Big news day marks end to August break
New drivers, new calendar...
After the August break, Formula 1 burst back into life at Spa with a spate of news.
Valtteri Bottas, for one, has been definitively signed up by Mercedes for 2020.
"Well, it wasn’t a big deal. The team had an option on me so one morning I got an email that the signature is done, and that’s it," the newly 30-year-old Finn smiled to C More.
The rumour in the paddock is that while Toto Wolff wanted to give the seat to Esteban Ocon, Lewis Hamilton and team engineers pushed for Bottas to stay.
Hamilton called it a "smart decision. Valtteri and I get along very well".
Also confirmed, therefore, is Ocon’s loan to Renault, which according to La Gazzetta dello Sport will be for 2020 and also 2021.
Wolff, Frenchman Ocon and Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul will reportedly talk to the media on Saturday about the details of the deal.
In other driver news, a glum-looking Pierre Gasly, now wearing Toro Rosso gear, admitted it was "a shock" to be told by Red Bull’s Dr Helmut Marko about his demotion.
"I heard on the morning of the announcement," he said. "They didn’t say anything to me in Budapest."
But Max Verstappen suggested to reporters that he knew before Gasly, adding: "They told me when I was on the simulator before holidays so for me it was not a surprise."
When asked if a return to Red Bull one day might be on the cards, Gasly answered: "I am told that it is possible, and I think there could be other opportunities as well."
Liberty Media, meanwhile, finally confirmed the accuracy of the leaked provisional calendar for 2020. The only real additional news is that a final signature on Monza’s Italian GP next year still needs to be added.
Sebastian Vettel said of the unprecedented 22-race schedule: "I suppose more races means more income, but personally I think 16 races is enough.
"I grew up with that number and it seems healthy to me," said the Ferrari driver.
Vettel also called the exclusion of his home grand prix at Hockenheim "nonsense".
To compensate for the extra race next year, pre-season testing has been further reduced, from eight days to just six. In-season testing has been scrapped altogether.
"I guess if you asked the teams ten years ago what they thought about six days for the whole year, they would say it’s impossible. But we will handle it," said Haas boss Gunther Steiner.
The 2020 provisional F1 calendar:
|26-28 June||France||Paul Ricard|
|3-5 July||Austria||Red Bull Ring|
|31 July-2 August||Hungary||Hungaroring|
|18-20 September||Singapore||Marina Bay|
|23-25 October||USA||Circuit of The Americas|
|29 October-1 November||Mexico||Mexico City|
|27-29 November||Abu Dhabi||Yas Marina|