Hamilton fears Ferrari are half a second ahead
Lewis Hamilton fears that with two weeks to go until the season-opening Australian Grand Prix that his Mercedes team are half a second behind Ferrari.
Following eight days of testing in Barcelona, the Italian team has emerged as the favourites going into the first race of the season. Sebastian Vettel, Hamilton’s main rival, was three tenths faster than his teammate Valtteri Bottas on the same compound of tyres.
However, after eight days of testing and with variables taken into account it is believed that the gap is around three tenths on the same tyre compounds. Hamilton disagrees with that assessment and believes that the real gap to Ferrari could be even bigger.
He told ESPN, “I’m not quite sure, but I think it is potentially half a second. We will be analysing a lot from this test and there will be some modifications that we will try to implement for the race.”
“There is obviously not a lot of time [before Melbourne]. Over the next week, we will try to gain another tenth at least in our understanding of the car.” Hamilton says that while Melbourne is the place where you will have a sight of the order, it’s after Baku when you will get a real understanding of the order.
But ahead of the season opener, Hamilton doubts Mercedes can do enough to make big gains in the two weeks before the first practice session in Melbourne. Saying “I’ve no reason to expect that [gap] to come down.”
“Testing you have to take with a pinch of salt. You could get there and it could be bigger, you could get there and it could be less, you could get there and it could be equal
However, naturally, Hamilton is hoping that the gap isn’t any bigger than the team has already seen. He also suspects Red Bull is also in the mix and believes the midfield teams will be much closer to the top three.
Hamilton says that it still remains too early to say which team has got it right.
Williams “twenty per cent” ready
Robert Kubica believes that he is only “twenty per cent” ready for his first race in Formula One since 2010. The polish driver will make his return to F1 following a rally crash in 2011 which left him with life-changing injuries.
However, the teams’ preparations for 2019 has been hampered by its car being delayed, meaning the team goes into the season with the least amount of prep and mileage. Kubica only managed two hundred and sixty-eight laps in his three days, the fewest of any driver.
Speaking to Motorsport.com, he said “That’s the situation, I cannot change it. I have to make sure we are doing everything what we can, from my side.”
“Coming back after eight years, probably I know 20 percent of the things that I should know before going to Australia. The rest is unknown. I haven’t done longer than 15 laps long run. There is a lot of question marks. But that’s the reality, we cannot change it.”
Kubica was frustrated when his final day of testing was cut short by a lack of spare parts on the final day. The disappointment came after his strongest stints in the car on Wednesday.
Asked to name a realistic target for the Australian Grand Prix, he quipped: “First of all we have to make sure the car stays in one piece. Because the reality is, my test ended after the first run in the afternoon [on Wednesday].”
His teammate George Russell believes that the team had made “a big step” since debuting in Barcelona, but Kubica was not certain about the gains.
Mexico misses the 2020 deadline
The organisers of the Mexican Grand Prix have missed the deadline for inclusion on next years calendar placing the future of the race in doubt.
The race in Mexico City has recently lost the funding from the government and along with Spain, Britain, Germany and Italy, their contracts are due to expire at the end of the year. All five races are struggling financially and are trying to sign new deals before the end of the year.
In a statement, the organisers said: “After the deadline to keep the date that we were using for the Formula 1 Mexican GP expired, we would like to communicate that the promoters of the event had lost their preferred rights to keep that date in the 2020 calendar.”
“Nevertheless, the negotiations either with F1 and the authorities of our country are still on course with the best spirit to find an alternative to keep the competition in Mexico.”
Despite the uncertainties, F1 CEO Chase Carey told investors that deals expiring was the same number as in 2018 and that they have either to create a new agreement or go our separate ways. Unless the remaining races fail to reach a deal, they will retain a provisional date.
While Carey says there is a lot of interest from potential new races, but he insisted that the priority was to firm up deals with existing events.
Saying “I think the most positive aspect to that is we’re increasingly encouraged by the breadth of interest of new parties who want to come in. The dynamic that’s really important for us is supply and demand.”
He says that his priority is the long term partners, like Silverstone, to reach deals which work for everyone. Carey accepts that not all deals will be renewed, but they were prepared to look at alternatives.
He added that there are possibilities for new races in F1’s traditional heartland of Europe, as well as elsewhere. While he did not specify any countries, the Netherlands remains the most realistic contender for 2020.
Verstappen “not worried” about two top
Max Verstappen feels that Red Bull is in a good shape going into 2019 despite the team not showing the speed of Ferrari and Mercedes. The Dutchman insists that he is “not too worried.”
While the top two teams were split by three-thousandths of the second, Red Bull did not get an opportunity to show its single lap pace. That was because of the big crash for teammate Pierre Gasly on the penultimate day of testing.
Speaking to Crash.net, about the pace shown he said, “They are always going to be quick. It’s always difficult to say if we haven’t done a run like they did but I’m not too worried about it.”
“They are very quick, but I’m happy with what we’ve done so far. The long run pace we had was very promising, but Melbourne is a different track again, different temperatures, so it’ll be about finding a good set-up.” Asked if Red Bull will be in the hunt for victory in Melbourne, he said hopefully as the long run pace looks promising.
Honda has described its pre-season testing as the ‘best ever’, with Verstappen encouraged by the progress made by the Japanese manufacturer over the winter. he said, “It was always a question mark for many people how it would perform.”
“But what we saw already from dyno testing and then again here on track, it was very reliable and it did exactly what I wanted it to do. So I’m very happy about that.
Honda believes packaging was “too aggressive”
Honda believes that its packaging around its power unit was a “little bit too aggressive” during pre-season testing, with the Japanese manufacturer planning fixes for the Australian Grand Prix.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner described the engine as “a thing of beauty” at the start of testing, while Honda says that the step forward had not come at the cost of reliability. In Barcelona, neither Red Bull or sister team Toro Rosso suffered major issues with the engine.
However, Honda’s technical director, Toyoharu Tanabe has admitted he was made “nervous sometimes” as new partner Red Bull and Toro Rosso got to grips with the 2019 product. He told Motorsport.com, that he was “not confident enough” with the progress that had been made, despite the manufacturer’s best pre-season performance since returning to the F1 in 2015.
He added, “We don’t have a serious problem with the current installation, but we found some issues because of the tight packaging.” Tanabe admitted that the packaging was a bit too aggressive, and work was underway to alter it.
Honda did bring fixes during testing but will bring a “permanent countermeasure” in time for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, in just under a fortnight.
Red Bull’s switch to Honda is one of the biggest talking points ahead of the start of the season, the target is to maintain the position they were in at the end of 2018 with the hope of closing the gap to Mercedes and Ferrari.
Tanabe said “We reviewed not 100% but [almost] every single part, and then applied slight modifications for the weight, or reliability. On the internal combustion engine side, [we targeted] more efficiency in the combustion era.”