Mercedes hints at issues with power unit
Mercedes have hinted that its improvements to its 2020 power unit hasn’t been without challenges as it closes in on the spec that it will start the season with.
In a video posted on the team’s social media, Engine managing director Andy Cowell said that the manufacturer has made progress but was “fighting a few little issues as ever,” while the accompanying tweet noted, “if you don’t have setbacks, you’re not trying hard enough”.
Mercedes revealed on January 28th that the new power unit had already been run in the W11 chassis.
Cowell told Motorsport.com, “Lots going on in Brixworth, lots of improvements across the whole power unit, on the ERS side, on the internal combustion engine side. As ever fighting a few little issues as we pull everything together.”
“So lots of work going into building the right spec, getting it long-runned, and then providing power units to the teams so that they can fire up their cars”
Cowell said the next step will be testing the hardware ready for track testing, where they hope to be pounding around the track. He added that they are already preparing the race engines required by its three teams and six cars at the start of the season.
Adding, “The race pool, a huge number of those parts already made, assemblies going together, and the challenge of getting everything to the other side of the world.”
Verstappen targets Hamilton’s crown
Max Verstappen says he is targeting the title, describing six-time champion Lewis Hamilton as “good, but not God”. Hamilton, driving for a Mercedes team that has enjoyed an unparalleled spell of dominance in the sport, he claimed a six title last year and is looking to equal Michael Schumacher’s records this season, his fifth since 2014.
This year, his main challenger could well be Verstappen, Red Bull’s 22-year-old star. The Dutchman has eight wins in his career but has not had the consistency to fight for the title. However, while Mercedes had a clear advantage last season, Red Bull has been urged to “step up” and fight Mercedes at every race.
He told Sky Sports, “We’ll try to do better this year, of course, we want to fight for the title. Last year, at some rounds we couldn’t really mount a fight – but you need to collect points as much as you can.”
“I hope this year onwards we are fighting for a podium at least, and the worst-case scenario is third. As a team, we are targeting [the title], we, of course, want to fight for the title and we want to do well.”
Verstappen has consistently claimed that he could beat Hamilton if the pair had equal machinery, and reiterated that view ahead of the new campaign.
Telling the Press Association, “Of course, it is very car-dependent in Formula One. Lewis is very good. He is definitely one of the best out there. He is not God, maybe God is with him, but he is not God.”
He says that when you are able to put the pressure on the leader who drives around 97% you can not make a mistake. Verstappen believes being within two tenths will be enough for them to challenge this season.
Coronavirus to be discussed by Strategy Group
Formula One teams are set to discuss the situation surrounding the Chinese Grand Prix at a meeting of the Strategy Group on Wednesday, as speculation mounts that the event will have to be postponed or called off following the outbreak of the Coronavirus.
The outbreak which started in Wuhan capital of Hubei Province has already been declared a world health emergency by the World Health Organisation, has already prompted a number of sporting events in the country to be cancelled.
Although the situation is being monitored, the escalating problems in China suggest that there will be no swift end to the outbreak, which has cast doubt on the viability of the race on 19th April, which is now under sixty days away.
Speaking at a media event in London, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was asked if he was comfortable sending his staff to China, Horner said: “At the moment we couldn’t send anyone because they couldn’t get there.”
“Look, the FIA is the regulator, the Liberty is promoter. They are responsible for the health and wellbeing of not just the drivers in F1, but all the staff, and all of the travelling members of the media.” He believes that they will do the necessary due diligence before making a comment on the situation.
There have been rumours that one option China has looked at has been to swap its race date with the Russian Grand Prix, which is currently scheduled for September 27. However, organisers in Sochi have ruled out moving the race, with a spokesman saying, “The date for the 2020 Russian GP was set in October last year and isn’t changing.”
Aitken joins Williams as reserve driver
Jack Aitken has joined Williams as its reserve driver. The twenty-four-year-old has been Renault’s reserve and test driver for the past two years will run in one practice session this year.
He will attend all the races in his role and could replace drivers George Russell and Nicholas Latifi if one of them is injured or ill and cannot race.
Fernandes denies Airbus bribery
Former Caterham team principal Tony Fernandes has denied any wrongdoing in relation to a bribery scandal involving aircraft maker Airbus. Air Asia the airline co-owned and run by Fernandes, is one of several airlines named in the case, brought against Airbus by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office.
A worldwide investigation was shared between British, US and French authorities, with the SFO taking responsibility for Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Indonesia and Ghana. It has resulted in Airbus receiving over €3.5bn in fines and penalties via settlement agreements.
A sponsorship deal between Airbus parent company EADS and Caterham is alleged to have influenced AirAsia’s decision to order the company’s planes. The Malaysian airline only uses Airbus products.
Details of the case were revealed in an approved judgement issued on Friday by Dame Victoria Sharp, president of the Queen’s Bench Division of the Royal Courts of Justice.
She says “The first count alleges that contrary to section 7 of the Bribery Act 2010, between 1 July 2011 and 1 June 2015, Airbus SE failed to prevent persons associated with Airbus SE from bribing others concerned with the purchase of aircraft by AirAsia and AirAsia X airlines from Airbus.”
The Caterham allegation is around a $50m payment involving a Airbus employees, as well as the offer of a $55m paid to directors and/or employees of AirAsia and AirAsia X airlines as sponsorship for a sports team.
“The sports team was jointly owned by AirAsia Executive 1 and AirAsia Executive 2 but was legally unrelated to AirAsia and AirAsia X.”
In a statement on Monday AirAsia said it “vigorously rejects and denies any and all allegations of wrongdoing”.
AirAsia also confirmed that CEO Fernandes and executive chairman Datuk Kamarudin bin Meranun have stepped aside from their roles for two months while an investigation is completed. They will remain as advisors, with no executive authority.
Regarding this step, the company said that “the main objective will be to review the allegations therein so far as it concerns [AirAsia], and to take any necessary action based on the review”.
It added: “The involvement of Airbus in the sponsorship of the sports team was a well-known and widely-publicised matter bringing branding and other benefits to Airbus.
“AirAsia’s own sponsorship of the sports team went through due internal assessment and approvals before being considered and approved by the board.”
In a separate statement, Fernandes and Kamarudin also denied any impropriety in relation to the Caterham sponsorship deal, also stressing that it was highly publicised at the time. They both said, they “categorically deny any and all allegations of wrongdoing or misconduct on our part as directors of AirAsia.”