Sauber Alfa Romeo launch on Saturday
The announcement of Alfa Romeo return as Sauber title sponsor earlier this week is set to be officially unveiled on Saturday at a launch event near Milan.
Tomorrow we will get more detail’s from Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne about why the famous name is coming back into the sport now. Alfa Romeo brand push in F1 has become clear though, with Carey and Todt both due to attend the event.
With the Formula One chairman Chase Carey, and FIA President and former Ferrari CEO Jean Todt being invited. The presence is especially intriguing because Marchionne threatened to quit over the proposals for the new engine regulations.
The Alfa Romeo deal with Sauber includes a strategic, commercial and technological co-operation in development areas, which will include the sharing of Alfa Romeo’s engineers and technical personnel. This means that the car will probably be rebranded, to the corporate colours of the Fiat group red and white.
Its expected that the team will confirm Marcus Ericsson whose backers own the team and Ferrari’s young driver and Formula Two champion Charles Leclerc will be their race drivers next season. With Antoni Giovinazzi being handed a reserve or third driver role if he does not get a race seat.
Aston Martin gets serious about return
Aston Martin interests in returning to the sport as an engine supplier is beginning to get serious. The manufacturer has been increasing their relationship with Red Bull and is further hinting about returning as an engine supplier in 2021.
The new engine regulations which are due to be brought in 2021 are aimed at making Formula One more accessible for new manufacturers and, based on the most recent proposal, Aston Martin is keen to get involved.
Speaking to Sky Sports, CEO of Aston Martin Andy Palmer said “”For us it’s potentially a new engine in 2021, dependent upon what those regulations eventually come out like. There would be no point at all [developing an engine under the current regulations].”
“The amount of development that goes into the current breed of engine is enormous, the cost of doing that is enormous particularly with the heat recovery system in the turbocharger and you throw it away in 2021.” Aston Martin has been part of the engine manufacturers group which has been looking at the next set of engine regulations.
While three of the four current manufacturers have expressed concerns and been a bit sceptical of the proposals, Palmer believes the early concept is the right solution for the sport.
“I participate, as does the company, in a number of the working group meetings, obviously led by the FIA. We put together a recommendation as an independent manufacturer of what would it need to look like to attract us in.
“Roughly speaking that is making it standardised as much as possible the bits that don’t matter too much where you don’t have the competitive engine, probably throw away the heat recovery turbochargers because that’s an enormous amount of development.”
Earlier this year Aston employed former Ferrari and Toyota engineer Luca Marmorini to being work on an F1 concept. Palmer added should they decide to join the sport as a manufacturer, it would look to team up with an independent manufacturer like Cosworth if it pushes ahead with a full F1 programme.
Adding “We have never done a Formula 1 engine before. There are obviously parties around like Cosworth, AVL, Ricardo or Ilmor. There are suppliers that are involved in the sport that we deal with. It’s about bringing those together.”
Budkowski to start at Renault in April
The FIA and Renault have agreed the former F1 technical boss of the sport’s governing body Marcin Budkowski, will only be allowed to start work for the French manufacturer on the first of April.
The appointment of Budkowski has proved controversial after Renault announced they had signed the Polish aerodyinist. This is because the feared his privileged information about what all the teams had in development would have given Renault an unfair advantage.
In a bid to stop other teams fearing Renault was gaining an unfair advantage, they agreed to double the contractual gardening leave from three to six months. That means Budkowski will join the team after next years opening race, the Australian Grand Prix.
Speaking to Motorsport.com, Renault F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul said “I will confirm exactly what is going on, and he will be in Enstone on April 1.”
The teams have asked the FIA to change the regulations in order to avoid a repeat of the Budkowski problem. However, employment laws in Switzerland limit mandatory gardening leave to three months.
FIA president Jean Todt says that the best solution in the future would be for teams to agree amongst themselves not to aggressively pursue its staff in the manner that Renault did in this case. Asked by Motorsport.com about the Budkowski situation, Todt said “The teams were upset? The FIA was upset!”
“I would say sometimes when you have talented engineers leaving you are never happy. Those people are under Swiss contract, and we have limitations. And so it was three-months gardening leave.”
Todt says the teams need to come up with a gentleman’s agreement that they shouldn’t hire any FIA employees or engineers, without respecting a minimum of one year’s gardening leaving. Plus the FIA were to make solid contracts to avoid a repeat.
Hamilton “Very foolish to underestimate” Ricciardo
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says that Lewis Hamilton would be “very foolish to underestimate” Daniel Ricciardo in the fight for next years world title.
The four times world champion has labelled himself along with Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Ricciardo’s team-mate Max Verstappen as the four strongest drivers currently in Formula One.
Hamilton was quoted in Motor Sport Magazine saying: “The four strongest drivers I think are me, Fernando, Sebastian, Max. I really hope we are all in the fight next year.” However, Horner says that he thinks that if Red Bull can provide a title winning car Ricciardo would be firmly in the mix.
He told Sky Sports “Lewis would be very foolish to underestimate Daniel. He’s a phenomenal driver, he’s arguably the best overtaker in the business.”
“He’s driven some great races this year and some great races in his time at Red Bull. He’s absolutely ready for a championship challenge if we can provide him with the tools to do the job.” Ricciardo only won a single race this year but scored eight other podiums.
However, Red Bull fell short of expectations of being real contenders for the title after a slow start and finish third. In a bid to avoid a repeat next season, the team has moved forward its deadline to have the car ready a week earlier.
Horner added “I’m really excited that we’ve got the strongest driver pairing in Formula One. Max and Daniel, they push each other to such high limits and that’s tremendously exciting for us.”
Pirelli expects two stop races
Pirelli is confident that this weeks tyre test means that next season should see the return of two stop races. The tyre manufacturer is introducing a wider range of tyre compounds as well as making them softer to create more variance in strategy.
This season Pirelli has admitted it went too conservative on tyre compounds in response to the regulation changes. That meant that seventy-five percent of races became one-stop, despite the aim being for two stop races.
It believes that in light of some encouraging findings from the testing this week, it is now on course to deliver that next season. Pirelli’s F1 racing manager Mario Isola told Autosport “Considering all the range is one step softer, plus we have the hyper-soft, we now have the option to go soft enough to target two stops.”
“I believe that three stops is a bit too much because we know it can be a bit confusing to have too many stops. We will try to make the selection of having two stops or one of the fastest strategies a two-stop.” Isola says the other advantage of going one step softer is the cars will be softer on the tyres and teams can design a car that is more gentle on the tyres.
This week was the first time the hypersoft was tested, with world champion Lewis Hamilton claiming it was the best tyre that Pirelli had produced since it returned to F1. While Sebastian Vettel said he was surprised by how much of a step forward it was.
Next week, Pirelli will make its tyre nominations for the Australian Grand Prix, with Isola adding they are not obliged to pick three tyres that are consecutive in the rage. For example, they could pick Hard, supersoft and hypersoft.
Isola added “We will tune the compounds’ choice and selection to make sure we can generate different strategies. The average number of pitstops should be two. This is the target. We want alternative strategies.”