Mercedes leaves the door open to sign Sebastian Vettel

Toto Wolff has confirmed that Mercedes will “monitor” Sebastian Vettel’s situation now he is leaving Ferrari and that F1’s world champions cannot yet rule the German out of a 2021 drive.

Vettel’s F1 future beyond this year is hugely uncertain after the four-time champion and Ferrari decided to part ways at the end of the year.

Mercedes are now the only one of F1’s leading teams yet to sign up either of their drivers for next season, with Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas’ deals expiring in December.

Hamilton, in particular, is expected to strike a new deal and the prospect of Mercedes teaming the six-time champion with long-time rival Vettel in what would be the most decorated F1 line-up of all time is still considered unlikely.

Nonetheless, in an interview with Sky Sports F1’s Martin Brundle, Wolff said: “Sebastian is a four-time world champion and him suddenly becoming available was unexpected.

“And, therefore, it is a situation that needs to be monitored.

“Where could he potentially go, where are we with our drivers, and what I said (before) is I wouldn’t discount Sebastian for any seat.

“We have looked at the situation. Our priority and concentration is on our Mercedes drivers — that’s Lewis, Valtteri and the juniors. George Russell being one of them; Esteban Ocon is obviously a Renault driver today.

“And only if we can’t find a solution within that group of drivers we will look elsewhere and then obviously Sebastian is in a very good position.”

Speaking in a later press conference with the wider media, Wolff said it is not simply out of respect for Vettel that he is not yet discounting the 32-year-old.

Wolff pointed to then-newly-crowned world champion Nico Rosberg’s sudden retirement at the end of 2016 as an example of how the driver market can be turned on its head completely out of the blue.

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Sebastian Vettel joining Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes would be the biggest news of the year.Source:Getty Images

“It’s not lip service, but we owe it to a four-time champion not to come out and say straight away ‘no’. You need to think about it,” said Wolff.

“On the other side, we have a fantastic line-up and I’ve very happy with both our pilots and George (Russell), but you never know. One of them may decide he doesn’t want to go racing anymore and suddenly you have a vacant spot.

“This is why I don’t want to come out in June and say, ‘No chance, Sebastian is not racing for us’. I wouldn’t do it to him as a driver, to be that blunt, and on the other side I’ve seen black swans appearing when nobody suspected — remember Nico Rosberg.

“In that respect, we’re just keeping our options open, but of course concentrating our discussions with our current drivers.”

WOLFF HOPES HAMILTON CONTRACT AGREED ‘PRETTY SOON’

Mercedes are out-of-sync compared to their F1 rivals in terms of driver contracts for 2021, with Ferrari already confirming Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz as their line-up, while Max Verstappen is on a long-term deal at Red Bull.

But Wolff explained that he expects to kickstart discussions with Hamilton once the season gets going next month.

“We didn’t see each other over lockdown, we were in different parts of the world, but we were in regular contact,” he said. “But we didn’t work on any agreement.

“Between us there is a lot of trust, we have been together for a long time, and never in these years together (have) we had to take the contracts out and read what was written in them because it comes so naturally.

“Therefore, once racing resumes, we’re going to spend some time together, take the contract out of the cupboard, look at the timings and the numbers and the rights, and hopefully have something pretty soon.”

This article first appeared on Sky Sports and was reproduced with permission

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Lewis Hamilton’s father warns against Formula One’s return amid ongoing coronavirus pandemic: ‘Our fans are fighting on the frontline’

The father of Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton has spoken out about the resumption of motorsport amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis, just one day after F1 announced its revised calendar for the remainder of the season.

On Tuesday, it was announced that the season will resume on 5 July with the Austrian Grand Prix, and there will be back-to-back British Grands Prix in August as part of the new-look campaign, which has been heavily delayed since a member of the McLaren team tested positive for Covid-19 in March.

But Anthony Hamilton told ITV this week that F1 and sport in general should not yet be resuming, with the coronavirus pandemic still affecting the world at large.

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“We should have the patience and respect to say: ‘Let’s wait until the number of new coronavirus cases is down to zero,’ so the key workers can go home, relax and they too can enjoy watching sport,” Hamilton said.

“I understand that we have to get back to business as soon as possible, but it should be as safe as possible and essential business only. Motorsport is a global sport with a global fanbase. Now is not the time to be turning our backs on those who cannot take part, or come and watch. Now is the time for us to wait, be patient and support.

“If we don’t have fans, we don’t have a sport and right now our fans are fighting on the frontline, saving the lives of our fans.

“Although with each day things are improving and the number of virus-related deaths is falling, the enemy is not yet defeated. This is still a very clear and ever-present threat to our lives and society, so what is this rush back to motorsport?”

Lewis Hamilton is on course for a record-equalling seventh F1 title, but his father admitted he would struggle celebrate such an achievement by his son, given the circumstances.

“It would make me feel extremely disingenuous to celebrate watching Lewis racing, or celebrating on the podium,” he said. “I wouldn’t particularly want to be watching the TV and cheering while thousands of people are dying from a virus.”

As part of F1’s return, spectators will not be allowed to attend the races, while a number of measures will be in place to protect team personnel and other staff.

Staff will be transported to and from races on chartered flights, and will be tested for Covid-19 regularly over the course of a race weekend. However, Hamilton still doesn’t feel totally comfortable with the sport returning, warning of potentially “dire consequences”.

“One day it may be us who need saving,” he said. “What would we think then about a rush back to sport?”

Hamilton’s younger son Nic has cerebral palsy and became the first disabled driver to compete in the British Touring Car Championship in 2015. That competition is set to get underway in August.

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Lewis Hamilton ‘overcome with rage’ at events in the US

Lewis Hamilton says he is “completely overcome with rage” at events in the USA following George Floyd’s death.

It is the second time Hamilton has spoken out this week in the wake of protests breaking out across the US.

Floyd, an unarmed black man, died on 25 May after a white police officer, since charged with murder, knelt on his neck for several minutes.

“This past week has been so dark. I have failed to keep hold of my emotions,” Hamilton, 35, said.

“I have felt so much anger, sadness and disbelief.”

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On Sunday Hamilton, Formula 1’s first black driver, hit out at other senior F1 figures for not speaking out, saying: “I see those of you who are staying silent, some of you the biggest stars yet you stay silent in the midst of injustice.”

That prompted a number of top drivers to express their own outrage on social media.

On Tuesday, Hamilton issued another statement, saying he had been “completely overcome with rage at the sight of such blatant disregard for the lives of other people”.

He added: “The injustice we are seeing our brothers and sisters face all over the world time and time again is disgusting and must stop.”

He said that while “many people seem surprised”, the situation was “not surprising to us”.

“Those of us who black, brown or in between, see it every day and should not have to feel as though we were born guilty, don’t belong or fear for our lives based on the colour of our skin,” Hamilton said.

“It is only when there are riots and screams for justice that the powers that be cave in and do something, but by then it is far too late and not enough has been done.”

Hamilton also referred to the delay before Derek Chauvin, the officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck, was arrested.

“It took hundreds of thousands of people’s complaints and buildings to burn before officials reacted and decided to arrest Derek Chauvin for murder – and that is sad,” he said.

“Unfortunately, America is not the only place where racism lives and we continue to fail as humans when we cannot stand up for what is right.

“Please do not sit in silence, no matter the colour of your skin. Black Lives Matter.”

Shortly after Hamilton issued his post, F1 made its first statement on the matter.

“We stand with you, and all people in the fight against racism,” it said.

“It is an evil that no sport or society is truly immune from. And it is only together we can oppose an eradicate it.

“Together we are stronger.”

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F1 2020 calendar: New schedule, dates and races for revised season

Formula One has unveiled the first part of its revamped 2020 calendar, which features two Grands Prix in both Austria and Great Britain as part of an eight-race European schedule.

All eight confirmed races across the six tracks will be staged behind closed doors, meaning the only chance for fans to watch the season get underway will be on television.

The 3 July start date in Austria means the campaign will get underway nearly four months later than planned due to the global outbreak of coronavirus, which curtailed the Australian Grand Prix back in March just hours before the opening session was due to begin.

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Austria’s Red Bull Ring will host the first two race weekends of the season in July, with the second round set to be named the Styrian Grand Prix after the surrounding the Spielberg circuit. Silverstone will also host two races, with the 2 August British Grand Prix followed immediately by the inaugural F1 70th Anniversary Grand Prix.

Talks are currently taking place about the format of those double race weekends, although all teams would need to agree on any changes unanimously.

Along with the Red Bull Ring and Silverstone – which will make up half of the European leg of the 2020 season – the Hungaroring, Catalunya, Spa-Francorchamps and Monza will also host races without fans in attendance. F1 hopes to announce in the coming weeks the remainder of the season, which will see the sport move through EurAsia, Asia, the Americas and finally the Middle East, with between seven and 10 more race weekends to be announced and double-headers being discussed at venues such as Singapore, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi.

2020 F1 calendar

3-5 July: Austrian Grand Prix (Red Bull Ring)

10-12 July: Styrian Grand Prix (Red Bull Ring)

17-19 July: Hungarian Grand Prix (Hungaroring)

31 July – 2 August: British Grand Prix (Silverstone)

7-9 August: F1 70th Anniversary Grand Prix (Silverstone)

14-16 August: Spanish Grand Prix (Catalunya)

28-30 August: Belgian Grand Prix (Spa-Francorchamps)

4-6 September: Italian Grand Prix (Monza)

What about the rest of the calendar?

The remainder of the season will be announced in the coming weeks, with circuits in Azerbaijan, Singapore, Japan, the United States, Brazil, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi likely to feature among others in a seven-10 race schedule.

Which races will not be included?

The venues that will not feature on the remainder of the calendar include Australia, Monaco, the Netherlands and France, with those races already confirmed to have been cancelled until 2021.

The Dutch Grand Prix was due to return to the calendar this year for the first time since 1985 at Zandvoort, but a decision was taken at the end of May to abandon the 2020 event and begin planning to return to the calendar next year.

What about reverse-grid races?

The idea has been proposed to the teams by the Formula One Group with support from the FIA, with the double-header races in Austria and Britain identified as the ideal scenario to try out a new weekend format.

Instead of the traditional three-stage knockout qualifying session on Saturday followed by the Grand Prix on Sunday, teams have been offered a qualifying race on Saturday with the grid determined by the reverse order of the championship standings.

That would mean the second race of the season at the Red Bull Ring would start on Saturday with the reverse order from the opening round of the season, with the results from Saturday’s qualifying race determining the grid for Sunday’s main Grand Prix.

The idea has backing from nine of the 10 teams, with Mercedes providing the only opposition to the proposal as it would provide more of a threat to their domination of the sport.

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Red Bull chief teases Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel pairing at Mercedes

Mercedes have been tipped to make “a lot” of changes to their personnel from next season following speculation they are considering hiring four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel to race alongside Lewis Hamilton.

Valtteri Bottas is out of contract at the end of the year and he is expected to be moved on if he does not win the Championship this campaign.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has admitted he would have to look at Vettel as an option but he would prefer to put faith in his younger drivers – such as George Russell or Esteban Ocon.

There has also been recent reports circulating that Wolff could walk away from his position, although this was denied in a statement released by the Silver Arrows.

But Red Bull chief Helmut Marko has attempted to stir the pot by claiming there is some movement happening behind the scenes.

“Let’s wait and see what happens at Mercedes,” Marko teased. “There’s a lot going on there in terms of personnel, I hear.”

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F1 owners Liberty Media were expected to make major changes to regulations from next season but that has now been pushed back to 2022.

That has led to talk that Mercedes, who have won six double Championships in a row, could pull out of motorsport’s premier competition, which would open up the field.

“If they stay, that’s fine,” Marko added. “We would like to beat them.

“But if they are no longer there, it will just be another team (with the same resources).”

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Wolff admitted he will have to “think outside the box” when it comes to his driver line-up next season.

He said: “Of course from a German point of view, that would be a great thing, but we must remain true to our path. Loyalty is incredibly important and part of our values.

“We are loyal to our current drivers and don’t want to enter into negotiations at a time when the season hasn’t even started.

“Only then (once the season has started) you will think outside the box and see what else is possible.

“In the end, it’s the performance and the dynamics between the drivers that count.

“Of course, the marketing aspect also plays a role and we have to take all these factors into account.”

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Piers Morgan shocked by Lewis Hamilton furious message after George Floyd death

Lewis Hamilton laid into his F1 peers following their silence in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death and the Brit wrote a message on Instagram which left Piers Morgan shocked.

Floyd, an unarmed black man, died after being arrested by police in the American state of Minnesota.

That sparked riots across the States as the public protest against the authorities.

Hamilton used his platform to tell his 16.3million followers of his frustration that F1 drivers failed to speak out.

“I see those of you who are staying silent, some of you the biggest of stars yet you stay silent in the midst of injustice,” Hamilton wrote on Instagram.

“Not a sign from anybody in my industry which of course is a white-dominated sport. I’m one of the only people of colour there yet I stand alone.

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“I would have thought by now you would see why this happens and say something about it but you can’t stand alongside us. Just know I know who you are and I see you.”

The outburst led to a large number of F1 stars taking to social media to condemn Floyd’s death.

And Good Morning Britain host Morgan was blown away by Hamilton’s passionate rant.

“Wow. Powerful by @LewisHamilton,” Morgan tweeted.

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The six time F1 world champion added: “There can be no peace until our so-called leaders make change,” he said.

“This is not just America, this is the UK, this is Spain, this is Italy and all over.

“The way minorities are treated has to change, how you educate those in your country of equality, racism, classism and that we are all the same!

“We are not born with racism and hate in our hearts, it is taught by those we look up to.”

Former F1 driver Karun Chandhok also paid tribute to Hamilton encouraging others to voice their opinions.

“Fair play to @LewisHamilton to speak up,” he said. “As part of the minority of non-white people in motorsport, I’m lucky that I’ve never felt any negativity.

“But sport has the ability to unite. Others like George Floyd were not so lucky & society worldwide needs to change #BlackLivesMatter.”

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Silverstone: F1 races given go-ahead by UK government

Formula 1 has been given the go-ahead by the UK government to hold two races at Silverstone this summer, BBC Sport has been told.

F1 sources say people involved in elite sports events will be exempt from a requirement on international travellers to self-isolate for 14 days.

Sports will be required to submit and win approval for a detailed plan of their movements and activities.

The government is expected to confirm the move later this month.

The exemption should also allow the Champions League to resume and this summer’s cricket Test series in England to go ahead.

An F1 spokesperson said: “We welcome the government’s efforts to ensure elite sport can continue to operate and their support for our return to racing.

“We will maintain a close dialogue with them in the coming weeks as we prepare to start our season in the first week of July.”

On Saturday, the culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, announced that sport can resume behind closed doors subject to strict conditions, with social distancing maintained where possible.

He said: “Football, tennis, horse racing, Formula 1, cricket, golf, rugby, snooker and others – all are set to return to our screens shortly.”

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F1 bosses have been working on extensive plans to ensure their races are as safe as possible in the context of the coronavirus crisis that has laid waste the start of the season, which has seen the first 10 races called off.

The races will be held behind closed doors, with no spectators allowed, and teams will take the minimum number of operational staff.

Personnel will be tested before travelling to ensure they are virus-free, flown on charter jets and tested every couple of days while at the events.

Teams will be kept apart from each other and stay in different hotels, to which they will travel by bus to minimise contact with the public.

F1 is poised to confirm the European part of a rescheduled 2020 season early this week, with plans to start the campaign with two races in Austria on 5 and 12 July, followed by a third in Hungary on 19 July.

The Silverstone events would follow in early August, before – it is believed – further races in Spain, Belgium and Italy.

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NASCAR at Bristol live race updates, results, highlights from the Supermarket Heroes 500

For the first time since NASCAR’s return from the COVID-19 shutdown, fans will get to see some short-track racing at Bristol Motor Speedway in Sunday’s Cup Series race, the Supermarket Heroes 500.

Known as “The World’s Fastest Half-Mile,” races at Bristol have a reputation for being action-packed, so don’t be surprised if there are some post-race feuds between drivers.

The last time NASCAR raced at Bristol, Denny Hamlin took home the checkered flag. He’ll start in 10th for Sunday’s race, while Brad Keselowski will start on the pole. Chase Elliott, winner of Wednesday night’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, will look for back-to-back victories as he starts in sixth.

Sporting News is tracking live race updates and lap-by-lap highlights from Sunday’s NASCAR race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Follow along below for complete results from the Supermarket Heroes 500.

NASCAR at Bristol live updates, highlights from Supermarket Heroes 500

4:19 p.m. — Second competition caution is out after 60 laps: Brad Keselowski has led every lap so far.

4:13 p.m. — After 40 laps, Keselowski still leads with Aric Almirola, Joey Logano, Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney right behind him.

4:03 p.m. — First of two competition yellows is out after 20 laps: Brad Keselowski still leads, Martin TruexJr. in second, Ryan Blaney, Aric Almirola and Joey Logano round out the top five.

3:57 p.m. — Caution out Ryan Newman on Lap No. 8 after he spins out. No one hit him, looks like he wasn’t able to get any grip on the inside of the track.

3:45 p.m. — Engines are started and we’re finally about to get underway.

What time does the NASCAR race start today?

The 3:30 p.m. ET start time for Sunday’s race at Bristol is the second such start time on NASCAR’s modified Cup Series schedule for 2020, as the series’ return to racing at Darlington a couple weeks ago featured a late afternoon green flag. The race at Homestead on June 14 also is scheduled to start at 3:30 p.m. ET.

The other two day races on NASCAR’s confirmed short-term schedule (Atlanta and Talladega) will start at 3 p.m. ET. The mid-week night race at Martinsville scheduled for June 10 will start at 7 p.m. ET.

NASCAR starting lineup at Bristol

The same protocol that set the lineup for Sunday’s Bristol race will be used to set the lineup for the upcoming Cup Series races at Atlanta (June 7), Martinsville (June 10), Homestead-Miami (June 14) and Talladega (June 21). All of those races also will run without prior practice sessions with the exception of Talladega, which will have an hour-long practice session the day before the race.

As for Sunday’s race at Bristol, the draw for the starting lineup took place Friday. Below are the results.

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Daniel Ricciardo predicts 'chaos' ahead of F1 return at Austrian GP

Renault star Daniel Ricciardo predicts ‘chaos’ ahead of F1’s proposed return at the Austrian Grand Prix in July, with drivers having gone SEVEN months without racing

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Daniel Ricciardo expects the Formula One grid to feature ‘some form of chaos’ once the Formula One season finally starts following the coronavirus chaos.

The pandemic has led to the first 10 rounds of the season being at least postponed, with other events including the prestigious Monaco Grand Prix.

Drivers have therefore not raced competitively on track since the 2019 season ended in December at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, dominated by world champion Lewis Hamilton.

Daniel Ricciardo has predicted ‘some form of chaos’ when F1 racing resumes in July

Although Ricciardo doesn’t expect the chaos to manifest itself into major incidents, he does suggest that with only a few days of pre-season testing between the drivers over the last half-year, some will be able to thrive more on the adrenaline a return will bring.

‘Hopefully [it is] in a controlled manner,’ Ricciardo said speaking on BBC 5 Live.

‘When I say chaos, I’m not really referencing cars everywhere, but I’m just referencing there’s going to be so much, a combination of rust, emotion, excitement, just eagerness.

F1 drivers have not raced competitively on track since the 2019 Abu Dhabi GP in December

‘Everyone is going to be ready to go. I think you’re going to get some guys who perform on that level of adrenaline, and others who might not.

‘That’s going to create some bold overtakes and some miscalculated ones. You’re going to see a bit of everything, I’m sure.’

The Australian, who is competing in his final season at Renault before moving to McLaren for next year, believes the more experienced drivers will be at an advantage once racing is due to resume at the Red Bull Ring on July 5 when asked on whether younger drivers may struggle with the physical demands following a long absence.

Ricciardo (right) will spend his final season at Renault before joining McLaren next season

‘I think if this was my first year or two years in F1, if I was still not completely adapted to it, my answer would be yes,’ Ricciardo adapted.

‘I’ve noticed over time, my first few winter testings in the early part of my career, day one always felt like a bit of a shock to the system again. The further my career has gone on, the less of a shock that has been.

‘The body is conditioned enough by now with experience that it will be OK. I would say the rookies, the first year, second year guys would feel it a little more.’




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F1’s first aero development handicap system explained

Formula 1 will introduce its first handicap system for aerodynamic development from next year – but what exactly does it mean, and what impact might it have on the competitiveness of the grid?

As part of the extensive package of cost-cutting and sporting rules announced by the FIA for forthcoming years – moves accelerated by the onset of the coronavirus crisis – this is a significant change to the way F1 regulates development work carried out by teams.

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“For the first time, we’re going to have a handicap system in Formula 1,” said Sky F1’s Ted Kravitz of the incoming restrictions from 2021.

“Like the best horse getting lead adding to his saddle in a handicap race, there’s going to be a penalty for success.”

The change centres around the amount of time teams will have to develop cars and parts in wind tunnels and on Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) systems at their factories.

“Formula 1 teams used to run their wind tunnels every hour of the day for seven days a week,” explained Kravitz.

“That obviously cost a lot of money because if you let the engineers run away with their ideas, they’ll come up with loads of different designs and you will need a huge model-making department to build then. Then you’d need day and night shifts to run them in the wind tunnel.

“So they had already cut down the time allowed and will do so again from 2021. But it is still quite a lot of wind-tunnel time, it’s not as if teams will suddenly be getting a tiny amount. The original thought was that it just didn’t get out of control for seven days a week.”

But, this time, it is not just the reduction in the time allowed which is significant.

Under the revised regulations from 2021, each team’s allotted wind-tunnel time will be based on a sliding scale. The team at the top of the standings will receive the least amount, while the team at the bottom will be allotted the most.

The allocation for the first six months of the year will be based on the results of the previous season’s Constructors’ Championship, while the second half will be formed on where teams stand as of June 30 of that season.

“This has been mooted before and teams have said ‘this is not really the way Formula 1 is and goes against the DNA of success being rewarded’,” said Kravitz.

“But they needed some way of helping the small and midfield teams get on terms with the big teams that wasn’t just money.”

So what’s the actual new rule?

A new default level of 40 wind tunnel runs per week, down from 65 at the moment, is being introduced – which the fifth-placed team will operate to.

The four teams above them will be allotted fewer hours, while the four teams behind them will operate with more hours.

For example, were the new regulations in place this year, world champions Mercedes would run at 90 per cent of the base level (36 runs per week) – while Williams, who finished last in the 2019 standings, would be allowed 112.5 per cent (45 runs) of the time.

From 2022-2025, that gap between front and back increases, with increments of five per cent. So whereas the first-placed team would be allowed 28 runs per week, the 10th team would have 46.

Essentially, the teams further down the grid will have more time to spend working on designs in the wind tunnel to try and close the competitive gap.

What impact could it have?

The new rule undoubtedly breaks with tradition and is one of a number of measures designed to close up the grid into the next decade. But how significant could the restrictions prove – particularly into 2022, when F1 car design is being overhauled?

“This new rule offers the midfield and lower-down teams a way of getting back and becoming more competitive that’s not just about budget. It’s giving them more time in wind tunnels and that’s why they’ve done it,” said Kravitz.

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