Alonso “optimistic” for Austria
McLaren’s Fernando Alonso says he is “optimistic” that the team can put in a strong performance at this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix, where the team will have an upgraded Honda power unit.
McLaren is looking for a step forward as engine supplier Honda has announced that both cars would run the new spec of the engine. Alonso ran the new spec already in practice for the last race in Azerbaijan, with the Japanese manufacturer reporting gains of three-tenths.
This will be welcome news following the team’s worst start to a Formula One season in their history. Last season, the team had their best qualifying of the year at the Red Bull Ring, with Jenson Button qualified a shock third during a rain-affected session, before going on to finish sixth in the race.
Alonso told ESPN, that there were reasons to feel more optimistic going into this weekend. He said, “It’s a circuit that’s not as dependent on power as some of the recent races, and I think our car will be better suited to the twists and turns of the Spielberg circuit.”
“We’ve also got a couple of useful steps coming on the car, including — hopefully — Honda’s revised Spec Three power unit. Every step is important, so I’m looking forward to a positive weekend.” The Spaniard says Baku showed that the car has strong foundations.
Alonso’s team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne will be looking for a trouble free weekend as he looks to score his first points of the season. He said, “Scoring points in the last race was very good for the whole team’s motivation and morale, and I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to make further progress in Austria.”
“We’ve been bringing upgrades to every race, so a problem-free weekend, at a circuit that doesn’t disadvantage us, would really allow us to gain some momentum.”
Cotsworth and Aston Martin at working group
Motorsport.com say they have learnt that Aston Martin and Cotsworth have attended the Power Unit Working Group earlier this week.
Formula one is currently debating what the new engine specification should be from 2021. The first initial meeting was held with all four current manufacturers in March and representatives from outside the current championship field that included the Volkswagen Group.
On Monday a formal meeting was held with Aston Martin, Cosworth, Zytek and Magneti Marelli attending for the first time. Liberty Media and the sport’s governing body the FIA, are looking for a large range of views about the future regulations to encourage more manufacturers into the sport.
The website says they understand the meeting was largely positive, with the FIA running through the feedback it had received and presenting ideas for moving forward.
All widespread acceptance that F1 should remain the pinnacle of motorsport and therefore engine technology could not go backwards.
Now there will be individual consultations with the manufacturers, with the FIA and Liberty Media working on the proposal. The next meeting will take place in September, shortly before the World Motor Sports Council convenes on 21st September.
News in Brief
End Grid Penalties – Former F1 Driver and pundit Mark Webber says teams should be punished and not drivers for mechanical issues. The Australian said, “I don’t want any penalties for a driver that had nothing to do with it.”
Stop Verstappen/Stroll Comparisons – Williams technical boss Paddy Lowe says that the sport must stop comparing Max Verstappen and Lance Stroll.
He told Motorsport.com “Lance doesn’t need to look outside for any references, he only needs to look at himself and to be very happy with what he finds.” Lowe praised the job Stroll did feeling the confidence gained in Canada has helped the teenager’s confidence.
Renault not adopting Mercedes concept
Renault says they will not be adopting the Mercedes concept of splitting the turbo on their engine, as they see “no good reason” to change the design.
Mercedes have been the leaders since the regulations were introduced in 2014, much of that has been coming from the unique way they split the turbo-compressor of their power unit. Honda copied the idea this year after ditching their V-block concept.
Renault did revamp its power unit this season but decided not to adopt the concept and kept the rear turbo components at the rear of the engine.
Renault F1 engine chief Remi Taffin told Autosport, “Are we going to split the turbo/compressor next year? No. Our engine is as it is. We decided to keep it [the turbo] at the rear for some good reasons.”
“There is also no good reason to change it, as we don’t see a lap time benefit from a car perspective. So, from where we put the elements and how we assemble them, they are where we like them to be.” Taffin says the real emphasis will be on the internal combustion engine and the turbo.
In the early part of the season, Renault has been focused on reliability rather than chasing performance. The manufacturer believes it is currently around half a second adrift of Mercedes.
Taffin added: “It has been clear the target we have set within Renault, that 2018 was the year that we needed to be at the level of the benchmark, which is still Mercedes.”
Taffin says on the dyno they can see progress with their current deficit around .3-.5 of a second. Next season, the target will be closing down the remaining two-tenths.
Stewart calls government to intervene
Sir Jackie Stewart has called on the British government to intervene to assist the BRDC in protecting the British Grand Prix. The circuit looks set to trigger a break clause in their contract ahead of next weekend’s race due to spiralling costs.
The British Grand Prix is one of the few races which doesn’t receive funding from the state. Every year race fees rise by five percent meaning this season’s race will cost just over £17m.
Last weekend, one director of the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC), which owns the circuit, Philip Walker said it was “highly probable” that the break clause would be activated.
But, activating the break clause doesn’t mean that the race will ve dropped, rather a re-negotiation would start and if that fails then the race would be in doubt. Liberty Media is keen to retain the British Grand Prix, with Stewart calling for the government to provide support to ensure a deal is possible.
“The British GP has to survive for Formula 1 Grand Prix racing,” Stewart told TalkSport.
“In this country, we are the capital of motorsport technology. My information, supplied by the authorities, is that 143,000 people are employed in the British motorsports industry in the United Kingdom.”
“That means there is a high technology labour bloc which is valuable to the United Kingdom because about 80 per cent of it is exported. That means we have a tremendous contribution to make to the country.”
Stewart says other sports have assistance to bring medals, but Formula One has never had government support.
He says Formula One should be supported because “Other sports don’t have an industry behind them as powerful, and lucrative, to the nation as the British GP has through the technology which Britain leads the world in.”
Clashes caused by inexperience
Force India believes that the clashes between their drivers Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon, is caused by the in-experience that the French man has and is a growing sign of tension between its two drivers.
Ocon was frustrated when Perez refused to move over as they fought for a podium finish in Montreal. Then at the last Grand Prix, the pair collided behind the safety car, which cost the team a top-three finish. But Chief Operating Officer Otmar Szafnauer, says there is no cause for concern between the two.
Szafnauer believes that things will calm down as Ocon gets more experience under his belt. Asked about why the relationship between Ocon and Perez has become so tense in Canada and Baku, Szafnauer told Motorsport.com “I don’t think we had trouble in Canada, it was nothing to do with the drivers. But in Baku definitely, I just think Esteban needs a bit more experience.
“He is young, he hasn’t done a lot of F1 races, and every time this kind of this happens you learn. So he just needs to learn. It is that simple. [Nico] Hulkenberg (who Ocon replaced) has had a 110-120 races, and Esteban less than 20…”
However, Szafnauer believes that the relationship between Ocon and Perez is working well, and denies that the Mexican has become more aggressive because he is up against a young charger.
Target China for growth
Formula One is to team up in a strategic partnership with the marketing agency Lagardere Sports to build partnerships and raise the profile of the sport in China, a region that Liberty Media sees a huge area for growth.
Liberty is targeting China and the United States as key areas where the sport can expand. There have been rumours that both countries could hold two Grand Prix’s each season.
In a joint statement Formula One and Lagardere said it would “identify and secure strategic partners for Formula One in areas including event promotion, media rights, digital and brand partnerships, merchandising, talent development and racing team development.”
Formula One’s managing director of commercial operations Sean Bratches, says that fans in the region have already shown they are some of the most passionate in the world.
He added, “We are keen to build on this, developing our brand through unique live entertainment experiences designed to get fans closer to the action.”
CEO of Largardere Andrew Gorgiou said that the middle class in China could grow to half a billion in the next five years. Lagardere could help Formula One tap that potential by developing premium local content.
Gorgiou said “that growth is huge, 400 million people over 12 or 13 years with disposable income to spend on entertainment and lifestyle. That’s a proxy for the size of the market.”