Honda admits to engine concerns
Honda has admitted that they have concerns about the new engine specification ahead of this month’s opening round of the season. The Japanese manufacturer had a tough start to testing with an issue with the oil tank on the first day which developed into a more serious issue the next day.
As well as the technical issues, it appears as if Honda hasn’t brought the step up in performance it was looking for. This has prompted reports that McLaren was having to run in a state that produced less power than it had in 2016.
But Honda’s chief Yusuke Hasegawa insists that the oil tank redesign will not be a big job, but the fact the day two failure is a mystery was a proper concern.
Hasegawa told Spanish network Movistar “The first day we had an oil system issue. Normally the oil tank has to manage the oil level but this year we had some bad oil management so that is why we need to modify the oil tank system.”
“The second day we had a mechanical issue and still we don’t know the root cause of the problem. This is more fundamental and more serious I think.” He added. Hasegawa says that the oil tank issue will be resolved by Melbourne, but was unsure about the mechanical issue.
Honda is planning to introduce its Melbourne-specification engine at the second Barcelona test next week, but its plan could be impacted by the results of the investigation into the failure. But if a flaw is found it could mean that plan could be delayed.
Regulation changes ‘fix everything’
Sebastian Vettel says that the regulation changes has “fix everything” compared to the previous generation because they have so much grip. Ferrari was fastest by two-tenths on Wednesday ahead of the Mercedes, giving hope they could fight for the title.
When asked by Autosport what impressed him about the car compared to last year’s Ferrari, Vettel said “From a driver’s point of view it’s better everywhere. Braking is better, cornering is better, you’ve got more grip.”
“Then in low-speed corners when arguably the downforce effect is less big, you have more grip from the tyres. It works pretty much like an aspirin, it fixes pretty much everything. It’s difficult to compare [to 2016], it’s a different animal, different beast.” He added.
This week Ferrari have looked strong, but Vettel says that ‘they could have done better’ and because ‘everyone is pushing like crazy. The German admitted the first three days could have been better.
Vettel is expecting that every driver would have been happy with the first impressions of the car because of the effect of the new rules but says there are more important things going on in testing beyond the headline times.
He said “It feels better than last year but I think everyone is saying that. When you can go faster as a driver it’s always nice to be able to push harder.”
Mercedes hold advantage – Verstappen
Max Verstappen says that he has no doubts that Mercedes will still hold the advantage going into the new season, but believes that his Red Bull team is closing the gap to the German team.
This week in testing Mercedes has proved despite the regulation changes that they could still be the team to beat this season, and that’s without the team showing their real performance. It is thought Mercedes have retained their power advantage after the team made gains over the winter.
Red Bull is expected to be the closest team to Mercedes on track, hoping that engine supplier Renault has made gains. The target for the French manufacturer is .3 seconds a lap. But that could prove not enough to catch the silver arrows.
Verstappen hopes steps planned later in the campaign will allow it to do so. He said “For sure they still will have an advantage over us in the beginning of the season, power-wise. But I think we are definitely catching up.”
Like Mercedes, Red Bull had a fairly low key four days at Barcelona, focusing on reliability running rather than trying to go for headline times. Verstappen says the teams aim again is mileage and testing parts out.
Adding “We’ve done quite a bit of mileage and also for me to get used to the car and also the whole team to understand the new type of car. I think we did a good job.”
Hamilton welcomes Brawns experiments idea
Lewis Hamilton has welcomed the idea by his former boss and F1’s sporting director Ross Brawn, for non-championship races to be used to experiment with race formats.
Brawn told Sky Sports earlier this week of the idea. The current race weekend format was introduced in 2006, with three practices, qualifying and the race. That followed tweaks mid-season and remained until the first two races of last season.
Following criticism of the knock-out system used in Australia and China last season, there was this feeling that race weekends shouldn’t be used for experimentation.
Hamilton said “That doesn’t sound like a terrible idea! A new format is definitely needed for Formula 1. Thursday to Sunday has been the same for the last 11 years.” The idea is these races teams could compete for prize money but not points.
But it’s the opportunity for the sport to change its traditional format which most appeals to Hamilton. He says “Look at Monaco, you can’t overtake there so maybe we should do something different to spice it up – maybe a sprint race. Monaco should be different from the others.”
He praised Liberty for coming up with new ideas saying “The potential of Formula 1 has not been reached in terms of global success.”
F1 more challenging than we though
Liberty Media say running Formula One has been more challenging that they expected but they have also discovered huge potential rewards. The American company took over the ownership of the sport last year, vowing to make it more spectacular for the fans.
Liberty president and CEO Greg Maffei also stressed that F1’s profit margins will not rise in the short term, as the company will have to invest. Speaking to Motorsport.com Maffei said, “I think everything that we thought about this business and the opportunity as we did our due diligence, and the time we spent prior to purchasing F1, has only been confirmed.”
“There is enormous opportunity in areas like sponsorship, in the short term.” He added. Maffei says there are long-term opportunities around digital, including virtual reality, broadcasting and create more revenues around the weekend.
He admitted these will take time and profits are unlikely to rise in the short term and these would require investment. Maffei says these changes are not going to be easy to implement, because of the way the sport works politically.
But added “I think there’s uniformity about many of the actions we can take to do that. Whether we can execute on those, how long it will take, that’s still open.”
Maffei thinks “there’s a lot of consensus around ideas that could make this sport more compelling, to the benefit of all players, the teams, the fans, the regulators, and the F1 commercial entity. A lot of alignment on those.”
Big progress but not enough
Romain Grosjean says that Pirelli has made big progress with the wet tyre but says the intermediate gets “destroyed” too quickly. Yesterday Pirelli devoted the last day to the wet tyre, artificially soaked the track several times to simulate bad weather conditions.
Although it has been hard to keep on-track water levels consistent, Grosjean said he learned enough to get a positive first impression of the new wets. Speaking yesterday following the wet test he told Autosport “It is quite interesting, the wet. There is a lot of progress made from last year.”
“The intermediates are really good for one lap and then they get destroyed a bit too early, so some work is to be done. But generally, it’s a good step from where we ended up last year.”
Nico Hulkenberg added the soaked circuit was not been ideal because the surface was drying too quickly in the sunshine. Adding the teams were reluctant to run too much in tricky conditions because they are light on spare parts.
“It wasn’t the most efficient I think, but we tried at least. We didn’t do that much running because they had to wet the track and it really dried pretty quickly, so was straight into inter conditions.
“I went out one run on full wets and one run on inters to see how the car reacts and it went quite OK and I was happy with that.” Said Hulkenberg
Montreal agrees on another contract extension
On Wednesday, organisers of the Canadian Grand Prix have announced a five-year extension to their contract, meaning the race will remain in Montréal until 2029.
Last year, it was announced the circuit has signed a deal until 2024 subject to them carrying out the beginning of their upgrade programme. There had been doubts over the race’s future after they fell behind on the improvement programme for 2017.
However, organisers have since reached an agreement which includes a commitment to upgrade the garage facilities following Liberty Media’s successful takeover of the sport. promoter Francois Dumontier told Motorsport.com “It’s a long contract and one which gives us time to plan and to work on improving the facilities.”
“With the new garages arriving in 2019, extending the contract was important. We will start work with the city, who own the circuit, to work on the plans and drawings and plan a construction schedule for the new garages.” He added.
Dumontier added that the pit lane would be demolished following the 2018 race.
Speaking about ticket sales, he said that Lance Stroll, who makes his debut in Melbourne has had a positive effect.
You can read a full review of the first pre-season test here. The second test begins on Tuesday and we will be bringing full coverage once again!