F1 Russia GP 2019: Hamilton back on the up but Renault’s sponsorship revenue is going south

Plus, Ross Brawn gives 2020 qualifying update, Mercedes sack four over racist bullying and David Coulthard named BRDC president.

F1 Russia GP 2019: Hamilton back on the up but Renault’s sponsorship revenue is going south

Lewis Hamilton’s first win in four races took him another step closer to a sixth world title as Ferrari’s hopes for a fourth straight victory fell apart after Sebastian Vettel ignored team orders.

The Italian team had planned on the German closely following pole sitter Charles Leclerc into the first corner to stop Hamilton, starting second, from taking the lead.

But after Vettel had passed his team-mate, he refused to surrender his position. Leclerc eventually retained first place courtesy of an early pit stop but a virtual safety car (VSC), deployed after an engine failure for Vettel, compounded with unfortunate pit stop timings from Ferrari, meant Hamilton took the lead, while fellow Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas was also able to pass Leclerc.

It secured the Silver Arrows’ first one-two since the British Grand Prix in mid-July, while the Ferrari soap opera continues as their two drivers battle for supremacy in the team.

The result gives Hamilton, who scored an extra point for the fastest lap, a 73-point championship, meaning another world crown could be his when Formula One heads to Mexico in two races time. The series’ next stop is the Japanese Grand Prix on 13th October.

Renault sponsorship down nearly US$50m since 2008

Renault F1 and their managing director Cyril Abiteboul are still feeling the effects of Crashgate from 2008

Renault have lost US$48.2 million in sponsorship since the 2008 race fixing scandal at the Singapore Grand Prix, according to new estimates from Formula Money.

Dubbed ‘crashgate’, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) ruled in 2008 that the team was guilty of fixing the race by telling their driver Nelson Piquet Jr to deliberately crash in order to bring out the safety car and help teammate Fernando Alonso win.

The verdict saw an immediate commercial downturn for Renault, with ING withdrawing from its deal as title sponsor. That revenue shortfall has continued. In 2009, the team’s sponsorship peaked at US$124 million before falling dramatically to approximately US$60 million in 2010, the year after the guilty verdict was passed down. In 2018, Renault’s total sponsorship revenue was just under US$80 million, its highest since 2014.

Ross Brawn gives qualifying update

Formula One’s director of motorsport, Ross Brawn, has responded to plans that the series will experiment with a new format to replace qualifying next season.

It follows reports that a secret vote between teams took place earlier this month, resulting in a unanimous decision to revamp the Saturday before a race.

The proposed idea would see drivers line up on the grid in reverse championship order for a sprint race, with the result determining the grid for the Grand Prix.

The move has received mixed reviews and Brawn has looked to clarify the potential qualifying changeup.

Brawn said: "I want to emphasise the word 'experiment' because this is what it is about – a small sample to establish the directions for the future. We are all too aware that the current qualifying format is exciting and spectacular but what is also important is to make sure that the race, the highlight of the weekend, is the best it can be.

“And since, no matter how many simulations you run, there's no measure more accurate than the track, Formula One, the teams and the FIA are studying the possibility of a revised format for a small number of events for next season. With stable sporting and technical regulations in place for 2020 it is the perfect time for such evaluations.

"No decision has been taken yet because we are finalising all the details, but feedbacks received so far are, in the majority, positive.”

Ross Brawn (right) has looked to clarify F1’s plans for shaking up qualifying in 2020.

Mercedes sack four staff members over racist bullying

Mercedes have sacked four of their staff and disciplined three more for racist bullying. It follows a team inquiry, launched in July at their Northamptonshire headquarters, which concluded that four men had breached their equality policy.

According to the Sun, the abuse at Mercedes’ Brackley base included racist language towards a Muslim colleague.

The four men were dismissed on 2nd August and their final appeal was held last week. Three other members of staff are reported as being disciplined for breaching the team’s diversity and equality policy.

In a statement, Mercedes said: ‘Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd confirms that four individuals were dismissed from the company on 2 August 2019. These dismissals followed an internal investigation that confirmed breaches of our diversity and equality policy.

‘We condemn this behaviour in the strongest terms and acted immediately upon the complaint. We value the diversity of our employees and it is a source of strength for our team. Our working environment is based on appreciation and mutual respect.’

Coulthard named British Racing Drivers’ Club president

Former McLaren and Red Bull driver David Coulthard has been elected president of the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC).

The 48-year-old Scot, a 13-time Grand Prix winner, succeeds ex-rally driver Paddy Hopkirk. Indycar champion Dario Franchitti was elected a vice-president.

Regarded as the guardian of British motorsport, the BRDC owns Silverstone, host of the British Grand Prix. Previous presidents include ex-Formula One drivers Derek Warwick, Martin Brundle and 1996 world champion Damon Hill.

John Grant, BRDC chairman, said: "In David, we have a president who is not only a greatly talented racing driver but also a successful businessman with an enviable network of contacts in the motorsport world which, together with his experience, should be of great benefit to the club."

Life of luxury

I still believe it's a luxury. We have two fantastic drivers and that is where it is starting from

Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto insists the team can manage the ongoing tensions between Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel.

The Big Picture

Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel look on ahead of what would be an incident-packed Russian Grand Prix for the two

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