Renault have reacted to a poor start to the 2019 Formula One season by announcing several high-profile changes to their senior structure, including the addition on a former Ferrari and Mercedes specialist.
The French manufacturer has endured a torrid time this season and has yet to see both drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg complete a race together.
Renault have suffered five retirements already to their works team drivers as well as the two engine-related retirements customer team McLaren have had.
Renault’s F1 team are under pressure for those above to deliver given the huge financial investment made in the team, and Ricciardo, in their bid to close the gap on the top three after being ‘best of the rest’ last year.
As part of that Christophe Mary, who was a senior figure at Ferrari’s most dominant era between 1994 and 2007 and then in a similar role at Mercedes for four years after that.
He will join Renault in August as director of engineering.
The change comes after team principal Cyril Abiteboul admitted that Renault’s results had fallen “short of expectations”.
F1 heads to Barcelona for the Spanish Grand Prix this weekend where traditionally a number of teams make big upgrades which shape the rest of the season.
“The start of the European segment of the 2019 Formula 1 season is an opportunity for us to reset,” said Abiteboul. “Overall, it’s been a tough start to the year and the Azerbaijan Grand Prix capped off a run of results that fell short of our expectations.
“We know we are capable of much more and we need to target clean weekends and races to make the most of our potential.
“To do so, we have work to do on all sides of our operation; chassis and engine on and off track, and work with the drivers to allow them to reach their respective capacities. We are motivated as ever to strive for more and we aim for a full recovery in competitiveness in Spain.
“We know that the midfield is tight, but this also creates opportunities. We’ve seen that fortunes can change in an instant so we go to Barcelona hungry to get our season campaign going.”
Bernie Ecclestone has admitted F1 could end completely as the coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt the season.
The F1 boss, who is currently on lockdown at his coffee farm in Brazil, is seriously concerned about the potential damage the lockdown is having on the sport and admits there is a possibility the sport could cease completely.
With racing being delayed, and no resumption date in sight, the three big revenue streams are under serious threat.
Race hosting fees, broadcasting rights and sponsorship are the main money generators and with no date for the sport to resume, Ecclestone is extremely concerned for the future.
Ecclestone told the Daily Mail: “Let’s look at a good side and it takes six months to tidy up this pandemic and there is no longer a problem, it is still not easy for Formula One to put on races.
“It’s not like sowing a seed.
“There are an awful lot of things you have to do.
“You have to get the promoters to take a risk on staging events not knowing if they are going to get the public in or not.
“You can’t stage a race if it’s -10C.
“And people usually plan what they are going to do; they don’t just wake one day and say let’s go to Silverstone or wherever else.
“And even if all that is sorted, you then need participants.
“And the next question is: are they alive and well to perform? And that is another thing again.
“Even a smaller team like Williams, they have staff to pay and bills to pay, and it’s not easy for them if they are not getting their revenue from racing.”
The delay is hitting the smaller teams hard and they are set to face some serious questions about their survival if the sport continues to be on hold.
Although they face major issues, they still receive their cut of the £720million prize fund from last season.
Jobs are expected to be lost as teams face a budget cap of £150m next season, a figure which could be cut even further.
Chase Carey, the sport’s chief executive who took over from Ecclestone when Liberty Media bought the sport for £6bn in January 2017, has said he wants to stage between 15 and 18 races later in the year.
This article was originally published by The Sun and reproduced with permission.
The next event on the calendar is the Winton race weekend, which is scheduled across June 5-7. However, due to the fluidity of the pandemic and ever-changing restrictions laid down by governments – such as border closures – every event from this point onwards remains up in the air.
The 2020 calendar – prior to the pandemic-enforced postponements – featured consistent three-week breaks between events before a six-week layoff for the Olympic Games in Tokyo, which have since been postponed to 2021.
With a maximum 13 events expected to be completed, there are 30 weeks – including the scheduled Winton weekend – remaining in 2020. However, like MotoGP and Formula 1, Supercars is open to seeing this season flow into 2021.
“The first thing we need to establish is under what conditions could [the Winton event] happen,” he said.
“That’s exactly why we’re so focused on getting an event footprint down as low as possible so we can go TV-only.
“We’re fortunate that our calendar was quite spaced out when we started the year, we had a break for over the Olympics, which aren’t happening. We have a lot of flexibility around July, August, September leading to Bathurst that we wouldn’t normally have.
“We’ve got experience from last year around doing back-to-back rounds… look for us to go back-to-back, look for us to do whatever we have to do to get this year’s championship away.
A government-imposed restriction on mass gatherings of more than 500 people, and a ban on all non-essential mass gatherings, put paid to Supercars running TV-only events. Current border closures – and New Zealand’s travel ban – currently make staging interstate events impossible.
Seamer suggested TV-only events will be part of discussions moving forward, but they would only be feasible to be held at all should government restrictions be relaxed.
“It’s an evolving situation, it feels like it’s been going on for months, but we’re only two weeks into this,” Seamer explained.
“We’re focusing on what we can control, and that is what the world can look like when we come back racing.
“One of the key things that we have to work through is when we see a lessening of restrictions, but the big thing we’re doing to get drivers out on track, is we’re spending a lot of time to assess what our minimum viable product is.
“Unlike a lot of other sports, we need quite a lot of people to execute our races. If you look at team sizes, the number of guys working on each car, the TV crew, the officials, the security… that basic fundamental group pushes us upwards of 500.
“Our team is working really hard to get that number down, so even when we’re dealing with a situation where only 500 people are allowed in one place at one time for an outdoor gathering, but we’re able to cross borders, then we can get going with a TV-only product as soon as possible.”
After six laps of the 2010 Australian Grand Prix, Jenson Button found himself doubting his decision-making once he left pit lane having taken on slick tyres on a wet track.
Even a decade on, the decision still confounds, considering it worked – but that’s one reason why March 28, 2010 was such a special day for Formula 1 and its world champion.
Albert Park missed the chance to add another chapter to its F1 story in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the race cancelled. In the 25 years the venue has hosted the Grand Prix, few races matched the drama displayed in the 2010 race, but the familiar sight of the sport’s benchmark driver winning the race should, at the surface, have been no surprise.
Considering the gamble Button took, the result was a surprise for his McLaren team. A shower just before the start of the race prompted all runners to start on Bridgestone’s intermediate tyres. The first to change to slicks, Button immediately went off the road, and after the race, admitted he thought he had made a massive error.
“I think it is a lot easier for the drivers to feel the conditions. The team can see it on TV with the clouds coming in, but we can feel out on the circuit what is happening,” he said at the time, describing the changeable weather.
“I was really struggling and I lost a couple of places [on intermediates] so I thought, ‘Let’s get in, stick the slicks on’. There was a dry line. A few places were a little bit wet.
“But when I went into the pit lane I thought I had made a catastrophic decision. Once I got it going and up to speed I had a little off at Turn 3, and again I thought I had made a huge mistake, but then the pace was pretty good and I was able to put in some good laps and overtake three or four cars after they stopped and put their slick tyres on.
“I had already found out where the grip was, whereas they were still searching for it, so I was able to pass them quite easily. So, ultimately, it was the right call and I am very happy that I made it.”
Button’s race began in high drama at the first corner when he tipped Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso into a spin. Later around the first lap, Kamui Kobayashi lost the front wing on his Sauber and wiped out Nico Hulkenberg’s Williams and Sebastien Buemi’s Toro Rosso. The safety car was an inevitability, with pole man Sebastian Vettel in control.
Two laps after Button made his call, the conditions came to him, triggering everyone else to make the switch. However, despite Button being second as the field settled, Vettel looked to have the race in his pocket.
Until Lap 20, when Vettel’s Red Bull suffered a suspected brake failure and spun into retirement in the kitty litter. Advantage, Button. Who saw that coming?
From there, Button moved to build and consolidate his lead over Renault’s Robert Kubica. The 2009 world champion was nursing his tyres and had built a lead over the Pole to the tune of nearly 10 seconds. The Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Alonso were squabbling behind Kubica, while Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber – both on fresh rubber – closed in.
Kubica found some pace as Alonso fell under pressure from Hamilton’s McLaren and Webber’s Red Bull. With three laps remaining, Hamilton pulled out of Alonso’s slipstream and got alongside on the outside heading to Turn 13. As Hamilton yielded, he was T-boned by Webber, who had missed his brake marker. Both rejoined after spinning into the gravel trap, with Webber forced into the pits for a new front wing.
Hamilton would finish sixth and Webber ninth, with Alonso trailing third-placed Massa as Kubica hung onto second.
However, despite his turbulent start to the race, Button appeared a man in complete control as the world collapsed behind him, with the Briton launching his title defence in the style he did 12 months earlier in stunning fashion for Brawn GP.
The 12-second win margin demonstrated just how easy Button had made it look – but after such a risky start to the race, Button knew much of it came down to luck.
“I made the call to pit early as I thought if I don’t pit early I am just going to keep going backwards,” he said after the race.
“I thought it was a terrible call initially as the pit lane was so wet and after my first lap out of the pits I thought it was a pretty catastrophic mistake.
“But after that I could get into it. I found on the dry parts I could push pretty hard and then really it was about picking people off as they came out onto the circuit. It was a nice feeling as they are searching for the grip and I know where it is and I am able to overtake.
“Towards the end of the race I could start pushing and got the balance back and the car felt very good. I was in a very happy place the last 20 laps knowing I had a good gap and it would have been very difficult for anyone to catch me.”