Honda not solely responsible for Toro Rosso’s performance
Pierre Gasly says that Honda is not solely to blame for the team’s underperformance at the last two Grand Prix’s. Gasly finished fourth in Bahrain giving the Japanese manufacturer there best result since they returned to the sport in 2015.
However, at the last two races in Shanghai and Baku, the team were unable to repeat that performance and struggled near the back. The Frenchman says the team has been unable to understand the slump after such a strong showing in Bahrain but admitted the Honda engine was only one part of the problem.
He told Motorsport.com “It’s difficult, really, because the last two weekends have been really tough in terms of performance. We knew that China has one of the longest straights of the season, Baku as well.”
“Even on the chassis side we are not so competitive. We seem to be competitive under braking but then all the traction fades. We don’t really have the pace. It’s something that we need to understand.”
His teammate Brendon Hartley says he also was failing to understand why the team has struggled. Saying “The obvious question is why were so quick in Bahrain. OK, Pierre had the result. I also had the pace in Bahrain.”
“Obviously I didn’t get the result. Right at this very moment I don’t have the answers and I think the team will continue trying to understand.” Gasly said after Baku, that power unit’s energy management had been “quite difficult” for the team.
Honda boss Toyoharu Tanabe conceded the Japanese manufacturer needed to find solutions for its lack of performance. Saying “Pace in qualifying maybe, especially Gasly’s car, was not too bad. The position was bad because of the accident. Our pace during the race was not good enough. We need to analyse that.”
Sainz “exposed” after starting Renault talks
Renault has started talks with Carlos Sainz about a long-term contract, but admits the loan deal has left him “exposed.” The Spaniard has been loaned from Red Bull for this season, however, the team could recall him for 2019, if it loses Daniel Ricciardo to a rival.
With Ricciardo’s future unlikely to be settled until the summer, Renault is left in a difficult position regarding its 2019 driver plans. Despite that, Renault’s managing director for F1 Cyril Abiteboul says the manufacturer is discussing a long-term plan with Sainz so it is ready if Red Bull does not require him.
Abiteboul told Autosport, “Obviously we have a particular situation with Carlos, which is a contract where we are exposed for next year, and we knew that since day one. That’s why we need to start thinking the way in advance about what could be the situation.”
“We have already started discussions with Carlos about longer term, about what can happen beyond this year, accepting that it’s not completely in his hands nor our hands.” He said that it was comfortable and says in the future the team need to be in control of its future.
While Abiteboul is already pushing Red Bull to make a decision on its engine plans for 2019, as it also courts Honda, he is also eager for it to make a call on whether it wants Sainz back.
Renault targets ‘best of the rest’
While Renault is looking to be the ‘best of the rest’ behind both Mercedes and Ferrari, the French manufacturer still has a significant gap to the rest of the field.
The French manufacturer still has a one and three-quarter deficit on average to pole, with the target being to get the gap down to half a second by the end of the season. Renault has also targeted 2020 as the season where they aim to be fighting at the front.
The targets seem ambitious for a team that has not finished higher than fifth since its return to the sport as a full factory outfit in 2016, but Renault Sports managing director Cyril Abiteboul believes it is on target to achieve its goals.
He told ESPN “Last year we managed to out-develop all teams, including the top teams. We started two seconds off the pace from the top teams and we finished the season one second away from the top team.”
He says that if the team manages to out develop themselves again like they did last season, finishing half a second behind is achievable. But he admits that the team struggles to produce a car to the level they expect.
Since acquiring a run-down shell of a team from its previous owners two years ago, the French manufacturer has invested heavily in its Enstone base to bring it up to the level of a top team.
The team has completed the investment in its Enstone based, but it faces the challenge now is to integrate the team as they are slower than other top teams. He says “Right now we focused on upstream engineering: aero, the vehicle performance group, simulator, design office, all of that is done or being done.”
“The next tranche will be production so we can shorten the lead time in terms of production so that we can meet the ambition, and in particular the complexity of modern F1 cars.”
One of the key people in that will be the former head of the FIA’s technical department, Marcin Budkowski. His arrival at Enstone was delayed after rival teams expressed concerns he would bring technical secrets from his FIA role to Renault.
Simply Abiteboul said “he will be in charge of all technical and operational matters in Enstone running the show, running the factory on a day-to-day basis.”
“He will be doing some things I frankly can’t do because I can’t be everywhere, I can’t be in Viry and in Enstone and at the race and meeting sponsors and with Renault.”
FIA rejects appeal over Sirotkin’s penalty
The FIA has rejected an appeal from Williams for a review of several incidents at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. The team asked the stewards to re-examine the grid penalty awarded to Sergey Sirotkin, following his collision with Sergio Perez.
The team argued that Sirotkin was unfairly penalised while other drivers were not. Saying that Sirotkin rear-ending Sergio Perez, which resulted in a three-place Spanish GP grid penalty for the Williams driver, was “not similar to other first lap incidents where cars were side-by-side”.
The steward said the fact the decision was not communicated until near the end of the race was irrelevant because this was “well before the time for any protest or appeal had expired”. The noted also that other decisions “ cannot be regarded as a new element”, as is required for a review.
Two first-lap incidents in which no action was taken were queried by Williams. After hitting Perez, Sirotkin clashed with Alonso in a three-wide moment also involving Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault, while Esteban Ocon ended up in the barriers after being hit by Kimi Raikkonen at Turn 3.
The stewards say that since the start of 2016, fifty-five out of eight seven incidents of causing a collision has resulted in no further action.
Williams’s “inconsequential” remark was dismissed because consequences of penalties have not been taken into account since a 2013 meeting between the FIA and representatives of the teams and drivers.
The FIA also says Williams “chose not to exercise” its right to protest the FIA taking no decision over the Sirotkin/Alonso/Hulkenberg clash on the opening lap.
The questioning of Alonso’s recovery with punctured right-hand side tyres was dismissed after evidence from Whiting citing the presence of the safety car and the fact that Alonso “took care to avoid the racing line, avoid following traffic and minimised risk”.
Guns n’ Roses to headline in Abu Dhabi
The American rock band Guns N’ Roses have been announced as the headline act for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The legendary rock-metal band has been on the road and making music since 1985, and the group’s make-up has changed over the decades.
The current line-up consisting of frontman Axl Rose, Slash, Duff McKagan and Richard Fortus on guitars, Frank Ferrer on drums, and Dizzy Reed and Melissa Reese on keyboards.
Promoters Flash Entertainment made the announcement yesterday after dropping hints about the band over the past few days on social media.
Already the Canadian R‘n’B star The Weekend will take to the stage for the second concert of the series, on Friday. Entry is free for anyone holding a ticket to the race, with organisers yet to announce Thursday’s and Saturdays headliners.