Ferrari hits reliability targets with engine
Ferrari has received a double boost on its power unit for the 2018 season after dyno testing has revealed that the team has hit its reliability targets as well as encouraging results from work on a new cylinder head concept.
This season drivers will be limited to three power units for the entire season. That means that one of the major focuses over the winter has been improving reliability so that engines can do seven Grand Prix’s.
Ferrari’s approach to this has been to evolve the power unit they had last year. However, that same power unit suffered a spate of reliability problems in the latter part of last season which cost the team the title. But work on the engine has been intense because of subtle tweaks to the rules, which have included a further clampdown on oil burn.
While Ferrari focuses on reliability, it could cost the team as there has been no improvement that can help it close the gap but has focused on retaining the engine power. The team are also looking to introduce a new Cylinder head later in the season.
This will help in the pre-combustion phase of the engine cycle and could especially aid the manufacturer in challenging Mercedes’ advantage with ‘magic’ qualifying modes.
The engine will not feature alloy steel pistols which were proposed at the end of last year under previous engine chief Lorenzo Sassi but was abandoned in the early summer after it failed to deliver what had been hoped.
Sassi has since left the team and joined Mercedes and is due to start soon, that means he could have vital information for the team.
Renault switch made easier by experience
McLaren says that adapting the 2018 car to suit a Renault engine was made easier by the French manufacturers experience in Formula One. After three frustrating seasons, in September McLaren announced it was switching to Renault from Honda.
That put the team several weeks behind and increased the teams workload because they needed to adapt the car to an entirely different power unit. Despite the increased workload immediately after the switch, technical director Tim Goss insists the compromises made were minimal.
Gross told ESPN “It is fair to say we had to take what we were given. There were some minor changes here and there but Renault at Viry [-Chatillon, home of Renault’s factory] had made their major choices”
“Their existing teams so there wasn’t time or opportunity to change things but there is very little in terms of overall concept that we had to compromise on. We had to change a lot but there isn’t much we had to give up on.”
Honda returned to the sport as a manufacturer in 2015, while Renault didn’t have a works team between 2010-16 the manufacturer partnered with Red Bull winning four consecutive championships.
According to chief engineering officer Matt Morris, that helped minimise the pain caused by the timing of the Renault announcement. “I think the big difference is speaking with all the guys at Renault they’ve inherently got a lot more experience,” he said.
“Those guys that are on the ground have been doing it a lot longer than the guys at Honda, and that’s just a fact. I think that’s what’s allowed us to get the packaging done so quickly.” Morris added.
He says that Renault is more mature and experienced, giving them the information they needed within twenty-four hours of the deal. Adding “ It’s just more mature than Honda. It might not have as many fancy dynos or whatever but they’ve just got more experience.”
“We’re over there at the moment doing some work on the dyno with them and again that’s just been seamless.”
Bottas ready for title challenge
Valtteri Bottas is convinced that after spending a single season alongside four-time champion Lewis Hamilton, he is ready to beat his teammate to this year’s world title.
The Finn delivered a solid season alongside the Englishman, after joining the team following the sudden retirement of Nico Rosberg. He managed to secure his first pole position in just his third race and taking three victories over the rest of the year.
However, a slump in form mid-season saw Bottas drop out of title contention, meaning he was forced to support Hamilton’s bid for a fourth world title.
He has admitted already that working with Hamilton he has discovered he needed to adapt his style of driving, but also saw races where he had the edge. Asked by ESPN if there was anything in that data that gave him reason to believe he would not be able to beat Hamilton over the course of this year, Bottas’ response was clear: “No.
“For sure he is one of the best drivers ever in Formula One, a four-time world champion who’s always on it, but I proved to myself a few times last year that I can do it and I can beat him.”
“It’s up to me to be performing well consistently all through the year, not having those kinds of race weekends when I’m a couple of tenths off or something. I need to be in all conditions.”
Finding that consistency should be easier in his second season with Mercedes, Bottas will have a better understanding of what is expected of him and the car is going to be more suited to his driving style.
He added, “I think all the development we have done with the team over the winter with the new car, everything looks in the right direction in terms of what’s good for my driving style.”
“That’s how I see it now in theory, but of course we need to find out. I need to adapt, but I think I’m so much more of a complete driver starting this year.”
Williams launch with no concerns over experience
Williams launched their 2018 car with digital images on Thursday, where the team said they had no concerns that the in experienced line up will affect the team’s performance.
This season, the team will have the most in experienced line up on the grid. Speaking at the event, deputy team principal Claire Williams told BBC News “If we didn’t think they would do the job, we wouldn’t put them in the car. As a team, the constructors’ championship is the most important thing.”
Both Lance Stroll, who made his debut last season, and his new teammate the Russian Sergey Sirotkin bring substantial sponsorship budgets to the team. Last season, the Canadian became the youngest driver to score a podium, but he was generally significantly slower than Massa during the season.
Speaking about the season ahead, Williams said “we have been doing it for years now and they have always paid off. Sergey did a phenomenal job for us at the Abu Dhabi test and I think he is going to surprise a lot of people this year.”
“Lance has been working really hard over the winter to make sure he delivers an even better performance for us than last year. I have no question in my mind that they can deliver for the year this year.”
Williams also denied that the money Sirotkin and Stroll would bring was the main factor in the choice.
Technical boss Paddy Lowe says he believed the team had made “some really good steps” with the new FW41.
Lowe said: “We’re trying to achieve an element of step-change and not just a progression. We were two seconds or so a lap slower than the front-runners last year and that is something we are looking to close considerably.”
Verstappen not looking forward to ‘very ugly’ halo
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen says he is not looking forward to his next Formula One car as it features a ‘very ugly’ halo. The British based team will launch their new car the RB14 on Monday, days before its main rivals Mercedes and Ferrari.
While the Dutchman is eager to see how competitive his new cars is, he is far from happy about how the new head protection device looks. In an interview for the teams website, Verstappen said “The halo – that will be very ugly. I am not looking forward to that! In general, I hope the car will look great and hopefully it is fast.”
“Hopefully it is a good step forward and we have got straight away a good car for the beginning of the year, so we are not really chasing like we did last year. That is the most important for us.”
The halo means that the minimum weight limit has increased for 2018, with some teams expressing concerns about reaching the minimum limit of 734kg. This means that heavier drivers like Verstappen, as they could be pushed further over the weight limit.
The Dutchman insists he will not force himself to go on a crash diet to lose any extra kilogrammes. Saying “Because the halo is quite heavy, it will be more than six kilos, it is definitely not favourable for me.”
“But I am not going to adjust my training for it, because otherwise I won’t feel well during the races. Especially for me being a taller driver and also a bit of a heavier driver than most, it is definitely not ideal.”
Verstappen says that the mood is good and everyone within Red Bull remains motivated for the season ahead.
The Week Ahead
It’s the time of year were Formula One breaks it winter silence and we get our first peeps at the 2018 cars. There are rumours of livery changes for some teams especially Sauber and Toro Rosso, given sponsorship/engine deals.
We will pour our eyes over every detail to see what innovations the winter. But we will expect some controversy over designs and the legality of the parts, however, nothing can really be done (unless it’s a safety issue) until Melbourne and the stewards interpret the rules.
During the launches or in the latter part of next week, teams will be giving their drivers line-ups for the test. However, take this with a pinch of salt, because this can change at the last minute to allow drivers to rest.
Also, remember teams will be trying to put spin on things, which is normal. An observation I have made in recent years, Mercedes try to play down expectations and Ferrari is ones to hype up expectations. However, I am very cautious of Ferrari, as they do not deliver results throughout the year.