Mercedes bringing “all-new” engine
Mercedes engine boss Andy Cowell says that the team’s power unit for this season will be “pretty much all new.” The German manufacturer has dominated the sport since the introduction of the V6 turbo engines in 2014, winning four successive world titles.
Ferrari had been closer to Mercedes this season proving a strong threat to Mercedes and Red Bull closed up in the latter part of the season. Mercedes have been pushing themselves on all fronts to maintain their advantage and plans extensive upgrades throughout the season.
Asked by Autosport about the expectation for this years engine, Cowell said “Pretty much all new. It is just because we’re in the 20th race with this model.”
“It’s had several phase-ups through the season and we’ve got ideas to improve the power, the indicated power in the engine. We’ve got ideas to reduce the friction in pretty much every area of the power unit, or the losses in electrical systems.”
2018 will be the fifth season since the introduction of the V6 hybrid power units, but Cowell believes there is still more to come in terms of engine pure performance gains. That is because you learn something with every new upgrade.
He says that it important to have a learning culture that observes and learns rather than loads of small upgrades for marginal gains. Cowell believes reducing friction and combustion progress is key to the team’s reliability struggles.
Adding “There’s still gains to be had [with this formula]. It’s a plethora of marginal gains, five millisecond gains. Then there’s those nice surprises where you thought north would give you 2kW and actually it’s south that gives you 2kW.”
Haas open to Sauber style partnership
The Haas team say that they would be open to rebranding the team in a similar way to Sauber but has said there is nothing on the horizon.
Last month, Ferrari and Sauber announced a new expanded partnership with the Swiss team becoming a fully-fledged junior team, as well as being rebranded as Alfa Romeo Sauber from 2018. The team will also be running Ferrari’s junior driver Charles Leclerc.
When asked by Autosport, if Ferrari and Haas have ever discussed the American team getting the Alfa branding, Haas team principal Gunther Steiner replied “no, not with us, nothing.” The rumours about Haas getting a partnership with Maserati, which is part of the same group as Ferrari and Alfa, are understood to be wide of the mark.
But, Steiner added that the team would be open to talks, saying “Why not? We are open always to talks. If somebody’s got some ideas, yeah, for sure we are interested in it. But is it our priority? Maybe not.”
Most of the team’s finances have come from team owner Gene Haas’s other businesses, with Steiner saying that situation was not ideal and ultimately the team wanted external investment.
Saying “I think that’s a priority, it’s just difficult to get sponsors. You see it on the other teams, the big teams, even they struggle. And for us as a small team, it’s even more difficult.”
However, he says the team must not sell itself too cheaply as they wouldn’t get the value for money.
Daytona 24 hours – Alonso twelfth in mock qualifying
Fernando Alonso was twelfth fastest in a mock qualifying ahead of the Daytona 24 hours at the ROAR before the 24. The Spaniard is preparing to make his debut in endurance racing at the end of the month.
The test offered Alonso and McLaren team-mate Lando Noris to get there first laps in ahead of the race in three weeks time. The McLaren duo will share the United Autosports Ligier JSP217 with Phil Hanson. Alonso was almost two tenths off the pace of former Sauber driver Felipe Nasr, who was fastest.
The session has no impact on the grid, however, it does determine the allocation of pit boxes and garages. Speaking to the media, Alonso said “There are still little changes going on and it’s the same with the performance of the car. Obviously, it’s early days, it’s only testing, but we need to find more pace and hopefully be more competitive when we come back in the race.”
“It was a good weekend to work with the guys, with the team, with the team-mates and enter into this mood of sharing everything and adapting and making compromises between all of us to be happy all around.”
Over the weekend, Alonso once again outlined his ambition to become the second man in the history of the sport to complete the triple crown, which means winning the Monaco Grand Prix, Le Mans 24 Hours and Indy 500.
The Daytona 24 Hours will provide the Spaniard with a taste of endurance racing in sports cars ahead of a possible maiden entry at the Le Mans 24 Hours later this year with Toyota.
Greenwood leaves Ferrari in reshuffle
Kimi Raikkonen’s race engineer David Greenwood has left Ferrari ahead of this season. The Englishman joined Ferrari from Marussia in 2016 and has been working with the Finn for the last three seasons, for personal reasons.
Greenwood will be returning to the UK where it is believed he is to take up a role with Manor’s World Endurance team. Ferrari is yet to announce who will replace him, with that decision expected to be made in the next few weeks.
Also as part of the minor reshuffle, operations director Diego Ioverno will no longer be travelling to races. It remains unclear as to whether he will be directly replaced, or if his duties are split between engineering staff at the track.
However, the teams head of race activities Jock Clear to take on that role. But there are expected to be more changes in staff and the team’s structure over the next few weeks ahead of pre-season testing.
Raikkonen and Greenwood built up a strong working relationship, which played a key part in the Finn dealing with the pressure placed on him by senior management to up his game last season.
But Greenwood’s departure may place more pressure on Raikkonen to perform.
Wider tyre range for worst case scenario – Horner
Red Bull boss Christian Horner says that Pirelli’s wider range of tyres this season will prevent the “worst scenario” of one-stop races. This season the Italian manufacturer has increased its dry weather compounds from five to seven, as well as making them one step softer.
But the number of compounds now cause confusion amongst fans because there are so many types of slick tyre. Horner believes that the post-Abu Dhabi tyre test was successful and the expanded range of tyres will allow more pit stops.
He told Autosport, “It was an important test, which is why both our race drivers were there and whenever you’re on track you’re learning, so it was good to get a decent amount of mileage in.”
“It gives you a lot of data to look at and understand, and it gives the drivers a good insight into what’s round the corner as well.” Horner says that Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo both liked the Hypersoft compound.
Horner has sympathy with fans’ complaints about the tyre changes, but he remains confident that the changes will have a positive impact.
Saying “I can understand the reaction, but what I hope it allows Pirelli to do is pick the right tyres and put the best show on each grand prix, and that they’ve got the whole range covered.”