Latest F1 news in brief – Sunday

  • Luca Ghiotto
    Luca Ghiotto

    Ghiotto hails 'unbelievable' maiden F1 test

  • Pirelli ponder new compound for 2018
  • McLaren 'will do everything' to try keep Alonso
  • Why Silverstone may lose the British GP
  • F1 Race Winners Sip From $3,000 Carbon-Fiber Bottles Of Champagne

Ghiotto hails 'unbelievable' maiden F1 test
Luca Ghiotto labelled his maiden Formula 1 test as "unbelievable" after he received his first run out in top-level machinery with Williams at the Hungaroring.

Ghiotto finished as runner-up to now-Force India driver Esteban Ocon in GP3 in 2015 and currently holds fifth place in the Formula 2 standings, his second season in the division.

Ghiotto was afforded a day in the FW40 during the post-race test in Hungary and completed 161 laps – the most by a single driver on one day – and reveled in his outing.

"I have to say a big thank you to Williams and everyone that made this possible because I have been working on this since I started racing," he said.

"It was unbelievable and now that it is over, I can say it has been more unbelievable than I thought it could have been.

"I am really happy, especially because I can see the team is happy about the work we've done, all the things we've tested have worked out well and we were good, we could feel all the changes we made.

"The car is unbelievable to drive and of course it took me a lot to adapt to such a great car.

"I did many laps which I'm surprised about. I couldn't believe I could do 161 laps which is a lot, especially on such a tight track on a hot day."

"It was a shame we couldn't do a lap time on the Super Softs tires because of a red flag but still, considering all the tires we ran and the conditions, I am really happy."

Test chief Rod Nelson added: "Luca was pretty quick and consistent which is exactly what we needed. He gave very good feedback and we're very pleased with the results."

Pirelli ponder new compound for 2018

2017 Pirelli tires
2017 Pirelli tires

Pirelli F1 boss Mario Isola has said increasing the number of tire compounds to six is a possibility for the 2018 season.

The tire manufacturer have until September 1 to submit their plans for next season, but they have another three months to decide on the specific compounds available to teams for next year.

They are currently five compounds (hard, medium, soft, supersoft and ultrasoft) made for this season, but Isola reckons there is space for one more.

"Depending on the results, we will decide the number of compounds," Isola explained. "My opinion is to go up to six, which is possible.

"If I look at the regulations the number of compounds is our proposal to the FIA, and usually the FIA accepts, because there is no reason to refuse. In fact this year we homologated 10 compounds – we had the five base compounds, and five back-up compounds.

"We don't need the agreement of the teams. In Abu Dhabi after the race we have two days of testing with all the cars, and all the teams, which is supposed to be for validation of the new product, to give the teams the opportunity to test it in advance.

"So end of November we need to be ready with the final version of our 2018 tires."

McLaren 'will do everything' to try keep Alonso

Fernando Alonso
Fernando Alonso

McLaren COO Jonathan Neale has said the team are doing "everything they can" to convince Fernando Alonso to stay with the team for the 2018 season.

Alonso, whose contract expires at the end of this campaign, has expressed his desire to win a third World Championship and has told McLaren to deliver a car that is capable of doing it.

A tall order given the plethora of problems McLaren-Honda have had since forming partnership and the overall lack of power that the MCL32 possesses.

But, the team are going to fight to keep hold of the Spaniard for next season.

"If I put my personal colors to the mast, I'd love to have Fernando in this team," Neale told motorsport.com.

I know we'll do everything we can to keep him in this team but I recognize he will have choices – nothing is a given. I think he's a great guy, he's one of the best drivers I have ever worked with and I'd love to have him for longer."

Neale also revealed that he is encouraged about the progress McLaren are already making for next year as they ponder a change in engine supplier.

He added: "I'm encouraged about McLaren's future

"A lot has happened over the last 12 months. We're ready to take that next step for McLaren. Our thoughts are starting to turn to next year's car and what that is going to look like."

"Of course the engine stuff is in that mix. We need to land all of that in and before the September timescale so our drivers know who we are going to be and what their plans are going to be.

"No firm decisions have been made. We're in lots of dialogue with Honda. We're keeping the FIA and FOM close to what is going on. We are trying to do the right thing for F1 but also try to do the right thing for McLaren."

Why Silverstone may lose the British GP

Silverstone
Silverstone loses millions to host the British GP

Formula One currently finds itself facing the prospect of losing one of its oldest, most established races after the British Racing Drivers Club (BRDC) cut its contract to host the British Grand Prix at Silverstone last month.

As things stand, the last British Grand Prix will be in 2019 unless a new venue comes forward or the BRDC signs a new deal with FOM.

According to a report in Forbes the BRDC turned down a £254m deal which would have secured the future of the race.

The offer was made by Lawrence Tomlinson, one of Britain's most respected businessmen. His LNT Group employs in the region of a thousand people and its investments range from care homes to sports car maker Ginetta. Over the past decade he has personally invested around £40m in grass roots international motorsport and is an accomplished racer himself having won the GT2 class at Le Mans in 2006.

Crucially Tomlinson was acting chief executive of Silverstone with BRDC chairman John Grant in 2014 and he put this experience to use with his offer for Silverstone.

Forbes reports that Tomlinson offered £5m upfront in the form of a payment for a 249-year lease on Silverstone and agreed to transfer this sum immediately into a lawyer's account for a short period of exclusivity.

But that's just the start.

Tomlinson offered an annual payment of £1m for 249 years to lease the BRDC estate and £1m of this was due to be paid in advance. In later versions of Tomlinson's offer the term was reduced to 125 years based on feedback from BRDC members but, either way, it was a huge commitment.

In addition, Tomlinson committed to protecting the jobs of the Silverstone team and investing in the maintenance and development of the track. He even agreed to fund the creation of an executive lounge for BRDC members and their partners.

Finally, Tomlinson vowed to put his grassroots racing expertise to use by raising the profile of the BRDC's Rising Stars and Super Stars junior programs.

It sounds like a no-brainer but not to the BRDC. Despite multiple extensions it let Tomlinson's offer lapse and it was not accepted within the final deadline. In February it took Silverstone off the market after it failed to get any buyers to the line.

The BRDC was forced to drop the British Grand Prix after burning up huge losses due to the estimated £17m race hosting fee which increases by 5% annually. It has been clear for a long time that this was inevitable.

In January a senior BRDC member told Pitpass' Christian Sylt that "they will definitely drop the Grand Prix and see what is going to happen over the next two years. It's a two year notice period. They will have to give notice. There is no question about it because it is not affordable. They will give notice to terminate the Grand Prix, there's no question. If it is unaffordable it is unaffordable so that will have to happen."

It proved to be spot on but remarkably the BRDC bluntly denied it in a statement. In its report just days later, Reuters said that "Silverstone's owners have dismissed as ‘speculative and wrong' recent media reports suggesting the British Formula One Grand Prix would be dropped after 2019. The British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC) said in a statement on Friday that no decision on exercising a break clause would be made before mid-July, when the race is held."

Looking further back, in 2010, when the BRDC signed its F1 contract, Sylt forecast in the Telegraph that the cheapest British Grand Prix ticket prices, which were then priced at £125, would rise 22.5% to £153 by 2014. The article stated that by 2026 their price would double to £249 to compensate for the increase in the hosting fee.

In response to the article a Silverstone spokesperson said that "the figures reported bear no resemblance to the facts, or Silverstone's plans for the future. They are speculative and unhelpful. Any increase in ticket prices would be in-line with the annual rate of inflation, or rises in VAT. Silverstone is looking at alternative ways to increase revenue from the British Grand Prix to help cover any increase in costs or fees."

In fact Silverstone's statement was fake news as the ticket prices didn't just rise, the increases exceeded those in the forecasts. Thanks to the escalation in the hosting fee, the cheapest tickets actually hit £170 in 2014 and this year came to £199 compared to the £173 forecast. The higher the ticket prices, the harder it is to get spectators through the gates and that is precisely what the BRDC found itself up against.

Last year's British Grand Prix was won by local hero Lewis Hamilton and although he was on a winning-streak in the run-up to the race, spectator numbers were down by 1,000 to 139,000. Grant lifted the lid on the impact of this in a letter to BRDC members on 19 December. It said that "the GP, although an excellent sporting spectacle with a hugely popular British winner (thanks Lewis), fell short of budget and the previous year in terms of revenues."

Last month he added that "it is not financially viable for us to deliver the British Grand Prix under the terms of our current contract. We sustained losses of £2.8 million in 2015 and £4.8 million in 2016, and we expect to lose a similar amount this year. We have reached the tipping point where we can no longer let our passion for the sport rule our heads."

Fans are vainly clinging to the hope that Liberty will cave in and reduce the hosting fee but if it did this then all the other tracks would want the same treatment. Indeed, if the BRDC's fee was cut after it broke its contract it could encourage others to do the same in a bid for a reduction.
It came as a huge shock to the industry that the BRDC actually went ahead and tore up its contract. Although it had a sometimes fractious relationship with F1's former boss Bernie Ecclestone, it had never broken its contract with him over the decades that they worked together. Within six months of F1 being taken over by Liberty Media the BRDC finally took the plunge.

The circumstances that led to the BRDC dropping the British Grand Prix were put in motion long before Liberty got the keys to F1 but it still had an opportunity to stop the contract from getting the red light.

This is because the BRDC had been in talks with Liberty about renegotiating the British Grand Prix contract but they weren't fruitful. In May F1's new boss Chase Carey said that he "will not be renegotiating the contract. We value Silverstone and we want the race to be a success and will work with them to help achieve that, but we won't be redoing agreements that were previously concluded in good faith between two parties."

However, back in January, Carey told the BBC that new countries join F1 "because they want to be part of that show that includes Monaco, Silverstone, Monza, Hockenheimring and the Nurburgring. You have still got to maintain those traditions to have the values in F1… We will have a British Grand Prix." Six months later the outlook is much less certain. Pitpass

F1 Race Winners Sip From $3,000 Carbon-Fiber Bottles Of Champagne

Carbon Fiber Champagne bottles
Carbon Fiber Champagne bottles

There's a grand old tradition in motorsports of the winning drivers drinking champagne on the podium, and spraying each other down with it in the process. But Formula One being what Formula One is these days, they're not just using any old bottle of bubbly. At least not anymore.

The series has signed a new deal with Champagne Carbon, a French vintner which has been supplying the sparkling wine for the podiums at the past few grands prix, and which has now made the relationship official.

Though it's a relatively new label, Carbon has roots in the production of champagne stretching back hundreds of years. The bubbly it's supplying is Vintage 2009 Blanc de Blanc Grand Cru Millesime, made from 100% chardonnay grapes. But the novelty here is not what's in the bottles, but the bottles themselves.

While French law prohibits changing the shape of champagne bottles, Carbon coats theirs in a layer of real carbon fiber that's said to take the craftsmen a full week to produce in a 21-step process. The result looks fitting for F1, and each bottle on the podium has its own unique label: gold for the winner, silver for the runner-up, and bronze for third place. And as you'd expect, they're suitably expensive: a standard-size 750ml bottle of Carbon champagne goes for about $500, but a 1.5-liter magnum like the ones they're using on the podium cost nearly $3,000. Go even bigger with a 6-liter Methuselah and you'll be looking at over $8k, with a 15-liter Nebuchadnezzar nearing $50k.

“Tradition, mystique, celebration and taste are common characteristics of both Formula 1 and Champagne Carbon," said F1 commercial director Sean Bratches. “The unique feature of a bottle made with carbon, the material so representative of the amazing technology in our sport, is a further element that makes Champagne Carbon the perfect product for the drivers to celebrate with on a Formula 1 Grand Prix podium."

Prior to Carbon's arrival on the podium, the bubbly was provided by Chandon, which also sponsors the McLaren team, but is considered to produce “sparkling wine," not actual champagne since the winery is located in California, not France. They'll probably continue using sparkling non-alcoholic rosewater in stricter Muslim countries. But with Bahrain and Istanbul long since dropped from the calendar, and Malaysia and Azerbaijan decidedly more liberal on the subject, that comes down only to Abu Dhabi.

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