Hamilton in talks with Ferrari – Abu Dhabi Grand Prix noticebook

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Abu Dhabi, Yas Marina Circuitae

As the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship came to an end in Abu Dhabi, the focus was already set on the future of the sport. The unprecedented flirtation between Lewis Hamilton and Scuderia Ferrari was arguably the biggest talking point that kept the paddock excited for the season-ending weekend.

Lewis in talks with Ferrari – Lewis Hamilton did not deny the rumours that he had been in talks with Ferrari over a potential contract for the sport’s post-2020 era. Italy’s La Gazetta dello Sport reported in Abu Dhabi that the Briton has already met twice with Ferrari chairman John Elkann. When asked about the meetings, Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said that he was happy that Hamilton would be available after 2020 as his contract with Mercedes would run out. The chance for Hamilton to leave the Mercedes outfit after their ultra-successful stint could be boosted by the top-level management changes at the Mercedes concern. After the Dieter Zetsche-era, the new boss Ola Kallenius has already indicated that his firm might cut costs for the future even if it stays committed to the sport after 2020.

The six-time world champion did not want to give away any details and insisted that he is yet to decide about his future plans. "I think they (Ferrari) have two great drivers already so who knows what the driver market is going to be doing over the next year. I honestly don’t know how the next phase is going to go when it comes to contract."

Convergence of the power unit – Power unit regulations will remain stable for the post-2020 era of the sport when Formula One is set to go through major changes in terms of technical, financial and sporting regulations. When asked about the current engine situation in Formula One, Williams deputy team principal Claire Williams thinks that keeping the technical rules regarding the hybrid power unit stable helps the convergence between the units of the different engine manufacturers. “I think that the stability of regulations is showing that actual performance is converging which is good for the sport.”

Although the stable regulation would indicate that manufacturers have already reached almost the maximum with the current power units, Williams reckons that some interesting manufacturers can still come up with interesting solutions in the future. “I continue to believe that there are some breakthroughs to come that will come with new processes, with new materials, so that’s interesting, so you should watch this space and see what it still has to offer and going back to what I was mentioning before, there is an awful lot of innovation,” she said.

Veto right retained – Amid discussions to frame the new Concorde Agreement for 2021, Ferrari chairman Louis C. Camilleri disclosed that his company has retained its veto right which it can block theoretically every move with. The Scuderia last used the veto in 2015 when there were discussions about a maximum price for engines and gearboxes.

When asked by the Financial Times when he thinks Ferrari can use its unique veto rights in the foreseeable future, Camilleri said that his firm does not intend to resort to it by all means. “We have retained the veto rights and those are critical not just for Ferrari but for F1 as well. Will we ever use it? I doubt it. [But] just the fact of having it, does it get people’s attention? I think so,” he said.

Server crash – FIA Formula One race director Michael Masi said that a data server crash led to the DRS failure in Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The governing body realized the problem on lap 2, forcing them to disable the device before it could make sure that it worked properly.

Analysing the issue, Masi communicated that this race was the first one when the overtaking aid failed in a session since its introduction in 2011. “Basically, immediately we disabled it and it wasn’t until we were 100% confident that it was all not only back up and running, but back up and running with the correct data available, that we re-enabled it, he said.

No decision yet – According to Formula One CEO Chasey Carey, the sport’s commercial boss Sean Bratches is yet to make a decision over his future. The Berlin-born businessman who previously spent 27 years at ESPN arrived back in 2017 when Liberty Media gained control of Formula One.

While Chase Carey and Ross Brawn have already committed themselves to staying in their roles to complete the sport’s major overhaul, Bratches finds himself in dilemma for personal reasons. The 59-year-old’s family lives in the US while he has to work in London and travels to most venues. "So when we get past this weekend and get back to London we'll have a chance to sort of talk about where do we go from here? But we haven't made any decisions,” Carey said.

Not a rarity – After Ferrari was fined EUR50000 for a false declaration of fuel in Charles Leclerc’s car, team boss Mattia Binotto said that his outfit has been checked for fuel levels „at least ten times” during the 2019 season. According to the Swiss-Italian, there have been no issues with the checks before the incident in Abu Dhabi which is a procedure that is easy for the teams to understand.