Alonso returns back to F1 with Renault

Double world champion Fernando Alonso is coming back to Formula 1 by signing a new deal with Renault.

The Spaniard, who won his only world titles for the French squad in 2005 and 2006, last raced in Formula 1 at the end of 2018 season when he decided that the sport was no longer an attractive option for him.

Alonso will take over the pace of Australian Daniel Ricciardo, who has signed to join McLaren as replacement for the Ferrari-bound Carlos Sainz Jr.

Renault did not confirm the exact length of Alonso’s deal beyond saying that it is ‘for the upcoming seasons’. Alonso has talked about having high ambitions for the 2022 season, when the sport embarks on a new regulations era.

His return to Renault will be his third outing at the team. He originally joined the outfit as a test driver in 2002, before being promoted to a race seat the following year.

Alonso won his first race for the team in the 2003 Hungarian Grand Prix and was the main figurehead to its most successful campaigns in 2005 and 2006.

Following his championship wins, Alonso quit to join McLaren in 2007 but his relationship there turned sour especially with Ron Dennis and he returned to Renault for the 2008 and 2009 seasons.

Although he won races, including that controversial one at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix when teammate Nelson Piquet Jr deliberately crashed, the team could not deliver the title he was after.

Alonso subsequently moved to Scuderia Ferrari from 2010 to 2014 – unable to win titles there, before making a return to McLaren from 2015.

But his switch to McLaren failed to produce the kind of results he hoped for as he endured two difficult years with Honda power unit prior to a final frustrating campaign with Renault engines as McLaren’s car did not live up to expectations.

By the end of 2018, Alonso had grown tired of the demands of Formula 1 and a lack of good results, but his time away from it since then has given him new motivation to have one last assault.

His long-time manager Flavio Briatore said earlier this year that Alonso had been ‘detoxed’ by being away from the sport for a while.

Since leaving Formula 1, Alonso has won the FIA World Endurance Championship for Toyota – including back-to-back victories at the Le Mans 24 Hours – and earlier this year competed in the Dakar Rally for the Japanese manufacturer.

He has also tried to win the Indianapolis 500 race, but failed to qualify last year although is having another attempt later this season.

So welcome back Fernando Alonso. His ‘goodbye’ from Formula 1 after  the 2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was just temporary as the double title winner is back. Best wishes with Renault in 2021 champ.

Bottas victorious in wacky race at Austria

Valtteri Bottas took victory in a dramatic Formula 1 Austrian Grand Prix from Charles Leclerc after a penalty for Lewis Hamilton following a contact with Alex Albon dropped him to fourth.

Bottas crossed the finishing line as the winner of an attrition race – only eleven cars made it to the end – 0.6-second clear of his Mercedes teammate, but Hamilton was immediately demoted, which boosted Lando Norris to his ever first Formula 1 career podium in third.

Hamilton’s incident with Albon happened after the end of the race’s third safety car period and after Mercedes had to intervene with its drivers due to critical reliability warnings, like staying off the kerbs.

At the start, Bottas easily held the lead off the line and blasted to a two-second lead at the end of the opening lap, as Verstappen soaked up pressure from Lando Norris after several cars – including Norris, Hamilton and Charles Leclerc shot across the runoff at the exit of Turn 1.

Bottas set about extending his lead as the race settled down, warned by his team to look after his car on the third lap, as Verstappen tracked him on his medium tyres.

But any hope Red Bull’s bold strategy would get Verstappen a third win in succession at the team’s home circuit was dashed when Verstappen suddenly lost power approaching Turn 1 on lap 11 of 71.

He back to the pits attempting to reset the issue – a suspected electrical problem – but was forced to retire.

That left Hamilton chasing Bottas as the world champion had demoted Albon using DRS to blast by on the run to the Turn 4 on lap, and he began eating into the leader’s advantage.

As the first stint wore on, Hamilton had lowered the gap to Bottas, but the soft-tyre run was suddenly ended on when the safety car was called out after Kevin Magnussen spun off with an apparent brake issue as he was being passed by Esteban Ocon into Turn 3.

Mercedes managed to turn its two cars around – both going onto the hard tyres – without losing any time for either one, and when the race resumed Bottas again streaked clear.

Hamilton, however, was soon putting Bottas under severe pressure and he called the team to check he would be allowed to choose his own engine mode, and was Mercedes soon planned to turn down the power units on both cars.

But as the leaders ran ever closer together, Mercedes moved to warn them about a potential gearbox sensor issue that threatened both of the continued participation of both cars.

The race engineers of both Bottas and Hamilton warned their charges to stay off the kerbs before the team’s chief strategist James Vowles intervened to tell them the issue was “critical”.

As the leaders adapted their driving styles Hamilton began to drop back from Bottas when the race was suddenly suspended again when George Russell retired from P13 with a loss of fuel pressure.

And as the race restarted, it was suspended again almost immediately as Kimi Raikkonen, who had just stopped for fresh softs, lost his right front wheel running through penultimate corner.

When the safety car peeled off for the final time, Bottas again shot clear and on the following lap Albon – who had passed Perez just before the previous safety car was called and then gave the position back only to resume third place while the race was still neutralised – attacked Hamilton around the outside of Turn 4.

The Red Bull seemed to be ahead on the outside line but contact between Hamilton’s left-front and Albon’s right rear sent Albon spinning off in the gravel – echoing the contact between the pair at last year’s Brazilian Grand Prix.

As Bottas raced to the flag in what was an 11 lap final sprint, Hamilton was given a five-second time addition.

That meant Leclerc, who had been having a low-key race before the safety cars turned the action around, finished second as he had stopped for fresh mediums during the Raikkonen safety car.

He demoted Sergio Perez from third on the road with a late move into Turn 3 five laps to run and was closer enough to Hamilton to move up to second after the flag.

Norris claimed the final podium spot after surviving a late scrap with his teammate Carlos Sainz and then bumping past Perez, who had tried to make a long run of mediums work earlier in the race, at Turn 3.

But Norris needed to close the gap to Hamilton rapidly and he set the race’s fastest lap on the last tour to take third by 0.1 seconds.

Sainz finished fifth with Perez sixth after his own five-second penalty was applied for speeding in the pitlane.

Pierre Gasly took sixth ahead of the returning Esteban Ocon, with Antonio Giovinazzi ninth for Alfa Romeo.

Sebastian Vettel took 10th despite a spin when he misjudged his braking while running behind Sainz going into Turn 3 shortly before half distance.

Nicholas Latifi finished his F1 debut last in P11, with Albon a late retirement alongside a host of other non-finishers who suffered various mechanical problems – except Daniil Kvyat who retired late on with a blown left-rear tyre as he ran into Turn 1 with two laps to go.

So a crazy race at the Red Bull Ring. Congratulations to Valtteri Bottas in winning the first race of the delayed 2020 season and yet the biggest cheers goes to Lando Norris. Third place for McLaren is such an incredible achievement. Fingers crossed next weekend race at the same venue will give us more excitement.

Austrian Grand Prix race results:
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:30:55.739
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +2.700
3 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault +5.491
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +5.689
5 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren-Renault +8.903
6 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes +15.092
7 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda +16.682
8 Esteban Ocon Renault +17.456
9 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari +21.146
10 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari +24.545
11 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes +31.650
– Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri-Honda 67
– Alex Albon Red Bull Racing-Honda 67
– Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 53
– George Russell Williams-Mercedes 49
– Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 49
– Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 24
– Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 20
– Daniel Ricciardo Renault 17
– Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 11

Bottas takes pole position at Austria

Valtteri Bottas scored an advantage on his Mercedes Formula 1 teammate Lewis Hamilton by claiming pole position for the Austrian Grand Prix despite taking a trip into the gravel on his final Q3 run.

Max Verstappen claimed third place for Red Bull and will start on a different tyres to the Mercedes drivers, with Lando Norris an incredible fourth for McLaren as Racing Point’s pace was only good enough for sixth place for Sergio Perez and Ferrari’s performance faltered further than expected.

Bottas broke the track record at the Red Bull Ring with a lap time of one minute, 02.939 seconds on his first run in Q3, with Hamilton unable to get under 63-seconds on his own first effort in the final qualifying segment as he lost time in the second and third sectors.

On their final flying lap, Bottas improved his time in the first sector but then slid into the gravel at the exit of Turn 4 – later spinning on the grass as he returned to the track – while Hamilton looked to be improving.

The world champion did better his time to a one minute, 02.951 seconds but wound up second on the grid for the race having topped all three practice sessions.

Verstappen took third but will start the race on the mediums after getting through Q2 on the yellow-compound, with Norris rising to fourth with a fantastic final effort in his MCL35.

Alex Albon qualified fifth for Red Bull ahead of the much-fancied RP20 of Perez, who nevertheless beat Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc to P6.

Leclerc was the remaining Ferrari runner in Q3 after Sebastian Vettel did not make it past Q2, but last year’s polesitter ended up nearly a second slower than Bottas’ time.

Carlos Sainz took P8, with Lance Stroll and Daniel Ricciardo rounding out the top ten.

In Q2, which Bottas topped fractionally ahead of Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel was dramatically knocked out when Albon leapt up the order with a late improvement in the second segment.

Vettel had been at risk as he was only tenth after the first Q2 runs, and on his final effort he bounced over the kerbs at the first and final corners, sliding wide on each occasion and not improving as a result, with Leclerc only just getting into Q3 with P10 at the end of Q2.

Behind Vettel came Pierre Gasly in the AlphaTauri, with his teammate Daniil Kvyat in P13, ahead of Esteban Ocon – making his first Formula 1 qualifying appearance since the 2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – and Romain Grosjean.

In Q1, which was topped by Verstappen while Albon had a nervous wait as he was not sent out again for a final run in the opening segment, last-gasp improvements from the Haas drivers cost Williams a Q2 slot.

Grosjean squeaked through ahead of his teammate Kevin Magnussen, while Russell, who was P15 before the final Q1 runs, did not improve on his last effort – possibly losing out thanks to a snap of oversteer exiting the downhill right of Turn 4 – and will start P17.

Antonio Giovinazzi ended up P18 after he skated into the Turn 4 gravel trap on his final run, with Kimi Raikkonen behind in P19, ahead of Williams rookie Nicholas Latifi, who took to the track immediately in Q1 to make up for the time lost in his FP2 crash.

So congratulations to Valtteri Bottas with pole position, heading a Mercedes front row. Going to be a fascinating race at the Red Bull Ring.

Qualifying positions for the Austrian Grand Prix:
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:02.939
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:02.951
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1:03.477
4 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 1:03.626
5 Alex Albon Red Bull-Honda 1:03.868
6 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes 1:03.868
7 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:03.923
8 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren-Renault 1:03.971
9 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 1:04.029
10 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1:04.239
11 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:04.206
12 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 1’04.305
13 Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri-Honda 1’04.431
14 Esteban Ocon Renault 1:04.643
15 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1:04.691
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1:05.164
17 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1:05.167
18 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:05.175
19 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:05.224
20 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 1:05.757

Sainz to race at the Scuderia in 2021

Following the news that Ferrari have parting ways with Sebastian Vettel, the Scuderia has confirmed Carlos Sainz Jr as a replacement to the four-time world champion for the 2021 season.

With Vettel leaving the team at the end of the season, Ferrari moved swiftly by striking a contract with Sainz as his replacement.

Ferrari issued a statement confirming Sainz would be joining the team from McLaren for the 2021 season, partnering Charles Leclerc.

Ferrari said Sainz had signed a two-year deal.

“I am very happy that I will be driving for Scuderia Ferrari in 2021 and I’m excited about my future with the team.”

“I still have an important year ahead with McLaren Racing and I’m really looking forward to going racing again with them this season.”

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto commented:

“I’m pleased to announce that Carlos will join Scuderia Ferrari as from the 2021 championship.”

“With five seasons already behind him, Carlos has proved to be very talented and has shown that he has the technical ability and the right attributes to make him an ideal fit with our family.

“We’ve embarked on a new cycle with the aim of getting back to the top in Formula 1. It will be a long journey, not without its difficulties, especially given the current financial and regulatory situation, which is undergoing a sudden change and will require this challenge to be tackled in a different way to the recent past.

“We believe that a driver pairing with the talent and personality of Charles and Carlos, the youngest in the past fifty years of the Scuderia, will be the best possible combination to help us reach the goals we have set ourselves.”

McLaren had earlier confirming that Sainz would be leaving the team at the end of 2020 after the signing of Daniel Ricciardo, whose own departure from Renault was also confirmed.

Sainz was one of the breakout stars of the 2019 season as he finished sixth in the championship for McLaren, scoring the team’s first podium in almost six years at the Brazilian Grand Prix.

McLaren had already opened talks with Sainz over a new contract beyond 2020 as he entered the second season of his two-year deal, but negotiations had not advanced to a late enough stage to fend off interest from Ferrari.

It marks the latest big step for Sainz in a Formula 1 career that has accelerated rapidly in the last three years since his departure from Toro Rosso.

Promoted to the sport alongside fellow Red Bull junior Max Verstappen in 2015, Sainz spent almost three seasons with Toro Rosso before joining Renault with four races left in the 2017 campaign.

Renault’s deal to sign Ricciardo left Sainz without a drive for 2019, only for McLaren to pick up Carlos on a two-year contract.

Sainz quickly adjusted to life with McLaren, forging a good relationship off-track with rookie teammate Lando Norris, and was able to lead the team on-track as it recorded its best constructors’ championship finish since 2012.

As talks broke down with Vettel, Ferrari quickly identified Sainz as the driver it wanted to partner Leclerc for the future, allowing the deal to be announced just 48 hours after Vettel’s departure was made official.

So congratulations to Carlos Sainz Jr with this promotion. Joining Ferrari alongside Charles Leclerc makes it an exciting line-up and it is going to be fascinating to see him develop as a winner after scoring a podium in Brazil. Hopefully good times are in store for Sainz.

Ricciardo leaves Renault for McLaren

Daniel Ricciardo will race in McLaren papaya orange in the 2021 Formula 1 season as a replacement to Carlos Sainz Jr.

With Sainz off to Ferrari following the news Sebastian Vettel will leave the team, McLaren has confirmed the honey badger will be joining at the end of the year.

The new deal will see the seven-time Grand Prix winner leave Renault, where he has raced for the last two seasons following his departure from Red Bull Racing.

McLaren has been keen on working for Ricciardo for some time, making an approach for the Australian when he weighed up his Formula 1 future in 2018.

Ricciardo ultimately decided to sign for Renault, who finished behind McLaren in the constructors’ championship last season.

Lando Norris has also been confirmed as staying at McLaren to partner Ricciardo.

McLaren Racing’s CEO Zak Brown had this to say:

“Signing Daniel is another step forward in our long-term plan and will bring an exciting new dimension to the team, alongside Lando. This is good news for our team, partners and of course our fans.”

“I also want to pay tribute to Carlos for the excellent job he has been doing for McLaren in helping our performance recovery plan. He is a real team player and we wish him well for his future beyond McLaren.”

Team principal Andreas Seidl commented about Ricciardo joining the team:

“Daniel is a proven race winner and his experience, commitment and energy will be a valuable addition to McLaren and our mission to return to the front of the field.”

“With Daniel and Lando as teammates, I believe we have two racers who will continue to excite our fans and help the team grow.

“Carlos is a true professional, a pleasure to work with and we will continue to enjoy going racing with him this year. We all wish him good luck for the next stage in his career when he leaves McLaren.”

McLaren had already opened talks with Sainz over a new contract after his impressive display for the team last season, only for Ferrari to swoop in once Vettel’s exit was confirmed.

Since returning to Formula 1 as a works team in 2016, Renault has been open in its target to return to the front of the field upon the new set of technical regulations, which now come into force for 2022.

Ricciardo signed for Renault fully aware of the long-term nature of the project, but the team failed to bridge the gap to the leading three teams as hoped through 2019.

Renault is yet to indicate who will replace Ricciardo at the team, but it now holds one of the highest-profile open seats in Formula 1 for 2021.

Outgoing Ferrari driver Vettel has been linked with the seat, as has two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, who previously raced for Renault in two stints from 2003-06 and in 2008-09.

Renault has also been bold in its ambition to have a graduate from its junior academy on the Formula 1 grid by 2021, a possibility strengthened by Ricciardo’s departure.

Guanyu Zhou and Christian Lundgaard are the two leading members of the Renault Sport Academy, both racing in Formula 2 this year.

So fantastic news to get Daniel Ricciardo at McLaren. It’s going to be fascinating to see Ricciardo driving with a Mercedes-powered car and fighting for points. He gets along very well with teammate Lando Norris, thanks to jokes and banter. Best of luck Daniel!

Vettel leaves Ferrari after 2020 season

Scuderia Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel will part ways at the end of the 2020 Formula 1 season, calling it a joint decision.

It follows the news that Vettel was set to leave the team at the end of the year after a breakdown in negotiations over a new contract.

Sebastian’s existing three-year deal expires at the end of 2020, but after months of discussions over a fresh contract without a breakthrough, the decision was taken to part company.

Ferrari confirmed Vettel’s departure in an official statement with quotes from team principal Mattia Binotto.

“This is a decision taken jointly by ourselves and Sebastian, one which both parties feel is for the best.”

“It was not an easy decision to reach, given Sebastian’s worth as a driver and as a person. There was no specific reason that led to this decision, apart from the common and amicable belief that the time had come to go our separate ways in order to reach our respective objectives.”

Vettel is understood to have been offered a short-term contract at a reduced salary compared to his previous deals, but stressed in his announcement that financial considerations played no part in the decision.

“In order to get the best possible results in this sport, it’s vital for all parties to work in perfect harmony. The team and I have realised that there is no longer a common desire to stay together beyond the end of this season.”

“Financial matters have played no part in this joint decision. That’s not the way I think when it comes to making certain choices and it never will be.

“What’s been happening in these past few months has led many of us to reflect on what are our real priorities in life. One needs to use one’s imagination and to adopt a new approach to a situation that has changed. I myself will take the time I need to reflect on what really matters when it comes to my future.

“Scuderia Ferrari occupies a special place in Formula 1 and I hope it gets all the success it deserves. Finally, I want to thank the whole Ferrari family and above all its ‘Tifosi’ all around the world, for the support they have given me over the years.

“My immediate goal is to finish my long stint with Ferrari, in the hope of sharing some more beautiful moments together, to add to all those we have enjoyed so far.”

As for the future for the four-time world champion? It’s unclear if there is a seat back at Red Bull Racing or an opportunity to join the current title winners Mercedes. The most realistic outcome is to call time on the sport and retire. Team boss Binotto paid tribute to Vettel with his commitment at the team in these past few seasons:

“On behalf of everyone at Ferrari, I want to thank Sebastian for his great professionalism and the human qualities he has displayed over these five years, during which we shared so many great moments.”

“We have not yet managed to win a world title together, which would be a fifth for him, but we believe that we can still get a lot out of this unusual 2020 season.”

Scuderia Ferrari is yet to make any announcement on who will replace Vettel for 2021 and join Charles Leclerc at Maranello. It’s going to be fascinating to see who will step up to the challenge.

As for Vettel, thank you for the memories at Ferrari. Scoring 12 pole positions, winning 14 races and coming second in the championship twice for the Scuderia. Best of luck to Sebastian in his next outing, be it in Formula 1 or something else that he loves to compete in.

Late start to Formula 1 2020 season

Following the news that the season-opening Australian Grand Prix is cancelled and the postponement of the races in China, Bahrain and Vietnam, Formula 1 and the sport’s governing body have said they now ‘expect’ the 2020 season to begin at the end of May.

The outbreak of COVID-19 forced the Chinese event to be postponed. And then, during the build-up to Melbourne, a McLaren team member tested positive for the virus.

With that major health concern, the next race which was suppose to take place in Bahrain next weekend, and the first ever Vietnam Grand Prix, scheduled for the beginning of April, have been postponed.

A joint statement from Formula 1, the FIA, the race organisers and the relevant governments involved, said:

“Following the announcement of the Australian Grand Prix’s cancellation this week and the ongoing and fluid nature of the COVID-19 situation globally, Formula 1, the FIA and the promoters have taken these decisions in order to ensure the health and safety of the travelling staff, championship participants and fans, which remains our primary concern.”

All parties said they were hopeful the races could be staged at a later date, and in light of the impact the virus is having, the statement added that it is expected the Formula 1 season can begin at the end of May.

“Formula 1 and the FIA continue to work closely with the race promoters in Bahrain and Vietnam and the local health authorities to monitor the situation and take the appropriate amount of time to study the viability of potential alternative dates for each Grand Prix later in the year should the situation improve.

“As a result, Formula 1 and the FIA expect to begin the Championship in Europe at the end of May but given the sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in Europe in recent days, this will be regularly reviewed.”

Chase Carey, Formula 1 Chairman and CEO, said the safety of the fans and people working in the sport is the main priority.

“The global situation regarding COVID-19 is fluid and very difficult to predict and it’s right we take time to assess the situation and make the right decisions.

“We are taking this decision with the FIA and our promoters to ensure the safety of everyone involved in Formula 1 and our fans. The Bahrain Grand Prix is an exciting race in our schedule, and we look forward to being back there as soon as we can. We are also looking forward to Vietnam’s inaugural race and bringing the spectacle of F1 to one of the most exciting cities in the world.”

FIA President Jean Todt added the following statement:

“Protecting people first. Together with Formula 1, the Bahrain Motor Federation, the Vietnamese Motorsports Association, and the local promoters, postponing both the Bahrain and Vietnam Grands Prix, as with the Australian Grand Prix, was the only possible decision given all of the information currently available to us.

“We continue to rely on the input and advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and governments and will work with them throughout this unpredictable period to safeguard the fans, competitors and all of the motor sport community.”

With the four of the opening races cancelled, this year’s championship will feature fewer events. It’s a difficult situation for the teams, the race organisations and all the people running the show in managing the new schedule. Fingers crossed a solution is available. For fans of the sport, the excitement of seeing racing action will have to wait.

Season opener Australian Grand Prix cancelled

The first race of the new Formula 1 season is now cancelled following the coronavirus pandemic.

Australian Grand Prix organisers, F1 and the sport’s governing body (FIA) have agreed to cancel the season opener in Melbourne for the sake of health and well being.

The move follows hours of confusion after confirmation of a McLaren team member returning a positive COVID-19 test last night.

Spectators were denied entry to the circuit this morning, while competitive track action never started despite marshalling crews being in place and course cars and two-seater F1 cars lapping the circuit.

Official statement from the AGPC on the cancellation:

“At 9am today the Australian Grand Prix Corporation was advised by Formula 1 of their intention to cancel all Formula 1 activity at the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix.”

“In light of this decision and updated advice this morning from the Chief Health Officer of the Victorian Government’s Department of Human and Health Services, the Australian Grand Prix Corporation confirms the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix is cancelled immediately.

“Last night a member of the McLaren Racing team tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. A further seven individuals returned negative results, confirming that they do not have the COVID-19 virus.

“Additionally, a ninth individual has been assessed and tested for the COVID-19 virus, with the results of this test pending. This individual is not associated with any Formula 1 team, the FIA or associated suppliers.

“Our first priority is the safety of everyone including attendees, our personnel, all event partners and members of the local community.

“Further information regarding refunds for ticket holders will be communicated in due course.”

A statement from Formula 1 read:

“Following the confirmation that a member of the McLaren Racing Team has tested positive for COVID-19 and the team’s decision to withdraw from the Australian Grand Prix, Formula 1 and the FIA convened a meeting of the other nine team principals on Thursday evening.

“Those discussions concluded with a majority view of the teams that the race should not go ahead. Formula 1 and the FIA, with the full support of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation (AGPC) have therefore taken the decision that all Formula 1 activity for the Australian Grand Prix is cancelled.

“We appreciate this is very disappointing news for the thousands of fans due to attend the race and all ticket holders will receive a full refund and a further announcement will be communicated in due course.

“All parties took into consideration the huge efforts of the AGPC, Motorsport Australia, staff and volunteers to stage the opening round of the 2020 FIA Formula One World Championship in Melbourne, however concluded that the safety of all members of the Formula 1 family and the wider community, as well as the fairness of the competition take priority.”

Even before the official confirmation, Mercedes publicly called on F1 and the FIA to call off the race.

“The Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team has today sent a letter to the FIA and F1 requesting the cancellation of the 2020 Australian Grand Prix,” the statement read. “We share the disappointment of the sport’s fans that this race cannot go ahead as planned. However, the physical and mental health and wellbeing of our team members and of the wider F1 community are our absolute priority.

“In light of the force majeure events we are experiencing with regards to the Coronavirus pandemic, we no longer feel the safety of our employees can be guaranteed if we continue to take part in the event.

“We empathise strongly with the worsening situation in Europe, most especially in Italy, and furthermore we do not feel it would be right to participate in an event where fellow competitors such as McLaren are unable to do so through circumstances beyond their control.

“Our team will therefore begin pack-up preparations at the circuit this morning.”

This is the correct decision to shut it down considering what is happening around the world. Although it is pure arrogance that the FIA and the race organisation wanted to stage the Australian Grand Prix in the first place due to commercial pressure. Thankfully, common sense has prevailed in this situation but how many more races will be postponed or cancelled?

Alfa Romeo unveils 2020 Formula 1 car on eve of pre-season testing

The Alfa Romeo Formula 1 team unveiled their C39 to the world’s press just before day one of pre-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

The former Sauber outfit presented their 2020 race car in the pitlane, having previously given the C39 a maiden run in a camo livery in a Fiorano shakedown earlier.

Drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi were on hand to lift the covers off the new livery, which remains largely unchanged from last year’s design.

The white base colour remains with red trim, but with additional branding for new title partner Orlen – on the front wing endplates, rear wing and sidepod – following its arrival for the 2020 season. The blue lines that were on the 2019 car’s nosecone have been painted red.

New reserve driver Robert Kubica form part of Alfa Romeo’s driving talent following his race stint with Williams last year.

In addition to the C39 launch, Alfa Romeo confirmed it has retained 2020 Super Formula newcomer Tatiana Calderon in a test driver capacity.

So that’s all the Formula 1 race cars from the ten teams. Pre-season testing gets underway at the Spanish Grand Prix race circuit and it will be fascinating which team/car is looking good in the early stages.

The opening round of the championship begins next month at Melbourne, Albert Park. So testing is highly important in terms of getting technical feedback and knowledge.

Racing Point debuts 2020 car

This is the new ‘Pink Panther’ Formula 1 car from Racing Point. The team revealed its 2020 livery at BWT’s Austrian base in Mondsee including the news on a long-term sponsorship deal with water technology company.

Featuring a revised paint job on new RP20, the team’s previous title sponsor, betting firm SportPesa, is no longer involved.

Racing Point drivers Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll will again drive the car, with the former signing a new contract to stay with the team for a number of years.

The team will now compete as ‘BWT Racing Point F1 Team’, and branding for its title sponsor is more prominent on the car and on the race suits compared to 2019.

The RP20 is the second car produced by Racing Point since it was rescued by a consortium led by Lance Stroll’s father Lawrence Stroll ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix in 2018.

It was announced that the team will be rebranded as Aston Martin next year after Lawrence Stroll bought into the manufacturer last month.

The 2020 season is the second that Sergio Perez – who joined the team in 2014 – and Stroll will be teammates.

They finished P10 and P15 in the 2019 drivers’ standings, with Racing Point ending up seventh in the constructors’ championship.

“This year we want to be a strong fourth,” team boss Otmar Szafnauer said. “We want to be closer to the top three that we’ve ever been in the past, and we want to be top of the midfield.

“Last year was a bit of a difficult year for us, we ended up seventh, on the back end of the midfield grid, but this year we want to take a step up and be where we normally can be.

“In order to do that, we’ve had to do a lot of development work over the winter. It’s not that easy, the competition is getting stronger: McLaren did a really good job last year; Renault, with the might of the motor company behind them and the 650-plus employees that they have, aren’t going to be easy [to beat]; even Toro Rosso [AlphaTauri] with the resurgence of the Honda powertrain did really well towards the end of last year.

“But I’m confident that the work we’ve done over the winter on the new car, and the work that Mercedes, our powertrain partner, has done on the powertrain, and the hard work the drivers have been doing to keep fit and work in our simulators, we will have a good chance to hit our targets.”

It’s going to be a fascinating season for the BWT-sponsored team and it will be interesting to see the performance compared to their rivals. Best wishes Racing Point.