Mercedes introduce engine upgrades
Mercedes have announced that they will be introducing their first engine upgrade of the season for itself and its customers at this weekends Canadian Grand Prix, where they believe they will be in a tough fight with Ferrari.
The five-times champions are the only engine manufacturer yet to introduce a new power unit, sticking to their plan to bring the second spec engine to Montreal. Lewis Hamilton told Sky Sports “It’s always great having a new engine as it’s fresh, this is a power circuit, so it’s come at the perfect time.”
“If you look at the previous years this is where we always bring our second engine. It’s Phase 2 so it will have all new mods, slight improvements everywhere. It’s not like at the beginning of the hybrid era where you took massive strides forwards, or even last year.”
Hamilton says the new engine is just a small step, and the biggest difference was the fact the engine was fresh.
Although Mercedes heads into the weekend winning the last eight races, including the first six of this year, CEO and team principal Toto Wolff says they are braced for a “huge challenge” in Canada given rivals Ferrari have led the way in straight-line performance this year.
The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve contains several long straights, plus slow and medium-speed turns, with traction out of the corners also a key required characteristic for cars. Hamilton added “The guys back at Brixworth have been working incredibly hard. It’s not been the easiest beginning of the year in terms of preparing the engine.”
He says that the evolution of the car is something you always try to improve and that the team has had not had the smoothest of rides, but has great reliability with the first engine.
Ferrari evolves technical structure
Ferrari’s team principal Mattia Binotto has announced a new technical structure as they look to return to the front of the grid. Binotto has moved the team away from the horizontal management system this season as the team looks for championships.
It has gone in this direction because it believes this is a better way of allowing fresh input and new ideas from junior staff. Now, Binotto says he has shuffled things around and has appointed several key figures to oversee specific areas of car performance so he can better focus on longer-term plans.
In an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport, Binotto said: “Since January we have reorganised. There is no longer the famous classical horizontal structure. We have identified four or five figures that have become my points of reference in the various areas.”
“I am useful for filtering information and thinking about the future. 2021 is around the corner with new regulations, cars that could be radically different and the budget cap that will force us to review certain production processes.”
The Italian wouldn’t elaborate on the exact personnel in place. But, it is understood the plan puts Laurent Mekies overseeing matters at the circuits, Enrico Cardile on the chassis, David Sanchez for aerodynamics and Enrico Gualtieri on the engines.
Ferrari went into this season expecting to be the favourites following strong winter testing, Binotto thinks his team is not yet in the place it needs to be to properly challenge Mercedes.
Adding “I prefer to make a comparison with the 1996/97 Ferrari. A growing team, with solid foundations. We too are a young and hungry team. I see many similarities with then. For vision, desire to do, passion and talent I see that period again.”
He says there will be no radical overhaul, believing that a series of upgrades will be enough to help the situation. He added “There will not be a Ferrari B, a completely modified car, but only a series of developments in the next races to improve the use of the tyres.”
Honda’s key progress check
Daniil Kvyat believes this weekends Canadian Grand Prix will be a good test to judge the progress which Honda has made this season with its engine.
While the Japanese manufacturer has scored its first podium since returning to the sport, it remains unclear where its performance is against the other manufacturers. The Russian believes this weekends race in Montreal should deliver important answers on the extent of Honda’s gains.
Speaking at an event with fuel and lubricants supplier ExxonMobil in Montreal, Kvyat said “My season has been going pretty well, and hopefully we can carry on the momentum here too. This track is unique, and it will be a good test for our engine – in terms of how fast we can go on the straight. We are looking forward to it.”
Kvyat has scored nine points this season, his combined best from 2016 and 2017 after being dropped by Red Bull. While Honda’s main focus is Red Bull, the team knows that it doesn’t have the best straight-line speed, that doesn’t mean its going into the weekend without hope.
Max Verstappen added “It is always a bit of a tricky one,” said the Dutchman. “It shouldn’t be one of our best tracks because of the top speed, but last year was really good.
“The practice sessions were really positive and of course to finish on the podium was really positive and I really enjoyed it. This year, I don’t know.” But warned they had to wait and see this weekend how much the upgrades have delivered.
Verstappen thinks that ExxonMobil’s push on fuel has also helped the team push forwards, saying he believes that it has given them a chance to develop better fuel performance.
Data suggests a breakthrough – Ricciardo
Daniel Ricciardo says there real “substance” behind his Renault teams optimism with it upgrade for the French Grand Prix. The French manufacturer has had a difficult start to the season, with reliability concerns forcing it to hold back on engine performance.
A fix having been introduced and a big upgrade due for Paul Ricard, the team believes it has the chance to establish itself at the front of the midfield battle. However, Ricciardo says that he will not get carried away in believing the progress.
Asked by Motorsport.com about talk of the French GP marking the start of an upswing in form for Renault, Ricciardo said: “There is some substance behind that, there is some data to support that and it should be the case in some aspects.”
“But at the same time, we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, like, after China qualifying seventh and eighth and saying ‘this is it, this is where we are and we chip away from here’.” He admits that it hasn’t been easy since and that the team knew it wasn’t going to be easy this year.
Renault teammate Nico Hulkenberg said it was encouraging that managing director Cyril Abiteboul was making positive noises – but added the real judge on progress would only come out on the track.
Pirelli open to wider tyre working range
Pirelli says that they are open to widening the working range of the tyres, should it allow teams to get the tyres in the right operating window.
Ferrari believes that their failure to challenge Mercedes so far this season is down to the new tyre situation, which is why it is working on fresh ideas to help boost its performance in this area.
Pirelli’s F1 manager Mario Isola is aware that teams have faced some headaches finding the sweet spot in tyre temperature this year. He says this is why thoughts will be given to making things easier for 2020. He explained to Autosport, “What we are trying to do for next year is to focus on the working range, to make it wider.”
“In 2021 we will have 18-inch tyres, but without blankets, so we need to design compounds that are working without them. You need something that generates grip from 20C to 120C.”
“This is giving us the opportunity to develop new compounds for 2021, so if we find something good in this research phase [that] we can introduce in ’20, why not? If we find a new family of compounds with a new philosophy.”
Isola believes that the increased competition this year is the result of higher working ranges making a difference to tyre performance.
The weekend ahead
This weekend following Monaco, I believe it is hard to see Mercedes being beaten as they have good downforce and speed. I feel the only way they can be beaten if Ferrari seriously gets there act together, and they make mistakes.
There key asset this weekend is Lewis Hamilton, this circuit really suits his driving style and it could be another record equalling weekend as he goes for his seventh win. He has dominated this weekend for most of his career and bodes happy memories for him. Also, they have confirmed they are moving to the Spec 2 engine
You need to ask what will Ferrari’s upgrade do can they stop Mercedes charge to the title? Realistically, I believe it’s over for them we have repeatedly said since Bahrain, ‘this is where Ferrari will come back.’ If they do there be happy.
Red Bull should have the new Honda power unit, they are being realistic ahead of what should be a big test of the new PU. This is a power circuit where downforce is needed, without that it could be difficult to fight other cars.
The midfield battle will be close, but while unlike Monaco you can overtake here that makes great racing. But increases the likely hood of a safety car, and mistakes are common.
You can join us for LIVE coverage of this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix via Twitter @F1VaultLive starting with FP1 Friday from 09:45 EDT / 14:45 BST, Qualifying 14:45/13:45 and forward race coverage 13:40/18:40 lights out 14:10 / 19:10