Red Bull would dominate with Mercedes power – Verstappen
Max Verstappen believes that his Red Bull team would be dominating Formula One if they had a Mercedes engine. Though Renault powered Red Bull to four back to back titles, it has struggled to match Mercedes since the start of the current hybrid V6 regulations in ’14.
Verstappen is certain Red Bull’s chassis performance is now “really good” again, and that only the engine needs to improve. He told Motorsport.com “I think that if we had a Mercedes engine in the back, they would never see us again.”
Though Renault are insisting they have made gains in recent years, the Dutchman remains adamant that the still had “less horsepower than the other manufacturers, apart from Honda”, saying the MGU-H had been a particular weakness.
“Ours just isn’t that stable compared to what Mercedes and Ferrari have. But it has to do with several things. Otherwise, they would have solved it a long time ago, of course.” He added.
Red Bull was expecting to be able to challenge Ferrari last year, because of the rule changes put more emphasis on aerodynamics. But Ferrari leapfrogged them, becoming the main challengers to Mercedes.
Speaking about Red Bull’s poor start to the year, Verstappen said “They thought about going for a low drag configuration, but for some reason, it just didn’t work out. Maybe it was a bit too optimistic. But you’ve seen that the team can turn things around very quickly.”
Red Bull to launch next Monday
Red Bull has announced it will launch their 2018 car the RB15 next Monday. In a tweet from the teams Twitter account, it confirmed that the team are launching earlier than normal.
Normally the team has pushed the launch as far back as possible so it can maximise its development. However, the team announced before Christmas that it was going to take a new approach to ensure that it was in the best shape possible for getting mileage done in pre-season testing.
Speaking at the end of last year, Red Bull boss Christian Horner said: “We are focusing on a slightly earlier release target, which only involves about five days, but the design is so concertinaed and production schedules so tight, that those five days are actually pretty valuable in terms of being on the front foot rather than the back foot.”
Renault aims for its customers
Renault says it wants to be able to match its customer teams McLaren and Red Bull by 2019. Since the French manufacturer returned to the sport in 2016, they have set themselves the target of challenging for the title early in the next decade.
Renault moved from ninth to sixth place in last season’s constructors’ championship but still finished more than three hundred points behind Red Bull.
The team did improve on the chassis side throughout the season, to finish the season fourth fastest. But customer team Red Bull exposed the weakness with the team’s power deficit to Ferrari and Mercedes.
Renault’s F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul is expecting that the manufacturers work teams to remain ahead this year. But, says he wants the team to close the gap this season and it to be obliterated for 2019.
He told Motorsport.com “We know we have a substantial deficit to Red Bull in terms of chassis – in terms of aerodynamics and mechanical platform.”
“We know Red Bull very well and that’s a fantastic benchmark. I think they have one of the best chassis if not the best chassis out there right now – we’ll see what they come up with.”
“McLaren is a bit more of an unknown for us, because they had a different chassis and a different engine, different drivers, so it’s very difficult to compare. It will be an interesting benchmark.” Abiteboul believes in terms of overall capabilities over the course of the season they should be able to match them.
But warned that the team is still growing up, and their rivals are “well structured, very well organised, very well-funded.”
That means he believes that Abiteboul says he thinks Renault will not be in a position to fully match their customers until 2019. However, says that he wants a “very small gap” between them this year.
Alonso’s Toyota role “Very minimised” – Brown
McLaren boss Zak Brown is insisting that Fernando Alonso will have a “very minimised” role with Toyota this season after the team allowed him to compete in the World Endurance Championship.
As part of his ambition to win the triple crown, the Spaniard has agreed a two year deal with the Japanese manufacturer, which allows him to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and other races which don’t clash with Formula One.
Brown has stressed that Alonso has been “loaned” to Toyota and he should be thought of as “a McLaren F1 driver first and foremost”.
He explained to Autosport “Fernando is effectively restricted to just driving the [Toyota] race car. So as far as commercial appearances, sponsor commitments, things of that nature, it’s very minimised.”
“His relationship with Toyota – he’s on loan from us. We came to an arrangement with Toyota and that is to allow him to race the car but not to travel the globe having commercial commitments.” Brown said that was to minimise travel and avoid conflicts of interest.
Alonso will now race in five races this year after his team which also owns the Fuji Speedway lobbied the FIA and WEC to bring forward its race to avoid a clash with Petite Le Mans and United States Grand Prix.
Asked whether the Spaniard’s Toyota programme had any downsides for McLaren, Brown said: “No. Not at all. What he will be doing on those weekends otherwise? He wouldn’t be testing in an F1 car, he wouldn’t be here on a simulator. There is only so much he can do.”
However, former WEC Champion and Channel 4’s Mark Webber has expressed concerns that Alonso’s F1 results could suffer. Responding to that, Brown said “He knows what he is getting into. He is unbelievably prepared.”
Adding “I don’t think he would do it if he didn’t think he could do it at the highest level.”
Button criticises Fuji WEC move
Jenson Button has criticised the decision by the World Endurance Championship to move the six hours of Fuji to allow Fernando Alonso to compete.
The Spaniard has added sports car racing to his other commitments this year. However, he was due to miss the race at Fuji because it clashed with the United States Grand Prix, with Fuji’s organisers asking the date to be changed to allow Alonso to race.
The change means that WEC race will now clash with Japan’s Super GT series, a category Button, Alonso’s former McLaren team-mate, is now racing in. Super GT hold their penultimate round at the Autopolis circuit on the same weekend.
Button tweeted “It’s a shame that a race is changed for one driver when the change hurts so many other drivers who have contracts in place but also other categories like IMSA and Super GT where a clash will hurt their fan base.”
The change means that Alonso will race twenty-six times in 2018, with twenty-two Grand Prix’s and five WEC races. McLaren has insisted the unusual programme for a modern-day F1 driver will not tire the two-time world champion out.