Haas targets to be within half a second
Gene Haas has set his Formula one team the challenge of closing the gap to Ferrari this season to half a second per lap this season. The American team is entering its third season in the sport, where it has finished eighth in both seasons.
The team has a technical partnership with Ferrari allowing Haas to share as many common parts as the regulations allow for Ferrari’s design. This has allowed the team avoid many of the pitfalls faced by other new F1 outfits in the past decade.
This year, given the number of shared parts between the teams Haas wants his team to up the game and close the gap to Ferrari. Haas told ESPN “It looks like everyone is going to be better [in 2018]. We identified our weak spots and Guenther [Steiner, team principal] and I had a good heart-to-heart talk in Mexico City.”
He said the team would use the Ferrari equipment as the baseline, saying to be competitive they need to be within half a second of Ferrari as a minimum.
Last year Ferrari became the first team to challenge Mercedes since 2014, and if Haas had been half a second off, they would have been in the top ten on regular bases. However, the team struggled to get the tyres into working range.
He added, “The tyres are very sensitive to downforce, overheating and sliding, but in order to get the tyres right you have to have the right chassis and the right aero. Without all of that working right, the cars become very difficult for the drivers.”
At the centre of Haas’s arrangements with Ferrari, is its agreements to use Ferrari’s power unit. Ferrari’s power unit is believed to be on a similar level to Mercedes, Haas is expecting that gap to narrow this year.
Saying “I don’t think Mercedes or Renault is going to be that much farther ahead or behind Ferrari. I think they are all within a half-a-percent of one other.”
Red Bull confident it is where it needs to be
Daniel Ricciardo says that his Red Bull team has confidence that they are where they need to be so they can regularly be fighting against Mercedes and Ferrari.
The team made a slow start to last season, but by the latter part of the year and following good progress the team was regularly able to challenge the top two. Ricciardo is bullish that the team will carry that into 2018, allowing them to “attack” at the front.
In a video from the team reflecting on the winter and looking ahead to 2018, Ricciardo said, “I feel there is a good intensity. Everyone is not getting too excited. We know we have got some work to do if we really want to achieve what we want. We know we have some desires to attack this year.”
When asked if he believed Red Bull could beat Mercedes and Ferrari, he said: “I believe so. With not many rule changes, we improved the car quite a lot last year.”
“I guess in principle we should be able to carry that over for this year and keep evolving from there. We should be able to fight more often – time will tell. But I am confident.”
Despite his optimism about Red Bull’s progress, Ricciardo believes that it is too early for specific targets. He added, “I’ve got goals that I want to achieve but I don’t necessarily say right, by race three I want to have been on the podium already twice and had a pole position. I don’t set goals like that.”
ESPN and ABC announce Sky Sports deal
ESPN and the American broadcaster ABC has announced that they will take Sky Sports coverage of Formula One. ESPN will simulcast Sky Sports coverage of every race with ABC showing selected live coverage and highlights.
Last October, ESPN and ABC announced they had secured the rights from 2018. ESPN’s producer for motorsport Kate Jackson said, “We are excited to work with the Sky Sports team. Their coverage of F1 is second to none and we look forward to bringing their expertise and authenticity to our audiences.”
Scott Young, Head of Formula 1 at Sky Sports, added, “We are delighted to be working with ESPN and ABC, and with this partnership extend Sky Sports F1’s award-winning coverage overseas. Each season we look to find new ways to improve the broadcast and entertain our viewers and this year will be no different.”
ABC is expected to show the Monaco, Canadian and Mexican Grand Prix’s as well as its home race live, as well as extended highlights of all other races.
ESPN has announced one hundred and twenty-five hours of programming across the year.
Liberty unleashing untapped potential
The CEO of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation Andrew Westacott says the push by Liberty Media will help the best events to unleash “huge untapped potential.”
Westacott recently attended a promoter’s conference hosted by Liberty in London, which looked back at the US media company’s first year in charge of the sport and looked ahead to their future plans. Westacott says he was deeply impressed with what he heard.
He told Motorsport.com “I’m extremely happy, and I think their vision is underpinned by three things – great racing, an amazing spectacle, and engaged fans.”
“For us running the show here, none of that comes as a surprise to what we do and what we see that fans want. So I’m extremely enthused about what they’re doing and how excited they are.” He added that there is huge untapped potential in the sport.
Westacott believes that the change of approach aligns with what they have been doing in Melbourne for years. Westacott used the talks to hold private talks with Liberty, largely centred around a fresh approach to digital engagement.
“We’ve got to raise the bar every year. And I wanted to talk about areas where I want to raise the bar even more Formula 1 wants to move from being a motorsport company to being a media and entertainment brand” he says.
Westacott says that it is vital that there is positive direction and sentiment, as well as building on the sports own initiatives. He added, “As a result of many different things we’re in a stronger sales position seven weeks out from the event than we have been for a decade.”
Renault target virtual championship
Renault has announced it will enter the world of eSports and is setting the target of a Formula One eSports championship. The French manufacturer has joined forces with France’s Team Vitality to compete in a programme of motorsport-based competitions.
The F1 eSports championship was launched last year, but currently has no teams instead individuals are represented. This year Renault has already announced it will participate in this year’s Rocket League Championship Series Europe, which has more than 25 million players.
“We are also in discussion with F1 to compete in the Formula One eSports Series,” Renault said in a statement.
It added that Renault Sport Racing would give the esports team’s players access to its Formula One factory at Enstone, in central England, to train with racing drivers and technical staff.
The current champion is Brendon Leigh who took the title in Abu Dhabi.
Renault is the first manufacturer team to announce an entry into the series. Last year McLaren held a competition to recruit an official simulator driver through its World’s Fastest Gamer competition.
Darren Cox, the man behind that, told Reuters last December he could see the current Grand Prix teams racing each other in the virtual world as well as the real one this year.