Renault F1 boss Koskas leaves group
Jerome Stoll will continue as Renault’s Sport division president despite the French manufacturer announcing he would be replaced at the start of the month by executive vice-president of sales and marketing Thierry Koskas.
However, admit growing uncertainty at the Renault group the French manufacturer announced that Koskas had left the company and that Stoll would, therefore, continue in his current role.
“Jerome Stoll will continue in his role as President of Renault Sport Racing following the departure of Thierry Koskas from Groupe Renault,” the company said.
The sixty-four year old has been with Renault since 1980 and was appointed as president of its sporting arm in 2016.
Renault said in its November announcement that Koskas would report to chief executive Carlos Ghosn, who was arrested in Japan at the end of last year, facing accusations of financial misconduct.
Ghosn denies wrongdoing after Japanese prosecutors charged him for financial misconduct on Monday, and remains CEO.
Ghosn received “improper payments”
Nissan and Mitsubishi says that ousted chairman Carlos Ghosn received “improper payments” totalling £6.9m from a joint venture. Ghosn who remains chairman of Renault denies wrongdoing after Japanese prosecutors charged him for financial misconduct on Monday.
In a statement, Nissan says that Ghosn was compensated by the Netherlands-based joint venture. However, he signed the contract without consulting two other board members, Nissan chief executive Hiroto Saikawa and Mitsubishi chief executive Osamu Masuko.
Ghosn received compensation totalling €7.8m, according to the statement. “Nissan views the payments Ghosn received from [the joint venture company] to be the result of misconduct and will consider measures to recover from Ghosn the full sum,” it said.
Mr Ghosn has been charged with financial misconduct and breach of trust. The 64-year-old is accused of having understated his pay for eight years and of having shifted private investment losses temporarily onto Nissan.
Not Verstappen’s number two – Gasly
Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly says that he will not be the teams “second driver” to Max Verstappen in 2019. After a year with Red Bull’s sister team Toro Rosso, he has been promoted to race alongside the Dutchman this year.
Gasly made his debut for Toro Rosso at the end of 2017, and in his first full season last year he finished fifteenth and gained Hondas best finish since it returned to Formula One with fourth in last years Bahrain Grand Prix.
The Frenchman will join the senior Red Bull team alongside Verstappen this year. Speaking about the prospect of going up against Verstappen, Gasly says he is “super excited”, but is wary he will need time to get “comfortable” with the “more English culture” of Red Bull.
Gasly told Motorsport.com, “For sure I’m going to be next to one of the best drivers on the grid at the moment and for me, it’s a great challenge. I will take the time I need to be competitive, but I’m not going to be there to be second driver, that’s not what I want.”
“If I have the car to win then that’s what I would love to do. And if I have a car which is only good for top five, they that’s going to be the target. But at the end of the day it was only my full first season in Formula 1 [in ’18] and for sure I’m going to get better and better”
Gasly says that he knows that he didn’t reach his full potential, and that is his motivation and he is fully dedicated to doing that as soon as possible.
The Frenchman says that he will need to get used to the “English culture” and that there were different targets at Red Bull.
Speaking about Verstappen, Gasly said that he was “super excited” to go up against him.
Saying “So I find it a really exciting time for myself and I’m really looking forward to starting, and we will see how I perform straight away. But for sure I will get better through the season and that’s fair to say.”
Williams trapped in problems by lack of change
Williams chief technical officer Paddy Lowe has admitted that the team “fell into the trap” of not accepting the extent of the team’s problems and how much the team needed to change.
Lowe joined Williams at the beginning of 2017 after being a key part of Mercedes management team. The team expected that they could have made further inroads into the top three.
However, the regulation changes saw the team develop a car last year which had fundamental aerodynamic problems, and has been conducting a significant review into its processes as a result.
Lowe told Motorsport.com that Williams needed to “get out of this mindset that there are just two or three things to fix and then everything will be OK, and we’ll be winning races.”
“It is a mindset that I think has been in Williams for a very long time. The mindset we need is to say, ‘Everything is available to be challenged and everything has to be done better every year’, otherwise you’re being left behind by a very strong set of competitors.”
Williams hasn’t won a race since Barcelona in 2012, and a drivers or constructors championship since 1997.
Lowe says that the team are well finance and populated, he says the team has really well-educated engineers and some of the most talented people in the world.
He believes the work the team conducted in the early part of last year was crucial to the teams’ fundamental progress to its working practices. Lowe insists that they did yield positive results even if that did “nothing to transform our overall performance”.
Williams’s review has remained internal, with no public shouting about new recruits or how it plans to adjust its technical structure in the wake of some key departures in 2019.
Honda wants to be the third best engine
Honda has set itself the target this year to try and establish itself ahead of Renault at the start of the season before going after Mercedes and Ferrari during the year.
The Japanese manufacturer has been the fourth fastest power unit since it returned to the sport in 2015, after being interested in the current V6 turbo-hybrid regulations.
Honda’s first three seasons with McLaren the reliability problems led to the pair slitting at the end of the 2017 season. But last season, partnered with Toro Rosso they managed to convince Red Bull that they were in a position to challenge the top two. While Red Bull declared that Honda had now surpassed Renault’s performance level.
Asked by Motorsport.com, where Honda would be able to start 2019, given its development in 2018, the company’s motorsport boss Masashi Yamamoto told: “We will make a big effort during the winter, and [up until] now of course.”
“At least we would like to start from third within the manufacturers, then try to catch the frontrunners up during the season.” Honda remains optimistic that they can make further gains in performance and continue improving reliability this year.
Both Red Bull and Honda have stated that they are expecting to take tactical penalties at some point this season. Honda’s focus remains on closing the gap to Mercedes and Ferrari at a greater pace after taking longer than it wanted to make progress.
“We are not really keen to say a specific time, but Mercedes and Ferrari have loads of knowledge of the grey areas [of the rules], so they are still ahead of us,” said Yamamoto.
In 2018, Honda introduced two upgrades which both lead to better performance, however, the second upgrade initially came at a cost of durability as it battled gearbox oscillations. Pierre Gasly then suffered an oil leak in the season finale in Abu Dhabi.
The evolution of this engine design, which Honda intends to start the 2019 campaign with, should not come with a repeat of those problems. For this season, they are sticking with the same broad engine concept for the first time in this engine era, having ended 2018 with untapped potential.
Honda’s F1 technical director Toyoharu Tanabe told Motorsport.com in Abu Dhabi last November, “To tell you the truth, we’re still learning from the latest specification at the track.”
Hamilton nominated for Laureus Awards
Five times world champion Lewis Hamilton has been nominated for the Laureus World Sports Awards. Hamilton has been nominated for sportsman of the year, with his Mercedes team nominated for team of the year.
In 2018, Hamilton and his Mercedes team won the Team of the Year, while Hamilton won breakthrough of the year for his debut season in 2007. Mercedes Chairman and three times champion Niki Lauda was awarded the lifetime achievement award in 2016.
The winners will be revealed at a ceremony in Monaco next month.
Button to become a father
Former world champion Jenson Button and his fiancée Brittny Ward have announced on social media that they are expecting their first child in the summer.
Button and his to be second wife announced their engagement last summer after the Englishman split with the Japanese model Jessica Michibata.
On Thursday night, the pair both posted on social media that the Englishman and the American model that they are to become parents later this year.
In a tweet, Button said “Brittny & I are delighted to announce the new edition to the family currently having his first seat! Look how comfy he looks.”
While she also tweeted “Baby couldn’t wait for the wedding, he’s decided to make an early appearance. We’re very happy to announce baby button is coming this summer ??❤️”
The Week Ahead
The week ahead is likely to focus on drivers and teams looking ahead to 2019. This week, we have heard an awful lot about Red Bull they seem very hopeful about the season ahead, as the senior team joins up with Honda.
As ever the corporate scandal engulfing the upper management of Renault and Carlos Ghosn continues to dominate the business headlines. We believe while it hasn’t currently affected the team, it may do as he was the man who has been actively supporting the team and brought the team back to F1.
Car launch dates and other key dates ahead of Barcelona testing will be announced, as we said for a number weeks this is kind of on hold until Mercedes and Red Bull confirm plans. But you need to expect a bigger launch from Red Bull because they have joined forces with Honda.
Ferrari’s upheaval will continue to be a talking point, we still are looking for a change in the teams’ relationship with the fans and media. We said last month reporting on the Italian team was incredibly frustrating last year. We hope of a reset under the new management.
Brexit is now going to be at the back of teams minds, no deal could be bad for the teams. However, despite the uncertainty, you need to say its very unlikely to upticks to Europe, but the cross border travel and movement of goods and people must remain a thought. We will watch in May.