F1 Business Diary 2018: The Canadian Grand Prix

Sebastian Vettel leapfrogs Lewis Hamilton as VIP guest waves chequered flag one lap too early.

F1 Business Diary 2018: The Canadian Grand Prix

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel claimed his third win of the season at the Canadian Grand Prix on Sunday to leapfrog Lewis Hamilton and retake the championship lead.

The German never looked back after storming to pole position in qualifying in Montreal, and cruised to an untroubled triumph ahead of Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.

In what was hardly the most memorable of races, Vettel’s victory was somewhat outshone when the chequered flag was waved one lap too early by Canadian model Winnie Harlow, a VIP guest at the race.

The gaffe prompted Vettel to quip over the team radio: “Tell them not the wave the flag when it’s not done.”

Despite the unwelcome distraction, Vettel carried on his merry way to take the flag again after the correct 70 laps, only for the race to be declared at 68, based on the official count back rules, as a result of the mistake.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff described the outcome as a “major wake-up call” for his team, with Hamilton in particular struggling with engine troubles at a track where he had won six times in the previous ten races.

Force India play down takeover talks

Force India have dismissed fresh reports of a takeover deal after The Telegraph claimed that the team was close to finalising a UK£100 million agreement with Rich Energy.

The British energy drinks firm has been closely linked with the Silverstone-based outfit since the beginning of this year, although its interest was widely thought to have cooled in recent months.

Rich Energy chief executive William Storey said at the end of April that the company had an official offer to buy Force India accepted in principal and that a deal was nearing its conclusion.

Force India’s deputy team principal Bob Fernley, however, has now acknowledged talks were taking place, but denied that a deal was any closer to being completed than previously.

"It's no secret that they've been interested, but so have other people," Fernley told Autosport. "There's nothing moved forward to my knowledge.

"We've not been instructed about anything yet. All those issues are dealt with by the shareholders, they're not a team issue, so we don't have any involvement in it at all."

The fresh rumours have surfaced shortly after Vijay Mallya resigned as a director of Formula One team Force India to focus on his legal difficulties.

Force India's takeover saga looks set to rumble on after the team played down reports of an imminent deal with Rich Energy

Carey gives Vietnam the green light

Formula One chief executive Chase Carey has admitted that he is excited by the prospect of a race in Vietnam as the series ramps up its plans to expand in Asia.

US media reports in January said Formula One was exploring the possibility of taking a Grand Prix to Hanoi, and the series is now in talks with Vietnamese authorities about staging a street race in the city, possibly as early as 2020, although a deal is yet to be confirmed.

A new leg in Vietnam would see a fifth Asian race added to Formula One’s global calendar, making up for the departure of Malaysia.

"Vietnam's a very exciting country. A country that's caught the world's imagination and in many ways that's where we want to be," Carey (right) told a sport conference in the Philippines organised by the International Automobile Federation (FIA).

"I think we're excited about the opportunity to grow in Asia, we're excited about the opportunities that we're discussing in Vietnam, certainly," he added.

Time ticking for Red Bull

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has revealed that the team is set to decide on whether their engine suppliers for 2019 and beyond will be Honda or Renault, although the latter says it cannot wait until July’s Austrian Grand Prix for the decision and could withdraw its latest offer before then.

The original May deadline was extended by Renault, and Horner previously said the team would make its choice during the summer break before that was moved forward to the Austrian Grand Prix.

Red Bull are in the final year of their existing engine deal with Renault while junior outfit Toro Rosso swapped out McLaren for Honda at the end of last season.

Red Bull were keen to use Sunday’s race in Canada and the French Grand Prix next weekend to gather data to compare Renault and Honda’s latest specifications, both of which were introduced ahead of the weekend’s proceedings in Montreal.

However, Renault managing director Cyril Abiteboul now claims that Austria is too late for the engineers, adding that he wants a concrete decision before the French Grand Prix. 

"I guess they have all the information that they need now," Abiteboul said, speaking to Autosport. "I don't see why they are going to further delay the decision.

"As per the regulations, [the deadline] was 15th May, and then we accepted to extend that a little bit on the back of 12 years of good collaboration.

"But past a certain point, the offer we made, and that they requested, will not stand.”

Abiteboul, right, says Renault want Red Bull to make a decision on their new engine supplier before the Austrian Grand Prix  

Flagged up

Although Harlow’s aforementioned misdemeanour didn’t affect the outcome of the race, Formula One has since come out and said that the incident will see it review its procedures going forward.

Harlow (left), 23, blamed the mistake on a race official who had prematurely told her to wave the flag, and Formula One race director later confirmed that the error was down to a simple miscommunication between the official starter and the crew in the starter’s tower.

Sunday’s incident was largely met by shrugs and a few heads in hands, but there were also very real safety concerns given that course workers traditionally come out of their safety areas to stand alongside the track when the race reaches its conclusion. 

"We need to review procedures and make sure we have a very simple procedure for every circuit," said Whiting.

"We're dealing with different human beings, different countries, different languages and it's not always absolutely perfect. Of course we strive for perfection but fortunately there was no harm done as far as it affected the result."

Too predictable for Alonso

Fernando Alonso was quick to criticise “probably the most boring race ever” after the Monaco Grand Prix at the end of May, and seemed to be equally unimpressed in Canada.

Doubts about Alonso’s future have been growing louder in recent weeks, and the Spaniard (right) did little to put out the flames on Sunday.

After retiring early during what was his 300th Grand Prix weekend, Alonso was asked what he wanted to talk about, and chose only to mention his upcoming drive in the 24 Hours of Le Mans rather than anything related to Formula One.

“Le Mans,” he answered.

“It will be another new experience there and hopefully a good race for us.

“We are leading the World Endurance Championship after the race in Spa so we are focused on that right now after the retirement today.”

He later added that he hopes to be racing again in Montreal next season, but said McLaren need to improve the reliability of their race car to have any hope of being competitive for the rest of this year.