McLaren waits to form a judgement in Barcelona
McLaren says that next month’s Spanish Grand Prix will be the place where they will begin to form a clearer judgement on the team’s 2018 car, the MCL32.
In terms of points, the British team has made their best start to the season since 2014. However, it has not been the easiest start as the team has failed to get into Q3 and struggled with reliability in testing. The team has admitted the issues in winter testing have put the development programme behind, with them expecting to bring upgrades for Barcelona.
Racing director, Eric Boullier told Sky Sports “We didn’t turn up in Australia with the car we wanted because we were delayed for some reasons so a lot of parts and upgrades are on their way to hit the track.”
“For logistical reasons, it’s very likely going to be in Barcelona and from that point we will see performance wise where we are.” McLaren’s poor performance in Bahrain prompted an ‘emergency debrief’.
The Frenchman says there are no excuses and they are behind Renault and Red Bull, who run the same engine, and that the team needs to understand why they are behind.
Boullier added: “We all know that Formula 1 is not the easiest sport, so it’s difficult, and we are definitely not happy where we are today. We have a lot coming in the pipeline so hopefully, it’s going to help us catch up a little bit the gap we have.”
Despite the change of supplier, McLaren remains one of the slowest cars in a straight line prompting questions about the efficiency of their car’s aerodynamic package.
Boullier acknowledges the lack of straight-line speed is a problem but says it is not all about an excessive amount of drag. “This is obviously one of the issues, our top speed is not the best one because we are bottom of the ranking.”
Renault disappointed with not making a bigger step
Renault’s chief technical officer Bob Bell has admitted that they were outsmarted by the bigger teams over the winter, and “disappointed” that the team has not made a bigger step.
The French manufacturer has been the most consistent behind the top three in the first three races of the season. However remains fifth behind its customers McLaren and Red Bull, with Bell admitting the progress has not been as significant as it hoped.
He told Motorsport.com “I would say we’re disappointed that we’re not further up. We hoped to take a bit of lap time out of the top three teams this winter. We haven’t if anything they’ve moved slightly further ahead.”
“We just didn’t do a good enough job, we weren’t as smart as they were over the winter in designing and developing the car.”
The gap between the pole time and the ‘best of the rest’ increased in Australia and Bahrain compared to last year but was smaller in China.
Data shows that in the first three races the average gap in qualifying has been around one and half a seconds off the pace. This can be seen as positive as it shows a step forward from 2017.The RS18 is slightly heavier than the team had hoped, and is “marginal” with the weight limit.
“I think there’s a reasonable chance we can close it [the gap], because there is a law of diminishing returns and they are going up that,” said Bell.
He added that he was “reasonably pleased” with Renault’s performance compared to McLaren, which misjudged its development targets for 2018 and is struggling in qualifying in particular.
Booth leaves Toro Rosso
Toro Rosso has announced that the former Manor team boss John Booth has left the team after two seasons racing director. Booth joined the team after Manor collapsed to help the Red Bull-owned team two years ago to help with its drivers and team operations.
But with Manor’s sportscar programme stepping up this season with its move to the World Endurance Championship’s LMP1 class, Booth has decided to step back from F1. Booth told Autosport, “ My involvement with Toro Rosso came to a natural end. Maybe I look too old for Formula 1 now. Is that enough?”
He denied suggestions that his exit had anything to do with Honda’s arrival as Toro Rosso’s factory engine partner and the increase in resources it was making available to the team.
Adding “At my age, you get tired of all these flights and hotels and so on. On the other hand I like to travel privately… I might even go back to Japan sometime.”
Driver not to blame for struggles
Williams says their early season struggles are because of deficiencies with the car and not the inexperienced driver line up. This year the team has the youngest and least experienced driver pairing in the teams forty-one years in the sport.
The British team who are the only team who are yet to score a point, have been criticised for the pairing. However chief technical officer Paddy Lowe insists that is not the reason for the lack of performance in the first three races.
Speaking to ESPN, he said “When you are trying to develop a car, clearly the easiest would be to have a standard test with rather than a human, and you try to do that with experiments in the lab.”
“But in the end everything you do with cars while being driven by real drivers, you have to factor in the quality of the driver, the effect of the driver — that shapes your interpretation of that car. And every driver is different.” Lowe says Williams says that the team needs to develop its way out its current problems.
He says the team needs to understand the situation then focus on building itself out of its current situation.
Lowe added “Clearly what we have done has not been good enough. We made some small parts of our [recovery] plan already and deployed them within in China in terms of tests and evaluations.”
Fifth title “would mean even more” – Hamilton
Four times champion Lewis Hamilton says winning a fifth world title in 2018 “would mean even more” because Mercedes are locked in a very close battle with Ferrari and Red Bull.
Last year, the Englishman said that it would be much more satisfying to be able to fight another team and driver like Sebastian Vettel for the title. This year, Mercedes have a much stronger challenge and are yet to win a race in the first three races of the season since 2013.
Asked by Motorsport.com what it would mean for him to come out on top in a close battle involving two other teams, Hamilton said: “Who knows what the season holds? If it continues the way it is, it’s going to be very tough to win.
“But if there’s an opportunity, and we were to finish on top, it would mean even more, as it’s even a tougher season than before.” Hamilton has admitted that the Chinese Grand Prix, showed that Mercedes doesn’t have the fastest car at the moment.
However, says that not having the fastest car at the moment has not changed his thinking and his goal remains the same. Hamilton says that the team has lost performance since Melbourne and the team are working on those issues.
Haas has no concern over Grosjean’s form
Haas’s team principal Guenther Steiner says that the lack of points from Romain Grosjean is not a worry for the team. It has been a tough start to the season for the team, despite a strong showing in pre-season testing.
Both cars were forced to retire from the opening race in Melbourne because of cross-threaded wheel nuts. Then Grosjean was knocked out in Q1 in Bahrain, with his race was hampered by loose bodywork. With the team failing to make a one-stop strategy work in Shanghai, dropping the Frenchman to seventeen after he was forced into an extra stop.
All the teams’ points so far, have come from Grosjean’s teammate Kevin Magnussen. However, because the car has potential to score more there is no extra pressure on Grosjean to deliver. He told ESPN, “It’s actually not a problem. While Romain hasn’t had the results he would’ve liked and we all wished we had, for one reason or another, there was never a lack of performance.”
Grosjean and Magnussen nearly collided while fighting for position in Bahrain, with the Frenchman ordered to let Magnussen past. Steiner said managing the two drivers is even more important this year now that the car is consistently challenging for points.