Friday 15 March 2019

2019 Australian GP: FIA Team Principals' Press Conference.

TEAM REPRESENTATIVES – Mattia BINOTTO (Ferrari), Toto WOLFF (Mercedes), Cyril ABITEBOUL (Renault), Christian HORNER (Red Bull Racing)

The world of Formula One is still reeling from the news that FIA Director of Formula One Charlie Whiting passed away in the early hours of Thursday morning. Some of the drivers gave us their thoughts yesterday, and I’d like to get your memories of Charlie as well, starting with you Toto?

Toto WOLFF: It was a total shock when we received the news yesterday. You see somebody every day and the day before and then he’s gone, and it reminds us what is important in life. We are all going at an incredible pace from race to race and then it can get you like this. But Charlie was an unbelievable person. If you are in that position over so many years and then year and years and you still don’t make a lot of enemies that shows your character. He was always well balanced. You could seek him for guidance. He would always, when it was difficult within the regulation to really get down to the bottom and interpret certain things, he would give you a common-sense answer that you could work with and he was just a reference point that will be dearly missed. There is a huge whole at the moment that needs to be filled but for us the person, Charlie, who strolls in for a coffee and was just a decent man and I’m really sorry for his family in these terrible times.

Q: Thank you. And Mattia?

Mattia BINOTTO: For my side, I can only join the words of Toto. Charlie was an incredible person, very great. It’s a huge loss for the entire sport and a huge loss to Formula 1. I think we should thanks him for the entire contribution he did to the safety in F1. I think it’s something we will remember. Certainly, he was such a great person, as Toto said it’s quite incredible from one day to another and I think it’s how precious is the life. But all great memories; a fantastic guy.

Q: Thank you. Christian?

Christian HORNER: It’s a huge shock for everybody. Obviously I’ve been working with him for 20 years now and to get the news yesterday, first of all it’s disbelief. Charlie was one of the good guys. He was a racer. That was his background. When you spoke to him about his days at Brabham, working for Bernie, there was always a smile on his face. He knew all the tricks in the book and that made him the ideal guy to become poacher turned gamekeeper when he took on the role with the FIA. And he handled that role, a tremendously difficult role, with great balance and diplomacy in some incredibly difficult situations. He was one of those guys who went under the radar but what he contributed was enormous, from a safety point of view, from what the sport is today. I think there is a huge debt of gratitude owed to Charlie for what Formula One is today, the safety, the lives that his actions actually saved, you know the way these cars are now and the safety record that they now have. It’s a huge loss to Formula One, a tragic loss to his family and friends and for his young children as well. All our thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time.

Q: Thank you. And Cyril?

Cyril ABITEBOUL: It’s difficult to add. It’s clearly a shock. I think the paddock went silent yesterday when the news started to spread. It’s a strange thing to learn such a thing to learn such a thing at that moment, in the paddock, where unfortunately or fortunately the show needs to go on. It’s just amazing what he has been able to experience, the 20 years of evolution of Formula One. Just remember what Formula One was 20 years ago and yet he has been capable of staying on top of the all tricks, loopholes, hideys, constructive interpretation of the regulations with a balanced judgement and integrity and being capable of frankly avoiding… or making sure that all the ships would stay in Formula One, despite all the risks associated with interpretation of the regulations and showing that you can conciliate being quiet and balance and authoritative. And no one would challenge his authority. It’s a huge loss but indeed the show must go on.

Q: Thank you. If I could stay with Cyril, we’ve had winter testing, we’ve just had the first free practice session of 2019. Just give us a progress report on Renault and in particular how Daniel Ricciardo is bedding in?

CA: There’s been the winter, there’s been pre-season testing and there is FP1 and first I’d like to remove FP1 from the answer because it was a bit of a scrappy session with some reprogramming that took away precious lap time, as we had to test a number of items, so obviously our lap time was not really representative. Anyway, there won’t be any lying or explanation on Saturday, so let’s wait for Saturday and Sunday. The progress report is that we know we have a huge gap ahead in our attempt to reach the top three, which has to be the mid-term target and in 2021 fight for wins. We are on that journey. So much has been done; so much needs to be done. Good progress in particular on the engine side and Enstone is still completing its transformation and is striving to build a chassis that can win some races in the years to come. Daniel – fantastic addition to the team. In summary, he’s inside what he looks from the outside and he’s already making a fantastic contribution to the team.

Q: Thank you. Christian, same question to you really. How’s progress with the Red Bull Racing Honda package?

Christian HORNER: Yeah, it’s been a promising winter. It’s been interesting working with Honda. It’s been extremely collaborative. Obviously performance is difficult to read in pre-season testing, but reliability has been strong. I think we turn up here in Melbourne hopeful of a competitive season ahead of us. But it’s only really when everybody pulls their pants down tomorrow in qualifying that you see where we’re at.

Q: And a few words on Pierre Gasly?

CH: Yeah, he’s another product of the Red Bull Junior Programme, as Sebastian Vettel, Max Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo, Carlos Sainz. He’s another exciting young product that we’ve invested in as a junior driver and he’s in the seat because of the promise that he has shown. Obviously he’s settling in. He’s going to needs a little bit of time to get up to speed but he’s a very quick racing driver and we have high expectations of him in the future.

Q: Thank you Christian. Mattia, you were the pacesetters in winter testing. How confident are you coming to this first race?
Mattia Binotto - Scuderia Ferrari Team Principal

Mattia BINOTTO: Not confident at all. I think that winter testing is not qualifying, it’s not a racing environment, you never know what the others arte running. Very difficult to assess the performance. I think we simply focused on ourselves, we had eight intense days, very little time to prepare for Melbourne. By the time you finish the testing the cars are ready to be shipped directly to Melbourne, so I think it’s really by here that we start understanding who is the fastest. I think our challengers are very strong. These guys on my left have won the last championships and they are still somehow the team to beat. So honestly I think on our side we can only focus on ourselves, step by step try to improve and try to be as fast as we can.

Q: Mattia, can you tell us a little bit about your new role, you’ve been promoted to team principal over the winter. How much time do you dedicate to technical matters now?

MB: I think technical matters are still probably the highest priority. The car needs to be fast and the rest will follow somehow. Obviously it’s still my main focus. It’s still let me say anyway, it’s the main focus of a team. I think the technical is where you’ve got the main of your activities and where you are putting your efforts. It’s true that there are a few more things to be done and to deal with but technical is still the main priority.

Q: Thanks. Toto, it was pretty difficult to read Mercedes’ programme in winter testing. What’s your summary?

Toto WOLFF: Yeah, also difficult to read for us. We hit the road and it wasn’t great. Then we brought a substantial upgrade package to the second test and slowly but surely started to understand and learn and put the dots together and at the end it was a quite decent end of testing. But like Mattia says, the teams were, lap time wise, very close together, but very few kilograms of fuel can make you look very good or less good. That’s why, pants down on Saturday, that’s the first real benchmarking this year.

Q: Well Lewis was in very confident mood in the press conference yesterday and fastest in FP1 as well. What about Valtteri? What sort of form do you see in him?

TW: Valtteri had a decent first session today. We tried a few things on his car and the absolute lap time would have been quicker if he had pushed for a quicker lap time. He came back very strong from the winter, did some rallying, rediscovered the joy of driving. I heard that yesterday he said that he got drunk a few times, to forget, so it’s a good start. And I expect Valtteri to be the strongest this year, the strongest Valtteri we have seen.

Questions from the Floor

Q: (Jonathan McEvoy – Daily Mail) Toto, Lewis does various things, has various distractions, as some call them, or hobbies that he’s involved in. Sky diving and things like that, does that put the wind up you? Do you have any rules and regulations? Do you need to speak to him, or do you just say: “Lewis, just get on with it.”

TW: Well, of course, I’m always worried, and we had a laugh last year because I couldn’t get hold of him and couldn’t get hold of my chief strategist and one of the race engineers – and found out they were racing motorbikes in Jerez and nobody would pick up the phone. And then they were a bit apologetic. But Lewis is not an 18 or 19 year old young man any more. He’s a five-time World Champion. He knows exactly what works for him and what doesn’t. All these activities, in my experience, are not a negative distraction but on the other hand something that he enjoys that he enjoys doing. Some things are just a hobby: like sports; others are more of a passion, like the fashion business and every time he’s able to decompress from motor racing, he comes back stronger. We mustn’t be judgemental. Some people go on a meditation seminar to India. Others do Sky-diving. Others are out for the ladies. Let’s accept how everybody is. He is justified and has shown that he is one of the best out there.

Mercedes-AMG Petronas Team Principal - Toto Wolff
Q: (Christian Menath – Question for Mattia. Did you investigate the rim failure from the Barcelona testing any further? Last time you spoke, you weren’t one hundred per cent sure what happened.

MB: Certainly we investigated. We still do not have a full picture, full picture or certainty on what happened. But we put a lot of actions in place and we are pretty sure that, with the actions we put in place, somehow we have cover there, we are safe for the next running. So, we are still doing some checks. We are making sure that we have the full picture of what may have happened – but let me say that we feel safe.

Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) The affiliation between some of the bigger teams and the smaller teams has been in focus the last couple of years. We’ve seen the likes of Haas use the regulations to good effect. Red Bull and Toro Rosso are obviously closer aligned this year. With F1 moving towards possible resource restrictions and things like that, is there a danger it was going to become essential for big teams to have these affiliations with smaller teams?

CH: I think mainly the benefit is for that of the smaller teams. There wouldn’t be a Haas if that model wasn’t available. I think the affordability of Formula One is extremely expensive. So, Toro Rosso, they’re using an awful lot of components from RB14. So, it’s effective for them within the non-listed parts they’re permitted to do. They don’t have to have the design resource, the R&D infrastructure – so therefore the cost for them to go racing is affected by that. I think that there’s ultimately a sensible offset between needing to be a full-blown constructor team and being able to acquire those non-listed parts. So, personally, we don’t have an issue with it, and feel that, for the smaller teams, it’s been demonstrated that it’s cost-effective and works.

MB: Fully aligned with Christian. The Haas model has shown how good it is for such a team, and I think at the end it’s a good thing for F1. As we’re looking ahead, I think if there are any concerns, it’s up to us to understand what are the concerns and make sure that we are mitigating, or avoiding them – but I think that the model in itself is the right model.


TW: Nothing to add to what the two said.


CA: Obviously in a bit of a different position here. I have mentioned that on a number of occasions. We could be spending hours to discuss that topic but it’s already a challenge for a team like us to compete against that top three teams who have thirty to forty per cent more resources than us. But if they are now capable of combining their resources with other teams, or getting the benefit of synergies within the scope of a budget cap, that’s a problem. That’s a problem for us. That’s a problem for at-least two other teams in the field. And I don’t want to talk for them – but that could also be a problem for a new entrant, willing to enter Formula One and willing to be competitive. So, that’s a serious topic because it’s maybe that we are now saying “OK, we have three top teams and that will be it. And anyone joining with have to accept they will not be in a positive to be competitive. I’m not here to complain or moan: we know the regulation but obviously we are extremely careful about what’s going to happen in 2021. For now, we are not convinced about the safeguards or the containment measures that have been put forward, despite the fact that you can trade some parts in the context of a budget cap – but we will continue to work with governing bodies to hopefully get to a more satisfying outcome.

Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) A follow-up on the question about Lewis sky-diving. Not for Toto but for the other team bosses. For clarify really, do you have clauses in your drivers’ contracts which prevent them from doing extreme sports?

CA: I’ve just been through that very recently. We have a different type of contract. It’s mainly, I guess an insurance and a financial topic because there is a way that you are managing the relationship with your drivers and there is a ‘what if’ scenario in case something bad occurs. So, without disclosing any confidential arrangements, I think as far as we are concerned, it’s a bit like Toto: we have two mature drivers who know what they should be doing and should not be doing. So it’s pretty much their call to decide. Obviously the financial consequences can be on their side if they commit something that causes them to not be in a position to honour their obligation any more. So, I would say that the generic, for younger drivers, you would want to have more control on what he does – that’s what I’ve seen in previous life. That’s the situation.

MB: What’s more important is to have the right relationship with your drivers, making sure they understand, that they are sensible – but these guys are professionals. There is nothing that you need to tell them. They understand pretty well what’s the danger, what’s the risk and they are behaving well.

CH: We’re Red Bull at the end of the day and y’know, no risk: no fun! We don’t actively encourage our drivers to go and take a lot of risks but they’ve got to live their lives and have some fun along the way. It’s great to see that our drivers take that seriously. We sent them surfing the other day. Max Verstappen demonstrated restraint where he was nervous to get on a surfboard for fear of being eaten be a shark. Despite nobody being eaten by a shark on that beach since 1963 or something. So, obviously, I think it’s an important thing that they take care of themselves but it’s good for them to enjoy and experience other activities.

Q: (Richard Bailey – Today, around the world, we’re seeing millions of school students walking out, staging a protest against government inaction to tackle the threat of climate change. Formula One sits at the pinnacle being able to demonstrate through its technical advances the positive impact that this can have in terms of fuel burn and energy regeneration, yet the message doesn’t seem to be coming through as effectively as it could. What more can the sport’s key players do to drive this message to the next generation?

Red Bull Racing Team Principal - Christian Horner
CH: I think, actually, the efficiency of these engines is so understated. The fuel economy that these engines are achieving is mind-boggling so actually what Formula One is managing to do, in terms of furthering this technology, is truly impressive and I think it’s a message we need to get across more. We’ve all come here on aeroplanes – or most of us – from across the world and been burning fuel at 38,000 feet which is obviously a far bigger carbon footprint than anything that’s going on in Melbourne this weekend but I think in terms of the messaging that Formula One is achieving, I think it should be actually praised. The technology that the manufacturers have brought in through these engines and the economy that’s now being achieved is quite phenomenal.

MB: I think there’s really not much to add. We need to communicate it better. What is good is when you see that such technology will be transferred into the automotive (industry) and certainly our, let me say, turbo technology at the moment is of interest to the entire automotive (industry) so that again F1 is showing on the edge of technology and in this case really pushing the message so it’s down to us really to explain it and make sure it’s happening.

TW: I think it’s more the macro picture than the micro picture for us. My teenage children are on the street today, walking out of school and I find it really strong that this young generation wants to actively take care of what the future is and there is this overwhelming problem burning fuel in the airplanes. I’ve read, most recently, that the 15 largest container ships burn or have as much emission as 760 million cars and the plastic that ends up in the seas is a phenomenon that we can even see in Europe every summer and I think these things need to be tackled and when we look into our micro-cosmos it’s like Christian and Mattia said, those engines have all the energy recovery that you can find in the most modern road cars. We have battery technology, we have energy recovery through various systems and they have become more and more efficient and they are very much at the forefront of technology that eventually ends up in road cars and each of us has the duty, be it in our little small world, of not using plastic bottles any more or looking after our own environment and in the same way as the guys being involved in Formula One, making sure the right message is transported into the world, that these engines are the most efficient and the most green engines that have ever existed.

CA: Well, I guess it will be up to the new generation to demonstrate whether or not it’s still relevant to race in cars and go around in circles around the world but more than that it’s important that Formula One remains at the edge of what technology has to offer and also those engines are just fantastic as Christian and the others were saying. The average efficiency of an internal combustion engine is in the region of 30 per cent to 35 per cent. We are above fifty per cent in Formula One; that’s massive. If this type of efficiency was affordable for all mass markets products that would be a massive contribution to CO2 emission. So that’s something we need to keep at the edge of in future. We are talking about e-Fuel, fuel that will not be composed of fossil energy. This type will be a game-changer, I think. We need to make sure that Formula One remains a demonstration for game-changers.

Q: (Louis Dekker – NOS) Do you agree that twelve teams is a necessity for Formula One, or do you say that the recent past proves that it might be a bad plan?

CA: I think that what’s important is the number of teams that are competitive and can really directly contribute to the show and can pretend that they are expecting to win. But if there is a business model which is sustainable for 12 competitive teams, I think that that should be what is looked at.

TW: I think it’s important that the starting grid looks complete and that for the live spectators that you see lots of cars going around the track, but I think we are in a decent place right now for Formula One and the value of the teams is more important, to keep those franchises limited to attract the best brands to enter or participate in existing teams. I think that is the most important thing going forward.

MB: Not much to add. I think what they said is good enough.

CH: Yeah, I always go quality over quantity. I think we’ve got ten teams that are in pretty decent health at the moment compared to previous years and I think that as we are seeing, when the grid is expanded, none of those teams that came in a few years ago are still here today. Formula One, the cost of entry is so high it’s virtually impossible unless you’re an OEM or multi- multi-billionaire and sometime not even that’s enough. I think we’ve got a good balance at the moment. I would prefer that we look after what we’ve got and have good quality and a closer grid than just inviting more entries for the sake of filling the grid shot and being more cars to lap.

Q: (Roger Bryon – Beyond Racing Line) Have any of you seen the Netflix series ‘Drive to Survive’ yet? And if so, what are your thoughts on it? And furthermore, what are your thoughts on a closer look for fans of more on the inside of the workings of Formula One?

Q: Well, who has seen the Netflix film?

CH: I’m really looking forward to season two. I think there may be a fight, maybe between Cyril and Toto this season. The Netflix thing, it was an interesting project. I think it shows a glimpse behind the scenes of Formula One. I think it’s had huge interest, from what I understand, because it’s not just obviously about what’s going on on track so it shows glimpses of behind the scenes action. I think it’s reaching a new market which is important, I think particularly in the US as well. I think it’s a different side of Formula One, certainly interesting.

CA: I think the bottom line is that it’s a good thing for Formula One. A number of people have talked to me about Formula One for the first time having never talked about Formula One so it’s definitely reaching a different type of consumer or fan group, which is good. Did I like everything that I saw in it? No, so I think it’s important to have some formal disclaimer that it’s a bit… although it’s unscripted, it’s a bit of fiction also. It’s important also, given what’s at stake in terms of brand reputation, that we don’t completely confuse what’s in between information and entertainment.

TW: We obviously didn’t participate for some reasons. I watched three episodes on the plane. I think I missed the most important one, the fourth. I thought Cyril and Christian were actually friends! There are some people who never watch Formula One who have given good feedback. There is a lot of fiction. People say that Guenther Steiner’s a decent guy so he benefitted from the series!

CH: I think what it demonstrated is that Formula One has a huge tourettes problem! The amount of blue language in that series, particularly… I mean Guenther, every other word… He’s scary!

TW: I think it’s a good promotion for Formula One, it’s well done, it’s obviously very intrusive in a certain way but the promotion is good.

MB: Not seen it yet, will do, but at least today I understand why these two guys are on the extremities of the table! I’m looking forward.

Q: (Mike Doodson – Honorary) I’m British which I mention because my country has resolved to liberate itself from the European Union. Some of you have already commented on the difficulties that this process is going to create for you. I wonder if things have got better or worse since then and if you could mention some of the things which are going to present the greatest difficulties after March 29.

CH: Well, trying to follow what on earth is going on in British politics at the moment is rather difficult for all of us and it’s slightly embarrassing from outside looking in at the way that politicians are acting within this whole process. The country obviously voted to leave and there seems to be too much self-agenda that’s being tabled at the moment so there’s almost a vote every day. Nobody’s quite sure what the votes are for. We don’t know whether we’re delaying, we don’t know whether we’re staying, we don’t know where we’re going so if somebody could explain to me what actually Brexit did mean that would be quite helpful because at the moment there’s an awful lot of confusion over it so for us, the reality is it’s business as normal, we’ll wait and see what and if and when Brexit does happen and when it happens then we’ll deal with it but of course you try and put as many what ifs scenarios in place as you can to protect the operation of your business.

MB: Pretty happy that Maranello’s in Italy and obviously I can see that these guys are pretty worried. Concerned obviously that Brexit is a concern not only for F1 and I think that we should look at the bigger picture rather than only F1 but I understand that they are worried at the moment.

TW: For some time, I found it really tragic but that tragic has somehow changed to really good entertainment. It’s better than the Netflix thing, actually. Every evening I watched and what they showed from the House of Commons and you’re not quite sure whether it’s Monty Python or whether it’s really happening. I will get in trouble there. I shouldn’t talk about politics. But for us, we have 26 nations in our company and it is a matter of concern. We are living from the just-in-time principle of getting goods in and goods and people out and if this were to be disrupted that would be a problem but I don’t think that can happen. Formula One is the silicon valley of the UK but there are many larger industries… the automotive industry would be massively impacted if there would be the so-called no deal – I don’t know what no deal would actually mean. But I think at a certain stage, common sense needs prevail. I would hope so.

CA: I’ve nothing to add really. Indeed, we looked at the options, we tried to make plans. Apparently it’s at least pushed back, so March 29, I understand, is not the deadline any more. What really matter is that particular people we could see massively lots of nationalities, we want to make sure those people can stay where they are and we can continue to invest in them.


Thursday 14 March 2019

2019 Australian GP: Drivers' Press Conference.

PART ONE: DRIVERS – Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes), Sebastian VETTEL (Ferrari), Daniel RICCIARDO (Renault), Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull Racing), Robert KUBICA (Williams)

We’re gathered under very sad circumstances, following the news that Charlie Whiting, the FIA’s Director of Formula One died during the early hours of this morning. I’d like to start this press conference by asking each of the drivers present for their thoughts and memories of Charlie. Lewis, could we start with you, please?

Lewis HAMILTON: I’ve known Charlie since I started in 2007. I made some comments this morning on my Instagram. It may have not worked, as I think it’s down but obviously incredibly shocked this morning to hear the sad news and my thoughts and prayers are with him and his family. What he did for this sport, I mean, his commitment… he really was a pillar, as Toto said, such an iconic figure in the sporting world and he contributed so much for us, so may he rest in peace.

Q: Sebastian?

Sebastian VETTEL: Well I guess I was as shocked as we all are still now, when I head the news this morning, especially because I spoke to him yesterday and walked the track for the first couple of corners together with him. Difficult to grasp when somebody is just not there anymore. To add to what Lewis said. I’ve known him for a long time and he’s sort of been our man, the driver’s man. Obviously there are regulations and all that and then there is us and he was the middleman. He was someone you could ask anything of, anytime. He was open to everyone at any time. His door was always open. He was a racer. He was just a very nice guy. Shocked. I don’t think there’s that much to add. I think all our thoughts, the whole paddock, the whole circus, the whole family of Formula One; all our thoughts are with him and especially with his family in these difficult circumstances.

Q: And Robert?

Robert KUBICA: Well, as Seb says, and Lewis, it’s a hard moment. I saw Sebastian walking with Charlie yesterday and I thought I would not interrupt them because I would see him on Friday at the Drivers’ Briefing. Unfortunately this will not be the case. It’s very sad. He was kind of an icon of Formula One. He was, as Sebastian said, a racer, but also keeping up everything in the regulations. He was really the kind of a person you could always trust and commit. A very sad moment. My thoughts are with his family, but that’s how it is unfortunately.

Q: And Max, please?

Max Verstappen: I think as everybody said, I think it was a big shock, also because I spent the day with him in Geneva a few weeks ago and we had a good chat, just about a lot of things. When I left at the time, I was like “see you in Australia for another season of racing” and when you hear this news it‘s just unbelievable – just 66 years old. I guess we just have to appreciate every day and every morning you wake up and that you enjoy life, and that it’s not only about Formula One but there are a lot of other things in life and this is just one part of it. And yeah, I think at the moment what is most important is that the thoughts are going to his family and friend and close ones.

Q: And Daniel?

Daniel RICCIARDO: I echo everything. Not the nicest news to walk into. Taken aback by it, for sure. I’ll try to make it slightly more positive. As Seb said, he was there for us, and we gave him a hard time. We would really press him and push him and make him work, but he was always really receptive and you always felt like he was on our side. I guess we were like a broken record with a lot of the things we would complain about but he never really shut it down. He was always ears open. I think he did a lot for the sport. We’ll have some very nice and positive memories of him. I remember my first Aussie GP, in 2012, going up. I remember we were with Franz and he goes “go and introduce yourself to Charlie; it’s the start of a new season” and start the relationship on a good news. Time goes fast, but as Max touched on, it’s important just to appreciate it, each moment. You do take it for granted. I’m sure we’ll all race with a lot of passion this weekend and it’s just a reminder as well that we are all very lucky to be in this position.

REST IN PEACE Charlie Whiting.
Q: Thank you all five of you. A couple more questions now to each of you, and Daniel, we’ll stay with you. Your home race, it’s always a busy build-up but how have the last few days been for you?

DR: Busy! But it’s alright; I’m actually used to it now. It’s expected. But, you know, busy is good; it means people car and that they’re excited about the start of the season. A lot of things have changed. I’ve changed team and that’s created a lot of other change within the F1 paddock and other drivers moving teams. It’s been a pretty cool and pretty busy off-season for sure. Done some activities – drove a V8 Supercar yesterday; Max was saying he was a passenger today in one, so just chatting a little bit about that. It’s fun. It’s fun when you can balance some of the not so fun media commitments with a little bit of enjoyment. But now we’re getting close. We’re within 24 hours of driving the car, so excited to get on track, but also excited to see the pecking order. I think we could draw some conclusions from testing but not much, so we’ll see where we stands.

Q: I was going to ask you about the conclusions from testing. How close are Renault to the top three teams now?

DR: Not sure… Not sure, so we’ll see how we go. The second week, the last couple of days, we had a few new parts on the car and they seem more promising for our development, so that was encouraging. I think we left the test more encouraged. We’ll see. Judging the top three cars, I don’t even know where they stand at the moment, but yeah, a few more days and you’ll know.

Q: Thank you, Daniel. Robert, coming to you: it’s your first race since 2010, can you describe your emotions heading into this weekend?

RK: Yeah, it has been a long time, a long time away from the sport. Emotions… to be honest there is not really a lot of time to think about them, you are focused on the job, focused on the things to do. Try to learn as much as you can about new F1. Things have changed quite a lot since I was racing here last time. Just trying to prepare; trying to be ready. We didn’t have a the perfect start to winter testing, so there are a lot of things to be checked, to see how they will be and yeah, let’s see.

Q: As you said, it was a difficult period for the team in winter testing – the car arrived late in Barcelona. What’s a realistic goal for you and the team?

RK: Unfortunately we were late for the winter testing and it’s not like you recover this delay in one week, so there are still things being sorted out. The guys are pushing really hard, especially on track but also in factory. It is a difficult period but we have to make sure we are doing everything we can in the current situation. We cannot change it, so we have to make we concentrate on what we have. There is no point in wasting energy or time and then thinking of a difficult job. We just need to do our job and this is the approach of each member of the team we are having. We have to make sure we maximize our opportunities from what we have.

Q: Max, coming to you, the management at Red Bull Racing has been very bullish about the new package, what are your thoughts?

MV: I guess we’ll find out, won’t we? I think so far, we had a good winter test, not too many issues, and I was just very happy about how everybody was working together, which I think is very important, and a good start. Of course, integrating the new engine into the chassis but it didn’t seem like it was giving us problems, so very happy about that. I could do most of my running, so that was very positive but in terms of performance, I think it’s a bit difficult to judge at the moment where we exactly are. I didn’t have any time to do performance runs, or whatever but yeah, we’re happy with what we did. Of course, I think it can always be better, I think everybody has that thoughts. I guess here – but not only here in Melbourne – we’ll find out throughout the beginning of the season where we will stand.

Q: What’s the atmosphere like in the team at the moment, with the new partnership with Honda. Do you feel it’s a bit more bullish that it was in the recent past?

MV: I think everybody’s just very motivated, very positive and very focused on the job as well.

Q: Sebastian, coming to you, fastest in winter testing. Do you feel you’re in a better position now than you were at this time last year?

SV: Yeah. Quite frankly because I think last year’s winter testing didn’t go well for us and we actually had some issues with the car to fix and obviously we got a bit lucky during the race weekend with the safety car to grab the win – but yeah, I think in this regard we are more prepared. Our car seems to work fine: no problems at this stage. Having said that, obviously we can’t do better than last year’s result. So, it’s a tough weekend ahead of us. Always the start, you’re a bit nervous, you don’t know exactly where you are. You don’t know what’s going to happen but yeah, I think we are… y’know… the spirit is good, the atmosphere is good, we’re happy to be here and start racing.

Q: And just a quick word on the technical regulation changes that have happened over the winter. Do you feel that it’ll be possible to follow another car closer this year than last year?

SV: Well, testing isn’t about following other cars and overtaking. So I didn’t get much of that – but it didn’t seem to make a difference. Hopefully it turns out to be better and easier this year. We will see. Obviously the DRS is a bit different. It’s a bit bigger delta – so let’s see. I didn’t have that much experience in testing to make a full conclusion.

Q: Lewis, difficult to read Mercedes’ testing form. What’s your take on it?

LH: I don’t think there’s much to… it’s not difficult to read it. I think it was quite clear, however it’s difficult to know what everyone’s doing, so naturally we won’t fully know until we get out in the car tomorrow and, come qualifying you get a better picture, and usually, over the first few races is when you really start to get an idea of where everyone stands – but we said that we have work to do and we weren’t talking BS. We have work to do.

Q: From an internal point of view, how important has continuity been – both stability on the driving front and the technical front?

LH: On the driving front, continuity is what works. We have a great pairing and I think the contribution Valtteri and I together, it’s worked well for years and there’s no reason to change it. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. In terms of the team, we’ve got so many incredible people within the team, and the energy… it’s inspiring to see so many people so pumped, pulling together. The communication is better than ever. Just after the test I went back, and Toto rallied the troops and we all sat together and it’s really impressive to see so many people so passionate about their jobs and so passionate about racing and wanting to do a better job and always wanting to improve. And knowing where they can improve – it’s really, really cool to see. Really encouraging. I just know they’re the soldiers. They’re the real, true fighters within the team, and I know they’re going to be giving absolutely everything to make sure that we continue to progress.


Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) Lewis, you talked about the need to improve after testing. Valtteri said he’s already seen improvements from you guys. Do you share that confidence, do you think that they’ve already found gains? And for Seb, you talked about being more prepared this year. Does it feel different coming here, arguably as the hunted rather than the hunter?

LH: Well, naturally after a test, you always improve the next day as the car gets older and older throughout the test. It wears and then you go away, you analyse where you’ve been. New information gets put in the wind tunnel, the engineers have new information and they work upon it. So, everyone takes a step after testing. The car will be fresher here, we’ll have a much better understanding of it – but I think it’s the same for everyone. We didn’t bring upgrades. It will be interesting to see how the Red Bull upgrade works, and I know some other people, Ferrari usually bring an upgrade for the first race, so it’ll be interesting to see.

SV: Well, at this point, I think we are all hunters and all hunted. We have zero points. At this point I don’t feel like either. But hopefully going away from here we’ll be in the position of the hunted. That’s the target.

Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC Sport) Sebastian. Your team boss has said that, in particular situations, you’ll be favoured. What do those particular situations mean? In what way will you be favoured at the start of the season?

SV: I don’t think there’s much point in going into certain situations. I think it’s very clear, and I think Mattia also made it very clear, we are free to race, free to race each other. I think Charles will do his best to help himself  and help the team and that’s the same for me. I will do my best to help myself and to help the team. So, in the end we’re racing for Ferrari and that means we try to get Ferrari back to where we’ve been trying to get it back to for the last couple of years. That’s the main priority and the rest, it’s a long, long season and I think it’s a bit pointless at this point to start pointing out certain scenarios.

Q: (Dan Knutson – Auto Action / Speed Sport) If I could ask all of your briefly, what do you think of the new rule of a point for fastest lap?

MV: I don’t know. I think it can be nice but it can also work against you maybe when you’re fighting for a title – but I guess time will tell how it’s all going to work out – but for sure you can play a bit with it, as a team.

LH: It’s 21 extra points, so I think it’ll be interesting to see how people try to get those points, so it should be interesting.

DR: Yeah. At first, when I just heard, I thought it was the whole… it’s good that they’ve restricted it to the top ten. So you do have something potentially to lose if you go in to pit for a fresh set of tyres to get the fastest lap. Yeah, we’ll see. Haven’t really thought that much about it. See how it plays out. I don’t think it will decide a championship – could do, but I don’t think it will.

SV: I don’t know. I don’t expect much change. We’ll see after a couple of races if there is actually a change.

RK: I think unfortunately it doesn’t affect us a lot. At least for now. But yeah, extra point. It can unlock some strange scenarios at the end of the race with some cars pitting and it will open up. We’ll see three, four cars suddenly coming in. It will depend. It will be a kind of domino. But as I said, I was not really interested about it.

Q: (Alessandro Sala – Talking about the hunter equation for Mr Crocodile Daniel. 1980, Alan Jones, the last Aussie to win in Australia. After 40 years, it’s time to try, with the permission of some of the other guys, to win. We hope to see a good dive in the Albert Park lake. Do you?

DR: With myself, not with my car right? I might need some help from some others, probably, this early in the season – but yeah, there’s a chance of some overtakes. I think early on there won’t be too many front row starts. So they’ll certainly be some cars in front. The win might be optimistic in a few days’ time but yeah, being the hunter, that’s still going to be a lot of fun this year. Try to keep that up. More than ever with, I guess, probably the midfield battles we’ll be in initially. That’ll be cool. Does that answer your question? I’ll try to win, of course.

They’re already kind of crazy, Australians but yeah, if we could pull that off, lock your doors.

Q: (Joost Nederpelt – NU.NL) Max, you said some things could have been better. What could have been better?

MV: Some things. I cannot go into detail, can I? No, I can’t.

SV: Otherwise what? Daniel comes after you with his knife!

Q: (Giles Richards – Guardian) Lewis and Sebastian, how important to each of you is it to stamp your authority for the championship early on this season, in these opening four races?

LH: It’s a long season, so I don’t particularly feel it’s the most important thing. I think it’s really about finishing races and analysing and making sure you are getting as many points as you can, of course, but I’m not really one for needing to stamp authority.

SV: Yeah, pretty much the same. I don’t think we will win it here, I don’t think we will lose it here. It’s a long way. Hopefully, we have a strong package, a strong team that carries us into a position at the end of the year to fight for it.

Q: (Stylianos Alepidis – Sebastian, the last couple of championships you did not reach your target. You had the weight on your shoulders from the Italian media about the expectations of the tifosi. Now under the new leadership of Mr Binotto, do you think that with the new attitude of the communications department towards the media that the more intense later stages of the championship will pan out somehow differently?

SV: I’m not sure the media is going to make a big difference unless you can somehow transfer points to my account. I think it’s a new year, obviously (there have been) some changes. Of course we will be focused trying to do our job as good as we can. I think there’s a lot of passion inside this team that’s willing to get out and expressing ourselves, I think, through winning, is the best we can do so that’s the target but as I said, there’s so many races, such a long way, so many things we are depending on but as much as we can control things we try to take them in our hand and get our job done. As I said, so far the atmosphere is good, the spirit is right inside the team and yeah, we try to carry that into the season. In terms of expectations, I think it’s normal when you finished second the year before that the way to look at it is that it is a disaster because you finished second so in that way, finishing second, third or fourth is all the same disaster. The winner takes it all, so in that case Lewis has been in that position the last years and we try to turn it around.

Q: (Rene Oudman – Racing News 365) The first Grand Prix of the season means the end of the winter break, a time in which you have more spare time. What was the nicest, funniest or weirdest thing you’ve done in the winter of 2018/2019?

RK: Complicated.

SV: You had a longer winter break though.

RK: Yeah, I did have a bit longer than the others. Actually this winter was quite busy so… I think starting working with the team, knowing that you will be a race driver definitely makes a big difference to the past seven winters. The nicest one, probably, was a week of cycling, which was nice, combining a bit of hobby training with pleasure.

SV: I don’t know. I guess just spending time at home, making my own breakfast which I quite enjoy. Yeah, pretty boring maybe but I enjoyed it. Went skiing a couple of times, the weather was good, the snow was good.

DR: Similar, just being home and it’s summer for me so… yeah, Australia. Actually what was really nice as well was I didn’t go to an airport for six weeks and that was… I think that was the longest in ten years that I’ve been off a plane, so that was actually really pleasant. I enjoyed being outdoors. I got the bikes and mountains bikes. I feel like doing things that move fast, just that sort of stuff, hanging out with friends, maybe snapping the neck off a couple of beers but that’s about it. Makes more sense when you drink it… But yeah, just literally switching off especially after last year, that was important for me to wind down.

Can I just lighten things up as well? Robert mentioned that he’s had a pretty long winter break. I don’t think we all know to the extent of what he’s been through to get back here, so I just think it’s awesome to see him back. I’ve known him from when I moved to Europe back in 2007 which feels like a long time but yeah, just a testament to his character and I won’t ask for everyone to applaud but I really think it’s awesome for him to be here. We can applaud, yeah.

LH: I don’t really remember a lot of it. I mean the winter break finished quite a while ago, since we got… February, once you’re back in the factory and working with the team, focused on making sure that you’re fit and ready for the first race ended a while ago so it feels like a long long time ago but there’s skydiving. Done some surfing. I wanted to do it here but I couldn’t find a netted area to go to. I just can’t go where there are sharks, man, and every Australian I meet they’re like ‘nah, nah, you’ll be alright. If a shark comes up to you, punch it in the face.’ Australians are really kind of crazy, huh?

DR: I’d like to say I’d do the same but no, they scare me too.

LH: But yeah, otherwise pretty much the same as everyone else. The break is a really precious time you get to spend with family and friends and it’s the time you don’t get to think about racing and then once the season starts you’re on tour the whole year and you never really lose sight of your targets.

MV: I guess I like mid- to end-of December is a bit of time off and you can spend time with family and friends but from like January onwards it’s just training so I don’t feel like it’s a break any more because you’re just busy. Some more exciting things happened, some less exciting things happened but should I share them? I don’t think so.

Q: (Rebecca Clancy – The Times) Lewis, as has been mentioned, Ferrari have said they will favour Sebastian at certain times. Have there been any similar conversations at Mercedes or are you guys just free to race?

LH: We’re free to race like every single year so that was even said at the beginning of… back at the factory and it’s repeated today and that’s how I like it. It means we both have a fair shot but it’s been the same every single year and it’s only to a point where one driver doesn’t have the chance to win the champion any more if we’re lucky enough to be in that position and things shift but generally we’re always free to race so I think that’s great.


Wednesday 13 March 2019

Sébastien Loeb Racing to compete 2019 World RX season.

Sébastien Loeb Racing has today announced their intention to compete in the 2019 FIA World Rallycross Championship

Despite Sébastien Loeb Racing not being announced as permanent entrants for the 2019 World RX season. Dominique Heintz, team boss has confirmed that the team will remain involved in the championship by competing in several rounds. 

"We will be present on several rounds that have yet to be selected and we have already done some tests. Today we have two cars in the workshop ready to roll," said Heintz"We are convinced that this discipline (rallycross) has a great future and we will remain present."

The French squad is yet to confirm their driver line-up, and the cars they will use for the several rounds. 

Nine-time Rally champion Sébastien Loeb was left without a seat at the end of the 2018 season when Peugeot Sport announced their withdrawal from the World RX championship. 

 "Everyone has suffered from the withdrawal of Peugeot, not only me after all the manufacturers had withdrawn," said Sébastien Loeb

The French legend believes that World RX has a good future ahead and he wants to remain in the discipline. 

"We will continue to get involved in RX because it is a discipline in which we believe," he adds. 

"The championship has refocused a little more on fans, but this championship will have a future with the electric because this technology perfectly suits the races. It is also a project for our team."

TEXT - Junaid Samodien
QUOTES - AutoHebdo.fr

Tuesday 12 March 2019

Nitiss and Try joins line-up for World RX season opener in Abu Dhabi.

PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross Media.
The FIA World Rallycross Championship has revealed a 17-car strong line-up for round one of the Championship in Abu Dhabi.

The Abu Dhabi night race will see the semi-finals held as night falls, and the final held in the dark, under lights at the famous Formula 1 circuit.

Following the official release of the 2019 permanent FIA World RX entries, Team STARD entered a second car, but the second driver was not announced at the time. 

With the release of the 2019 World RX of Abu Dhabi entry list, its somewhat confirmed that Norway’s Pal Try will join Janis Baumanis at Team STARD in the second new Ford Fiesta.

Reigning FIA European Rallycross Champion Reinis Nitiss will make his debut for the GRX Taneco team in the first round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship in Abu Dhabi.

Nitiss will join his GRX Taneco teammates, Niclas Gronholm and Timur Timerzyanov in the first of his selected rounds this season. The third Hyundai i20 Supercar has been entered as GRX SET

“I'm really looking forward to competing in the Hyundai i20 for the first time," said Nitiss.

"Combined with the all-new Yas Marina RX track the season opener will be a great and exciting challenge, especially as the first night race,” he adds. 

This will be the first time a rallycross event takes place in the evening and the track will be artificially lit.”

TEXT BY - Junaid Samodien

ENTRY LIST - FIA World Rallycross Media. 

MERCEDES-AMG F1: How Does an F1 Steering Wheel Work?

The Steering wheel of the early Formula 1 cars vs. the Modern era steering wheel.
PHOTO CREDIT: Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport Media
TEXT BY - Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport

Formula One cars are very complex machines - even their steering wheels are not exactly self-explanatory at first glance. So, we're taking a closer look at F1 steering wheels, some of their many functions and how exactly they are designed and built. 

How many buttons and switches does an F1 steering wheel have and what do they do? 
Our 2019 steering wheel has a total of 25 buttons and switches and, of course, the clutch and the shift paddles. Five of those buttons and switches change the brake settings of the car: the driver can shift the brake balance from the front to the rear or vice versa, to optimise the brake balance for an individual corner, change the amount of engine braking or adjust the brake migration, which is a dynamic change of the brake balance depending on how hard the driver brakes. Another three switches control the differential - the amount of torque transfer between the rear wheels - for the entry, the apex and the exit of a corner. The rest of the buttons and switches have a variety of different purposes, from adjusting the settings of the Power Unit to changing the data that is displayed on the screen, activating the radio or the pit lane speed limiter. The Drag Reduction System (DRS), which will have an even stronger effect in 2019 due to the bigger rear wings, can also be activated at the push of a button.

What are the most important buttons? 
The importance of the button depends on the situation. If, for example, a driver can't hear his race engineer anymore, the volume control of the radio suddenly becomes very important. If you were to ask a driver which button he thinks is the most important, he'd probably choose the "Strat" switch as it has a big impact on the performance of the car. It controls the Power Unit modes and will impact both the performance of the internal combustion engine as well as the deployment of electrical energy of the MGU-K and change the recovery of energy of both MGU-K and MGU-H. Since there are different mileage allocations for each strategy mode to balance performance and reliability, the driver will usually be told by his race engineer which "strat mode" he should use at a given time. 

The Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport steering wheel explained.
PHOTO CREDIT: Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport Media
What functions on the steering wheel are used the most? 
The most used functions of the steering wheel are by far the actual steering itself as well as gear changes. On a typical lap in Melbourne, for example, the driver will use the shift paddles around 50 times. 15 shift indicator LEDs located above the central display help him to find the ideal shift point. In addition to steering and shifting, an F1 driver will make a number of adjustments to the brake balance, fine-tuning the car to different corner characteristics. 

What is an F1 steering wheel made of? 
There are a number of materials used in a steering wheel, but the main materials are carbon fibre, fibreglass, silicon, titanium and copper. Those five components are the main ingredients of the several hundred individual parts that form the bigger components inside an F1 steering wheel. The majority of those components - the circuitry, the circuit boards, the carbon enclosure, the quick release, the electrical connectors and the steering itself - are built in-house in our factory in Brackley. Only two components, the central display and the underlying circuit board, are not built in Brackley as they are common parts shared by all teams. 

Has the steering wheel changed compared to last year's? 
Our 2019 steering wheel is an evolution of last year's design. We have made some changes, but most of them won't be visible from the outside. 

Are the drivers involved in the design process of a steering wheel? 
Yes, in fact they're quite heavily involved in the design process because the wheels are custom-built to their individual needs. Both the ergonomics of the wheel, and the physical layout of the shape and the grips are fitted to their hands, and the way they like to interact with the steering wheel. Those changes are not just made at the beginning of the season. The steering wheel design is a continuous process. During the season, drivers might ask for changes to the grips and the layout of the buttons and switches - based on the individual demands of the driver and the track layout. 

How difficult is it to interact with the different buttons when the car is going at full speed? 
Very difficult. A Formula One car is not only very fast, but also subject to heavy vibrations, particularly at circuits with a relatively bumpy surface. The fact that the drivers wear gloves and that the buttons are relatively small, doesn't make the operating the wheel any easier. But there are a number of things that make manipulating the various buttons and switches a little easier. To reduce the risk of accidentally hitting the wrong button, the team uses buttons that are also used on airplanes. These high-reliability buttons are not only made to endure a high number of actuations, they also require a strong tactile force and give the driver a sold click feedback when he presses them. The team has also installed small plastic rims around certain buttons to minimise the risk of hitting a button on accident. The layout of those rims can change on a race-by-race basis. They are particularly important for tight turns like the hairpin in Monaco when the drivers use the maximum steering angle. Additionally, the team always has a watchful eye over the data and can inform the driver immediately should he accidentally choose a wrong setting. 

How many steering wheels does a driver have? 
Over the course of a season, each driver will get three to four wheels. One wheel takes about 80 hours to build. Mechanical designers, electrical designers and wiring technicians are involved in the design and build process. 

Wednesday 6 March 2019

World RX unveils a 16-car entry list for 2019 season

PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross Media
The list of permanent drivers entered for this season's FIA World Rallycross Championship has been released, where six two-car teams and four individual entries will contest all 10 rounds of the championship.

A total of 16 permanent drivers representing eight automotive brands will battle for World RX title, in what has been billed as the most competitive season yet. 

The entry list features some familiar names among teams and drivers and offers the chance for a number of young guns to make their mark in the championship. 

Likely to have strong claims on the title, is the eye-catching pairing of Liam Doran and World RX front-runner Andreas Bakkerud who join forces in Audi S1 Quattro Supercars in the newly-formed Monster Energy RX Cartel team

The Hansen brothers, Timmy and Kevin, sons of Kenneth, the most successful rallycross driver to date with 14 FIA European Rallycross titles, will compete in a pair of Peugeot 208s under the Team Hansen MJP banner. 

In 2018, Timmy, finished a solid sixth in the 2018 world championship, while Kevin was highly impressive en route to eighth place last year. 

Marcus Gronholm’s GRX Taneco team will field a pair of Hyundai i20s for the highly-experienced Timur Timerzyanov who is joined on the regular team roster by Niclas Gronholm. 

Niclas will seek to build on his impressive 2018 season in which he made the final four times and was clearly best of the non-factory drivers.

Reinis Nitiss will combine development driver duties for GRX Taneco with appearances at selected rounds – the first of which is likely to be the World RX of Abu Dhabi next month.

Building on their successful debut season in 2018, the French outfit GC Kompetition will field four permanent drivers in 2019.

Team owner Guerlain Chicherit, is joined by former European Rallycross Champion Anton Marklund of Sweden in Renault Megane R.S. RX Supercars.

As part of an initiative to create a pathway for promising junior rallycross talent, in the sister GCK Academy team - RX2 graduates Cyril Raymond of France and Belgium’s Guillaume De Ridder - will be at the wheel of Renault Clios. 

As first revealed in January, Latvia’s Janis Baumanis will represent Austrian team STARD in a Ford Fiesta, supported by Ford Performance. He will be joined in a second STARD car with a driver yet to be named. 

The four individual entries will compete for the drivers’ title but do not claim team points.

Britain’s Oliver Bennett, who competed in selected World RX and ARX events in 2018, will pilot the Xite Racing Mini Cooper in his first full world championship season.

Former DTM champion Timo Scheider, who made a series of World RX outings in 2018 for ALL-INKL.COM Munnich Motorsport, carries the German team’s hopes for the entire season in an all-new Seat Ibiza. He will be joined by team owner Rene Munnich at selected events. 

Krisztian Szabo competes for EKS Sport, winners of both the drivers’ and teams’ titles in 2016. The Hungarian will drive a Audi S1 Quattro Supercar.

19-year-old Lithuanian Rokas Bacisuka, the current FIA European Rallycross Champion in Super 1600, and will drive for ESmotorsport – Labas Gas in their newly built and developed Skoda Fabia Supercar.

In addition to the competitive entry list, Paul Bellamy, Senior Vice President of IMG Motorsports (World RX promoters) has revealed that the 2019 season will also see increased connectivity with fans. 

“We will continue to innovate in 2019 by extending our live streaming offer as we seek to broaden our fan appeal,” said Bellamy

 “Last season we attracted over 400,000 views per race weekend on live streaming and our social media presence continues to grow. The nature of World RX, short, all-action races, the longest of which is just over five minutes, is very enticing for younger fans in this time-poor world we live in.”

TEXT BY - Junaid Samodien @JunaidSamodien_

Hansen Motorsport joins forces with MJP Austria Team to make World RX comeback in 2019.

PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross Media.
Hansen Motorsport has opened a new chapter today, as the team confirms their official entry in the 2019 FIA World Rallycross Championship. 

The Swedish team joins forces with Max Pucher's MJP Team Austria, and the team will race under the banner - Team Hansen MJP.

Team Hansen MJP will field a pair of Peugeot 208 RX Supercars for the Hansen brothers, Timmy and KevinThe Swedes will compete in both the World RX and GRC Europe championships in 2019. 

The future of Hansen Motorsport seemed bleak over four months ago when Peugeot Sport announced their withdrawal from the World Rallycross Championship. 

Team Principal Kenneth Hansen, holder of 14 FIA European Rallycross Championship titles has described the 2019 World RX entry, as the most challenging in the Scandinavian team's history.

“The months following Peugeot Sport’s decision to close their RX activity – which saw the Hansen family stranded without a team and programme – have been some of our toughest ever,” said Kenneth Hansen

“Since then, with a commitment deeply rooted in our love for rallycross, Hansen Motorsport has used almost every single waking hour to find ways and possibilities to get a team and budget together to be able to return to World RX."

"It was a real last-minute agreement, but we are here and ready to race with a small yet efficient team. To be able to contest not just one but two major international rallycross series this year is a dream come true. You really can’t wipe the smiles off our faces at the moment!" he concludes. 

Timmy Hansen has claimed five victories and 24 podium finishes since the series inception in 2014, and he claimed the 2015 World Championship runners-up spot, the same year that Hansen Motorsport claimed the teams' title.  

“It feels like it’s been a long winter since our last rallycross race in South Africa in November, so it’s brilliant to confirm that we’ll be back in the World Championship,” said Timmy Hansen. “For a long time, we genuinely weren’t sure if we were going to make it or not so it’s a huge relief to know we will be there and I couldn’t be more excited right now."

Hansen is raring to go racing and believes that the 2019 World RX season is going to be competitive. 

“Looking at the drivers and teams confirmed so far, it’s shaping up to be a competitive season with a very level playing field," he said. "The addition of a couple of new tracks only adds to the unpredictability, but I have a fantastic team of people around me, the 208 WRX is a great car that I feel very comfortable in."

Timmy's younger brother Kevin Hansen already has a long career in rallycross under his belt, going all the way back to 2013 and yielding titles in the RX Lites Cup and FIA European Rallycross Championship for Supercars – the latter earning him the most coveted award of all for newcomers, the FIA Rookie of the Year Award in 2016.

“It feels amazing to return to World RX as a proper family team,” says Kevin Hansen. “We have worked so hard to make this happen, and to finally be able to say I’m a driver for Team HANSEN MJP is crazy. Wow – what a journey we’ve been on."

“After two full seasons in World RX, I really feel that I’ve found my feet in the series and that I’m capable of taking on the very best drivers in the discipline. The next step is to begin pushing for podium finishes."

"That’s clearly going to be no easy task with so many quick drivers, teams and cars signed up, but it’s what I need to be aiming for and if I can achieve podiums, why not target a first win..?" said Kevin.

TEXT BY - Junaid Samodien

Reigning European RX Super1600 Champion Rokas Baciuska makes leap to World RX with ESMotorsport-Labas Gas

PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross Media.
Reigning European Rallycross Champion in Super1600 Rokas Baciuska will compete in the 2019 FIA World Rallycross Championship with ESmotorsport-Labas GAS

Baciuska will drive the newly built Skoda Fabia Supercar.

ESmotorsport-Labas GAS team founder and former rallycross driver, Ernestas Staponkus has revealed that his team has covered over 1,000kms in testing in 2018 and has prepared well for the challenges ahead.

“We developed our car with the help of many different drivers from different categories, not only rallycross. But at the end we decided to start with young talent from our country," Staponkus said.

“Last year, Rokas Baciuska won European Rallycross Championship in the Super1600 class," he adds. "We are sure that he will be able to fight with the fastest drivers in the world this season.”

The young  Lithuanian is looking forward to his first World Rallycross season. 

“From the very first full season in Super1600 class I won the European rallycross championship straight away," said Baciuska. "Of course, I don’t expect to do the same this season in World RX, but we will fight for the highest places. Not from the very first race maybe but during the season we believe we can go to fight for the podium.”

Staponkus has also revealed that the ESmotorsport-Labas GAS team are working on a second car that will be driven by Kevin Abbring. 

“The second car is on the way. We want to introduce it in World RX during the season and to be able to fight for the team championship from the next season," said Staponkus.

“To my mind Kevin Abbring is one of the fastest drivers in World Rallycross. He can win World Championship and we are happy that he will try to do it with us,” he concludes.

TEXT - Junaid Samodien

Tuesday 5 March 2019

GC Kompetition expands to a four-car World RX entry

PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross Media
GC Kompetition (GCK) rallycross team has revealed a four-car line-up for the 2019 FIA World Rallycross Championship.

The GCK team will grow their operation to include four permanent drivers in 2019. The four-car line-up will be split into two separate but permanent teams - GCK and GCK Academy

Guerlain Chicherit (team owner) will be partnered by European Rallycross Champion Anton Marklund. The pair will be competing in Pro-drive built and developed GCK Megane R.S. RX Supercars. 

The all-new GCK Academy team will field RX2 Champion Cyril Raymond and RX2 Vice-Champion Guillaume de Ridder who will compete in a 2019 evolution of the successful GCK Renault Clio R.S. RX Supercars

FORS Performance has been appointed by the GCK team to facilitate all its race operations from 2019 for both teams.

Chicherit has revealed that he has created the "GCK Academy" team with a vision to provide an opportunity for junior drivers to compete on the world championship stage. 

“2019 is a really big year for GCK," said  Chicherit. "We debuted the team in the FIA World Rallycross Cham­pionship in 2018 and have been working really hard to further develop the GCK Megane R.S. RX, the first car to have been designed and built from scratch to compete in rallycross."

“To now enter the Championship with four cars is a big step," he adds. "It allows me to compete in the GCK Megane R.S. RX alongside Anton who I’ve been working with clo­sely over the last few months but also to support two super talented junior drivers in Cyril and Guillaume to develop in a World Championship driving the GCK Clio R.S. RX. I’m really excited to see what the season will bring.”

Swede Anton Marklund has been working with the GCK outfit since July 2018 and has helped the team develop the cars for the 2019 campaign.

“I raced the GCK Megane in the last three races of the 2018 season and worked with Guerlain to further put together a development list for the car," said Marklund. "Then FORS Performance offered me to help them develop the GCK Clio during the winter which means I got to spend a lot of time and work closely with the team operating the cars this year."

“With all those opportunities ahead of this season, I already feel very much at home in the team. I’m sure that with the development and preparations we all have done during the winter, we have a good chance to race for top spots in the 2019 season," the Swede concluded. 

Following a successful 2018 rookie season in the FIA European Rallycross Championship, Cyril Raymond has set his sights on consistently competing for top six positions in 2019, and working closely with his new team-mate de Ridder to bring success to the GCK Academy programme.

“My vision for 2019 is to improve my driving in Supercars and to be a good teammate,” the Frenchman said. “I would like to show my potential behind the wheel but also in the paddock at work. My target is to be in the final of the every race."

"Joining GCK Academy is a really important moment of my career. I have finally become a race driver of the FIA World Rallycross Championship. It’s a dream come true. I’ll never forget this moment.”

Belgium’s Guillaume de Ridder completes the GCK Academy line-up. Team owner Chicherit believes that de Ridder is a fu­ture World Rallycross star. Throughout 2018 season the GCK owner monitored De Ridder closely with the intention of presenting a Supercar opportunity to the Belgian.

“Joining the GCK Academy is an incredible opportunity for me," said de Ridder. "Being selected as one of the two junior drivers representing the team is an awesome recognition."

"It has been many years now that I have been working so hard and have given everything I had (sometimes even more than that!) in order to reach the highest level in motorsport, so it is finally a dream come true."

TEXT BY - Junaid Samodien

Sunday 3 March 2019

The Abu Dhabi World RX circuit layout is revealed

PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross Media
The circuit layout for the first round of the 2019 FIA World Rallycross Championship has been revealed. 

The purpose-built 1.2 kilometre rallycross circuit, which has been constructed in the stadium section of the Yas Marina Circuit comprises of 63 per cent asphalt and 37 per cent gravel, a series of wide tarmac areas, tight turns including a hairpin and a daunting jump section.

PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross Media.
Yas Marina Circuit is always innovating when it comes to hosting thrilling motorsport races that attract fans and entertainment seekers to Abu Dhabi and FIA World Rallycross Championship is the latest in our portfolio of world-class events," said Al Tareq Al Ameri, CEO of Yas Marina Circuit.

“Our new track and weekend-long itinerary of some of the wildest racing the Middle East has ever seen promises to deliver something unique to the circuit.”  

World RX drivers Oliver Bennett (Xite Racing) and GRX Taneco trio Niclas Gronholm, Timur Timerzyanov and Reinis Nitiss were on hand to offer media and VIP guests passenger rides.

Briton's Oliver Bennett drove the circuit in his World RX Ford Fiesta Supercar and said: “The track is awesome. It has a lot to offer with big, wide tarmac turns which is going to be great for overtaking. It is going to be a tough track to race but it’s going to be fun to watch."

TEXT: Junaid Samodien

EKS Sport returns to World RX with Krisztian Szabo.

PHOTO CREDIT: EKS Sport/FIA World Rallycross Media.
Two-time European champion Super1600 Krisztian Szabo will compete in the full FIA Rallycross World Championship with EKS Sport in 2019. 

Mattias Ekstrom's team withdrew from the World Rallycross Championship in December, but the former World RX Champion did not fully close the door on his teams future. 

Ekstrom announced his intention to sell the teams Supercars and offered support to the buyer. The end of EKS seemed near when JC Raceteknik announced the acquisition of two EKS Audi Quattro's, but the outfit purchased two 2017 Audi S1 Quattro's. 

The team was formerly known as EKS, now EKS Sport finished second in the 2018 FIA World Rallycross Teams’ World Championship standings and in 2019 the team intends to continue with their Audi S1 EKS RX Quattro Supercar.

After making his European debut at the end of the 2014 season, Krisztian Szabo finished a strong third in the 2015 FIA European Rallycross Championship for Super1600 before sealing the European title twice consecutively in 2016 and 2017.

The Hungarian made an impressive debut for EKS Sport at the Euro RX of France in the Supercar category, racing to second place and subsequently reaching the Final on his second outing with the team in Latvia, in a year old S1 Quattro.

“Since the beginning of my career, I have been dreaming about racing in the World Championship," said Szabo. "Mattias Ekstrom announced last year that he will stop racing in 2019, which means he has more time to focus on managing the EKS Sport team." 

“It is going to be different in 2019 with a much more balanced championship. Everyone has a bigger chance, including me," he said. "I have one of the best teams and cars behind me. I have the right background – a world championship-winning team, the professional support of Mattias and I feel well-prepared."

It is a now or never for me in 2019 and I start my first World Championship season with title hopes,” the Hungarian concludes.

EKS Sport team owner Mattias Ekstrom predicts that Krisztian Szabo has a bright future and can have a successful season with his team 

“I wanted to work together with Krisz this season because his results were quite promising last year and I predict a bright future for him," said Ekstrom. "The World RX field has changed for 2019 and I think Krisz has a big chance to be one of the best and win many races." 

“This is why I suggested that he races in the World Championship instead of the European Championship."

"I will help him as the team leader, I still have vivid memories from last year and I believe it will be useful for the team," said the Swede. "I think that Krisztian will surprise many people because they still don’t know what he can do.”

Testing for the 2019 FIA World Rallycross Championship will begin shortly. 

TEXT: Junaid Samodien