Personally “fantastic” season – Alonso
Fernando Alonso says while 2017 has been a challenging year so far for McLaren, for him on a personal level it has been “fantastic.” The Spaniard and the team, have been struggling with performance all season and are only ninth in the constructors.
Alonso says that he feels that he is driving at his most competitive for several seasons and is thoroughly enjoying driving the faster 2017 F1 generation of cars.
This year, Alonso also took part in the Indy 500 putting in a strong performance in qualifying and the race before an engine problem forced his retirement in the closing stages. Alonso told Autosport “As a team, we can’t be happy with the season so far. We were making it into Q3 normally last year, ninth/10th was our average position whereas this year we struggled a bit more.”
“On the personal side, it has been a very, very good season for me. With the 2017 cars, I’m able to drive back again to my driving style, I feel much more competitive than the previous years, I’m feeling competitive out there on the track.”
McLaren has been hampered by unreliability and poor performance, but there has been progress in recent races. But racing director Eric Boullier says the team can’t be happy with the situation with their performance.
“So if we have to say after half a season where we are, we are working hard to recover at least our performance and competitiveness we had last year.”
“With ambition, we need to do a better job this year. This is not where we are and where we want to be.” Stoffel Vandoorne scored his first points in Budapest and says “The improvements we have shown have been very encouraging.”
Vettel saw Hamilton’s potential early on
Sebastian Vettel says that he recognised the potential that his title rival Lewis Hamilton had ever since their paths crossed in karting at an early age.
Despite them winning all bar one of the titles since 2010, this is the first time the two have directly gone wheel to wheel for the title. Hamilton and Vettel are regarded as the best drivers of the current generation of Formula One drivers.
Both drivers were highly rated as they were coming up through the junior categories, but they both took different routes into the sport. Hamilton won the 2006 GP2 Series (now Formula Two) before moving into Formula One with McLaren.
Meanwhile, Vettel was brought in as a replacement for Robert Kubica after his crash in 2007 Canadian Grand Prix.
In an interview, expected to be broadcast later this month, asked by former team-mate and Channel 4’s Mark Webber, when he first thought Hamilton would make it to the top “I remember him in 1999, he finished third in the European Championship in karting. And the team I was racing with was saying ‘this guy, he will go all the way’.”
“On-on-one was more Formula 3, I was in my first year, he was in the second year and blowing everyone away. I didn’t get much chance, I joined him on the podium a couple of times.”
“That was when you saw no matter what — yes, [you can say] great year, second year so more experience, great car, whatever — but whatever the conditions, he was always there and delivering.”
Vettel who has a fourteen point lead over Hamilton said he is convinced that he can beat Hamilton to the title.
But says that Hamilton will always be there, saying “He’s extremely quick, extremely gifted at what he does. I don’t think it’s a huge challenge for him to drive quickly or to adapt with different conditions.”
News in Brief
Mercedes backed FIA into Halo – Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has told German media that Mercedes backed the FIA into a corner over the issue of cockpit protection in F1.
Horner said, “If we have an accident now and we don’t have Halo on the car, but it might have saved a life, then from a legal standpoint it will be difficult to argue why it wasn’t there if it was available.”
Hopes Ferrari can win – Lamborghini boss Stefano Domenicali says that he hopes his former team Ferrari, can win their first title in a decade.
Domenicali says that the car company, however, will not be entering Formula One, but said he is happy to see his old team Ferrari doing so well in 2017.
Stroll has “cracked” F1 – Lowe
Williams technical officer Paddy Lowe says that Lance Stroll has now “cracked” Formula One following the difficult start to his debut season. The Canadian failed to score points during the opening six races of the season.
His home Grand Prix saw him score his first points of the season before he followed that up with a podium in Baku. Lowe told Autosport “There were some very difficult periods, but actually I feel he’s cracked it now and we can only really get better from here.”
“Now it’s the confidence of the podium, even when he is having a really bad day you have something to lean on and go ‘you know, I did that on that day and I can do it again’.
“He is racing really well. He shows great maturity on race day, that was no more clear than in the race in Baku. He kept his head, stayed clear of trouble while still maintaining good pace.” Lowe adds that Stroll can emerge as a formidable force if he continues to improve at his current rate over the next few years.
Speaking about his relationship with Lowe, Stroll said the Englishman was a good person to have in the team and he was a great leader. Saying “”You can’t put your expectations through the roof. If you surprise yourself, great, but if you don’t then just work from there – any other mindset would be wrong.”
Magnussen stopped Grosjean being “complacent”
Haas team principal Gunther Steiner says that signing Kevin Magnussen has stopped his team-mate Romain Grosjean from being “complacent.” Grosjean last season was miles ahead of his then team-mate Esteban Ocon.
Asked by Motorsport.com, how Grosjean reacted to Magnussen’s arrival, Steiner told Motorsport.com: “He reacted well. I think he took it down as a challenge. Maybe at the beginning, he was maybe out of his comfort zone but I think they get the best.”
“They are just a little bit out of their comfort zone because when you are in the comfort zone you stagnate. You get complacent. It’s very easy to get complacent if you’re not challenged.”
Grosjean says that he thinks that Magnussen is underrated as a driver and said that their relationship as the best of his career with a teammate.
Saying “I’ve got a really good relationship with him, it almost surprised me. Teammates are always in a war but we’ve both grown up and we both respect each other a lot.”
“I think he’s underrated. He’s super-fast. He can do very well when the car is not suiting him, he doesn’t really mind.” Grosjean says the pressure is good for him and he does learn from Magnussen, saying like with every teammate you want to kill them to be the best.
He agreed with Steiner’s suggestion that Magnussen’s pressure was healthy.
“I think it’s very important for a team to get two very fast drivers,” said Grosjean. “Whenever you’ve got one driver faster than the other one, the fast one gets slower and kind of has an easy life.
Di Resta hopes he’s back on the radar
Williams reserve driver and Sky Sports commentator Paul di Resta, says that his stand in drive at the Hungarian Grand Prix will help him to make a full-time return to the sport.
The Scotsman was brought in under two hours before qualifying for the race in Budapest where he finished nineteenth. It was a reasonable result considering the fact he hadn’t driven a Formula One car in race conditions since 2013.
Di Resta’s ability to adapt to the car was impressive, despite the fact he was forced to retire with a reliability issue early on in the race. His performance prompted the team’s chief technical officer Paddy Lowe, to admit that the team are being “open-minded” about next year’s driver-line up.
When asked if he felt it would be harder to break back into the sport given his age Di Resta, replied: “Definitely, I think it’s easier if you’re a young driver because you get the opportunities and stuff. I’ve just turned 31.”
“There’s a little bit of life still in me. The dream could still be there getting back in the car if the right thing happened. The most important thing is the team being able to rely on me to do a solid job this weekend.” Di Resta’s return as brought him back into the driver market.
But the future for the Scotsman could be dependent on whether Felipe Massa retires. Massa who un-retired in January has hinted he could remain in Formula One next season.
Paul Ricard could see cornering speeds up to 211mph
Official simulations of the Paul Ricard Circuit show Formula One cars could reach around 340kph or 211mph through the Signes corner, that’s despite the chicane on the Mistral straight.
The French Grand Prix is returning to the calendar after a decades hiatus with the organisers choosing the full 5.8km layout with a chicane to break up the long Mistral Straight.
Despite that, simulations have shown that cars will reach 343km/h before the chicane. the French Grand Prix’s managing director Gilles Dufeigneux told Motorsport.com “The FIA did some research and the speed before the chicane will be 343km/h, so the chicane is useful.”
“The chicane has been added to prevent the engines from running at full speed on a straight uphill line of 1.8km. We also wanted to facilitate the creation of an additional overtaking area.
“It will provide three straight lines where the cars can go at full speed before two massive decelerations – Turn 1 and Turn 8 and a flat out turn – Signes.” The FIA says that cars will reach 343km/h before the chicane and 343km/h at the apex.
Dufeigneux says that several drivers have been shown the layout and have said “They liked it and said the 5.8km configuration was a nice option.”
Paul Ricard has a five-year deal to hold the race and last held the race in 1990. The circuit is undergoing minor changes to bring it up to date. Organisers are working towards a “conservative” capacity of between 60,000-65,000 for race day.