Wolff expecting closer competition
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says he is expecting the competition between the top teams this season will be closer than it was in 2017. The German team has taken the last four drivers’ and constructors’ championships and will enter this year as the favourites once again.
However last season Mercedes faced a strong challenge from Ferrari until the latter part of the season when Sebastian Vettel’s title hopes faded thanks to a run of poor reliability. Red Bull also emerged in the latter part of the season.
In the form of both Ferrari and Red Bull last season, the Austrian believes that there will be at least three teams fighting for the title. Wolff told the teams website, “I think fans can look forward to a close competition.”
“We had a rule change last year and we had three teams who fought hard at the front. The rules have stayed the same, the engines are converging and I think there are other teams expected to be racing at the front.”
Wolff is also wary of the threat posed by McLaren with the Renault engine, as well as the works Renault team which he says will eventually recover.
Speaking about Force India, he said “You can expect more with Checo [Perez] and Esteban [Ocon] being on fire, proving who is the quicker guy and Williams can always surprise.”
“So, I expect there to be even more competition at the front this year between more drivers and more teams.” When speaking about a fifth title he says there are no guarantees that the team can do it for the fifth time.
Adding “The mindset within the organisation is to stay humble about your own achievements but motivated and energised, in order to try and win races again and eventually – hopefully – be in the fight for the title.”
McLaren avoiding ‘peaky’ car
McLaren is trying to avoid having a “peaky” 2018 car and is trying to make the cars handling driver friendly for both Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne.
Ahead of a season where McLaren are hoping to return to the front after three difficult seasons with Honda and five years without a win, technical director Tim Goss says the team has prioritised making the car’s characteristics amenable.
Goss told Motorsport.com “So much of producing a great F1 car these days is giving the driver a car that they can exploit. There is no point in giving them a car with very peaky performance.”
“What we are trying to do is give the driver something that operates very well over a broad operating envelope.”: He says that the team has taken the approach of this season is the first with new regulations.
He says the team wants to understand the “ flow physics and try to get good, well-behaved aerodynamics across the range of the operating envelope of yaw/steer/roll and ride-height.”
The approach of McLaren is trying to give the driver a car they are able to trust and peaky loads don’t produce the quick aero package the team wants.
“Our approach has been to always go for the quickest lap time and our tactics coming to a race weekend were to qualify as well as we can, and then aim to defend that position based on lap time. In some races that was extremely difficult.”
Renault frightened of starting engine from scratch
Renault says it would be “frightening” for them if they had to start from scratch the engine to meet the new 2021 Formula One engine regulations.
The sports owners outlined their proposals for the 1.6-litre turbocharged hybrid concept was retained, but with changes including the removal of the MGU-H, development restrictions and a higher rev limit.
The regulations are still to be finalised, but the manufacturers managing director for F1 Cyril Abiteboul said it was essential that the changes were not a complete technical reset. He told Autosport “We would like to avoid almost starting from scratch again. If I look at the investment that has been made in the engine.”
“If I look at the time that it is taking to get to a situation where it is not a level playing field, but that the engine is not a handicap anymore for chassis people.”
“That is what you want: a disparity where a team is not prevented from winning races or doing a decent job by its engine partner – frankly starting from scratch again is quite frightening.”
Before this current set of engine regulations, Renault powered Red Bull to four consecutive drivers and constructors championships.
However, the Austrian team strongly criticised the French manufacturer when they failed to deliver performance and reliability at the start of the hybrid era.
Renault & BP announce a newly strengthened partnership
Renault and BP have announced a five-year extension to their contract, which will see the two significantly strengthen their partnership.
Renault’s Chairman Carlos Ghosn and BP’s CEO Bob Dudley meet to share there a vision for the future, where they agreed to collaborate in a number of areas, both on and off the track.
The partnership will go beyond Formula 1 and see the partners collaborate on the joint development of advanced mobility solutions and new technologies.
President of Renault Sport Racing, Jerome Stoll said “We are tremendously proud to announce this significant strengthening of our relationship with BP Castrol after laying strong and stable foundations together in 2017.”
“BP and Castrol are at the cutting edge in their respective fields and a partnership of this scope, breadth and duration highlights the intents and goals of both parties”
BP Downstream’s CEO Tufan Erginbilgic added “We look forward to our continued relationship in Formula 1 and to exploring a wider global co-operation with the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance including the further joint development of advanced mobility solutions and new technologies.”
“This partnership enables us to combine the excellent skills and knowledge across both organizations to tackle the challenges and explore the opportunities of this rapidly evolving market.”
Grid kids to replace ‘grid girls’
Formula One will replace grid girls with a new programme called grid kids from this season. Last week, Liberty Media announced that female promotional models would no longer be used on the grid before races.
F1 bosses are planning to use the young drivers so that “the pre-race ceremony more relevant and interesting for fans, especially the younger ones.” The children will be chosen from junior categories and karting and chosen by national motorsports bodies.
In a joint statement, the sports governing body the FIA and Liberty Media said that the decision would be made “On merit or by lottery.” FIA president Jean Todt said “Formula One is the pinnacle of motorsport and the dream of every young racer competing the junior series that make up the FIA’s single-seater pyramid, from karting all the way to F1.
“We are therefore delighted to bring that dream a little closer by giving the future champions of our sport the opportunity to stand alongside their heroes on the grid in the build-up to the race start.”
Todt says that the initiative provides additional support to member states and ASN’s to grow national series as well as growing participation in grassroots motorsport.
F1’s managing director of commercial operations Sean Bratches added he hoped the opportunity to “stand beside their heroes” would be for the children chosen “an unforgettable experience for them and their families” and “an inspiration to keep driving, training and learning so that they can dream of one day being there themselves.”
ROC – Coulthard wins the title as GB hits problems
David Coulthard has won this year’s Race of Champions after beating the former WRC champion Petter Solberg in the final in Riyadh. The former F1 driver beat the current WRC champion 2-0 in the final.
The Scotsman took the lead by half a second in the first of three heats, before sealing the second heat by almost two seconds. That gave him a second drivers title. Meanwhile, Germany retained the nation’s cup, after defeating former F1 driver Juan Pablo Montoya.
Coulthard’s success on Saturday didn’t follow in for Team GB on Sunday after he failed to start the heats after a technical problem. Coulthard’s teammate Lando Norris was defeated by his McLaren teammate Rudy van Buren.
For the first time this year, E-Racing was on the built with van Buren taking on Formula One eSports champion Brendon Leigh.