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  • Fast Friday: Williams could sell F1 team, Abt incident sparks Sim Racing debate

    Need your motorsport news fix? Welcome to Fast Friday!

    This is where Racing Edge discusses all the main news and talking points from the past week in motorsport.

    Keep up to date with all the main motorsport news below.

    Williams puts F1 team up for sale

    Williams news
    Photo courtesy of Williams Racing.

    Shock news in F1 this week as Williams says its team and wider group are up for sale, after posting a $16 million loss last year.

    The legendary F1 team was once dominant but has struggled in recent years. Revenue has plummeted due to the impact of the global pandemic. The decision to put the team up for sale was not taken lightly. Sir Frank Williams, the team’s founder, has always insisted on retaining control of the company ahead of this seismic shift.

    The company said in a statement: "The WGPH board is undertaking a review of all the various strategic options available to the company. Options being considered include, but are not limited to, raising new capital for the business, a divestment of a minority stake in WGPH, or a divestment of a majority stake in WGPH including a potential sale of the whole company.”

    "Whilst no decisions have been made regarding the optimal outcome yet, to facilitate discussions with interested parties, the company announces the commencement of a 'formal sale process.'"

    The company also announced the termination of its deal with title sponsor ROKiT, effective immediately.

    Williams is one of the most successful teams in Formula 1 history, dominating the sport throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

    Meanwhile, Renault is committing its future to Formula 1 despite the French auto makers going through a major restructuring process.

    The company is trying to save funds amid the global crisis. It is planning for 15,000 layoffs worldwide as it looks to reduce its workforce by 10%.

    Abt incident sparks Sim Racing debate

    One of the most bizarre incidents over the past week questioned the integrity of Sim Racing.

    Formula E driver Daniel Abt was caught using professional sim racer as a ringer during the championship’s Race At Home Challenge Series last weekend.

    As a result, Abt was suspended by his Formula E team, Audi. The driver then issued a 15-minute video statement on YouTube confirming he and Audi had parted ways completely.

    He said: "It was extremely important to me to take this opportunity here and now, to tell you how it was and what happened and to simultaneously apologise to my family, to my friends, to Audi, to my partners, to Formula E, to UNICEF, and of course to all the fans who supported me over the years, with all my hand. I hope you can forgive me.”

    Abt previously apologised for the deception. He was fined 10,000 euros and disqualified from the esports series by Formula E. The series carries prize money for charity.

    The incident took place during last a virtual 15-lap race around the Berlin Tempelhof track. Abt, who had not scored any points the previous four virtual races, qualified second and finished third.

    After the race, fellow Formula E driver Stoffel Vandoorne claimed it had not been Abt behind the wheel. Abt’s webcam was switched on during a live stream, but the driver’s head was obscured. After an investigation, organisers concluded 18-year-old professional sim racer Lorenz Hoerzing was driving in Abt’s place.

    Abt’s previous positions during the Sim Racing series were stripped, and fine donated to charity. Hoerzing was disqualified from all future rounds of the separate Challenge Grid series.

    Abt’s actions are a reminder that Sim Racing should be taken as seriously as real-life racing. If not, the consequences are there for all to see. 

    FIA approves new F1 regulations

    Motorsport news

    Formula 1’s future outside of the coronavirus pandemic started to take shape this week after the FIA approved new technical and financial regulations.

    The 2021 budget cap will be reduced from the original figure of $175 million to $145m. Further reductions will come in the following years. The 2022 budget cap will sit at $140m, before it is scaled down to $135m between 2023 and 2025.

    This will no doubt lead to cutbacks and trimming of Formula 1 teams.

    The other major change for 2021 will see F1 introduce a new sliding scale for aerodynamic development.

    The scale ensures the lower a team finishes in the championship, the more time it will get in the wind tunnel to help develop a car for the following year.

    The FIA hopes this measure will hope bridge the gap in competition across the field. It also hopes it will prevent the bigger teams from gaining a significant advantage over teams with smaller budgets.  

    Meanwhile, the 2020 Dutch Grand Prix has been officially cancelled. The race was originally slated for May 3 before being postponed due to the pandemic. The Dutch GP was returning to the championship for the first time in 35 years. However, Zandoort circuit chiefs confirmed the race will not take place this year.

    McLaren set to cut 1,200 jobs, including F1

    McLaren news

    News surfaced this week that British luxury marque McLaren is set to cut 1,200 jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Around 70 laybacks from its Formula 1 team are also expected, partly due to F1’s revised budget cap.

    The restructure will see around a 25% reduction in McLaren Group’s total workforce worldwide.  McLaren says it has been majorly affected by the pandemic, with manufacturing and sales halted throughout much of 2020’s first quarter.

    McLaren saw revenues drop from $348.13 million to $134.4 million in Q1, with a huge decrease in car sales. Only 307 units were sold over the opening three months, compared to 953 in the same period last year.

    Executive Chairman of McLaren Group, Paul Walsh, said in a statement: “We deeply regret the impact that this restructure will have on all our people but especially those whose jobs may be affected. It is a course of action we have worked hard to avoid, having already undertaken dramatic cost-saving measures across all areas of the business. But we now have no other choice but to reduce the size of the workforce.”

    Norris, Verstappen to team up for Virtual Le Mans 24

    Motorsport news

    Formula 1 drivers Lando Norris and Max Verstappen will team up for the virtual running of the Le Mans 24 Hour race next month.

    McLaren driver Norris and Red Bull’s Verstappen will form part of the Team Redline driver line-up. The eSports event takes place on June 13-14. The iconic race was due to take place that weekend but has been postponed until September because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Le Mans organisers ACO teamed up with the World Endurance Championship and Motorsport Games to host a virtual version of the endurance race. It will use the rFactor 2 simulator.

    Each team requires a minimum of two drivers with an international FIA license, plus a maximum of two sim racers.

    Formula E championship leader Antonio Felix da Costa and IndyCar star Felix Rosenqvist will also take part in the race. Team Penske and Toyota Gazoo Racing are among the 50 teams that will race in the virtual edition. Ferrari and Aston Martin are also confirmed.

    While both Norris and Verstappen are keen sim racers, they don’t often race together. Verstappen strictly competes on the iRacing platform.

    Meanwhile, Norris this week made friends with a squirrel. The sooner the racing returns, the better.

    Aston Martin CEO leaves following share price collapse

    Aston Martin

    UK manufacturer Aston Martin has announced chief executive Andy Palmer has stepped down.

    Mercedes-AMG head Tobias Moers will replace the outgoing Palmer on August 1, 2020. Manufacturing chief Keith Stanton will act as Chief Operating Officer during the interim period.

    The leadership shake-up comes two months after the struggling British company was saved by a cash rescue led by Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll.

    Aston Martin had been struggling before the COVID-19 pandemic further affected the automotive industry. Its share price is currently down 94% since the company was taken public in 2018.

    Executive Chairman Stroll said: “The Board has determined that now is the time for new leadership to deliver our plans. On behalf of the Board, I would like to thank Andy for his hard work, personal commitment and dedication to Aston Martin Lagonda since 2014.”

    Stroll added: “I would also like to recognise his leadership through the current challenges and uncertainties presented by COVID-19.”

    Palmer said it had been a “privilege” to serve Aston Martin for the past six years and went on to thank the management team and staff.

    Mercedes drops new 2021 E-Class models

    Mercedes

    Mercedes this week revealed its new 2021 E-Class Coupe and Cabriolet models, both in standard and AMG E-53 variants.

    The standard models feature Mercedes’ 3-liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine, which gives a boost of 21 horsepower. The powertrain produces 362 bhp total, carrying a nine-speed auto transmission.

    The new E-Class Coupe and Cabriolet reach a top speed of 210 km/h. They hit 0-100 km/h in around 5 seconds. Both display enhanced design changes.

    With the 2021 Mercedes-AMG E 53 models comes more power: a 3-liter six-cylinder inline engine with turbocharger and electric auxiliary compressor. This produces 429 bhp, giving a top speed of 210 km/h (250 km/h with ADP). Both AMG variants hit 0-100 km/h in around 4.5 seconds.

    The most interesting feature, though, is the new steering wheel fitted on all models. The AMG Performance steering wheel’s innovative capacitive-touch technology is operated by feel (and sensors). If the wheel does not detect the driver’s touch for a certain length of time, it issues a warning. If the driver continues to be inactive after warning, the wheel will activate the Emergency Brake Assist. Very cool.

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