Motor Sport's weekly debriefby Michael Thorogood on 28th July 2017
Bombshell withdrawals rock the sport, Ogier tries F1 and Alpine announces a new race series
FIA confirms halo protection system for 2018
Following the latest Formula One Strategy Group meeting, the FIA has controversially announced that the halo protection system will be mandatory in Formula 1 from 2018 onwards, confirmed 'with the support of the teams.'
The decision comes in light of several fatalities resulting from head injuries and follows the rejection of alternative concepts, namely the shield cockpit screen that Sebastian Vettel tested at Silverstone. Reports that the FIA has increased the minimum cockpit evacuation time to compensate for the removal of the halo device have only added fuel to the controversy.
Kubica to test after Hungary, but ruled out for 2017
Barely a week seems to go by without the Kubica comeback saga taking another turn. Renault announced earlier this week that the Pole will take part in the official mid-season F1 test at the Hungaroring on August 2, following this weekend's Hungary Grand Prix. Then the team's managing director Cyril Abiteboul ruled out a full-time return for Kubica to Formula 1 in 2017, at least, insisting that Jolyon Palmer's seat is secure despite a difficult season to date.
Meanwhile, McLaren has announced that junior driver Lando Norris will test its car at the Hungaroring test.
Sauber renews engine deal with Ferrari
New Sauber team principal Fred Vasseur has confirmed that the team will continue its engine partnership with Ferrari in 2018, less than a day after confirming that a potential partnership with Honda was off the table. Sauber currently uses Ferrari's year-old power unit, but the Swiss team will run with the latest engine spec next season.
Porsche departs LMP1 for Formula E
The future of the World Endurance Championship has been dealt a major blow following the announcement that reigning champion Porsche will be ending its LMP1 programme this year. Following sister brand Audi out of sport cars' top tier, Porsche's withdrawal leaves Toyota as the sole remaining manufacturer in the LMP1 ranks in 2018. It casts obvious doubt over whether the current class structure can survive. Porsche is set to join Mercedes in switching to Formula E from 2019, who announced this week that it will be exiting DTM.
Alpine announces one-make race series
The 249bhp Alpine A110 sports car is set to have its own race championship in 2018. The revived French car marque has entrusted its LMP2 partner Signatec with the car's homologation, design, production and sales, with 20 'minimally modified' race cars set to take to circuits across Europe next year. The announcement is not without precedent: Alpine GTA Europa Cup cars contested an Alpine Cup in the late '80s supporting Grands Prix in Europe. Alpine, which has Le Mans and WRC victories to its name, will release the road-going A110 in spring 2018.
Mercedes ends DTM programme for Formula E
After 18 consecutive seasons of competition in DTM, Mercedes has announced its departure from the German touring car series to join its Stuttgart rivals Porsche in Formula E from 2019. Mercedes claimed the first two DTM titles when the series relaunched in 2000 and is the championship's most successful marque, with nine constructors' titles to Audi's five.
"Electrification is happening in the road car world and Formula E offers manufacturers an interesting platform to bring this technology to a new audience," Toto Wolff said. The announcement leaves only Audi and BMW to contest the DTM title next year.
Positive reception for next-gen IndyCar
IndyCar has revealed its new-for-2018 Indycar, billed as a cheaper, safer and stronger machine that is 'just about as radical as you can get,' according to John Oreovicz. Evoking the Indycars of the '80s and '90s, next year's Dallara chassis is the same as the one that has been used since 2012, but sleek new bodywork is set to reduce downforce by around 20 per cent and has shifted weight distribution towards the front of the car.
Loeb returns to Citroën for testing
Nine-time World Rally champion Sebastien Loeb will get back behind the wheel of a WRC car next month when he tests Citroën's C3 WRC car for the first time. Although contracted to Peugeot, Loeb has been permitted to test for his former team following the creation of PSA Motorsport, which includes Peugeot, Citroën and DS. The Frenchman will help develop the C3 alongside his World Rallycross and cross-country commitments.
Champion Nieto seriously hurt in crash
Thirteen-time motorcycling world champion Ángel Nieto has been seriously injured in a quadbiking accident in Ibiza. Spanish media reports that the 70-year old, who won 90 Grands Prix during his 22-year career, is in a serious but not critical condition in hospital. Motor Sport wishes him a speedy recovery.
Monaco night race teased in F1 2017 trailer
Realism is at the core of Codemasters' F1 gaming series. But in the next game due next month, as well as a superb mix of recent and historic F1 cars, new custom options will include running the Monaco Grand Prix under floodlights.
"Taking on Monaco is always a test of your skills," creative director Lee Mather told the F1 website. "Now we have added the ability to take to these iconic streets at night in both modern day and classic F1 cars."
In addition to the season's official F1 circuits, four 'short circuits' from Britain, Bahrain, USA and an unannounced location are also set to feature.
This week in numbers
4 Finnish drivers comprised the top four after the first 10 stages of the Rally Finland round of the WRC, which concludes this weekend
12 classic cars feature in the F1 2017 game
15 times an F1 car's mass is what the halo protection device is said to be able withstand
18 consecutive years and out will Mercedes' DTM history – for now
56 Per cent – the increase in F1's follower base on social media, where it is the fastest-growing sports brand
Three things we didn't know last week
1) Ron Dennis could be given 13 historic McLarens
Former chairman of the McLaren Technology Group Ron Dennis is contractually entitled to 13 of the most important models from McLaren's F1 history, should his former team fail to pay him for his remaining shares in the company. Although there is no suggestion that such an eventuality should occur, official documents provide a fascinating insight into the relationship that McLaren holds with its former team principal. The cars are a contractual security in relation to a £37.5 million deferred payment that Dennis is due.
2) Renault e.dams recreates Montréal circuit in Paris
It's all to play for at this weekend's Formula E finale in Montréal, with reigning champion Sébastien Buemi holding a slender 10 point lead over rival Lucas di Grassi. Such is the fine margin that Buemi's team, Renault e.dams, has gone to the lengths of recreating sections of the Montréal circuit on a rented airbase near Paris to test new software parts and a new vehicle dynamic developed for the season showdown.
3) Ocon says he would be 'flipping burgers' if not for Wolff
Mercedes junior driver Esteban Ocon missed out on a drive with the Silver Arrows in 2017, but the Frenchman has thanked team principal Toto Wolff for his belief in him during his F3 and GP3 title-winning days, when Ocon secured a place on the Mercedes young drivers' programme. "Between the end of 2014 and the start of 2015, if Toto Wolff had not been there to help me I'd probably be flipping burgers at McDonalds," Ocon told La Gazetta dello Sport. "Without the support I wouldn't have been able to continue racing."
One video you should watch
World Rally champion Ogier tests Red Bull F1 car
It can't be easy giving a four-time World Rally champion an adrenaline kick. Having just clinched a podium on the rapid gravel roads of Poland the safe confines of the Red Bull Ring must have seemed a little tame to Sébastien Ogier, but the opportunity to drive Red Bull's 2011 title-winning RB7 was a dream come true for the Frenchman.
"As a kid Ayrton Senna was my idol," he said before the session. "It's a different world in Formula 1. I'm more excited than nervous, but this will be the first time I will go this fast on a racing track."
Ogier's session was going well, slowly building his pace lap-by-lap, and then he got four wheels on the grass...
From the archive
The Maverick who refused to play the game
If you knew him then, you would not know him now. He is a different man in a different world. A maverick, intellectually restless, a loner, blessed from birth with a prodigious talent. A man of many and complex parts. The swagger of youth has gone, but the inner confidence remains. Those famous blue eyes are the giveaway, the limp in the left leg, the long blonde hair under a woolly hat. The intelligence and determination, while undiminished, have long ago been applied far away from racing cars.
Remember the dashing power slides, the red helmet with the big white ‘T’ on the front? If you were there, you do. Famously the youngest man ever to start a Grand Prix, until Jaime Alguersuari came along, Thackwell somehow missed out on the top-line Formula 1 seat that surely should have been his.
Your weekend of motor sport
F1 / F2 / GP3: Hungaroring, Hungary
FE: Montréal, Canada
F3: Spa Francorchamps, Belgium
Blancpain Endurance Spa 24 Hours: Spa Francorchamps, Belgium
BTCC: Snetterton, UK
FIM EWC: Suzuka, Japan
Silverstone Classic: Silverstone, UK
IndyCar: Mid-Ohio, USA