Motor Sport's weekly debriefby Michael Thorogood on 8th September 2017
Porsche considering F1 return, Hyundai poaches Mikkelsen and major shake-up for WEC
Porsche considering F1 return in 2021
Porsche has expressed a keen interest in returning to Formula 1 in 2021 as an engine supplier, following talks with F1 motor sport managing director Ross Brawn in Monza. Lower cost 2021 regulations and the smaller twin-turbo V6 engine has tempted the marque back to F1, according to Porsche financial chief Lutz Meschke. An F1 programme is said to cost a similar amount to Porsche's current World Endurance Championship campaign, on which it pulled the plug in July to commit to Formula E from 2019/20.
The marque last competed in F1 as supplier to the Footwork Arrows team in 1991, but it proved a disastrous campaign with zero points, failing to qualify for many of the races. The mid-80s delivered more success, helping secure McLaren two constructors’ titles. Should it return, it's unclear which teams Porsche could power. Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault all run their own power units, McLaren is a direct rival in the supercar market and Red Bull is linked to Aston Martin – although it does have ties through the VW Group. Could we see a Williams-Porsche, or a 'Force One'-Porsche at the start of next decade?
McLaren renews chase for Renault engine
Honda and Renault power remain the only options on the table for both McLaren and Toro Rosso in 2018. Both are vying for Renault power, but the French marque can only supply one of them. “We are open to the idea of supplying either Toro Rosso or McLaren,” said Renault special advisor Alain Prost in Monza. “But it is impossible for us to supply both – and we do not expect to be able to supply a winning engine as early as next year. For a driver of Fernando Alonso's stature, that might be a problem.” Honda wants McLaren, McLaren wants Renault and the price for Honda to supply Toro Rosso is said to be around £100 million a year.
Major WEC shake-up for 2018
Porsche and Audi's withdrawal from the World Endurance Championship left the need for reform in no doubt, but the changes might not be what fans were quite expecting. The next WEC season will be a two-year campaign running through 2018-19 including both years' Le Mans 24 Hours, the second of which will become the season finale. The Spa 6 Hours will feature twice in the first two-year season, but gone is the season opener at Silverstone and the rounds at the Nürburgring, COTA and in Bahrain and Mexico City.
A 12-hour enduro at Sebring returns to the schedule for the first time since 2012, beginning at midnight and running on the same weekend as the IMSA 12 Hours of Sebring. Costs are set to be slashed, but the two-year programme from 2019/20 will feature just seven races.
Fourteen drivers in the hunt for Blancpain GT Sprint Cup title
The Nürburgring hosts the climax of the Blancpain GT Sprint Cup this weekend – and 14 drivers remain in the title fight. Mercedes-AMG drivers Maxi Buhk and Franck Perera lead the championship with 60 points, but Lamborghini pilots Christian Engelhart and Mirko Bortolotti are just three points behind. Audi pairings Dries Vanthoor/Marcel Fässler and Stuart Leonard/Robin Frijns are just another point behind them.
With two rounds to run, the overall Blancpain title could theoretically be wrapped up this weekend as well. The forecast? Rain, predictably.
Hyundai poaches Mikkelsen for title fight
It was cruel fate when the shock withdrawal of VW left Andreas Mikkelsen on the WRC sidelines in 2017. With 20 podiums to his name, Mikkelsen has shown himself to be rapid on all surfaces and Citroën was quick to acquire his services midseason. In a wayward C3, he proved to be one of their strongest hands but with three rounds of the championship left to run, Hyundai has poached the Norwegian to aid its manufacturer title fight.
Sixty-four points behind M-Sport in the manufacturer title battle, Hyundai has a realistic chance of securing both the driver and manufacturer title for the first time this year. Acquiring Mikkelsen means the struggling Haydon Paddon will sit out the next round of the championship in Spain, whilst Dani Sordo is expected to be replaced in Wales.
French racer passes away after Zandvoort crash
An F1 Masters racer has died after an accident during the Zandvoort Historic Grand Prix in Holland last weekend. David Ferrer, a 61-year-old Frenchman, was airlifted to a trauma unit following a crash in his March 701 but sadly succumbed to his injuries on Thursday.
One video you should watch
Watch the Goodwood Revival live
An annual highlight of the historic race calendar is go – and it’s live on the Motor Sport website. The entry for this weekend’s Goodwood Revival looks as strong as ever, including our very own Dickie Meaden partnering Steve Soper in part two of the St Mary’s Trophy. Expect classics, the renewal of old rivalries and, with a rather wet forecast, plenty of grass-track action.
Three things we didn’t know last week
1) F1 considering ‘yellow jersey’ idea for F1
The halo has had a bad reception, but the FIA has found a way of spicing it up: introducing a Tour de France-style ‘yellow halo’. One of several ideas proposed to improve the visual aspect of the halo safety device, FIA president Jean Todt has suggested that the F1 world championship leader could use a different colour halo, just like the leader of cycling Grand Tours are distinguished by a unique jersey colour. What next: a green halo for the most pole positions? A white halo for the best young driver? Why not?
2) World RX could soon be Silverstone’s biggest event
It has been a tough week for British sports car fans – and Silverstone. The traditional season-opening Silverstone 6 Hours has been pulled from the WEC calendar and with Silverstone recently terminating its F1 contract and MotoGP only visiting Silverstone because of the mess at the Circuit of Wales, World RX could soon be the biggest event on Silverstone’s calendar. Last weekend the Silverstone Wing played host to a rather different sort of international motor sport event: searching for the World’s Fastest Gamer and a new McLaren sim-only test driver.
3) McLaren Honda broken on F1 2017 game
There's realism... and then there's irony. Players of the new F1 2017 game who race for McLaren in the game's career mode have reported problems with the car's research and development path, in that engine upgrades make no discernible difference to car performance. Codemasters says it is aware and are looking for a fix.
From the archive
Jackie Oliver: the nearly man
He has a Le Mans victory and Can-Am championship to his name - but still calls himself the 'nearly man'.
“I always thought if you were good enough, then the opportunities would come," says Jackie Oliver. "Perhaps I was never good enough to win a Grand Prix. So you can call me Mr Nearly.” Well, it’s better than Noddy, the name chosen by his Lotus mechanics owing to the ease with which he was able to take a nap at any time, even just before a race.
What Jackie Oliver has so far failed to mention is that he won the Can-Am championship, won Le Mans, and won long distance sports car races at Sebring, Daytona, Spa-Francorchamps and Monza. He still holds the fastest-ever lap of the Sarthe. And then there’s the Grand Prix team he created which became a university for some exceptional young designers and the odd talented driver on the way up.
Your weekend of motor sport
MotoGP: San Marino, Italy
BSB: Silverstone, UK
Super Formula: Autopolis, Japan
F3: Nürburgring, Germany
Australian GT: Phillip Island, Australia
DTM: Nürburgring, Germany
NASCAR: Richmond II, USA