McLaren insists no regrets about Honda divorce
McLaren chairman Sheikh Mohammed bin Essa Al Khalifa is once again insisting that the team made the right decision to split from Honda at the end of last year, even though it didn’t give an uplift in form.
Following three difficult years with the Japanese manufacturer, the team decided to split because of the lack of performance. The decision cost the team around £90 million, combining both the cost of Renault engines and the loss from Honda support.
Instead of the big step forward the team under delivered with its car and finished last of the Renault powered teams. In response, the team carried out a reshuffle and a number of senior people left. Honda meanwhile made a big step forward, convincing Red Bull to switch to Renault
Sheikh Mohammed, who represents the Mumtalakat investment fund of the Bahraini government that are McLaren shareholders, says there are no regrets about what happened.
Reflecting on his feelings about the season just gone, he told Motorsport.com “On the one hand frustrated, on the other, we are committed to this. The way we were heading [meant]…a change was bound to come.”
“Tremendous respect to Honda, but the relationship wasn’t working so we had a civilised discussion and we decided to part ways. It was an expensive decision for us but it was in the long-term interest of the company. So we don’t regret the decision.”
With the difficult season the team has had, the Bahraini said he has taken a much closer interest in what going on at the team than he did before. That he says has given him more details and understanding, but he realises there are no quick fixes.
Saying “I’ve been here long enough to realise that shooting from the hip isn’t the solution. It is a gradual step of informed decisions of how to fix things and we’ve tried to do that.”
CEO Zak Brown believes that the team has been helped by Sheikh Mohammed’s close involvement. Brown said “My style is I want to be very engaged with my chairman. So don’t surprise your chairman. They [the Bahrainis] have such a long history in the sport that I value their input and want their input and influence.”
“I think there are some CEOs who think, ‘I’ve got the ball let me just run with it’, but that has not been my style. So there are a lot of areas where Sheikh Mohammed helps and I asked for him to get involved to use his influence or seek his influence
Ricciardo’s mentally tough season
Daniel Ricciardo believes that 2018 was his toughest season mentally in Formula One because he has never had to overcome so many “hurdles” before.
The Australian won two of the first six races making him a championship contender, however poor reliability blighted the rest of his season. Ricciardo who will join Red Bull next year told Motorsport.com that it has been the toughest season he has endured mentally.
He said “I don’t want to overplay it like ‘Man, I’ve been struggling’. In the scheme of things I’ve been handling it well and I wouldn’t say that my everyday life has suffered from it.”
“But for sure, the racing and the emotions I’ve felt over the course of a race weekend have been more than I’ve ever experienced before. With the mental side, it’s just been about trying to overcome these hurdles and the constant failures and trying to pick myself back up.”
Ricciardo made the decision to leave Red Bull at the start of the summer and join Renault, at that point he had already retired from four of the eleven races. After the summer he suffered three further mechanical issues, with more compromised by mechanical issues and reliability problems.
He says that the emotional element of leaving Red Bull had not added to the challenge of the season beyond his previous admission that he lost sleep at times this season.
Saying “It was more that time around the decision and the contract talks and all that. That took some energy out of me, just going back and forth and trying to figure out what was best for me in terms of my future.”
Ricciardo admits that when making the decision he did lose some sleep, but once it was made it lifted some weight off his shoulders. However, speaking on a farewell Red Bull podcast after the season finished, Ricciardo insisted he never felt like the team’s attitude changed towards him.
Saying “I’m happy and comfortable with the situation and the terms I’m leaving the team on.”
Renault let down by lack of commitment
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says that Renault has let its staff down with the lack of commitment from the manufacturer’s management. The Englishman has often questioned the support given by Renault, admit rising tensions between both sides.
Horner told Motorsport.com, “Credit where credit is due. In Mexico, we were provided with an engine that was capable of winning, as we were in Austria and China.”
“We were lucky in Monaco, even without an MGU-K. Any other circuit and we would have been stuffed. I have total admiration for the Renault guys in the garage that are working their socks off, week in, week out.”
“But I think they’ve ultimately been let down by the main house’s lack of commitment to development and reliability.” At times this season, the team has been frustrated by the lack of new parts and switching of parts between engines.
Horner also added that using a different fuel than the works team and McLaren had created some compromises, but also had its advantages. Saying “Exxon have done a very good job for us. Their difficulty and frustration has also been that as a customer we get very limited dyno time.”
Renaults F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul admitted there were mixed emotions about the split. He said “It’s a bit strange, because 12 years is a big chunk of Red Bull’s and Renault’s history, and it’s a ling time also for the individuals involved, the technical guys, the mechanics on both sides, the engineers.”
He admitted their were both difficult and good moments, but says communication could have been much better.
Ferrari celebrate Schumacher’s half-century
Ferrari has announced they are launching an exhibition to celebrate the fiftieth birthday of Michael Schumacher. The seven-time champion won five of his titles with Ferrari between 2000-04, and two with Benetton in 1994-95.
He made an unsuccessful come back in 2010 with Mercedes. However, the German has not been seen in public since a life-changing skiing accident in December 2013 at the French resort of Meribel. The exhibition will open on his birthday, Thursday 3rd January at Ferrari’s Maranello headquarters.
A statement from the Italian manufacturer said, “Michael has a special place in the history of Ferrari. The rooms of the museum are decorated with images from the unforgettable years that the seven-time world champion gave to all at Ferrari.”
Albon chooses 23 as race number
Alexander Albon has selected number twenty-three as his permanent race number ahead of his debut in 2019. The Thai driver was confirmed as the replacement for Brendon Hartley the day after the season ended, after being freed from his contract to race with Nissan in Formula E.
The Thai driver was listed on the first entry list for the 2019 season by the FIA, albeit without a selected number.
The Toro Rosso website has since been updated to show that Albon will be racing with 23 in F1, marking its first usage since the permanent numbers were introduced in 2014.