Liberty cannot bow to Mercedes and Ferrari – Brown
McLaren director Zak Brown says that Liberty Media cannot afford to give into the wishes of current engine manufacturers when deciding the next set of engine regulations.
Last year, Ferrari threatened to quit the sport when Liberty presented their proposals for new engine regulations aimed at making the sport more appealing for new manufacturers to join while also driving down supply costs. Renault and Mercedes also have their own concerns about the proposals.
However, Brown doubts that Ferrari would ever follow through with the threat and believes the sport must stay strong with the vision for the future. Asked by ESPN, about the possibility of Ferrari or Mercedes walking away, he said “I think that’s highly unlikely but I think anything is possible.”
“Therefore we need to land on a set of rules that allow anyone looking at the rules that allows those who are looking at the sport to come in so that in the unexpected and hopefully highly unlikely that they were to leave, the sport needs to go on.”
He believes that sport needs to do whats right for the sport and says he would rather lose a manufacturer rather than a few teams. Though Mercedes and Ferrari are rivals on the track, they have adopted the same position on engines, revenue distribution and the implementation of a cost cap.
Brown says there has not been a compelling argument to convince them to agree to the changes. Ferrari and Mercedes both want to protect their own interests, but Brown said “we’ve got to ask ourselves if Mercedes wins seven championships in a row, how’s that going to impact the sport and is that healthy for anyone in the sport.”
“Under the current regulations, current spend, you’ve got to say they’re odds-on favourite to win the next three years.”
Ricciardo admits Verstappen make him “overdrive”
Daniel Ricciardo has admitted he sometimes “overdrove” because of the pressure from his Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen. Though Ricciardo has outscored Verstappen in the last two seasons, the Dutchman has had a better record in qualifying.
Ricciardo says that Verstappen has pushed him more than anyone. He told Motorsport.com “I would say it’s pushed me more than anything. Sometimes, like in Budapest, there were a couple of races where I overdrove.”
“I felt it was there and I tried to get too much out of it. But then that’s on me. I should know what the limit is and what I need to do to put the lap together.” He admitted that sometimes he has tries too hard to beat Verstappen.
Verstappen says he believes he has the upper hand on balance over Ricciardo. He added “So far I have always been able to beat my teammate. It may not show in the point standings, but in general, I’ve always been ahead.”
Asked if he felt being teammates with Ricciardo had helped him improve, Verstappen said it was likely that he was simply better with experience after three years in F1. Saying he never really looks at his teammate as he focuses on himself.
Speaking about Ricciardo, Verstappen said “He has a lot of experience in Formula One and he has already settled down a bit. Also in racing in general, because of all the things he did before he came into Formula One.”
“So, in the beginning, it was a bit difficult because he already had a lot of experience. But in terms of speed, we’ve always been close to each other, especially in the races.”
Ricciardo says that having Verstappen as a team-mate was “generally a positive thing” and helped both “explore our limits more” than “if you have a guy you’re beating easily every weekend.”
Renault on course for gains – McLaren
McLaren says that their new engine supplier Renault is on course to produce a more powerful engine.
Renault won three Grand Prix’s with Red Bull in 2017, but remained down on power compared to Mercedes and Ferrari for power and had reliability problems with the MGU-K in particular. Now with a fortnight until the start of testing McLaren chiefs report that messages from Renault are encouraging.
McLaren executive director Zak Brown told Autosport “There are no alarm bells ringing. They seem to be very confident – although it is best that they talk about the specifics.”
“In terms of power and reliability, they are happy with where they are at and what has been happening on the dyno. And specifically the reliability, they think they are on top of it.” Brown said that Renault had the power, but not the reliability when they turned up the engine.
McLaren chief technical officer (chassis) Tim Goss added: “They have developed the engine. They have improved it and it will be more powerful.”
Last season Renault was unable to match Mercedes and Ferrari’s ‘magic mode’ power boosts for qualifying, but after if that would change for 2018 Brown replied: “I hope so, and I think so.”
McLaren switched to Renault after three difficult years with Honda, which had returned to F1 after a six-season absence. That late switch has created difficulties for McLaren in design, but both are hopeful things will be better in 2019.
Sirotkin money for Williams car development
The backers of Williams driver Sergey Sirotkin says that the money they invest in the team will all be spent on developing the teams’ car.
When the team announced they were signing the rookie over Robert Kubica, Pascal Wehrlein and Paul di Resta led to suggestions that it was a financial decision to plug gaps in Williams’s budget.
Now, senior figures from within SMP Racing which backs the Russian say their investment is specifically targeted at car development rather than simply helping Williams to pay its bills.
SMP Racing chief executive Dmitry Samorukov said: “The financial side of the deal is top secret, but we’re very hopeful – actually, certain – that the monetary part will be directed at the development of technologies, for the car to go faster.”
“To be even more precise: we know that the financial cooperation with Williams will go towards improving the car. Whatever the money is, it will go towards making the car more competitive.”
SMP boss Boris Rotenberg said that while money was being spent with Williams, he did not feel that was the deciding factor in Sirotkin getting the drive.
Asked about the amount of money SMP was spending, he said: “Money is always an important part of motorsport, it’s an expensive sport. But here it’s not a money principle, it’s Sergey, who’s proven he can work with the car.”
Rotenberg added that it wasn’t all about money because Sirotkin has proven he can work with the car, engineers and establish a great relationship with the team.
Williams technical chief Paddy Lowe believes the team’s 2018 car will be a “significant step” forward compared to its predecessor. He added, “We set targets internally, we always aim to meet those, and they’re always very stretched.”
Hamilton would be welcomed back to McLaren
McLaren director Zak Brown has admitted that Lewis Hamilton would be welcomed back to the team with open arms. The four times champion made his debut with McLaren in 2007, winning the drivers’ championship for the team the following year.
Hamilton left the team for Mercedes at the end of 2012, where he has since won three further titles. However, the Englishman is yet to agree to a new deal with the team for beyond 2018. Speaking to the Media, Brown said “Lewis has history here. He is an unbelievable driver.”
“There isn’t a team in the pit lane that would not be interested in having Lewis drive for them, us included. If anyone got Lewis, it would be great for the team.” While Mercedes and Hamilton are expected to agree on a new deal, according to the Daily Mail ‘the delay is being monitored’ by McLaren.
Last month Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said “Lewis has become such an important pillar within the team that it is a no-brainer that we continue with each other.”
Hamilton previous drove alongside Fernando Alonso in 2007, but the relationship proved fractious leading to Alonso leaving the team at the end of the season. However, Brown is adamant the pair’s past history would not prevent Alonso and Hamilton becoming team-mates again.
He added “I think Fernando would race anybody. I have never had a single conversation with him about anything other than himself.”
No glamour lost from dropping Grid Girls
Formula One CEO Chase Carey has moved to assure fans that the sport will not lose any of its glamour despite the decision to end the use of grid girls.
Last week the sports owners Liberty Media announced that they would end the practice of using female promotional models on the grid before races, ending a tradition which has gone on for serval decades. That decision has sparked debate, with some arguing it is an antiquated practice, while the likes of Niki Lauda have accused F1 of being “prudish” and said the decision is anti-women.
Carey told The Daily Telegraph, “I think the reaction [to the scrapping of grid girls] has been what we expected. We’ve had some people who have been positive about it and others who were concerned.”
“Unsurprisingly, many long-term fans view it as part of the sport they grew up with and I respect that. Actually if you just left it up to me, personally, I like the grid girls.” Carey added the tradition was abolished because he found “a number of people raised the issue, and as I went around what I found was there was a meaningful segment that found it.”
He says a number of people found the use of gird girls outdated and didn’t belong in the sport today. Carey also says he believes F1 will lose any of the appeal which has made it so famous.
“We’re going to maintain glamour. We’re going to continue to have pretty girls at races. I think it’s a part of life, and it’s a part of what makes our sport special. It is a sport of glamour and of mystique.”
The Week Ahead
The season is edging nearer and we are now a fortnight away from the first day of winter testing on the 26th February. Therefore, we will be getting build up from the teams who will by now putting the final checks on their new cars ahead of launch week.
Launch week will see some information about driver line-ups for the tests, but next week teams drop sneak previews online. As ever, you should expect the media to pour over those images to see what we can learn.
However, we are still waiting for Liberty to announce whether testing will have more TV coverage, but we were expecting that weeks ago.
Next week we will also start hearing from drivers and teams trying to spin the agenda to suit their goals. They will be while trying to place the focus on their rivals.
Mercedes seem to always play down the expectations they have, but you need to cut through that because the facts are Mercedes have won four back to back titles despite a closer challenge from Ferrari.
I expect we will be hearing from drivers, not team management now, as we head to pre-season. We know what their job will be trying to spin the message the team want to convey.