Giovinazzi to partner Raikkonen at Sauber
Antonio Giovinazzi has been announced as Kimi Raikkonen’s new teammate when he re-joins Sauber next season. The Italian will replace Marcus Ericsson who will be the team’s third driver.
It means that Sauber will join McLaren in having an entirely new driver line up, following the promotion of Charles Leclerc to Ferrari. Giovinazzi told Sky Sports, “This is a dream come true, and it is a great pleasure to have the chance to race for this team.”
“As an Italian, it is a huge honour for me to represent a brand as iconic and successful as Alfa Romeo in our sport. I would like to thank the Scuderia Ferrari and the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team for giving me this great opportunity.”
He added that he was very motivated and can’t wait to start working together to achieve great results.
Giovinazzi drove for the team in the opening two races of 2016 as a replacement for the injured Pascal Wehrlein. He also drove for Sauber in Practice One at the German and Hungarian GPs and tested for the team in Hungary before the summer break.
The announcement isn’t being seen as a surprise, as it is understood that Ferrari believed to be able to nominate a driver as part of the Alfa Romeo partnership with Sauber. team principal Frederic Vasseur said, “We first signed Kimi Raikkonen, an extremely experienced driver who will contribute to the development of our car and will accelerate the progress of our team as a whole,”.
“Together with Alfa Romeo, we are delighted to welcome Antonio Giovinazzi, who will take the place of Charles Leclerc.
Team principal Fred Vasseur said, “We have already had the opportunity to work with him in the past and he has proven to have great potential. We are very determined and motivated.”
Renault progress gives Ricciardo confidence
Renault bound Daniel Ricciardo says that the progress the manufacturer has shown with the Spec C engine has given him more confidence about his decision to join the manufacturer next season.
The Australian shocked the paddock when he announced he would switch from Red Bull to Renault next year. Renault last scored a podium when they were a works team at the 2011 Malaysian Grand Prix, before taking a four-year break from the sport.
His optimism with the team’s progress with its chassis this year can be matched on the power unit front has been lifted on the back of strong gains with the spec C engine that he and Max Verstappen have used since the Italian Grand Prix.
He told Autosport, “Through my time with the Renault power unit we’ve had some updates which have worked and some which haven’t. That’s been the reality.”
“The ones that don’t it can be a bit frustrating or demoralising if you’re expecting something more than what you’re getting. Now, this [spec C] being their latest step, having positives and actual gains from that, is positive.”
Ricciardo’s current team principal Christian Horner, who has been a critic of Renault in the hybrid era, has praised the performance step offered by the spec C engine.
Asked by Autosport if there was a noticeable performance step when he ran it in Monza for the first time, Ricciardo added: “There was and to be honest when you hear Christian give it some encouragement, we all know how that relationship is.”
Although there were engine mapping issues in Singapore, Renault’s technical chief Marcin Budkowski said he was also upbeat about how the power unit has done so far.
Red Bull braced for grid penalties
Red Bull’s drivers Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo are both set for penalties for this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix, as the team reverts back to an old spec of Renault engine.
But McLaren and Renault themselves have both declined to run the new unit, which is more powerful but less reliable, and Verstappen was plagued by intermittent glitches throughout the Singapore weekend.
Speaking to Sky Sports, team principal Christian Horner said “It’s delivered a bit more power, it’s been a bit rough around the edges. But we did get the increase in power from it and that helped get on the front-row and achieve the second position.”
Using the engine will incur penalties for both its drivers, but Red Bull believes it is a good strategic move. They will be hoping that it will allow them to challenge Mercedes and Ferrari, at circuits which favour their car.
He added “We need to look at it but the likelihood is Sochi is an obvious place. Realistically Mexico is probably the only shot we have got left under normal circumstances [of beating Mercedes and Ferrari].”
“Ludicrous” to suggest Renault can join the fight
Renault’s new technical director Marcin Budkowski says it would be “ludicrous” to suggest that the French manufacturer can join the fight at the front next season.
Renault returned to F1 as a factory outfit in 2016 and has slowly been rebuilding its team to bring its headcount up to similar levels as its manufacturer rivals Ferrari and Mercedes. This season, the team has made steady progress and are currently fourth in the constructors.
Renault however face a huge gap in performance to both Mercedes and Ferrari, as well as the customer team Red Bull. However, despite closing the gap, Budkowski believes there isn’t a situation where Renault is able to fight for titles until the next major rule change in 2021.
He told ESPN, “I hope it will be different [next year] but I think we have to take things step by step and we are a second and a half off the top guys. I’m not sat here thinking we are going to recover that from Mercedes and Ferrari.”
“It would be ludicrous for me to say that we are going to beat them next year. Our objective is to continue progressing strongly and, to be honest, to reduce that gap is a good achievement. I certainly hope we can fight much closer to them in 2020.”
Budkowski joined Renault from the FIA earlier this year, he says that it’s a very pleasant environment where people aren’t focused on stabbing each other in the back.
But added, “When you take you people it takes some time to train them, and we took a lot of graduates, a lot of very talented people from universities, apprentices and takes them three to six months to get to grips with their positions.”
“So we are seeing now the benefits of the recruitment we did in 2016 and 2017 and we will see next year the benefits of the recruitment we did at the end of last year and the beginning of this year.”
Teams go supersofts for Japan
Pirelli has announced the driver’s tyre allocation for next weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix for the race at Suzuka, it has gone for the hardest compounds of soft tyres with the supersofts and softs as well as the medium.
Both Mercedes have gone for seven sets of the supersofts tyres, four softs and two mediums. While both Ferrari’s have ten supersofts, two softs and a medium.
Both Red Bulls have varied the sets for both its drivers while both have a medium, Max Verstappen gone for seven supersofts, five softs and Daniel Ricciardo has gone for eight supersofts and four softs. Both Force India’s, Williams, Toro Rosso’s, Haas’s and Sauber’s have eight supersofts.
The Force India’s along with Romain Grosjean have eight supersofts, three softs and two mediums. Grosjean’s teammate Kevin Magnussen has gone for four soft and a medium. Toro Rosso Pierre Gasly has three softs and two mediums, with teammate Brendon Hartley going for four softs and a medium.
Carlos Sainz has three softs and two mediums, his teammate Nico Hulkenberg four softs and a medium. While Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson has four softs and a medium, with Charles Leclerc going for three softs and two mediums.
Both McLarens have four of both the supersofts and mediums, as well as five softs. Both Williams has gone for nine supersofts, with Lance Stroll having three softs and a medium, while Sergey Sirotkin has for two of both the mediums and softs.