Motoring | Motorsport | Formula 1
It has been a while since I put digits to keyboard, but one needs the time to relax and contemplate the forthcoming season.
With a 13 December finale, it has been a month since the action ceased and circuits fell silent, but the Formula One world certainly has not hibernated. Very evident on the staff appointment list, perhaps one the most significant is the move at the top of the F1 tree.
Chase Carey, the man who has led F1 as chief executive and executive chairman of the Liberty Media group since January 2017, is due to step down to be replaced by Italian Stefano Domenicali. Many will remember the name but for those who do not follow the sport other than watching the racing, we offer a brief history of Domenicali’s career to date.
Born in Imola, as a young man he spent much of his spare time assisting at the iconic circuit in his home city. After studying at the University of Bologna, focusing on business administration, he graduated in 1991, joined the financial division of Ferrari and in 1992 became race director at Mugello. Three years later, he was appointed head of personnel in the company’s sporting department.
Liaising with sponsors was an integral part of this position and proved advantageous in his next step on the ladder when, at the end of 1996, he was promoted to F1 team manager. In 2002, he became sporting director – a position he held until 2007, when Domenicali was to step into large shoes by becoming director of the Ferrari F1 team, replacing Jean Todt – a hard act to follow.
His period as team principal from 2008 until his resignation in 2014, were not the most glorious in Ferrari’s history, but one has to wonder whether the blame for diminishing results can be the responsibility of just one person. Despite having won the most championships since F1 began in 1950, there have been some lengthy barren periods for the Scuderia. A Ferrari team principal’s position is akin to being a team manager in the British Premier League, with no permanency guaranteed.
Resigning in 2014, Domenicali moved to Audi and grew within the company until reaching his most recent situation as CEO and President of Automobili Lamborghini, a period that saw the supercar manufacturer reach new heights within the market place. Domenicali also successfully headed the FIA’s Single Seater Commission. With his experience and direct involvement in the sport, this might just be the man F1 needs to bring it all together in every aspect.
News emanating from Williams Racing after the buyout by US-based investment company Dorilton Capital is the appointment from 1 February of Jost Capito as chief executive. In the mid 1970s, he actively participated in motorcycle racing before joining BMW M GmbH in 1985, when he was involved in performance engine development. It was quite a year for the German, as he and his father won the Paris-Dakar Rally truck class in a Mercedes Unimog.
In 1989, it was a move to Porsche, followed in 1996 with a period at Sauber Petronas Engineering, then in 2001, Capito became Ford Europe’s motorsport director. In this position, he was involved with many aspects of motorsport from Formula Ford to the Jordan F1 team and World Rally Championship (WRC), where he took Ford to the manufacturers’ title for 2006 and 2007.
It was the world of rallying that led to his appointment as motorsport director for Volkswagen, heading the team that took four consecutive years of both WRC drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles. Capito will be aided by the now officially appointed team principal Simon Roberts in the battle to take the team back to the top end of the field.
FIA president Todt last month expressed fears that, in spite of all the enthusiasm, F1 getting back to normal this year is very unlikely. I am afraid the Frenchman could be absolutely correct. The target of a 23-race calendar is already displaying cracks, while even the three-day pre-season winter testing may have to move from its normal venue in Barcelona to Bahrain.
Add to this, the postponement of the scheduled first race of the 2021 season – the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne – from March to November, and the indefinitine postponement of the Chinese Grand Prix that would have taken place on 11 April and it would appear the plans are already going a little pear-shaped.
An F1 statement said the Shanghai race would be held “later in the season if possible”, citing travel restrictions. The postponement of the race in Australia means that Bahrain will now host the season’s opener on 28 March. Rumours of Portimao or Imola circuits once again having to fill the spot on short notice are circulating, but the coronavirus’ unprecedented spread could bring any aspirations of hosting a grand prix in Europe or Asia to a rapid halt.
With those already requesting postponements until the second half of 2021 and sadly likely to be joined by many other circuits, we could witness a repeat of last year, with a reduced calendar squeezed into a six-month or less time period. Unfortunately I am not being pessimistic, but more probably realistic. I sincerely hope I am proved wrong.
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