F1 risks losing manufacturers over cost – Abiteboul
Renault’s F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul has warned that the sport risks losing a manufacturer amid the rising cost of engine development unless the cost is reduced in the near future.
Signs are beginning to emerge that the sports four manufacturers, Ferrari, Renault, Mercedes and Honda, that there are ramping up budgets for engine development is beginning to get out of control. The French manufacturer believes that it is getting to the point where it is hard to justify.
Abiteboul believes that Honda’s huge investment in its power unit is proof of how spending is now accelerating.
Asked about the progress that Japanese manufacturer has made with its latest upgrade, Abiteboul told Motorsport.com: “It is not a surprise because it was very clear last year already that Honda were making very rapid progress. Reliability was not there last year, but it was extremely clear.”
“I remember in Spa, there was a very clear signal that Honda was on the move given the huge investment which we understand that Honda is putting in. It is not a surprise that this is paying off because we are still in an F1 that is rewarding how much you are spending rather than how you are spending it. And that is a concern.”
The manufacturers are also preparing for investment in new engine regulations which are due to be introduced in 2021, but Abiteboul thinks that questions may be asked about the current escalating costs.
Renault he says is facing a decision about whether to continue this engine programme or to look towards 2021. But added that the progress of Honda this year will result in Renault needing to ramp up its own efforts to move forward.
Mercedes can’t relax – Wolff
Mercedes F1 CEO and team principal Toto Wolff says that McLarens meltdown in 2007, is an example of why Mercedes cannot afford to relax and think the championship is won.
After four back to back wins, Lewis Hamilton leads Sebastian Vettel by sixty-seven points and could seal a fifth world title if he wins and Vettel is third or lower. But Wolff fears there is always the prospect of something unexpected happening – and he cites 2007 as a classic example.
In 2007, under the old points system, Hamilton led Kimi Raikkonen by seventeen points, meaning he needed just a podium in either Shanghai or Sao Paulo. However, a crash on the way into the pits in China, and a gearbox problem in the final round in Brazil left the door open for Raikkonen to take the crown.
Speaking about the impact of the sizeable advantage Mercedes has heading into this weekend’s United States Grand Prix, Wolff told Autosport, “It doesn’t change anything. In 2007, two races to go, forty-five points in today’s points, and [Lewis] lost the championship.”
“Would anybody ever have thought that you could lose 45 points in two races? Impossible. Racing happens on Sunday, and not necessarily the quickest car wins.”
He added that Mercedes didn’t have the fastest car over the summer, warning a “freak race” or retirement could see the lead disappear.
Mercedes has worked hard since the Belgian GP to ensure it has maximised its opportunities, it acknowledges there is little it can do to avoid “freak” circumstances coming into play.
Saying “Freak incidents happen everywhere and a DNF and a consequent bad result suddenly wipes out a large chunk of your points.”
FIA approves 2019 calendar
The FIA has approved the 2019 calendar at a meeting of the World Motor Sport Council meeting on Friday. The final calendar has seen no changes since the provisional calendar was released in August by the sports owner Liberty Media.
The twenty-one race calendar will begin in Melbourne on the weekend 15-17 March and finish in Abu Dhabi 29 November-01 December.
The WMSC has also signed off a number of tweaks to the technical regulations, including the alignment of overtaking protocols once safety cars return to the pits and the introduction of additional rain lights on rear wing endplates.
The rain lights were tested by Mercedes in Barcelona testing and are designed to offer better visibility of the lights for following cars in the wet.
Minor modifications have also been made to rules regarding the fairing on the Halo to help with driver extraction.
Vandoorne joins Mercedes Formula E
Stoffel Vandoorne is to leave Formula One at the end of the season and race in Formula E with the Mercedes backed HWA team. The McLaren driver has had a nightmare of a season and has been out-qualified by teammate Fernando Alonso for a calendar year.
That poor form led to McLaren picking Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris as their driver line-up for 2019. However, Mercedes have given him a lifeline as the teammate to DTM champion and former McLaren test driver Gary Paffett.
The team are independent of the German manufacturer, however, are believed to be the precursor to a works team. Vandoorne won the GP2 title in 2015, after replacing Alonso in Bahrain in 2016 was tipped for great things. However, since being given a full-time drive has struggled to match the Spaniard and hasn’t scored points since Baku in April.
McLaren had expressed an interest in keeping Vandoorne, within their driver programme despite his poor form, and he had been linked with the IndyCar series.
But Vandoorne will instead join fellow ex-F1 drivers Felipe Massa and Jean-Eric Vergne in Formula E.
Mick wins Euro F3 title at Hockenheim
Mick Schumacher won the Euro F3 title with a race to spare at Hockenheim. The nineteen-year-old wrapped the title up in the second race of the weekend and scored his fourteenth podium of the season in the third race.
However it wasn’t a plain sailing for the German, he failed to score in the opening race at Hockenheim following a first-lap collision. Schumacher held a 49-point advantage going into the final round in Germany and only needed to avoid dropping 15 points to title rival Dan Ticktum in race two.
Ticktum, backed by Red Bull finished seventh in race two allowing Schumacher to seal the title with second. Ticktum’s teammate Juri Vips won the second race, with Schumacher’s teammate Robert Shwartzman winning the third.
Schumacher’s title comes a year after he placed 12th overall in his debut F3 season and he is tipped to follow in his father’s footsteps into F1.
He is already being considered by both Mercedes and Ferrari as a future driver. Mercedes F1 CEO and team principal Toto Wolff told the media “He can be a big name in our sport. The boy was in the spotlight from the beginning and was under huge pressure, it’s far from easy to deal with that.”
Qualifying risks becoming another practice – Verstappen
Max Verstappen believes that qualifying risks turning into “another practice session” if another section is added to the format. F1 has considered a revised format that would involve four cars being eliminated in Q1, Q2 and Q3, leaving just eight for a final shootout in a new Q4 session.
At present the top ten are likely to run twice in Q2 and Q3, giving them five runs in the final two sessions before a final run, which determines the grid position. Verstappen says that the idea would only create more practice and a shorter session would render the session pointless.
Former teammate Carlos Sainz agrees with him, the Spaniard told Motorsport.com, “I would like to see that, but only with one set of tyres per session. Don’t give the drivers a second chance, [make them] have to do it one time per session. I think the pressure would be higher.”
“Your speciality as a driver is putting a lap together straight away in Q1, straight away in Q2 and not sandbagging like a lot of drivers are doing in Q1 and then give it all out in Q2, or give it all out in Q3.”
One of the problems which has developed in Q3 has been that tyre degradation has hurt the drivers on their final runs in Q3. That presents a strategic disadvantage in the race because their rivals immediately behind on the grid have free tyre choice.