F1 has to “deliver” to keep Red Bull
Red Bull’s team principal Christian Horner says F1 has to “deliver” if the drinks manufacturer is to maintain its presence in Formula One beyond 2021.
None of the ten teams and Liberty Media has agreed to the Concorde Agreement which expires on the 31st December 2020. The agreements cover commercial arrangements between the teams and owners, however, the bigger teams are worried about plans to level the field and reduction in their prize money.
The other concern for Red Bull is that it is not a fully fledged works team, despite its deal with Honda it has doubts about how equitable any restrictions could be. Horner acknowledged that Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz could pull the plug if he’s not happy with the shape of F1 in 2021.
He told Motorsport.com “Absolutely, and that’s his right. He’s passionate about motorsport, he’s passionate about F1, he’s enthusiastic about the new engine partnership with Honda and the potential that brings, but of course, F1 has to deliver for the Red Bull brand as well.”
“It needs to be exciting, it needs to be cost-effective, the racing’s got to be great, and we need to be able to play on an equal and level playing field with OEM and manufacturer teams.”
Horner says that he believes that a good start to life with Honda would be essential to maintaining Mateschitz’s motivation. Saying that he has always been tremendously supportive.
He added “Two F1 teams, a grand prix, plus all the promotion that Red Bull does around the world supporting F1, it’s enormous. He wouldn’t do that if he didn’t believe in the sport.”
Chairman emeritus Bernie Ecclestone believes that while there is no Concorde, there remains a risk that teams or manufacturers could pull out of the sport. He added “The longer they leave it, the worse it is for everyone – it’s worse for the teams, worse for Liberty.
“From what I understand, nobody has said the most important thing, which is this is what we want to pay you guys. We’d like a much better show, and we’re prepare to pay you this.”
Honda delivered everything promised
Max Verstappen says that Honda has produced “everything” it promised over the winter. His Red Bull team enjoyed a promising start to testing and didn’t endure any major problems when it came to reliability.
The only reason that the team lost track time was due to accidents involving Verstappen’s teammate Pierre Gasly. Both Red Bull and Honda were satisfied with the early indications from the reliability and performance of the 2019 power unit.
Asked by Motorsport.com, how the on-track work compared to what he had wanted from pre-season, “Well, everything they’ve promised is there. So, I’m happy about that. It’s been different [to] the last few years. They are very open and honest. What they say, they deliver. That’s fair.”
Verstappen says he felt the difference with Honda’s new engine “straight away,” and considers the lack of a “big question mark” very positive. He says that the engine was completely different in how it runs.
Last year, the Dutchman was critical of the reliability and driveability of Renault’s engine. But says that the driveability of the engine is very good and has been working very smoothly.
He added “You try to take positives out of both because not everything was negative last year. You learn from it and try to share your opinions. They try to work with things, you give your ideas of what maybe we can improve, and I think it works really well like that.”
One area Red Bull had said that Renault had repeatedly struggled was the dyno. Red Bull used a different fuel to the French manufacturer, who divided the time to hit its early target was a confidence boost for future development plans.
Verstappen added “They run a lot more on the dyno, much more than we used to. That is a positive step forwards.”
Honda creates a dedicated F1 post
Honda has announced that its motorsport boss Masashi Yamamoto is to move into a newly created role to focus on its Formula One programme with Red Bull and Toro Rosso.
The engineer was already the sporting director of the Japanese manufacturers F1 programme, agreeing on the deal for Red Bull to switch from Renault to Honda this season. Yamamoto will now be tasked with the strategy of the whole programme, in his previous role he was managing the whole motorsport programme.
Honda has decided to create a new role for Yamamoto so he can devote more time to the F1 programme, and has confirmed he will take on the role of F1 managing director from April 1, the day after the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Honda has not had an F1 boss since it pulled out of the sport as a constructor in 2008. A Honda statement said the decision underlined “just how important this project is to Honda, especially in its first year back supplying two teams on the grid”.
Yamamoto will be replaced as general manager of motorsport by Hiroshi Shimizu.
The technical director Toyoharu Tanabe and engineer Yasuake Asaki head of its Japanese operation at Sakura will remain in their posts.
A change of leadership last year, following three difficult seasons with McLaren plagued by poor performance and reliability, a leadership change for 2018, overseen by Yamamoto, helped facilitate a change in fortune.
Honda’s encouraging 2018 and pre-season testing has put them in a race winning position, Honda has not won a race since the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix.
Top teams only have half a second advantage – Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton believes that the top three teams only hold a half a second advantage over the midfield teams, and thinks the top teams in that midfield group could archive greater results this season.
Mercedes and both Red Bull and Ferrari, have had a significant advantage over the rest of the field, and are the only teams to have won a race since the beginning of the V6 hybrid era. Last year, the gap between the top three teams grew.
It is hoped that this year’s changes in aerodynamic regulations have mixed it up and brought all of the teams closer together, with Hamilton believing that the field is closer. He believes that Ferrari and Red Bull-Honda would be in championship contention and “the other teams at the back have closed up, as far as I’m aware.”
He told Autosport “I don’t know which team is fourth, but they are a lot closer than they were in the past. Before there was like a second gap or something like that, I think it’s now within half a second or maybe less, which is awesome.”
“How their development will be through the year, whether they have the capacity to develop as the top three teams do, is probably the biggest question.” Hamilton says that you should see races where Renault and Racing Point will be a lot higher than in recent years.
By the end of testing, the fastest lap from the midfield teams were six tenths off the overall benchmark set by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. However, it is believed that some teams did not set a truly representative time.
Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo, who has joined from Red Bull, expects the midfield group to be determined by small margins. He said “A lot of the cars are going to be very close and there isn’t going to be much in it. So it could just be ‘who does a cleaner lap’ could make the difference of one or three positions.”
However, the understanding and common belief in the paddock is that the real pace will not become clear until qualifying on Saturday in Melbourne.
Renault plans a new philosophy this year
Daniel Ricciardo says that his new Renault team will have a “quite different” car development philosophy in 2019, which he hopes will help it “stay ahead of the curve”.
Last year Renault achieved its goal of finishing top of the midfield, however questions were raised about its in season development rate compared to Haas and Racing Point. Ricciardo’s new teammate, Nico Hulkenberg conceded towards the end of 2018 that Renault had “lost out” over the course of the season, having started with what was convincingly the fourth-best car.
But the Australian believes that the teams’ philosophy will be quite different, saying “I think the philosophy this year will be quite different as far as the upgrades we get. I think the plan and the structuring is going to change, and their philosophy on what to bring and when to bring it.”
“I believe that is going to change [as well]. I will be part of that and trust that process, and hope we are staying ahead of the curve.” It is believed that the midfield teams are quite evenly matched, in-season development will likely be key to how that battle pans out.
Renault is known to have bolstered its factory in Enstone in preparation for 2019 to avoid further development struggles.
Silverstone to be resurfaced again for 2019
Silverstone will be resurfaced ahead of this years British Grand Prix, following the cancellation of last years Moto GP race. The track was resurfaced by Aggregate Industries ahead of last season, but heavy rainfall on the MotoGP weekend the races had to be cancelled and a circuit investigation was launched.
Motorsport.com, says it understands the new work is required for the circuit to get the FIM Grade A licence needed to host this year’s MotoGP event on August 24-25.
Silverstone’s packed calendar, the work – described in a Silverstone Circuits Limited statement as “essential track maintenance” – has been scheduled for June.
That has led to the cancellation of two club race meetings in June, but should not affect the international events.