Renault issues warning to Red Bull
Renault has given Red Bull a warning that they need to decide on whether to stick with the French manufacturer for next season, by the FIA’s deadline of the fifteenth of May.
The Austrian team is facing the choice whether to remain with Renault or become the works team of Honda. Last weekend, in Baku Red Bull, held their first formal talks with the manufacturer. Current estimations put Renault’s engine ahead of Honda’s in terms of power output, but both remain some way short of class leaders Ferrari and Mercedes.
Planned upgrades for Montreal in a months time is likely to be the key weekend as Renault are bringing there first upgrade this season. Following the race, Red Bull will not have the luxury of analysing that data before it makes a decision.
The regulations require the engine manufacturers have to confirm their customers for the following year by May 15, although that deadline can be extended if the governing body and all engine suppliers are in agreement.
The loophole has allowed the McLaren/Renault and Toro Rosso/Honda switch. However, Renault’s F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul said the May 15 deadline must be adhered to this year. He told ESPN “We have to [stick to it]. We have to for a very simple reason, which is that we need to order parts.”
“The problem is that people tend to amalgamate what happened last year when we changed very late our customers, but we only swapped customers.”
“So actually we decided to allocate, to deviate, engines that were produced for Toro Rosso and to make them available for McLaren, but the parts for those engines were already ordered.”
The Frenchman says that Renault would happily continue with just McLaren as an engine customer next year. “It’s important to have one customer.”
“I would not want to lose our two customers, really not, but that’s also one of the reasons why we’ve done what we have done with McLaren, which is to have a long-term contract with them until 2020.
Marchionne “encouraged” by latest engine talks
Ferrari’s president Sergio Marchionne says he is “encouraged” by the latest round of talks about the future of the sport. President Marchionne had warned that he could pull the Italian manufacturer out of the sport if the 2021 regulations weren’t to his liking.
Speaking on Thursday when announcing the teams 2017 results, he said that he had been pleased by a “change in the attitude” from F1 owners Liberty Media. “The biggest sign is the recognition that engine regulations need to reflect the nature of the sport,” he said.
Marchionne had previously expressed his concerns about plans to change the engines currently used in F1 and increase standardisation.
Liberty and governing body the FIA want engines that are simpler, cheaper and noisier and that will make it possible for new entrants to come in. The current turbo hybrid engines have been criticised by some for being too expensive and complex.
In a conference call with analysts, Marchionne said: “We can’t really dumb down engine development just to accommodate new entries, right?”
The comments are his first public reaction to the blueprint which the sports owners Liberty Media s plans for the sport at the Bahrain Grand Prix last month. This included the intention to make a more equitable split in prize money – including reducing Ferrari’s annual bonus from about $100m now to $40m from 2021.
Marchionne said: “The stuff that’s on the table now is potentially workable as a system. The economics are not. That’s something we need to go back to Liberty with.”
However, he added: “I think we now have enough of a basis to try start having meaningful discussions. And hopefully, we’ll get it all resolved by the end of this year one way or the other.”
Speaking about a budget cap, he said he could see some case of the costs related to the aerodynamic development. While adding the important thing for Ferrari was that the powertrain wasn’t effective “because that is at the heart of what Ferrari does for a living.”
My performance not one-sided – Vettel
Sebastian Vettel says that the performance of his teammate Kimi Raikkonen over the past few years isn’t as “one sided as you might think.”
Since the German joined the team in 2015 he has taken ten wins, while Raikkonen hasn’t taken a victory for Ferrari since the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix, though he had two wins with Lotus. This season, Raikkonen has made a much stronger start which has put Ferrari ahead in the constructors.
Asked by Motorsport.com if he had noticed a new level of performance from Raikkonen this year, Vettel said: “I think one thing is always to look at the result and the other is if you look a little bit deeper. It’s been incredibly close this year so far. To be honest, most of the Fridays I think he had the upper hand so far.
“Here and there I was struggling to understand the car and feel the car so I think knowing him, knowing his strength, he’s incredibly talented and able to drive around problems.” Vettel who leads Raikkonen statically says that his lead is a distorted image.
In Melbourne, Ferrari was handed the win by Mercedes and would have four podiums from four races had Ferrari not botched a pitstop in Bahrain. Asked if he agreed that the picture of his form was distorted, Raikkonen said: “The end result matters. The rest doesn’t really count. The people that we work with know what’s happening and what’s not.”
“I don’t really care if people think you are slow. I know what we are doing.” The Finn scored his best result of the season in Baku, despite a first lap collision. He says that he did not consider it payback for the misfortune that compromised him in earlier races.
“I don’t count on luck. You get what you deserve in a way. I’m more happy that I have the speed. That’s the main thing. We just need to put it together and I’m sure that we can do even better.”
Raikkonen’s improved form means another one-year extension is not out of the question for the 38-year-old.
Renault expects a boost in engine performance
Renault is expecting a boost in engine performance at next weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix, because of an upgrade from fuel supplier BP. The works team and McLaren will have access to new fuel in Barcelona, but Renault’s other customer Red Bull will not.
Red Bull is the only customer team of Renault not to run the same fuel and oil as the works team after opting for ExxonMobil rather than BP/Castrol.
Renault’s engine performance still trails that of Mercedes and Ferrari and a major upgrade is not expected until an upgrade planned for June’s Canadian Grand Prix. But the manufacturer is hoping for a decent gain in performance by then.
Renault is in buoyant mood following Carlos Sainz’s fifth place in Azerbaijan, the works team’s best result since returning to F1 in 2016.
Cyril Abiteboul, Renault Sport managing director, told Motorsport.com “The start of the European season now needs to see a consolidation of that performance. We will be helped in Spain by a step on the engine side with new fuel, and some aero tweaks to reflect the characteristics of the track.”
While the team hopes for a step forward, they also recognise that other teams will be looking to move forward and be bringing upgrades to Barcelona. Renault introduced a new front and rear wing for the last race in Baku, as well as upgraded bargeboards.
That was partly specific to the demands of the high-speed street circuit, but chief technical officer Bob Bell said it also means Renault’s Spanish GP package would be less substantial.
Not turning our backs on Europe
Formula One Chairman and CEO Chase Carey have insisted that the sport will not turn its back on Europe, despite the push for races in new venues like Miami and East Asia.
Next week the city of Miami is due to vote on whether to push for a multi-year deal to host an F1 race. With F1’s owners Liberty Media also eager to get a race in Vietnam, there are concerns that the sport could shift its focus to other regions – which would risk losing some of its traditional events.
The futures of the German and Belgian Grand Prix’s are uncertain as they need to renew the contract for 2019, plus the British Grand Prix triggered a break clause meaning its future is uncertain after 2019.
Asked by Motorsport.com about the push for the race in Miami, which could be added as early as 2019, Carey reassured F1’s fans that new Grand Prix’s would not come at the expense of core European races.
Carey said, “We have been very clear from probably the day we came in about our goals and ambitions to grow the sport in the US, and grow the sport also in Asia.”
“We are very proud of the race we have in Texas, but we have talked about destination cities and I guess the three we have thrown out most often have been New York, Miami and Las Vegas. So it fits with what we have been talking about and saying.”
However, he made it clear that the expansion in places like China and the Americas must not be at the expense of the European races which he says is the sport for must be strong and build on its foundations.
Carey does believe, however, that there are big opportunities to make F1 more popular by adding fresh events in other continents. “This is a strong sport in Europe, but we believe there are opportunities to grow the sport in places like in China and the US, the two biggest media economies in the world.
“We have announced some initiatives in China recently when we were there in Shanghai and have taken some steps to do that. We are likewise looking to do that in the US.
The Week Ahead
Next week F1 heads to Barcelona for the first European race of the season. This will be a key weekend for all the teams as for the next two weeks we will be mainly focusing on upgrades and understanding who has gained the most and lost out from the first round of upgrades.
We will hear and see teams talk about this in the days leading up to and throughout the test the following week. The midfield teams will have slightly more to gain and lose, in the days after the way the teams spin the whole week is key.
Max Verstappen is the driver under the most pressure following his bad start to the season. The Dutchman needs a good race following Baku, he has won here and the question is for him can he learn to manage the aggression on track? He needs to turn around his season ASAP as Red Bull has a race winning car.
Also, he will face strong questioning from the media about what has gone wrong?
Fernando Alonso looks to have made a good start to the season, this is his home race and for the first time since returning to McLaren, he could have a decent chance of a good points haul.
Barcelona is when Liberty is launching many new initiatives including the OTT service. I am surprised we didn’t hear more about this earlier though it has faced delays over months. Also, Twitter is launching there F1 Show which will feature analysis and interviews with leading figures.
Also, this is the first four day Grand Prix so should give us a look towards Liberty’s longer-term plans.