McLaren can forget midfield –Alonso
Fernando Alonso says he thinks that McLaren can “forget” midfield rivals and target Red Bull in the next few races. The Spaniard finished fifth in Melbourne, managing to spilt the Red Bull’s of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen in what was McLaren’s first race with Renault power.
However, that result was aided by the timing of the safety car because of the retirement of both Haas’s, and Renault’s Carlos Sainz struggling with overhydration amid a water pump issue.
But while he was sixth in qualifying, Alonso believes the Woking-based team can already look at taking the fight to Red Bull – the fastest of the three teams powered by Renault. Speaking to Motorsport.co, Alonso said “Definitely it’s going to be better and better. There’s a lot of potential in the car still to unlock.
“It’s the first race with this combination, McLaren, Renault power unit, so a lot more to come. Hopefully, from Bahrain, we see another step forward and Red Bull will be the next target.” The team are bringing an update for Bahrain which they hope will bring them closer to Red Bull.
Alonso believes that Red Bull are still too far ahead at the moment, and in an “exclusive group of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.” But has confidence that they can join that group in the next few races.
He added the team are encouraged by the result in Melbourne following the very late switch to Renault. However, he still believes the car still not a hundred percent integrated with the power unit.
His sentiments were echoed by teammate Stoffel Vandoorne, who finished ninth in Australia. Vandoorne added “I’m very optimistic. We know there’s a lot coming from us.
“The partnership with Renault is still very new. This was our first race. We know that the next couple of races there’s new parts coming on the car.”
Honda has “big, big plans” for development
Pierre Gasly says that Honda has a “big, big plan” for development which is designed to “show everyone they can do proper engines” in Formula One.
Honda is entering its fourth season since it returned to the sport with the current V6 hybrid turbo regulations but has failed to get a result better than fifth after struggling with reliability. That caused a break down its relationship with McLaren.
This season, following the switch to Toro Rosso Honda, showed a step forward in reliability in testing, however, failed to get out of Q1 in Melbourne. In the race, Gasly retired with an MGU-H failure while his teammate Brendon Hartley finished last of the finishers a lap down in fifteenth.
Although the performance is low at the moment, the Frenchman says that Honda has plenty in the pipeline to improve its package and prove doubters wrong so it can compete properly at this level.
He told Motorsport.com, “On their side, they are pushing flat out because they really want to show everyone they can do proper engines.
The Frenchman admitted that Toro Rosso does not yet know Honda’s exact schedule for engine upgrades. Saying “And in terms of the development already they are pushing flat out and we can see some really positive progress.”
“We are pushing to have as many upgrades as we can, but of course we know we only have three engines so we need to see exactly when is the best time to bring them.” Gasly added Honda needs time to catch up, and you need time but they are doing the right things and really pushing hard.
His teammate Hartley says the “aggressive” development strategy should see the deficit to the rest of the midfield, as the focus is no longer solely on integrating the new engine into the car and learning how Honda works.
“A lot of the resources, energy, over the winter months were [spent on] integrating the new Honda powerplant and starting this new relationship,” Hartley explained.
“The strategy going forward over the next six months is aggressive and everyone in the team is pushing very hard. I’m very optimistic for the remainder of the season.”
Horner calls for ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ set of regulations
Red Bull boss Christian Horner has called on the sports owners Liberty Media to present a ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ set of regulations for 2021.
With the Concorde Agreement and current engine regulations due to expire at the end of 2020, Liberty wants to use the opportunity to reduce costs and increase the competitiveness of the sport. However, that has not received the support of all teams.
Ferrari has been the most vocal opponent of the proposed changes and its threats to quit, which Mercedes, have also backed, with the two forming an alliance.
Red Bull is in favour of a shake-up in the regulations after struggling for success since the introduction of the turbo-hybrid era in 2014 and backs F1’s plans to simplify engine regulations. Horner says Liberty and the FIA should agree on a set of regulations and force them through regardless of what the teams say.
He told ESPN “Trying to get a consensus between teams that have got varying objectives, different set-ups, is going to be impossible. It’s down to the commercial rights holder and the FIA to get together, come up with a set of regulations.”
Horner says that the teams should agree to that or walk away. He pointed out every time the Concorde Agreement comes up for renewal that this debate comes up and Liberty and the FIA should say “this is what we want Formula One to be, this is the financial distribution surrounding it, here’s the deal and laid out to the teams.”
He says that the most damaging thing to the sport has been the current engine regulations, believing that the regulations for both chassis and engine are too complicated.
Adding “Simplification of the power unit, simplification of the chassis, go back to basics of making the driver the biggest variable, whereas at the moment the driver is not a big enough variable. We want the best drivers competing against each other.”
Haas sure that they can avoid mistakes
Haas team principal Guenther Steiner is sure that the team can prevent a repeat of the mistakes it made in the pit stops in the Australian Grand Prix, and push for a good haul of points this weekend in Bahrain
Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean were both running well in Melbourne before errors in both stops caused them both to retire from the race because of incorrectly fitted tyres. That cost the team there best result since entering the sport in 2016.
However, Steiner has refused to make excuses and has confidence that the team will quickly be back at the level it was operating at last season. He told ESPN, “We made mistakes, but we do have processes in place. Last year, in the second half of the season, we had some of the best pit stops on pit lane.”
“We can do it. I think the lack of practice produced the result in Australia. Nevertheless, stuff like this happens. There are moments like this, with real downs.”
“The good thing is the car seems to be quick, so you look forward to going to the next race and making sure you do a better job.” Steiner added that he thinks the team are in a similar position to perform well in Bahrain.
Haas’s focus ahead of this weekend is pit stop practice and preparing for all aspects of racing. Steiner says that team can be proud of what they have achieved over the last two years, and will achieve this year and next year.
Grosjean says he believes that the American team must focus on the positives. The Frenchman said, “I’d rather retire fighting for fourth or fifth position than finishing every race in 15th position. It’s a team sport, and I believe my team has always been there for me when I needed them.”
No reason why we should fall out – Vettel
Sebastian Vettel says that there is no reason why he should not get along with title rival Lewis Hamilton and says the two of them have only fallen out once.
The German won the opening race in Melbourne, the day after he told the Englishman that he wanted to “wipe the smile off your face” with pole position in qualifying. Last season, while there was the odd clash on and off track, most notably in Baku, the fight between them was overall respectable.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Vettel admits the relationship soured at “a point” in 2017; he claimed the two four-time world champions “don’t have a problem with each other”.
The comments made by Hamilton in Saturday’s press conference, Vettel said: “He said he was joking and I believe him. I think we are old enough, I don’t think we need to go on that sort of level.”
“It’s fine as long as we joke with each other and I think even if we are very different persons, I think we share – all of us – a common passion and that makes us quite equal again.”
While Vettel took victory in Melbourne, last week he admitted he still “lacks confidence” in the car.
Vettel may not be confident but next is Bahrain, a race he and Ferrari won in 2017, and Hamilton is expecting another close battle.
F1 Festival launches in China
Organisers of the Chinese Grand Prix have announced the first F1 festival to take place alongside next weekends race in Shanghai. The event will take e place at two prestigious locations, allowing people to live the Formula 1 experience.
At the Jing’An Kerry Centre, the public will be able to be part of the Shanghai F1 Festival through several activities set up by Formula 1’s Global Partners who are supporting the event: Heineken, DHL, Pirelli and Emirates. Petronas will also join the Shanghai F1 Festival as an Official Sponsor.
The opening ceremony will take place on Friday after second practice, with former champions, Heineken Ambassador Sir Jackie Stewart and Mercedes ambassador and Sky Sports analyst Nico Rosberg.
The sport has also launched its first pages on China’s main social media sites, Weibo, TouTiao and WeChat.
Renault and Pirelli will also be taking part, with Armin Van Buuren who will headline the Heineken stage on Friday evening, and Angela Chang, who will perform on Saturday night. The race will be shown live in the city as well as F1 eSports and virtual reality.
The festival will also see the launch of the sports new mascot Axel, who will ‘elevate the atmosphere of the F1 Festivals through edgy entertainment and impressive urban dance skills to engage with the audience.’
Alexandre Molina, Director of Events at Formula 1, said: “We are very proud that the first F1 Festival of the year will take place in Shanghai, a destination city in a country like China where there is an incredible potential interest for Formula One.”
“The city will have the opportunity to live the Formula 1 2018 Heineken Chinese Grand Prix in a unique way and discover the engineered insanity which characterize the pinnacle of motorsport.”
China has been seen as a key market for the future of the sport as the booming middle class could reach four hundred million people in the next decade.