Red Bull will be slowed down by Honda
Renault believes that Honda’s progress will be slowed this season because of the need for increased reliability, following the decision by Red Bull to team up with the Japanese manufacturer this season.
Red Bull are hoping that Honda will continue to show the progress they showed in 2018 with sister team Toro Rosso. F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul, however, is sceptical that the same kind of progress can be made this season.
He thinks that Honda’s improvement was flattered by it adopting a policy of introducing regular engine updates in 2018, even though those new parts resulted in grid penalties. Toro Rosso used double the amount of permitted power units last season, although they did show a major step up in performance.
Abiteboul suggests that Red Bull will be pegged back by Honda’s inability to stick to the limit of three power units for the season will harm the progress of the team.
He told Motorsport.com, “For Honda – yes they can spend as much as they want at the factory and they decided to introduce as many engines as they want this year, but that will be naturally regulated if they have to take four or five times engine penalties next year.”
“No one is making any noise when that happens to Toro Rosso, but I expect a bit more noise if that has to happen to Red Bull. So that will naturally slow them down.” Abiteboul says that if they want to comply they must stick with the limits.
Renault’s C-spec power unit was made available to its customer teams after the summer break this year, but only Red Bull chose to use it. While it delivered the increased performance, there were concerns about reliability.
Abiteboul believes that if Renault made the same decisions as Honda, it would impact on the ability to score points in the championship.
Sauber judging itself against big teams
Sauber team principal Fred Vasseur says that the team is judging itself against the top teams after they improved more than any other team in 2018.
After scoring just five points in 2017, the Swiss team scored forty eight points last season to finish eighth, with the h arguably the fourth-fastest car, having made more progress than any of its rivals from the end of the 2017 season to the next.
Vasseur said he had not tried to put expectations on the team in 2018 given how far behind it was. Vasseur told Motorsport.com, “We were more or less nowhere, so we had to improve in every single department and see.”
“The reason how we were getting on on-track was also due to the others – Williams struggling more than expected, McLaren. My trigger is more the gaps between the top teams, the percentage.” He says that the best way for him to monitor the gap is to use the ‘supertime’ concept allows us to use Vasseur’s desired method of percentages to compare the 10 teams in F1.
Supertime analysis involves taking each team’s fastest single lap from every grand prix weekend and applying it as a percentage of the outright quickest time.
Bottas takes a stage win in Arctic Rally debut
Valtteri Bottas has taken a stage win and finished fifth in his rallying debut in the Arctic Lapland Rally driving a Ford Fiesta WRC. The Mercedes driver was racing against regular drivers in a car which had more power than the regular drivers.
However, Bottas got off to a slow start finishing seventh in stages one and two, before finishing fifth at the end of day one. He then went on to take victory in the Mantyvaara stage, edging out Henrik Pietarinen by 2.3s.
Bottas spent much of the rally chasing Skoda Fabia driver Pietarinen for fourth place but his challenge faded in the final two stages, both of which were won by Pietarinen.
The Finn’s co-driver by Marcus Gronholm’s long-time navigator Timo Rautiainen, who previously claimed two WRC titles in 2000 and 2002.
Former Ferrari F1 driver Mika Salo was also competing in an identical Printsport Fabia, recovering from 43rd place after stage one to finish 11th.
Alonso and Kobayashi take victory at Daytona
Former F1 drivers Fernando Alonso and Kamui Kobayashi along with teammates Jordan Taylor, Renger van der Zande have taken victory at the Daytona 24 Hours.
The race was interrupted twice due to bad weather, and Alonso was leading ahead of former Sauber driver Felipe Nasr and Manor driver Alex Rossi, who were on the lead lap and finished third in the final standings.
Before the red flag, Alonso and Nasr had engaged in a tight battle for the lead of the race. Alonso had taken over the No.10 car from Taylor just after the 21-hour mark and was putting pressure on Nasr as the conditions worsened.
Any error could have been costly, and so it was a lock-up into the first corner which allowed Alonso to take the lead. That error cost him the win, as he headed off into the gravel and brought out the red flag ending the race.
Alonso also impressed earlier in the race when he climbed from seventh place to the lead in his opening stint before putting in some impressive lap times in wet conditions overnight.
He told ESPN “To win this kind of endurance racing at iconic places like Daytona means a lot. With zero experience and background in endurance before (last year) it’s quite a big thing.”
Alonso’s next race will be the 1,000 Miles of Sebring in WEC before his second attempt to win the Indianapolis 500 in May. His season will end with his second 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.
“Pressure is on” Vettel – Rosberg
Nico Rosberg believes the “pressure is on” Sebastian Vettel as he fights to equal Lewis Hamilton by winning his fifth world title. The German enters his fifth season with Ferrari this year and is still looking for the “dream” of winning a title with Ferrari.
In the last two years, the German’s title hopes have ultimately unravelled, with the Mercedes ambassador believing that the four times champion is facing increasing scrutiny to deliver. Rosberg told Sky Sports, that “the pressure is on, absolutely.”
He added “He was feeling it, I’m sure, already last year and especially driving for Ferrari that’s where the pressure is the highest because you’ve got the whole country on you. He’s feeling it, that’s clear. He just needs to put it together next year.”
Ferrari, have turned to technical boss Mattia Binotto to lead them back to the front after appointing him as team principal in a bid to win their first championship in more than a decade. The team has also replaced its last champion Kimi Raikkonen with Charles Leclerc, following his impressive debut season.
Rosberg says that both Vettel and Ferrari needs to improve overall because there were just too many mistakes they should have possibly won the title last year.
“They’ve made some major changes. They’ve changed Arrivabene and put in Binotto, so they’ve made a change in the highest position there.”
“Also with Sebastian’s new team-mate, Leclerc, that could also be a very, very positive dynamic, but it could also be negative and backfire! So it’s going to be awesome to watch.”
Rosberg is hoping that this season it will be at least a three-way fight for the title.
Perez felt underrated against Ocon
Sergio Perez believes that people have undervalued his performances in Formula One, especially in comparison to former teammate Esteban Ocon.
The Mexican finished eighth in last years constructors championship, thirteen points ahead of teammate Esteban Ocon, who had the best finish of sixth last season. Perez who joined the team in 2014, and will stay with the team under its new name Racing Point this year, says there was little between them.
He told Motorsport.com, “It’s like people just get used to me. When I was new here, everyone was talking about me and I was the next big thing, as Esteban is right now.”
“Last year  I was best of the rest, I’ve been beating all my teammates I’ve had. So results in the end talk more than what people say.” Perez has had four teammates during his time in the sport, starting with Kamui Kobayashi at Sauber, Jenson Button at McLaren and then Nico Hulkenberg and Ocon at Force India.
Last year, Ocon beat him 16-5 in qualifying however he believes that his performance in the race made up for it. Perez says that there was less than a tenth between them in qualifying, but he was the better one in races.
Perez admitted it was “not a coincidence” that Ocon had the edge in qualifying and gave his former teammate credit for that. He explained that his own lack of one-lap pace was down to a poor feeling in the car.
“I didn’t feel very confident this year with the car to be honest. I did struggle quite a lot throughout the year to balance the car, but I did manage to get the most out of it in the race. That’s to take nothing away from him. I didn’t get on with it and he did better in qualifying.