Reporters – 22/04/2018

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Marcus Ericsson had been in Formula One for three seasons without scoring a point. That was partly due to an underperforming Sauber, but in Bahrain, the Swede scored his first points. But why does he feel a weight has lifted?

Ericsson feels a weight lifted after first points

Marcus Ericsson says that his ninth place finish in Bahrain feels like a weight has lifted from his shoulders. The Sauber driver scored his first points in the race as one of four drivers who completed the race on a one-stop strategy.

The Swede has struggled since he joined the team in 2014 to get rid of his label as a pay driver and there questions over Sauber’s decision to retain him for 2018 over Pascal Wehrlein or Ferrari junior Antonio Giovinazzi.

After several near-misses to end his points-scoring drought, which was just shy of 1,000 days in length, Ericsson left Bahrain a relieved man. Speaking to ESPN, he said “I’ve had some really difficult years and I’ve worked really hard with some really great performances and races.”

“I have finished eleventh four times since the 2015 Italian Grand Prix so I’ve been very close but there’s always been something happening — a Safety Car or something happened – when I’ve been looking to try and score those points.”

Ericsson says that scoring points is a big relief and was a weight lifted from his shoulders. The result was also Sauber’s first finish in the top ten since last year’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix

 

In China, it was the two Toro Rosso’s of Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly crashed into each other. But why and how did the team get it so wrong about a switch of position?

Toro Rosso’s communication crash

Toro Rosso’s drivers Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly have said there collision was caused by miscommunication about a planned change of position.

The Frenchman who was on fresher tyres was coming up behind Hartley half way through the race, as he attempted to go down the inside at the hairpin they collided. After the race, Gasly told the media  that he believed Hartley had been instructed to let him by – and that he was caught by surprise when the Kiwi turned for the corner as normal.

“They told me on the radio ‘okay, Brendon is going to let you pass, at the end of the straight’. So I expected him to let me by, I went on the inside.

“I expected him to leave me a bit of space to turn, and finally when he started to turn like normally and I was on the inside, was too late and there was nothing I could do. I tried to brake and avoid him, was way too late, we made contact and basically, that was it.

“It was a shame, because of course, the last thing you want is to have contact with your teammate, just a shame, but I think we misunderstood each other.”

Hartley said that he tough he had agreed to allow Gasly to pass on the exit of the corner rather than on entry, like they had done earlier in the race. “”We switched positions on the first stint as well because I was struggling on the ultrasofts, I let him by on the exit of Turn 14 and the second time I was asked, I planned to do the same.

“But my feeling is he must have thought that I was opening the door on the entry, which was not the case.”

The incident yielded a 10-second penalty for Gasly and two penalty points on his licence. “I mean, there was nothing we could do,” said Gasly about the sanction,

 

One of the talking points this season has been the rise in unsafe releases across the pit lane. Since February there have been problems at Haas, Ferrari and McLaren. So is it a coincidence or a fundamental problem with design?

FIA launches an investigation into the rise of unsafe Releases

The FIA has begun an investigation into the rise of unsafe releases following pit stops in the opening two races of the season, with race director Charlie Whiting saying the incidents are “looking less and less like a coincidence”.

Ferrari mechanic Francesco Cigarini suffered a double leg fracture in Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix after Kimi Raikkonen was given the green light to leave his pit box before his left rear tyre had been replaced. The Italian team had suffered two unsafe releases during the weekend and were fined €50,000 for each unsafe release.

The problems followed a double retirement by both Haas’s because of loose wheels after wheel nuts cross-threaded in Melbourne, while a wheel came off Fernando Alonso’s McLaren during winter testing.

Speaking to F1.com, Whiting said “It’s looking less and less like a coincidence but the two incidences in Melbourne were quite clearly wheelgun operator error.”

“They cross threaded the nuts and thought it was tight, came off and then realised a little too late it wasn’t. [With the incident in Bahrain], the guy hadn’t even taken the wheel off, which is slightly perplexing.”

Whiting said there was also an incident during testing and there have been discussions at the  Technical Working Group to try and learn from the incidents.

He suggested “When the wheel started to tip a little bit, it put abnormal loads into the things that were holding the nose in and once the nose came out, there was no retention

 

Honda has been one of the surprises of the season it has proved the capability of the manufacturer. Romain Grosjean says it is “amazing” but why?

Honda form amazing – Grosjean

Romain Grosjean says that the surprise form by Toro Rosso and Honda is “amazing” for Formula One, as it proves that new engine manufacturers can come in and be successful.

After a difficult opening race of the season, Pierre Gasly was best of the rest in Bahrain which was Honda’s best result since returning to the sport in 2015 with his fourth place.

Grosjean said the recent success stories of his Haas team and Honda’s new partnership with Toro Rosso shows what’s possible if you keep working hard and don’t give up.

He told Autosport, “I wasn’t happy they were in front of us, but I’m happy that Honda, with a good collaboration with Toro Rosso, managed to get such a good result. Qualifying everyone was like, ‘oh in the race they’re gonna fall down’, but actually no, they finished fourth.”

“For Formula 1, in general, it is amazing. It shows a constructor, like the Haas project, can be successful after three years. It’s great for Formula 1. It shows you can do it.”

Former Toro Rosso driver Carlos Sainz agreed, saying the team deserved the result for working so hard to adapt its car to the Honda engine.

“I saw the mechanics, I went down to shake hands with them and congratulate them. It’s good for them, they deserve it – they’ve pushed hard over the winter to get that engine back into the car, redesign the car. It’s a good story for Formula One”

Grosjean believes that the current unpredictability in the midfield made the sport “super exciting”.

 

McLaren switched to Renault engines for this season. However, the British team now has admitted that the targets have been too low. What is the new review aiming to find out?

McLaren carrying out a review of car

McLaren is conducting a review of all aspects of the MCL33 pace after a stronger than expected start to the season. The team currently is fourth in the constructors after they scored points in every race this season.

However, the team continues to struggle on single lap pace which has caught the eye of racing director Eric Boullier, who believes that the team set the targets too low at the beginning of the year.

He told ESPN “The car has matched all the targets so maybe that means maybe the targets were not the right ones. We need to revise, in terms of ambitions, what we need to achieve.” After three years with Honda, McLaren switched to Renault for 2018.

But despite the change of engine supplier McLaren remain a second off Red Bull, who also run the Renault power unit. The Frenchman admitted the deficit in the chassis was not acceptable.

Adding “We need to understand why we are slow in qualifying, why we are better in the race and why we are behind the other Renault teams, full stop.”

“There was obviously some questions asked in Bahrain, there is still an ongoing process because we have to address it and we will address it and we are about to address it.” Boullier says the car is well balanced and the drivers are happy.

Asked if it simply equated to a lack of aero efficiency, Boullier said the problems were more complex than that. He says that the team knew it had underdeveloped the car and there was a big upgrade coming for Barcelona.

 

That’s all from this edition of Reporters, goodbye

Jack

Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.

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