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Racing

Wolff urges Red Bull to consider timing of DAS protest

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has urged Red Bull to be “sensitive” to the dangers of overshadowing Formula 1’s season opener in Austria ahead of a potential protest against his team’s DAS (Dual Axis Steering) System.

With Red Bull poised to seek clarification about the legality of the innovative Mercedes device, which could go as far as a formal protest, Wolff is mindful about the risk of F1’s first race back getting bogged down on Sunday night.

Asked if he was worried that what should be a celebration of F1’s comeback could turn sour, Wolff said: “All teams are pretty much aware that we are in a sensitive situation with going racing.

“It’s the first race, and I think on one side, it’s fair enough to seek clarification, [but] on the other side we are aware that we don’t want to end up with a big debate on Sunday.

“I think Christian [Horner, Red Bull boss] is going to take the right actions. Controversy and different judgement on engineering innovation has always been a part of Formula 1, and this is what’s to be be expected in a way and it’s part of the risk.”

Red Bull had indicated before the original season opener in Australia that it would protest the DAS system, which allows Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas to adjust the toe angle of their front wheels through pushing and pulling the steering wheel.

Horner said on Friday that questions his team had on the legality of the device had not been fully answered yet.

“It’s a very clever system,” he explained. “All credit to the ingenuity behind it, but I think the fundamental question for us is, you know, does it comply with the regulations in what is a fundamentally grey area?

“Obviously we do want clarity on it, because it does have an impact regarding the rest of this year. It’s something that’s been outlawed for next year. But the question is, is it right for this year? So these are the questions that we’ll be asking of the FIA through the necessary channels.”

Wolff added that Mercedes felt comfortable with the legality of DAS and was ready to fight its corner if there was a formal protest.

“I respect Christian’s position,” he said. “Clarification is always good. We think we are on the right side. There was a lot of talking and exchange with the FIA.

“That is the reason why we have it on the car, so we will both bring our arguments forward and then let’s see.”

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Car Reviews

EVPassport To Offer $39/Month Unlimited EV Charging, Interoperability, More

Unlimited charging for $39? Really?

EVPassport, a new electric vehicle charging app, promises to deliver unlimited EV charging on a variety of different networks for only $39 per month. With the EVPassport app, EV drivers will have access to DC fast chargers across the Electrify America, EVgo, ChargePoint, and Greenlots networks.

Since those four networks currently control the loin’s share of public charging infrastructure in the US, EVPassport’s coverage will be impressive. In addition to the flat fee, EVPassport offers the convenience of interoperability. With EVPassport, there’s no need to join those networks directly, which requires multiple apps and RFID cards. The EVPassport will be available this summer, however, you can join the wait list and signup now.

Just download the EVPassport and sign up, and you will soon have access to all four of those networks, as well as a few small west-coast-based networks. Initially, the EVPassport app will only be available on iOS,(iPhone) however, an Android app is also in development and should be available later this year. 

EVPassport will offer members access to roughly 2,500 DC fast chargers in the US. The company has plans to add level 2 public chargers to its network sometime in early 2021, but for now, the access is limited to DC fast chargers. They also plan to expand their service to the European market, with a similar offering there as well. 

EVPassport will be compatible with all Electrify America stations and the vast majority of EVgo stations. It will only work with about 50% of ChargePoint stations, and only with the recently installed Greenlots units. The problem with many of the ChargePoint and Greenlots stations is that they are old hardware, and aren’t be compatible. However, all newly-installed stations are compatible and will work with EVPassport, unless they are privately-owned, as is the case with many auto-dealerships and the owner doesn’t want the station to be used as a public charger. 

“Minutes to Charge”

EVPassport aims to simplify EV charging by introducing the Minutes To Charge feature. Instead of the app showing how many kilowatts the DC fast charger can deliver, or what the cost per minute is, it displays how many minutes you’ll need to charge based on your specific car. 

I personally like this feature because it offers the customer a set time that they will need to charge in order to have enough “miles in the tank” to make their destination. This is a very important asset in my opinion. Many EV drivers, especially those new to EVs really don’t know how long they need to charge when they stop at a DC Fast charger. The Minutes to Charge feature will take the guesswork out of the equation and simplify the task.

EVPassport is a collaboration between Recharge, and Smartcar, a connected car app company. I spoke to Aaron Fisher, Co-Founder of Recharge, and asked him if he was getting discounted rates from the networks as I struggled with how they could offer unlimited charging for only $39 per month. He told us that they are currently paying retail rates, but the hope is that in the future when they have many customers, they can negotiate better rates based on volume. 

As for the monthly rate of only $39, there are some months when my Electrify America bill is well over $100.00, so how could they offer unlimited charging at such a low rate? Fisher reminded me that I’m not the average EV driver, since I often road-test many EVs each month, and in that he is correct. Fisher estimates that the average EVPassport user will likely use between $25 and $29 per month, but that they will use the data from early users to refine the program based on usage. 

He then explained that the EVPassport isn’t available for Rideshare services like Lyft or UBER, it’s for personal use only – not commercial enterprise. There will also be a soft-cap that limits how much an individual can spend on electricity per month to eliminate abuse, but those details are still being refined.

“The EV charging experience not only needs to be as simple as getting gasoline, it needs to be better” – Aaron Fisher, Co-Founder of Recharge

Fisher told me the inspiration to create EVPassport was born out of a failed road trip he had with a BMW i3. He was trying to drive from New York City to Hartford, Connecticut, and found out how difficult it was to use public charging. He quickly realized if the public charging experience didn’t improve dramatically, then EV adoption would be stalled. So he set out to create an app that addressed the problems he faced. Fisher credits Tesla for creating a great public charging experience and believes it’s a big reason why Tesla is selling so many cars.

Better charging experience?

We like what we see so far. If EVPassport delivers on its promises, we think it does have the potential to remove some of the pain points of public charging. First off, the flat fee of $39 per month removes the cost-uncertainty of public charging. The cost of DC fast charging varies greatly from network to network, and in some instances from station to station within the same network. 

Also, having the ability to enter the number of miles you need to travel, and have the app tell you exactly how long you need to charge on a specific station will definitely be an asset to many EV owners. Tesla’s do this now on Superchargers while you have a destination set in the navigation system, and it’s a great help.

Lastly, not having to sign up for every network and carry cards or use numerous apps will be greatly appreciated. Interoperability across all major networks has been promised for many years now, but it’s never quite been delivered. We’re looking forward to trying EVPassport out and seeing for ourselves if it moves the needle forward. It certainly sounds like it has the potential to.

Let us know what you think. Are there any additional features you’d like to see in the app? As always, let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.  

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Racing

McLaren forced to put new wind tunnel on hold

McLaren are looking to recommence work on major projects, such as their new wind tunnel, after recently securing additional funds.

The Woking team has received a £150million loan from the Royal Bank of Bahrain after months of exploring different options which did include the potential to sell a minority stake in the McLaren Group company.

But McLaren’s financial struggles have now been ‘solved’ with this new cash boost and one of Seidl’s main focuses is to get the team back to being fully operational in all areas again.

“At the beginning of this crisis we simply had to put on hold all the infrastructure projects we were working on,” Seidl told the official Formula 1 website, amongst others, in a video call.

“Even now, not knowing exactly how the income will look like during this year, we are still cautious there, and simply have to wait until we have the green light there again.

“As you can imagine I’m pushing hard to get these different infrastructure measures in place again as quickly as possible.

“We all know this will be key in our journey back to the front in Formula 1 as we have a deficit there compared to the top teams. I’m quite optimistic once we are through this crisis we get back on track with our infrastructure as well.”

Get your hands on the official McLaren 2020 collection via the Formula 1 store

Seidl also said that, despite a turbulent start to the year, McLaren’s plans for the 2020 and 2021 campaigns have been largely unaffected as they look to build on their P4 finish in the 2019 Constructors’ Championship.

He added: “The financial challenges we were in, and also with the measures we took in place quite early on with the pay cuts and the furlough, which was in parallel with the shutdown, to be honest didn’t really affect our output for this year or for next year.

“We are on course with the plan we set out over the winter.

“We are planning to bring updates regularly from Austria onwards on the car, and at the same time we are flat out in getting next year’s car ready with the biggest topic being the integration of the Mercedes power unit.”

Formula 1 is almost back! Check out our preview video for the season opener in Austria:

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Racing

Ferrari to run testing-spec car in Austria ahead of big revamp

The Ferrari Formula 1 team will run the car it planned to race in Melbourne in the two races in Austria – but will introduce a major package of revisions for the third race of the year in Hungary.

Team principal Mattia Binotto said that after the lockdown break the team decided to take a major change of direction in order to find more performance from the SF1000, while knowing that the updates would not be ready for the first two races.

The short time available after the FIA factory shutdown, as well as new COVID-19 protocols that compromised the pace of work in Maranello, meant that changes could not be fast tracked through.

Binotto said it would have been “counterproductive” to pursue the original car concept that proved disappointing in testing.

“This weekend the car will run in the same configuration used towards the end of the Barcelona tests,” Binotto said in a team preview.

“This doesn’t mean we have been twiddling our thumbs in the very limited time of just five and a half weeks in which we were able to work on the cars, because of the stringent procedures involved in working around the pandemic as well as the total shutdown of activities required by the FIA in agreement with the teams.

“The truth is that the outcome of the tests led us to take a significant change of direction in terms of development, especially on the aerodynamic front.

“First, we had to understand why we did not see the results we had expected on track and how much to recalibrate the whole programme as a result. It would have been counterproductive to continue in the direction we had planned, knowing that we would not have reached our goals.

“Therefore we decided to come up with a new programme that looked at the whole car, knowing that not all of it would be ready for the first race. Our aim is to introduce the updates at the third race on 19 July at the Hungaroring.”

However, the team has not given up on the current package, and Binotto is confident that it understands it better than previously.

“Over and above the actual development of the car itself, these past few weeks we have worked a lot on analysing its behaviour, with simulation work and with the help of our drivers and I think that will prove its worth in Austria.

“We know that, at the moment, we don’t have the fastest package. We knew it before heading for Melbourne and that hasn’t changed.

“Having said that, the Spielberg circuit has different characteristics to Montmelo and the temperatures will be well above those of February.

“In Austria, we must try and make the most of every opportunity and then in Hungary, with the new development step we are working on, we will be able to see where we are really compared to the others, while having to take into account the developments our competitors themselves will have brought along.”

Related video

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Car Reviews

Rumor: LG Chem To Accelerate Launch Of NCMA Battery Chemistry

High-energy dense NCMA chemistry to be a new branch for LG Chem in the U.S.

According to the South Korean media, LG Chem is preparing to launch NCMA lithium-ion battery cell chemistry (nickel, cobalt, manganese and aluminum cathode) in 2021.

Undisclosed sources told TheElec that the high-energy dense NCMA chemistry will be launched next year – reportedly about a year earlier than initially planned (2022).

LG Chem was previously focused mostly on the NCM type, and most recently on NCM 712 and 811 with only about 10% of cobalt content in the cathode.

More interestingly, those new cells are envisioned for General Motors and will be produced under the Ultium Cells LLC joint venture in Lordstown, Ohio.

“This is a year earlier than its initial goal of beginning production in 2022, they said. The batteries will be supplied to key client General Motors (GM), they added.”

Because the Ultium plant will be ready no earlier than in 2022, at first NCMA cell production will take place at LG Chem’s existing plant in Michigan in 2021.

The unofficial sources revealed also that already five models were designated for the NCMA cells, including an electric pickup truck.

We assume that various GM brands (Chevrolet, Cadillac and GMC) as well as Honda will use the Ultium batteries in the next few years.

The high-energy density will allow battery pack capacity of up to around 200 kWh per vehicle, which will be a must-have for the largest pickups.

Since LG Chem supplies multiple other manufacturers in the U.S., we wonder whether Ford or other sare also on-board?

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Racing

Honda to run upgraded engine in Austrian GP

Red Bull’s hopes of taking the fight to Mercedes in Austria have been further boosted with Honda bringing an upgraded engine.

With the Formula 1 season having been called off before cars left the pitlane at the Australian Grand Prix, it means all teams are free to bring new car and engine packages to Austria.

Speaking in a team preview ahead of this weekend’s first round of the championship, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said that engine partner Honda would be bringing what was its original second version of the power unit to the Red Bull Ring.

“We have an engine upgrade, as we essentially introduce what would have been engine number two, which becomes our first engine,” he said.

“So in all aspects of the car there has been an awful lot of work go into [it], and it’s been a race against the clock to get those updates onto the car since reopening the factory at the beginning of June.”

Red Bull revealed some changes to its car during its Silverstone filming day last week, with Horner says the team is introducing parts that had been planned for the early phase of the campaign.

“We don’t really know where we stand going into Austria and of course the car would have been developed,” he explained.

“There would have been updates at the first European races at Zandvoort and Barcelona, and there would have been further updates for Montreal.

“So of course all the updates that were in the pipeline prior to the shutdown, plus whatever we’ve learned subsequent to the shutdown, have been implemented to the car.

“There are subtle revisions all over the car as part of that update process which I’m sure the other front running teams have also done.”

Horner also praised the ever-strengthening relationship with Honda, which he hopes can help it fight for the world championship this year.

“As we head into our second year of our Honda relationship it feels much more integrated within the team. We enjoyed a great debut season with Honda winning three races, and of course now we’re looking to build on that.

“They’re ambitious, they share the same ambitions that we do, they’ve been working tremendously hard during the off-season and of course come into this year with higher expectations.

“It’s a key part of the car and a key partner for us as we move forward and look to mount a challenge for championships in the future.”

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Racing

Van der Mark to leave Yamaha WSBK squad after 2020

Yamaha has announced that Michael van der Mark will be departing its factory World Superbike outfit at the conclusion of the 2020 season.

Dutch rider van der Mark has been part of Yamaha’s Crescent Racing-run works WSBK team since the 2017 season, making the move after two years with Honda.

In that time he has achieved three wins and a best championship placement of third in 2018, also helping the Iwata manufacturer to two Suzuka 8 Hours victories in ’17 and ’18.

After the opening round of the coronavirus-hit 2020 season, van der Mark lies fifth in the standings having taken two fourths and a fifth in the Phillip Island season opener, three points behind new teammate Toprak Razgatlioglu.

A statement issued by Yamaha said van der Mark was “opting to take on a new challenge in 2021”, an apparent reference to the 27-year-old’s likely switch to BMW next season.

That would leave incumbent BMW riders Tom Sykes and Eugene Laverty fighting for a single free seat in the Shaun Muir Racing-run squad for 2021.

Van der Mark’s impending departure follows that of former teammate Alex Lowes, who left the Yamaha camp at the end of last year to join the all-conquering Kawasaki works team.

Since then Lowes’ contract has been extended by an additional year, which was followed by confirmation that five-time WSBK champion Jonathan Rea will also be staying on board at Kawasaki for at least another two seasons after this year.

Also with 2021 deals already confirmed are Razgatlioglu, who is staying at Yamaha, and Ducati’s new recruit Scott Redding.

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Ricciardo: 'Less to lose as far as risk and reward'

Facing a shortened 2020 championship, Daniel Ricciardo reckons the midfield runners will be going for it as they have “less to lose as far as risk and reward” goes.

This year’s championship is, at least today, only eight races long.

It starts in July with the Austrian Grand Prix with the last confirmed race September’s Italian Grand Prix.

F1 chiefs are expected to add more events and could yet increase the number of races to 13 or even 15.

Either though is still less than the initial 22-race calendar that was scheduled for 2020.

Ricciardo says the shortened calendar could see F1’s midfield go all out from the get-go.

“The approach is just go and get some movement early [in the season],” the Renault driver told Sky Sports F1.

“I think as well, [for] us in the midfield, there’s a bit less to lose as far as risk and reward.

“I think we will take chances and hopefully come off with a few big results, whether it’s eight races, 12, 15 – who knows how many we will get.”

He added that Renault’s stats from pre-season testing has the midfield separated by just a tenth meaning the racing could be extremely close.

“I remember after we had the analysis of where we thought the field is and the spread from top to bottom, and the midfield, at least from our predictions, was like all within a tenth,” Ricciardo said.

“That’s what we took away from testing. I think there’s going to be four or five teams within a very, very small margin.

“I would like to say we have closed the gap to the top, but of course the likes of like Mercedes are still going to be pretty tricky to overcome, at least early in the season.

“The midfield stuff, Racing Point, McLaren and all the other teams in there, it’s going to be tight.

“I think we’re going to be somewhere there, but it’s really a bit of a flip of a coin at this moment in time as to who is going to come out on top.”

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Racing

Fans warned to stay away from Silverstone races

Northamptonshire police have warned fans to stay away from the Silverstone circuit when it hosts a double header next month.

Formula 1 will go racing in July, starting with two races at the Red Bull Ring before moving onto Hungary and then Britain.

All the grands prix will be behind closed doors with not a single fan permitted to enter the circuit.

As such Northamptonshire police have told fans wanting to catch a glimpse of their favourite drivers to stay away.

In a statement issued by police read: “The event organisers have put strict and robust measures in place to minimise the risk of infection and to protect the race personnel, event staff and the local community.

“Any uncontrolled gathering of people in the area would not only compromise the event but the entire Formula 1 season.”

Event’s commander Superintendent Dennis Murray warned fans they will be turned away by either track security or the local police.

“We completely understand fans may be tempted to be close to the circuit for the races but unfortunately that will not be possible this year and access to the local area will be extremely restricted,” he said.

“I am urging fans to enjoy these events from home as it will not be permissible, or in fact possible, to spectate from the perimeter fences.

“Anybody attempting to do so will be turned away by Silverstone security who will be tightly controlling these areas, or my officers.

“Though the races are being held behind closed doors, the security measures we are putting in place will be as stringent as ever.

“We are working alongside the circuit to deliver two safe events for both the participants, their teams and our local communities.”

Silverstone will host the British Grand Prix on August 2 and the 70th Anniversary GP a week later.

Silverstone circuit boss Stuart Pringle echoed the call from the police.

“The British Formula 1 fans are the most passionate in the world but we ask that they do not attempt to travel to the Silverstone area over these first two weekends in August,” he said.

“2020 is unique and so many sacrifices have already been made by so many. However, as a motorsport community, we must work together to avoid compromising the Formula 1 season and to help Silverstone protect its neighbours.”

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Racing

Spectators allowed to attend Darwin Supercars round

Spectators will be allowed in to Hidden Valley Raceway for next month’s Darwin Supercars round.

The two-day race meeting will both the first major event in the Northern Territory, and the first race since the resumption of the Supercars season, to welcome crowds.

A dedicated COVID safety plan will be in place, limiting tickets to 4,500 per day.

Merchandise outlets will be open as will a small selection of food and beverage vendors.

“Territorians love their motorsports and we are pleased to host the first Supercars event with crowds here in Darwin,” said NT minister for tourism, sport and culture Lauren Moss.

“The BetEasy Darwin Triple Crown is the biggest event on the Top End’s dry season calendar and the fact it can go ahead with spectators this year is incredible – a real boost for fans and the Territory’s events industry.

“The programme will be different this year but fans are guaranteed plenty of action on the track. Tickets are limited, so get in as soon as you can for this unique, one-off version of our beloved Supercars.

“The wellbeing of attendees is paramount and the team from Northern Territory Major Events Company will continue to work closely with the Department of Health, Virgin Australia Supercars, Motorsport Australia and the Sport Organising Committee to hold the event in line with COVID-19 precautions.”

Supercars CEO Sean Seamer added: “This is obviously great news for Supercars and for fans of sports in the Northern Territory. The past few months have been tough on everyone, and we have worked hard behind the scenes to get our championship back up and running and, importantly, getting fans back trackside.

“Thanks to the Northern Territory Government, we are now at the stage where we are able to take the next step on the journey back to normal racing.

“It will be an honour to see 4,500 fans at Hidden Valley each day cheering on their favourite drivers. This is certainly a positive milestone for us and we are thrilled that this year’s Darwin Triple Crown will be run in front of our supporters.”

Supercars has already confirmed there will be an innovative parc ferme system in place for the Darwin round, with drivers missing out on a spot in Saturday’s Top 15 Shootout able to spend more time working on set-up for the first race.

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