Ferrari switches Alfa’s to new control electronics
Ferrari is to switch Alfa Romeo to a new control electronics as soon as possible following the failures which have affected both Charles Leclerc and Antonio Giovinazzi during the last two races.
The Monacan lost a certain victory in Bahrain, on only his second start for Ferrari when a short circuit within an injection system control unit caused his engine to drop a cylinder. In response, Ferrari brought a new CU to Shanghai and installed it on both Ferrari’s and Haas’s.
However, its other customer, Alfa Romeo, did not fit the new control electronics, and Giovinazzi missed qualifying after suffering the same failure as Leclerc at the start of Q1.
Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto confirmed, “We changed it because on Charles’ car it failed in Bahrain. We know that with the initial spec of the control units we had some reliability issues so we changed it simply for a better unit.”
“So, we change it on Seb [Vettel’s car] as well, for precaution, we had to change it on Charles’ because it was failed, and we asked our customer teams as well to change them.
“Haas did it, Alfa didn’t do it for installation issues, they felt [it was] too complicated, too risky for the change they had to do on installation. As a result, Antonio Giovinazzi had an issue again in quali.”
For the race, the Italian was given a fresh example of the old-spec control electronics for the race and finished fifteenth. Alfa team principal Frederic Vasseur took responsibility for the decision not to change the control electronics for China.
He admitted that he had his fingers crossed during the race that the same problem would not strike Kimi Raikkonen when he was running in the points.
Verstappen targets mid-season challenge
Max Verstappen is hoping that Red Bull will be ready to challenge Mercedes and Ferrari at every race from the halfway point in the season as it continues to play catch up to its rivals.
The team are aware that they need to make improvements to the chassis, as well as Honda needing to make up ground with the power unit, with that in mind the Dutchman believes that it is unrealistic to expect more right now from the team.
Verstappen, however, believes that planned car and engine upgrades may take Red Bull to a point where they could be strong by the middle of the season. Speaking to Motorsport.com, Verstappen said “I think we still need to add more horsepower, but we are a little bit closer. On the car side, we also need to improve to really compete. We’ll see.”
“Hopefully halfway through the season, we won’t have to say we can only fight on circuits without straights. We are still losing time on the straights, that’s a fact. Especially compared to Ferrari. They found something this year but nobody knows how.”
He says that Ferrari has done their homework, and now Red Bull’s job is to get nearer with both the engine and chassis. Verstappen, while aware that the team needs to move forward, says he is happy with his run of finishes that have left him third overall in the drivers’ standings.
Adding “In general we can be satisfied with our start. I think no one expected we would compete for wins right away – I don’t think that’s realistic. With a new engine partner, it takes some time.”
He says that the engine was reliable and that the power could be better, but Honda is working on that. But, Red Bull needed to find more downforce as well as consistency with the balance of the car.
Asked about the potential for a world championship challenge by 2020, Verstappen replied: “It’s still very early in the season and we are third in the championship. Everything is still possible”
2019 not going to be a repeat of 1992
F1’s managing director for motorsport and technical director Ross Brawn believes that Mercedes three one-two finishes in the first three races does not mean a repeat of 1992 when then-dominant Williams did the same and ran away with the title.
The most successful technical director in the sport’s history, believes that the situation was very different now to the last time a team started the campaign with three one-twos in a row. In his post-race report, the Englishman said “Despite the statistics being racked up by Mercedes, I don’t believe that 2019 will follow the same script as 1992.”
“The three consecutive one-two finishes scored by Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas are definitely down to a team that is operating to perfection at the moment, with a top-notch technical package. But it’s also fair to say it is up against stronger opposition than was Williams back in 1992.”
In that year Williams ten out of sixteen races and the most podiums.
Renault needs fixes soon – Hulkenberg
Nico Hulkenberg says that Renault needs to find fixes soon following his second consecutive retirement caused by an MGU-K failure during the Chinese Grand Prix.
After the German and his teammate, Daniel Ricciardo lost valuable points when their cars both stopped simultaneously in Bahrain the French manufacturer gave its own drivers with the upgraded MGU-K spec that was already used by McLaren’s Carlos Sainz at Sakhir.
While Ricciardo had a trouble-free run to seventh place and his first points of 2019 Hulkenberg retired after fifteen laps with a loss of power. The team believes that it was a result of a software issue related to the change of MGU-K spec, and that the revised hardware itself is not suspect.
Now the German is calling on the team to resolve its problems, he told Motorsport.com, “We really have to get on top of these things, because we’re costing ourselves results, experience and points. I think we know that we have homework to do on that side. We need fixes rather sooner than later.”
During the race, Hulkenberg tried to resolve the issue by making adjustments suggested by his engineer, but to no avail. He says that the loss of power was likely related to the MGU-K showing the team has more work to do.
He also says that he was going to have a difficult race regardless, as he lost out to Sergio Perez at the start leaving him in ninth, before dropping down the order following his stop.
Hulkenberg added, “It wasn’t looking entirely OK. Unfortunately, I lost a position to Checo during the first lap, and then just sitting in traffic was really tough for me.”
Alfa capable of more with better execution
Kimi Raikkonen says that Alfa Romeo is capable of delivering more this season if it tidies up how it executes its weekends. The Finn has scored points in the opening three races of the season and is just one point behind Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly in the drivers’ standings.
But he is adamant that his Alfa Romeo outfit can have even better results if it can eradicate the practice problems that have held it back from getting the most out of its car in qualifying.
In Shanghai, last weekend his teammate Antonio Giovinazzi lost practice time after an engine installation issue, before missing qualifying when he suffered an electronics problems.
This followed a frustrating time in Bahrain where both Raikkonen and Giovinazzi lost valuable practice time because of cooling problems. Raikkonen is clear that if the team can get through practice trouble free then that will help it unlock more performance from its car in qualifying.
Raikkonen told Motorsport.com, “Generally I think in the races we have been good but we started a bit far from our speed in my view. We need to tidy up on Saturdays and overall the weekend.”
“In practice, and make sure everything gets absolutely right. Then I think we can be more forward because I think we have the speed. You try to catch up all race because you start behind.”
Although he has been in the top ten this year a good result from the team, Raikkonen says he is not yet fully satisfied with how things have gone.
Adding “You always want more. This I what we got, and happy or not – it doesn’t change anything. If we could maximise everything over the weekend we could have got more.”
Albon delivered “perfect race” – Tost
Toro Rosso’s team principal Franz Tost says that he told Alex Albon to be “very aggressive” during the Chinese Grand Prix, in which the British-Thai driver delivered a “perfect race.”
The British-Thai driver was forced to start from the pit lane after crashing his car heavily in third practice, forcing the team to build up the spare chassis. Rather than go for a conservative strategy and long opening stint, STR gave Albon a set of new soft tyres for the start.
He managed to do 19 laps before switching to the hard tyre for the run to the flag, subsequently staying ahead of drivers who stopped twice. It was his second consecutive top-10 finish, and earned him the ‘Driver of the Day’ award, voted on by F1 fans.
Tost told Motorsport.com, “Alex did another fantastic race, and scored a point for a second time. I’m really happy with his performance and how he drove this race.”
“It was a perfect race, without any incidents, and also his overtaking manoeuvres during the race were very good. It was a well-deserved point because from Friday onwards he showed a good performance with the car.” Tost also believes that he was unfortunate to crash.
He says there was no point in telling Albon to wait for the race to come to him, we decided to “be very aggressive” taking a planned two-stop strategy, before converting it into a one stop.
Albon took a new chassis and gearbox, but the team also elected to take a new power unit penalty-free, as he remains within his allocation. The power unit, along with Daniil Kvyat’s one which failed on Friday, has been sent to Japan for analysis.
It’s not yet known if any elements will be returned to the pool for future use. “We will see, this is a decision from Honda. Both engines have gone back to Sakura, and we will wait for news,” he added.
But Tost has confidence that there is more to come from the STR14, especially in qualifying.