Fernley: F1 Strategy Group not fit for purpose

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Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley has launched an attack on the Formula 1 Strategy Group, saying that it is unfit for purpose following its latest meeting in England last week.

The F1 Strategy Group is made up of representatives from just six of the ten F1 teams, but holds a great deal of power in determining the future direction for the sport.

Last week, the decision was taken to push for a faster F1 from 2017 by dramatically changing the current technical regulations, despite the current rules only being introduced 14 months ago.

The decision to rewrite the regulations has split opinion within the sport, and many of the smaller teams have become increasingly frustrated by the lack of focus on important issues such as cost control.

Speaking in the FIA press conference on Thursday, Fernley made his thoughts on the Strategy Group clear, calling for a more autocratic rule of F1 by the FIA and the commercial rights holder, the F1 Group.

“I think that the problem I have is that I don’t think the Strategy Group is fit for purpose and we should be looking at something where we have a clear programme that delivers results,” Fernley said.

“We’ve have 18 months or two years of Strategy Group work with nothing coming out of it. I think we need to look at the system in a better way.

“In days gone by, with Max [Mosley] and Bernie [Ecclestone] in charge, there would be none of that. We would know exactly where we’re going.

“I don’t think you should have the teams making decisions on where Formula 1 should go. The teams should be told where Formula 1 is going.”

When asked whether the Strategy Group had had its day, Fernley was abrupt, saying: “Well I don’t think it ever had its day. End of story.”

The idea of a more autocratic control of F1 was supported by Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, who said that a division in the teams’ goals was inevitable.

“It’s rather predictable: Bob’s going to ask for more money, Toto [Wolff, Mercedes team boss] is going to not want to change anything and we want to change engines,” Horner said. “So every team has got its own agenda and it’s going to fight its own corner.

“I think that the sport is governed by the FIA and it’s promoted by FOM. It’s those guys that need to get together and say ‘what do we want Formula 1 to be?’ Yes, we want it to go quicker, we want cars to be more aggressive to drive – but you’re never going to keep everybody happy.

“I think that Bernie and Jean [Todt, FIA president] need to get together and say ‘this is what we want the product to be, this is how it needs to be governed,’ and then give us the entry form and see if we want to enter or not.

“Because I think putting it in the team’s environment to try and agree a set of regulations – you’re never going to get everybody on the same piece of paper.”

Provisional Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew ready for IndyCar ride

Road to Indy
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Provisional Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew has done nothing but dominate the 2019 season, winning seven of the 16 races run so far and finishing on the podium in all but two of those events.

Now all the 22-year-old Floridian needs to do to formally clinch the 2019 title is simply start the final two races of the season, both of which will be held this weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

For Askew, his maiden Indy Lights season will likely be one he’ll never forget. 

“It’s been a dream come true,” Askew told NBC Sports. “Being with the championship-winning team from last year, we had a really good shot at winning it again for Andretti Autosport. It’s very rare that we show up to a track and struggle to find speed. 

“That’s a fantastic feeling, especially as a driver. That gave me a lot of confidence and hopes of holding the million dollar check at the end of the year. That was the goal going into it.”

This weekend, Askew will accomplish said goal. The championship will not only bring him a sense of pride, but also the opportunity of a lifetime. 

As an award for being crowned the Indy Lights champion, Askew will be awarded a scholarship that guarantees him entry into a minimum of three NTT IndyCar Series events next year – including the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500. 

Time will only tell which team Askew will race for in IndyCar next season, and whether or not Askew’s rookie campaign will be a full-time or part-time affair, but Askew’s performance during the last few seasons in the Road to Indy system has certainly drawn attention of IndyCar’s top team owners.

In August, Askew had the chance to drive an Indy car for the first time in his career during a test session at Portland International Raceway, driving the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda usually piloted by Scott Dixon.

“It was an opportunity with Chip Ganassi Racing that I was very fortunate to have,” Askew said. “I think with my experience in the past couple of years with Cape Motorsports and this year with Andretti Autosport, going into that test was very helpful.

“Going into the test, it was more of trying to treat it as just another day at the racetrack, when it really wasn’t. It was a fantastic opportunity for me – a great experience – and I hope I can take that into my rookie season next year in IndyCar.” 

The final two races of the 2019 Indy Lights season will take place this weekend on Saturday, September 21 at 6 p.m. ET and Sunday, September 22 at 12:05 p.m. ET. Both races will air live on NBC Sports Gold.

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