Ferrari faces “interesting” test – Vettel
Sebastian Vettel says Ferrari faces an “interesting” tests as they bring there first major engine and aerodynamic upgrades as they look to re-find their pace in Barcelona at this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix.
In testing, Ferrari emerged as the pacesetters, however, have failed to deliver the pace they managed during races and return to the Circuit de Catalunya – Barcelona without a win. Meanwhile, title rivals Mercedes have taken four one-twos in the first four races.
Vettel told Sky Sports, “This weekend will be interesting for us because we had such a good feeling [at testing] and it’s not so long ago. I’m pretty sure I remember how the car felt and it will be interesting to see how it behaves over the next couple of days.”
“I’m quite confident if we can get to that level we should be very competitive.” He added. Ferrari will be hoping that another round of upgrades and the first engine upgrades will make both cars challenge Mercedes for poles and wins in the coming races.
The four-time champion will be hoping that the engine upgrade, which was scheduled for Montréal, will put the car in a position to take front row lockouts.
Vettel added “We are lacking a little bit but overall the package is promising. We know we have a strong car, we struggled a bit to put it together, so a bit of both [pace and drivability].”
“We are confident about the parts we bring here and we’re introducing a new engine as well. We have got some stuff that we think should help us to be stronger than the last races.”
Mercedes unveils upgrades
Mercedes have unveiled its first round of upgrades ahead of this weekends Spanish Grand Prix, bringing new turning vanes and a revised mirror concept.
By adding an extra vain the team hopes to better control the airflow around the midriff of the car. The German manufacturer continues to position the sidepod inlets high up, instead electing to use a more conventional layout – where the crash structure is at the top of the aperture, rather than the bottom.
This design choice means that Mercedes has a more pronounced sidepod undercut than its competitors, and so the shaping of the turning vane ahead of this affects how the air is carried to the back of the car. This allows them to open up the rear of the car/
The third big change turning vane package in this area, and shortening the chord length of each element aims to cut off the turbulent transition point for greater control.
Mercedes has also emerged with a new mirror package, aiming to minimise the amount of disruption they usually produce to the aerodynamic balance.
Renault introduces a new engine
Renault has introduced an upgraded engine for this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix as it looks to boost both performance and reliability.
Although the ICE isn’t being called an official ‘spec 2’, it is believed that the changes already made, makes it promising enough for it to elect to race it now. The updates should allow it to run its power unit in a more powerful configuration for more of a grand prix weekend which should help deliver a good step forward in form.
However, it means that the two works drivers Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo will need to exceed their engine limits for the year, while McLaren hasn’t decided when they will take the unit. It will be seen as part of it’s ‘reset’ to the season following a difficult first four races.
Renault F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul said: “Overall, it’s been a tough start to the year and the Azerbaijan Grand Prix capped off a run of results that fell short of our expectations.”
“We know we are capable of much more and we need to target clean weekends and races to make the most of our potential. To do so, we have work to do on all sides of our operation, and work with the drivers to allow them to reach their respective capacities.”
He repeated his early comments that the team are away that the midfield is tight, and that fortunes can change in an instant.
Brazilian GP to move to Rio – Bolsonaro
Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has announced that the countries Grand Prix will move from Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro in 2020. The future of the race at Interlagos has been in doubt as the contract expires next year, with Bolsonaro saying it was “no longer viable” as it relied on funding from the local government.
Speaking at a press conference, Bolsonaro confirmed a new track would be built in the Deodoro area of Rio de Janeiro and named after Brazilian three-time champion Ayrton Senna. The previous circuit, the Autódromo Internacional Nelson Piquet was demolished to make way for the 2016 Olympic Games.
However, the plans for the new circuit have not been confirmed by F1 owners Liberty Media. The president tweeted “After our victory in the elections, Formula One, which would leave Brazil, decided not only to remain, but also to build a new race track in RJ [Rio de Janeiro], which will have the name of the idol Ayrton Senna.”
“With this, thousands of jobs will be created, benefiting the economy and the population of the state.” The Brazilian president said the construction of the circuit will take between six to seven months and create as many as 7,000 new jobs.
Bolsonaro has been controversial since last years election, promising a violent crackdown on drug cartels, aligning himself with Donald Trump’s foreign policy, views on homosexuality and women, and climate change denial.
Russell chassis repaired from Baku
Williams has repaired the chassis damaged when George Russell ran over a loose drain cover during first practice at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. The team were forced to replace the chassis as they were unable to repair it during the weekend.
However, the team has confirmed that the chassis, along with the one Robert Kubica damaged following a crash in qualifying, was now repaired and able to run again.
Deputy team principal Claire Williams, told Motorsport.com “Both chassis have been repaired from both incidents over the Baku weekend, and both are here, as is the spare chassis as well.”
“The guys have done a phenomenal job at the factory getting them into the system and then all repaired to have them all here.” The race organisers have agreed to pay for the repairs, following the precedent set when damage caused by a drain cover to Romain Grosjean suffered the same damage at Sepang in 2017.
She says “met with the promoter when we were in Baku to have the conversation and obviously explained that to have it expedited was important to us. They’ve been very accommodating, and they seem to be moving things pretty quickly forwards.”
“It will got through the [circuit’s] insurance company. I don’t know how long it will take, but they understand that it needs to move sooner rather than later.”
Haas and Alfa won’t run Ferrari upgrade
Ferrari’s customer teams, Haas and Alfa Romeo will not be using the upgraded Ferrari engine at this weeks Spanish Grand Prix. The Italian manufacturer has brought its upgrade to Barcelona but has confirmed that neither of its customer teams will use the upgraded engine.
In the past, Ferrari’s customers have tended to run an engine upgrade first but the works team’s decision to fast-track the introduction has been made independently.
Haas and Alfa will switch to the upgraded engine at the next race in Monaco or the following race in Canada. Haas team principal Gunther Steiner told Motorsport.com, “Last year we put it in before them, it was the opposite way around. Everyone said, ‘Why do you that?’ and now we are the other way around. So how should we do it?”
“Doing it at the same time is always logistically very difficult for them so one reason or another, depending on the upgrade, they ask us if we are OK and we are fine with it.”
One of the advantages to not running the upgraded engine in Monaco is it will give Haas and Alfa the chance to assess any potential issues before Canada, which is more power sensitive.
The Weekend Ahead
This weekend is a key weekend for all the teams, as they bring the first round of upgrades. Ferrari has the most pressure, in testing the team appeared to be very strong and managed to beat Mercedes both on single and long run pace.
If Ferrari don’t start taking the fight to Mercedes soon there could be little hope of the championship chase. We know there was eyes on them as the favourites following testing, so that will be the biggest comparison. Ferrari need to start winning.
Mercedes goes into this weekend having won the first four races and the last six out of seven in Barcelona, they need to keep momentum and we will see if testing was just a blip as they didn’t show much. We could also get an understanding of where Red Bull really are.
Williams this is also a big weekend, can they step forwards as they hope having said that they have cleared the backlog. I think its unlikely for them to score big points here, but if they can not finish last of the runners that is good progress for them.
The midfield group is one to watch, this time last year it was when the Haas Renault battle started to develop and they both aren’t delivering at the same level. We will be watching all the teams in that group, to see if they can get closer.
Full look ahead in our Prixview
You can join us for LIVE coverage of this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix via Twitter @F1VaultLive starting with FP1 Friday from 10:45 CEST / 09:45 BST, Qualifying 14:45/13:45 and forward race coverage 14:40/13:40 lights out 15:10 / 14:10