Sauber progress not because of upgrades – Leclerc
Charles Leclerc says that Sauber’s progress in the second part of the season is due to set up work rather than upgrades because the team stopped developing the C37 early.
Sauber started the year at the back, but has managed to move itself towards being a regular top ten threat. That has allowed the team to fight in the constructors with both McLaren and Force India, and goes into this weekends Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in the position to fight for fifth mathematically, but more realistically sixth.
Speaking to Motorsport.com, the Ferrari bound Leclerc said, “The baseline of the car this year is good, I just think in the first three races we didn’t use the full potential.”
“Once we understood how to balance this car we really did a huge step up. Then we made some improvements during the season also that made it even better. The car is very impressive compared to last year, you can see that in the results.”
“We have stopped the updates on the car since quite a bit [of time ago] and we are still keeping the same performance, as are the teams that are trying to push a little bit.”
In the last two races, Leclerc and teammate Marcus Ericsson have both made it into Q3, while he has had three seventh-place finishes in the previous five races. He has scored the lion’s share of Sauber’s points and his performances have earned a move to Ferrari for 2019.
Verstappen will win titles – Wolff
Mercedes F1 CEO Toto Wolff believes that Red Bull’s Max Verstappen will be a world champion, once the “raw edges are off.” Adding that the Dutchman’s clashes with Esteban Ocon at Interlagos shows he still has learning to do.
The Austrian has long been a supporter of Verstappen and did attempt to sign him to the Mercedes programme before he committed to Red Bull. Wolff described him as a future champion and says that he will become a big treat for the future, adding he has “Unbelievable talent and speed.”
He told Motorsport.com, “I think once the raw edges are off, he will be somebody who will be a world champion one day. In a few years, he will look at the footage of today and maybe have his own opinion about whether that was the right behaviour or not.”
“But you can’t accelerate these things, this is a learning process.” Wolff, however, did defend the actions of Ocon over the accident in Brazil. He says that emotions were running high and was unfortunate that the pair wanted to avoid an accident.
When asked about the accident, he added “I’m pretty sure there’s no rule that says you can’t unlap yourself. I’ve done it before. Ultimately when you’re in Ocon’s position you’ve got nothing to lose.”
Renault parent company to oust CEO
Nissan the parent company of Renault is proposing to oust its chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn over financial misconduct claims. The Frenchman proved pivotal in the decision of the manufacturer to return to Formula One as a works team in 2016.
The news comes less than a week after it was announced the president of Renault Sport Racing Jerome Stroll, would be replaced by Thierry Koskas from January when he retires.
The group says it had been conducting an internal investigation for several months which showed Mr Ghosn had been under-reporting his pay. A statement “Numerous other significant acts of misconduct” including “personal use of company assets”, were also found.
“Nissan deeply apologises for causing great concern to our shareholders and stakeholders,” the company added. The firm said it had been providing information to the Japanese Public Prosecutors Office and would continue to do so.
Fittipaldi will help with Haas simulator weakness
Romain Grosjean believes that signing Pietro Fittipaldi will help the teams weakness with simulator use. The Brazilian is the grandson of two-time world champion Emerson, he is the team’s reserve driver and will make his F1 test debut in Abu Dhabi this month as part of his new role.
However his 2018 season, where he has raced in IndyCar, Super Formula and the World Endurance Championship. His season was disrupted following a crash at Spa where he broke his leg, after going off midway through Eau Rouge.
Grosjean told Motorsport.com “We need some help in the team, especially on the simulator side. It will be good to have him, he will have a taste of the car in Abu Dhabi and he can jump in the simulator and work on the correlation when we get it, it is nice and ready to go.”
He says that the plans are still being finalised and that the trickiest part was the correlation.
The team had been in discussions with the Brazilian prior to his accident, which morphed into discussions over a proper role once Haas established Fittipaldi could help boost its sim efforts.
Team principal Gunther Steiner explained that the talks soon became about discussions over a proper role once Haas established Fittipaldi could help boost its sim efforts. Saying “We talked again and decided to use him next year for testing and simulator development because they need to get better.”
“Because we are young, we need to find areas to improve. That is why next year we decided to have a programme where our simulator programme is as good as possible.”
The appointment of a development driver has become standard practice, with it being specifically credited by the likes of Ferrari for turnarounds in form from Friday practice to Saturday this season.
Williams need major changes – Smedley
Williams’s outgoing engineering chief Rob Smedley says that the team needs to make changes to all areas of the company if they are to recover from a disappointing 2018 season.
Having finished in the top three in the first two years of the hybrid era, in 2016 and last year finished fifth. However, this season has been an incredibly tough season with the team only scoring points in two races this season, sitting tenth in the constructors.
While the recovery plan is working, the Englishman believes that it would be an error to believe that there is one single explanation for what has gone wrong. He told Autosport, “There’s never one magic bullet is there. In all areas really, you can never stop learning and improving.”
“I think it would be a mistake to pinpoint one area and say that has to be the sole concentration or that’s the sole problem; it’s not. As with anything that’s not quite working as well as it should be, or as efficiently as it should be, with any business, with any organisation, it’s never one thing.”
He says that the team has strong leadership in deputy team principal Claire Williams, which the team needs that level of leadership but the plan needs to attack in all areas. But it needs to be wider across not only the F1 business, but it must also include the whole group, says Smedley.
Smedley is convinced that Williams has a lot of strength in depth, and has made a lot of progress in recent years despite its 2018 difficulties. Adding “I joined Williams at a time when they were evolving from having a torrid time of it.”
“[For] the new regulations in 2014, the part that I was going to play in the journey was to take on the vehicle science, the vehicle performance side of it, the race operations and to try to help out in that area.
Fernley to head McLaren’s Indy programme
McLaren has announced that the former deputy team principal of Force India Bob Fernley will head its IndyCar programme as the team looks to win the Indianapolis 500 with Fernando Alonso.
The Englishman has four decades experience across motorsports, includes spending time in the United States and a stint in IndyCar. He was Force India’s deputy since it entered F1 in 2008, when the former Jordan, Midland and Spyker team was rebranded, until August this year.
McLaren plans to return to the Indy 500 is part of Alonso’s attempt to win the triple crown, with him already winning the Monaco Grand Prix and the twenty-four hours of Le Mans. If the Spaniard does win the race, he would become only the second driver after Graham Hill to win the fabled Triple Crown.
McLaren says their IndyCar project is completely separate to their F1 operation. Fernley has been drafted in to build and lead a technical team that will be purely focused on the iconic race in 2019, while also “helping to evaluate the feasibility of a longer-term McLaren involvement in IndyCar.”
Racing CEO Zak Brown said, “Bob is a fantastic operator and someone I respect greatly. His experience and leadership will be essential for us on this project.”
“He is particularly talented at putting effective teams together and extracting maximum performance with finite resources. The Indy 500 is no easy race and Bob’s is a key role, so I’m delighted he’s on board.”
Fernley added: “Heading back to The Brickyard will be a very special experience for me and I am proud to be leading this McLaren project and team. The 500 is a hell of a challenge and we have incredibly strong competitors to overcome if we’re to be successful.”