Renault’s drivers expects major leap
Renault’s drivers Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg say they are not expecting the team to make a major leap forward until a development push kicks in midseason.
Renault’s rivals in the midfield McLaren and Force India are expected to bring major upgrades for this weekend’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix, and with that in mind both drivers are being cautious about what they can achieve this weekend.
However, both drivers are convinced of rapid progress once the team starts bringing upgrades to the car. Sainz told Motorsport.com “I’m [more] confident about the development more towards the middle of the season than for this race I think.”
“We have our baseline from testing and I don’t think there are many things coming – a few bits but not something that could change dramatically the performance of the car.” Renault is bringing a new front wing for this weekend, which should see a step up in performance.
However, Hulkenberg says that 2018 will be another year of development for the team, and it would take time for the investment to pay off on track.
He said, “Last year we’ve built the infrastructure a lot more, taken people on board so all that takes time until you see the pay off, until you get the benefits from that.”
Asked if he believed Renault was losing to a breakthrough, he said: “I think we are not quite there yet, to be honest. From testing, I just had a quick look at the top three teams. I don’t think we are quite there yet.”
But Sainz says there was no reason why Renault can’t make a jump like last year.
Hamilton not sure of Mercedes ‘favourite’ status
Lewis Hamilton says he is not sure that Mercedes are the favourites to take victory at this weekend’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix. After winning four consecutive titles, it’s expected that the German team will remain the team to beat this season.
However, Red Bull and Ferrari have closed up based on winter testing. Also, it is believed that the German team hasn’t shown their full capabilities going into this season and Hamilton warning not to read too much ahead of this season.
Speaking at a Pedronas event, Hamilton said: “I think at this time of the year everyone is trying to hype someone else up and we are the perfect target because we are the world champions.”
“It’s like trying to put all the pressure onto someone else because it takes the weight off of you.” Hamilton says that pressure is ultimately divided between all of the top three teams and that Red Bull appears to have moved forward.
He said that Ferrari should also be on it too and would not be a walkover. Speaking about this weekend, Hamilton said: “ I’m just trying to make sure I’m in the best position I can be and I understand the car and my tools because as soon as you get on track the steps you take in terms of moving the car forwards and improving.”
The four times champion is also convinced that Red Bull did not show there full hand in testing, saying Mercedes could even start the season behind its rivals.
Saying “From what I understand, I think Red Bull and Ferrari are very close. Potentially we are either level, just behind or maybe just ahead of the Red Bulls as far as I’m aware. But this weekend they might bring a new upgrade, so it’s going to be tight.”
Ricciardo wants a statement of intent
Daniel Ricciardo says he wants Red Bull to provide a title-winning statement of intent at this weekends season-opening Australian Grand Prix. Last season the title fight was largely between Mercedes and Ferrari, but there are hopes of a three-way fight this season.
Red Bull was slow off the mark in 2017, but towards the end of the season, they became one of the strongest challengers to Mercedes and Ferrari. The team won two out of six races, with Ricciardo feeling that they have only improved since then.
He told BBC News, “There’s a lot more confidence within the team. Every year we have worked hard to build a fast car, but come testing we have not really had a lot to show for it, but this winter we had a bit more.”
“For us to have a strong weekend, however, would set a statement for the year and show that we would be fighting for the championship. It would be awesome to get off on the right foot.” This season, could be the defining year of his career with Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen yet to sign new contracts with there teams.
Ricciardo has been linked to both Mercedes and Ferrari, but his immediate focus is his on-track performance and aim of being the first Australian to win a world championship Australian Grand Prix.
He said “At the end of the day the results are going to do the talking. For any of us out of contract I believe the driver who is going to be in the hot-seat is not the person who does the best negotiating, but the one who does the best on track.”
Red Bull believe half second defect enough to fight
Red Bull believe that a deficit of half a second to Mercedes at this weekends Australian Grand Prix will be enough for the team to be in the championship fight this season.
The team believes that it has the best driver line up on the grid and they have made progress with its chassis, there is uncertainty about how much the teams’ engine supplier has closed up to Mercedes.
But team owner and Red Bull CEO Dietrich Mateschitz suggested being close enough to Mercedes in Melbourne will show his team has hit its winter targets.
he told Autosport, “We do not know exactly what Mercedes did so far and how big their advantage will be, but if we are 0.5s behind we can match them with our chassis and drivers.”
“If we are one second behind, the gap will be too big to fight for wins. Overall I guess Ferrari and Red Bull got closer to Mercedes,” added Mateschitz.
Horner attacks Ferrari over Mekies
Red Bull boss Christian Horner has become the latest team boss to attack Ferrari’s decision to appoint deputy race director Laurent Mekies to the team’s technical department as “wrong.”
Ferrari’s signing of Mekies caused more controversy last week after it emerged that he would join the team in September, six months after leaving the sports governing body.
The other teams have accused Ferrari of breaking a gentleman’s agreement made at the last Strategy Group meeting for teams not to employ FIA or F1 Group staff unless they had had a year of gardening leave.
However, sources at Ferrari have denied that any agreement has been made, Horner remains adamant that those in the meeting knew exactly what the situation was. Horner told Motorsport.com. “It was quite clear – that with the FIA, FOM or vice versa from a team – that there would be a 12-month grace period.”
“I even made comments that it should be accompanied with a million dollar donation to the FIA Road Safety Foundation – which the president [Jean Todt] was particularly receptive to.” He added.
Horner said that teams trusted Mekies up until the end of 2017 which confidential development plans, which he could take to Ferrari. He can do that from memory, which wouldn’t be illegal as long as he doesn’t have drawings or data.
Pushed on Ferrari’s claims that there was no agreement in place, Horner responded: “We were in the room. And the gentlemen that agreed it know about it.”
However, it’s difficult for the ban to be enforced because employment law is different depending on which country they are employed in.
FIA adds third DRS zone in Melbourne
The FIA has added a third DRS zone to the Albert Park circuit in a bid to improve overtaking at this weekend’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
The circuit only had one DRS zone last season, which was thirteen metres before Turn Fourteen and was activated three corners from the end of the lap with the zone between Turns Two and Three.
A second zone will now be added between Turn Sixteen and One, with the detection point being just before Fourteen, three corners from the end of the lap. The activation point will be one hundred and four metres before twelve, which should increase overtaking.
That will trigger just over a hundred metres after twelve, which should increase overtaking through the kink leading to thirteen. The extra zone has been created to allow cars to get closer for the first DRS zone, and increase overtaking.
The move comes ahead of wider plans by the organisers to redesign the circuit in a bid to create more opportunities for overtaking. They had looked at replacing the fast section between eleven and twelve.
However, decided not to after deciding the change wouldn’t benefit overtaking to make it worthwhile.