Teams ask Ecclestone to create room for 2016 summer shutdown

F1 teams have asked Bernie Ecclestone to adjust the 2016 provisional calendar in order to restore a longer summer break and incorporate a factory shutdown.

In recent years the calendar has left a gap of three free weekends between the Hungarian and Belgian GPs. Built into that is a two-week complete factory shutdown, and the teams are free to choose when they take it within that time frame.

The shutdown, during which teams even have to switch off their computer servers, is intended mainly to allow both race and factory staff to have a summer holiday. However, it also allows teams to conduct annual maintanance and work at their facilties, including wind tunnels.

However in the 2016 calendar approved by the FIA World Motor Sport Council the break has been shrunk from three to two weekends. Adjusting it is complicated given that there are back-to-back races on either side of the break, with Germany/Hungary before it, and Belgium/Italy to follow. Some sources suggest that the Hockenheim race could yet drop out, which would allow Hungary to move – although given that advanced ticket sales for the German race start on Friday the race may be more secure than people think.

Team managers raised the issue of the shorter break with the FIA’s Charlie Whiting last weekend, and indicated that they don’t want to discuss ways of squeezing a factory shutdown into the shorter gap until the possibility of changing the calendar had been explored.

Later some team principals lobbied Bernie Ecclestone on the subject, making it clear to him that they now regard the shutdown as essential.

“I think the break is something that is important,” RBR boss Christian Horner told this writer. “F1 is such a demanding schedule for all people involved, not just technicians and people in the factory, but all the support staff, FOM, the media, and so on. It’s important to have that moment to catch your breath. So it’s something that has been raised with Bernie, and as we see sometimes the calendar does move around a bit before October.

“It’s nothing new in that the calendar does sometimes change a little, but obviously there’s a lot of races crammed into a shorter period. There’s usually a bit of fine tuning that goes on, so it wouldn’t surprise me if it did get tweaked a little bit.”

McLaren’s Eric Boullier agreed that the calendar could change: “We need to have a summer shutdown for the travelling people. We are discussing when we can do it and how long it will be. There are always some little tweaks to the calendar, so we should wait until later in the year.”

“From a Williams perspective the factory shutdown is important,” said Claire Williams. “The calendar is long and it’s arduous, and people put their blood, sweat and tears into going racing, and they sacrifice a lot to do that. Those two weeks, regardless of anything else, allows them time with their families, to have a bit of a normal life and a normal existence.

“To not have that is a concern. If I had I would have that conversation with Bernie I would put our arguments forward as to why it is important.”

Meanwhile Ecclestone himself says that that he does not anticipate any changes.

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Renault will make call on Lotus takeover this week, says Ecclestone

Bernie Ecclestone expects Renault to decide this week on whether or not it will take over the Lotus F1 team and turn it into a full works outfit.

Discussions have been ongoing for some time, and it’s understood that Renault boss Carlos Ghosn will make the final call after reviewing the options. The situation is complicated by the fact that much of the team’s debt represents loans from its shareholders.

Lotus is under severe pressure to resolve its financial issues. In Hungary Pirelli did not release its tyres until just 50 minutes before FP1 after a late payment issue was addressed, and funds transferred.

Some sources suggest that one possible scenario is that Renault could enter as a new team, using the Enstone facility and staff, but not taking over the actual company that began life as Toleman in 1981, and subsequently became Benetton, Renault and finally Lotus.

This could gel with the fact that the FIA deadline for interest in future F1 entries was extended to the end of this week – which rather handily co-incides with the Ghosn decision.

“We’re gradually getting things sorted out,” Ecclestone told this writer. “By this week we’ll know which way we’re going. Hopefully then we’ll know whether Renault are going to take them over, or what’s going to happen.”

Asked if there was a Plan B for Lotus if Renault decided against it he said: “Err, semi. I think we’ve got it more or less under control.”

Ecclestone also confirmed that a Renault takeover would not automatically trigger extra payments based on its past performance and historical record, and that the team would have to earn extra cash. However, he added that as a manufacturer there is potential to earn more based on future results than if the team remains in private hands.

“They’ve got to do what everyone else is doing. They’re buying a team, they’re taking over a team. If you took a team over you’d be entitled, except that they are a manufacturer so we are looking after them a bit differently. Renault would come off better than if a private person did it as they’re a manufacturer.”


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Singapore F1 organisers hope track changes will boost overtaking

The Singapore track has been modified at Turns 11-13

The Singapore track has been modified at Turns 11-13

The Singapore GP track has been modified in response to upgrading work to the city’s civic district, and which has prompted changes in the area of Turns 11-13.

It’s hoped that the revised corners will create more overtaking opportunities.

Organisers say that Turn 11 will be “realigned to sit tighter with the left hand side of Fullerton Road for a slightly slower corner speed compared to 2014. The left hand Turn 12 will also be modified slightly so that drivers now enter the left lane of Anderson Bridge.” In addition Turn 13 has been widened.

“It is a fantastic challenge to translate changes to Singapore’s Civic District into improvements to the Marina Bay Street Circuit,” said Engineering Track Manager Jonathan Giesecke. “I expect the modifications from Turns 11 to 13 will enable closer racing and the potential for additional passing opportunities.”

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Christian Horner: “I think we are going to live in the moment…”

Hungary saw a huge turnaround in fortunes for Red Bull Racing as Dany Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo finished second and third, but team boss Christian Horner is under no illusions as the track disguised the lack of performance from the Renault engine.

We knew that this track would play to some of our strengths,” said Christian Horner. “And it is great that we managed to capitalise on that with a double podium, with Dany Kvyat’s first podium, Daniel Ricciardo’s first podium of the year. it was great team performance and I think that this type of circuit with lack of dependency on straightline speed has played to our strengths.”

Ricciardo could have been in with a shout of victory had he not made contact with Nico Rosberg with seven laps to go, and required a new wing. Unlike the Mercedes driver and leader Sebastian Vettel, he was on the softer tyre.

It felt a little bit like deja vu from last year, we strategically made the call at the first stop to put the hard tyre on, we felt our only possibilities would be in the later part of the race if there were a safety car and sure enough we had that set of tyres left, the safety car came out and it teed it up beautifully.

The surprising thing for us was that Rosberg went on to the hard tyre and Lewis had to take the hard tyre and Kimi had an issue, so Daniel made his way past Kimi fairly easily and managed to find his way past Lewis.

There was quite a big contact, which damaged the car quite significantly, But despite that he was able to close in on the leading pair and he was always going to have a go, and obviously got a run up the inside, got in a bit too deep and Nico came across his bows on the exit, and it looked like a racing incident. It is a shame without that, if he had managed to get pass Nico it would have set up an interesting finish with Seb.”

Horner says he’s not yet worrying about the upcoming power circuits.

I think we are going to live in the moment for now, and think about Spa after the break – particularly Monza. They are going to be much more challenging than here. Singapore is probably our next opportunity to shine. We will keep pushing, keep developing the car, you never know it could be wet in Spa and you have to be in a position when those days where it doesn’t quite go right for others.

The aero boys have made some improvements around the front of the car, mechanically there has been a bit of an improvement as well, the penalty of the regulation changes over the winter did hurt us with the front end of the car but we have now recovered that. I think the last two or three races have been positive on the chassis side.”

Meanwhile Horner said the race was good for the sport: “F1 put on a great show today. There are talk of changes to the circuit, but don’t! It produces good races here, I think F1 races like that, when you get a variable factor and slightly different tyre strategies it bought the race alive today.”

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Daniel Ricciardo: “It was a crazy race…”

Daniel Ricciardo survived contact with thee other drivers to take third place in Hungary, despite one of the incidents forcing him to pit for a new nose.

Ricciardo touched Valterri Bottas on the third lap, and was later involved with incidents with both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg while fighting for position.

Red Bull had looked competitive all weekend at a track where ultimate power is less important.

“It was a crazy race,” said Ricciardo. “Already from the start, the first corner there was pretty big contact with, I think, Bottas, and the front of the car jumped and I thought we’d damaged something. It was quite a big hit.

“But then we seemed to still have relatively good pace. I saw Dany in front was struggling, so then the team decided to, let’s say, let me go through. I was saying I was faster and knew we could do better pace. So then we got quickly past the Force India and then quickly back past Bottas with some good moves. Then the pace was pretty good. At the restart we had the Option, that was an advantage. That was pretty much an advantage from yesterday by only using the Prime in Q1 so were able to take advantage of that today I guess.”

Ricciardo was then hit by Hamilton: “Then the restart, I just tried to go around the outside of Lewis. You don’t see much in the cars. Obviously your peripheral vision’s pretty limited but I just felt him come in, so I just assumed he’d locked the front wheel and slid up into me, so we had more damage after that. I saw the right sidepod flapping around. Nonetheless, we’re in third.

“I saw the pace was good, we were catching Seb and Nico and I was close – but not close enough – to Nico and obviously they’re not so slow on the straights. The laps were ticking down, I had to try something and I got a pretty good run out of the last corner and yeah, just said ‘I’m going for it this lap, no matter what,’ and I went for it.”

The pair made contact on the exit of Turn One after Ricciardo had tried to pass.

“To be honest, the move, it was, for sure, late but it was clean. Up until the apex it was fine. Obviously Nico saw me and left me room on the entry and then, just the exit, from what I recall he just came back across and just basically didn’t give me enough room. I don’t know if he thought he’d cleared me yet – but we made contact and that was when he earned a puncture and I got the front wing damage.”

Like other drivers, Ricciardo said he’d had Jules Bianchi on his mind this week.

“As all the drivers have said, this race was for Jules. I left everything on the track. Whether some competitors like it or not, that’s how I wanted to do it and that’s how I’ll always do it. And watching Jules grow up, that was how he did it. He had amazing race craft and made some pretty impressive lunges. I drove inspired today and I’m happy to be standing up here. It’s been an emotional week.”


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Pirelli wet tyre test set for Paul Ricard in January

Pirelli is organising a two-day wet weather F1 tyre test at Paul Ricard early next year.

The test will take place on January 25-26 next year, using 2015 cars, and all teams have been invited to participate. The whole two days will be devoted to wet running, using the circuit’s sprinkler system.

Pirelli has been trying for some time to organise a proper wet weather test in the sort of controlled conditions that the French track can provide. As with all official tyre tests, teams would not be allowed to make changes to the cars, or undertake any form of development.

“The plan is to go to Paul Ricard in January,” Pirelli’s Paul Hembery told this writer. “You’ve got to go to a controlled circuit where water is applied on a consistent basis. It’s one of the few places where in January it should be OK in terms of weather.

“You only need one car to do the test we’re doing. We’ve extended it to everyone, if they all want to come, it’s good.”

The test is early enough for Pirelli to have new wet tyres ready for the Australian GP: “It’s for next year. The season starts later, so that helps. If we had the historical start, it would have been too late.”

Hembery hopes that Pirelli will have an opportunity to do more dry weather testing.

“Any testing for us is positive. We’d like to do a lot more, in reality. We’ve been asked to come up with two or three stops per race. This year we’ve been a little bit too close to one. The margins are really small, and when you do the analysis it’s five or 10 seconds is all that’s needed to jump between one strategy or the other, and to get that right without testing is very difficult. So we do need to have a little bit more testing. Really it’s for compounds, it’s not so much for the structure of the tyre.”

Paul Ricard will be a novelty for many F1 drivers, as it has not been used for a group F1 test since May 2008.

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Force India modifies wishbones after Perez failure causes crash

Force India is confident that an overnight suspension wishbone modification will allow the team to run in Hungary on Saturday without a repeat of today’s failure.

In FP1 Sergio Perez crashed after suffering an issue with the lower right rear wishbone when he went over a kerb. The team opted not to run Nico Hulkenberg while it conducted an investigation.

The wishbone that failed was of a design that has been used since last season, and while the particular component was of higher mileage – and was thus designated for Friday use – it was still safely within the usual limits. The team will modify the parts that it has at the track after the design team back at the factory came up with a suitable solution.

“It looks like a lower wishbone had a buckle,” CEO Otmar Szafnauer told this writer. “If that’s the case we’ve got to stiffen it. We’ll wrap it with carbon to make it stiffer – we’ve got the capability here on site, and we’ll do the same back at base and test it, and we should be OK for tomorrow.”

Szafnauer conceded that the drivers may have to pay more attention to kerb usage: “We’re not 100% sure, but we think the rumble strips set up a frequency. We should be able to go over the kerbs, but we’ll just be a bit more careful how long we stay on them.”

Meanwhile the team has a lot of mileage to catch up on.

“It’s not ideal. We’ve got to do some of the work we planned on doing in FP2 tomorrow. That puts us on the back foot. The good news is that Sergio was saying the car was good from the off, so hopefully we’ll dial it in and then do some long runs as well.”

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