Vettel lacks confidence but sees potential
Sebastian Vettel has admitted that this year’s Ferrari has “huge potential” but he does not yet have the confidence to drive the car on the limit.
Vettel took advantage of the mistake that Mercedes made with Kiwis Hamilton’s error on strategy during the Virtual Safety Car. Hamilton had been quicker than Vettel all weekend and out-qualified the Ferrari driver by nearly 0.7s.
The German was also out-qualified by his teammate Kimi Raikkonen and admitted he still struggles to get the best from the car. After the race, he said “I think the car has huge potential but, yeah, I’m still struggling a little bit.”
“I think if we also compare to where we’re still a bit weak, it’s where I also feel that the car is not yet there. The car doesn’t respond the way I like and it’s still sliding in places I don’t want it to slide.”
Speaking to ESPN, he said the car needs to be on the spot when he turns in on the breaks and the car wasn’t in that window. He added that the loose rear of the Ferrari means driving it is too much of a “conscious” experience and is not yet second nature.
“I think we can live with it but I feel also if we get on top of that then you feel more confident. A track like here, when you have confidence it makes a big difference. You always try to push but equally to try to be a bit safe – because you don’t want to throw it away.
Mercedes confident that Hamilton didn’t damage the engine
Mercedes are confident that Lewis Hamilton did not suffer any damage to his engine despite getting close to temperature limits when he chased down Sebastian Vettel in the Australian Grand Prix.
Hamilton was forced to chase his Ferrari rival in the closing stages of the race after Vettel’s well-timed VSC pit stop meant he was able to retain the lead. As the Englishman pushed, engine temperatures increased and the team instructed Hamilton to back off.
The reason the team called off the chase was because his engine temperatures did get close to the limits the team had set but says there were no indications it had exceeded them.
Speaking in Mercedes’ Pure Pitwall strategy debrief on YouTube, Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin said “You may have heard us on the radio telling Lewis it was getting hot, which is just the fact that when the cars get so close you don’t get clean air going into the radiators keeping it cool.”
“It did get quite close to its limit temperature, and we are monitoring all these limits very closely. You can run up to them, you just have to be careful that you don’t run over them.”
He said that the decision to save the engine was made by Hamilton, who turned the engine down and the team believe that the engine will be in good shape.”
Mercedes will inspect the engine ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix but have no plans to bring in a second power unit to help boost Hamilton’s pool of components.
Renault calls for a freeze on engine development
Renault has called for a freeze on engine development between the end of this season and 2021, when new engine regulations are set to be introduced.
The manufacturer believes that if development was frozen, it would allow them to fully focus on preparing for the new regulations, while not handing an advantage to any new entrants who can devote all their resources to the 2021 projects.
Renault customer Red Bull believes that a way should be found to equate engines for the last two years of the current formula, in order to generate more competitive racing. However, F1 boss Cyril Abiteboul says he wants a freeze as part of the proposals Liberty will outline next week.
He told Motorsport.com “The one thing we will not want to do is to have the burden of developing two engines in parallel. That’s one thing that is sure, but it’s too early to talk about the technicalities of the way achieve that.”
“There are two things basically in our key message and our position at Renault. First before committing to a regulation, we need to understand the bigger picture.” Abiteboul says it not acceptable to have two engine programmes running at the same time, as new entrants could have the advantage over the current teams.
Red Bull motorsport boss Helmut Marko believes that the FIA should try to equalise engine performance for the last two years of the current formula. Saying “If new engine rules are coming which we hope should be announced pretty soon than we have to freeze the engines as they are now.”
“And there should be a rule that every engine has to be within three percent, and that is to be properly fulfilled.”
Hartley makes Vergne laugh
Formula E and former Toro Rosso driver Jean-Eric Vergne say that Brendon Hartley driving for the team “makes me laugh” because he was dropped from the Red Bull programme in the past.
Speaking in Paris, the Frenchman said that the reason he got his seat in World Series by Renault, was because Red Bull fired him, after eight years with the Red Bull programme. He said “It makes me laugh that Red Bull called on Hartley, given that he’s the one they fired to give me his seat in World Series by Renault.”
Vergne says that Sebastien Buemi would have got the seat he would have been fired. Vergne was dropped by Red Bull at the end of 2014 and joined FE, which he said was a turning point in his career.
Saying “I think I was lucky to join Formula E at the right time and quickly change my mentality and my state of mind. Today, I think it’s the best thing that can happen to me.”
Alfa Romeo could expand influence at Sauber
Alfa Romeo’s influence with Sauber could be about to expand as they are evaluating the possibility of expanding the technical partnership with the manufacturer.
As part of a branding deal announced last December, the team agreed to carry the name of engine supplier Ferrari’s sister company Alfa. Also a technical arrangement, which wasn’t outlined at the time. Now, team principal Fred Vasseur says outlining that agreement is a priority.
Vasseur told Motorsport.com “We didn’t do it in a rush but we did it quite fast. We agreed on the engine supply agreement at the end of July, August, then we started to discuss about Alfa Romeo and we did the announcement at the beginning of December. Trust me that it was quite fast!”
“We are more than open to extending the collaboration with Alfa Romeo and will see step by step how and what could be the next options. A technical collaboration will be one.” The branding deal, came after the team agreed to use a 2018 spec power unit.
Vasseur says that the team is not looking for a similar deal to the Ferrari deal with Haas. Sauber technical director Jorg Zander joined the team after Audi withdrew from the World Endurance Championship.
He said the Alfa collaboration had given another boost to the team and was “telling people we’re moving on.”
Zander told Motorsport.com, “We’ve got a beautiful car – we want it to perform better – but people do realise there’s a big change taking place, definitely since I joined [ahead of the 2017 season].”
He says that people in the team have more confidence, creating a much stronger belief and this is of course very positive but it takes time.