McLaren engine deal has risks – Wolff
Mercedes F1 CEO and team principal Toto Wolff has acknowledged there is a “risk” in supplying engines to McLaren from 2021 because it has the potential to rival his own team.
In Sochi, it was announced that McLaren has agreed to return to Mercedes in 2021 when its current deal with Renault ends, six years after they originally parted. Since then, McLaren has failed to score a podium and its winless run stretches back to 2012, Wolff believes McLaren’s progress and F1’s rule changes in 2021 could present Mercedes with a serious challenge.
Wolff told Motorsport.com, “A new era is going to start in 2021 with compressed grids, with more competition, and we believe that from a PU side there is more learning for us in this exercise, with more competitive customers adding to the two [Racing Point and Williams] that we have.”
“We rate McLaren strongly. The steps that Zak [Brown, McLaren F1 CEO] and Andreas [Seidl, McLaren team principal] have initiated certainly look very promising. The advantages outweigh the potential deficits of fighting a hard competitor like McLaren in the future.”
McLaren decision to switch to Honda was because it believed that it could not challenge manufacturers as a customer team. Two years ago, when McLaren first approached Mercedes it was not interested in reviving its old partnership.
The change is McLaren’s form since going to Renault was one of the reasons why the situation has changed. But Wolff also said there were more arguments in favour of the deal than against it.
Wolff admits that “There is one risk in this: that if McLaren does a good job, they will push hard, and maybe benchmark us in a way to say ‘that’s the same power unit, and you guys are not doing a good enough job’.”
Mercedes upgrades for Suzuka as it shifts to 2020
Mercedes are bringing minor upgrades to boost its chances against Ferrari at this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix. Although the car manufacturer won in Sochi, it knows that was down to its strategy and good timing with a virtual safety car pitstop.
With Ferrari having been quickest at all the races since the summer break, Mercedes knows it is currently on the back foot. Speaking to Motorsport.com, before going to Japan F1 CEO and team principal Toto Wolff said he hoped the developments would make a difference, but he was not expecting a dramatic transformation in pace.
“The win in Sochi doesn’t change the fact that Ferrari had a stronger start to the second part of the season than we did. We’ll bring some minor upgrades to the car in Japan which will hopefully help us take a step in the right direction.” Said the Austrian.
But Wolff says that the team knows they need to extract everything from the car and if they are to challenge for a win. He also confirmed that the team has begun winding down the 2019 programme and focus on 2020. A reason why Ferrari has become the team to beat.
The Italian squad, meanwhile, believed that its form has been boosted by bringing forward development work planned for next year. Despite its performances after the summer break, Ferrari trails Mercedes by 162 points with five races remaining and 220 points to win.
Hamilton edging closer to tile
Lewis Hamilton is getting closer to officially becoming Formula One’s second most successful driver, but when can he seal that title?
With five races to go there are a maximum one hundred and thirty points still to play for, with twenty-five for a win and a point for fastest lap, if you finish ten. He leads teammate Valtteri Bottas by seventy-three points and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc a further thirty four points.
This weekend, to stay in the race, Leclerc needs to outscore Hamilton by four points and have Max Verstappen gain seven points. Sebastian Vettel, considered an outsider, needs a win.
If Bottas retires, he will still be in the hunt even if he retired and Hamilton took the maximum twenty-six points for win and fastest lap. If he wins he would automatically seal the title even though Bottas could equal him on points, as he has won more races.
It’s more likely he will need to wait till Mexico City, seventy-eight points would be enough after Mexico to do it because, as mentioned, he wins any tie-breaker.
Mercedes can seal the constructors this weekend, they lead Ferrari by a hundred and sixty-two points. But they need to outscore Ferrari by fourteen points.
Only Ferrari (1999-2004) have won six constructors’ titles in a row, but no team has ever secured six successive championship doubles (drivers’ and constructors’).
Verstappen hopes for “very strong” weekend
Max Verstappen believes Red Bull can have a “very strong” weekend at the Japanese Grand Prix. All four Honda-powered cars took new power units and penalties in Sochi, so they could have fresh and more performance at Suzuka this weekend.
Despite anticipating a strong showing from Red Bull’s rivals Mercedes and Ferrari in Japan, Verstappen remains confident his side can challenge for victory. Verstappen said of Red Bull’s chances in Japan, he told Crash.net, “We always aim to win and if have a good result in Suzuka, of course, it’s great for Honda as well at their home track.”
“At the end of the day, I always want to do well. So I will always, of course, give the best that I can. If it all comes together in Suzuka, then it will be great. But let’s see.”
He believes that Ferrari was very strong last year and they had there moments in the race, Verstappen hopes the long straight between Spoon Curve and Casio Triangle can be less painful.
Red Bull believes Honda gains can lead to 2020 challenge
Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko has faith that Honda can make gains this winter, which will put it on the same level as Mercedes and Ferrari.
This season Honda has made good gains which have allowed it to take there first wins of the turbo-hybrid era, speaking to Motorsport.com, Marko said “From the chassis side I think we will be much better prepared than this year.”
“And the development which is going on at Honda makes us believe that we will be next year on the same power level like Mercedes and Ferrari, consistently.”
Marko believes that Honda’s true potential this year was held back by engine mapping concerns, something which he thinks will not be an issue in 2020.
He added “I think they are doing a great job and we have to do it step by step. We know in the past they had big reliability problems and they were worried, but so far we didn’t have any engine problems at all this season.” Marko says he still has faith in Honda, despite Max Verstappen having concerns about Red Bull not being able to deliver what’s needed to fight for the title.
But with Red Bull having long vowed to try to make Verstappen F1’s youngest champion, Marko accepts the pressure is on.
Asked if he viewed 2020 as a crucial year, Marko said: “I wouldn’t say it’s crucial. It’s the last year where we can make Max the youngest champion in Formula 1 and we have to deliver, yes.
Pirelli ready to nominate tyres for 2020
Pirelli says it’s in the position now to nominate the specification for next years tyres, following a two-day test at the Circuit de Catalunya – Barcelona. Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes took part in the test, which was the final chance for Pirelli to trial its 2020 constructions.
The contentious test had to be approved by the FIA World Motor Sport Council, as a change to the sporting regulations was required for it to take place.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull’s Alex Albon ran on Monday, completing 145 and 115 laps respectively. On Tuesday, Mercedes reserve Esteban Ocon was the only F1 driver on track, covering 144 laps for a total of 404 over the two days.
The tyre manufacturers head of F1, Mario Isola says that the tests allowed them to validate its data in order to nominate next year’s tyres.
Isola said, “We carried out plenty of running with the three top teams over two days, which enabled us to collect the data that we wanted. As a result, we are now in a position to nominate the 2020 specification. Many thanks to all three teams and drivers that took part.”
Pirelli also ran its 18-inch tyres in a Formula 2 car as part of its scheduled programme.
FIA monitoring Typhoon Hagibis
Organisers of the Japanese Grand Prix say are they monitoring a powerful typhoon forming to the south of Japan which could bring fierce winds and torrential rain over the weekend.
The Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA) says Typhoon Hagibis is expected to reach the highest level of “violent”.
The JMA added: “It could be the strongest to hit Japan this year.”
World Rugby says it is heading in a “north-westerly direction” and could bring disruption to southern Japan. The typhoon is predicted to hit the southern island of Kyushu on Saturday.
The race has been affected by typhoon’s in the past, qualifying in 2010 and 2004 the session was postponed until Sunday morning. The last time a session was delayed was in 2015, due to a Hurricane in Texas.
The FIA will want to avoid a repeat of the accident caused in poor weather in 2014 which claimed the life of Jules Bianchi. The Frenchman lost control on lap forty-six crashing into a crane recovering Adrian Still’s Sauber, which had spun off on the previous lap.
Bianchi sustained severe head injuries in the accident, from which he died from in France on 17 July 2015. Also on the mind will be the accident which killed Anthoine Hubert at Spa in August during the F2 race.
BBC News West of England and F1 Weather Presenter Ian Fergusson writes, “Super Typhoon Hagibis is looking set to approach western Japan by Saturday. Although the exact track is uncertain and some weakening is expected on reaching Japan, the risk of direct impacts at Suzuka this weekend from both rain and wind do look increasingly concerning.”
Autosport to cease publication
The owners of Autosport magazine will announce this week it will cease publication this year. The magazine has been published for almost seven decades.
Motorsport Network is expected to make an official announcement this week, with their sister titles F1 Racing and Motorsport News also set to be hit. Rumours about the demise of the magazines have been circulating for months within the industry but picked up a gear over the weekend.
According to a now-deleted tweet by Autosport special events manager Laura Coppin, confirmed the magazine will disappear, but that the brand will remain online via Autosport.com.
The two also confirmed that the brand will remain as part of the yearly Autosport International Show and Autosport Awards. According to Motorsport Broadcasting, they report that the magazine by stating that they are “exploring options” around the print edition of Autosport and that “any news will be communicated at the appropriate time.”
Its also understands that both F1 Racing and Autosport magazine brands operating at a loss.
In tweets, Jim Holder, Editorial director of Haymarket “Written only as fan (of the sport, journalism and above all the people) but as everyone reflects on a brilliant Rally GB I also hope they pause on the rumoured demise of the bulk of the UK media covering motorsport – Autosport, F1 Racing and Motorsport (Motoring) News.”
“Of course, I spent a decade working for two of the three, but the same two were also what fuelled my passion for the sport and made Wednesdays and Thursdays the best days of the week. The world is online now we’re told, but to toss their heritage away is heartbreaking.”
“To toss it away by grinding the titles into the ground even more so (if rumours of imminent, off-the-scale price rises are true) and more so because of the talented, dedicated people being put in impossible positions by these jaw-dropping decisions
W Series could support flyway races
Next years W Series could team up with Formula One for the North America as part of expanding it calendar. David Coulthard, who heads the advisory board for the series and is a long-time friend of chairman and major shareholder Sean Wadsworth, said talks with Formula One were ongoing.
“Along with the great support we’ve had from the (governing) FIA, Formula One are keen for us to be operating on their platform as well,” the Scot told a diversity forum at the Leaders Week London sports business event.
“We have to take it step by step of course because of the financial constraints, but we very much hope to be able to announce that we’ll be at some Grand Prix’s in the near future,” he added.
W Series could replace the F2 and F3 races which tend to miss the Asian-Americas leg before concluding in Abu Dhabi.
Asked by Reuters about a possible link up with Grand Prix’s in Texas and Mexico City, scheduled for Oct. 25 and Nov. 1 next year, Coulthard said that “could be a logical and great opportunity. Nothing’s decided quite frankly, but what you’ve suggested I absolutely am keen on.”
Both races would have space on their support schedule, unlike others that host Formula Two and Formula Three, and follow on from the end of the regular European season.
Coulthard said some Formula One races with government funding, such as the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, were also interested in a link up.