What are Alonso’s options for 2018?

 

Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China.
Saturday 08 April 2017.
World Copyright: Andy Hone/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _ONY5020 via Pirelli Media

 

If he stays in F1:

Keep the seat at McLaren

It seems like the least likely option, but if by some miracle Honda improve the engine and McLaren suddenly look competitive, then he might—just might—stay for another season. If the power unit doesn’t find any obvious straight line speed and Honda isn’t prepared to stump up a hefty chunk of salary, he has openly said he’ll be off.

Back to Ferrari as Kimi’s replacement

If you follow Fernando’s pattern, he constantly returns to his old racing teams. Renault to McLaren, back to Renault, a trip to Ferrari and then back to McLaren. The next stage of the pattern is a return to Ferrari. Kimi is not certain to be around next year and whilst Alonso didn’t leave on the best of terms, he definitely left McLaren under worse circumstances.

Taking Bottas’ seat

Valtteri might have won his first Grand Prix this year, but he already appears to be playing an understudy role to Lewis Hamilton. Sitting on a one-year contract means that it won’t cost Mercedes anything to replace him. They can clearly afford Alonso’s wage and to find a winning car, he might even take a pay cut.

There’s no room in the Red Bull inn

Very simply, there is only one chance of Alonso taking to the Australian grid in a Red Bull. It involves either Ricciardo or Verstappen being taken over to a Silver Arrow or to the Scuderia in Maranello. If one of those seats is available and Fernando doesn’t get it, expect him to be extremely motivated in whichever car he ends up with.

A rejuvenated Renault

We know that Fernando had his most successful years under the Renault umbrella, but today it is a very different team to the one he remembers. Having said that, they are improving and we all know that Palmer’s seat is less than secure. Hulkenberg looks pretty good and there’s no talk of him moving anywhere anytime soon, so a Hulk and Fernando line up might be the option.

Williams, Force India nor Haas

There’s so little chance of Alonso going to a team which has no chance of taking a win. There’s even less chance of him doing so if they can’t match his salary ambitions. At least at McLaren he is getting paid well to have a rubbish engine. Not one of these three teams look likely to win a race without some major incident at the front of the grid, and Alonso can’t afford to wait for that to happen.

Life outside of F1:

WEC

It’s no secret that Alonso would like a crack at Le Mans as part of the Triple Crown. A year or two in WEC would not only give him the Le Mans entry he is after but also give him the schedule space to enter the Indy 500 again. Mark Webber tried to get him to the Porsche WEC team for a while and from all reports he was very close. If he put the feelers out for a seat, it would be hard to imagine any team not immediately making space for him. Imagine two million people tuning in to watch him practice around Magny Cours, that’s the sort of publicity any team would dream of.

IndyCar Series

Why not? He went, he saw, he so nearly conquered. There’s a proven path for ex-F1 drivers making the move; Brabham, Hill, Fittipaldi, Piquet, Mansell. These are legends in our sport and went over the pond to have a crack at a different form of racing. Then there’s the current crop of ex-F1 racers, less illustrious, but if Max Chilton can make a significant impact, imagine what Alonso could do with a repeated attempt.

Leave racing altogether

There is absolutely nothing which Alonso has left to prove to anyone about anything. He was the youngest F1 World Champion, is revered as one of the best drivers in the current crop and in the list of all-time, he even manages to get the McLaren with its GP2 engine into Q3.

Why would he not leave and start the next phase of his life? He has been shown a great example by Jenson Button. He’s taken to life away from F1, like Fernando to the Indy 500.

It is widely known that Alonso’s contract is up at the end of the year and there is nothing which could force him to race next season. The only thing which might tempt him would be a front of the grid seat. We’re sure he’d like to finish his career having at least won a few more races, instead of breaking down before the lights even go out.

However Alonso decides to spend the next few years, we know for certain that he has given us an amazing experience. Just look at what he did in Singapore in 2010, driving a car which had no right to be on the front two rows of the grid, he hauled the car to pole and then dominated the race all the way to the flag. It might not have the hallmarks of a Button Canadian win, but it just showed what the man could get out of a half-decent car.

Andy Robinson

Do team orders make a significant difference?

Monte Carlo, Monaco.
Sunday 28 May 2017.
World Copyright: Andy Hone/LAT Images (Image Courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media)
ref: Digital Image _ONZ0414

Kimi’s face on the podium told a thousand stories, to say he was slightly unhappy with coming second, would be like saying the Pope is slightly religious. He’d gone from leading the Monaco Grand Prix by a good handful of seconds, to finishing second and well off the pace.

The pole sitter had done everything right in the first half of the race and it was only a pitstop disaster which could cost him the race. Coming in before his team-mate to cover off the undercut, would normally have been the right call. Unfortunately, this is Monaco and there is nothing normal about racing a Formula 1 car around these streets.

A few blisteringly quick laps from Vettel and Kimi’s lead had disappeared along with his hopes of the win.

Did Ferrari know this was how it would play out or was it just great driving from a World Champion how was able to put the laps together when he really needed them? Seeing Daniel Ricciardo’s lap times, would give the impression that it might even have been Kimi holding the pack up slightly.

But none of this matters. Ferrari have used team orders before and will use them again. There is no team in the pitlane who would not use team orders to ensure they got the race win. Look at Mercedes telling Rosberg to move over last year in Monaco. They made Nico let his title rival passed and to run away to a lucky victory, whilst Rosberg limped home in seventh.

It’s actually interesting to see how team orders have affected the Driver’s World Championships after they were used.

A quick look at some of the biggest experiences tells us its own story. You cannot mention team orders and not think of Multi 21, Schumacher and Barrichello in Austria, “Fernando is faster than you”, Crashgate or even Coulthard and Hakkinen in Australia.

Multi 21

Mark Webber is ahead of Sebastian Vettel in the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix. Red Bull use the code ‘Multi 21’ to tell the drivers that car two will finish in front of car 1. They have previously used Multi 12 and Webber has submitted to the order. Unfortunately for Webber, Vettel decided to ignore the order and attacked for the lead. He ended up winning the race and taking the extra seven points.

At the end of the season Vettel beat Alonso by 155 points, making the whole unsavoury episode completely unnecessary.

Schumacher and Barrichello in Austria

In 2002, Ferrari were dominant, winning all but two of the races that season. By the time Austria came around, Schumacher had already won four of the first five races and was easily in the lead of the Driver’s Championship, yet Ferrari still felt completed to issue team orders during the sixth race of the season. With Barrichello in the lead, he was told to move over and let his team-mate win, needless to say that this didn’t go down too well with the Brazilian and he waited until the last

corner of the last lap, to slow down and let Schumacher pass. The crowd immediately reacted and told Ferrari exactly what they thought of it.

The move was condemned by nearly all of the F1 community and when you see that Schumacher won the Driver’s Championship with 144 points; double second-placed Barrichello’s 77. It was completely unnecessary.

Fernando is faster than you

Another Ferrari masterclass in team orders, is the non-team order which was so clearly a team order. During a period of F1 where team orders were banned; imagine telling one of your drivers that the other driver, who happens to be right behind you, is faster than you. Take the hint pal, move over. Alonso was on a charge and went on to win the German Grand Prix.

Interestingly, this team order cost Ferrari $100,000, but kept Alonso in the Championship hunt. At the end of the season, the extra points did make a difference, but not enough. Alonso finished four points behind Vettel and came second once more. If Ferrari had introduced their team orders before Germany, they could have engineered an Alonso championship. In both Australia and Turkey, Massa finished immediately in front of Alonso. Swapping positions in there two races, would have given Alonso and extra 3 points and 2 points respectively.

It makes you wonder if Ferrari were just too late introducing their strategy.

Crashgate

In one of the lowest points of the sports recent history. Nelson Piquet Jr was asked/told to crash in Singapore in a position which would require a safety car. Handily, Alonso his team-mate, had just made a pit stop and inherited the lead when the rest of the field made their stops behind the safety car. It was a lead he didn’t relinquish and went on to win the 2008 race.

This wasn’t about a Championship victory, this was all about Renault needing a result and someone, reportedly Flavio Briatore, feeling enough pressure to ask one of his drivers to risk their lives just to get a win.

It took a year for the true story to leak out and only really came to light when Renault didn’t renew Nelson Piquet Jr’s contract. A bitter Nelson, let some things leak out which made people look back at the accident in a fresh light. The cost was extreme, people were banned from racing and the ramifications for Renault were enough to see them pull out of the sport within three years.

Coulthard and Hakkinen in Australia

When pre-season testing shows that you are in a class of your own, what else would you do? At the start of 1998, the McLaren looked very dominant. Coulthard and Hakkinen were under orders not to take each other out in the season opening Australian Grand Prix. Between themselves and the team, they decided that whoever was in the lead after the first corner, that driver would get the win. Hakkinen got to the first corner in the lead and the plan was put into place. It was all going well until Mika had an unscheduled pitstop and dropped back into second. Appearing to stick to the pre-race agreement, David let his team mate through for the win.

The extra two points made little difference to Mika at the end of the season, where he won the Driver’s Championship by fourteen points. Unfortunately, right at the start of the season, the tone was set with DC as the number two driver and all of McLaren’s upgrades and new components being directed to Mika’s car first.

In all five of these cases, the issued team orders did not make an impact on the Driver’s Championship. They did however make a larger impact on the fans and the perception of F1 to the wider audience. Even when team orders were banned by the FIA, they still leaked through in code and again had no effect on the Driver’s Championship.

Indeed, there is only one case where team orders would have affected the Championship, but Ferrari didn’t start to lay with them until it was too late.

Ban them or hate them, team orders have always been a part of F1 and will always be with us. It’s the ultimate team sport and individual drivers are constantly reminded that they are racing for a team of hundreds of people back in the factories and not just themselves.

Andy Robinson

 

Why Alonso racing in Indy is great for everyone

courtesy of McLaren Honda F1

Why Alonso racing in Indy is great for everyone

If you are anything like me, or us, then you can’t help but be thrilled to watch a solitary car, running lap after lap, on the least interesting track circuit you could ever design. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a step up from a straight drag strip, but not a scratch on the Senna S or the Maggotts-Becketts-Chapel series.
This weekend Fernando Alonso will be swapping the streets of Monaco for the oval of the Indy 500. It’s a move which has got people talking and tuning in. The move is a smart on from McLaren, Alonso and Zac Brown. Yes, Alonso is missing the biggest publicity and marketing race of the year, but there are so many positives to come out of it.

1) Over two million fans tuned into watch Alonso going around the Indy circuit. He was by himself. Lap after lap, all on his lonesome. Just one car on the whole circuit. Yet two million people chose to give up their time. To find the website or channel which was showing the practice session. Then to watch with intermittent commentary and long delays between action. The fans brought into the whole idea from the moment it was announced.

2) The difference in Alonso is obvious for absolutely everyone to see. He must have been getting bored of answering the same old engine questions after every trip to the track. How many different ways can you try and put a positive spin on having the worst engine on the grid by a large chunk. Then how do you put a positive spin on not even making it to the lights to start a race. But every word out of Alonso’s mouth is now positive and you can see the rejuvenation of the man right in front of our eyes. He should return to the F1 grid with a new spring in his step.

3) There has been a swell of positive press towards McLaren because of the Indy angle. If you have a look through all of the racing sites and magazines, there isn’t enough space to put the negative stories about McLaren or Honda. Every inch is filled with the orange decals of Alonso’s Indy car. The retro scheme has been warmly welcomed by everyone from the professional drivers, the press and the fans. People are talking about McLaren in a positive light again.

4) McLaren’s recent upturn in positive publicity might be the key to them finally getting a few more high profile sponsors. Dare we even dream of them finding a new title sponsor, just like Ron promised all those years ago. Honda, Jonny Walker, Chandon, Hilton Hotels and SAP have all been given this little extra push and are going to be reaping the rewards of the extra publicity and screen time. There is even a great article in Forbes exactly on this theme. A title sponsor or even just a major new sponsor could be the key push that McLaren and Honda need to break into the points sooner.

5) We get to see Jenson Button racing again. It’s no surprise that I’m a huge Jenson Button fan, the man is one of the best respected people in the paddock and has always been jovial on camera and at public events. It just seems like he is a genuinely nice man. A British World Champion, driving for a British F1 team is always going to get the British fans behind him, then team that up with his public persona and there was only one man to support for those years. His last race at the end of the 2016 season was met with the feeling that we didn’t know if we would see him race again or not.

6) Motorsport has been making front page news, it’s made Radio 1 news beat and non-racing people are talking about it. The publicity generated from one man, doing one race, all the way over there in America, has been huge. The more column inches and time spent during the news talking about motorsport is only going to be good for the sport. We’ve just had the tragic news of Nicky Hayden, and it’s a shock to the system, but the best way to bounce back and to recover is to look at the positives. Alonso in Indy is a huge positive for every aspect of motorsport.

7) Alonso has a chance to show how great a driver he is again. How and why is a two-time world champion, struggling to drive the paint of a car which is barely worthy of even being on the grid. McLaren have actually produced a very competitive car, their pit-crew can now change an engine wearing blindfolds and oven gloves, but nothing makes up for a power unit which is seriously lacking power. Now for one weekend only he has been given a competitive car and surprise, surprise he is the top rookie. He’s qualified in fifth in his first every oval race and has barely put a foot wrong. He’s grazed the walls in turn two a few times, but he’d be doing the same in Monaco this weekend. It’s called pushing the boundaries. We’ve yet to see what will happen over the weekend, but getting the car home will be a success in our book.

8) It has completely taken the pressure off of Honda for a few weeks. No-one has even mentioned Honda’s lack of engine power as the attention has been taken off of their F1 woes and transferred over to the Indy success. Hopefully, they have been able to use this time to produce a highly competitive engine which can return McLaren to the points at the very least. Honda have spent the last few years getting a shoe-in from the press due to their lacklustre engine, but these weeks have been a turn-up in fortune and press for them.

9) Ron Dennis was a great figure head for McLaren, from the moment he came in from Project 4 and took them to multiple world champions, he was amazing. He was the right leader at the right time and he steered the ship in an amazingly successful way. But the time came for him to move on and the new bosses are remarkedly different to the old guard. Would Ron have let Alonso miss Monaco? Would Ron have allowed him to run in a car which wasn’t simply called a McLaren. Zac Brown has ushered in many changes at McLaren and a lot of little differences have been noticed from the outside. From as simple as employees posting photos of their offices and the MTC on social media, right up to Fernando’s American trip.

10) The best thing to come out of Fernando racing in the Indy 500 is the extra time we get to sit watching racing this weekend. We can pretty much go from Saturday morning at 8:45 until well into Sunday night. The more racing we can watch on a weekend, the better.

Whilst Alonso racing in the Indy 500 might just seem like a driver trying his hand at another race, but the positive merits are being felt far further afield than just inside Alonso’s cockpit. However it ends on Sunday night, it’s been a success if he can return to McLaren and race for some points in Canada.

Andy Robinson

 

The Update Special

For weeks, we have been promised huge upgrades from nearly every team. Red Bull were rumoured to be bringing a whole new car, whilst Ferrari had hinted at the improvements they were making on their engine. Well, now we have arrived in Barcelona and it is time to see what they have managed to bring.
With most teams using special engine modes for qualifying, the lowest levels of fuel and a brand-new set of tyres, there is no time in a weekend when a car should be faster. That means that Barcelona qualifying is a great barometer to allow us to judge the scale of each team’s improvements.
We’ve chosen two ways to assess the teams, comparing the cars against pole and then against their testing times.
Pole Comparision
Our first comparison is the difference in times to pole position. Taking the best placed car for each team and comparing it to the pole position time, allows us to see the relative improvement each team has made to each other.
With Mercedes sitting in pole for both Australia and Barcelona we can’t deem anything interesting using this method.
Ferrari have managed to pull two-tenths of a second back on the Mercedes and this was highlighted with Vettel’s pole in Russia. They are now genuine contenders during the qualifying sessions and if Vettel hadn’t made a mistake in the last sector in Barcelona, they might even have been in front of the Silver Arrows.
Interestingly, Red Bull’s ‘whole new car’ upgrade appears to have been worth the hours in the factory. Closing by nearly three-quarters of a second is a huge step, but when we can all see that the Factory Renault team have improved by only a tenth less, is this improvement coming from an engine upgrade?
Unsurprisingly enough, those with the most to work on, have been able to gain the most time. McLaren and Sauber were three and four back, respectively, in Australia, so had scope to make massive gains. Both teams have closed the gap to front of the grid by over a second and Sauber have closed up by over a second and a half.

The only team which hasn’t been able to keep up in the performance race are Haas. Compared to the other teams, they have taken a step backwards. Losing nearly three-tenths of a second to the pole time although they still seemed to be able to grab 11th and 14th this weekend.

Testing Comparison
Luckily for everyone involved in F1, we have pre-season testing in Barcelona. It means that no team is very far from their base and it makes it easy and quick to get parts back and forth from the factory. Luckily for us, the fifth race allows us to directly compare lap times with the pre-season testing.
What really came to light was that the teams have managed to lose lap time since the March tests. Somehow every team, with the exception of McLaren, posted slower qualifying times on Saturday compared to their fastest times during the testing sessions.
The difference in track conditions, the amount of rubber laid down after eight days of testing compared to a race weekend, the higher temperatures in May compared to March; there are many reasons and many excuses which could all be genuine.
But despite these, the differences in times is staggering.
To work out the comparative difference, where McLaren are the benchmark as the only team to be quicker. We can take McLaren and then work out the comparative difference from the McLaren improvement.
McLaren seem to have made over a second on Force India, Toro Rosso, Renault and Haas. They’ve even claimed two seconds on Williams and a large chunk of a second on Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.

The best news for all racing fans is that it is getting competitive at the front and with Red Bull making gains on the front two, then McLaren closing in on Force India and Williams, we are looking at a really competitive season.

Andy Robinson
All times are from Formula1.com

What have we learnt from the first four races of 2017

Sochi Autodrom, Sochi, Russia.
Sunday 30 April 2017.
World Copyright: Glenn Dunbar/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _X4I8803 – Courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

What have we learnt from the first four races of the season?

Mercedes and Ferrari are in a different league to the rest of the field. It was staggering to see that in Russia alone, the difference between Hamilton in fourth and Ricciardo in fifth was over a second in each of the three qualifying sessions. We know that The Tag Heuer branded Renault has some deficiencies to both the Mercedes and Ferrari power units, but we wouldn’t have been expecting to see a second gap between the top two teams and their third placed competitors. It’s going to have to be a wet or mixed up race with several safety cars if we are going to see anything other than a silver or red car taking the chequered flag.

Even without the win at the weekend, it is fair to say that Bottas has found his feet pretty quickly at Mercedes. He’s out qualified Lewis in half of the races so far and has just as many wins as him. To say that it’s an even head to head is to mis-read the statistics on purpose. No-one is going to be arguing that Bottas is as good as Hamilton already, but the Finn has certainly rattled his cage with some confident driving.

Either Lewis underestimated his new team mate or he underestimated the challenge which would be coming from the Ferrari’s, but he has changed his happy tune in the last few weeks. Initially, when Vettel won the Australian Grand Prix, Lewis seemed pleased that he was going to be having a challenge from somewhere. Now he knows that he might well be fighting off the pressure from Vettel, Bottas and maybe even Raikkonen.

At the other end of the spectrum is the other World Champion attempting to even get to the start line. Alonso is not being subtle with his interactions in the media and pointing out that he has driven the best lap of his life just to get into Q2 is merely highlighting the fact that he wants a good car. Either from Honda or from another team.

When Alonso moved to McLaren, he knew they would not be competitive right away and accepted this with his reportedly £25.5 million a year pay cheque. Two years further down the road and the power unit actually looks worse. If the figures reported are correct, then Alonso has earnt £46,500 per race lap he has completed this year. Even that is not enough compensation for ruining three years of a world-class career.

It’s been really positive that the sole focus of the race weekend has not be the tyre degradation and how Pirrelli’s are performing. The new spec look to have matched the requirements the teams have laid out. They do degrade and there is a difference between the performance of the compounds, but they don’t seem to suddenly fall of the cliff and become useless.

On the useless note, the announcement that Honda are to power Sauber was interesting. One of two things have gone on here. Either Honda have decided that they can’t get faster or more competitive and therefore will just slow down the rest of the competition. OR Sauber have money issues and Honda have offered them a lot of money to become the second factory team. A long-term deal would really suit the Swiss team and could be the security they need. The extra data and running times should help out Honda and then the McLaren team might have a decent engine.

Andy Robinson

 

How The 2017 Formula One Season Will Unfold

After eight days of intensive testing, we’ve been given a few insights into what the teams are going to bring to Melbourne in two weeks’ time. For some, the testing was a resounding success, some simply got on with their business and others wished they could quietly crawl into a hole and hide.

There have been some major stories about Honda which seemed to take up most of the coverage, but in between the gossip, we learned a lot about every team on the grid and their hopes for 2017.

Mercedes

There’s not many teams who can turn up to testing and on day two be running full race simulations. The power unit ran almost perfectly for both weeks and barring a few minor incidents, they seemed to complete their whole testing package. Consistently at or near the top of the time sheet and over a thousand laps in the bank. The news for the coming season looks very promising for the boys from Brackley.

So, 2017 could see more of the same Mercedes domination. They don’t appear to be shooting themselves in the foot anytime soon. A quick and consistent car with two great drivers, we should expect to see at least one of them on the podium at every race.

Ferrari

Who can set the fastest time in testing and still be backing off on the last corner of every lap? The Iceman managed to do just that. The sand bagging from Ferrari was obvious for everyone to see and it gives us hope that there will be a fight at the front of the grid. The only worry is that they topped last season’s testing timesheet and then fell away when it really mattered.

Predicting a Ferrari win at some point in the season, would seem like a pretty safe bet. They will be up there and challenging, not at every race, but at least they will be closer than last year.

Red Bull

The new aero-dynamic rules should play into Adrian Newey’s hands, at least according to F1 folklore. There were rumours flying around the paddock, that Red Bull hadn’t brought their latest and greatest package to Barcelona. A serious update is expected for Australia and if this is the case, another step forward should follow.

They were always on hand to clean up any mess left by Mercedes last year, but this season, they should be able to expect to be mixing it with in the top three. Podiums will come and they could be surprised by one or two wins.

Williams

Lance Stroll got a rude awakening in the first week of his F1 career. He had a few offs and crashed, that’s expected and better that he do it now and not in an actual race. The rude awakening came in the almost instant comparisons to Pastor Maldonado on social media. That was the low part of Williams’ testing, the high came on the time sheets where they were regularly seen in the top three slots.

If their testing pace was not showboating, then Williams could expect a better season this year. Reclaiming fourth spot is a real possibility and the testing times suggest they can keep Force India in their wake. Unfortunately, there is little chance of them continuously challenging the top three teams.

Force India

A couple of engine issues and break downs was all that really befell the Force India drivers. They seemed to keep their heads below the radar for two weeks and didn’t overtly worry the top of the time sheet. They did, however, put in a lot of laps and they completed full race distances with no problems.

If consistency brings points at the start of the season, it could be a very good start for the Force India drivers. Picking up early points, whilst a few other teams sort out their engine problems and reliability could see them comfortably in the top half and pushing Williams for the all coveted forth spot.

Haas

Last season Roman Grosjean was moaning about his brakes and this was the running commentary from his for his eight days of testing. Somehow, before they head to Australia, the team needs to either get to grips with the existing brakes or to change supplier. Other than that, the engine looks healthy and the car doesn’t look too bad either.

They aren’t going to be troubling the top five teams at the start of the season. They could come strong through the pack if they sort out their brake reliability. A couple of points finishes is all that we really see happening for them.

Toro Rosso

Revealing a car which looks stunning, is a great way to deflect the attention from their lap times. It’s a shame because on day eight in like for like conditions and tyres, they topped Force India, Renault, Sauber, Haas and McLaren.

This season could see Toro Rosso mixing it with the top of the mid-field in a lot of the races. They won’t be there every race, but will be able to pick off points here and there. A few inspired drives from a rejuvenated Kvyat and Sainz could put them back on the driver’s market map.

Renault

The publicity machine was working well building up to the tests. Anything yellow and black was getting tagged and tweeted. This brought a fair degree of attention to Hulkenberg and his first run in the Renault. In fairness to him and Plamer, they both delivered what they could. The car sat out a couple of times and had some issues, still nothing as bad as the teams behind them.

Being able to complete a race distance means that Renault will easily be able to be the eighth best team. Challenging the Toro Rosso or Haas cars will be a push, but they should be there or there abouts with them. Points finishes will be celebrated and anywhere near a top six place could be treated as a win.

Sauber

They just very quietly got on with testing. Very little noise came out of the team and very few people were studying their times or cars. If you needed to sum up their testing program, then you would be forced to use the word consistent. Nothing inspiring but also nothing bad.

It seems that Sauber are going to be reliant on wet races and mixed conditions to be able to fight for points. The good news is that they will not have to worry about coming tenth in the championship and could almost be guaranteed ninth if the Honda engine isn’t drastically improved.

McLaren

So many column inches have been attributed to McLaren and more accurately the Honda engine, that by now you must know that is has issues. Issues being a very nice way of saying that it doesn’t work. The most consecutive laps McLaren managed was eleven. That tells you everything you need to know about testing and their chances in Australia.

The might and money behind Honda, should, ensure that the engine gets improved and in double quick time. The issue is that whilst they are fixing the engine, everyone else is improving theirs. If the McLarens manage to complete the Melbourne Grand Prix, it will feel like a victory for them. The ambitions are high, but the outlook is very, very low. They could very easily finish tenth this year and be looking for a new engine supplier before the summer break.

Andy Robinson

(Images Courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media)