Horner fears Renault not catching up
Red Bull boss Christian Horner is fearing that Renault and Honda will be unable to catch up with Mercedes and Ferrari before the engine regulations change in 2021.
Mercedes and Ferrari are currently dominating this year’s championship, while Red Bull has less than half the points of the two leading teams in the constructor’s championship. Both Renault and Honda has struggled to close the power deficit to the top two and continue to have reliability issues.
Horner told Sky Sports “We’ll never accept that we can’t be competitive so we’ll keep pushing and keep developing and try and makeup whatever horsepower deficit there is on the chassis side.”
“But the reality is, those two manufacturers [Ferrari and Mercedes] have such a march, such committed investment, it’s difficult to see how the others will catch up in the intervening period between now and 2021.”
Horner has not been a fan of the hybrid turbo power units and said last week “this engine has done nothing positive for Formula One” after the Monza grid was scrambled by power unit penalties.
Talks about the next set of engine regulations which will be introduced in 2021 are already under way. The broad agreement is for cheaper and less complex power units.
Porsche have confirmed their interest in returning to F1 as a supplier, while Horner says the likes of Aston Martin, who Red Bull work with on a hypercar project, and Lamborghini could also be tempted.
Horner said, “We may well [lose manufacturers] but I think there are iconic manufacturers who would be keen to come in if it was affordable.”
“Long as you have Ferrari there, so long as you have historic teams like McLaren and Williams and so on, and other manufacturers like those I’ve mentioned were to come in.”
Red Bull set for more grid penalties
There will be more engine related grid penalties for Red Bull this season, says team principal Christian Horner.
At last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix both Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen dropped to the back after switching to new engines to ensure no risk of problems in Singapore where they are expecting to be strong.
However, Horner believes that despite the switch there won’t be enough mileage on the engine to see them through to the end of the season, without the team taking further penalties.
Horner told Autosport “We are for sure going to incur a further penalty. I hope we have the choice strategically where we take that penalty, but it is not likely we will get to the end of the year without incurring another penalty.”
Although the prospect of Red Bull taking further penalties isn’t convenient for the team, Horner praised the response by Renault. “They have certainly responded, which is encouraging,” said Horner.
In the days after Max Verstappen’s retirement in Belgium, Renault put in measures for issues it has suffered and increased its push for new parts for customer teams and will assign more personnel to Red Bull from Singapore.
“But the problem is, they were new engines in Monza, so if we would have had an issue with the first engine in its cycle it would have been fairly catastrophic. The encouraging thing is that they seem to be taking it seriously.”
Too early to decide on Leclerc
Sauber Team Principal Fred Vasseur believes it is too early to decide whether Ferrari junior driver Charles Leclerc should race for the team next season.
The Monegasque driver won last season’s GP3 championship before he moved into Formula Two, where he leads the championship by fifty-nine points over Oliver Rowland. Following Sauber s new technical arrangement with Ferrari that promoted Leclerc being linked to the team.
While Leclerc is expected to drive in some practice sessions later this year, but team boss Vasseur thinks it is too early to make any firm decisions about a race seat.
He told NBC Sport “The [Ferrari] deal is based on the powertrain, which means it’s the engine and the gearbox and then we will discuss together the fact that we could extend the deal on another parameter for some other parts.”
“On the driver point of view, I think that if it’s regarding Charles for example, I think he has to be focused on the Formula 2 championship, still a couple of races to go and it’s a bit too early to discuss about this.”
Vasseur says that while he hopes these discussions would take place at some stage, he thinks it is too early for Leclerc.
Sauber is expected to retain Marcus Ericsson, given his links to the team’s owners, but Pascal Wehrlein is expected to leave given his links to Mercedes.
Mercedes solution to high-speed circuits
Valtteri Bottas says that while Mercedes are working on developments aimed at improving the team’s performance at high downforce circuits, he does not expect them to be ready for next weekends Singapore Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton had won three of the last four races giving him a lead in the drivers’ championship for the first time this season. But Mercedes are expected to be on the back foot in Marina Bay, as Ferrari has taken the wing on similar circuit layouts in Monaco and Hungary.
Bottas told Autosport “We are going to Singapore knowing that it could be tricky for us. We’ve seen on circuits that require a lot of downforces, Ferrari has been really strong, also in hot races they seem to be really strong.”
“Even Red Bull can be really good. So we do have a lot of work to do with the high-downforce package we have. We have some upgrades on the way, but not really yet for Singapore.” The Finn admits that Singapore is a challenge, but hailed the teams break through at Monza where “different kind of stability” compared to the rest of the season so far.
But he does not believe that will automatically benefit the team in Singapore as well. Saying “We got a good balance and we did a really good job setting up the car.”
“But [Monza] is so different to any other track, so we can’t rely on that – ‘OK, now we found something that’s going to help towards the end of the year’. We don’t think that way.”
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says he thinks the team can overcome the difficulties at those tracks while admitting Singapore will be less suited to the car.
Saying “I still believe there are certain characteristics of the tracks that suit the car or not, and you can see this year the slow, twisty circuits have rather suited Red Bull and Ferrari.”
I’ll be a team player – Bottas
Valtteri Bottas says that he will always do what’s best for his Mercedes team if they ask him to move over for his team-mate Lewis Hamilton for the remainder of the season.
The Finn is forty-one points behind Hamilton who took the lead of the championship last weekend. Though it’s mathematically possible, Bottas’s chances appear increasingly slim.
Though Ferrari is using their normal approach of favouring one driver, Mercedes has resisted throwing all its weight behind Hamilton while Bottas has been in range of the leaders. But, Mercedes know the team’s decision to reverse a team order in Budapest could have lost the championship.
Bottas says that he will he would happily let Hamilton past in the right situation, however, says his own pace will determine what sort of role he has in the remaining seven races. He told ESPN “It is up to me also, really – if I perform well, if I manage to qualify well, have strong pace, for sure I can still fight for the wins.”
“But if it is going to be the case that for some reason I’m missing pace, if Lewis is doing a better job, me running in P2, and clearly behind then it’s obviously better to help than try something silly,” Bottas said it’s a team decision and it will be made on a race by race and situation by situation basis.
Haas break issues need aggressive solution
Haas team principal Guenther Steiner says he wishes the team was more aggressive in their search for a solution to the team’s problems with their breaks at the start of the season and says it cannot be allowed to continue into next season.
This season the team has been running Brembo brakes, despite the team struggling with the breaks on their car since they entered the sport last season. However they have kept their options open by testing the Carbon Industrie breaks during the season, plus running the different breaks on each car.
Throughout the season brakes have become a recurring question for Steiner with him sarcastically labelled it his “favourite topic” at media sessions, often laughing and theatrically sighing when the issue is raised by journalists.
Haas’s focus now is finding a long-term solution for 2018. Steiner told ESPN, “We need to know which we go next year, that is the only aim now on the brakes, because it’s getting old.”
“We need to have a decision so we are well prepared for next year so we don’t have this issue anymore.” Steiner added that the solution is under development, and it would be impossible to say when that solution will be found.
He also admitted that the team should have been more aggressive in finding a solution over the winter. However, that would have coincided with the change in regulation making the situation more complicated,
Asked if a more established team with better resources might have find a solution more easily, Steiner said: “I wouldn’t say easily, but they would have come quicker to a solution, I cannot deny that.”
Steiner said Haas knew there would have been a delay because the suppliers were working on a new material because of the new regulation change. Adding “For sure they served their existing clients better than us, coming new and still needing to do testing, so we should have been more aggressive on the approach.”