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Formula 1

Flavio Briatore Returns to Alpine in an Advisory Role

Alpine’s bold move to bring back Flavio Briatore as Executive Advisor aims to inject experience and strategic guidance amidst internal turmoil and performance challenges, signaling a pivotal shift in their Formula One strategy.

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Alpine is currently in the midst of a significant crisis. The team is struggling with internal cohesion and performance issues. Despite CEO Luca De Meo’s efforts to clarify team goals, uncertainties persist. The French squad’s objective in Spain is to boost their points tally and climb up the standings. David Sanchez, a former Ferrari engineer, has recently joined the team amidst these turbulent times. However, the most unexpected development is Alpine’s announcement of Flavio Briatore’s return to Formula One after 14 years, as Executive Advisor.

“Briatore will predominantly focus on top level areas of the team including: scouting top talents and providing insights on the driver market, challenging the existing project by assessing the current structure and advising on some strategic matters within the sport.” – Motorsport.com

Briatore’s role extends beyond its initial impression. He will focus primarily on high-level areas such as talent scouting and insights into the driver market. Evaluating the current team structure, and advising on strategic matters are also some aspects he will look into.

Speculations about Alpine’s future have been rife for weeks, with the team denying rumours of an imminent Formula One exit. There are also discussions about Alpine potentially becoming a customer team after 2026, relinquishing their Renault engine. With Esteban Ocon set to depart after the season, Alpine faces the task of rebuilding its driver lineup.

A Journey from Business Ventures to Formula One

Born on April 12, 1950, Flavio Briatore has ventured through multiple business endeavours, ranging from ski instructing to restaurant management and door-to-door insurance sales. His early career took a tumultuous turn when his involvement with the Paramatti Vernici paint company led to his arrest on several counts of fraud. Evading a prison sentence, Briatore fled to the Virgin Islands during his legal proceedings.

His entry into Formula One was facilitated by Luciano Benetton, who appointed him as commercial director of the Benetton F1 Team. Later promoting him to team principal.

Luciano Benetton and Flavio Briatore

Under Briatore’s leadership, Benetton F1 achieved notable success, particularly with Michael Schumacher, whom Briatore recruited from Jordan in 1991. The team built around Schumacher secured victories in races like Spa in 1992 and Estoril in 1993. And ultimately clinching the 1994 and 1995 Drivers’ and 1995 Constructors’ Championships.

Schumacher won his first championship in the Australian GP ’94

Success brought greater scrutiny, leading to several allegations of cheating against Benetton. The FIA had banned several electronic aids for the 1994 season to emphasize driver skills. However, Michael Schumacher’s controversial win in Brazil gave rise to suspicions. Later in the season, a pit stop fire involving driver Jos Verstappen led to an investigation. This revealed a tampered fuel valve that allowed faster refuelling. Although Benetton blamed equipment manufacturer Intertechnique, they were found guilty but not punished.

The deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger at Imola brought further controversy. Accusations were that Benetton, McLaren, and Ferrari were still using banned traction control. However, Benetton was fined for delaying the submission of their engine management systems. They avoided punishment for hidden traction and launch control software due to a lack of evidence of its use.

Following Imola, the FIA introduced emergency regulations to reduce car speed, causing further issues and high-speed crashes.

The “plank” was one of these tactics; it was a piece of wood fastened to the car’s underbelly that raised the ride height and decreased downforce while simultaneously keeping an eye out for excessive wear. According to the regulations, the plank had to measure a standard 10 mm, plus one for wear. After the Belgian Grand Prix, Schumacher’s car clocked in at 7.4mm, 1.6 under tolerance leading to disqualification.

At the British GP, Schumacher’s team delayed serving a penalty, resulting in another inquiry and substantial fines. Schumacher was also banned for two races but still won the championship in 1995 before moving to Ferrari. Without him, Briatore struggled and was replaced by Dave Richards in 1997.

Return To Formula One

Flavio Briatore returned to F1 in 2000 as a manager to Spanish driver Fernando Alonso when Renault bought the Benetton F1 Team. Alonso first drove for Minardi. Later taking the role of test driver of Renault and soon took away the seat from Jenson Button at Renault itself. The Spaniard won two back-to-back championships in 2005 and 2006.

Flavio Briatore and Fernando Alonso at FIA prize giving ceremony

2008 saw one of the biggest controversies in the sport’s history, the infamous “CrashGate Scandal”.

In 2007, McLaren, pursued Flavio Briatore’s prized asset, while Briatore had a stable of drivers including Mark Webber and Nelson Piquet Jr, who underperformed for Renault and faced little loyalty. The major scandal that year, Spygate, involved McLaren possessing detailed Ferrari technical information. Briatore accused McLaren’s Ron Dennis, and although McLaren initially avoided punishment, new evidence from Fernando Alonso, unhappy at McLaren and outpaced by rookie Lewis Hamilton, led to a $100 million fine and exclusion from the constructors’ championship.

Alonso, managed by Briatore, returned to Renault after the season. Yet Renault themselves weren’t innocent in the Spygate scandal, as they had acquired information “including, but not limited to the layout and critical dimensions of the McLaren F1 car, together with details of the McLaren fuelling system, gear assembly, oil cooling system, hydraulic control system, and a novel suspension component used by the 2006 and 2007 McLaren F1 cars,” according to an FIA statement. Renault found guilty of having McLaren’s technical information, faced no penalties.

Taking aid from chief engineer Pat Symonds, Favio Briatore started planning the exact moment and turn at which Nelson Piquet Jr. would crash. This led to the deployment of a safety car, leading to Alonso winning the Singapore GP.

Piquet Jr crashed in the 2008 Singapore GP.

Allegations of race fixing surfaced following Piquet’s contentious departure from Renault in 2009. The FIA charged Renault with conspiracy in September ’09 offering Piquet Jr. immunity in exchange for his testimony. Despite Briatore and Symonds threatening legal action against Piquet Jr., Renault eventually chose not to contest the charges. Both Flavio Briatore and Symonds left the team.

Despite the mounting evidence against him, Briatore continued to plead innocent. Nonetheless, the FIA imposed a lifetime ban on Briatore from all sanctioned events. They also barred any drivers he managed from obtaining a Superlicense, effectively ending his involvement in Formula 1. FIA showed leniency towards Renault for their swift action following the allegations. The team received a two-year probation with the condition that any similar future misconduct would result in a lifetime ban.

On January 5th, 2010 the French court overturned the ban and awarded Briatore €15,000 in compensation. The FIA accepted the court’s decision and in April ’10 they announced a settlement with both. Both men agreed not to work in Formula One until 2013, or any other FIA-sanctioned championship until the end of 2011.

Despite the controversies that have defined his career, Flavio Briatore remains a polarizing figure in Formula One, now poised to influence Alpine’s trajectory in his new advisory role.

Read our preview of this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix here

Formula 1

A Three way Battle in Budapest: The 2024 F1 Hungarian Grand Prix Preview.

Formula One returns to the historic Hungaroring, a tight twisty and unpredictable race track. Read DRC’s race preview here.

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As Red-Bull and Mclaren pull away from the field, Mercedes joins the party. With three race winning cars on track, all three will look to bag good points, while Ferrari will be hopeful for a better result. Welcome to DRC’s F1 Hungarian Grand Prix Preview.

Read the British Grand Prix Review here.


Know the Hungaroring

The tight and twisty Hungaroring track is located in Mogyorod, 11 miles west of the Hungarian capital, Budapest. Described as an enlarged go-kart circuit, it is one of the most technically challenging circuits on the calendar.

The Hungaroring Circuit.
The Hungaroring circuit. Photo credits: F1

The 14 corner track is also called Monaco without the walls, owing to it’s high downforce requirements. Even though overtaking is very difficult here, the track has undergone only one major revision, which was in 2003. The main straight was extended another 200 meters to make it 900m long, and the first corner was tightened to promote overtaking.

The track contains two back-to-back DRS zones, followed by a technical middle sector full of chicanes and esses. The final sector is a short one, only featuring two hairpins that feed back into the main straight. A good middle sector is crucial here.

Historically, Hungary has been a circuit full of firsts. It was the first and only circuit to host a race beyond the Iron Curtian. It is also famous for giving drivers their first wins. Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, Heikki Kovalainen and most recently, Esteban Ocon have taken their first wins here. Max Verstappen took his first pole back in 2019 at the Hungaroring too.

The 2024 F1 Hungarian Grand Prix will consist of 70 laps around this 4.381 kilometer circuit, with a two stop strategy as the norm.


Red Bull look to fight back blow for blow

Over the last few races, Red Bull has fallen off the pace and is slowly falling into the clutches of McLaren, and even Ferrari. Right now, Red Bull lead Ferrari by 71 points, closely followed by McLaren. With both McLaren cars consistently finishing in the top 5 in the last races bar Norris’s retirement in Austria, and Checo only scoring 8 points in the last five races, it has become difficult for Max and Red Bull to outscore the Papaya clad team.

McLaren’s last upgrade has significantly improved their performance, while Red Bull is still struggling to find and mend the issues with the RB20. Verstappen recently tested the RB18 at Imola, in an attempt to figure out the problem with the new car. As Red Bull work hard to rectify their problems, McLaren seems to be getting better and better. And now with Mercedes back in the fray, a new challenger is rising to take their throne.

Max Verstappen testing the RB18 at Imola.
Max Tests the RB18 in Imola. Image cradits: Autosport

Another factor is the two on one that Max has to face. With Checo qualifying poorly, Max has to take on the McLaren, and sometimes the Mercedes pair alone. Two cars in the mix would greatly help Red Bull, and Checo will be motivated to improve his Qualifying and Race records.


Mercedes on the up as Hamilton eyes another record

The Hungaroring has always been kind to Mercedes. They have the most wins here in the Turbo-Hybrid era. Russell and Hamilton snatched pole here in 2022 and 2023 respectively. Hamilton has also won eight races here, and his first victory with Mercedes came here in 2013.

Mercedes usually nail the set-up here. With the team riding high after back-to-back victories in Austria and Silverstone, they would love to go for a treble. Lewis Hamilton will also eye a record equaling nine victories. After his win in Silverstone, he now holds the record for most wins at a single circuit with 9.

George Russell also has a fantastic track record here, finishing in the points every year since 2021, where he came eight for a struggling Williams. A podium and a top 5 finish followed in 2022 and 2023.

Mercedes will want to secure a large bag of points here, to reduce the 152 points defecit they have to the leaders Red Bull and to catch up with McLaren and Ferrari.


A Ferrari Renaissance on the Horizon?

Ferrari seems to have dropped off after their excellent performances in Melbourne and Monaco. This year, Ferrari seem to be a heavily down-force reliant car, with podiums for Charles and Carlos in Sakhir, Jeddhah, Melbourne and Suzuka, all tracks which require downforce. Of course their victories on the streets of Melbourne and Monte-Carlo confirms this.

Charles Leclerc Wins in Monaco.
Ferrari have dominated the Downforce heavy circuits. Image Credit: Anonymous

Their struggles at the more balanced tracks of Canada and Barcelona, along with power heavy tracks like Austria and Silverstone have cost them dearly. It is also evident that the Ferrari is one of the more draggy cars on the straights and struggle with straight line speed.

As the Hungaroring is a heavy-downforce track, it seems like Ferrari have a shot at victory here. This might be one of the few chances for them to get points during the European Leg of the season, along with Zandvoort and Baku. Consequently, Ferrari have bought new floor upgrades to make most of this valuable chance. A huge points haul in the Hungarian Grand Prix will solidify their chances against McLaren, Red Bull and even Mercedes who look threatening.


Dark Clouds loom over the race

An alarming video was shared by Mikey Brown, a mechanic at Aston Martin, shows the Pitlane flooding in what he described as “a HUGE storm” . McLaren, having barely repaired their motorhome in time for the British GP after the fire in Catalunya, have suffered another issue. The repaired motorhome has lost it’s roof multiple times over this week, thanks to the speedy winds.

Even though Meteorologists predict a dry weekend, a small rain shower, combined with the high humidity in Hungary this time of year can put the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend in doubt.


Championship Standings

This is how the championship looks as we head into the race weekend:

The 2024 Formula One world championship standings as of 18/07/2024.
Credits: F1

Race Weekend Schedule

All events during the weekend are available to watch on F1TV and Fancode. The times given below are in IST(GMT +5:30).

DRC's Hungarian Grand Prix Race weekend schedule.

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Formula 1

Toyota rumoured to partner with Haas in an exhilarating return to F1

Toyota rumoured to partner with Haas to back a sensational return to F1.

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As the F1 silly season continues, a rather surprising bit of rumour is that the world’s largest automaker, Toyota, is set to return to the F1 grid as early as 2025 with the Haas F1 team.

Credits: Haas F1 team

The partnership is said to start out with a sponsorship deal, possibly with a renaming on the cards. A deal akin to that of Alfa Romeo and Sauber. With the possibility of a future technical partnership on the chassis/engine development. Toyota will likely join Dallara in assisting Haas for the chassis. Other talks suggest that Haas will use Toyota’s facilities for development and manufacturing. While this means Toyota won’t be directly involved in the construction of the F1 car, it means Haas gets a huge boost in infrastructure, experience, etc; and Toyota gets a new source of income.

Toyota’s history in F1

The Japanese manufacturer has seen immense success in WEC, taking 5 consecutive 24 hours of Le Mans victories from 2018 to 2022 and WRC, clinching the manufacturers’ championship in 2018, 2021, and 2022, and the championship for drivers and co-drivers every year since 2019. It wasn’t so for its time in F1, or at least according to Toyota’s standards and ambition.

Credits: Toyota-europe.com

Toyota made their debut F1 in 2002. The team scored 17 podiums, and 3 pole positions but never achieved a victory. Only securing 2nd place as their best finish till they dropped out of the sport in 2009, midway through the development of the 2010 car.

What does this mean for Haas, Toyota, and F1?

Toyota’s failure was blamed on a lot of factors, this deal gave the Japanese manufacturer a second chance to right their wrongs. Haas has been on a consistent upward trajectory throughout the 2024 season. With Nico Hulkenberg scoring back-to-back P6 finishes at the Austrian and British GP, and Kevin Magnussen backing that up with commendable performances. The deal could help Haas gain the brute force of employees, resources & financial aid. Something that they have been lacking to make a meaningful impact in the sport.

F1 would most certainly benefit from having a Japanese Manufacturer in the sport. The Japanese GP attendance and the growing popularity of F1 have been steadily increasing in the country. Toyota’s return could also provide F1 with a boost to their competitiveness and financial gains.

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Formula 1

GIFT City’s Formula 1 Racetrack Plans Hit a Roadblock

GIFT City’s ambitious plan to build a Formula 1 racetrack has stalled due to structural issues and high costs, sources reveal. Initially flagged off with a feasibility study, the project now faces uncertainties.

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Gujarat’s GIFT City’s ambitious plan to build a racetrack for holding Formula 1 (F1) races has come to a grinding halt just four months after initiating a feasibility study and selecting consultants, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Earlier this year, on March 11, the Gujarat Sports Authority announced that top international F1 racetrack designers were invited to present the feasibility of constructing an F1 racetrack at GIFT City. The project saw intense competition among global designers, with the consortium of renowned German designer Hermann Tilke and India’s Arcop architects emerging as the frontrunner for the feasibility study.

GIFT City (Photo: Amit Dave/Reuters)

However, GIFT City’s plan has been halted, insiders revealed. “Designers had given feedback that given the layout of GIFT City, it may be difficult to build a racetrack that conforms to F1 standards due to structural issues,” said one source.

The financial implications also pose a significant hurdle. Estimates place the cost of building such a racetrack between Rs 5,000 and 10,000 crore.

R.S. Ninama, Director General of the Gujarat Sports Authority, and Hermann Tilke have not responded to inquiries from ET. Another source indicated that the project might be integrated into a larger plan for developing infrastructure for the Olympics. “So, you may get a racetrack, but not one that can host F1 races,” the source added.

GIFT City, located in Gandhinagar, has been developed as a financial hub. The city is aimed at attracting international businesses with various tax incentives. The government is focusing on enhancing the city’s livability by developing entertainment and leisure infrastructure. Notable projects include an underwater aquarium, water sports facilities, and a retail zone featuring a 158-meter-high Ferris wheel.

This story has been derived from a story reported by Economic Times.

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