It’s Spa time

Those toiling within the globe-trotting FIA Formula One World Championship earned a three-week reprieve following the final in-season test at the Hungaroring 1-2 August in Budapest. The mandated summer shutdown allowed crew members to reacquaint themselves with their families and recharge prior to the stretch run of this year’s 20-race calendar, which resumes this weekend at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.

The Belgian Grand Prix

It’s a firm favourite amongst Formula One drivers, teams and fans, and for good reason. The prestigious race holds a rich history of over 60 years of F1 racing, with a long list of legends having won there.

The circuit lies within a triangle formed by the Belgian towns of Francorchamps, Malmedy and Stavelot. Despite being part of the circuit’s name, the town of Spa is actually located slightly to the north west. The track in the Ardennes forest is picturesque, but it has its own mind when it comes to the weather.

With the possibility of rain showers occurring almost out of nowhere, it can be raining in one section of the track but dry in another – a common feature of long circuits.

It sports an old-style design which offers great challenges for the drivers, including “Eau Rouge”, the famous corner that so many drivers relish driving at full speed. The original layout of the Spa track was over 14 kilometres long, but during a redesign in the late seventies the lap was shortened by half the length. The new design now features a 7.004 kilometres long lap, the longest on this year’s 20-race calendar.

 

Williams

The team has won three times at Spa with Nigel Mansell claiming the 1986 race, followed by Damon Hill in 1993 and 1994. For Belgium, Pirelli has made available the soft, supersoft and ultrasoft tyres.

Paddy Lowe: “Spa is one of the greatest tracks on earth, in my opinion. It is one of the longest standing venues on the Formula One calendar and has been the setting of many dramatic races in the past. It has a fast characteristic, with a lot of changes in elevation, rewarding power and downforce.

“The most famous Eau Rouge corner is now generally taken flat, so actually not really a limiting corner. Eau Rouge leads on to a long uphill straight. The combination makes overtaking relatively frequent, with cars able to trade corner exit speed, slipstream effects and, with the current hybrid power units, the remaining energy in the battery.

“The weather in the Ardennes is notoriously tricky and can change from sun to rain and back again in a matter of minutes. The very long lap makes the timing of tyre changes from wet to dry, or back again, either look particularly heroic or disastrous. For Williams, this track should play to the strengths of the FW40 car. Felipe is very experienced at Spa and Lance has also won the race here in F3, so we look forward to getting the very best from this weekend.”

Felipe Massa: “Spa is one of the best tracks in Formula One. I think it will be incredible to drive there with this new car, with more downforce. Eau Rouge will feel like a straight but so many other corners will also be amazing to drive. I am also going to be wearing a special ‘Joy of Racing’ helmet designed by a great Spanish artist called Kenor. It will look great, and a lucky fan will also get the chance to win it thanks to Martini. I’m really looking forward to a great race at Spa.”

Lance Stroll: In Spa, I am heading to my second home race of the year. I am half Belgian, as this is where my mother was born, so I do have an affinity with the country. However, I have to admit that, unlike most Formula One drivers, Spa is not my absolute favourite. Having said that, I did win there last year in Formula 3, so I can’t complain about it too much. It is a very interesting track with some amazing sections and also there is always that air of uncertainty regarding the weather. You can have it raining in sector three and dry in sector one.”

 

Sahara Force India

Chief Race Engineer, Tom McCullough: “Spa is an iconic circuit and a great test for Formula One machinery, even more so this season. It’s the longest lap of the season with a mix of slow and quick corners, long straights and elevation changes: finding the right setup is always a challenge.

“There are some unique corners, like the Eau Rouge/Raidillon complex with its rapid compression and decompression, which will be asking a lot from the driver, the car and the tyres. There are also many long and fast corners putting big loads through the tyres: it will be important to understand how the compounds on offer, the three softest of the range, work in these conditions.

“Usually, races in Spa are very entertaining: there are many overtaking opportunities, mistakes are easily punished and the weather can play a big part. It often rains and the extended nature of the circuit means you could be driving on a completely soaked track in one sector and on bone dry tarmac in another. Choosing the right strategy and being ready to adapt to the changing circumstances is crucial.”

Sergio Perez: “I’m feeling fresh and relaxed after the summer break and really looking forward to getting back to racing. I had a very nice break with my family, but now I can’t wait to be back on track.

“Belgium is one of the best circuits to experience in an F1 car. I love the high-speed layout, the history of the place and you get to meet some very passionate fans there. It’s just a great weekend and there is also the question mark over the weather. It nearly always rains at least one of the days.

“Pouhon is one of my favourite corners of the year. It’s so quick and satisfying when you get it just right. The 2017 cars will feel extra special through this part of the lap, as well as through Eau Rouge.

“As we begin the second part of the season, I want to improve on what we have done so far. We have been competitive, but we also lost a few chances to score more points than we did. Hopefully we will make up for those lost points in the races to come.”

Esteban Ocon: “I had a great summer holiday in the south of Spain. My batteries are fully recharged and I’m looking forward to getting back in the car. It’s now a year for me as a Formula One driver and the time has gone by really quickly. So I’m no longer a rookie!

“Spa is where I made my debut last year. It’s a great track, but it’s not necessarily one of my favourites. There are some special corners, especially through sector two, which has a nice rhythm. It’s a circuit where you have to be totally at one with the car because you need to be really committed through the high-speed corners.

“Spa is usually a good track for racing because it’s easier to overtake there compared to some other tracks. There’s also the famous Spa weather which brings unpredictability. I don’t mind if it rains because it could bring some more opportunities our way.

“I think we can be competitive this weekend regardless of whether it’s dry or wet. The layout of the track should suit our car quite well. Everybody loves driving through Eau Rouge and it’s certainly the most famous part of the lap. In these cars it will be an amazing experience. Maybe the first lap of the race will be a bit of a challenge, but after that I think we should be able to take it easily flat.”

Liberty Media figures reveal fan engagement boost, hopefully

Just perusing the Q2 figures released by the owner of the Formula One Group, admittedly not quite as expertly as my esteemed colleague Formula Money’s Christian Sylt, who is a noted expert in this area.

I notice Chase Carey, Formula One Group’s Chairman and CEO says: “We are in the process of developing our three to five year strategic plan while focusing on key priorities like improving and building fan engagement that will positively impact the business and build the foundation for long-term results.”

If you remember Carey, the former Vice-Chairman of 21st Century Fox, replaced Bernie Ecclestone after nearly 40 years at the helm of F1.

So, does this mean it’s trying to make the sport more exciting for the fans? Let’s hope so.

Anyway…

Here’s the rest of Carey’s chat at the press conference. I’ve omitted most of the financials (read Christian’s stories about those; they’re quite revealing):

“We just passed the halfway point in the 2017 season as well as the six-month anniversary of the change in ownership at Formula One. And while it’s still early days, it’s been a good start on both fronts. Attendance at our races and television viewer numbers are both up solidly season-to-date.

“Our engagement on digital platform season-to-date is up even more dramatically, particularly on video usage. Most of our senior executive team will be in place when we return from the August break. And we moved into new offices two weeks ago that will dramatically improve our effectiveness and efficiency.

“For the first time, we’ll have an organisation capable of properly managing and growing the sport. Most importantly, Formula One has a fresh energy and excitement among our fans and partners that is providing critical momentum. Our initial market research, as well as great events like our Formula One Live celebration in Central London last month, illustrated our fan’s great passion for the sport and the untapped potential of Formula One.

“We’re in the process of building a strategic plan, another first for Formula One, that will outline our vision and goals over the next three to five years. At the same time, our new operating groups have begun to move forward on key priorities that will be the building blocks for that plan.

Sponsorship

“In the sponsorship area, we’re actively engaged with potential new sponsors in a number of previously untapped categories as well as building stronger relationships with existing ones. We’re developing capabilities to provide more uniquely tailored offers that better match sponsors’ objectives and provide us both more inventory and premium values. On the promoter front, we’re working with existing promoters on key renewals and ways to enhance the appeal and value of our events.

Fans

“We’re expanding the consumer experience at the track in terms of entertainment, exhibitions and food as well as building new offerings in areas like merchandising. Quite simply, we’re making a lot more fun, interesting and open for fans. At the same time, we’re actively exploring some exciting new locations for future races.

“One area of particular focus related to our events is hospitality. It is increasingly important that we maximise the entire range of consumer experiences that enable us to fully exploit the potential of our most valuable customers. We’re also building stronger relationships with our local promoters and other partners to properly market and sell these experiences.

“In the television area, both traditional and digital, we’re balancing our goals for reach, economic value and growth potential for critical new areas like over-the-top. Our unique premium product positions us well for this expanding arena. We’re in the process of selecting the partners that will help us build our digital platforms and create new exciting content for fans.

“On the motorsport front, we’re addressing key issues like the next-generation engine, cost controls, aerodynamics, track design and other initiatives, all of which are designed to improve competitiveness and action on the track for fans and to strengthen the business for Formula One and its partners.

“This is just some of the activity at Formula One today, and we have many more initiatives like broader engagement with host cities, opportunities in the gaming area and developing Formula One in the US and China. Overall, our priority in the short term is to, first and foremost, improve and build our engagement with fans. Our sport is loved by our fans worldwide, and we have the opportunity to grow that base.

However, in recent years, this work is not delivering on its promise and potential. We now have the team in place to do so and look forward to turning a newly engaged fan base into an exciting business for all of us.”

The rarest ever Jaguar?

 

For the last two years 13 staff at Classic Motor Cars (CMC) have been working on a top secret project – the restoration of a one-off Pininfarina bodied XK120 SE which is to be unveiled at the Pebble Beach Concours on Sunday 20 August.

On Friday 4 August, the team, which had been supported by everybody on the company’s 60+ workforce, were pictured with the car – “under wraps”.

The car was first delivered to a Mr Max Hoffman and unveiled at the 1955 Geneva Motor Show. Hoffman was an Austrian-born, New York-based importer of luxury European automobiles into the US during the 1950s. He was a real petrol-head and inspired the production and refinement of several vehicles from the main manufacturers, which earned him entry into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 2003.

There is little trace of the car’s history, but CMC is certain there was only one XK120 by Pininfarina produced, which makes this one of the rarest Jaguars in existence.

CMC purchased the car from a German gentleman who bought it in the US in 1978 with the intention of restoring it. Unfortunately, he never got round to it and eventually decided to sell, CMC took on the challenge and has spent thousands of hours carrying out a full nut and bolt restoration.

The Ferraris have it; Lewis gives it away

 

Scuderia Ferrari has recorded its fourth win and second one-two finish of the year – the 228th and 83rd respectively in the team’s history.

This was Seb Vettel’s seventh win in red and the 46th of his career. It came at the end of a race that was anything but easy, even if both cars started from the front row.

The two SF70H cars maintained those positions off the line, with Kimi tucked in behind Seb, while battle raged behind them and Ricciardo was already out following a collision. As Daniel was stuck on track, the Safety Car was called out for quite a while – five laps in fact – as oil had to be cleaned up off the track surface.

The Ferraris made a second good getaway when the race restarted and they were followed by Bottas, Verstappen, who would have to take a 10 second penalty for hitting his team-mate, and then Hamilton. In this phase of the race, the Reds were the quickest cars on track, the only ones lapping under the 1’23”.

At one third distance, nothing had changed, except that the two leading cars were backing off to spare their equipment. Then Seb came on the radio saying there was something wrong with the steering, which was pulling to the left down the straight. Kimi closed in until the gap closed to just over a second.

The number 5 Ferrari pitted at the end of lap 32, after his closest pursuers had already changed tyres. The Supersofts made way for the Softs. Next time round, Kimi came in and emerged back on track just behind his team-mate. The lap times went up and down, partly because of the need to pass backmarkers.

On lap 43, the Ferrari duo was back out in front, after a very late stop from Verstappen. Behind them the two Mercedes changed places without a fight. With 15 laps remaining, the top three cars were covered by just two seconds. Seb then pulled out a bit more on lap 58, his fastest of the race. Kimi did likewise to ensure Hamilton could not get into the DRS range.

The final laps were nerve wracking, as Seb could not take the lines he would have liked through the corners but he held firm, as did Kimi right behind him.

Sebastian Vettel: “Everybody inside the team can be very happy and proud of what we have done! Afterwards, I said to Kimi that I was sorry, because I was slow and struggling during the race. For Kimi it was not good to be there in the middle of a sandwich. It was a tough race that, in the end, kept a good shape.

“I developed a problem with the steering wheel and I don’t know why yet. We need to avoid it happening again of course, but during the race I didn’t have an option. It’s not like parking the car, check if everything’s all right and then fix the problem. It was quite annoying because it was a strange feeling. But then, at some point, I forgot about it and just tried to get used to it, which was tricky because it just kept changing and getting worse.

“However, in the end the pace was still there. More generally, I don’t like the short term view that some people have, that after a good race everything is great and you are the hero, but after a bad race it is a disaster. It is not fair because people work hard spending a lot of time, working all together on the car.

“In my opinion, we have the best car and downforce which hasn’t been the case for many years. In the end we can make a difference and we have done that so far. We have our testing days here this week and we have a lot of work to do. After that there will be the Belgian GP. Our car has been good there and I think we have some improvements, so it should be fine.”

Kimi Raikkonen: “I had no worries that the Mercedes could get me. I had a pretty good start and a good run in the first corner; then I took it quite easy. In places like this it’s tricky to try and overtake and I did not want to force things too much with my team mate. When you end up between two cars is not the easiest situation.

“When they called me for the pit stop I wanted to stay on track a bit longer because I felt I had the speed, but the team has the big picture and I trust them. I ended up following Seb through the whole race and I was never able to use my full speed. I knew I had all the tools to finish in a better position, but I should have done a better qualifying. I’m happy for the result that we achieved as a team and this is the main thing. I’m here to win races, but If you take the big picture it was a great weekend, we got the maximum out of it.”

Valtteri Bottas: “The pace was not so much a problem. But once you get within 1.5 seconds to the car in front of you it becomes so difficult to close the gap. And that track position was a big benefit for Ferrari. Even though Sebastian was struggling, no-one could pass him. We tried as a team to swap positions, but Lewis couldn’t get past them either. We didn’t gain any points but I’m glad we tried it.

“I was promised that Lewis would let me back if it didn’t work out. I was struggling with the back markers so the gap to Lewis became bigger than I wanted. But Lewis and the team kept their promise and we swapped positions back in the last lap. I don’t think every team-mate would do that in a championship fight, so I think that was really nice of him and it shows that he is a real team player. Our situations still is not too bad with regards to the points and the championship standing. Lewis and me are still in the fight.”

Lewis on those points

“I tried my best out there. It’s tough when you push so hard and you work so hard and you end up in the same place that you started. When the radio didn’t work, I was thinking that the team was worried about the tyres not going the distance. So maybe they were going slow so that they could speed up later. I was pushing and I had all this pace, but I was stuck behind Valtteri and I couldn’t tell the team because of the radio.

“But in the final laps, I kept my word. I said that if I couldn’t pass Kimi then I would let Valtteri back. I have said through this year that I want to win this title in the right way – and perhaps I will look at it in a different way if, at the end of the season, I lose out by a small margin – but I believe in doing the right thing and that when you put good things out there, they come back to you.

“I was 20 points behind before, but down to one, and now back to 14. We have lost quite a few points in the first half of the year – but I know that we can win it, once we come back even better after the summer break.”

 

Mercedes Benz to enter Formula E, pulling out of DTM

 

The company will conclude its participation in the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) touring car series at the end of 2018 and enter Formula E for the 2019/20 season (5).

Since the DTM was founded in 1988, there have been 26 racing seasons during which Mercedes-Benz has won 10 drivers’, 13 team and six manufacturer titles (DTM + ITC – International Touring Car championship – combined).

Electric mobility is already of strategic importance to the company and this will only increase. Formula E offers a perfect platform on which to demonstrate the competitiveness of MB’s technology brand EQ in a racing environment, in the area of battery electric powertrains. (EQ stands for ‘electric intelligence’).

“Mercedes-Benz will market future battery powered electric vehicles using the EQ label,” said Dr Jens Thiemer, the company’s Vice-President of Marketing earlier today. “Formula E is a significant step in order to demonstrate the performance of our battery powered electric vehicles, as well as giving an emotional spin to our EQ technology brand through motorsport and marketing.”

Merging the formulae

Says Toto Wolff: “In motorsport like in every other area, we want to be the benchmark in the premium segment and to explore innovative new projects. The combination of Formula 1 and Formula E delivers that.

“Formula E is like an exciting start-up venture: it offers a brand new format, combining racing with a strong event character, in order to promote current and future technologies. Electrification is happening in the road car world and Formula E offers manufacturers an interesting platform to bring this technology to a new audience – and to do so with a completely new kind of racing, different to any other series.

“I am pleased that we were able to extend our entry option for one year to the 2019/20 season. This gives us time to properly understand the series and to prepare for our entry in the right way.”

Don’t mention the halo

 

OK, I won’t. So, how about talking about a remarkable British GP instead… still. Hamilton, Bottas and Raikkonen. But the race belonged to Lewis Hamilton – his 57th career victory today, fifth at the Silverstone Circuit, and fourth of the 2017 season. it was his fifth career Grand Slam, claiming pole, the victory, fastest lap and leading every lap of the Grand Prix.

His 67th pole position – only one short of Michael Schumacher’s all-time record – equals legends Jim Clark and Alain Prost’s tally of five British Grand Prix victories.

The race

It got off to a false start as an extra formation lap was needed because Palmer had stopped on track. This meant the race distance was down to 51 laps. Then came a collision between the two Toro Rossos which brought out the Safety Car. Racing restarted on lap 5, with Raikkonen matching the leader’s pace, while his team-mate had to be patient before getting his place back.

It was a thrilling duel, but in the end, it was decided on the strategy call: a scheduled pit stop for Vettel on lap 19 saw the German fit the Soft tyres. The number 5 Ferrari came out ahead of the Force India duo in fifth place. Verstappen therefore had to pit to cover Ferrari’s strategy, but when he rejoined he was behind the Ferrari. Vettel then banged in a fastest lap, before passing Hulkenberg for fourth place. On lap 24, it was Raikkonen’s turn to pit to go from the Supersofts to the Softs.

Shortly after that, Hamilton did the same, but on fresh rubber the Iceman was the fastest man on track. Bottas came down the pit lane on lap 32 and came out behind the Scuderia Ferrari duo. Vettel reacted, setting his best lap in 1:31.872. On lap 43 came the first duel, as Vettel repulsed the attack under braking.

But the move ruined his tyres and he lost the position on the Hangar Straight. “I can get to the finish” came his reassurance over the radio and indeed he would, while out in front, with only two laps remaining, Raikkonen’s left front tyre suddenly let go. The Finn pitted and took on Supersofts, while he was helped by the fact Verstappen also needed to make an unexpected stop.

But on the last lap, Vettel also got a puncture, again a left front. He dived into the pit lane and managed to stay in the points.

Lewis Hamilton: “I’m so happy… this has got to be one of my sweetest wins here. I was gunning for this victory. There was so much negativity ahead of the race, with people questioning how I prepared for the race. But this weekend has been one of my strongest of the weekend.

“I made a solid start and then after that I managed the car and the balance, and the boys did a fantastic pit stop. I really can’t find a fault at the moment. The team did an exceptional job this weekend and Valtteri obviously drover a stormer today – I’m proud of him. It’s great to have him in the team.

“I’m surprised to see the issues the Ferrari had because I didn’t see any debris. I did not expect to come away from this weekend just one point behind Sebastian. This result really opens up the championship – and we go to Hungary next, where I’ve always gone well.

“Every time I came around Turn 7, I could see the fans cheering every single lap. It was really reminiscent of 2008, my first Grand Prix win here. I’ve got some great supporters here, not only in the crowd, but in the garage as well. I’ve got my brother here, some of my aunties and family has come too. There’s this amazing young kid who’s come from South Africa, Michael, who is fighting cancer. It was amazing to see him. And Billy Monger is with us, who is just such an inspiration.”

 

Valtteri Bottas: “What a race! I’m really happy for us as a team, to get the second 1-2 of the season. Of course I would have liked to win, but I’m happy anyway because that was definitely one of my best ever races. I had to fight hardcore out there a couple of times, but I ended up in a good position.

“We could actually go longer than expected in the first stint on the Softs and the tyres were really good. In the last stint the team told me to just take care of the tyres, because we saw a few failures out there for some other teams, but for me they were fine. We’re just at the half-way point of the season and it could definitely be worst.

“It’s still just my first year with the team and I’m still right in the championship fight. As a team we did a really good job today. The strategy right from the start of the race worked really well. It was a flawless race for us and the 1-2 was our prize – the team really deserve this. We definitely got lucky with Kimi’s puncture in the end, to take P2, but that’s racing and today luck was on our side.”

Kimi Raikkonen: “My race wasn’t going too bad until a few laps before the end. I suddenly had the problem, my front left tyre let go with no warning; the air stayed in the tyre but the rubber part, came off. It’s disappointing because without that issue the second place was secured, and we deserved a better result.

“We had made some changes to the car and they seemed to have improved the feeling. When it’s like this you are confident and you can push; I hope that it will be a similar story in the future races. However, today we were lacking a little bit of speed against our rivals. We did what we could but obviously there’s some work to be done to catch up the Mercedes in places like this.

“This is definitely not our strongest type of circuit. I’m interested to see what happens in the next race, I guess the Hungarian track should suit our car better.”

Williams uses F1 tech for the emergency transport of infants

Baby Pod

 

Technology which protects Formula One drivers in the event of a crash, has been used to create a safe environment for new-born babies needing emergency transportation.

The advanced engineering arm of the Williams Group has designed and manufactured the Babypod 20 in collaboration with Advanced Healthcare Technology (AHT).

The hi-tech carbon fibre transport devices – which can withstand a 20 G-force crash – have been launched in Intensive Care Ambulances used at Great Ormond Street Hospital and run by the Children Acute Transport Service which also advised on design requirements.

Transporting new-born infants requires a safe, secure and temperature regulated environment, which has previously required the use of heavy and cumbersome incubators. These devices not only require an electricity supply, which is not always readily available, but also dedicated vehicles costing health services more.

The Babyhood 20…

… has been designed to provide the environment that a baby needs at a significantly reduced price of a standard transport incubator. Lightweight and easy to handle, Babypod 20 can attach to any transport stretcher whether on a trolley or in an ambulance, car or even helicopter.

The parallels between a Formula One car and transport device for babies may not be immediately apparent, but both demand a lightweight and strong structure that keeps the occupant safe in the event of an accident, and can monitor vital signs whilst remaining easily transportable and accessible.

Williams has taken the existing Babypod product and worked with AHT to create a device that is not only more compact and user-friendly but, crucially, can be scaled up in its production. Furthermore, accessibility has been improved with a slide and tilt mechanism to give greater ease of access for hospital staff. New, sleek styling has also been employed by the team.

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