McLaren hitting fork with Honda
McLaren executive director Zak Brown says the team’s partnership with engine supplier Honda is now approaching a “fork in the road.”
In an interview with Reuters for the first time, Brown indicated clearly that a parting of the ways was a real option under consideration. Honda had promised upgrades for this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix, but there not ready.
Brown said “Honda’s working very hard but they seem a bit lost. We were only told recently that we wouldn’t have the upgrade coming (for Montreal)…and we don’t have a definitive timeline.”
“which is concerning because the pain is great and we can’t sit around forever. We were eagerly awaiting this upgrade as were our drivers and it’s a big disappointment that it’s not coming. It’s not lack of effort, but they are struggling to get it to come together.”
So far McLaren has yet to score a single point this season. McLaren and Honda had hoped of a revival of the dominance in the late 1980 and early 1900’s. The team has had double retirements and are nearing the limit of their allocation of power units for the season.
Brown says “The executive committee have now given us our marching orders. We’re not going to go into another year like this, in hope. I don’t want to get into what our options are.”
“Our preference is to win the world championship with Honda. But at some point, you need to make a decision as to whether that’s achievable. And we have serious concerns.”
McLaren according to reports in the media, has been talking to Mercedes about supply. Brown says that there were some big decisions to make in the next ninety days.
Vandoorne hampered by driving style
McLaren says that Stoffel Vandoorne has been hampered in his performance on track this season because he has stuck to the style of driving that he has used in his junior career.
This season the Belgian was promoted to a race seat alongside Fernando Alonso, but has struggled to match Alonso and has not made it out of Q1 so far this season. However Vandoorne is a proven winner, he won titles in Formula 4, Formula Renault 2.0 and GP2.
All these Formulas have the same chassis, with McLaren believing by Vandoorne sticking rigidly to the driving style that served him so well in those categories has hurt Vandoorne’s form in F1.
McLaren racing director Eric Boullier explained to Motorsport.com “When you come from these kinds of [junior] categories, it’s the same car for everybody – so you have a driving style you have developed around this car to drive them.”
“Formula 1 is different – every weekend we bring new front wing, new bodywork, new rear wing, new floor, so the car balance is very different.”
Vandoorne was summoned to the teams based in Woking, to discuss the form improved after he’d held a special round of talks with his engineering group in a bid to better communicate his needs.
Vandoorne made it into Q3 for the first time in Monaco, before crashing out. During the race, he looked on course to score McLaren’s first points of the season but crashed after coming under pressure from Sergio Perez following the restart.
Vandoorne added, “I’ve been working hard with the team over the past couple of weeks to improve the relationship with the engineers and to get from the car exactly what I want and it’s a step in the good direction.”
He also says that it is about continuous development and he is still trying to understand what you need from the car.
Mixed emotions for Kubica
Robert Kubica says his first drive in a Formula One car has left him with mixed feels as he could see what he has lost. Yesterday the Pole drove Lotus E20 in Valencia and completed 115 laps.
Kubica’s F1 career was cut short after a rally crash in 2011, he hadn’t driven an F1 car since testing that year. The 32-year old admits it was an emotional moment for him, although he was proud of his work, he conceded the run showed what he had lost during his time away from the sport.
He told Autosport “For me, it has been an important day from an emotional point of view. It has been a long time away from the paddock and I have been through difficult periods, I kept working hard and a few years ago I felt it was impossible.”
Kubica says he has mixed feelings but says he is proud of what he achieved but it showed that he has lost speed. Adding “I don’t know what the future will bring, but I know one thing, after working for more than one year to prepare for this.”
He admits it not easy after six years out, but he knew he could do the job and appreciates the opportunity to get back in the car.
Renault’s sporting director Alan Permane says Kubica’s performance was great and ” he is more mellow and he wasn’t as pushy when asking for every detail about the set-up of the car! His comments and feedback”
Permane also moved to reject speculation the test could lead to his return to a race seat, saying “This was a one-off event for Robert. His time with Renault was cut short so abruptly”
Hamilton’s hunting ground
Lewis Hamilton has always gone well in Montreal and this weekend the Mercedes driver will be looking to take his sixth victory at the Canadian Grand Prix.
In a season when the pressure is building with treats from Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari can they close down the gap. This weekend Hamilton will be looking to close Vettel down, and with his record, he will be wanting to use it to close the twenty-five point gap in the championship.
Hamilton said, “Montreal has been a great hunting ground for me in the past and I plan for it to continue.” The Brit normally goes into this race as the favourite, but Ferrari has performed well on street style circuits this year.
Speaking after Monaco Hamilton said “The Ferrari seems to work everywhere. The next 14 races are going to be very, very difficult. They have had arguably the strongest car all year. They look like our car which just worked everywhere last year.”
Newey backs shield
Red Bull Adrian Newey has given his backing to the shield cockpit protection device but has warned the clock is ticking as teams begin to design their 2018.
Last season following tests, the plan to introduce the Halo was scrapped and replaced by the shield, with a view to its introduction next season. It will be tested later this year in practice sessions from the Italian Grand Prix
Newey’s team lead the development of the Aeroscreen and says he would be happy to see the shield mandated for 2018, as long as there are no visibility issues or other problems. He told Autosport “I think it’s a better solution than the halo, that’s for sure.”
“I think the first thing with the shield is to check the visibility, to see if it’s a viable option. If the distortion is too much, then it’s a non-starter, obviously.”
“In terms of then having a closed cockpit, I don’t think that’s such a big thing to be honest.” Newey also suggested that work must also be done to reduce the risks associated with lost wheels and other major parts, beyond a single cockpit protection device.
Mercedes reject claims they could quit
Mercedes has rejected claims by Channel 4’s Eddie Jordan that the German manufacturer could quit as a works team.
The former team owner was asked last week by Auto Bild if Sebastian Vettel would move from Ferrari to Mercedes next year. After saying he thought the four-time world champion would stay put, Jordan went on to speculate that Mercedes “will probably pull the plug at the end of 2018”.
Jordan added: “I think they will go for the titles this and next year and then the board of directors in Stuttgart will decide to sell the team and stay only as an engine maker. I would do the same because Mercedes have won everything and it can only get worse from now.”
Jordan says it better if the German manufacturer went back to their old model of just developing and delivering high-tech engines. Following the claims, Mercedes quickly issued a statement to deny them.
Team boss Toto Wolff said “Monaco is a place where people like to party and it seems like somebody did a bit too much of that! The reports are completely baseless and reflect nothing more than the mischievous speculation of one individual.
“Mercedes has firm contracts for its participation in Formula One until the end of 2020 — and is currently in discussions about the next competitive cycle with the sport’s new owners.”