Why we go #WeSayNoToMazepin & Why I’m going #FIADoSomething

Featured image by Artes Max,

Trigger warning. The following article dives into detail regarding the actions of Nikita Dmitryevich Mazepin, and discusses sensitive topics such as Sexual Assault. Please do not read this article if the topic makes you uncomfortable. Your safety & well being should take precedence against everything.

For starters, let me make the entire purpose of this article clear. It’s about raising awareness of the extremely repulsive actions that this one individual, better known as Nikita Mazepin has committed. If you’re still sitting on the fence (which you really shouldn’t be), clueless, or still going #WeSayYestoMazepin (which you definitely shouldn’t be going!), this article is for you. If by the end of this, you’re still unconvinced, then I’m just really sorry for you.

Throughout this article, we will not be referring to Mazepin as “him”, “his”, or “man”. Mazepin will be referred to using gender-neutral terms, such as the following: “individual”, “driver”. Mazepin is not a “gentleman”. The usage of terms such as “him” are an insult to the rest of the many men around the world, who actually respect women.

Before I begin diving into what is going on regarding Nikita Mazepin, and why we cannot allow him to stay in F1, I would like to stress the following: #WeSayNoToMazepin, #NikitaMazepinOut, #NoMazepin, #MazepinOut. These are not examples of cancer culture at work. These are campaigns calling for action. Action against the very individual who committed an unspeakable act of outrage.

Who is Nikita Mazepin

Nikita Dmitryevich Mazepin, born on the 2 March 1999, is a Russian racing driver, and the son of Dmitry Mazepin. Dmitry Mazepin is the founder & Chief Executive Officer of Uralchem, a Russian manufacturer of a wide range of chemical products. Throughout the Russian’s racing career, Nikita Mazepin has been embroiled in several controversies, pertaining to a mix of activities both on & off the track. However, it was in early December 2020, things really turned up a notch.

On the day where it was announced that the Russian would be driving for Haas, the following happened:

A female Formula 1 fan uploaded screenshots, detailing an interaction with Mazepin online. The messages were dated 1 November 2020. In the screenshots, Mazepin was shown stating the following: “You are pretty hot”, “If you want to come to races at any point, text me (censored phone number)”, “Invitation from me (wink emoji) “. The fan declined, to which the Mazepin replied: “Just have no time for fan girls playing hard to get :)”

At this point, many pitchforks were rightfully raised regarding this highly disturbing behaviour. But fine. If you want to believe that Nikita’s account was compromised and the number was an imposter, go ahead. Mazepin has never addressed this incident directly to date either. However, when it comes to the next part, it becomes entirely impossible to cook up any excuses to defend Mazepin.

Sexual Assault Video posted on Instagram

On the 10th of December 2020, Mazepin uploaded a highly inappropriate video, which directly led to the campaigns. In the video, the Russian sat in the passenger seat of a car, turned around, and reached into the back of the vehicle and inappropriately groping a woman’s chest. The victim can then be seen attempting to move away from the Russian, covering the camera, before raising a middle finger towards it. The video caused a huge uproar, and became condemned by many online, as a clear cut example of sexual assault.

The next day, the Russian issued an apology. Except that if anything, the “apology” seemed more like a PR Statement.

“I would like to apologise for my recent actions both in terms of my own inappropriate behaviour and the fact that it was posted onto social media.

“I am sorry for the offence I have rightly caused and to the embarrassment I have brought to Haas F1 Team.

“I have to hold myself to a higher standard as a Formula 1 driver and I acknowledge I have let myself and many people down. I promise I will learn from this.”

Nikita Mazepin’s apology

To begin with, fact of the matter is that no apology could make up for what he had done. However, Mazepin’s apology never directly addressed the victim, or the reasons for his actions. Mazepin’s statement only apologised for the behaviour in the context of being Formula 1 driver, and causing embarrassment to Haas. What was perhaps the most appalling thing, was that Mazepin took down his apology over a week later…

The victim later released a statement on her Instagram page, which claimed that her and Mazepin were “friends” and that the incident was a “joke”. But was this claim really true? Spoiler alert: It probably wasn’t. Internet sleuths found that both parties did not actually follow each other until minutes after her statement dropped. So. You may ask yourself at this point. Is the story over yet? Well, it wasn’t.

Fast forward to a week later, on the 18th of December 2020, Mazepin’s victim uploaded several stories, which led to some questions regarding her initial statement…

While asking for “advice to my younger self”, she stated: “don’t drink with assholes”, “don’t let anyone touch you or disrespect you again”, before posting another story, stating: “Protect drunk girls”. 

Other Inappropriate Online Activity

Uploading a video depicting sexual assault was appalling. However, this was not Mazepin’s first time when it came to inappropriate online activity. On previous occasions, Mazepin had done the following:

  1. In 2018, following a Uralkali mine collapse in Solikamsk saw a day of mourning declared for the region. However, instead of mourning, Mazepin (rather disrespectfully) held a party in a Moscow nightclub with several Russian influencers, uploading videos on Instagram.
  2. Laughing in a reply to a culturally inappropriate comment mocking Japanese F2 driver Yuki Tsunoda
  3. Supporting Racist Fans; Mazepin replied: “this is a real world” to a comment where a user stated they had received a racist message after criticising Mazepin in a respectful manner.
  4. Posting a COVID-19 Birthday “Joke”
  5. Creepy comment on George Russell’s Instagram Live: “I have a secret about you mate that some people might call a coming out”, which was not only offensive, but also disrespectful.

Past history of Assault

Many years before the video was uploaded, Mazepin had already been embroiled in a case of assault against a fellow driver. While racing in Formula 3 in 2016, following Free Practice at the Hungaroring, Mazepin exited the car in the paddock, approached Callum Ilott, and after a brief exchange of words, hit Ilott. Ilott had impeded a lap for Mazepin on fresh tyres.

Eyewitnesses spotted Ilott with cuts to his cheek and neck, and swelling to his jaw. Mazepin was subjected to a one-race ban for ‘unsporting behaviour in the paddock after the finish of free practice two’.

Over-aggressive & reckless Driving

Nikita Mazepin may have excelled in Formula 2 this season, with the rookie HiTech team. However, it should be noted that on-track success did not at all equate to driving cleanly on track. When it came to Mazepin, you couldn’t say “drive cleanly”. He was far from the cleanest driver. By the end of the Sakhir Grand Prix Feature race, Mazepin was just 1 penalty point away from a race ban…

In the Spa Feature Race, Mazepin was demoted from the race win for repeated aggressive defending against Yuki Tsunoda. How did Mazepin react in Parc Ferme? Mazepin proceeded to knock down the second place bollard hard, as Tsunoda exited his car and walked towards Carlin team members. The bollard flew and narrowly avoided hitting Tsunoda. Mazepin received a grid penalty for the next race.

When it came to the Sakhir Sprint Race, the same thing occurred again on track. After aggressively defending against Felipe Drugovich & Yuki Tsunoda, Mazepin received 2 5 second penalties.

Why I’m going #FIADoSomething

Earlier this week, there had been rumours that Haas higher management were concerned about the Haas brand image becoming damaged by Mazepin. While truthfully speaking, I did not believe Haas would axe Mazepin, I would have expected them to somehow punish Mazepin in a public manner.

However, that did not happen. Haas merely put out a statement yesterday: “As per the team’s previous statement regarding the actions of Nikita Mazepin (9 December) – this matter has now been dealt with internally and no further comment shall be made.”

Since Haas appeared unwilling to axe, or publicly punish it’s driver, suggesting that whatever punishment meted out was perhaps insignificant, this calls for a higher authority to intervene. And who should this authority be? None other than the FIA of course.

2020 has already seen some high profile names dropped following various controversies, with Kyle Larson suspended by NASCAR for racism, & Daniel Abt in Formula E for cheating in a virtual race. Larson was suspended by NASCAR internally for racist language. Abt was fired by Audi for cheating, Given the severity of Mazepin’s offenses, which is certainly greater than that of Larson, it is only correct that Mazepin receives a harsher penalty. NASCAR suspended Larson for 5 months, reinstating him only after he had completed “sensitivity training”.

Fact of the matter is that Mazepin has money. Mazepin can race anywhere he pleases. Especially in the current COVID-19 world, if Mazepin can pull out a large enough chequebook, with his driving ability, it would not be a shocker to see teams signing him up anyway after this incident. A ban from Formula One will be of little to no use against him, as he would simply hop to another racing series, say Formula E, or the World Endurance Championship. So why not deprive him of the ability to race by banning him from racing, alongside the paddock, for say a season or 2? The FIA is the only organisation capable of doing so. There are also reasonable grounds for doing so, stated out in the International Sporting Code, Appendix B:

– and not to cause, by words, actions or writings, damage to the standing and/or reputation of, or loss to, the FIA, its bodies, its members or its management, and more generally on the interests of motor sport and on the values defended by the FIA

APPENDIX B TO THE INTERNATIONAL SPORTING CODE

It can be argued that Mazepin’s actions were against the interests of Motorsport, and the FIA. Mazepin’s actions have left a stain on Motorsport, & went against the many inclusivity initiatives put forth by the FIA this year. These included the FIA Ethics and Compliance Hotline, billed as a platform for reporting Ethics & Compliance issues, alongside the #PurposeDriven campaign.

The FIA Ethics & Compliance hotline has been billed as a one-stop platform to report any violations as against the International Sporting Code. This includes the following: “Alleged or real violations of the ethical principles contained in the FIA regulations (for example discrimination, harassment, bribery, corruption, conflict of interests, fraud, money laundering)”.

On the other hand, the #PurposeDriven campaign aims to do a host of things, including: “Proactively encourage, attract and employ a wider and more diverse range of participants in motorsport and it’s broader ecosystems.;”

If there is no consequence or penalty levied on Mazepin by the FIA, it is regrettable that the #PurposeDriven campaign will have failed. By virtue of failing to maintain a safe environment for all individuals, which is a prerequisite to attracting a more diverse range of participants into the world of Motorsport.

There need to be actual consequences here, to send the message that the FIA is committed to the #PurposeDriven campaign. Otherwise, this will be a huge step backwards for both the campaign, alongside women in motorsport. Especially given that yesterday’s Haas announcement comes merely a day after the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission celebrated it’s 10th anniversary.

Conclusion

All in all, here are the reasons for the many campaigns against Nikita Mazepin, and why I feel the FIA needs to take action. If we do not take action today, we will be setting a wrong precedent, & the wrong message: Sexual Assault & Harrasment is ok in the Motorsport World.

Except that the reality should be this: Sexual Assault & Harassment is fully unacceptable in any place. If you weren’t a believer in the campaigns against Mazepin before reading this article, I hope this article has changed your mind.

Individually, we are small voices against Mazepin. Collectively, we are a large movement seeking to ensure the continued safety for all persons in the Motorsport World.

Once again, #WeSayNoToMazepin. & #FIADoSomething.

Analysis: Red Bull’s 2022 Options

Featured Image by Artes Max on Flickr

Friday saw Honda’s shock announcement of it’s Formula 1 departure at the end of 2021, following 6 seasons of mixed success. Honda’s exit leaves Red Bull’s two teams, Red Bull Racing & Scuderia AlphaTauri without an engine for 2022 & beyond.

Today, we take a look at Red Bull’s 4 2022 engine options for it’s 2 teams, ranking them from the most likely to least likely.

4: In-House Engines

The idea of Red Bull producing its own F1 engines in-house, is not new, having been raised multiple times across the years. The concept’s origins date back to late 2010, when Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz stated in an interview: “And even the idea of developing our own engine, I think, is no longer so absurd”.

The possibility of seeing Red Bull go in-house with it’s engine was raised again in mid-2014, the first year of the Turbo-Hybrid V6 engines. Following years of success in the 2.4L V8 Formula, Renault found itself with a disappointing engine. Renault’s 2014 PU was saddled with many reliability problems during testing, and was also down on power.

According to Sky Sports, the Mercedes power units (4 teams) did 17,994 km of running, Ferrari did 10,214 km (3 teams), while Renault managed just 8770 km across its 4 teams. Following the 2014 Austrian Grand Prix, things came to a head, with Red Bull firing its first volley of criticism at Renault. Senior figures in the team, namely Team Principal Christian Horner, & Motorsport Advisor Helmut Marko had this to say: “The reliability is unacceptable, the performance is unacceptable and there needs to be change at Renault,” (Horner) & “If we don’t see a possibility to be on a same level with Mercedes then we will have to look for alternatives,” (Marko).

Famed Motorsport journalist Joe Saward also hinted at the possibility of seeing Red Bull produce its own engines, with Saward writing on his blog: “The next thing for [Red Bull owner Dietrich] Mateschitz will be to set up a cluster for the motorsport industry in Styria by building his own engines there… Don’t think I’m joking, by the way, Mateschitz is a free thinker, who puts his money where his mouth is.”

In early 2015, tensions between Red Bull & Renault saw rumours of Red Bull producing it’s own engine emerge once more, involving Mario Illien’s Ilmor company. Illien’s engineering company was then a consultant for Renault to help improve its performance. The rumour stated that Red Bull would build a dyno up and running at its factory by next September, suitable for testing the engine and gearbox entity.

In 2016, Marko admitted Red Bull had previously investigated the use of an in-house engine in 2014. He stated that the Milton Keynes outfit undertook a feasibility study, concluding that the effort would not be worth the cost.

In 2020, Red Bull finds itself looking for a new engine supplier once more, which led to Ralf Schumacher calling for Red Bull to produce it’s own engines. Schumacher stated: “A viable option could be to make your own engine. Red Bull has the power and possibilities, and in that case a partner with Honda, from whom you could take control and continue the whole thing.”

What Schumacher meant was this: Red Bull could acquire Honda’s F1 intellectual property, and then build the engine in-house, partnering with Honda’s consultant, Illmor.

What Red Bull Stands to Gain: Total Control of its engine supply, and full integration between the design of the car & engine for both teams.

Why Red Bull should pause: A significantly increased amount of spending will be required to produce a competitive engine in the coming years. In addition to the hiring of new staff, Red Bull will need to hire new staff, as Honda F1 engine staff will be transferred to assist in Honda’s electrification efforts.

3. Mercedes

Red Bull-Mercedes. In such a scenario, we could easily see 2 teams going head to head for both Championship titles. This certainly sounds like a pipe dream, doesn’t it? Except it nearly happened in 2016, and for the same reasons it didn’t happen then, it won’t happen for 2022.

In late 2015, as Red Bull attempted a divorce with Renault, a deal emerged between Niki Lauda, Helmut Marko and Dietrich Mateschitz. Red Bull-Mercedes, would not materialise for 2016, however, with Toto Wolff & Mercedes management putting a stop to the deal.

Officially, the deal collapsed as Mercedes did not want to make a deal behind the back of Renault. However, Mercedes Sporting Director Ron Meadows stated, following Lauda’s passing that the unofficial reason for the deal’s termination was that the team did not wish to share it’s engine with a direct competitor.

Why this is unlikely: As seen in 2016, would Mercedes really want to supply a direct competitor to it’s works team? Let alone a “B Team” that could eventually pose a threat to its de-facto “B Team” Aston Martin?

2. Ferrari

Long before Red Bull’s current partnership with Honda, and prior to Red Bull’s 12 season-long partnership with Renault, Red Bull was a Ferrari customer. This was many years ago in 2006, with the Ferrari 056 powering the teams’ 2nd car, the Red Bull RB2. Theengine supply was for 2 years, but became shortened to a single year, by “mutual consent”. Toro Rosso (now AlphaTauri) would end up taking over the contract in 2007, and run with Ferrari engines all the way until 2013, and later in 2016.

In late 2015, Red Bull’s relationship with Renault deteriorated significantly, which saw Red Bull seek out a new engine supplier, while demanding works-parity. Ferrari was not opposed to supplying Red Bull, but refused to provide works-parity.

The then-Chairman of Ferrari, the late Sergio Marchionne, stated in interviews that he was open to Ferrari working with Red Bull once more, albeit in a less than traditional manner. Marchionne insisted that he would not provide Red Bull with the same engines as the works team, and proposed a technical partnership which would allow Red Bull to plot its own power unit development path. This did not occur, but Ferrari would wind up supplying Toro Rosso with 2015-spec Power Units, without any factory support.

Why this is unlikely: Ferrari’s 2020 engine is significantly down on power compared to the competition. If Ferrari cannot claw back the lost Horsepower, it would represent a step backwards for the Red Bull teams. In addition, will Ferrari really want to power a competitor? A competitor that played a role in inciting the FIA Investigation, which saw the Ferrari Power Unit down on power for 2020?

1. Renault:

Could Red Bull be forced back into the arms of Renault? If anything, this looks to be the most likely scenario for Red Bull’s teams, although no contact has been made. With the high cost of running it’s own in-house engine program, and both teams looking unlikely to see supply from Ferrari or Mercedes, Renault is Red Bull’s sole option.

Renault has already indicated it is willing to supply both Red Bull teams, with Renault Sport Managing Director Cyril Abiteboul stating the firm was willing to fulfil its obligation to supply where needed. Appendix 9 of the FIA Sporting Regulations obliges the manufacturer with the fewest partner teams to supply a competitor that has no alternatives for engine supply.

Barring any changes ahead of 2022, Mercedes will have four teams and Ferrari three, whereas currently Renault’s only commitment is to its rebranded works Alpine outfit.

Previously, the Red Bull-Renault partnership saw much success, with the partnership seeing 4 Constructors Titles and 4 World Drivers’ Championships between 2010-2013. However, with the introduction of the Hybrid Era engines, the relationship quickly soured between the two parties. By 2015, the partnership had nearly collapsed, with Red Bull unsuccessfully attempting to seek out an alternative engine supply for the 2016 season. Red Bull would continue to use Renault power under the TAG HEUER badge, until 2018, before a less than amicable split occurred that year.

Since 2018, Renault’s engine has improved by leaps and bounds; with the decline of Ferrari power, they have now effectively become the 2nd best power unit on the grid. Renault are seeking a customer team to boost revenue, and to increase on-track mileage for R&D.

Should Red Bull reconcile with Renault for 2022 onwards, things could go either way. It could be a successful partnership, or be another repeat of the 2014 & 15 seasons for Red Bull & AlphaTauri..

Analysing Renault’s 2021 Driver Options

Featured Image by Artes Max on Flickr

In the aftermath of Sebastian Vettel’s departure from Ferrari, the past few days have seen a flurry of activity in the driver market, as one of the most coveted seats in the sport became free. Daniel Ricciardo was first announced to be replacing Carlos Sainz Jnr, at Mclaren. Shortly afterwards, Sainz was then announced as Vettel’s replacement at the Scuderia. Ricciardo’s departure left an empty seat at Renault, although no announcement was made regarding his replacement.

It has been widely speculated by various media outlets that Fernando Alonso would fill the vacant seat, as of time of writing, but we shall analyse and look at the options has to fill the seat next to Esteban Ocon.

Continue reading “Analysing Renault’s 2021 Driver Options”

GT Convergence: The Time is Now

Featured photo by Macau Photo Agency on Unsplash

In January 2020, at the 2020 Rolex 24 at Daytona, the LMDh class, based upon what had been known as the second-generation ruleset for the Daytona Prototype International class (DPi 2.0) was announced. This announcement was set to mark the start of a new era for top-level Sports car Prototype racing. A new era which would see teams being able to use a single car to vy for overall victory at all 3 legs of the Triple Crown of Endurance Racing for the first time in nearly 2 decades, with LMDh being placed in the same performance window as the Le Mans Hypercars.

Thursday’s announcement has brought this vision for a unified top level Prototype class a step closer to reality, with the release of the draft technical regulations, and Global Description for the class. Now that we are on the cusp of achieving top-level Prototype Convergence, and in the middle of the COVID-19 Pandemic, with motorsport budgets expected to be reduced drastically in the aftermath, this begs the following questions: Why do we still have 2 near-identical top-level GT Categories? Why have we yet to achieve GT Convergence

A brief rundown on the history of the modern top-level GT classes – GT3 & GTE

GT3

#63 Orange1 by GRT Grasser – ADAC GT Masters – Image by Stephan Wershoven on Flickr

GT3, which widely is used in both Pro and Pro-Am GT Championships today, was originally designed as a customer racing platform in 2006, sitting below the GT1 and GT2 categories of the FIA GT Championship. It was created by the Stephane Ratel Organisation (SRO), in collaboration with the FIA. In 2010, the FIA GT Championship and the FIA GT3 European Championships were split and reorganised into 3 championships, with independent teams running all cars. The FIA GT1 class would run in the GT1 World Championship, intended for professional drivers, while GT2 would run in the FIA GT2 European Championship, intended for pro-am driver crews. GT3 would run in the FIA GT3 European Championship, intended for non-professional drivers.

This arrangement did not last long, and was ultimately unsuccessful. The GT2 European Championship was postponed, and was run as the GT2 European Cup in 2010, with a single round, the 24 Hours of Spa. After a single run in 2010, the GT2 European Cup did not return, and the class would effectively disappear from competition sanctioned by the SRO. In its second year, the GT1 World Championship saw a sharp decline in car counts, and after a mere 14 cars ran in the mid-season RAC Tourist Trophy, a “GT World class” was planned for 2012. It was planned to feature performance-balanced 2011 GT1 cars, 2009 GT2 cars and 2011 GT3 cars, competing in a single FIA GT World Championship. This never happened, and in 2012, the championship was run solely with GT3 cars, as the existing field of GT1 cars was found to no longer be sufficient. The championship would fold at the end of the year. For 2013, it morphed into the FIA GT Series, later becoming the Blancpain Sprint Series, featuring a mix of independent and factory-supported teams.

GTE

#4 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R – WeatherTech SportsCar Championship – Image by Garret Voight on Flickr

GTE on the other hand, had its origins in the FIA GT2 class of the FIA GT Championship. While SRO sanctioned series had effectively abandoned the GT2 platform by the end of 2010, the opposite happened with the ACO. The ACO chose to cut the GT1 class from its sanctioned competition for 2011, following the lead of the IMSA sanctioned American Le Mans Series, who had done so in 2009. The LM GT2 class was then promoted as the top GT class in ACO sanctioned competition, renamed as LM GTE and split into the GTE Pro and Am classes. Both subclasses are still run in the World Endurance Championship (WEC) today. Only the Am sub-class is used in the European Le Mans Series (ELMS), while the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship (WTSC) runs the class under the GTLM banner, with no Pro or Am subclasses.

2014’s failed attempt at Convergence

A previous attempt at GT Convergence in 2014 failed at the 11th hour, following disagreements between GTE and GT3 manufacturers on engines. Initial proposals had centred on the creating a single GT class, before discussions shifted to each manufacturer having a base car, which could be modified to fit two different classes, known as GT and GT+. The “GT” Class would have served as a direct replacement for GT3, while forming the basis of the higher “GT+” class, which would replace GTE. The FIA had sought to utilise a common engine for the categories, which would see manufacturers developing both factory and customer-based car packages atop a common platform. This concept is similar to what Aston Martin and Ferrari have done with their latest GT offerings. While the manufacturers agreed on the chassis concept, they were unable to find common ground regarding the engine. Most manufacturers currently involved in GTE wanted to retain sonic engine air-restrictors, while the GT3 manufacturers favoured an alternative system, and the use of production-based engines.

The Current Situation

GTE: Stagnating manufacturer interest

In 2014, at the time of the convergence talks, there were 5 manufacturers (Aston Martin, Corvette, Dodge, Ferrari, Porsche). However, since then, the number of manufacturers in GTE have remained stagnant. The number had remained at 5 in 2020 (Aston Martin/BMW/Corvette/Ferrari/Porsche), following the withdrawals of Dodge and Ford at the end of 2014, and 2019 respectively.

In addition, of the 5 marques listed, only 3 (Aston Martin, Ferrari, and Porsche) are currently competing in the World Endurance Championship. Previously, during the 2018-19 season, BMW ran a works-supported programme, although it was later discontinued following just one season in the WEC. However, its’ IMSA WTSC program with BMW Team RLL in GTLM was unaffected, with the team securing a class victory at the 2020 Rolex 24 at Daytona.

It should be noted that compared to GT3, which can be found in many national and international championships worldwide, GTE is used only in a handful of series, namely the European Le Mans Series, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, and the FIA World Endurance Championship.

GT3: Going from strength to strength

Unlike GTE, GT3 has continued to prove popular with manufacturers. The class boasts over 10 different manufacturers, and a total of 52 cars have been homologated with the FIA as of 2019. Factory-supported GT3 Competition has also risen in popularity, with the number of manufacturers participating in the Intercontinental GT Challenge rising from 4 in the first year of the series (2016), to 8 in 2019.

Convergence during the 2022 rules cycle?

Both GTE and GT3 had been due for a rule refresh in 2022, once more bringing about the possibility of convergence. In past interviews, Corvette Racing programme manager Doug Fehan, as well as BMW Motorsport director Jens Marquardt had expressed interest in convergence. However, Porsche Director of GT Factory Motorsports, Pascal Zurlinden had disagreed, stressing the importance of maintaining separate platforms for factory and pro-am racing. However, when the 2022 GT3 regulations were confirmed and released to manufacturers in December 2019, no mention of convergence was made in the media.

Why convergence is inevitable

Works-Supported Motorsport: The Electric Factor & COVID-19

Last week, Audi announced it would cease to compete in the DTM, owing to the high costs of running both it’s works Formula E and DTM Programmes – Image by Matt Buck on Flickr

For now, it appears that GT Convergence is highly unlikely to occur within the 2022 rules cycle, given that the 2022 GT3 regulations have already been approved by the FIA World Motor Sport Council. However, with the rise of electric motorsport seeing more manufacturers divert funds towards Electric Motorsport, budgets for conventionally powered motorsport are likely to shrink in the coming years.

The situation is not helped by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has also hit the Automotive Industry hard, with the lack of sales caused by movement control orders in various countries causing manufacturers to halt production, shrinking the amount of capital on hand for manufacturers. This in turn, will lead to manufacturers reviewing, and likely reducing or cutting funding for non-essential expenditures such as motorsport, a likely situation which FIA President Jean Todt had acknowledged earlier in the week.

Last week saw Audi announce the termination of its Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) programme following the 2020 season, owing to the high costs of running both its Formula E and DTM works programmes. The decision comes as parent company Volkswagen Group continues its pivot towards electric mobility, with Volkswagen Motorsport having announced in November 2019 that it would terminate all internal combustion engine-based motorsport activities. Following that initial announcement by Volkswagen Motorsport, Audi had already terminated its factory campaign in the FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) in December 2019, a day after the factory-supported WRT had announced its departure from the series.

The cost of constructing and designing 2 different cars for 2 near-identical categories is expensive. Development costs are easily incurred through a variety of means, including crash-testing, aerodynamic work, and on track testing. In the post COVID-19 economic landscape, with manufacturers attempting to cut any unnecessary costs, this increasingly unsustainable practice is unlikely to remain viable for long.

Privateers: COVID-19’s financial impact & the cost of competition

Owing to COVID-19, which has led to the cessation of motorsport activities indefinitely, it is quite likely that many independent teams have been hit financially. Most Privateers are dependent on funding from sponsorships, or funds from Gentlemen Drivers to contribute towards the team budgets, with certain teams running testing programmes as a means of providing additional funding. Sponsor agreements are complex and may include several clauses that specify a list of conditions to be made for payments to be delivered to teams. In times like these, where the brand exposure for sponsors is virtually non-existent due to a lack of racing, it is highly possible that pay-outs will be reduced. The poor global economic outlook may also lead to sponsor dropouts or non-payment, with the shortfall in funds leading to missed races, or in some cases, teams closing their doors.

Like almost all race cars, the prices of GTE and GT3 cars are never listed on the manufacturer’s sLike almost all race cars, the prices of GTE and GT3 cars are never listed on the manufacturer’s sites, but based on information available online, most GT3 cars have a price that falls in the region of below €500,000, not inclusive of spare parts. The price of most GTE cars on the other hand, while differing between marques, is much steeper, with the Porsche 911 RSR (2017) coming in at €991,000, while a 2018 estimate by Dailysportscar gave the price of a Aston Martin Vantage GTE at £750,000 GBP (roughly €848,00 EUR). It should also be noted that of the 5 GTE cars, only the Ferrari and the Aston Martin can be converted between GT3 and GTE specification. Dailysportscar also estimated the cost of a conversion kit to be £200,000.

WithWith the figures given above, Dailysportscar estimated a team competing in both GT3 and GTE with a single Aston Martin Vantage chassis could easily save £500k GBP, excluding the cost of spares packages. For a two-car team, the savings would be multiplied.

Final Thoughts

GT Convergence is a topic that was discussed over half a decade ago, and is something that continues to be brought up from time to time. In these trying times, where funds are tight for both manufacturers and privateers, it is indeed the perfect time to bring about discussions for convergence once more. With the limited opportunities for competition in GTE, compared to GT3, GT Convergence is a topic that was discussed over half a decade ago and is something that continues to be brought up from time to time. In these trying times, where funds are tight for both manufacturers and privateers, it is indeed the perfect time to bring about discussions for convergence once more. With the limited opportunities for competition in GTE, compared to GT3, and the high-costs involved for manufacturers and privateers running campaigns in both categories, perhaps it is time to return to the discussion table to decide upon a single unified direction for GT racing, or at the bare minimum, the shared chassis “GT” & “GT+” concepts of 2014.

While the rules for the 2022 GT3 rules cycle have been approved, with the current worldwide situation, could there be a possibility of a delay in introducing the new regulations? It is certainly a possibility, one that could be made in the name of cost reduction, and a move that has been made by both Formula 1 and Formula E. Both championships have announced that competitors will carry their cars (F1) and powertrains (FE) over for the next racing season, with F1 delaying the introduction of a new technical ruleset, while Formula E has delayed a bodywork update for the Gen2 car. Should the 2022 GT3 rules cycle be delayed, it could be possible for GT Convergence talks to begin once more, and hopefully result in a positive outcome for all parties involved.

Carnage on the Virtual Track – Reflecting on the IndyCar iRacing First Responder 175

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Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more series are organising their own eSports leagues, with professional drivers participating in these virtual races. Indycar has been no exception to this, organising the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge.

Last night’s First Responder 175 was the sixth and the final round of the iRacing Challenge, a 70 lap race around the oval at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with the race being won by Scott McLaughlin for Team Penske eSports. The field featured 33 professional racing drivers, including many full-time drivers competing in the real-life Indycar Series. With a full field of professional racing drivers, competing in a professional eSports Championship, held on what arguably is the most realistic motorsports simulation ever created, disciplined and fair racing was to be expected. For the majority of the race, disciplined and fair racing was certainly demonstrated by the field. However, in the closing stages of the race, what played out on the virtual Brickyard was anything but that…

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