Exhaust blowing clampdown
The FIA will start a fresh clampdown on trick engine modes that help exhaust blowing from rear wings following fresh concerns about the matter.
Renault’s rear wing has been under the microscope since winter testing and there are suggestions that Ferrari has been working on this area too. There has also been a message from Nikolas Tombazis, the FIA’s head of single seater technical matters, he said it was responding to “numerous questions” about exhaust blowing.
It is clear that the governing body will not tolerate teams doing clever tricks either through engine modes or systems that bypass the turbo compressor and turbine to blow gases through the tailpipe.
In the message, he wrote “We do not accept that engine modes specifically designed to increase the exhaust flow in corners are permissible. Such (not permissible) engine modes can be either specific to a compressor-turbine by-pass system, or to flow passing through the cylinders”
He added the teams are permitted to “genuinely increase the performance or reliability of the power unit, and not contrived to increase the exhaust flow.”
He says that it is not practical to have a one catch rule, and they need to determine it on a case by case basis. Exhaust blowing of diffusers was addressed for the 2014 season after becoming commonplace in the preceding years.
However, the 2017 high downforce regulations allowed for a lower rear wing, and teams have once again been able to gain some aerodynamic advantage from their exhausts, albeit to a lesser degree than previously.
Verstappen needs refinement – Horner
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has called on Max Verstappen to refine his driving, while not losing the ‘magic’ which has made him one of the most exciting driving talents.
As the sport returns to ‘Europe’ this weekend, much of the focus is expected to be on the Dutchman following his clumsy collision with Sebastian Vettel in the closing stages of the epic race in Shanghai. Verstappen has apologised to Vettel, describing the incident as a “life lesson”, and vowed to analyse his performance and return in stronger shape for Baku.
Horner told Sky Sports “I’m fully confident that he’s a phenomenal talent and he’s smart enough to recognise areas that he needs to work on and I have no doubt that he will address it.”
Asked if any changes could dilute the ‘magic’ associated with the three-time race winner’s driving, Horner replied: “I don’t think so. You know, his talent is extremely obvious, his bravery and racing instinct is not in doubt.”
Horner says that in China Verstappen was “too impatient”, which he will need to learn from. Verstappen is only twenty and in his third season, with Horner saying he draws n the way Vettel was at the start of his carer.
The German was labelled the “crash kid”, by former McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh, after crashing into Jenson Button at the 2010 Belgian GP.
Horner added “Yes, he’s made some mistakes but I remember when we had Sebastian at a similar stage of his career, it wasn’t uncommon that he also made some mistakes.!
Wolff predicts a classic season
Mercedes CEO Toto Wolff says that this season will go down in history as a classic, as his team’s dominance of recent years comes under increasing threat from Ferrari and Red Bull.
The German manufacturer has dominated the sport since the introduction of the hybrid engines in 2014, but the team has gone three races without a win the longest since 2014. That means that the fight for the championship has been thrown wide open.
Wolff told ESPN “The 2018 Formula One season is set to be a celebration of everything we love about motor racing. Three teams are fighting fiercely for race wins.”
“We’ve witnessed exciting races with nail-biting overtakes. The fastest F1 cars in history, driven by some of the best drivers this sport has seen.” He believes that this year has all the ingredients for a legendary season we will all look back on with smiles.
Wolff says the team knows about the massive challenge and says the team loves it. Last year, Baku provide one of the memorable races of the year after Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel clashed behind the Safety Car.
With no clear favourite after the first three races of this season, Wolff another closely fought race this weekend. Saying “We’re going into the race weekend in Baku feeling excited about that unpredictability.”
“It will be the first time the Azerbaijan Grand Prix takes place in April, with completely different conditions to the previous years when we went to the Caspian Sea in June.”
Alonso not expecting dramatic step in Baku
Fernando Alonso says he isn’t expecting that McLaren’s upgrades for this weekends Azerbaijan Grand Prix to deliver a dramatic step forward in performance, saying that the team is targeting the next race to move up the order.
Although McLaren is currently fourth in the contractors, the one-lap performance has been lacking as both Alonso and his teammate Stoffel Vandoorne failed to make Q3 in the first three races.
Racing director Eric Boullier admitted the team had not set high enough targets and singled out the Spanish Grand Prix as the event where it would aim to make a big step forward. Alonso is now trying to manage his expectations for this weekend.
He told ESPN, “We know our limitations and where we need to improve our package, and, although we bring parts to test to every race weekend, we aren’t anticipating a radical change in our performance in Baku.”
“However, we’re learning more about the behaviour of our car each time we step into the cockpit, and in Azerbaijan, we’ll be maximising everything we have as usual to score as many points as possible.” Boullier also added the team needed to work hard so that qualifying weakness is not exposed in Azerbaijan.
He says that the car tends to deliver more in races and the important thing was pushing hard and taking every and any opportunity that comes their way.
Renault’s job made easier by drivers
Renault’s chief technical officer Bob Bell says that development of the car has been “much easier” with both Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz being “completely aligned” with their feedback.
It is the duo’s first full season as teammates after they both joined the team last season. Hulkenberg has made a stronger start to the season, out-scoring and qualifying the Spaniard in the first three races.
However, Bell says both drivers are a huge asset to the team’s development. He told Motorsport.com “They are completely aligned about what they say about the car – and it’s not because it’s some sort of conspiracy! The car has got some obvious faults which they pick up on and tell us race after race, and they are completely aligned.”
“A lot of those faults are common up and down the pitlane, all got nervous entries, mid-corner understeer and lack of traction on the exit. Some teams have got it more than others, the traits are quite similar, I suspect.” He also says having both drivers aligned makes it easier and it’s a pleasure to work with them.