Aston ready to step up but not interfere
Aston Martin says it will not “muscle in” on Honda’s engine deal with Red Bull, but is “standing ready” to step up its involvement should the Japanese manufacturer withdraw.
The British manufacturer became the teams’ title sponsor last year and has expanded its existing relationship with Red Bull. This includes an alliance with Red Bull Advanced Technologies to build the road-going Valkyrie hypercar.
Aston has explored the prospect of building an engine to F1’s planned 2021 rules but Red Bull has switched from Renault to Honda engines since that was last openly talked about.
CEO Andy Palmer says that Aston is very pleased with its relationship with Red Bull, and was willing to revive its own engine interest should Honda opt not to commit to F1 beyond 2020.
Palmer said following last weekend’s first public run for the Valkyrie hypercar at Silverstone, “Would I like to be a little bit more involved [in F1] technically? I think that depends. The obvious place for Aston to become involved in would have been the engine.”
“I think that’s a question on whether Honda continues to develop the engine. Clearly, they have a lot more money and muscle power than we do. I don’t think we’re going to muscle in on that while the relationship with Honda exists.”
Palmer said, however, that they are very happy with the current relationship. But uncertainty remains about the next set of regulations, and the hope is that Honda is going to continue.
Aston will build a race version of its Valkyrie to compete in the World Endurance Championship’s new top-tier Hypercar class from 2020. Rwd Bull’s tech division is expected to remain “significantly involved” but no firm details have been decided.
Palmer considers the Valkyrie project to be a validation of the “authenticity” of Aston’s partnership with Red Bull.
Silverstone gives Red Bull confidence
Red Bull says they are going into this weekends German Grand Prix with “confidence” about its chances following the strong pace at Silverstone. Although the collision between Sebastian Vettel cost it points in the race, its performance indicated that they had the second fastest car.
That is an achievement itself because Honda is still considered to have the third fastest engine, and is still playing catch up to both Ferrari and Mercedes. But that has given them a boost heading to the summer double header.
Speaking to Motorsport.com, team principal Christian Horner said, “We have confidence going to Hockenheim given the performance [at Silverstone]. After Monza, it is one of the most power-sensitive circuits on the calendar.”
“You are flat out on the lap for pretty much the equivalent of the entire Barcelona lap. So that is encouraging for us, and certainly for a circuit like Hockenheim that is less power-sensitive.” He also says at Silverstone, the team was not losing too much time on the straights and was also a good match for Ferrari in the corners.
“To be this close to Mercedes around that type of track that we know is power-sensitive, and to be able to follow the Ferraris as close as we were able to through Maggots, Becketts and Copse.”
Red Bull’s form has been lifted by upgrades in recent races which have given the team a solid foundation. Horner also suggested the Silverstone didn’t show the teams full potential, because of a throttle lag issues in qualifying and then fighting with the Ferraris in the race.
Horner added, “I think the last couple of races we have started to get some performance on the car and it has been working well. I think we definitely have unlocked some potential.”
Vettel’s turbulent twelve months
Sebastian Vettel will go down in history as one of the greatest drivers in the sport. Four titles in a spell of dominance that only Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher have managed.
It’s hard to imagine now that at the start of F1 sixth decades that the German was the man to beat, after the five titles achieved by Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton. A year on since his hopes of a fifth title disintegrated with that crash from the lead of the German Grand Prix, its true to say he hasn’t recovered and has only taken one win in the last year.
His year has been littered with a number of silly errors, which has maybe damaged his legacy forever, and which has sparked real doubts about his future in the sport.
Vettel’s derailment came at Turn Twelve with fifteen laps to go, when he was on course to extend his championship lead. He locked up in the rain and stumbled into the gravel and then the track-side barrier. His race was over in a matter of seconds and, smashing his fists on his steering wheel, Vettel was clearly emotional in the cockpit.
His win at Spa wasn’t the rebound he wanted another incident at Monza when he locked up and made contact with Hamilton.
A reset for 2019 hasn’t paid off, Vettel facing a very strong threat from within with his new teammate Charles Leclerc. Ferrari has not been able to get what appeared to be the stronger car in testing are yet to beat Mercedes and win this season.
Canada race Vettel won on the track, was taken away from him after an error, struggling for grip, locked-up and ran onto the grass, forcing the Mercedes towards the wall as a result. A five-second penalty was given, and Vettel had lost again.
But the error was an error despite the long-running row over the penalty. Silverstone saw another error, arguable highlighting his difficulties in wheel to wheel racing.
The defeat in Montréal the crack in his dented armour. The decorated F1 champion is currently 100 points behind Hamilton in the championship. But can he turn it around this weekend
A full report tomorrow morning
Melbourne considers changes to layout
Organisers of the Australian Grand Prix are reconsidering changes to the Albert Park, now that they have reached a revised deal with F1. Melbourne is set to host the opening race until 2025, after recently agreeing a two-year extension.
That has allowed the race organisers, to reconsider making changes to the circuit for the first time since it was rebuilt, including both resurfacing and refreshing the layout of the circuit. It could even spark the revival of a plan to ditch the fast Turn 11/12 complex and replace it with a slow corner to encourage overtaking, which was put on ice back in 2017.
The CEO of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, Andrew Westacott said “ It’s important to get a return on investment in anything you do, and the ability to have that extra two years provides more certainty to do a couple of things.”
“One [is] to look at the resurfacing. The drivers at the moment haven’t said that it’s needed. They wax and wane; sometimes it’s the most imperative thing that they want to do, and other times they like the character of a street circuit.”
However, he accepted that there are some limitations because of the location of the circuit, which is sandwiched between a lake, sports stadium and other buildings.
Westacott also strongly hinted that that Melbourne will continue to open the season for the life of the contract. He added “I won’t go into individual wording in the contract, because we don’t talk about the detail of the contract.”
“But you heard Chase Carey come out and say the season essentially starts in Melbourne, it finishes in Abu Dhabi, you’ve got Monaco which has a place in the middle.”
Haas won’t design a car for the tyres
Haas says that they will not be designing next years car to “fit the tyres” following the struggles with their tyres this season, because Pirelli ‘promised’ next year’s compounds will have a wider working window.
The American team has made good progress after entering the sport in 2016, and finished fifth in the constructors’ championship last season, but is only ninth in this year’s standings.
Poor performance comes despite having a car that has been fourth-fastest on several occasions this season, only to be let down by race pace. Haas’s main difficulty this season has been getting the 2019 tyres to work, following the change in design.
Speaking to Autosport, team principal Gunther Steiner said, “We cannot make the car to fit the tyres. Then the tyre changes next year and you’re back to square one.”
Asked how much of a concern its lack of solution for its tyre struggles were for the 2020 design, Steiner added: “We got the promise from Pirelli that next year’s tyres will have a wider window. That is what they are working to, that’s what they are committed to. Hopefully that works.”
“What you learn this year will help next year as well. I don’t know if it will be ultimately conclusive to make it work all the time. We will have a better understanding at the end of the year for next year.”
Haas scored twenty nine points in its debut season, increasing that to forty seven in 2017 and ninety three last year. But at the half way point this season it has only sixteen points, despite the car showing good raw pace like in Austria when Kevin Magnussen was fifth in qualifying.
Steiner said “we knew this [kind of struggle] was coming at some stage” even though the disconnect between one-lap pace and results is “frustrating”.
Adding “I said at some point we would make a step backwards. It’s normal in competition. You cannot keep going up, up and up. The strange thing is we don’t have a bad car.”
“It’s more about how we react. Now the challenge is to keep everybody focused and working in the right direction and being part of the solution not part of the problem.”
The American admitted it was “difficult” for staff members during a spell like Haas in enduring, as success is the ultimate motivating factor. He says that some may not have confidence, but you have to put the work in.
Yamamoto likely to make practice debut
Super Formula driver Naoki Yamamoto is looking likely to make a FP1 outing this season driving for either Red Bull or Toro Rosso. The defending champion is looking likely to defend the title this year, last year he also won Japan’s Super GT championship and follows his first Super Formula crown in 2013.
Although he is older than the rest of the Red Bull/Toro Rosso drivers he has never raced outside Asia, both could be obstacles to a late move to F1 full-time, Honda is keen to place him in a car for a grand prix practice session.
A Toro Rosso outing for Yamamoto at the Japanese Grand Prix would be most appropriate given his extensive Suzuka experience, while it would also be a boost for Honda and the race promoter, and allow an initial assessment of his capability in an F1 car.
If he needed to obtain a free-practice superlicence he would need to drive at least 300km in “a representative Formula 1 car consistently at racing speeds”, which would mean a private run in a car from 2017 or earlier as all testing opportunities for current machinery have passed.
One of Honda’s aim is to get a Japanese driver race in F1 again. The last Japanese driver in F1 was Kamui Kobayashi in 2014, while Honda last had a homegrown driver behind the wheel of one of its cars when Takuma Sato raced for the Super Aguri team in the 2008 Spanish Grand Prix.
Honda’s highest hopes lack the necessary super licence points for Honda to take advantage of its relationship with Red Bull and its junior team Toro Rosso. Nobuharu Matsushita has returned to Formula 2 this season and won in Austria, but is only eighth in the championship.
Honda F1 managing director, Masashi Yamamoto added “We have some drivers in Super Formula. Naoki Yamamoto is leading the championship. Considering the current F1 trend, he’s a bit old. It used to be alright in the old days!”