Ricciardo needs to focus on Verstappen – Webber
Mark Webber says that Daniel Ricciardo should focus on beating his Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen rather than his future with the team.
The Australian is out of contract at the end of the season, and with both Mercedes and Ferrari both having seats potentially vacant next year Ricciardo is keen to keep his options open for 2019. However, Webber believes that Ricciardo’s aim should be beating Verstappen.
He told Fox Sports “I think the best thing he can do is beat Max. That’s the best thing he can do. Which he knows, and he’s going to do his best to do that.”
“If he wants to try and have a crack at that for five-six months, then look at the options.” Last year, Verstappen signed a contract to remain with Red Bull until 2020 when team boss Christian Horner said they can now “build the team around him”.
When Webber was alongside Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull, Webber claimed the team showed favouritism to the German, but he is confident Ricciardo will not face the same challenges alongside Verstappen.
“Red Bull will support the guy that’s leading the championship and doing the business. If that’s Daniel, I reckon he’s still in great shape there, to be honest, because he is a Red Bull product.
“I don’t think Helmut [Marko] would be disappointed to see Daniel as world champion. But he loves Max as well. They’re both his favourite guys.”
Asked if he thinks that Ricciardo could move to Mercedes alongside Hamilton, Webber said “There’s an obvious link — they’re both out of contract, he’s a top-flight driver and there’s a chance for a switch. I don’t think Mercedes will be rushing to make a decision either”
Haas will not be left behind – Grosjean
Romain Grosjean says he has confidence that Haas will not be left behind this season, despite the teams nearest rivals being expected to make big gains this season.
Haas finished ahead of McLaren last season, ten points behind Renault. But the Frenchman is expecting with their bigger budgets and McLaren switching to Renault engines that both teams will be out of reach.
He also suggested that Williams and Toro Rosso could be potential targets for the American team. When asked by Motorsport.com if he expected things to be harder this season, Grosjean said “I don’t know. Some teams are going to have maybe a less powerful power unit, so one goes up and one goes down. I think we don’t want to go down in the order.
“McLaren is going to be super strong. They have a huge resource, they have the biggest factory in F1, and the Renault engine is a decent engine.”
“They have had reliability issues but power wise they are up there, Renault is on a high too, and they have been developing pretty well so they should be up there as well.” He believes that McLaren will be fighting in the midfield.
Grosjean says that for Haas to make a good step forward this season, is for the team to get on top of their aerodynamic after feeling that it did not make sufficient gains in this area last year.
He added “The best is to focus on our own work and we know where we can improve. There are a few areas where we need to focus on and get better.” Grosjean says it’s important that the upgrades are working well before they come to the track.
The Frenchman pointed out that over the last two years the team has started the season strongly, but has struggled with tyre performance through the season.
Mercedes announce major new sponsor deal
Mercedes have announced a major new sponsorship deal with clothing brand Tommy Hilfiger to replace Hugo Boss. In November, Hugo Boss announced it was ending its decade’s long partnership with Mercedes and McLaren.
After Hugo Boss announced their withdrawal from the sport, it emerged that the German manufacturer was in the final stages of switching to Tommy Hilfiger. The brand had previously worked with Lotus and Ferrari.
Tommy Hilfiger will provide Mercedes with its new race and travel wear. It is understood there is scope for lifestyle deals with Lewis Hamilton as well. The company’s logos will also appear in the garage and on the car.
Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff said: “It is always exciting to embark on a new partnership, particularly when it touches such a key area of our team’s image; I am positive that it will energise our brand and bring a new spin to how we are perceived from this season.
“We are excited to see how Tommy Hilfiger will dress the team this season and to showcase their exciting plans to the fans of Formula One.”
Norris future depends on Alonso
Lando Norris says the timing of the opportunity for him to make his debut in Formula One depends on how long Fernando Alonso says with McLaren. The British driver will make his Formula Two debut with Carlin this year after winning last year’s European Formula Three title.
Asked by Autosport, “if he was essentially waiting for Alonso to retire to move up into a race seat, Norris said: “Obviously from that, I would say so, but I couldn’t really say what they are thinking. I guess you have to wait for what Fernando wants to do.”
“I think they are happy with Stoffel [Vandoorne] and it is quite early in his career. Obviously, he can develop a lot and definitely improve as a driver going into 2018.”
“So it is a bit of it is waiting to see what they are going to do but I can’t really say what else is going to happen – it is a bit hard for me.” Norris admits that he would need to look at other teams if the McLaren opportunity didn’t come up.
“Obviously my aim is to be at McLaren. If I can’t get a drive here, then I have to look at other opportunities. If they say ‘We’re not really going to have a drive [available] for three years’ or something.”
He added that if it’s just 2019, he would stay with McLaren.