Red Bull and Honda discuss engine deal
Red Bull and Honda have scheduled further discussions about an engine supply deal for next season at the Spanish Grand Prix, further fueling the speculation that the team could switch to the Japanese manufacturer.
Motorsport.com revealed earlier this week that Red Bull and Honda held formal discussions in Azerbaijan. In Baku, there were discussions mapping out initial ideas between Red Bull motorsport boss Helmut Marko and his Honda counterpart Masashi Yamamoto.
Now its understood following the encouraging first round of talks, another round of talks are due to begin next week in Barcelona.
Sources have suggested that both sides are pushing hard for a Red Bull-Honda deal to be sorted, with the Canadian Grand Prix in June being viewed as perhaps key to a final decision.
In Montreal, both Honda and Red Bull’s current engine supplier Renault are set to introduce performance upgrades. How each of the power units performs may well frame the team’s decision about which offers the best chance of progress next year.
Red Bull is keeping tight-lipped on the state of negotiations but has suggested that it is waiting for Honda’s latest upgrade so it can judge its full potential. It is also believed that the deal won’t be the same as the one McLaren had with Honda.
Marko told Motorsport.com “We are very satisfied with the way the partnership with Toro Rosso is going. The reliability has already improved considerably. And as far as performance goes, we’ll wait for the next update.”
However, it could lead to one of the Honda junior drivers getting a seat with Toro Rosso. That would place the futures the team’s current drivers Pierre Gasly or Brendon Hartley in doubt.
Zander leaves Sauber
Sauber’s technical director Jorg Zander has left the Swiss team. Zander departure comes weeks after the team announced a new head of aerodynamics and the team looks to progress up the grid.
Team principal Fred Vasseur will take over as acting technical director with initial 2019 development “until a new organisation” is announced.
Zander returned to Sauber ahead of the 2017 season after working as Audi’s technical director until the German manufacturer withdrew from the World Endurance Championship’s LMP1 division at the end of 2016.
Zander was tasked with driving a recruitment drive, included the appointment of former Toyota, Ferrari and Audi man Jan Monchaux as head of aerodynamics early last month.
His departure comes after a strong start to the season for the team, which has doubled it 2017 points in the first four races. This also follows Charles Leclerc sixth in last weekend’s dramatic Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Hamilton admits to struggling with the W09
Lewis Hamilton has admitted he is struggling to “extract the potential” from Mercedes W09 and believes it’s harder to drive than last year’s car.
The four times and reigning champion took his first win of the season in Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, however, it’s still believed that Ferrari holds the pace advantage over Mercedes.
Hamilton’s win was partly thanks to his team-mate Valtteri Bottas’ puncture. He was unhappy with his performance and says part of the problem is not feeling comfortable in his car, claiming the W09 is providing more of a challenge than its predecessor, famously described as a “diva” by team boss Toto Wolff due to its inconsistency.
He explained to Sky Sports, “We’ve definitely got a lot of work still to do – we still are behind. Ferrari’s pure pace is a lot ahead of ours at the moment.”
“We definitely are there in the mix and we’ve not got a terrible car at all, by any means. We’ve just got to refine it a little bit and make it a little bit easier to drive. She definitely isn’t as easy to drive as it was last year”
Hamilton’s comments come less than a month after CEO of Mercedes Motorsport Toto Wolff insisted “It’s different – she’s not a diva. I think the drivers feel that the car is very much together.”
While Hamilton has taken the lead of the Drivers’ Championship for the first time this year, he already has doubts whether a title challenge is sustainable if he and Mercedes fail to improve. Saying “There were a lot of faults in the race, which is rare for me. I struggled with the car, struggled with the tyres and that’s something I don’t take lightly.”
“So I’ve definitely got to go away from here and work even harder to make sure that there’s not a repeat performance-wise of today for myself.” Mercedes and most of the teams, are planning to bring in the first major upgrades of the season for Barcelona.
One area Mercedes will want and need to improve on is getting the tyres in the correct operating window as Ferrari hasn’t had the same problems.
Wolff, who admitted that the Azerbaijan victory didn’t “change the reality that we are little bit behind at the moment”, claims he is interested to see whether the Silver Arrows’ seemingly wide pre-season testing advantage at the same track disappears.
Bottas lost Baku win due to debris
Mercedes pit wall debrief has reviled that Valtteri Bottas hit the debris which cost the Finn victory in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix half a second before the impact.
Bottas looked set for the win in Baku before hitting the debris which caused the puncher following the final restart. The FIA said it had not seen the debris Bottas hit, and while Mercedes revealed it did spot it, the team admitted it was too late to do anything about it.
Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin said that the team had constantly been telling its drivers to look out for debris after earlier incidents. In a Mercedes video, Shovlin explained “We didn’t give him a warning, because we didn’t see it. “The first time we saw it was just as he came over those bumps.
“That was why he was also blind-sighted. You could see him heading towards it, but it was half a second or a second or so, and it was not enough time for us to get on the radio and tell him that there was debris on the track.
“If we had seen it we would have warned him, as we were doing a lot of the other laps with the other accidents. We were trying to guide them as to the best bit of track to avoid it. Unfortunately, on this occasion, it was all too late.”
Mercedes left Bottas out as they were expecting another safety car or a VSC leaving the Finn enough of a gap to get ahead of Vettel without losing time. Solvin also says that method would have stopped people undercutting Bottas.
However, Plan B was to stop later and switch Bottas to Ultrasofts which would have allowed him to catch Sebastian Vettel. Sholvin explained “If there hadn’t been a safety car, we would have come in with Valtteri, we would have taken the ultrasoft, about 10 laps from the end of the race. The super wasn’t degrading, it was going really well, and we could run it as long as we liked.”
How did Alonso finish in Baku?
BBC News has been given exclusive access to Fernando Alonso’s car which finished seventh in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Alonso managed to get a badly damaged McLaren home, however in the chaos of the race that slipped under the radar.
Alonso himself was shown photographs of the damage to his car on Monday and said on Twitter: “Now I have no doubt. It was an unrepeatable race.”
It’s not the first time the two-time world champion has talked up his own performances since joining McLaren and being saddled with an uncompetitive car. Without judging the other occasions, though, this time it was undoubtedly justified.
Racing director Eric Boullier, who showed me around the car, said the Spaniard’s performance was “a mega race. What he did is unbelievable.”
Alonso was sandwiched at the first straight by two cars, which puncher both his rear tyres and by the time he got back to the pits he was down to wheel rims. At the back of the car, there was damage along the right-hand side of the floor all the way from the very back of the diffuser – the upward slope at the rear – to forward of the rear wheel.
All in all, Boullier, said the damage cost “20 points of downforce, more or less – so half a second a lap”. The Frenchman says getting back to the pits an achievement in itself. McLaren could not see all the damage, because the front floor is hidden by the aerodynamic shapers behind the tyres.
So after checking the car was structurally sound and safe, they sent Alonso back out with new tyres and front wing. He spent a couple of laps asking what they could see from the data and whether they needed him to change any settings. It turned out that, while it had lost downforce and was theoretically slower, it felt OK to drive
Miami could hold F1 race from 2019
Formula One could hold a second race on the streets of Miami in the US state of Florida as soon as next year. The City Commission will vote next week to conclude the deal with Liberty Media hoping to hold the race in October 2019.
The deal would mean the race would be the first street race in the US since the 1991 United States Grand Prix. It would be an additional race alongside the US Grand Prix which is held in Austin, Texas. But there will be questions about whether the Austin race could run alongside the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal.
F1 managing director for commercial operations Sean Bratches said “We appreciate the community’s interest in hosting a Formula 1 race and look forward to working with local officials and stakeholders to bring this vision to life.”
“Miami’s status as one of the world’s most iconic and glamorous cities, combined with its robust tourism infrastructure, makes Miami the perfect destination for Formula 1 and its fans.”
Last year, Liberty submitted an application in November last year the World Intellectual Property Organisation last year to trademark the “Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix” and the “Formula 1 Grand Prix of Miami”.
There have also been reports that the Azerbaijan Grand Prix could be dropped in favour of the race. However, Baku still has two years remaining on its initial contract, which can also be extended by another five years beyond its current 2020 end.
Miami had held Formula E, but the event was dropped because of the reality of hosting the race soured the relationship and Miami has not featured on the calendar since, although this is partly because FE negotiated a prize race in New York.