Honda and Mercedes leading candidates for Sauber
Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn says that Honda and Mercedes are the leading candidates for the team, should they move away from Ferrari power.
The team has used Ferrari since 1997, apart from between 2006 and 09 when the team was owned by BMW, but is evaluating its options for next year. Sauber was first linked to Honda last year, but the rumours have intensified following report that their relationship with McLaren could be at breaking point.
When asked by Autosport about the team’s contact with Honda, she made it clear that no decision has been made. “All I can tell you is, yes, we have had discussions with them.”
“But we are open to our engine situation. I think we have a couple of options. We know that a call has to be made soon. We know that, and of course the sooner you have clarity, the better for development.”
Honda is a more attractive option for Sauber, as they are currently paying market rates for a year old Ferrari engine. Should McLaren walk away it could mean the team return to works status, giving the team extra funding.
Since the departure of BMW in 2009, staffing level has fallen at the team and with that the potential for progress.
Sauber would also be potentially amenable to taking a Japanese driver as part of a deal, such as Honda protege and Formula 2 racer Nobuharu Matsushita.
No lasting damage
Jolyon Palmer wants his Renault team to check there is no lasting damage from his crash in practice in Melbourne. The Brit crashed heavily in Friday’s second practice putting his car into the wall.
He then he retired from the race after having an issue with the brakes sticking on and told Motorsport.com the priority was now to ensure he could start practice in Shanghai on the front foot.
“Obviously I had a big crash on Friday so we’ve changed a lot of parts on the car. We just need to have a good look and make sure everything is working as it should.”
“We just need to have a good look and make sure we’re in a good position to start in China,” Palmer added that he trusts the guys will know what they’re doing and make sure they will have a good starting position in China.
Palmer was 3.3 seconds slower than Nico Hulkenberg in qualifying but he says that further analysis on Saturday evening had revealed a couple of problems contributed to the deficit.
“We found there were some aero parts that weren’t a massive problem but they needed touching up and we were losing a few points [of downforce],” he said.
Ferrari better than Mercedes – Steiner
Haas’s team principal Gunther Steiner says he believes that Ferrari could now have a better engine than Mercedes. Sebastian Vettel beat Lewis Hamilton to victory in Australian Grand Prix, with GPS data showing that Ferrari has made the biggest gains over the winter.
Haas runs a Ferrari engine which allowed them to get their best ever qualifying in Albert Park. Steiner told Motorsport.com “With the engine, there is not just one area that is better, it’s the whole package that has improved from last year.
“It’s now as competitive as a Mercedes engine, if not better. Ferrari won in Australia, but everybody is developing and trying to get better. It’s always going to be a development race.” Steiner says without that good step from Ferrari the team wouldn’t be anywhere.
Haas failed to make the most of the strong qualifying after Romain Grosjean retired from the race because of a water leak, Steiner sees no reason for alarm about the situation his team is in.
“If you’ve got speed, you can get reliability,” he said. “It’s not good not to have it in the beginning, but not to have speed would be much more difficult to fix than the reliability.”
Giovinazzi hopes to grab race opportunities
Sauber reserve driver Antonio Giovinazzi says he will grab any opportunity to race this season. The Italian replaced Pascal Wehrlein after concerns over his fitness last weekend.
But, Giovinazzi has refused to speculate whether he’ll become Sauber’s permanent third driver. His debut weekend saw him finish twelfth on track, but he him impressed as he nearly out-qualifying team-mate Marcus Ericsson,
He told F1.com “Pascal is the Sauber driver and I am the third driver of Ferrari – and, of course, if there is another chance I will grab it. I don’t know. This is up to Ferrari.”
“I am really happy – and also for Italy to have somebody back in Formula 1. I think it is really important also to have an Italian in this sport. Now I have to work hard to stay here.”
Giovinazzi says that pre-season testing made him well prepared to take the driver’s seat in Australia.
Five seconds drop not at every race
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen says it is wrong to expect that there will be a five-second drop at every race this season. New regulations leading to wider tyres and revised aero rules have brought down times during testing.
the five-second target had already been met during testing, with Lewis Hamilton’s pole lap being just over four tenths faster than 2015. However, Verstappen thinks that at some races the pole lap may be slower because the cars are heavier and slower in a straight line.
When asked why the lap times had not dropped as much in Australia, Verstappen told ESPN “It just depends track to track.”
“I think, for example, in Barcelona, it could be more [than five seconds] because it’s more about downforce. Maybe in Monza we will be a bit slower than last year — it depends track to track.”
The race raised concerns that the new cars may make it more difficult to overtake, Verstappen says the regulation change has been successful in increasing enjoyment levels from inside the cockpit.
“They are more fun, especially in qualifying when you have low fuel, they are more stable through high-speed corners.”