Red Bull breaks ground on engine plant as it sets out vision
Red Bull is targeting the ‘best talent’ available to join its ambitious engine project, as work began this week on its new state-of-the-art factory at Milton Keynes. The team broke ground on construction this week of a new factory which will become the headquarters of its power unit division.
The Austrian team will take over the running of the Honda power unit next year and in an interview with Motorsport.com, team principal and power unit CEO Christian Horner said “We will be applying exactly the same philosophy that we did to the chassis side. So the intention, exactly as I did with the chassis, is to make sure we attract the right talent and the best talent.
Red Bull is constructing a new bespoke engine factory as part of its Milton Keynes operation. Work began a few days ago on transforming the current land and facility that is there right now and building a new fit-for-purpose structure.
Horner believes it was important to have the power unit and chassis divisions based on one site, Red Bull would join Ferrari when it comes to geographical closeness. He believes the fundamental reason for basing the two divisions together will create a seamless integration between the power unit and chassis.
Red Bull is beginning its project by taking over the Honda engine and will keep some of the Japanese manufacturer’s current staff, its long term focus is on producing a new power unit for the 2025 regulations.
Horner said that Red Bull having control of both chassis and engine would take the team to the next level. He added “It’s tremendously exciting. Obviously, with the engine freeze, it was important as a safeguard for what will effectively be an interim period.
“But for the new engine, whenever that comes, potentially 2025, we’re obviously building up a structure. We’re going to inherit some great people and talent from Honda, but we are absolutely committed to getting the right people in the right roles in an efficient manner that integrates fully with the chassis side of the business.”
Red Bull signs Hodgkinson as engine technical director
Red Bull has announced that Ben Hodgkinson is to join the team from Mercedes HPP (Engine) division to be the technical director of its new engine division. Hodgkinson, who has worked for Mercedes High-Performance Powertrains in Brixworth for two decades.
He most recently held the position of head of engineering at the multiple world champions, will join Red Bull once the terms of his current contract are fulfilled. Setting up the new power unit division has been described by the drinks manufacturer has been described as the company’s “single largest investment in F1” since launching their own team in 2005, Red Bull are creating their own engine department for the first time as they prepare to take over Honda’s engine project when the Japanese firm leave F1 at the end of this season.
Team principal Christian Horner said, “We are delighted to welcome Ben to Red Bull Powertrains as technical director. He comes to this hugely exciting project as a proven race winner and as an innovator capable of leading a like-minded team of highly skilled engineers.”
“When Red Bull announced the creation of Red Bull Powertrains it was also announcing a new phase of the company’s ambition in Formula One, to bring every aspect of car design in-house and to put our destiny in our own hands.”
Horner described it as the ultimate expression of intent with the 2026 regulations and Hodgkinson will be supported with every available resource to succeed.
Hodgkinson adding, “I’m extremely excited to be joining Red Bull Powertrains as technical director. It was not easy to make the decision to leave HPP after almost 20 years but the opportunity to take on such a far-reaching and important project is a great honour.”
Red Bull had downplayed speculation they might attempt to lure the former overall head of Mercedes’ world-beating engine project, Andy Cowell, to head up their new division, the capture of Hodgkinson is in itself a significant first key hire for their engine project.
Hodgkinson said, “Red Bull is a serious player in Formula One, and have been our biggest rival in the hybrid era, so I’m looking forward to seeing what we can achieve together in this new phase of the company’s journey.”
Mercedes and Red Bull appear to be evenly matched in this years title fight, with Sir Lewis Hamilton leads Red Bull’s Max Verstappen by a single point after two races, while the reigning seven-time constructors’ champions hold a seven-point lead over their long-time rivals.
Alpine can be stronger – Brivio
Alpine racing director Davide Brivio believes the team’s upgrades for Imola could offer a bigger step in performance. The French manufacture looked to bounce back from a difficult race in Sakhir before bringing several upgrades for last weekends race in Imola.
However, they struggled to keep up with its midfield rivals McLaren and Ferrari, with Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso only qualifying ninth and fifteenth, with both Ocon and Alonso finishing in the points. They both gained places because of Kimi Raikkonen’s time penalty that dropped him out of the points.
Brivio said that the team could feel a step forward with the updates it brought to Imola but was hopeful they would be even stronger at other circuits. He told Motorsport.com, “We found some improvements, yes, [and they are] working well, yes. There might be the possibility that maybe these improvements and these upgrades will be more useful also on other tracks.”
“But yeah, we’re quite happy, and I think we did an improvement. We’ve come closer [to the cars ahead], I think.”
Brivio would not say how much time has been gained by the new parts, but admitted there was a measurable difference from Bahrain, he didn’t want to give too much expectation or disappointment. Adding “We have some feeling of improvement. We feel it’s better, and that’s why we keep going.”
Alonso felt from driving the car that the updated parts helped offer Alpine greater downforce and a better balance for the A521 car.
Saying “I think we did improve the car from Bahrain to Imola, all the new parts were positive in free practice. The things that we tested, they showed us there was an improvement in terms of aerodynamic load in the car and more downforce in the car.”
“Also the balance I think it is better than what it has been in Bahrain, with more rear grip. So overall I think we made a step forward in the right direction.”
Ricciardo had to swallow pride in fair move at Imola
Daniel Ricciardo says he had to “swallow his pride” when McLaren asked him to move over for teammate Lando Norris in Imola but accepted the call was fair. The Englishman was the faster of the two throughout the weekend, but started behind Ricciardo after his best lap in Q3 was deleted for exceeding track limits.
In the closing stages of the race, Ricciardo and Norris were running line astern in fifth and sixth when Norris informed his team over the radio that he still had pace in hand but was unable to use it behind his teammate.
McLaren agreed to swap positions, which ultimately paid off as Norris moved up to take third while Ricciardo remained in sixth place until the chequered flag. The Australian then swiftly pulled over for Norris coming out of the Tosa hairpin, said he had to “swallow his pride” leaving his teammate through but admitted he could have no complaints about the team’s decision.
He told Sky Sports, “Honestly, the team were fair enough. They gave me time to try to show my pace. There were some laps where I had a bit [of pace] and I could kind of do a decent time and then to be honest, when I did push I did start to kill a bit the right front [tyre].”
“I think they gave me the time that was required to show what I had and today it wasn’t enough. So yeah, I’m not going to get into any fisticuffs, it was fair enough.”
Team principal Andreas Seidl has praised Ricciardo for a composed drive to sixth, while more experienced drivers made mistakes. Seidl explained there was a clear agreement in the team to make decisions to maximise the results of the team.
Adding, “We let our drivers race, but let’s say if we see that they run into each other on track and if we judge it as one driver having a superior pace at that moment compared to the other driver, we make the decision to swap. That’s what we did today.”
Vettel critical of stewards admits difficult start
Sebastian Vettel’s difficult start with Aston Martin continued at last weekends Emilia-Romanaga Grand Prix, where the four-time champion struggled for pace and reliability, as well as calling the stewards and the FIA “not very professional” in the way they handled his mid-race penalty.
Vettel was “positive” of an improvement heading to Imola for 2021’s second Grand Prix, after a tough fortnight in Bahrain, ending with a crash during the race which earned him five points on his licence for various incidents throughout the weekend.
While Vettel was out-qualified again by young team-mate Lance Stroll, who advanced to Q3, while he then followed up with a nightmare race day at Imola. Both Vettel and Stroll had braking issues, Vettel was given a ten-second penalty because the team failed to fit his tyres before the five-minute signal ahead of the start of the race.
The German went on to retire from the race with two laps remaining, with a gearbox issue with two laps remaining, admitted the penalty “certainly wasn’t a decider for us” but was critical of the timing from FIA race stewards.
Vettel told Sky Sports, “Obviously the guys tried everything on the grid and they did really well, so they were really alert I think we could have had a better race if the FIA was more alert, because I think we broke a rule.”
“I guess, that’s why we got a penalty – but they didn’t bother until way into the race and by that time the penalty obviously cost a lot more than it would have earlier in the race. So that’s not very professional.
He added, “We had plenty of issues, not a trouble-free race that we were hoping for. Tough day.”
Aston Martin did score four points with Lance Stroll in eighth, however the team are struggling to replicate their leading midfield form of 2020 following the new season’s regulation changes.
Vettel not beating himself up over Aston Martin struggles
Aston Matin team principal Otmar Szafnauer insists that Sebastian Vettel is “not beating himself up” after a difficult start to the 2021 season. The four times champion has been outpaced by teammate Lance Stroll in the first two races after failing to get through to Q3.
Last weeks race at Imola proved to be a disaster for Vettel. Both drivers had an issue with overheating brakes in the laps to the grid, but while Stroll was able to take the start from the grid Vettel’s car had to be pushed to the pitlane because repairs could not be completed in time.
Also, he received a penalty because the team was still working on the car, with the wheels off, too close to the start. Then in the closing stages of the race, he was forced to retire because of a gearbox issue.
Szafnauer told Motorsport.com “I think he has very high expectations. I know he has very high expectations of himself. And he will work tirelessly to get better and move up that learning curve. But he’s not beating himself up, so to speak. He’ll just take that bit of frustration, and he’ll be even more determined to get up to speed quickly.
“I mean, not his fault at all that we, unfortunately, burned his rear brake ducts and cake tins, and then it was so close to actually replacing them on the grid without, without having to start from the pitlane, and then the penalty.”
Many of the drivers who have switched teams this season have struggled, after speaking to the team’s former driver Sergio Perez, he believes that is because all the teams have a different philosophy when it comes to design.
Mazepin surprised by the intensity
Nikita Mazepin says he has been surprised by the intensity of Formula One, but he’s remaining calm about the challenges he is facing. In the opening two races of the season, the Russian has had several spins, crashes and criticisms from rivals have put him under the spotlight.
At Imola last weekend the Haas driver saw the chequered flag for the first time, which has made him confident that he is making the progress needed, especially considering how tough the step up to F1 is for rookies.
Reflecting on how he and teammate Mick Schumacher have found the learning curve between F2 and F1, Mazepin said, “We’re obviously both in the same position. So far, F1 has been surprisingly intense to me. I knew it’s obviously intense, but the two qualifying sessions that I’ve had were rather hectic. And the time is shorter, and there’s loads of things that are happening. So, yeah, it’s a big learning curve.”
Although Mazepin was involved in a first-lap incident with Nicholas Latifi at Imola, after the Williams driver moved across on him, his Haas suffered no damage and he was about to get to the finish. He feels that getting to the chequered flag after retiring in Bahrain, was important for his learning.
Adding “It’s very important to keep learning. Currently, it is an upward curve. But there’s loads of work to be done. It’s a completely different series to what I’m used to driving and, yeah, it’s demanding.”
Mazepin believed he was trying to get a balance how far he was willing to push things to improve lap times, believe that it was too early in his career to risk pushing for marginal gains.
Adding, “There’s much more to be lost in over pushing and finding the walls, rather than to be found with finding a few tenths. It’s a gradual build up, which I need to be focused on and I am focused on it.”
The week ahead
The first double-header of the season begins next weekend in Portimao as the teams look to normally bring the first raft of upgrades in the weeks ahead, that the thing likely to be put out by the teams over the next fortnight about when speaking in their weekend previews.
Barcelona we always say is the benchmark to compare the team’s progress, that will be slightly harder because testing was in Sakhir this year. The theme remains the same and when we get to the press conferences, we will hear Mercedes try to spin it as Red Bull ahead while Red Bull will be saying don’t underestimate Mercedes, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.
The midfield will also be having the same messages as its going to be a tight battle all season, Portimão is a very different circuit but you need to think the battle between Ferrari and McLaren is one to watch. There has been talk from the drivers this week about this interesting battle.
Coronavirus will be at the back of the mind of everyone, Portugal is currently on the UK’s red list meaning only essential travel and F1 has a limited exemption. Teams will need to be careful as it is classed as high risk, but I think teams now know how to travel and work safely in this pandemic.