Events

2020 Decisions Causing Angst As F1 Goes To Russia.

The owners of Formula 1 have been discussing and debating mooted changes to the series for 2020. One of the changes is a reverse grid qualifying, and it’s this that appears to have drivers standing shoulder to shoulder, and saying no. Ross Brawn, a former team CEO and now F1 technical director, says:”To try to clarify the situation and avoid misunderstandings, there are discussions about experimenting in 2020 with changes to the qualifying format with the aim of making a Grand Prix weekend a little less predictable.” It’s been mooted to have the reverse grid format trialed at up to three Grands Prix.

Otmar Szafnauer, Racing Point team principal, doesn’t appear to be a supporter. “We have to answer a lot of questions… what happens if you crash in the qualifying race, we then have to carry more spares, who’s going to pay for it, engine mileage might be a little different, tyre usage. It could happen. But we do need unanimity for that to happen in 2020.” Two of the category’s leading drivers also have a strong stance. “BS”, said Sebastian Vettel, “I don’t know which genius came up with this but it’s not the solution. It’s completely the wrong approach.” Lewis Hamilton said: “People who propose that don’t really know what they’re talking about.” Up and comer Charles Leclerc also weighed in. “I think the best shall win and start in the best place and not reversing that order. I don’t think it’s the solution.”

Another topic still to be sorted is just where will Nico Hulkenberg land next year. With Renault confirming that he’s to be delisted at the end of 2019 and Esteban Ocon will return to the top tier, various questions about Hulkenberg’s future have been met with other questions about which team may open a door. The latest information is that Alfa Romeo’s head, Frederic Vasseur, isn’t completely satisfied with the performance of Antonio Giovinazzi. This may open the door for the team to open discussions with the outgoing Renault driver.

It also appears that Renault still haven’t completely satisfied their star signing for this year. Mark Webber has provided his thoughts on Daniel Ricciardo, with the former F1 driver stating: “He was at Red Bull, I wish he stayed there because it is a better package.” Webber believes that Red Bull weren’t that far from the financial agreement either and feels that his fellow Aussie needs to decide about his approach to the rest of the season.

This weekend’s race at Sochi sees Ferrari in the midst of a possible resurgence, but this too hasn’t been without dramas. As Mercedes-Benz supremo Toto Wolff noted: “I think always two alphas competing for position has the potential for rivalry and escalation within the team. We’ve been there and I think today as a team, we are very strong, with a clear philosophy. On the positives, they keep taking points away from each other, which is an advantage.”

That may be the case however the Mercedes lead is still 133 points with six rounds now left in the season. Wolff acknowledges the recent success of Ferrari but also is aware of the history that Mercedes has at this former Olympics site. The Silver Arrows have won every GP here since the first in 2014, but Wolff isn’t keen to ride the coattails of history. “Sochi has been a strong circuit for us in recent years but those trends don’t mean anything once we are on the ground. We expect the weekend ahead to be another challenging one for us. The last seven races have shown us that we are in the midst of a fierce battle – and we need to be at our best in every area to claim the top step of the podium.”

One man keen to see the circuit this weekend is Daniil Kvyat. His first F1 season was 2014, the first year that Sochi hosted a round of F1. He has his own grandstand in Sochi and finished fifth here on his second visit in 2015.

Another street based circuit, the Sochi Autodrom utilises the roads built for the 2014 Winter Olympics in the central south of Russia. Located on the eastern shores of The Black Sea, Sochi’s natural beauty makes for a beautiful backdrop, not that the F1 drivers will have much time to take notice. The race distance is 53 laps of a 5.848 kilometer track for a total race distance of 309.745 kilometers. 18 corners feature and it’s a difficult track to set up for thanks to the combination of short straights, slightly longer straights, and sweeping corners.

Practice starts at 11:00 local time on Friday September 27, with Q1 getting underway at 15:00 on Saturday. Race start is 14:10 local, Sunday, September 29.

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David Conole

Dave Conole is the former long-term circuit commentator for Sydney Motorsport Park, has worked trackside at the Australian F1 Grand Prix in Melbourne and is self-employed as an automotive content producer.

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