver a raceable product, then you are getting closer to the mark – at its most basic level, that is what happens.
Back in 2016, I asked Stephanie Tindall – Commercial and PR Manager with Carlin Motorsport – about the relationship between drivers and teams at a junior formula level and how it differs from that of leading championships, such as Formula One.
‘Our business model is that drivers come to us and pay us money for us to race them. You might had presumed that we pay our drivers to try for us, but it is the completely the other way around. We are providing a product and […] we have to make sure that we are providing the best product for our drivers; they are selecting us; we are not selecting them.
‘That budget may come from various different places; it may come from big sponsors, it may come from a collection of smaller sponsors, in some instances it even comes from family funds. An example of a big sponsor and most prominently placed is Red Bull.
‘We are in six championships and have 18 cars in total that are racing. We also have test teams as well for younger drivers. If we are not winning and we’re not getting podiums and we are not able to show drivers how they can improve in the car with the services that we can provide, they are not going to come to us.’

By artificially restricting the number of drivers available, one also risks restricting the budget available for teams to operate and that could ultimately cripple squads and the series as a whole if left unchecked.

Should there be stricter parametres applied to driver quality at Formula 2 (and maybe Formula 3) level? Absolutely, but perhaps that is a decision that should left to the series stewards, flanked by experienced top-level drivers.
New drivers wishing to compete at the Indianapolis 500 must complete a rookie orientation day at the oval before they are allowed to enter practice sessions. In this, drivers record several laps at set average speeds in order to demonstrate consistency, ability and safety.

This can only happen if testing is opened up to allow it to happen. Drivers still need to learn somewhere, somehow and ultimately the testing restrictions are harming those who need more time to develop.

This would be a far more equitable solution than the needless introduction of a driver points system.
In the meantime, Raghunathan will not be returning to Formula 2 for 2020.

“Super Formula: No real racing for Real Racing in 2020”

© Super Formula

Super Formula stalwarts Real Racing have withdrawn from the 2020 season, following a tumultuous campaign last time out.

Established by former racer Katsutomo Kaneishi in 2003, Real Racing entered Super Formula’s predecessor – Formula Nippon – in 2011 and have been a near constant presence in the following years, mainly with Koudai Tsukakoshi behind the wheel.

In a season where funding was rumoured to be tight, Real Racing opened the season with the inexperienced Tristan Charpentier driving for one race, before he was ejected in favour for Tsukakoshi.
The veteran Tsukakoshi did not score until the final race of the season, when he registered two points with a 7th place finish at Suzuka.

Real Racing’s departure means the field will retract to twenty entries. The team hope to return in 2021.

“Waiting for the Rain Dance”

Conditions at the DTM finale at Hockenheimring we’re hardly the most representative of early October in the region.

Previous visits to the season ending event tended to be on the dryer side in recent years, flicking between late Autumn wind and warmth to early Winter grey and cool.

For the regulars, the wet weather was an annoyance – the bulk of the titles having been decided at the penultimate round at the Nürburgring – but it proved desperately unfortunate for the three GT500 interlopers from Japan’s Super GT Series.

One of the three, Lexus racer Nick Cassidy, was highest placed on the grid for Sunday’s race, saying beforehand that he was just going to try to have some fun.
He would only last half-a-lap when he spun and crashed in an ill-fated move for position, but given the dreadful conditions, it’s a surprise more didn’t fall off.

It was a disappointing ending to the weekend, particularly as the inaugural ‘Dream Race’ – a non-championship joint event between DTM and GT500 – is only a short time away.
If anything, the GT500 racers were hoping for some dry running to establish a better baseline for the race in Japan.
There was little chance of this, as detailed by the showers that continued through the day and the water in my shoes…

“F1: Bad Strategies Found Fumbling in the Dark”

Sunday morning’s Japanese Grand Prix opened the door to another series of “what ifs” in what has been a topsy-turvy second half to the 2019 season.

The only guarantee was that Mercedes is still very much the dominant force at the top-level of motorsport.

What if Sebastian Vettel had not botched the start, thereby not gifting the lead to Valtteri Bottas?
What if Charles Leclerc had been a little bit more circumspect on the first lap and not clattered into the side of Max Verstappen?
What if Bottas season had not gone to sleep following a brilliant opening to the year?
What if the chequered flag had not been waved a lap early..?
What if Lewis Hamilton had not had his own poor start, dropping him out of the fight for the win by the first corner?

The final entry brings a number of follow-on questions, but one thing is for certain: Hamilton’s easy run to the championship has dissipated somewhat since the season break.

That’s not to say that his charge to a sixth title is under threat – it really isn’t – but rather, this is a deal that, under previous circumstances, would probably been done and dusted had:
Leclerc and Ferrari not come good;
Vettel had not woken from his competitive coma;
Bottas experienced a spike of form in Suzuka.
To be completely fair, Hamilton did win out in Russian a week ago, but again, there was a touch of good fortune there too, when a mechanical issue for Vettel and an ill-time virtual safety car not nobbled Leclerc.

Sometimes though, races are won in just that manner. Hamilton has lost races in similar situations too.

Mercedes have played an odd game of late. Their strategic plays have indicated a lack of decisiveness, particularly when one driver or the other has their race hamstrung as a result.
Indeed, Hamilton was leading with ten laps to go, when Mercedes brought the Briton into the pits for a fresh set of tyres. Although his pace at that point had yet to drop off, it is believed it may have done so, but it is unlikely that leaving Hamilton out on the medium-shod Pirelli’s would have affected the result too much.

Having stopped six laps earlier, Bottas was closing once he has deposed of lapped traffic and was always likely to take the lead away from Hamilton, while Vettel was some 18s adrift. Had Mercedes left Hamilton out on the now aging mediums, it is unclear whether or not Vettel would have caught him, but it is possible.
Alas, Mercedes brought Hamilton in and gave him a set of used softs – the gap was 4.3s once he re-joined and although he quickly drew to the rear of Vettel, Hamilton could do nothing to pass the Ferrari.

But in the meantime, the pair made it quite thrilling. With the gap mere tenths each time by, Vettel used better corner exit and quicker acceleration to great effect, while Hamilton’s prowess came in ultimate top speed and a more defiant braking and corner entry combination.
The gap across the line was just 0.5s, in Vettel’s favour. Hamilton taking the bonus point for the fastest lap eight tours from the end sealed the Constructor’s title for the German marquee, but that could have also been achieved by electing to leave Hamilton on track to finish 2nd (had his tyres held up).

Giving up 2nd place in order to go for the fastest lap bonus does seem en vogue at the moment. Indeed, the situation between Vettel and Hamilton was not too dissimilar to Sochi a week before, when Ferrari pitted Leclerc from what seemed like an assured 2nd place to push for the fastest lap.
In theory, Leclerc would not only set the fastest lap, but also have enough spare to retake the runner-up spot from Bottas. Neither happened – on that occasion, Hamilton had enough in spare to set the fastest lap himself, while Leclerc could not break past Bottas.
Three points dropped to obtain none…

But where Leclerc’s run to a certain victory in Sochi had initially been humbled by an ill-timed virtual safety car, Hamilton’s race was compromised by a sluggish getaway, followed a tentative defence against both McLaren’s of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz through the first few turns.
The former was dispatched easily enough – hung out to dry around the outside of turns one and two, Norris quickly fell from view. Sainz, however, took a little more force and compliance, with the Spaniard giving way into the first part of the ‘S’ curves, knowing full way that if two went in, two would not be coming out.

Hamilton was fortunate in this instance. Despite errors off the line by both Ferrari’s, Hamilton’s own start came close to leaving him mired in the pack. While the Mercedes man defended and attacked the McLaren’s, Verstappen also got by and was about to take 3rd when Leclerc struck the Red Bull Racing Honda in the middle of turn two, taking out the Dutch driver and leaving his Ferrari with a damaged front wing, that would eventually see him pit on lap four.
In only a few moments, the goodwill that Leclerc had built in the past few months took a hit and while he is still learning, these rough edges need to be smoothed out if he is to eventually become a World Champion. Meanwhile, for Hamilton, in a situation where he could easily have dropped to 7th, the soon-to-be six-time champion emerged in 3rd place. Sometimes that’s just how championships are won.

Though the myriad of strategies weaved, unfolded and intersected, for the most part, the leading trio consisted of Bottas leading; Vettel a distant 2nd and Hamilton a distant 3rd.
Mercedes could have altered that by leaving Hamilton out on track, but he had already been complaining about the mediums early in the stint. Sometimes, it is best to placate, but one could almost feel Peter Bonnington’s frustration on the pitwall – even watching from afar, one just wanted Hamilton to put his head down and drive.

Truth be told, this was Bottas’ race. Lining up on the second row was far from ideal, but his pace through the Grand Prix was exceptional and while Hamilton believes he had the pace to win, the evidence suggests otherwise.
In saying that, Hamilton was leading and pitting him on lap 43 removed the equation of having to make Bottas pass him on track. There is little doubt that Bottas probably feels he was “owed” this win, particularly considering how Mercedes hobbled his race in Singapore to ensure Hamilton was ahead at the flag – a strategy that backfired and dropped the Mercedes’ pairing behind both Ferrari’s and Verstappen.

Winning at Suzuka would certain have given Bottas a smile, but while technically the championship is still open and Bottas is the only driver who could potentially catch Hamilton, it is desperately unlikely that it will happen, for Hamilton is 64 points ahead with only 104 left available.

Mercedes are keen to avoid a repeat of 2016, when tensions between Hamilton and the now retired Nico Rosberg came to a head and as such, the manner in which their strategies play out come across as quite odd – almost as if they are attempting to distance their two drivers, whenever Bottas happens to be on song.
Thankfully for Mercedes and Hamilton, that has not happened enough this year and Bottas’ brilliant form in the opening six races faded quickly, allowing Hamilton to dominate.

Now with both Ferrari and Red Bull interloping amongst the leading positions, Mercedes need to start working hard on their strategic references. With only occasional challenges in recent seasons, it is the one area where Mercedes are still very rusty.

Oh, and the race being classified a lap early due to a malfunction on the flag stand. Now, that’s just weird.

“A Confession, of Sorts. A Reprisal, for Certain”

Five weeks ago, I became quite unemployed from my full-time job.

Thankfully, the redundancy was more than ample, and it cured a number of problems and also helped in other areas.

For the period, my goal was to write. Research and write. Research and write. Exercise, lose a little weight and reset my health somewhat.

Until a new job came to pass, my time was to be spent concentrating on that.

Initially, the aim was to find a job that would tie things over until early next year, but by the second week away from my old office, I found that it wasn’t missed at all. My stress levels had decreased significantly, my sleep was much better as I was no longer waking up in the middle of the night in a blind terror and I was no longer having internal panic attacks.

Why on Earth would I put myself through that again?

Upon finishing secondary school in Ireland (many, many years ago), I became heavily involved with music and art, while also putting words to paper. I remember being told many times, by many people that I “should study something sensible to fall back on, just in case things don’t work out.”

The people who passed on such advice may have meant well, but many years on, I wish I had the strength to tell all of those people to get f**ked. From there, I studied chemistry and physics, but it really wasn’t my forte at all and dropped out long before the end.

Eventually, I completed a business course that probably didn’t challenge in the way that it should have and quickly found employment, whereby each day ticked by and with it, so did the years. Alas, the dutiful thing was done and for a long, long time, emptiness followed and swam beneath me.

With the passing of time, I became one of those people who would chat quickly with colleagues in the kitchen as we took both time and tea and professed with a forced smile that “it’s nearly Friday, here comes the weekend…”

It rankled. Why would I wish my life away in such a manner, disregarding five-sevenths of the week? It all seemed so absurd, defeatist and sad.

But truth be told, as long as I was not being challenged, I was quite happy to toe the line and be content to keep people happy and not to rock the boat. Not rock the boat. Just go about your business, do you what you need to do, and everything will fall into place. Or so someone, somewhere says.

While I never quite believed that deep down and never quite believed that I would fall or had fallen into that pattern, life’s dull reality had swallowed me up entirely.

From 2011, my weekends had become somewhat different. Leading up to that time, I was doing a few things on the first version of this website, which – at that time – was more of a fansite for Formula One and other single-seater categories.

Back then, my home was this horrid little houseshare in the East End of London – one of those converted flats, that started out as medium sized three-bed, but ended up getting converted into a five-bedroom property, but with no living space. At its worst, there were six complete strangers living in this place, that was little more than a bed for filth.

The bedroom was about ten feet long and five feet across and the bed itself left just enough spare room for a shelf, a wardrobe and a door that didn’t quite open fully. In addition to this, the window frame was broken, so if you wanted to open it on a hot day, you had to jar it open with a wooden plank.

Digressing slightly, but when living at that place, the one constant was a Zimbabwean chap called “Bruce”. Now I never ever knew Bruce’s surname, nor am I sure if Bruce was even his first name, for the chap never received any mail and he always refused to tell us anything about his past.

He had passed himself off as a cowboy builder and one evening, the pipe under the kitchen sink broke after years of neglect. Suffice to say, his solution of trying to patch it up with sodden toilet roll and chewing gum was not entirely successful.

Anyway… after a period of posting small interviews with drivers from F3, one evening, I received an e-mail out of the blue from the British F3 office encouraging me to apply for media accreditation.

Why not..?

And thus, in March 2011, I was on my way to Monza, with no real clue or concept. The learning curve, as always, in that first year was very steep, but apart from getting lost and stranded in Milan on that trip, things went well.

Each race weekend, whether it Formula One, WEC, DTM, Blancpain, Formula 3 became a release – an opportunity to not just relax professionally and apply my skills, but also to release the haggard nerves of the working week. That work was coming my way just made that feeling better.

Sitting in the commentary box was the icing on the cake and one that I thoroughly enjoy. But it wasn’t just about covering motorsport; this was about making the most of myself, whatever the subject.

Mistakes have also been made, little missteps that one can regret, but also learn from – that’s life. If you don’t go over the line sometimes, then you may never know where you truly are.

These chances don’t come easily or without merit. For all those who want to take the easy steps, who want others to “study something sensible to fall back on, in case it doesn’t work out,” be the one who says “actually no, I’m going to do it my way.”

And that is something you will never regret.

“DTM: Rast wins first Class One ‘joint race’”

Rene Rast made the most of his fast Audi RS5 and the mild conditions at Hockenheim to take his 17th DTM race win.

BMW’s Marco took 2nd place in his M4, while Mike Rockenfeller continued his strong second half of the season to secure the final podium spot for Audi.

From pole position, Rast built a lead of 1.6s in the opening three laps from the quick starting Rockenfeller, before the latter drew back toward Rast and leading a brief challenge to the recently crowned champion.

Rockenfeller’s charge was short-lived and once in his comfort zone, Rast gapped the former champion, building to 2.3s while Rockenfeller fought against a feisty Wittmann. Ultimately it proved fruitless, as the BMW racer forced his way past Rockenfeller into 2nd place at Mercedes corner on the 12th lap and immediately began a charge on the race leader.

Although Wittmann closed in on Rast, the gap between the pair was slow to close, as the leading Audi measured his pace as his Hankook tyres began to age. On a cool and gripless circuit, the leading group began to lose approximately 1.5s per lap compared to the early stoppers.

Searching for an undercut, Wittmann stopped for fresh Hankook’s on lap 18, with Rast doing the same one tour later. “The first stint was OK,” said Wittmann later. “I did fall back to third place, but I managed to work my way back and closed the gap to René Rast just before the pit stop.” The BMW racer’s push was halted when the safety car was called to recover Philipp Eng’s stricken Team RMR machine.

With the field static for just over three laps, Rast led Wittmann and Rockenfeller once more; however, the restart allowed Wittmann a precious opportunity to press for the front once more.
Immediately Rast set the fastest lap of the race, only for Wittmann to go three tenths quick the next lap around and then push his way into the lead on lap 24. Undimmed by losing the top spot, Rast instantly fought back against Wittmann and retook the lead on lap 26 and this time Wittmann had no answer.

His challenge broken, Wittmann dropped over two seconds behind Rast, with the gap holding until the conclusion on lap 38. “That was an outstanding race,” said a jubilant Rast. “In the race, [Wittmann] came very close to me at times. We had a nice battle for some laps but in the end, I was clearly faster and won the race!”

Rockenfeller fell away from the leading pair in the second half of the race, spending much of his time fending off Audi stablemate Nico Müller; however, that fight was called off when Müller was forced to make his mandatory stop five laps from the end. For Rockenfeller, 3rd represented another good result in what has been positive run since Norisring, which leaves him 4th in the points standings.

Robin Frijns enjoyed a quiet run to 4th. The Audi racer was in something of a no man’s land toward the end of the race and was several seconds ahead of 5th place Loïc Duval, making it four Audi’s in the top five.
Duval had enjoyed an on-off battle with Timo Glock through much of the race, as they mixed it with WRT Audi driver Jonathan Aberdein in the early running. Aberdein, however, was removed from contention when he was punted into a spin by teammate Pietro Fittipaldi on lap 21, leaving Aberdein to run around near the back of the pack.

Thereafter Duval battled and swapped positions with Jake Dennis (R-Motorsport) and also passed Glock five tours from the end, eventually closing out the top five. Glock stayed with Duval for a short time, but dropped back as he fought with Paul di Resta (R-Motorsport) and Bruno Spengler (BMW) staying ahead of both to solidify 6th, 7th and 8th positions.

Jenson Button was the highest of the GT500 finishers, with the Honda NSX taking 9th. Starting 6th, Button dropped three places at the start, but lost further ground when he suffered a slow pitstop on lap 18. Emerging from the stops in 15th place, Button had a good restart following the safety car and would eventually take Jamie Green (Audi), Sheldon van der Linde (BMW), and Dennis to come home 9th.
Joel Eriksson enjoyed a quiet day to round out the top ten for BMW, but with Button not scoring points, Dennis took 11th place and the final point, just edging Green by half-a-second across the line.

Ryo Hirakawa stopped twice and ended the day 13th for the KeePer TOM’s Lexus team, while Aberdein could only recover to 14th. Fittipalsi received a drive through penalty for hitting his teammate, which left him a dejected 15th, while van der Linde finished 16th after he received a drive through penalty for forcing Button off the track.
Müller was classified 17th. The one-time championship challenger was adjudged to have taken his stop under the safety car, forcing to take his mandatory tyre change again toward the end of the race.

Tsugio Matsuda missed the first half of the race when his propshaft broke on the warm-up lap. He emerged in the second half of the race to secure some much needed track time, while both Dani Juncadella (R-Motorsport) and Eng stopped with undiagnosed mechanical issues.

“Belated Thoughts on the W Series”

Jamie Chadwick took teh first W Series title. © W Series.

Last year’s launch of the W Series was dominated by plenty of criticism, plaudits and discussion – but with the first season completed, did the concept stand up?

“So, what did you make of it all?”

There’s nothing quite like being put on that spot, particularly when it comes from one of the leading behind-the-scenes members of the W Series. For my sins, honesty prevailed and my thoughts from the penultimate day of the season finale – seven weeks ago – to now have not changed.

In one sense, I believed that the W Series had raised the profile of female competitors in motorsport, while at the same time confirming what we already knew – that those at the head of the field were the quickest and seemingly the best prepared for the task going into the opening round in May.

The only big surprise, to me at least, was that Jamie Chadwick went on to claim the first W Series title with a somewhat wobbly display at the Kent circuit the next day. Following her displays at the opening two rounds at Hockenheim and Zolder, I had fully expected Chadwick to have the title wrapped come the penultimate meeting at Assen. Thankfully a persistent Beitske Visser kept Chadwick honest and on her toes.

There were three distinct sides to the field. As noted, out front there were the known racers such as Chadwick and Visser, while Alice Powell and Emma Kimiläinen showed their speed had not reduced, despite the long gaps to their previous single-seater experience.
The biggest surprise was Marta Garcia’s turn of pace, following a couple of solid, but not spectacular years in Spanish F4 in 2016-17. She would go on to take a win a Norisring and showed speed at both Hockenheim and Zolder, before fading later in the season.

Sometimes the challenge for any new championship is not to invite fast drivers to fight for wins, podiums and points – the real fight is to ensure that quality toward the rear of the field stacks up and this is one point where W Series fell down somewhat.
Some drivers from the mid-pack onward appeared to be really quite out of their depth, with some struggling with shaky on-track methodology, resulting in a gap from the rear to the front being far too great, particularly during race sessions.

In saying that, the series’ reverse-grid race at Assen did show that the likes of Megan Gilkes can peddle a car pretty quickly when the circumstances align – her late race defence from Powell, Jessica Hawkins and Sabré Cook proving that there may be something that can built upon, as long as the opportunity to develop is there.

And this may be the greatest barrier to development for those who are struggling. Part of the problem facing the W Series drivers is the severe lack of track time they have over the course of a race meeting. Testing is virtually non-existent and, this year at least, drivers are limited to two 45-minute practice sessions, one 30-minute qualifying session and a race distance that comes in at 30 minutes plus one lap.
As there are only six race meetings (for now), on track running for W Series over the course of a year is severely limited, and this may go some way to slowing the development and preparation for drivers who are close to the back, especially if they do not have easy or ready access to simulators.

On the other hand, the series does run to F3 Regional technical regulations, from which W Series has opted to run with an Alfa Romeo-powered Tatuus T-318; the same engine / car configuration that runs in F3 Asian Championship and the Formula Regional Championship {note 1}.
Any driver that opted to run a parallel campaign in either of those categories would no doubt receive a great advantage against their opponents. Next year, competitors in the W Series can claim Super Licence points and it is a dynamic that will add pressure to the level of competition {note 2}.

Whisper Productions employed plenty of talent for W Series. © W Series.

The one major positive about the W Series was that it did appear to attract plenty of girls and young women to paddocks in a far greater number than I had previously noticed before at a race meeting. There is little doubt that much of this attention came to pass through a big push by the communications team, while the controversy generated by the very existence of a female-only championship certainly didn’t hurt.
Following that up with terrestrial television deal (broadcast by Channel 4 in the UK at least) was the icing on the cake, although it did help that Whisper Productions – the company responsible for producing W Series content for television is itself part-owned by UK terrestrial TV company Channel 4.

Young women in karting do tend to fall off the motorsport radar in and around the time one would jump from karts to cars, but if it helps to promote or strengthen links between these segments of the ladder and raise awareness for sponsors, then that can only be a good thing.
However, there are still quite a few ifs and buts there and indeed quite a few questions regarding the business model of W Series. As it stands, there appears to be a large amount of money going out and – as far as I’m aware – not a whole lot coming in. Yet.

New cars, TV deals, no particular stand-out sponsors, support slots on the DTM, technical back-up from Hitech GP, drivers not paying for their seats and indeed being afforded prize money – this is a not insignificant amount of money.

While there was plenty of curiosity surrounding W Series at the European rounds, it was clear that many of those visiting Brands Hatch for the finale were there to see W Series, almost relegating DTM to a support role.

As related to the aforementioned series’ member, if it inspires girls and young women to make the jump into karts and eventually car racing, then it can be considered a positive result.
On the other hand, it is still both remarkable and sad that the creation of a female-only series may be considered the strongest way to draw females into motorsport. That really doesn’t say much for the rest of the sport.
I still don’t think it is the best answer to increasing inclusiveness for young women in motorsport. Individual championships, rule makers and sponsors also need to examine the invisible barriers they have introduced over the years, through selective business dealings and an in-bred catch-22 scenario that begins and ends with “no women competing in cars, leading to no female winners; therefore women cannot compete and win”. Frankly, that’s all bollocks.

For me, I’m still on the fence. I’m sceptical, but also curious to what happens next and how it grows.

{note 1}
On a visit to the BTCC paddock recently, it was relayed to me by members of the F4 support paddock – who also operate in the Formula Regional European Championship – that Formula Regional may not survive the winter. Either the cars will be sold and refitted with Renault engines, so as to be run in Formula Renault Eurocup. It was also said that some teams may opt to try to enter the EuroFormula Open championship, but that would be a significant investment, as it would require a new engine / car package.

{note 2}
As a reminder, a driver can claim Super Licence points from two championships that finish in a calendar year; however, there must be no overlap. This mean that if a driver competes in two championships during the year, only one of them will count toward Super Licence points.
It is believed that this may boost the popularity of the two main winter series that are currently in existence – the F3 Asian Championship (runs from Dec 2019-Feb 2020) and New Zealand’s Toyota Racing Series (runs from Jan-Feb 2020).

© W Series.

“F1 Russian GP: Joy and relief for Hamilton; Terse and Tense at Ferrari”

Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas may have rounded off a Mercedes 1-2 at Sochi yesterday to record the German marquee’s sixth win at the Russian Grand Prix, but it was a race that could so easily have belonged to Ferrari {note 1}.

There was a mixture of joy and relief in Parc Fermé and again on the podium following the conclusion of the eighth Russian Grand Prix.

Joy from Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes in taking their first win since Hungary in July and also that Hamilton’s Finnish teammate Valtteri Bottas came home 2nd.

But there was also relief that nearest rivals Ferrari stumbled to take 3rd place with Charles Leclerc, when the Scuderia looked like wrapping their own 1-2 at the halfway mark, albeit with Sebastien Vettel leading the way. How quickly things turn…

Really though, this should have been Ferrari’s race and the fumbling between the polesitting Leclerc, Vettel and the Ferrari pitwall in the early stages of the Grand Prix was indicative of the difficulties the Scuderia are facing.
Admittedly on one hand, it is a good problem to hand, but on the other hand, squabbling teammates and a tentative team management tiptoeing around pinched egos rarely makes for a positive outcome.

Unless, of course, one possesses a significant car advantage – see McLaren in 1988, Red Bull in 2013 and Mercedes in 2016 – and in this instance, Ferrari do not.

Leclerc had noted prior to the start that pole position was necessarily an advantage at Sochi, due to the long drag around the non-event of turn one and into the hard-braking turn two and so it proved in practice.
From the front row, Leclerc had a reasonable start, while Hamilton was sluggish away on his mediums – Vettel, meanwhile, from 3rd on the grid got away well on his soft Pirelli tyres, drafted Leclerc briefly and slotted into the lead, a lead he held until he stopped on lap 26.

A brief safety car following a crash between Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo), Romain Grosjean (Haas) and Daniel Ricciardo (Ricciardo) kept things steady for three tours, but from there, the leading three held their position for that opening stint.
Yet, the gaps spread ever so slightly, as the race aged, while in the 2nd place Ferrari, Leclerc began to boil. Having gained on Leclerc from the line, Vettel was instructed by the Ferrari pitwall to allow Leclerc through. On several occasions, Vettel received the order and, on several occasions, the pitwall informed Leclerc that the swap was coming soon; however, the German insisting he be allowed more time to build a gap to Ferrari’s challengers.

While it was easy to see where Vettel was coming from, it was also clear that he was playing a small game in an attempt to rebalance the roles at Ferrari. Winning last week in Singapore helped – another win would even perception further. Responding on the radio, Leclerc told the pitwall that he respected their decision, but one could hear terse teeth been gritted through the radio static.
Eventually the Ferrari pitwall acquiesced, choosing instead to leave Vettel out for an additional four laps after Leclerc’s stop, giving the Monegasque racer enough of a run on new tyres to jump Vettel.

In theory that should have been it. Having not yet stopped, the Mercedes – with Hamilton ahead of Bottas – led, while the freshly tyred Ferrari ran 3rd and 4th knowing this race was there for the taking.

And then on lap 29, a shudder, a drop of noise and the unwinding and spooling of an MGUK and a hamstrung Vettel parked up by on of Sochi’s many non-descript run-off areas – Virtual Safety Car and a change that played right into Mercedes’ hands. The pace slowed significantly, allowing Hamilton to pit and emerge ahead of Leclerc, with Bottas exiting the pits just behind the Monegasque racer.

But it didn’t stop there. Two laps later, a failure at the front of George Russell’s car sent the young Briton careering into the barriers, forcing the stewards to bring out the full safety car.

So now what? There were two options – a) Ferrari could leave Leclerc in 2nd place in an effort to chase the lead on slightly used medium tyres, or b) bring him in again and change him onto softs, knowing that he would lose a position to Bottas.
It was a risk, but Ferrari chose the second option and brought Leclerc into the pits on lap 31, with the race restarting two laps later, but despite all his momentum, his confidence, his pace, Leclerc was stuck.

Sochi is not the easiest place to pass, even with the ultra-long straight from the final corner to the second turn, the various energy-recovered power boosts and DRS sections available. Indeed, it is one of the reasons Leclerc fell adrift of Vettel in the opening stint – he simply could not get close enough to the car in front – and now he couldn’t get close enough to Bottas.

Once again, strategy and circumstance failed the red team, but this was no complete giveaway – Hamilton raced hard and laid down some very critical fast laps when it was needed. As the final stages of the race unravelled, the five-time champion drew away from Bottas without taking too much from his Pirelli’s and still had enough to set the fastest lap two tours from the end, bagging the extra point as a result. Job done.

Indeed, probably the only moment in the race when Hamilton appeared troubled was the run down from the start of the race toward turn two. His getaway stuttered, allowing not only Vettel through, but also – briefly – Carlos Sainz, although that did not last, as the Mercedes power unit outblasted McLaren’s customer Renault unit.
Bottas, meanwhile, dropped to 5th at the start and eventually took Sainz on lap seven, but by then, Hamilton was already six seconds up the road. Job done – again.

The gap between the two Mercedes was already 15s by the time Vettel’s off brought out the safety car and such was Hamilton’s advantage, Mercedes were easily able to serve both of their cars and still have a breather in between.

Hamilton built a solid four-second cushion over his Mercedes subordinate, while Bottas was doing enough to keep Leclerc at bay, allowing the “Silver Arrows” to take the top two spots. Once again – job done.

Sensing that 2nd place was no longer on the cards, Leclerc dropped back slightly from Bottas and build a gap to allow a last dash run at the fastest lap point, but even this was beyond him, with Leclerc’s lap 52 effort falling four-tenths adrift of Hamilton.
From pole, Leclerc would settle for 3rd spot, allowing Bottas to gain an addition three points over the Ferrari racer in the battle for 2nd in the championship.

Hamilton hasn’t won the title yet, but he may as well have. His fourth win at Sochi means a 73-point gap to Bottas in the standings, with just 125 points left to play for. As the field disassembles and prepares for the Japanese Grand Prix in two weeks, Leclerc now sits some 34 points behind Bottas.
Considering how much Ferrari were expected to win this race as the weekend evolved, this can only could as a successgul save for Mercedes. Joy and relief indeed.

Behind the commotion out front, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen took a lonely 4th place. Having started 9th following a grid penalty, Verstappen drew ahead of the slow starting Nico Hülkenberg, made easy work of Sergio Perez (Racing Point, lap 8), Lando Norris (McLaren, lap 12) and Sainz (lap 17), by which stage, the gap to the lead was already 34s.

Following the safety car, the gap extended again with Verstappen ending the race some 14s adrift of race winner Hamilton; however his desire to change tyres late on and go for the fastest lap were stymied by the presence of teammate Alexander Albon in 5th, only 24s adrift in the final tours.
Albon enjoyed a somewhat more entertaining race, as he started in the pitlane and slowly climbed the order and used Russell’s safety car to earn a strategy boost.

Sainz came home 6th ahead of Perez (7th), while Haas’ Kevin Magnussen originally took 8th, only to be dropped to 9th after leaving the track at turn two and not rejoining in the appropriate manner. This promoted Norris to 8th, with the McLaren rookie completed a double-points finish for the Woking team, taking past 100 points in the Constructor’s Championship and well ahead of the works Renault team.
Hülkenberg grabbed 10th and the final point, but not too far ahead of Lance Stroll (Racing Point, 11th).
Daniil Kvyat won the Toro Rosso battle over Pierre Gasly. As Gasly fought hard to jump his Russian stablemate, the Frenchman divebombed Kvyat in turn two, only to outbrake himself and not only lose the position to Kvyat, but also Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen, who secured 13th. It proved a disappointing result for Raikkonen, who picked up an early penalty for jumping the start, but looking at Alfa Romeo’s pace, it is unlikely they would have ever threatened the points.
Gasly took home 14th ahead of Giovinazzi (15th), who raced with damage following his first lap contretemps with Grosjean and Ricciardo.

Whereas Grosjean was out on the spot, Ricciardo did continue for 24 laps, before it was decided to bench the knackered Renault and Williams retired Robert Kubica following Russell’s incident fearing a similar mechanical failure may also take the Polish driver out of the race.

{note 1}
This year’s race may have been Mercedes-Benz’ sixth win at Sochi, but the first two Russian Grand Prix (1913-14) were won by Benz, prior to the merger between Benz & Cie and Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (DMG) in 1926, following which the name ‘Mercedes-Benz’ was adopted in honour of the Mercedes model that Daimler released in 1902.
When World War I was declared, the Russian Grand Prix was put on hold, but not reinstated following the creation of the Soviet Union. This hold came to an end, when the Russian Grand Prix was reinstated for the 2014 Formula One season. As an aside, this is the first time, I have placed a notation in the banner headline.

© FIA.

“Markelov adopts F2 drive in place of Hubert”

MONTE CARLO, MONACO – MAY 24: Artem Markelov (RUS, MP MOTORSPORT) during the Monaco at Monte Carlo on May 24, 2019 in Monte Carlo, Monaco. (Photo by Joe Portlock / LAT Images / FIA F2 Championship)

Super Formula racer Artem Markelov will re-join the FIA Formula 2 Championship this weekend, replacing the late Anthoine Hubert at Arden.

Markelov moved to Japan’s Super Formula Championship this year but has struggled to adapt to the category since his move to the Far East.

With a best finish of 10th and a single fastest lap at the previous round at Motegi, the Russian racer has yet to register a point and currently sits 19th in the Super Formula standings, ahead of just Pato O’Ward and Harrison Newey.
Team LeMans have not yet announced a replacement, or even if they do intend to replace him.

Expectations had been high for Markelov, marking this as a particularly disappointing season for the 25-year-old. With rumours of a fractured relationship between the driver and his Team LeMans squad, it was already unclear as to whether the relationship would continue into 2020.

A five-year veteran of the F2 championship (previously GP2), Markelov competed in 112 races in the category – 110 of which were for Russian Time – winning nine of them and finishing runner-up to Charles Leclerc in 2017.

For this year’s round at Monaco, Markelov stood in for Jordan King at MP Motorsport, who was competing at the Indianapolis 500.
As of this year, Markelov has 62 Super Licence points, although this will drop to 60 in 2020, when his 2016 GP2 finish drops from contention.

Although apparently dispensed with for the previous round at Monza due to ongoing investigations by Belgian police, there are reportedly financial penalties for teams that do not field two cars for Formula 2 race meetings.
As the season now moves toward its conclusion, it is likely that this dispensation has passed, so a full field is expected for the rounds at Sochi and Abu Dhabi.

“F1: For Kubica and the Fairytale, the Dream is Over”

Robert Kubica’s decision to leave Williams at the end of this season may prove to be the final hurrah for the Polish driver.

It is a sad epilogue for a driver who looked so promising and whose potential was unfulfilled.

The writing has been on the wall for quite some time. Such has been the colossal gap between Williams F1’s two drivers – Robert Kubica and George Russell – this season, it was looking desperately unlikely that the Pole would be retained for 2020.

Reports from Poland say that Kubica’s move from Williams may be a joint decision between the driver and his key sponsor PKN Orlen; however, both are looking for further opportunities at the top level of the sport. Whether that is as reserve or development driver with another team is unknown at this stage.

Should Kubica find a reserve/development seat with another F1 team, it does leave open the door for Pole to pursue at DTM drive for 2020 following discussions Kubica’s management recently had with Audi’s top brass.

It is a shame that Kubica’s F1 career may be ending in such a way. Prior to his accident at the Ronde di Andora rally in February 2011 – which partially severed his right arm – Kubica had taken one Grand Prix and was seen as a driver who could have been Poland’s first world champion.
Kubica’s recovery was slowed when he broke his leg a year later, but in 2013 he returned to second-tier rallying in the WRC2 class, before a stint in the European Rally Championship a year later. He progressed to the top level in the WRC in 2015; however, while he showed speed, he appeared to lack the finesse and the control often associated with rallying’s best and crashed numerous times as a result.
Toward the end of that bruising season, a colleague of Kubica mused that he was sometimes trying to drive the rally car as if it were a circuit racing car.

Kubica took part in the Monte Carlo Rally in 2016, before moving back to racing in GT3 competition, before testing the ByKolles LMP1 car with a view to racing in 2017, although he split with the team prior to the opening race of the WEC season. It is not known whether the ByKolles car was on fire at the time or not.
The Pole returned to F1 in 2017 and tested with Renault and later Williams and while the former declined to take the tests any further, Williams signed Kubica as reserve driver for 2018, before being promoted to the race seat at the start of this season.

In returning from such devastating injuries, Kubica displayed a tenacity and determination that could only impress. The background of his story may always be a case of “what could have been”, but the manner in which he fought against all odds to return to motorsport’s top category was truly fascinating and a incredible to watch.

Kubica’s departure increases the likelihood that Formula 2 racer Nicholas Latifi will move to a race seat Williams next year, with the Canadian bringing sponsorship from his father’s food company Sofina Foods Inc. among others.
Latifi has 24 of the required 40 points for his Super Licence and is currently sitting 2nd in the Formula 2 standings – albeit a long way adrift of championship leader Nyck de Vries – meaning the Canadian should have more than enough points to qualify to race in F1 next year {note 1}.

Whether Latifi’s promotion will result in expanded financial commitments from Sofina Foods (etc.) remains to be seen, but if nothing else, it would certainly prove a boost for a team who have been struggling for several years now.
There is no doubt that Latifi is a fine driver, but I have yet to be convinced that the Canadian is at the level of George Russell, although Latifi has impressed somewhat in the free practice sessions that he has driven in.

As an aside, Latifi’s father, Michael, controls Nidala (BVI) Ltd – an investment company that in 2018 invested £200 million in the McLaren Group.

{note 1}
Latifi only requires a 5th place finish in the F2 standings to qualify for a race Super Licence, a position he could solidify with ease at F2’s penultimate round in Sochi next weekend.

“F1: Haas re-sign Grosjean”

American Formula 1 squad Haas F1 have re-signed Romain Grosjean, continuing a partnership with Kevin Magnussen for the 2020 season.

With seats disappearing fast, it is a move that pushes Renault refugee Nico Hülkenberg to the sidelines.

Romain Grosjean has signed for another year with the Haas Formula One team, despite what has been a trying season to date for the Frenchman.

Grosjean – a former GP2 Series champion – has only scored eight points thus far in a year hammered by a problematic car and several notable run-ins with teammate Kevin Magnussen.

As such the team has dropped from 5th in last year’s Constructor’s Championship and currently languishes in 9th position – ahead of only Williams – with just seven races left this season.

With an option to maintain Magnussen for another year, Haas’ decision to re-sign Grosjean seems to be based on the desire for consistency at a time when the American squad has stumbled somewhat.

According to Team Principal Guenther Steiner, “Experience, and the need for it, has been one of the cornerstones of Haas F1 Team, and with Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen racing for the team in 2020, we continue to have a driver line-up that offers us a solid platform to continue our growth.”
Steiner added that, “Their understanding of how we work as a team, and our knowledge of what they can deliver behind the wheel, gives us a valued continuity and a strong foundation to keep building our team around.”

Haas have not been shy about the relative lack of performance an inconsistency of the VF-19 machine, to the point where Magnussen and Grosjean ran two different specifications of the car at several Grand Prix this year in order to gain an understanding of where their performance has fallen away. “It’s been a tough year for us in 2019 with the fluctuation in performance of the VF-19,” continued Steiner. “Our ability to tap into our combined experiences will help us learn, improve, and move forward as a unit in 2020.”

Despite this, there has also been plenty of criticism of Grosjean’s performances this season. While the VF-19 has proven inconsistent, Magnussen has clearly made the best of the situation, whereas Grosjean has repeatedly fallen behind or become involved in several incidents, particularly with his teammate
This opened the door to questions regarding Grosjean’s future and with 2015 Le Mans winner Hülkenberg cast aside by Renault for 2020, there was speculation that the German racer would move to Haas to race alongside Magnussen.

If nothing else, it appears that Steiner may have looked to Hülkenberg’s performances through recent seasons and concluded that there was not enough there to move Grosjean aside. It is a situation not too similar to that faced by Ferrari in recent seasons. For all the calls that Kimi Raikkonen was past his best, there were no available drivers thought to be good enough to do a better job – Grosjean and Hülkenberg included.
Alas, such is the strength of the talent pool in Formula One’s midfield at the moment, few of the veteran’s truly stand-out and those who do are either locked into long term contracts or are linked to manufacturer teams (or both).

As noted here previously, while Hülkenberg is certainly a driver of some quality, he is perhaps guilty performing just well enough to defeat teammate, while his stints at Force India and Sauber earned him a spot in the permanent lower points scoring division. From 170 Grand Prix starts, Hülkenberg has still scored no podiums and has fallen behind 2019 teammate Daniel Ricciardo as the Australian has found his feet.

Impressions of Youth (or “The Variables that Deposit Themselves Upon the Youth of Today in a Manner Unlikely to Win Friends, Enemies or Influencers”)”

It is also conceivable that – having borne witness to Haas’ performance this year – Hülkenberg may have opted out of a potential drive with the American team; however, if that is the case, then he may also have shut the door n his Formula One career.
There are possible seats at Alfa Romeo and Williams; however, it is thought that either Robert Kubica or Nicholas Latifi will take the Williams drive, while the list of drivers fighting over the Alfa seat is long.

All that aside, one can’t help but think that 2020 may be Grosjean’s last hurrah. A new generation of drivers is coming through the lower divisions – as seen with the promotions of Lando Norris, George Russell, Alexander Albon and (relative rookie) Antonio Giovinazzi.

Grosjean stated that, “I’ve always stated that it was my desire to remain with Haas F1 Team and keep building on the team’s accomplishments. Having been here since the very beginning and seen the work both Gene Haas and Guenther Steiner put into the team to make it competitive, I’m naturally very happy to continue to be a part of that.”

%d bloggers like this: