Alonso and Toyota win Le Mans
Fernando Alonso along with his teammates Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima have won Toyotas first 24 hours of Le Mans. The Japanese manufacturer had never won the sports car race but dominated the race from the start.
The Spaniard now has completed two parts of the triple crown, the Monaco Grand Prix, Le Mans and will now set his sights once again on another attempt at the Indianapolis 500. Alonso has been allowed to compete in the world endurance championship alongside his F1 commitments.
The two Toyotas Alonso’s teammates Formula E champion Buemi and former Williams driver Nakajima, were in a battle with sister car driven by FE drivers Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez, plus former Sauber driver Kamui Kobayashi.
The race swung towards Alonso’s car when Buemi was awarded a stop-and-go penalty for speeding under yellow flags shortly after night fell on Saturday. That allowed the sister car to open a two-second gap, before Nakajima retook the lead in the sixteenth hours.
Toyota also had their own issues, wheels were seen to be moving before it had touched the ground, which is not permitted, during the pit stop when Alonso handed the car to Nakajima for the final two stints before the finish.
Jenson Button and Vitaly Petrov’s who were racing in the LMP1 class for Russian SMP fell out of contention early on after spending two hours in the pits with an engine problem. It re-joined the race but retired with an engine failure during the final hour.
Pastor Maldonado’s Dragon Speed was twelfth, Ferrari’s test driver Antonio Giovinazzi’s car was twenty third. Williams and former McLaren test drivers Oliver Rowland and Oliver Turvey, and Martin Brundle’s son Alex retired.
Mercedes can’t be considered favourites – Bottas
Valtteri Bottas says that Mercedes cannot be considered the favourites for this weekends French Grand Prix, saying that the team must improve the w09 in all areas.
Mercedes CEO and team principal Toto Wolff said that Sebastian Vettel’s win in Montreal was a “wake up call” for the defending four times champions, at a race where they had to delay their planned engine upgrade.
The manufacturer will introduce the upgrades at Paul Ricard this weekend, while the team are optimistic of an improvement the Finn says the team still needs to raise their game. Bottas told Sky Sports, “It’s different Grand Prix, different kind of tyres and it’s positive we’re going to have the new engine, which we would have needed [in Canada] to win the race.”
“Hopefully we can have some other upgrades as well on the car because every team is developing now race by race and the competition is getting tougher.” He added that they went to Canada which they believed would have been strong for the team, but finished without the win.
While they didn’t get the performance update for Montreal, Bottas says the team cannot only blame the deficit on not having the upgrade. Adding “We need to improve the car. We have seen that on tracks with many corners like Monaco we were far away from being the best car. So we have work to do in all the areas, definitely”
Williams adamant that its
Williams chief technical officer Paddy Lowe remains adamant that the team will not be giving up on improving the FW41, despite starting work early on its 2019 car.
The teams terrible season continued in Montreal, where the British team were the slowest of all the teams Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin qualified seventeenth and eighteenth before Stroll crashed out on the first lap, while Sirotkin finished seventeenth and last.
Lowe told Autosport that Williams is working hard on updates for the FW41, some of which have simply taken time to get through the system.
He said “We’re already working on next year in parallel, but we absolutely haven’t given up on this year. We are doing a lot of work back at base, some very significant work, it’s just not yet appeared on the car.
“The season is still early, and we’re absolutely not giving up on it. Some things we’ve been chipping away at and there are other things that are more major, that take a long time.” Lowe also insisted that the team was not suffering from the departures of chief designer Ed Wood and aero head Dirk de Beer, despite the lead times involved in hiring new people.
He says that the team has reshuffled responsibilities within the team, adding “We will continue to build and reinforce, but we’re not lacking in the right effort in the right areas at the moment.”
FIA backs Vettel’s claims on gains under VSC
FIA race director Charlie Whiting has backed Sebastian Vettel’s claim that drivers can gain time by using clever lines under the virtual safety car. However, says the potential gains are very small but says the sports governing body will close the loophole.
The Ferrari driver made the comments at the Spanish Grand Prix, saying it was now possible for drivers to “beat” the system by using lines they wouldn’t use in normal use in racing conditions. He said “It’s the same for everyone but the FIA is supplying us with a system that makes us follow a delta time.”
“And everybody has to slow down by, I think, 40 percent, but I think everybody’s aware you can have a faster way to go under VSC than just follow the delta – by saving distance.”
“So, I think we should have a system that hasn’t got this loophole because it forces us to drive ridiculous lines around the track, and everybody’s doing it, so I don’t think it’s a secret.”
At the time Vettel made the comments, Whiting disagreed with the comments, however following some research he admits there is something to it. he explained in Montreal, “Yes, I’ve worked it out now. The calculation that the system does every 50 metres is based on the distance from the timing line.”
“So if you can shorten that, you can gain tiny fractions. The way we’ve calculated it with our software guys is you can possibly gain about 150 milliseconds [per lap].”
Spa set to remain on the calendar for three more years
The Belgian Grand Prix looks set to remain on the calendar at least until 2021 after Spa signed a new deal on Friday. The circuit was in the final year of its current contract but now has agreed on a new three-year deal.
When Liberty Media took over the sport ahead of last season, the US media group had historic venues on the calendar and Belgium’s future was seen as an indicator of whether that would be the case.
According to the L’Echo newspaper, the regional Wallonian government has signed the deal with Liberty. Race organisers are expecting a huge crowd for this year’s race, bolstered by the legion of Max Verstappen’s Dutch fans who make the trip across the border from the Netherlands.
Speaking to the newspaper regional Minister for the Economy, Employment and Training and mayor of Herve, Pierre-Yves Jehotlet said “It’s a good deal which ensures that the region of Wallonia retains an event which contributes to the promotion the region on the world stage.”
He added “It’s also a new era because it’s the first time we’re negotiating with the directors of Liberty Media. The proceeds for the Wallonian economy were 20.5 million in 2017, an increase of 21 percent from 2016.”
Meanwhile, Liberty is also renegotiating deals with Hockenheim and Suzuka who are in the final year of their existing contracts too. Hockenheim has made it clear it will only accept a deal if F1 significantly reduces the amount of financial risk attached to it.
While Silverstone triggered a break clause last July and is set to begin to renegotiate its contract in the coming weeks. Like Belgium and Germany, Liberty has vowed to reach a deal to keep the race on the calendar beyond 2019.
Next year “best moment” for changes – Vasseur
Sauber’s team principal Fred Vasseur says that next year is the “best moment” for changes to the sport to change the aerodynamic regulation as it rebuilds its engineering team under new technical director Simone Resta.
Resta left Ferrari at the end of May and will join the Swiss team at the beginning of July. He will work alongside former McLaren, Toro Rosso and Manor man Luca Furbatto, who is the chief designer of Sauber’s 2019 car.
The Swiss team was one of the teams who voted for the changes in aero regulations for 2019, with Vasseur saying the team will switch its research and development resources sooner rather than later.
He told Motorsport.com, “We are pushing like hell in the aero department. For sure it’s the best moment to get a modification on the aero regs.”
“I’m not sure that we have a big game to play in the current championship, to be honest. It makes more sense to us to make this kind of switch and be focussed quite early on the next regulations.” Vasseur says the delay in the definitive regulations was because of small details.
Vasseur believes that Resta is “the perfect guy” to manage the teams rapidly expanding technical department. He says he is not focused on the collaboration with Ferrari, but it was considered.