Red Bull will be within a second – Ricciardo
Daniel Ricciardo believes that Red Bull is within have a second of Mercedes and says the team’s winter testing was the best he has ever experience he has had with a Formula One team.
The Australian throughout winter testing appeared to be cautious when asked about the team’s pace relative to Mercedes, he claims the gap is less than .5 of a second. However, is unsure of the exact margin of Mercedes’s advantage entering his home Grand Prix.
He told Autosport “From testing, it looked like less than half a second. I am not sure how much less. But less than half a second.” In the last pre-season test, all three Renault-powered teams had difficulties with ERS.
The French manufacturer admitting it was aware of a problem with its ERS that was “magnified” on track. Ricciardo has played down the impact of that on the team winter programme, saying winter testing has never been flawless for the team.
But added “”Throughout the season maybe things will happen, you have to be prepared for that, but we are coming here pretty confident, I would say, with that.”
“Our speed traps looked pretty good in Barcelona. We know we will not be as quick in a straight line but we are closer than where we were last year.”
Team-mate Max Verstappen also believes that Red Bull isn’t ready to challenge early pacesetters Mercedes and Ferrari when the season starts this weekend. Saying “There were definitely some positives [from testing].”
“We need to improve, but everyone wants that all the time, especially with the new regulations this year. There is still a lot of opportunity to improve the car.”
Challenge to match pit stops
Williams sporting manager Steve Nielson says that Formula One teams face challenges to match the speed of their pit stops this season.
This season the tyres a bigger with them being 60mm wider at the front and 80mm wider at the back creating complications with their extra weight and deeper rims. Last season, Williams were the leaders in pit stops, setting the best time in eleven out of twenty-one races.
Neilson said the team had designed new equipment for the changes and begun practising with a 2016 car fitted with heavier wheels last year before Pirelli released the definitive ’17 tyres. He told Autosport “A Williams pitstop involves 34 actions, so 34 things have to happen in the space of two seconds.”
“Any one of those going wrong can stop you and delay the pitstop. Of those 34 actions, 12 are affected by the bigger and heavier wheels.”
“For example, the wheel nut, particularly on the rears, is further inside so it is more difficult for the gunman to get to. There is a degree of change to the equipment and technique that had to be developed to cope with that.” The wider wheel means that the nuts will be less visible.
Adding “”The limiting factor is actually the transition – from the moment the wheel is undone, getting that wheel off and putting the next one on. That is where we are seeing the extra time creeping in.”
“It’s because there are three people moving within a few centimetres of each other and this wheel is much, much wider than it was,” Neilson says it is still possible to match the best stops last season, but say it may not be possible to do it consistency.
Honda need to understand culture
McLaren’s racing director Eric Boullier says Honda needs mainly to understand the racing culture in Formula One if they are to change there to improve their fortunes in the sport.
Honda returned to the sport in 2015 but have failed to get decent results and from pre-season testing, it appears they have taken a step backwards. This has caused the relationship to be at breaking point.
Boullier says that Honda has so far failed to fully grasp the speed and accuracy of development required for success in F1, which is the main thing holding the project back. Boullier told Motorsport.com “They only need one thing, which is to understand and integrate the F1 racing culture”
“What I mean by that is: the way we behave in racing and Formula 1 is all driven by a calendar, by some fixed targets, fixed dates, lap time gains; we always try to go to the best solution as fast as possible,” he added
Boullier says that being a car manufacturer and having delays is different because upgrades are more important as it means you can improve.
Honda base their operations in Japan with a small base in the UK and this Boullier said means the operation is too slow to cope with the demands of modern Grand Prix racing.
“This is why Mercedes is based in England, and I guess they benefit from the supply chain, from people with experience of F1,” Boullier added.
“Our suppliers maybe cost twice as much [as Honda’s] but are three, four, five times faster. In some ways, you can realise the corporate influence is not helping to be efficient.
Gelael to test for Toro Rosso
Formula Two driver Sean Gelael will take part in three tests this season for Toro Rosso. the tests take place in Bahrain next month followed by two tests following the Hungarian and Abu Dhabi Grand Prix’s.
He finished 28th and 18th in European F3 in 2013 and 2014 respectively, before spending a year in Formula Renault 3.5. He made his GP2 debut the same year as well before being a full-time driver in the series in 2016, finishing 15th with a podium finish at Red Bull Ring.
This season he will remain in Formula Two which begins next month in Bahrain.
Racing will not be flat out – Hulkenberg
Nico Hulkenberg believes that despite lower degradation tyres the racing still not be “flat-out.” this season regulation changes, has meant Pirelli have produced longer lasting tyres.
The Italian manufacturer has been tasked with producing tyres which last longer, which was caused by years of driver complaints about having to nurse tyres during races. Autosport asked the German if he believed drivers would be able to push more in 2017, Hulkenberg replied: “Perhaps. I think still you can’t go flat-out all the way or you’ll pay a price along the way.”
Hulkenberg had previously said the new tyres would require a different approach, like the one he used when he raced at Le Mans in 2015. He said “I was surprised – when I started testing the Porsche, and the first race at Spa and so on, I had to learn it.”
“Initially I wasn’t on the pace, because I was driving quite conservatively because I was used to the Pirelli tyres.”
Not all one stoppers
Pirelli has played down the fears that the higher degradation of tyres will turn races into one stoppers saying this year’s tyres do show signs of degradation.
This season Pirelli was asked to move away from tyres which over heated causing them to degrade. But, this means that there is concerns that tyres could last the entire race and removed the prospect of variation in strategy.
Pirelli Racing Manager Mario Isola told Motorsport.com “There will be less pit stops than last year for sure. One stop race depends on the degradation level because if you have lower deg and a tyre that can run for a good number of laps – there is no point to change tyres.”
“But I don’t think less pit stops means less show. Maybe yes. But maybe not. It is not a direct correlation.” During pre-season testing drivers were able to eke out long stints, but Isola says that it is wrong to suggest that there is zero degradation now.
He said the target Pirelli set out to achieve was a two second drop off in performance over ten laps – and its current predictions were of a one point five second reduction in pace.
Isola has optimism that from the data they have that the thermal degradation characteristics of the rubber had also been banished.
Renault in the chasing mid field – Palmer
Renaults Jolyon Palmer says that he believes that the team has made sufficient progress to allow the team to be in the chasing pack for fourth in the constructors championship.
Speaking to Autosport Palmer said “”I would say Williams is fourth, and then there is a mass of cars behind that in the midfield. We expect to be in there. But we don’t know if we’re the fifth best team or the eighth best team.”
“It will be really tight, and Williams isn’t out of reach. They’ve made progress [at Renault], but I would say we’ve got the third-best engine.”
“Hopefully the gap is closing all of the time. And then the chassis, we can compare with where Red Bull are and they’re ahead of us still.”