F1 Today – 15/02/2021

F1 Today

Red Bull agrees take over deal Honda’s engine

Red Bull has announced it will continue to use Honda’s power units until 2025, forming a new operation called Red Bull Powertrains Limited.

The Japanese manufacturer announced in October that it would be withdrawing from the sport at the end of the 2021 season, but was open to allowing Red Bull to continue to run its power units beyond this date.

But that depended on an engine freeze which would allow it to continue using the power unit without the need to fund their costly development and avoid having to become a customer team with another manufacturer.

Last week the F1 Commission unanimously agreed to freeze the engines between 2022-24 allowing Red Bull to acquire the IP of Honda’s power unit in this period. On Monday, Red Bull confirmed that they had now reached that deal, allowing it and sister team Alpha Tauri to run the engines until the next generation of power units arrive in 2025.

A new company called Red Bull Powertrains Limited has been formed to run the project and will be run out of Red Bull’s main base in Milton Keynes.

Red Bull adviser Helmut Marko told Motorsport.com, “We have been discussing this topic with Honda for some time and following the FIA’s decision to freeze power unit development from 2022, we could at last reach an agreement regarding the continued use of Honda’s hybrid power units.”

“We are grateful for Honda’s collaboration in this regard and for helping to ensure that both Red Bull Racing and Scuderia AlphaTauri continue to have competitive power units.”

“The establishment of Red Bull Powertrains Limited is a bold move by Red Bull but it is one we have made after careful and detailed consideration.” Marko says they are aware of the huge commitment and believe the creation of the new company is the most competitive option for both teams.

The formation of its own power unit division gives Red Bull the possibility of creating a power unit from the next rule cycle in 2025, something Marko has previously said is an option.

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner called the announcement “a significant step for Red Bull in its F1 journey. We were understandably disappointed when Honda made the decision to leave the sport as an engine manufacturer, as our relationship yielded immediate success, but we are grateful for their support in facilitating this new agreement.”

He says that Honda has invested significantly in hybrid technology to ensure the supply of competitive power units to both teams.


Red Bull sets out its engine vision

Red Bull has announced the future engines will take the moniker of the energy drinks company, as it ruled out selling on the naming rights. Today it was announced formally that Red Bull would form a new power train division to take over the running of the power unit.

While in the final three years of its relationship with Renault it engines were badged as TAG-Heuer taking the name of its Renault customer units from 2016-2018 – such a plan has been ruled out this time.

Speaking about the plans for the future name of the Honda engines, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner told Autosport, “It will be a Red Bull engine. So it will be, as Mercedes is a Mercedes, it will be an incorporated part of the car. So it will be a Red Bull.”

Asked if Red Bull was looking for a potential partner or manufacturer to help in its project: “I think we won’t be beholden on having a partner, so we’ve got the independence to do it ourselves.

“If an exciting partner comes along, then, of course, it would make sense to look at it very seriously, whether that be an OEM or another type of partner, a battery manufacturer or whatever. It really depends what the engines are.”

While Red Bull will inherit the UK Honda operation along with most of its staff, the team is looking to carry over most of the operational side into the new company.

Although Red Bull is now on the lookout for an individual to head up its engine division, Horner has ruled out early talk that it could swoop for former Mercedes chief Andy Cowell.

He also confirmed that Red Bull would be obliged to provide customer engines to another outfit outside its current family if required by the regulations.


Mercedes will go after Verstappen – Horner

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes that Mercedes will target Max Verstappen as the replacement for Sir Lewis Hamilton. The seven-times champion has only signed a one year contract, meaning that Mercedes will need to consider the long term future.

Verstappen is seen as the natural successor as the sports next big star, with his current contract ending in 2023. Although there are several performance-related clauses could trigger his departure at the end of the year.

Horner told the Press Association “I am sure that should Lewis decide to stop then Max will naturally be the driver at the top of Mercedes’ list. They also have George Russell and other drivers available to them.

“The reality is, that yes of course – as there has always been – an element of performance-related clauses to Max’s contract. But as with all these things, it is not about forcing a driver that doesn’t want to be there.

“It is more about relationships than contracts, and you only pull a contract out of the drawer when you have got a problem in my experience.

Horner says that Verstappen believes in the project and has a strong relationship and investment that Red Bull is making. This gives him confidence that there will be no need to refer to any contractual clauses. It will be down to us to deliver a competitive car.”

Honda is leaving the sport at the end of the year, but the new deal allows Red Bull to continue using the Japanese manufacturer’s technology, and means they do not have to become a customer of rivals’ Ferrari or Renault.

The agreement with Honda will run through until 2025 when F1 introduces the next generation of engines. Last week, the sport announced a freeze on engine development from the start of next year.

Red Bull hope the move will enable them to take the fight to Mercedes who have won the past seven drivers’ and constructors’ championships.

Horner added: “We demonstrated at Abu Dhabi that Mercedes are beatable at a track they have been unbeaten at for the past six or seven years.

“We just need to be able to do that across the season. We are gathering momentum. Nobody has a crystal ball so we just need to do the best job we can.”


Alonso discharged from hospital

Fernando Alonso has been discharged from hospital after fracturing his jaw last Thursday in a cycling accident near his home in Lugano, Switzerland.

His Alpine team said Alonso will now have “a short period of complete rest”. He will then “progressively resume training in preparation for the start of the season”.

The two-times world champion is returning to F1 after two years away in which he explored other motorsport ambitions. He added a second Le Mans win, the World Endurance Championship title, competed twice in the Indianapolis 500 and once in the Dakar Rally.

Alpine, the former Renault team, said last week that they “expect him to be fully operational to undertake preparation for the season”.

Alonso said on social media last week: “I’m OK and looking forward to getting 2021 under way. Let’s go.”

The Spaniard says that he is returning to F1 because he loves competing and driving, and he hopes Alpine will be competitive with the advent of new technical rules being introduced in 2022.


Russell wins at Interlagos as Haas secure constructors

George Russell took his sixth consecutive race win in Sunday’s Sao Paulo Virtual Grand Prix, however that didn’t stop Haas from securing the constructors and the prize fund for charity.

The Williams driver started the race in fourteenth after teammate Alvaro Carreton received a penalty during qualifying. Drama then unfolded into the first corner allowing Russell to climb up to third, he then hunted down Arnaud Tsamere and then putting a move on Dino Beganovic at the start of the third lap.

In the race to set the grid, Alpine’s Nicolas Longuet took victory holding off two-time champion Brendon Leigh. This gave the French comedian Tsamere pole on his doubt alongside Beganovic. Arthur Leclerc and Jake Dixon eventually settling into sixth and seventh respectively.

Enzo Fittipaldi sweeping past Beganovic on Lap 6 for second place, having started down in ninth. Beganovic started the first Virtual Grand Prix back in Bahrain last year but showed he has lost none of his sim racing prowess, engaging Alex Albon in a race-long duel for third place.

Meanwhile at the back former Big Brother contestant Jack McDermott ‘Pie Face’, was hounding Luca Salvadori before spinning out of the points. The results confirmed Haas as champions, Ferrari second and Williams third in the constructors.

Each of the top three, Haas, Ferrari and Williams will get the biggest part of the prize money for there respective charities, the Grand Prix Trust, Save the Children Global and Spinal Injury Association.


Mercedes admits it has “issues” with power unit

Mercedes has admitted that it is struggling with “issues” with its engine preparations for 2021, but is confident it can have fixed in place for the first race. This year, the German manufacturer is chasing a record-breaking eighth drivers and constructors.

However as it ramps up its preparations for the new season, its engine managing director Hywel Thomas has revealed that it is facing some early year challenges.

In a video released by Mercedes Thomas said, “We have got some issues with the power units. We know we have issues but we have plenty of plans in place to fix all of those issues. I’m sure it will all be ready for the first race.”

Mercedes had faced some issues last year and has reliability problems in testing, with Thomas’s predecessor Andy Cowell admitting the team faces troubles in its preparations for the new season. Last year the team had some reliability problems in testing but got on top of them once the delayed season began in Austria.

Mercedes is currently constructing its 2021 engines and has sent out the first batch of power units to its customer teams. while it now runs through durability testing, new restrictions that limit dyno use have added to its difficulties.

Engine homologation rules that rule out in-season power unit modifications mean it has to get everything sorted by the season opening race in Bahrain.

Thomas added: “This year there have been a few extra additional things thrown at us. It’s been the first winter where we’ve had to react to a change to the regulations, which limits the amount of dyno hours we’re able to run.”

“This means we have to make every single dyno run count and must make sure that we are entirely productive, to learn about the performance and the reliability of the Power Unit during each hour.”

He says that they are preparing for one single upgrade this season, meaning they need to get the performance needs to be there from the power unit.


Zhou China’s only hope of F1 driver – Sharizman

Alpine academy director Mia Sharizman believes that Guanyu Zhou represents China’s only hope of having a driver in F1 in the next two decades. Zhou has been a member of the team’s driver academy since 2019 and was the team’s test driver last year.

The Chinese driver took his maiden F2 win last year but could only finish sixth in the championship, but he has been tipped for a championship challenge when the season begins in Bahrain next month.

Alpine is already exploring options over placing its junior drivers in F1 seats, but Zhou’s future carries extra significance as the series looks for its first full-time Chinese driver.

Sharizman feels Zhou represents a once-in-a-generation chance for China to have an F1 driver and stressed Alpine’s commitment to giving him that opportunity.

She told Motorsport.com, “In the case of Zhou specifically, we started off the project three years ago with the aim that [he would be ready for F1] by the end of his three-year tenure here in the academy.”

“It was always a once in a generation project, especially for Zhou coming from China. We will never, ever see another Chinese driver for the next 15-20 years, whether in Formula 3, Formula 4 or Formula 2.”

Sharizman says that the Renault group was committed to getting a Chinese driver into F1. Zhou tested for the team over the last year but is yet to take part in a race weekend.

Ma Qinghua is so far the only Chinese driver to take part in an F1 practice session, featuring in five FP1s with HRT and Caterham across 2012 and 2013.

Asked by Motorsport.com about the high expectations in China to reach F1, Zhou said he was focusing on a high finish in this year’s championship to gain the super licence points required for F1.

Saying, “I can get the title, we have the potential, then I can be an F1 driver and I’m ready to be driving an F1 car. That’s exactly the target for this year, to try and win the title, be one of the title contenders.”


McLaren set to launch this evening

McLaren will unveil it new car at 19:00GMT tonight at its Woking headquarters, with the expectation is of it being Formula 1’s most different car.

Most teams forced to carry over their chassis from last season to this one, as part of cost-saving measures introduced in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the scope for overhauls are quite limited. However, McLaren, they have been forced to make changes because of the switch to Mercedes.

The packaging of the power unit is a core component of current F1 design, with each manufacturers having unique approaches to their overall concept, McLaren has had to make some significant changes. That much was made clear by the team last month when it talked about where its focus had been over the winter.

McLaren production director Piers Thynne, told Motorsport.com, “Whereas every other team will carry over most of its car from last year into this year, our switch to the Mercedes power unit means that’s not the case for us.”

“It’s driven a huge amount of change and, essentially, we’ve been building a new car. The number of new parts on the MCL35M is about the same as when we built the MCL35.”

The team still faces the same challenges as all the teams, it needs to cut downforce by twenty percent to ease some of the stresses being put through the tyres.

Changes to the floor and rear of the car have a much bigger impact on car performance than how they look and could well become a talking point in the early part of the year.

McLaren this season will look to build on its top three finish in the constructors. It’s car was strong in high-speed corners and under braking, there were some inherent weaknesses that it hopes to address.


We will bring you full coverage tomorrow by midday UK time with the launch tonight at 19:00GMT


Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.