Austrian Grand Prix: Bottas Claims First Pole of the Year

Image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Valtteri Bottas has claimed his first pole position of the year, and leads a Mercedes 1-2 into tomorrow’s Austrian Grand Prix.

Of the big-hitters, only Bottas and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen had a truly clean session. Both Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel made mistakes early on – at turn three and turn four respectively – and ended up relatively far back after the first Q3 runs had been completed. It took until the last couple of minutes for the pair to pull themselves back up the order – Hamilton ultimately qualified P2, and Vettel P3, with both pushing Kimi Raikkonen down into P4. Vettel was noted as being under investigation for allegedly impeding Carlos Sainz in Q2, but since Sainz did advance to Q3 it is uncertain whether Vettel will receive any penalty.

Red Bull had expected qualifying to be a struggle compared to Mercedes and Ferrari coming into the weekend. Max Verstappen may have qualified P5 but he was still two tenths behind Raikkonen, and Daniel Ricciardo ended up P7 behind the Haas of an impressive Romain Grosjean. Replays of team radio throughout the session indicated a certain amount of tension in the team, with Ricciardo frustrated that Verstappen did not follow orders to lead the Australian for a lap and give him a tow, as Ricciardo had done for Verstappen the lap before.

Kevin Magnussen and the two Renaults of Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg complete the top ten.

Further down the order, Charles Leclerc continues to impress in the Sauber. He qualified P13 but carries a five-place grid penalty due to his gearbox needing to be changed following a stoppage on track in FP3.

Force India’s Sergio Perez had a nightmare of a session. The Mexican complained of running out of battery during his first run and of getting stuck in traffic during his second. He failed to make it out of Q1 and starts P17.

It was also a frustrating session for McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne and Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley. Both were looking to pull themselves out of the drop-zone and into Q2, but encountered yellow flags on their flying laps when Charles Leclerc ran through the gravel trap in the final moments of Q1.

Both Mercedes and Red Bull will start tomorrow’s Grand Prix on the supersoft tyres, with all those around them starting on the ultras. Bottas will be hoping to convert pole position into a win, at the circuit where he claimed his second ever victory in 2017.

Austrian Grand Prix Grid

1. Valtteri Bottas – 1:03.130

2. Lewis Hamilton – 1:03.149

3. Sebastian Vettel – 1:03.464

4. Kimi Raikkonen – 1:03.660

5. Max Verstappen – 1:03.840

6. Romain Grosjean – 1:03.892

7. Daniel Ricciardo – 1:03.996

8. Kevin Magnussen – 1:04.051

9. Carlos Sainz – 1:04.725

10. Nico Hulkenberg – 1:05.019

11. Esteban Ocon – 1:04.845

12. Pierre Gasly 0 1:04.874

13. Fernando Alonso – 1:05.058

14. Lance Stroll – 1:05.286

15. Stoffel Vandoorne – 1:05.271

16. Sergio Perez – 1:05.279

17. Sergey Sirotkin – 1:05.322

18. Charles Leclerc – 1:04.979 *5-place penalty for gearbox change

19. Brendon Hartley 1:05.366

20. Marcus Ericsson – 1:05.479

 

Update – 17:30 – Sebastian Vettel has been given a three-place penalty by the stewards for impeding Carlos Sainz at turn one in Q2. The German will now start P6, promoting Kimi Raikkonen to P3, Max Verstappen to P4, and Romain Grosjean to P5.

Red Bull in talks with Honda

Red Bull to Honda, a gamble worth taking?

Formal talks between Red Bull and Honda started earlier this week for the possibility of the Japanese giants to supply the team for the 2019 season onwards. Informal talks where held prior to the hectic Azerbaijan Grand Prix between Red Bull’s Helmut Marko and Honda’s Masahi Yamamoto.

With Red Bull currently using Renault, and their junior team Toro Rosso using Honda they have the unique capability to review both power units. Red Bull have partnered Renault since the 2007 season. Success peaked with the Red Bull team winning four Driver and Constructors Championships in a row.  Since the 2014 season though when the complicated hybrids were introduced, the relationship has become very fractious publicly and it makes those years seem much longer ago than they were. Renault have had enough and multiple sources late last year said that they want to stop supplying the team.

Cyril Abiteboul from Renault Sport have made it clear to Red Bull they need to know the situation prior to the 15th May. This is the date when they have to provide information to the FIA for next season in regards to which teams they will supply engines too. They need to start organising the amount of parts they need, so Red Bull – Honda will have to conclude discussions pretty quickly. If nothing is completed by that set date Renault are forced to continue to supply Red Bull.

Fernando Alonso with the 2017 Mclaren Honda. Image courtesy of Mclaren

Red Bull’s interest has grown due to Honda coming on leaps and bounds since last season. Throughout pre-season testing they performed with far greater reliability and speed than previous seasons.. It seems from the performance of Toro Rosso thus far, McLaren may have made another mistake to add to their collection in recent years. All the power units are getting closer, its just that Mercedes have that so called party mode to exploit in qualifying. The unreliability of the Honda engine the in the McLaren of previous years wasn’t solely down to Honda, which McLaren, have confirmed since.

So far in 2018 season it seemed all the reliability Honda had in pre-season was lost when Gasly had to retire his car due to a MGU-H problem at the Australian GP. They have had no major problems noted since then. 

Renault are not without their own faults this season. Two most major ones happened at Bahrain. Verstappen suffered from an unexpected power surge causing him to lose the rear end of the car. This made him a passenger as his car collided into the wall ending his qualifying. On the Sunday an energy store problem halted Ricciardo’s drive from a strong position. This ironically gave Gasly a boost up the order, to which he finished an outstanding 4th, after an amazing qualifying on Saturday. This was the best ever result for Honda powered car since their return to the sport.

The talks are ongoing. F1 has recently announced new aero rules have been  for 2019, so albeit 4 races into the season, preparations for the next season will start earlier than usual. The Spanish Grand Prix is when major upgrades are shown and we start to see what the 2018 prototype cars are really capable of. With the forthcoming 15th of May engine deadline falling a few days after the Spanish GP, we are likely to see announcement very soon, if not before the GP.

If Red Bull as expected do move to Honda power, only time will tell if this was the right choice. But do they have any other choice as they have burnt many bridges already in F1?

Featured image courtesy of Redbull content pool

Let the Show Begin, is F1 still boring?

A few months ago, almost everyone was complaining about the Halo. In Spain, where the first off-season test took place, the majority of the F1 fans didn’t like the design of the 2018 cars, especially because of the ‘Sayonara’ shape which is attached on the cockpit.

The next biggest issue that most of us had/have, is the lack of overtaking and suspense. Which I will agree, the past seasons were boring with zero suspense. We knew the winning team from the first race, except last season where Vettel was challenging Hamilton, our agony lasted until the British Grand Prix. The British champion returned to the winning mode and personally, I couldn’t see the Ferrari be able to stop the Silver Arrows.

This year, everything looks different. In Australia, Hamilton took the pole, but Ferrari copied their last year’s recipe and Vettel took the chequered flag. Two weeks later, in Bahrain, Sebastian Vettel drove from the pole till the final lap and scored his second consecutive victory.

Red Bull, which have faced several technical and non-technical issues this season, managed to do the impossible. Daniel Ricciardo, started the race from the fourth place, but after a thrilling race he took the chequered flag.

Lack of suspense

In Bahrain, Ferrari did not have an easy afternoon. Lewis Hamilton, had an impressive race, he managed to finish third from the ninth place, whilst his team-mate, was pushing Vettel, who decided to go for one stop strategy and finished the race on softs. Valtteri was close to Vettel, he had fresher tyres and a harder compound, in the final laps he was less than a second behind the German, but he couldn’t find the space and the speed to pass Vettel’s Ferrari. It was a thrilling race full of suspense and unpredictable until the chequered flag. After 57 laps, Sebastian Vettel finished first, 0.699s ahead of Valtteri Bottas.

The Battle between the Middle Teams

A dreaming start for the McLaren, in their first season with Renault powered engines. In Australia, Fernando Alonso finished fifth, between the two Red Bulls, while his team-mate, Stoffel Vandoorne finished ninth and scored two points for the McLaren. In Bahrain, both McLaren’s drivers finished in the points, Nando and Stoffel scored ten points combined. That was the second consecutive double point finish for McLaren. Fernando Alonso, didn’t stop the good performances in China. The Spaniard finished seventh ahead of Sebastian Vettel, including a great overtake on Vettel.

Renault looks that provides stable engines to McLaren, which is currently fourth in the constructor championship with 28 points. Fernando Alonso has scored 22 points so far, and he is in the sixth place, not far behind from Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen.

Another team, which had an impressive start been Haas, the American team impressed their fans in Australia with their competitiveness and their speed. Unfortunately, both drivers retired after a mistake during their pit-stops.

The two teams which have not met their fans’ expectations are the Force India and Williams. Force India has scored one point until now, they are ninth ahead of Williams which are at the bottom of the championship. Esteban Ocon, finished tenth in Bahrain and scored the only point for Sahara Force India so far.

Mercedes, the calm before the storm

Mercedes looks like the giant who is sleeping and everyone is trying not to wake him up. The Silver Arrows, have the speed and the pace to follow both Ferrari and Red Bull. Some poor strategic decisions cost them the victory in Australia. Bottas was chasing Vettel in Bahrain, but didn’t manage to pass him and in China Valtteri and Hamilton finished second and fourth respectively.

If the Halo makes the cars uglier but the championship more exciting and unpredictable, I would suggest to add more ‘Halos’ to the cars.

For me, the championship has not even started yet, next race takes place in Azerbaijan, which was one of the most unpredictable and emotional race of the 2017 season. Ferrari seems to have the upper hand, but both Mercedes and Red Bull are close and can easily challenge the Italians.

Let the show begin..!

Twitter – @FP_Passion

What goes around comes around

Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel are in party mode, after an unexpected victory in the first race of the 2018 season in Melbourne.

The German driver, qualified third, behind his team-mate and the 2017 world champion, Lewis Hamilton. The Italians took a risk and split the strategy between the drivers, Kimi Raikkonen pitted on lap 21, switched from ultrasofts to softs, Mercedes called Lewis Hamilton into the pits right after Kimi’s stop. Sebastian Vettel, remained on track for some extra laps, on the 25th lap Kevin Magnussen pitted from the fourth position, a few meters after Kevin re-joined the track, forced to step aside and park his car due to an error during the pit-stop.

A couple of laps later, Romain Grosjean pitted for a fresh set of supersofts tyres, but he copied his team-mate exact footsteps, Romain parked his car and retired from the race, for the same reason as Kevin Magnussen, loose wheels, after the pit-stop. The wheels on both cars were not being placed correctly before the nuts were tightened.

The only difference between Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean, retirement, was the Grosjean’s car could not be easily recovered, hence the VSC deployed followed by a safety car.

During the VSC period, Sebastian Vettel pitted, that gave him a 10 second advantage over Lewis Hamilton. The German, re-join ahead of the Mercedes and he was leading the race. Hamilton pushed hard, after the SC, to catch and pass Vettel, the British champion was very close to Vettel’s Ferrari, but a small driving error cost him time and he also lost pace in the final laps of the race.

Sebastian Vettel celebrated a second consecutive victory in Australia and started the 2018 year with the same way he did in 2017.

A poor strategy, cost the chance to Red Bull to be competitive and score a podium in Australia. Both Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen started the race on supersofts, Verstappen and Ricciardo qualified fourth and eighth respectively. A three place grid penalty was given to Daniel Ricciardo for failing to slow down for a red flag, during free practice.

The Dutch, was not quick enough to challenge the two Ferraris in the opening lap, at turn one on the tenth lap, Max spun his Red Bull and lost places. He was unable to recover, as he was also facing unbalance issues caused by the damaged floor on his car.

Daniel Ricciardo wanted to finish on the podium in his home race, after the retirement of the two Haas, the Australian was fourth behind Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn, had to defend his position as Daniel was on his tail for most of the time in the final laps of the Grand Prix.

At the end, Ricciardo finished fourth and Max Verstappen sixth, behind Fernando Alonso.

Double point finish for McLaren

For the first time since 2014, McLaren scored points in Melbourne. The fifth place that Alonso took matched his best ever result in three years with Honda power. McLaren, couldn’t imagine a better start, Alonso and Vandoorne scored 12 points combined in the opening race of the 2018 season.

Furthermore, Fernando Alonso had the pace to hold back a Red Bull and he finished ahead of Valtteri Bottas’ Mercedes.

The outcome of the race affected by the VSC and Haas retirements, personally I was impressed with the pace the American team showed in the first laps of the Grand Prix and I would like to see them racing until the chequered flag.

It is still too early to judge, but I will take the risk to say that Asia will play a key role in the championship. If Ferrari has learnt from their mistakes, this year will be very interesting till the final chequered flag.

 

 

 

Season Review Part One, Mercedes too hard to die

Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia.
Sunday 26 March 2017.
World Copyright: Zak Mauger/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _56I1907

Season finale once again, the 2017 Formula One season, belongs to the past, it’s hard to describe my feelings for this season. There are two emotional packages, the first one is before the summer break and the other one is after the break, mixed emotions but at the end, despite the results, despite the winner, there is no way to relieve the pain that appears when the F1 season ends. Now we have to wait until the first pre-season tests to hear the noise of the engines, but before that there will be massive debates about the Halo. Personally, I don’t like it, but the drivers’ safety is always the most important factor, end of discussion!

A traditional review would break the season into two parts and remind you round by round, or race by race, if you prefer, what happened the past months. Let’s try a different approach, a shorter  season review, which will try to put you in a flashback mode, and pass all the 2017 season in front of your eyes in 1 minute (okay maybe a bit more!)

8 months ago…

Australia

Season premiere, tonnes of coffee for us who are living in the European time zone, agony as well, like the first day in school after the summer break! Sebastian Vettel, started from the second place, had better set up and a faster car than his title rival, Lewis Hamilton, and won for the first time since the Singapore Grand Prix in September 2015. Mercedes asked from Hamilton to go faster, but the Brit had issues with his tyres and was unable to catch Vettel’s speed.

Not a race to remember for Daniel Ricciardo, the Australian’s Red Bull, stopped on the way to the grid, his mechanics sent him back to the race, and on the second lap he had another issue, returned to the track, to enjoy his home race, but retired before the 30th lap.

China

Lewis Hamilton took his revenge, the Briton won his first victory in 2017. On Saturday he secured the pole, and had an advantage the following day, Vettel was close but never too close and at the end Hamilton took the chequered flag. The drivers started the race on wets, Max Verstappen had an impressive race, moved from the 16th to the third. Antonio Giovinazzi crashed his Sauber on the third lap of the race and retired, a good result for Carlos Sainz who finished seventh and scored six points for Toro Rosso.

Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain.
Sunday 16 April 2017.
World Copyright: Charles Coates/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _27I8921

Bahrain

Pole position for Valtteri Bottas, the first in his career, the Finn set the fastest lap on Saturday, followed by his team-mate and Sebastian Vettel. Ferrari, had the pace to challenge Mercedes, and win their second victory of the season. At that moment, it was clear that the 2017 title would be decided between Hamilton and Vettel. Lewis Hamilton received a five second time penalty, for driving slowly on the pit entry to hold up Daniel Ricciardo. Lewis, served his penalty during the second and final pit-stop, when he re-joined the track he was behind Vettel and Bottas. The Finn stepped aside, allowed to Hamilton to pass him and chase Vettel, but Hamilton was not able to cover the 12 second gap in nine laps.

Max Verstappen crashed on the eleventh lap of the race, due to brake problems and retired.

 

 

Russia

Russia was the next stop for the Formula 1 crew, after the Bahrain Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel was prepared to celebrate another victory in 2017, as he claimed the pole position in Bahrain, followed by Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas, but the Finn had other plans. The Silver Finn, jumped the two Ferraris in front of him and took the lead on the opening lap. Bottas, despite the pressure from Vettel during the final laps, managed to remain first until the chequered flag and scored his first victory in Formula 1.

Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal, Canada.
Sunday 11 June 2017.
World Copyright: Steven Tee/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _R3I0800

Spain

Hola amigos, said Hamilton to Sebastian Vettel. After an amazing start, Vettel passed Hamilton on the first lap, but Mercedes had an ace under its sleeve. The Silver Arrows, decided not to follow Ferraris strategy and go for a quick stop, but to leave Hamilton on the track for a longer medium stint and gain an advantage on a later stage of the race. Valtteri Bottas, delayed Vettel, as the German couldn’t pass the Finn, Mercedes pitted Hamilton, after the end of VSC, and with 30 laps to go. The British champion, re-joined on softs, Vettel pitted a lap later and after a wheel to wheel battle with Hamilton managed to remain first. On lap 44, Lewis was on Sebastian’s tail, took advantage of the DRS and overtook the race. Since that moment Lewis has tried to increase the gap between him and Vettel and at the end, he took his second chequered flag of the season.

Hamilton vs Vettel = 2-2

Monaco

Kimi Raikkonen started from the pole position, after nine years, Kimi took advantage of Vettel’s mistakes on his flying lap, and took the pole on Saturday’s session. A race to forget for Hamilton, Lewis qualified 13th and finished seventh. Jenson Button, replaced Fernando Alonso, in Monaco, but collided with Pascal Wehrlein on lap 60 and retired the race.

Ferrari decided to pit Kimi on lap 34, Sebastian Vettel found the opportunity and set some flying laps, pitted after five laps, and re-joined ahead of his team-mate.

Daniel Ricciardo was the third person on the podium, it was Red Bull’s third podium of the season, and the second consecutive for Ricciardo.

Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain.
Sunday 14 May 2017.
World Copyright: Andy Hone/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _ONZ6737

Canada

Easy weekend for Lewis Hamilton, the Briton started and finished the race from the same position, the first. Vettel, qualified second on Saturday, couldn’t follow the pace of the two Mercedes’ and Ricciardo’s, he finished only fourth. Sergio Perez, refused to follow Force India’s orders, to allow Ocon to pass, while he was fourth behind Ricciardo. At the end, Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon finished fifth and sixth respectively.

Azerbaijan

Three safety cars, and several crashed were not enough to stop Daniel Ricciardo to win his first victory in 2017. Sebastian Vettel collided with Lewis Hamilton, he got a 10 second stop and go time for swearing in Hamilton’s car.

Daniel Ricciardo totally deserved the victory in the Baku Grand Prix, the Australian dropped down to 17th place, but moved up to the tenth position just before the first safety car. The two following, safety cars, and the troubles between the leading drivers, gave the advantage to Ricciardo to move all the way up in the first place.

A race that Stroll will never forget, the Canadian young driver finished on the podium for the first time in his career.

Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia.
Saturday 25 March 2017.
World Copyright: Zak Mauger/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _56I7996

Austria

Valtteri Bottas dominated in Austria, took his second victory in 2017. A five-place grid penalty dropped Hamilton to eighth position, the following day, Lewis finished fourth behind Daniel Ricciardo whilst Sebastian Vettel finished second. During the final laps of the race, Vettel was closing to Bottas and Hamilton to Ricciardo, for the third place, but both drivers didn’t improve their position.

After the Austrian Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel was leading in the championship standings by 20 points.

United Kingdom

Home race for Lewis Hamilton and he couldn’t imagine a better way to thank his fans who appeared in Silverstone, than to win the British Grand Prix. With that victory, Lewis Hamilton tied the all-time record of five career wins in the British GP.

“The support has been incredible this weekend, I am so proud I could do this for you all. Now the plan is to win the championship.” Lewis Hamilton said after his victory in Silverstone.

An issue on Vettel’s front tyre, dropped him to seventh place behind Hulkenberg. Kimi Raikkonen, suffered the same problem a couple laps earlier, which cost him the second position, dropped him to the third place, whilst Bottas moved up to the second position.

Hungary

The last race before the summer break, Ferrari dominated in Hungary, and responded to Mercedes 1-2 in Silverstone. Sebastian Vettel, despite the problems that his Ferrari suffered, he won in Hungary, followed by his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, who was complaining about Vettel’s speed.

Lewis Hamilton, was not able to catch the two Ferraris in front of him and allowed Bottas to pass him and finish third. The Briton, kept the promise which made to Valtteri earlier in the race, when Bottas allowed Lewis to pass, as he was moving faster at that point of the race.

A great race for Fernando Alonso, who finished sixth and scored crucial points for McLaren, a positive result for Carlos Sainz Jnr too, the Spaniard finished seventh behind Alonso.

Season Review…Part One…

Stay..tuned…for..the..second..part…

*Twitter @FP_Passion

Lando Norris becomes FIA Formula 3 Champion at last

On Saturday McLaren junior driver and much acclaimed star of the future Lando Norris finally secured the FIA European Formula 3 title at Hockenheim with two races still left to run. Those who follow the series closely will have been surprised not to see him clinch the championship sooner, and he would have. Had it not been for a last lap tangling with Ralf Aron during the last race of the penultimate round at Spielberg. Even more impressively, Norris becomes the first non-Prema Powerteam driver to win the F3 title in the past six years, highlighting the amazing work both the driver himself, and his team, Carlin, have done over the course of 2017.

Champion 31 Lando Norris (GBR, Carlin, Dallara F317 – Volkswagen), FIA Formula 3 European Championship, round 10, race 3, Hockenheimring (DEU), 13. – 15. October 2017

While Norris’ season got off to a shaky start, in the latter half of the year the consistent results started to roll in and in a tightly packed field, Norris began to emerge as a favourite for the title. No doubt he benefitted from a downturn in form from one of his nearest rivals, Swedish driver Joel Erikkson, and the disappearance of Prema’s usual dominance. But Norris took the chances when they came his way and in the end there was little doubt that he would walk away with the title. His ability to keep improving over the course of the season it was makes him such a strong competitor, and is probably part of the reason why the young British driver has won the title in almost every series he has competed in to date.

This ability to keep building on his natural talent and skill start, is probably most evident in his race starts. In the first few rounds of 2017 while Norris would ordinarily pull out stellar qualifying performances, he would struggle to get off the line smoothly, sometimes stalling completely. It didn’t always mean he was destined to finish down the order, but it certainly did not help his case. However, by the last few rounds, Norris seemed to have conquered these demons and removed the weakness from his arsenal.

It is also probably no coincidence that Norris really hit his stride just after his participation in the in-season test for McLaren at the Hungaroring back in August. Whether it the positive press he received after an impressive first showing F1 machinery provided a confidence boost for the seventeen-year-old, or he unlocked a new level to his performance working with them, the effect was positive. Expectations were high after his showing during the two-day test, and it would have been very easy for the young driver to buckle beneath it all, but if anything it seemed to spur him on to prove that he could live up to the hype.

31 Lando Norris (GBR, Carlin, Dallara F317 – Volkswagen), FIA Formula 3 European Championship, round 10, race 3, Hockenheimring (DEU), 13. – 15. October 2017

2017 marks another year in what is shaping up to be quite an impressive junior career for the most recent recipient of the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award. Since his 2015 MSA Formula title, Norris has added the top prize of every full series he’s competed in to his resume. And the Formula 3 title makes it his fifth championship in around two years, which can go someway in explaining why he is rated so highly.

So what’s next for the young British driver? Reports indicate that he will most likely become McLaren’s official reserve driver in 2018, taking that role from F1 World Champion Jenson Button. Most likely he will attempt to follow up his Formula 3 success with a stint in either Super Formula or Formula 2 – with many linking him to a F2 seat at Prema Racing who just took Charles Leclerc to the title in his rookie year.

Though he is certainly setting himself up for success in Formula 1, where he will hopefully find himself in the future, next season would perhaps be a season or so too soon. The raw ability is undoubtedly there, but as his early season difficulties and rashness in Austria show, there are still a few choice areas where some ironing out is required. It is easy to forget just how young Lando Norris is, and sometimes it does peek through in his racing. However, he is not yet eighteen, so time is on his side.

McLaren-Honda: Contract is terminated

World Copyright: Steven Tee/McLaren

According to German media, the contract between McLaren and Honda has been terminated. McLaren is set to take the last details of the contract with Renault, while Toro Rosso switched to Honda.  Fernando Alonso will stay at McLaren.

For few days now, media stations reported the divorce between McLaren and Honda. Now the very reliable Michael Schmidt from ‘Auto Motor und Sport’ told in his latest video that the ex-dream partnership broke down on Monday.

While the whole world of F1 is waiting daily for an announcement of news in the engine drama, the teams and manufacturers are planing the last details in their contract, for example the drivers and payments.

According to Schmidt McLaren’s plan to “blackmail” the FIA, in terms of leaving Honda and say that they are need a engine in hope to receiving a Ferrari or Mercedes engine, failed. The ruleholders showed the british team the regulation that say, that every team has to tell the FIA his engine partners before the end of may.

The decision of being with Renault next year will be a indicatory for McLaren. CEO Zak Brown told Sky Sports that this will be probably the most important decision for the woking based team ever. Now it seems to be done.

For more information what this deal mean: We already reported a week ago about the scenario:

McLaren-Honda: A decision is near

Alonso will stay at McLaren – First signs on Twitter?

Photo: Steven Tee/McLaren

Also Schmidt is saying, that after that new engine deal is done, two time worldchampion Fernando Alonso will stay at McLaren.

The Spaniard maybe showed the first signs of the lost trust in Honda and the end of the McLaren-Honda era on Twitter.

While he had a picture on his twitter baner, with his first kart that is coloured in the original iconic red-white of the McLaren-Honda  alongside the real MP4/4 in his museum, there are now his own Fernando Alonso carts on the baner.

Also he doesn’t following Hondas twitter pages anymore – Ironically the same happened as he leaved Ferrari back in 2014. Back then he unfollowed the twitter page of the italian brand before the whole story got official.

 

 

Monza Preview: can Ferrari fight back?

GP ITALIA F1/2016 – MONZA (ITALIA) 04/09/2016
© FOTO STUDIO COLOMBO PER PIRELLI MEDIA (© COPYRIGHT FREE)

Formula One returns off the back of a thrilling Belgian Grand Prix in which Lewis Hamilton clinched a well-deserved win. This week, the drivers will return to the Autodromo Nazionale Monza for the thirteenth round of the 2017 F1 season. With just seven points – the difference between first and second place separating Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel – things could soon change at the ‘Temple of Speed’ this weekend.

Ferrari: Is the comeback on?

Ferrari impressed at Spa last weekend, despite the track seeming to not suit the set up of their car. Vettel pushed Hamilton all the way to the end, coming close at the end of the safety car restart. He dived up the inside, only to fall foul of the Mercedes’s top line speed. The upgrades to the SF70-H certainly worked wonders at the Belgian circuit. Ferrari will be looking for another win at their home race in front of the passionate Tifosi this weekend and with their showing in Spa, they can certainly be a safe bet on taking the chequered flag for the first time since 2010.

They will need to nail their qualifying position at the circuit and the support of the passionate Italians will certainly provide the team with some much needed confidence. Vettel will want to win his first Italian Grand Prix in Ferrari red, chasing the record five wins that the legendary Michael Schumacher achieved in his time as a Ferrari driver. Expect the Italian team to be riding high with the support of the home crowd behind them.

GP ITALIA F1/2016 – MONZA (ITALIA) 04/09/2016
© FOTO STUDIO COLOMBO PER PIRELLI MEDIA (© COPYRIGHT FREE)


Mercedes: one eye on the competition

Mercedes left Spa as a team of mixed fortunes. Hamilton claimed a dominant pole and a win that he had to fight until the bitter end for, whilst Valtteri Bottas had a race to forget. On the safety car restart, he was left vulnerable on his soft tyres to the attack of Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Räikkönen, forced off the track and recovering to fifth. Mercedes brought the fourth and final reincarnation of their engine to Spa in order to get around the lower oil burn regulations that come into play for engines introduced after this weekend. It was a decision that flared tempers within Ferrari as the Maranello outfit have yet to introduce the latest incarnation of their engine.

Mercedes surely will be tentative as they enter the Ferrari hunting ground. The circuit itself seems to favour the Silver Arrows with its long straights and low drag, however, Ferrari’s showing at the previous race where the circuit wasn’t one of their strongest will have put Mercedes on the alert. Hamilton will be aiming for Mercedes’s fourth consecutive Monza win and the chance to finally become the championship leader after trailing Vettel all season. Expect Mercedes to keep one eye on the competition, but focus on the job ahead.

Trouble brewing at Red Bull

Red Bull seemed to put themselves in a strong position in Spa. Despite the misfortune of Max Verstappen’s sixth DNF this season, Daniel Ricciardo managed to fight his way onto the podium and claim a third place after a couple of disappointing races. The Austrian team also ran some aero trails which proved critical towards their success in Spa and could potentially earn them success in Monza. Red Bull tested a new spec low-drag rear wing on Ricciardo’s car. This set up will suit the low-downforce track and long straights that Monza is famous for.

However, despite this positivity, Verstappen is set for grid penalties at the circuit after his fourth and final combustion engine failed on the ninth lap of the Belgian Grand Prix. This will no doubt make the young Dutchman hungry to carve his way through the field, hungry for success. However, the doubts over Renault and over their ability to provide a competitive engine will continue to rage, casting Verstappen’s future potentially into doubt.

GP ITALIA F1/2016 – MONZA (ITALIA) 04/09/2016
© FOTO STUDIO COLOMBO PER PIRELLI MEDIA (© COPYRIGHT FREE)


Force India: Round Two?

The boxing gloves came out once more at Spa as Force India teammates Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon came to blows not once, but twice. They clashed in the opening lap with Perez bumping his teammate into the wall as they came towards Eau Rouge. However, things did not end there. On lap 30, Perez squeezed Ocon into the wall in a similar place as they came up towards Eau Rouge, however, on this occasion the outcome was not so favourable. It ended Perez’s race with a puncture as he spilled debris onto the track, bringing out the safety car. However, Ocon’s race was also compromised by a broken front wing and he limped home in ninth position. Such loss of points have forced the team to take a similar approach to Mercedes last season and introduce new rules of engagement.

Monza will be the first race that these will come into play and although, it seems that the racing will become diluted, it is easy to consider things from Force India’s viewpoint. They do not want to lose any more points and surrender the fourth place they hold in the constructor’s championship as it would affect funding for next year.

McLaren: The curious case of Fernando Alonso

McLaren had a race to forget in Spa. Stoffel Vandoorne had a 65 grid penalty to take as a result of exceeding his quota of power unit elements and for changing his gearbox. Fernando Alonso had similar mixed luck. He failed to get into Q2 due to a failure within the software running in his car as taking Puhon flat confused the system and left the Spaniard with no power. This continued into the race as despite a good start, Alonso retired on lap 26, reporting that once again there was no power. It’s a phrase that has sadly become the norm over the McLaren team radios.  However, shortly after the race, Honda reported that they could not find fault with Alonso’s power unit.

The former world champion had cut a sullen figure all weekend, using his radio to voice his opinion of the car, and things are not likely to change at Monza. The long straights will not favour the Honda engine and it’s likely that the team will have another weekend to forget. Alonso is also poised to take penalties as a result of taking a new upgraded engine to the race, it is hoped that by doing so, McLaren will be in a stronger position for the Singapore GP, considered one of the lower-power circuits. However, the question for McLaren is over Alonso’s future. The former world champion has made it clear that he is unhappy with the technology in the car and that he has other offers on the table. Although it will be a race to forget for McLaren, the future of Fernando Alonso will still loom large over Monza.

The Italian Grand Prix will commence on Friday 1st September with practise at 10am local time, followed by qualifying on Saturday 2nd September at 2pm local time. The race will be held on Sunday 3rd September at 2pm local time.

Sarah Jarvis

Q&A with Nikolas Tombazis, ex Ferrari Chief Designer

Nikolas Tombazis born in Greece on April 22nd in 1968, his father, Alexandros Tombazis was an architect. In 1989, Nikolas graduated from the Trinity College in Cambridge as an engineer, a few years later (1992) he completed his PhD in aeronautical engineering at the Imperial College London.

Tombazis, entered to the Formula One world on November 1992, he became aerodynamicist at the Benetton Formula 1 team, a couple of years later he promoted to Head of Aerodynamics. In 1994, he was a member of the team, which celebrated Michael Schumacher’s world title. The following season Benetton won both the constructors’ and the drivers’ championships.

In 1997, Tombazis followed Michael Schumacher and moved from Benetton to Ferrari. One year later he became Ferrari’s Chief Aerodynamicist and he was responsible for Ferrari’s dominance from 1998 to 2003, Nikolas celebrated six constructors’ titles and five drivers’ championships with the Scuderia Ferrari.

In 2004, the Greek designer, moved to McLaren, he remained in Woking for two years and then returned to Ferrari as Chief Designer. At that period Ferrari, won two constructors’ titles and Kimi Raikkonen won the drivers’ championship in 2007.

Manor, was Tombazi’s final team in Formula One. Nikolas, joined Manor as Chief Aerodynamicist but he was unlucky as the team didn’t take part to the 2017 championship, due to financial problems.

I have the honour to host an interview with one of the best Greek engineers, and the person who played a major role to Ferrari’s dominance.

When did you realise that you wanted to interact with Formula One and what influenced you?

I was hooked to this sport as a kid, when I was around 10 years old. In those days the TV did not show that many races, and of course there was no Internet, so finding all the information required quite a lot of research. These were also the years of the start of ground effect (Lotus 78 and Lotus 79) and the subsequent heavy emphasis on aerodynamics. So I guess that also influenced quite a lot the direction that I followed subsequently.

What were your worst and your best memory during your years in F1?

Best memories: championship wins… 2000 with Schumacher, 2007 with Raikkonen (my first car as Chief Designer), stand out. Most wins were very special, but these championships had something extra.

For sure the worse moments were when a driver was killed. Senna’s death (which was very early in my career) shocked me even though I never had the luck to meet him. But there have been other difficult moments: periods when the car was uncompetitive, losing championships in the last race, retiring from races while leading…

How much role plays the physical characteristics of a driver in the designing of a car?

Depends exactly what you mean. If you mean his actual body dimensions (height, width, etc.) we do need to package the bigger / taller driver in our cars, and to make them comfortable. This is not a major exercise, but it has to be done.

If you mean the driving characteristics, some times drivers have a particular sensitivity to a certain aspect of the car and we try to make sure that we do not design something that they will be uncomfortable driving. But this is not perhaps as frequent as it used to be: nowadays we rely a lot more on telemetry and measurements.

In 1998 you became Ferrari’s Chief aerodynamicist, Scuderιa had not celebrated a title since 1983, how much pressure did you have and how easy was for you to keep “producing” a winning car for six consecutive years?

The pressure was always high in Ferrari. The constructors’ championship in 1999 was bitter-sweet, because we had also lost the drivers’. The real special moment came in 2000, and I still remember the feeling when I saw Michael come out of his final pit stop in Suzuka ahead of Hakkinen.

 

Who was the best driver that you have worked with and why?

Schumacher and Alonso. Difficult to compare them, but their understanding of the car and their speed was on another planet. There were numerous other drivers I enjoyed working with (and most were very good) but these two were something special.

What is your opinion about Halo and how much can affect the aerodynamics of a Formula One car?

The aerodynamic effect is not massive, and the teams will do what they can to keep it to a minimum. Every time a driver has been killed or seriously hurt we wonder why we did not do certain things earlier. So while the aesthetics are clearly not its strong point, we need to do what we can to keep the drivers safe.

They are saying that to be an aerodynamicist in Formula 1 is one of the most challenging jobs because you have to combine downforce with low drag. Which part of an F1 car is the most important and how long does it takes to design a car?

The design of the car never really finishes, it is a continuous process of development. All the areas close to the ground are difficult, the front wing and the area between the diffuser and the rear wheels are particularly complicated.

Being an aerodynamicist is very challenging (and also satisfying when things go well), but there are many jobs in Formula 1 which are very difficult and important for the final result.

Many kids and students are dreaming to work in Formula One, what would you advise them?

Work hard, take your studies at university seriously, participate in a Formula SAE or some other minor category, learn a lot of skills (CAD, CFD, simulations, etc.)

At the beginning of the year, Manor’s staff posted a 50 percent scale model of the MRT07 as a goodbye to F1, how hard was that for you, and do you believe that Liberty Media should offer more funds to smaller teams in order to avoid situations like Manor’s?

It was a shame that Manor collapsed, and that we did not see the fruit of our effort. There were a couple of hundred people who suffered this big disappointment, and all the difficulties being left without a job caused them.

Formula 1 should become more sustainable both for the small teams but also for the big ones. How this will happen we just have to wait and see.

With what are you working now?

I am currently consulting a number of clients, and I find the varying range of problems very enjoyable. For reasons of confidentiality I cannot say who my clients are.

Victor Archakis

Twitter – @FP_Passion

 

Is Lando Norris a future Formula One star?

Until recently, Lando Norris was a name relatively unknown outside of junior categories. This is all set to change.

The seventeen year old is no stranger to success. Bursting onto the scene in 2014, he finished a respectable third in the Ginetta Junior Championship, taking four wins from twenty races. Norris had his first taste of success the following year at the 2015 MSA Formula Championship, where he took the title by sheer consistency. Last year, he enjoyed a similar run of success, dominating the 2016 Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 championship as a rookie. It was a strong showing for Norris and a clear indication of his potential as he took six poles and five wins from seven rounds. He commanded the 2016 Formula Renault 2.0 NEC Championship, taking an impressive ten poles and six wins. Norris also won the 2016 Toyota Racing series in a domineering fashion, his closest rival a massive 135 points away.

Credit: Zak Mauger/LAT Images

His success last year caught the eye of one of Formula One’s most successful manufacturers. In February 2017, McLaren announced that Norris was joining it’s Young Driver Programme in wake of Stoffel Vandoorne’s graduation into the racing seat. It seemed like a good match. McLaren seemed the perfect choice to nurture Norris’s career through junior categories, having done so with Lewis Hamilton and Stoffel Vandoorne to great success.

Norris moved into the Formula 3 European Championship with Carlin in 2017. He faced tough competition from the might of Prema, the defending champions and Maximilian Günther, the runner up to Lance Stroll in 2016. Norris’s career in Formula Three got off to a strong start. He secured pole and the win in the opening race at Silverstone. However, in the second race, his Achilles heel became evident. He was slow off the start, hindered by the damp track and lost positions, finishing ninth. Norris’s bad luck with starts continued in the third race of the round and he was unable to challenge Günther and Callum Ilott ahead.

In Monza, however, he returned to his winning ways, scooping a win and two second place finishes in the three rounds. In Pau, Norris continued to look strong, taking two pole positions. However, he was unable to convert these into race wins. In the second race, he was jumped at the start by Günther and in the third race, he led comfortably, his poor start jinx was seemingly behind him until a front-suspension failure pitched him into the barriers.Again, in Hungary, Norris was plagued by bad starts. He lost positions in the races and only scored one podium finish. At the Norisring, Norris showcased his hunger to win by starting in a lowly fourth and hunting down his rivals to secure his third win in the championship.

Norris seemed unbeatable at Spa. He snatched two pole positions, taking a light to flag victory in the first race. His demons of a bad start seemed forgotten, even when he came under pressure from Ilott. The second race, however, saw the youngster swamped by his competitors, eventually picking up suspension and bodywork damage that ruled him out of the race. He seemed to put that disappointment behind him in the third race of the round. Starting in fourth, Norris surged through his rivals with ease, seemingly motivated by his failure in race two. He showcased some excellent overtaking manoeuvres, securing his fifth win of the season. Norris’s performance in Monza showed what he was capable of, that he could produce results and he wasn’t afraid of reaching the top.

Norris tested for McLaren in Hungary earlier this week, collecting the prize for winning the 2016 McLaren Autosport BRDC award. In previous years, familiar names such as Jenson Button and Paul di Resta have won the award, taking place in testing in older machinery. Interestingly, Norris was able to drive the most current car, showing how much faith McLaren already had in the teenager. He did not disappoint either. Norris completed a sensational run in which he closely challenged the two Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen for the top spot. Clocking 91 laps, Norris treated Formula One to a mastershow as he produced a fantastic lap of 1.17.385, just 0.271 seconds off the pace of Vettel’s Ferrari. Norris also proved invaluable to the McLaren team as he gathered valuable aero data, long-run pace and set up adjustments. Éric Boullier in particular, was singing his praises at the end of the test. Norris showed that he could get to grips with the mechanics of a Formula One car and that he was a force to be reckoned with.

So could we see Norris in Formula One anytime soon? Norris certainly has the potential to be a contender for the McLaren seat in a few years time. Fernando Alonso’s contract is due to expire at the end of this season and seeing Norris’s raw pace and ease with the controls of the McLaren could certainly make him a strong contender to stand alongside Vandoorne. His strength in Formula Three, a series that has produced many F1 drivers in recent years, coupled with his exceptional testing certainly have made McLaren take notice. They seem to be the perfect fit for Norris, being a team with an extensive driver’s academy who have moulded Lewis Hamilton and Kevin Magnussen into F1 drivers, both of whom still compete in the Championship today.

Norris currently lies in second position in the Formula Three Championship. The strong showings in Formula Three show that Norris has something special. He is performing well in the face of tough competition. Norris is still inconsistent at times, particularly in his race starts but he seems to be overcoming his demons. And as Lance Stroll and Antonio Giovinazzi show, drivers don’t often come into Formula One polished. If Lando Norris does manage to make it into Formula One, he is likely he will be the same to begin with. Fortunately, for Norris, McLaren are a team that are patient and allows their junior drivers to develop at their own pace. This is clear from Vandoorne’s recent performances, blossoming after a shaky start at the wheel of the McLaren.

Credit: Mark Sutton/LAT Images

It seems unlikely however, that with Alonso’s departure, that Norris would be filling the vacant seat next year. Although, Norris could potentially acquire enough points for a 2017 FIA Super Licence next season and he would be eligible later this year when he turns 18, McLaren may not want to take on another rookie driver so soon after working to develop Vandoorne’s ability. McLaren may desire a bigger name and a more experienced driver to work alongside the team for the 2018 season, one that could potentially bring in more sponsorship deals. They may bring Jenson Button back for a season and send Norris to Formula Two or another series, in a situation similar to Vandoorne’s, to hone the teenager’s race craft and prepare him for Formula One. His status also depends on how successful the Formula Three season is for him. He needs to showcase his talents and prove to McLaren that he is a winner in all aspects and worthy of taking Alonso’s position away. His status as a British driver, and one that could follow in the footsteps of Lewis Hamilton could certainly improve his prospects of driving for McLaren in later years. Norris is capable of producing results when qualifying doesn’t go well for him and he is experienced at carving his way through the field to reach the top step. It’s a hunger that undoubtedly, would be welcomed in Formula One.

It still remains to be seen what will happen next year at McLaren. It is dependent on Norris’s results and whether McLaren are ready to take a chance on a driver from Formula Three, as Toro Rosso and Williams did before them. Norris has proved so far that he is a diamond in the rough. He can produce sensational results both in his own series and in F1 testing, and he has the drive and hunger to succeed. The way he conducted himself within the test shows clear maturity and work ethic, factors that are critical to success in Formula One. There are elements of his driving that could be improved, but these can be honed as he continues to develop in his career. If McLaren are willing to shape him into the driver they need, he could well be a commanding force in years to come.

All images courtesy of McLaren.