Alonso makes a winning start in WEC
Fernando Alonso has started his World Endurance Championship with a win on his debut at the Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.
The 36-year-old McLaren F1 driver teamed up with Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima to win his first major race since the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix.
Their Toyota TS050 hybrid finished just 1.444 seconds ahead of the second Toyota outfit. The three drivers started from pole position after their teammates Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez were penalised for a technical infringement.
Alonso will combine the WEC with his Formula 1 commitments at McLaren this season as he bids to add the Le Mans title to his Monaco Grand Prix victories of 2006 and 2007.
The Spaniard, who has never won at Spa in any category, is looking to become the first driver since Graeme Hill to win the Triple Crown.
The weekend was overshadowed by the horror accident suffered by Pietro Fittipaldi, grandson of former world champion Emerson, during qualifying.
The Brazilian lost control of his car during the high-speed Eau Rouge and went straight on into the barriers, sustaining two broken legs in the process.
Bottas believes he’s stronger after Baku
Valtteri Bottas says that losing his near-certain first win of the season at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix as only made him stronger. The Finn was leading the race in Baku with three laps remaining but was forced to retire because of a tyre failure.
The tyre failure cost Bottas the win and a chance to take the lead of the championship. Despite the drama, Bottas has not let the events get him down – and instead thinks he will come back in better form.
Speaking on stage as he picked up the Lorenzo Bandini Award in Italy on Saturday night, Bottas said, “Of course it was disappointing, but life and especially motorsport includes disappointments.”
“I always find that disappointment can be your best opportunity to be stronger if you take it the right way. So I am planning to be even stronger next weekend and for the rest of the year.” The Mercedes driver says that small details should make a big difference in the team’s ability to move forward.
The Finn says the nature of F1 when the regulations are more or less the same you should expect the top teams to be close which Mercedes had expected.
Bottas also thinks that Mercedes’ chances of progress will be improved if the team works together in making progress – rather than pinning hopes on individuals to find the answer.
“If I have to say one thing that we need to do to get to the top, it is teamwork,” he said. “Keeping working as a team, as the team has always done because together you can do so much more than alone.”
Bottas attracted thousands of fans as he drove a Mercedes W07 car on the roads from Faenza to Brisighella to collect the Bandini Award. The Finn says it was unreal to be awarded the same award as other greats of F1, including Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen,
Mercedes has a “good problem” with drivers – Wolff
Mercedes CEO and team principal Toto Wolff believes having multiple options for the teams 2019 driver line up is a “good problem to have.”
Both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas are currently not contracted with the team having an option with Force India’s Esteban Ocon. Mercedes have indicated that they will help junior driver George Russell into F1 if he performs well in F2 this year.
Asked by Motorsport.com about its 2019 headache, Wolff replied: “It is a good problem to have. We are very satisfied how Valtteri has been going these days, and Lewis we don’t need to talk about – he is the best of the current drivers in my opinion.”
“Then you have these kids growing up, like Ocon and George. I am optimistic about the future Mercedes line-up.” Both Mercedes and Hamilton have already indicated they want to extend the deal.
However, last year Wolff vowed never to put Mercedes in a situation where they didn’t have a plan B. Bottas earned himself a one year contract extension with his performance last season.
If Mercedes retains Bottas for another season alongside Hamilton, then Ocon is almost certain to extend his stay at Force India for a third year.
Force India is unlikely to shuffle out Sergio Perez, who brings good backing and emphasised his value as one of F1’s top midfield operators with a surprise podium in Azerbaijan last weekend. Russell himself has identified Force India as the best chance of a seat in F1.
Although Mercedes could go outside its customer teams, that is a less preferable option.
Russell’s fellow Mercedes reserve driver Pascal Wehrlein raced for Sauber, Ferrari a customer, last year. He is now back in the DTM after Sauber dropped him for Charles Leclerc thanks to the Swiss team’s growing Ferrari links.
Mercedes said it would leave the door “open” for a Wehrlein F1 return, which would add another complication if pursued for 2019.
Haas may need to change R&D strategy
Haas team principal Gunther Steiner says that the team will probably need to change the teams R&D strategy after the sport agreed to change the rule changes to both the front and rear wings for 2019, in a bid to increase overtaking.
The American team had planned for next year’s car to be an evolution of this year’s car, but with the changes in regulation, it’s possible that the team will be required to take a different direction with aerodynamics.
Steiner told Autosport “Now that they’re throwing in this new aero regulation for 2019, we maybe need to change our plan. Those decisions will be made in the next week.”
“The original plan was to develop this car better because it could be an evolution for next year. At the moment, I still have to speak to the guys back in Italy to see how we do best. We haven’t had time to talk it through yet.”
He also announced that the team would not follow the general expectation of bringing a major upgrade for this weekends Spanish Grand Prix, but confirmed that the team would bring bigger updates later in the season.
“Now that they’re throwing in this new aero regulation for 2019, we maybe need to change our plan. Those decisions will be made in the next week.”
“The original plan was to develop this car better because it could be an evolution for next year. At the moment, I still have to speak to the guys back in Italy to see how we do best. We haven’t had time to talk it through yet.
“For small teams like us, it is not an advantage to get a new technical regulation for next year so late. We will do our best, but it will not be easy.”
Sauber needs to investigate low fuel weakness
Sauber driver Charles Leclerc has called on the Swiss team to investigate why the teams 2018 car struggles for performance on low fuel runs
The Monacan scored his first points of his F1 career in Baku, with a sixth place allowing Sauber to score more points in four races than the team has managed in three of the four previous seasons. The race was the first time the team had made it out of Q1 this season.
Though Leclerc’s result in Monaco was aided by retirements, the Sauber did show some pace in the opening stint as he managed to hold off the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen for a number of laps. Leclerc explained to Autosport “As I was saying before the race, our race pace is stronger than our qualifying pace at the moment.”
“Now we really need to investigate that and to make our low-fuel pace better. But if we manage to do that, we should be very competitive – because our race pace at the beginning of the race was really great. Then at the end with low fuel we struggled a bit more.”
Marcus Ericsson who also scored points for Sauber in Shanghai suggests that that the team was struggling on the soft tyres as he has struggled to optimise them and that should be top of the teams to do list.
The Swede said “For me that’s the main priority now going forward. That we manage to find an extra bit of performance on Saturdays, because I really feel on Sundays we have a good car to fight the midfield.”