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F1 Today – 23/02/2018

McLaren launch the first Renault powered car

McLaren has launched their 2018 car the MCL33 as the team looks to return to the front of the field. As expected the team’s new car features a bold new colour scheme with a mainly orange car, which the team first used when they entered the sport in 1960’s and a splash of blue on the front and rear wings.

This season the team has switched to Renault engines, following three difficult years with Honda which failed to deliver performance and reliability. The team are hoping that the change of power unit will allow them to return to the front and challenge Red Bull.

Fernando Alonso told Sky Sports “If we’re able to develop the key strengths of last year’s chassis and marry it to an improved Renault power unit, then I think we’ll be able to take a step forwards”

“Looking at our new car, I feel incredibly excited – but also apprehensive. I know just how important this car is to the team, and I just hope that it delivers in the way we all want it to.”

The team say they have evolved last years car, but some comprises have had to be made because of the late switch of engine suppliers. Mclaren said in a statement “Much of the work on the MCL33 has been around optimising the packaging of the new Renault engine, and the incorporation of the new halo device.”

The twenty times champions have not won a race since 2012, plus haven scored a podium since Melbourne in 2014. for 2018 the team will be powered by Renault engines after three fruitless and frustrating seasons with Honda.

The team’s target will be Red Bull, who finished third last season, as they are also another Renault customer. Executive director Zak Brown said “We definitely view 2018 as the year when McLaren will move closer to the front, fighting teams and drivers as we improve our fortunes.”


Haas hits the track for filming day

Haas has tested its 2018 car the VF-18 during a filming day at the Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya. The American team is following many of the other teams by using a filming day to carry out checks on its new car.

As the team enters its third season in the sport, the owner of the team Gene Haas, has set them the target to close the gap in performance to engine supplier Ferrari to half a second. Romain Grosjean drove the car and the team posted regular updates on Twitter.

Grosjean’s teammate Kevin Magnussen was also present to watch the day unfold while giving the Frenchman a helping hand.

Grosjean will start testing off for Haas on Monday and will alternate every day, with Magnussen in the car for the first day of the second test.


Haas targets to be within a second

Romain Grosjean says Haas have set themselves the target of being “within a second” of the leading cars during the first pre-season test.

The American team is heading into its third season in Formula One when it entered the sport in 2016 it was two and a half seconds off the pace. However last year narrowed that to just under two seconds in testing.

Last year, Haas regularly made it into Q3 with its closest gap to the leader being just over a second in qualifying in Monaco. Earlier this month, the team’s owner Gene Haas said that the team needed to  be within 0.5s of Ferrari “to be competitive” in the near future.

Asked where he hopes Haas’s new VF-18 car will end up on the timing screens in the upcoming test, Grosjean told “Ideally, within a second of the fastest car on the track. Even though testing is always a little unclear, you never know what people are doing with fuel loads and tires and so on.”

“We generally have a pretty good idea of where we are. I want to be happy with the car and I want to be able to know where we can improve. I want a good early set-up for Melbourne.”

Team principal Gunther Steiner said the teams’ primary aim was to have a trouble-free test. Saying “Hopefully, we are reliable. I hope we don’t have a lot of issues.”

“That always helps and it gives you confidence for going racing. The expectation is always the same. We want to run as much as possible and to learn as much as possible.”

Speaking about the new car, Grosjean said the new car was an evolution of the philosophy they had last year. Saying “It looks like last year’s in some places, but there’s much more work behind the scenes. Everything’s been better prepared.”


Mercedes long wheelbase “no-brainer”

Mercedes technical director James Allison says the team’s decision to stick with a long wheelbase was a “no brainer.” Last season, Mercedes struggled to understand its car which also featured a long wheelbase.

The team’s car ran a  noticeably less rake than teams such as Red Bull, early in the season but still clinched the constructors’ title and took Lewis Hamilton to the driver’s title. While its main challenger Ferrari, this season has moved towards the Mercedes philosophy after running a shorter one in 2017.

Speaking to Autosport, Allison insists that there was more to gain from developing the concept rather than spreading R&D resources too thinly exploring a major change. said Allison “The long wheelbase is something we decided very early on was an asset to us, and I’m pretty sure we’re still right on that.”

“It’s much, much easier having a decision like that under your belt, because then you’re not running two wind tunnel programmes with two wheelbases, two models, two different things.”

“You can be pretty certain the gains you got last year will be inherited by the car this year. If you’re pretty sure the wheelbase is an asset, then carrying it over is an absolute no-brainer.” He says now they will try and make the mechanical grip part of our suspension work with the aerodynamic package.

He says that it would be a risk for the team to change its concept as they had a lot to lose and could have gone backwards. The car features a tight packaging at its rear.

Allison said Mercedes’ engine department – which will introduce a new concept this season – led by Andy Cowell had “bent over backwards” to accommodate the design team’s requests.

“Andy’s guys had to work on things that had much longer lead times, and if we had taken bad decisions, recovering from it in Andy’s world would have been very hard,” said Allison


FIA calls for all customer teams to have parity

The sports governing body the FIA has moved to remove the doubts of customer teams having engine performance parity with their works counterparts.

The FIA has issued a new technical directive saying that all engines which they produce must be capable of being operated in the same way.

The rules are designed to ensure that all of the power units are physically identical, but customers teams have been suspicious that works teams may be able to use modes – in qualifying for example – that their customers might not have access to.

In a new directive the FIA noted that the purpose of Appendix 4 and the dossier system “is to ensure that all power units supplied by one manufacturer are identical in all respects, we have good reason to believe that this may not be the case.

“Whilst the dossiers for each team may be identical it would appear that some are being operated in a different way to others being supplied by the same manufacturer.

“It is, therefore, our view that all power units supplied by one manufacturer should be identical, not only in terms of the dossier for each team being the same, but we also feel they should be operated in an identical way.

It also says it expects customers are running power units as the works teams.


Rowland joins Williams as development driver

Williams has announced Oliver Rowland as the young driver for the 2018 season. The twenty-five year old finished third in last season’s Formula Two championship.

Rowland will drive an F1 car for the first time at the Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya in May’s in-season test following the Spanish Grand Prix. The British driver will also compete an extensive work in the simulator.

Rowland told “I’m really pleased to be working with Williams. I will be doing a lot of work at the factory and I will drive at the Barcelona rookie test and then possibly more throughout the season depending on how that goes.”

Last season, Rowland was Renault’s development driver last year, said talks with Williams began before last season’s Abu Dhabi Pirelli tyre test. But he admits he did not come close to securing a race seat.

He added there was potential for him to stay with Renault, but after he assessed his options he felt that Williams offered the better chance of progression in the short term. Rowland also said there was a slim chance of a race seat, “but it became clear that wasn’t going to happen.”

This season he will race for Manor in the 2018/19 World Endurance Championship super season. “It gives me experience of a different kind of racing,” he said.

“Hopefully if there can be big names in WEC and I can do a good job, I can further prove myself within that sphere.”

Deputy team principal Claire Williams added “I am pleased we have secured the services of Oliver, who is a talented and highly regarded young driver. He has raced at many F1 circuits and his experience and knowledge will complement the team’s ongoing engineering work.”


The Week Ahead

Next week is the beginning of testing for all the teams, this is a key week for all the teams as they try to understand the cars and tyres. This is the first time since Abu Dhabi that we have seen the tyres, unlike a race weekend they have the full range of tyres, unlike the normal softs, mediums and hards.

Eyes will be will be on Mercedes and Ferrari does the gap between the top two from last season, or can Red Bull and McLaren close up with the top two teams. That Renault power battle will be interesting as who will be the leading team, McLaren or Red Bull. It seems as if the mood is just picking up from the end of 2017.

Another question is does Liberty launch this OTT service, we heard rumours about it and we know they want to. But we haven’t heard much as I would expect if they were launching this service at testing we would have heard about it by now.

There will be surprises along the way but be cautious. It was last year, of course, the McLaren and Honda began to fall apart, while Ferrari made that step forward that saw them go on to challenge Mercedes all year.

Also now that Sauber has a 2018 spec Ferrari and a closer relationship with the team they should be up with Haas. Haas we know have a relationship also with Ferrari, but that isn’t as like the one with Sauber. So one of the questions will be how close are they on track?


You can read more in our new Prixview here. We will bring you full coverage of preseason testing throughout the next fortnight F1 Today will be back with a special edition on Monday 5th of March. Returning properly from the 12th of March

Jack Fielding
Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.

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