Honda upgrade brought performance too
Honda’s upgrade aimed at reliability has seen a step forward in race performance even though it was aimed at reliability according to McLarens Jenson Button.
The Japanese manufacturer brought an upgrade with a new engine block and lightweight exhaust for Fernando Alonso in Malaysia. The upgrade proved good allowing him to run it in Japan but Button hasn’t ran the upgrade after Honda made a strategic decision to introduce it as the associated penalties would have little impact on his lowly grid position.
In Malaysia, Alonso had been adamant the new engine was “not quicker”, saying: “the engine has the same performance, exactly the same horsepower, it’s just reliability is a little bit stronger.”
But having experienced it himself in Japan, Button said the reliability improvement would have a performance benefit too. He told Autosport “Reliability helps performance because it means you can run a more aggressive strategy with the engine. So it does help performance in a race, yeah, but in qualifying it shouldn’t be any different.”
The gains were not shown in Japan with Alonso described McLaren as “anonymous” on a weekend where neither car scored. Racing director Eric Boullier said those difficulties were anticipated.
“That track layout doesn’t suit our chassis and obviously on the engine side we are still not on the same performance levels as Mercedes. So both combined obviously makes a difficult weekend for us.”
With the regulation changes next year Honda wants to make big performance gains next season, when development is opened up.
Pressure on Mercedes
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has admitted “the pressure is on” the team to ensure another car does failure not decide the 2016 drivers’ title fight between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.
Rosberg currently leads by thirty three points which was boosted by Hamilton’s retirement in Malaysia. This put Hamilton on the back foot with the only way he can win the title if Rosberg is third and he wins the remaining four races.
Wolff told ESPN “Our priority over the coming weeks is to give both our boys the best possible chance of winning the remaining four races. The title is purely between them, which is fantastic news for the team as we can be happy whatever the final outcome.”
“However, the pressure is on to ensure that their battle is decided man-to-man, and hopefully wheel-to-wheel, on the race track.” Mercedes have already sealed the constructors title making them the dominate team of V6 era. But Wolff says they can’t dwell on its success with a big rule change on the horizon in 2017.
“We may already have celebrated our championship success as a team — but we have a responsibility to the drivers and will not let anything distract us from the job at hand. Likewise, we have an entirely new challenge to prepare for in 2017.
He said there is a long hard winter ahead and much work to be done in the coming weeks and months
Ericsson needs convincing over Sauber’s engine
Marcus Ericsson says he needed convincing of Sauber’s decision to run a 2016-spec engine next season but has been convinced it is the team it was the best way forward.
Sauber has been a customer team of Ferrari for twenty years apart from when it was owned by BMW between 2006-2009. Next season the team will run the old unit because they want to focus on the aero changes. But Ericson questioned this because of Toro Rosso’s struggles as the 2016 season has gone on, with Ferrari’s ’15 engine.
He told Autosport “When I first heard about it, I questioned it quite a lot and I was thinking, ‘is that really the right way to go? You look at Toro Rosso and how much they have lost.”
“Then I spoke to the guys at the track and the factory and the reasoning makes sense, as there are really big changes to the regulations and we are a small team.”
“The team can focus on developing the car for next year and knowing what package we will have and what power unit we will have will help.” Ericsson says the chasis is not where it should be and going into the winter not knowing engine size is going to hurt more.
He adds “If we know what we have in the back, we can push hard on the chassis side.”
Team-mate Felipe Nasr also backed the decision, adding: “I see we have given away a lot of attention on the chassis on our aero side and we should be focusing on that next year.
Aggressive tyres for Mexico
Mercedes main rivals have gone for the aggressive tyre strategy for next weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix. Pirelli added the supersoft tyre for the race with Red Bull and Ferrari choosing six sets and Williams seven.
By contrast, Mercedes has selected just five sets of the rubber – the least of any team. Hamilton and Rosberg have five supersofts, but while Rosberg has spilt his remaining soft and medium to four of each Hamilton has a extra soft. Ferrari drivers have six each of the supersoft but Vettel has lost a soft compared to Raikkonen’s five.
All the Williams, Force India’s and Sabuer drivers have seven supersoft and three of both the soft and mediums. Both Red Bulls have six supersofts, four softs and three mediums. The Renault drivers have six supersoft, but Jolyon Palmer has opted for an extra soft than Kevin Magnussen’s two.
Both Toro Rosso’s have eight supersofts, four softs and two hards. Both McLaren’s have six supersofts, four softs and three hards. While Manors driver have six supersofts, five softs and two hards.
Haas’s drivers have seven supersoft, but both gone for different choices with softs and hards. Grosjean has four hards and two mediums, while Gutierrez has five softs and a single hard.
Magnussen rules out IndyCar
Kevin Magnussen has dismissed rumours that he could move to Indy Car next year with Andretti, saying his focus remains on retaining his Renault Formula 1 seat.
The Dane used Twitter to say he is still waiting for a decision from Renault, who announced Nico Hulkenberg as one of its 2017 drivers last week. Magnussen tweeted “Unfortunately there is nothing yet to announce regarding my future, but hopefully there will be soon. I too am getting impatient! ??”
“I feel confident my future is in F1 and there should be no doubt I intent to stay with [Renault] for many years if I can. Seeing rumours around about me in IndyCar. I’m a big fan of IndyCar but those are really just rumours. Nothing to it. #NeverGiveUpOnTheDream”
Last winter Mangussen was in talks with Bryan Herta’s eponymous IndyCar team last winter. However, talks foundered as Herta urged Magnussen to pursue his F1 goals and instead chose to put his team under the umbrella of Andretti Autosport.
But Andretti has retained Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Alex Rossi for 2017, with many drivers aiming for the remaining seat.
Disappointed if Bottas first win is with another team
Williams deputy team principal Claire Williams says she would be disappointed if Valtteri Bottas’s first Grand Prix was with another team. The Fin made his debut with the team in 2013, but has not won a Grand Prix.
Bottas despite there being reports of a move to Renault is expected to resign with Williams for next season. The Fin has finished ahead of his team-mate in every F1 season he has contested and is on course to beat Felipe Massa for a third year in a row.
Ms Williams told Autosport “As I keep saying to him, I can’t wait to give him a car that he can win a race in. He started his career with us, he has given us a lot of his time, he’s stuck by us and he’s been loyal to the team in good times and bad.”
“So I want Williams to be the team that gives him his first race win – that is the objective at the moment. He has been strong this year, but he always is.” Williams says that you know what you get with Bottas in the car, he is always going to deliver.
“It’s been a big year for Valtteri as well, he’s done a good job, he’s delivered a lot of points for the team, he’s really dependable.” Speaking about last years rumours of a move to Ferrari, she said it was a big lesson for Bottas to manage the rumours and speculation.
She added “You have to be able to separate that from your duties that you have to the team that pays your wages and the responsibility you have to the people back at the factory.”
She says Bottas has he has done that and has done a great job learning from last years situation.