Briatore set to work on ‘improving the show’ in F1

4 Comments

Flavio Briatore is set to return to Formula 1 as the head of a new popularity working group with the task of ‘improving the show’ in the sport.

Following a fall in the global TV audience of 50m and low attendances for some of the grands prix this season, there has been a focus on improving the racing in Formula 1 and making it more appealing to fans.

In an attempt to keep the world championship alive, a double points round has been introduced at the end of the year in Abu Dhabi, and standing restarts after a safety car period will become commonplace in 2015.

According to reports in the Hungarian Grand Prix paddock, former Renault team principal Flavio Briatore has been asked to head up a popularity working group that will come up with other ideas. Introducing a success ballast is reportedly one option that has already been proposed, penalizing the winners with a heavier car for the next race.

Briatore left Formula 1 in 2009 after he was found to have played an instrumental part in Renault’s fixing of the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix. Nelson Piquet Jr. was told to deliberately crash his car to allow teammate Fernando Alonso to jump ahead of the field under the safety car, with the Spaniard eventually winning the race from 15th place on the grid.

However, it now appears that he has a way back into the sport with this role. It will be interesting to see what ideas are brought forward, and how his vision for the future of F1 compares with that of the F1 Strategy Group.

Schmidt Peterson hires IndyCar’s first female lead engineer, will work with Hinchcliffe

Photo courtesy Audi Sport
Leave a comment

Leena Gade, who helped lead Audi to three wins in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, has joined Schmidt Peterson Motorsports as lead engineer for the No. 5 Arrow Electronics Honda of driver James Hinchcliffe.

“I’m really honored that I’ve got a chance to come across and work in INDYCAR,” Gade said in a team media release. “When I was a kid, I used to watch Indy car (racing), especially when Nigel Mansell first came over (in 1993), and I followed it quite a lot.

“During my sports car days, it was a little less so, until I had friends come across to the U.S. to work in it like Piers (Phillips, SPM’s general manager).

“I’m quite honored to be given the chance. It is going to be something completely different to anything I’ve ever done before, so it’s a big learning curve, but it’s a challenge that I’m really relishing, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Gade, who grew up in India and is from Great Britain, is one of the most recognized engineers in all forms of international motorsports. She becomes the first female lead engineer in Verizon IndyCar Series history.

She’s also the second female lead engineer in Indy racing history, joining Diane Holl, who served as engineer for Adrian Fernandez, Tony Kanaan (Tasman Motorsports) and Richie Hearn (Della Penna Motorsports) in CART from 1996-2000.

Gade, who holds engineering degrees from the University of Manchester in England, has engineered cars in several race series and for several manufacturers, including F1, BMW, A1 Grand Prix, GT racing, Jaguar, Audi and most recently with Bentley Motorsport.

She became the first female race engineer to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2011, and followed that up with another Le Mans win in 2012, as well as being part of the World Endurance Championship drivers and manufacturers titles in the same year.

Also in 2012, she was named FIA WEC “Man of the Year” and was awarded the C&R Racing Women in Technology award from the Lyn St. James Women in the Winner’s Circle Foundation.

Her team also won Le Mans for a third time in 2014.

“There was significant interest in Leena amongst the international motorsports community, so we’re really excited that she sees where we’re taking SPM, believes in what we’re doing and that she is now a part of our organization,” Piers Phillips said. “ I’ve known Leena for quite some time now and I’ve worked alongside her, so I knew the credit she’s been given is well deserved. We’re very much looking forward to throwing her into the deep end and seeing her add to the team’s success.”

Gade and Hinchcliffe go into the deep end that Phillips referenced when they take part in a team test Jan. 24 at Sebring International Raceway, the first time the pair will work together.