There is a generation of young New Zealand drivers who have been making an impression of late in the upper echelons of single seater racing in Europe: Mitch Evans just won the GP3 title, Richie Stanaway was competing in the Renautl World Series up until June when he suffered two fractured vertebrae after a nasty shunt in the rain at Spa where he went over the back of another car on the long drag up the hill to Les Combes and was hurt when the car crashed back to earth. He is taking things easy at the moment but wants to be back in action again in the final races of the year. he is now managed by Eric Boullier’s Gravity Management so he is in good hands. In addition Brendan Hartley is now picking up the pieces after being dumped from the Red Bull young driver programme, in true Red Bull style. At the time he was an F1 reserve driver for Red Bull and doing good work on the team’s simulators. He has since been picked up by Mercedes AMG Petronas to do similar work and after a year doing that he is being given the chance to drive a real F1 car at the Young Driver test at Magny-Cours.
“It’s a great chance for me to prove myself and work alongside the race team but ultimately I am there to help develop the race car, and to correlate and validate the simulator,” he said. “Two years ago it was difficult to believe I would have another chance to drive for a top Formula 1 team, I have worked hard behind the scenes with Mercedes and have stayed motivated and focused. I feel much more prepared in comparison to my first Formula 1 test in 2008 when I was just 18 and fresh out of Formula 3. Since then I have learnt a lot about, both myself and the business of racing, and I will do my best to make the most of this opportunity!”
While the tests have been going on at Magny-Cours, Paul Ricard has tried to remain in the spotlight and this morning the French media was reporting in France that both Paul Ricard and Magny-Cours are making bids for the French Grand Prix with the Fédération Française du Sport Automobile. The two tracks are expected to try to create an event that alternates with a foreign event, but the two will not be working together. Bonkers.
Paul Ricard wants a late August date, presumably aiming to alternate with Spa, in the longer term. The local authorities have raised around $12.8 million a year, the money having been collected from regional governments and chambers of commerce and there is no need for any state aid. The Paul Ricard consortium includes the département of the Var, the city of Toulon, the combined communes of Sainte Baume and the Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie of the Var. Their goal is develop business and tourism in the region. The crowd at Paul Ricard would have to be small as the capacity of the track is just 60,000, of which two-thirds would be in grandstands and the rest general admission. The goal is to charge entry at only €50, with grandstands starting at €220 for the weekend. This they hope will guarantee revenues of at least $12 million, while the local money would be used to pay the other costs of the event. The authorities would also need to guarantee the money and it seems that they are willing to do this.
Magny Cours’s bid is less clear but will involve the same kind of consortium.
It is not clear why the two bids cannot be combined.
All of this is dependent on Bernie Ecclestone agreeing to one project or the other and to the finances. Both tracks have been trying to construct packages with their local governments from their different regions and from French sponsors. It remains to be seen whether Ecclestone will accept the bid.
The word is that Ecclestone wants to have 22 races in 2013. Valencia will disappear because there is no money and we are hearing that the new races will be New Jersey, France and Turkey. The teams who have signed the new Concorde Agreement have agreed to 20 races a year with a number of possible extras. This will make the season ever more tough and expensive, but the teams like the idea because they can earn more. The scheduling needs to be such that races are back to back and so overall costs are reduced, but it remains to be seen whether there really are 22 viable races.