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Williams: Strategy Group needs to set agendas aside to focus on fans

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BIRMINGHAM – Williams Martini Racing deputy team principal Claire Williams has called on the Formula 1 Strategy Group members to set aside their agendas and place a greater focus on fan engagement.

The F1 Strategy Group is made up of representatives from Ferrari, Mercedes, Williams, Red Bull, McLaren and Force India, and jointly makes decisions on the future of the sport with the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone’s Formula One Management.

Since coming into existence in 2013, the Strategy Group has struggled to push through a great deal of meaningful change in F1, instead receiving criticism for its exclusive nature and inability for those included to agree on matters.

Speaking at Autosport International in Birmingham, England on Saturday, Williams made no secret of her frustration with the Strategy Group, but acknowledged that the lack of agreement was due to the differing agendas and positions of its member teams.

“We can’t agree and it’s really frustrating,” Williams said. “As part of my role I sit on the Strategy Group and I’ve been sitting in those meetings now for two-and-a-bit years. These meetings go on for like six hours, and I think the only thing that we’ve really agreed in the double points system in Abu Dhabi that we then decided to take out.

“It can be frustrating, but you have to understand that there are teams around that table, there’s the governing body, and then there’s the promoter. Everybody has different agendas. Naturally everyone has different agendas because for a start we all have very different business models.

“We’re in the sport for some of us different reasons. We all have different capabilities within our businesses as well. If you’ve got a suggestion on how to save costs, let’s ban wind tunnels, for teams like Williams, McLaren, whoever else has invested millions and millions of pounds, you’re never going to agree on that.

“So unfortunately it is one of those situations where democracy doesn’t necessarily do the best job for our sport.”

Williams called on the Strategy Group members to set aside their agendas where possible to try and improve how F1 engages with fans and attracts future generations.

“As a Strategy Group we need to be thinking, setting those agendas aside and sitting there and thinking what is going to keep engaging the fans that we have watching our sport and engage a future generation of fans,” Williams said.

“That’s really important to me. Yes, looking at the cars from a technical regulations is hugely important for the work involved in the Strategy Group, but also a case of do we need to look at race weekends: the format of those to make sure that they’re engaging, when are we going out on air.

“All those kind of things are what we need to be looking at where agendas don’t need to come into play so much.”

Alonso enjoys maiden Toyota LMP1 test, ends as second-fastest rookie

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Fernando Alonso took his first step towards a possible entry to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2018 by testing an LMP1 car for the first time with Toyota in Bahrain on Sunday.

Two-time Formula 1 world champion Alonso has made no secret of his desire to race at Le Mans, having signed a deal to race in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January as preparation for a possible entry at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

Toyota confirmed after Saturday’s FIA World Endurance Championship finale in Bahrain that Alonso would be testing its TS050 Hybrid LMP1 car in the traditional rookie test on Sunday.

Alonso was given the car for the bulk of the five-hour test day following an initial shakedown by Sebastien Buemi, completing 113 laps in total – more than any other driver – and posting a best lap time of 1:43.013.

“It was a great day,” Alonso said. “Testing an LMP1 car is always a nice thing for any racing driver because these cars are amazing to drive. They are very consistent throughout a stint which is a positive thing.

“I have wanted to test a car like this for a long time now and today I could achieve that, so I am happy.”

However, Alonso did not finish as the fastest rookie, with that honor instead going to Pietro Fittipaldi, who was the final driver to drive the Porsche 919 Hybrid ahead of the closure of the German marque’s LMP1 program.

Alonso is now set to head back to Europe before a test in United Autosports’ LMP2 car on Tuesday as part of his Daytona preparation, before then returning to the Middle East for the F1 season finale in Abu Dhabi next weekend.