F1 News and Notes: Why 7-Time Champ Lewis Hamilton’s Nose Stud Is Okay in 2023
Formula 1’s 2023 season began in Bahrain and Autoweek was there to delve behind-the-scenes at the first of 23 rounds this year.
Hamilton Jewelry Saga Crops Up Again
Good news for those who were tired of the jewelry saga throughout 2022—it returned, albeit briefly, in Bahrain.
Lewis Hamilton received a medical exemption last year regarding his nose stud, and on Friday morning Mercedes did not confirm during self-policing that Hamilton complied with the requirement not to wear any jewelry.
The FIA’s stewards consulted the Medical Delegate following a hearing in which Mercedes team manager Ron Meadows and a team doctor, and opted to take no further action. They cited "concerns about disfigurement with frequent attempts at removal of the device," allowing Hamilton to compete with the stud.
F1 revenue, attendance grows
Formula 1 has posted record revenues and fan attendances as interest in the championship continues to grow.
Liberty Media revealed that overall revenue grew from $2.136 billion in 2021 to $2.573 billion in 2022, meaning that payments made to teams will also rise. A prize pool of $1.157 billion will be shared between the 10 teams compared to $1.068 billion the previous year.
Formula 1 also reported a global fan attendance of 5.7 million through the 2022 season, a rise of 36% compared to 2019, the last year in which a comparison is possible due to pandemic restrictions across 2020-21.
Spanish GP Drops Final Chicane
There will be a revision to the layout at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya this year – and one that will have fans rejoicing. The universally loathed final chicane—a fiddly high-curbed slow-speed right-left-right—will be removed.
It has been in place since 2007, slowing down speeds through the final sector, but it has had little to no impact on the quality of racing along the subsequent pit straight. Drivers will now bypass the chicane, re-creating the pre-2007 layout, meaning the final two turns will be high-speed right-handers.
It is the main focus of upgrades to the venue, which also includes an extended run off at Turn 1, a new timing tower, and renovations to the hospitality facilities.
AlphaTauri Denies F1 Team Is for Sale
AlphaTauri has strenuously denied rumors that its Formula 1 team is for sale. The squad has been owned by Red Bull since 2005 but reports emerged in German media that the energy drinks company was considering a sale, following the death last year of Red Bull co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz. However, that was swiftly dismissed.
“I had some very good meetings with Oliver Mintzlaff (CEO of Corporate Projects at Red Bull), who confirmed that the shareholders will not sell Scuderia AlphaTauri, and that Red Bull will continue supporting the team in the future. All these rumors have no foundation.”
One suggestion, not directly addressed, was that Red Bull is evaluating whether to relocate AlphaTauri from its current base in Faenza, Italy.
What's the Deal With Tottenham?
Formula 1 has signed a 15-year partnership with English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur.
As part of the agreement with the soccer club, an electric karting facility—to be accredited by the National Karting Association—will be built below the South Stand of the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The 62,850-capacity stadium is one of the newest in London, having only opened in 2019.
Formula 1 and Spurs will also collaborate on a driver academy program, deliver educational opportunities for local children to engage in motorsport, and work on sustainability strategies. The karting facility is due to open later in 2023.
Baku Wants Calendar Spot Beyond 2023
Organizers of Formula 1’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix are eyeing a long-term contract extension after firmly establishing the event on the calendar.
Baku debuted in 2016 and has since only been absent in 2020—due to the pandemic—with the high-speed street track a popular location. Baku’s layout remains unchanged for 2023 though the track will be resurfaced ahead of the event—the fourth round of the season—on April 30. Tweaks have been made to the management structure ahead of the 2023 running, with Maqsud Farzullayev replacing Arif Rahimov as the general director and promoter, while Turab Teymurov, who has worked at the Baku City Circuit since its inception, has taken on media responsibilities.
Baku is expecting 30,000 spectators per day with fans from Great Britain and the Netherlands making up most of the non-local fans. Teymurov revealed that Baku has essentially lost the Russian market since the country’s assault on Ukraine began in February 2022.
McLaren Runs On-Car Digital Advertising
McLaren has been granted permission to run dynamic advertising panels on its MCL60 through the 2023 season. The team debuted the small panels, located either side of the cockpit, during practice at last year’s U.S. Grand Prix, and are visible from the onboard cameras utilized by Formula 1.
The two-display system will rotate through different branding options for one of McLaren’s partners, Google Chrome, and it is the first time such a structure has run on a Formula 1 car at grands prix. The panels weigh just under 200 grams each and McLaren has opted to install the structures to run on the cars this year.
Though judging by its lowly Bahrain performance, they may not get much coverage. McLaren drivers Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri finished 17th and 20th.
Alonso Has Strong Weekend … in F3
Fernando Alonso’s strong weekend in Bahrain extended to the opening round of the FIA Formula 3 season.
Alonso, together with some of his closest advisors, runs the A14 Management group, which has three proteges competing in Formula 3 this year. Pepe Marti won Saturday’s Sprint Race while Gabriel Bortoleto took the Feature Race victory on Sunday after a penalty for on-the-road winner Gabriele Mini.
The latter is highly-rated and was impressive throughout his debut weekend aged just 17, marking him out as one-to-watch across the coming years. He was signed to Alpine’s scheme for 2023, attended pre-season testing with the team, and is also part of the All Road Management group run by the experienced and savvy Nicholas Todt, son of ex-FIA President Jean. Todt and ARM first made their name managing Felipe Massa and has supported the career of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc since karting.