Just 10 weeks remain until the 2020 season gets underway at the pre-season test at The Bend Motorsport Park, with Supercars signing off on a revised aerodynamic package and new engine rules.
Nissan’s departure sees the category revert back to the Ford-Holden-only dynamic not seen in the main game since 2012. Following a 2019 season rife with parity concerns, a five-day test program was run at the Oakey Army Aviation Centre in Queensland with the latest Vehicle Control Aerodynamic Testing [VCAT] method.
Three cars took to the test – a Mustang from Ford homologation team DJR Team Penske and a Commodore from the Red Bull Holden Racing Team, along with Supercars’ own baseline Falcon FG X model.
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Across the test, an active damper system was used to allow for more accurate testing through a range of ride heights. The key was not only to balance the two models, but also shed approximately 12 percent from 2019 downforce levels to improve the quality of racing.
In-season aero adjustments only inflamed the parity debate, but last week’s test – after using an improved VCAT method – ensured all parties left the test “aligned and happy” with the resolution, according to Supercars’ head of motorsport [HoM] Adrian Burgess.
Supercars also locked in the new engine rules which will come into effect, with the category confirming a penalty system will be introduced ahead of a limit to three engine rebuilds a season.
Earlier this year, Supercars confirmed the drop from four to three rebuilds, which could save teams as much as $50,000. A control piston ring and rocker package will also be introduced, and while a drop of around 15 horsepower has been mooted, the units are expected to be more reliable.
However, should teams require additional rebuilds, they face grid penalties – similar to the divisive system seen in Formula 1.
Each sealed engine unit must cover a minimum 4000 kilometres before seals can be removed – but if a unit requires a rebuild before 4000 kilometres have been covered, the car will be slapped with a 10-place grid penalty for the next race.
However, Supercars will allow a number of exceptions to ensure “common sense” if penalties loom over teams.
Notably, teams can seek approval from the category under the supervision of the HoM to break the seals and undertake necessary repairs from leaks or accident damage.
Component failures can also be exceptions if the category is satisfied the new parts won’t hand teams a performance advantage.
Burgess admitted the penalty system will be in place to “protect” the new rules, but remains optimistic the sport’s concessions will help avoid the grid penalty furores seen in F1.
“There will be a degree of common sense needed for all circumstances. If there’s a problem with something we’ll let them open it up under supervision and fix it without using a seal or incurring a penalty.
“But the rules and penalty provision have to be there to protect what we’re trying to do and that’s reduce costs for teams.
“Since we started this discussion we’ve already seen a benefit, without even having introduced the rules yet.
“Last year only two engines went over 4000km all season and this year there were 12, so teams have already been adjusting, and therefore saving money, knowing these rules are coming.”
Brown has revealed though that it was the injection of key off-track figures that swayed Ricciardo to make the switch away from the black and yellow – and in particular one ‘monster’.
“A couple of years ago we were coming off a horrific season, one of our worst in McLaren history and really all I could do at that point was promise or make claims to Daniel on what my intentions were,” Brown told the In the Fast Lane podcast.
“But at that point it’s just words – ‘I’m going to get a great team principal, I’m going to get a great technical director, we’re going to get the resources we need’ … it was a lot of promises.
“Understandably he went all sounds good, but you are coming off one of the worst seasons in McLaren’s history and I think ultimately it didn’t get him over the line for those reasons.
“A year later, we have a very strong season, now I can say instead of saying I’m going to get a great team principal, I can say I got Andreas Seidl, who I think is making a huge difference in the team. I’m going to get a great technical director, I got one, James Key.
“(Ricciardo’s) a huge Andreas fan and I think that had a big part in his decision making progress as he says ‘Andreas is a monster’, and I think he means that in a good way.
“A year on he was able to see I put my money where my mouth was so to speak and the results were coming … that is ultimately why he made the decision this time around.”
Brown elaborated, saying that it was a case of perfect timing given Carlo Sainz’s departure to Ferrari in 2021.
Ricciardo was considered at one point to be the frontrunner for the vacant seat at Ferarri however Sebastian Vettel’s spot was instead taken by Sainz.
“We had the ability to stop him (Sainz) from going to another team, but you know we have always wanted Dan Ricciardo,” Brown said.
“But it was one of those (times) where the stars aligned and Carlos had a desire to race for Ferrari, which is totally understandable.
“We obviously would have only allowed that if we felt we could get someone of Daniel’s ability and someone that we wanted a couple of years ago. So we said why don’t you go explore and we’ll explore and if you get the opportunity and we can get a seven-time Grand Prix winner then that’s going to work out well for all of us.
“I think we’ve got a great driver line-up and I think it’s only going to be stronger with Daniel and Lando.”
Formula One’s ruling body is considering action against world champion Lewis Hamilton after he wore a T-shirt highlighting police brutality at Sunday’s Tuscan Grand Prix.
The six-time world champion and series leader, who won the race, wore a T-shirt bearing a message that said “Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor” before and after the race, during an anti-racism ceremony and television interviews.
A spokesman for the International Motoring Federation (FIA) told the BBC the case against Hamilton is “under active consideration”.
Hamilton had previously worn a “Black Lives Matter” T-shirt at every race without any comment from the FIA.
Taylor, a 26-year-old black woman, was shot by police in Kentucky in March. She was a medical worker and was killed in her own home.
The FIA rules state that drivers are not to use advertising that is “political or religious in nature of that is prejudicial to the interests of the FIA”.
Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka, the US Open champion, also brought Taylor’s death to public attention when she wore a face mask with her name on it at the New York tournament.
“It took me a long time to get that shirt and I’ve been wanting to wear it and bring awareness to the fact that there’s people that have been killed on the street and there’s someone that got killed in her own house, and they’re in the wrong house, and those guys are still walking free,” said Hamilton after his 90th career victory on Sunday.
“We can’t rest. We have to continue to raise awareness with it. And Naomi’s been doing amazing, so huge congratulations to her. She is an incredible inspiration with what she has done with her platform.”
F1 CHIEF SLAMS HAMILTON FOR EXPLOSIVE COMMENT
Meantime, Formula One race boss Michael Masi said he was personally offended by Hamilton’s criticism after the crash-hit Tuscan GP.
World champion Hamilton accused the FIA of putting drivers’ lives at risk in the interests of spicing up the on-track action.
Hamilton blasted the delay in telling drivers the race was resuming after the safety car period, resulting in his teammate Valtteri Bottas bunching up the field.
But Masi hit back saying he sees the Brit’s remarks as a personal attack because his priority is the drivers’ safety.
“From an FIA perspective, safety is paramount, full stop. End of story,” he said.
“In my capacity as the race director and safety delegate, point blank, that’s where my role sits as the sporting integrity and safety. And anyone that says otherwise is actually quite offensive.”
One of the accusations was the timing of when the lights of the safety car went out, meaning there was little time to prepare for a short dash into turn one at full speed.
But Masi points out that unlike the F1 stars, the drivers in the junior categories had no problem with their restarts.
“They can criticise all they want. If we have a look at a distance from where the lights were extinguished to the control line, (it’s) probably not dissimilar, if not longer, than at a number of other venues,” he said.
“At the end of the day, the safety car lights go out where they do, the safety car is in the pit lane.
“We have the 20 best drivers in the world but drivers in the junior category had a very, very similar restart to what was occurring in the F1 race and they navigated it quite well without incident.”
Outclassed in the season so far by stablemate Max Verstappen, the pressure on Alex Albon only grew after the man he replaced at Red Bull Racing last year – Pierre Gasly – won a chaotic race at Monza.
Despite the Thai driver finishing well outside the points that race and his wait for a podium continuing, Red Bull Racing chief Christian Horner insisted the factory would not be considering sending Albon back to AlphaTauri – formerly Toro Rosso – with Gasly coming the other way.
Nevertheless, after 17 races without a podium for Red Bull and none in 30 across his season and a half in F1, Albon must have felt the walls starting to close in going into the weekend.
He did himself plenty of favours, finishing third to pick up points for Red Bull on a day where Verstappen crashed out in the opening lap alongside Gasly.
Max’s Bull CRASHES in Lap 1
With his car slow off the mark, Albon had to work hard for his first podium in a race that featured three standing starts.
“It was tricky out there,” he said. “We had to work for it. It was nice to finally get that podium, under the circumstances as well. We weren’t good off the line, so a lot of the overtakes had to come on track.
“When you lose positions at the start, you always feel it will be more hard work, but you never doubt you can get back up there. The first stint, I used a lot of my tyres to overtake, I think, two cars.
“On the mediums, we were strong, so I knew the pace was there, but I was a bit afraid with another red flag as I was happy to be in that position. The Renault was strong at starts, Racing Point, too. It fired me up when we lost another position off the start, but I knew we had the pace.
“It was more about patience during the race, and making sure you don’t use the tyres too early so you had something for overtakes later on.”
The need to push for positions in the race rather than at the starting line put Albon in an old and uncomfortable position. The past two times he has been in contention for a podium finish he has paid dearly for failed overtake attempts, falling back to 14th after making contact with Lewis Hamilton at Brazil last year and failing to finish after colliding with the same man in this year’s opening race.
A GOLDEN CHANCE GOES BEGGING FOR RICCIARDO
The man Albon passed to third place was Australia’s own Daniel Ricciardo, who seemed destined to end Renault’s long wait for a first podium since rejoining F1 in 2016.
Ricciardo was among the podium spots for much of the race and was sitting second after being fastest off the mark in the race’s third standing start.
However, that standing start proved more curse than blessing for Ricciardo, who was looking comfortable in third before the second red flag. Although the standing start gave him the chance to use Renault’s impressive starting speed to push into second, it cost him track position while Albon flew on the soft tyres.
“It’s at the end the last part of the race, that final restart, Albon showed more pace than he had all race and we didn’t have an answer for that,” Ricciardo said. “He was really quick on the softs, on lower fuel, and it looked like that suited them more than us.
“I felt really good in the car but third sector was where he had us and that’s where you latch on to the DRS. We didn’t have an answer really.”
“If there wasn’t a red [flag] for Stroll, I guess, we had track position at the time and the medium was looking pretty good for us – I felt a bit in control of the pace. It’s pretty crazy, three reds in the last week. But they all had reason, there was big accidents.
“We’ll keep coming back and we’ll try to do it. I don’t feel like we missed out today, we put ourselves there, we didn’t have the speed at the end,” he said.
“A bit of pain on the inside”
LIKE LONDON BUSES…
It turns out red flags are like London buses. You wait forever for one, and suddenly three come at once.
F1 went more than three years without seeing a red flag, with its last appearance coming at Azerbaijan in 2017 – a race halted due to the amount of debris on the track. Ricciardo went on to win that race and looked odds on for another positive result this time around. Alas, it was not to be.
The three-year red flag drought came to an end last week at Monza when Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari lost its rear end, sliding into the gravel trap, badly damaging his car and the tyre barriers. That race also saw Lewis Hamilton and Lance Stroll serve 10-second stop-start penalties, with a chaotic set of circumstances catapulting Gasly to the front of the grid and eventually a well deserved win.
F1 race restart MADNESS!
It seemed a safe bet that was going to be the most eventful race F1 would see for a while. A week later and it is not even the most eventful race of the month.
Only 12 of the 20 cars that started the race on Sunday finished it, with Max Verstappen and Gasly both crashing out in the first lap, bringing the safety car out early. The safety car had barely made it off the track when things got real ugly, with a terrifying chain of events seeing four crash out at the rolling start, bringing out the red flag for the second time in as many races. Before racing resumed, Esteban Ocon was also forced to retire due to an overheating brake.
The drama did not end there however. The race was suspended again on lap 46 as Lance Stroll suffered a heavy crash and an internal fire on his Racing Point had to be extinguished before stewards could take his car off the track. In the space of two weeks, F1’s three-year red flag count jumped from zero to three.
Ferrari SMASHES into barrier!
WHO’S NOT TO BLAME FOR STANDING START MADNESS
Fingers were pointed everywhere after the rolling start went wrong, with those at the front of the grid adamant they were in the clear and those in the middle of it either insistent the problems started ahead of them or simply mystified by what had gone on.
“That was f***ing stupid from whoever was at the front,” Haas’ Romain Grosjean said on the team radio. “They want to kill us or what? This is the worst thing I’ve seen ever.”
Valtteri Bottas, the man at the front, said on the Mercedes’ team radio: “What happened with a restart that way, chaos was happening.”
In the wash-up no one was hurt but all four of Carlos Sainz, Kevin Magnussen, Antonio Giovinazzi, and Nicholas Latifi were forced to retire after Sainz cannoned into the back of three cars that had come to a virtual standstill.
Ultimately, stewards laid the blame on 12 of the 20 drivers in the race, issuing warnings for “inconsistent application of throttle and brake”. The 12 drivers were Magnussen, Daniil Kvyat, Latifi, Albon, Stroll, Ricciardo, Sergio Perez, Lando Norris, Ocon, George Russell, Giovinazzi and Sainz.
Bottas was cleared of any wrong doing, with stewards dismissing the notion he was driving too slow, pointing out it was his prerogative to set the pace up until clearing the start line after the safety car left the track.
“Car 77 [Bottas] had the right under the regulations to dictate the pace,” stewards said.
A statement added: “The Stewards acknowledge the challenges the location of the Control Line presents at this circuit and the desire of drivers to take advantage of the restart.
“However this incident demonstrates the need for caution to be exercised in the restart situation and note that there was an extreme concertina effect which dramatically increased as it moved down the field.”
HAMILTON DOES IT AGAIN…
Right now, the only thing that seems to be able to stop Lewis Hamilton is the man himself.
Last week at Monza, Hamilton blew his own chances of a podium by illegally pitting, landing himself a 10-second stop-start penalty that saw him plummet to the back of the grid midway through a red-flagged race.
He did well to fight all the way to seventh, finishing just two spots behind Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.
At Mugello, he started the race in pole position but slid to second as Bottas got the jump on him.
The second standing start provided him the perfect opportunity to reclaim the lead and on the third he retained it. From there, there was only ever going to be one winner.