Renault

Williams knows the score, it’s time we did too

Photo Credit: Williams Martini Racing

Recent news has told us the fairytale of Robert Kubica’s return to a Formula 1 grid looks to be all but over after recent tests with the Williams team, Russia’s Sergey Sirotkin also tested the car in Abu Dhabi and the team has concluded the Russian was faster. While some of you may be upset by the decision that could see Kubica out of the running, Williams knows the score and it’s time we did too.

It may sound ridiculous that a team of Williams’ stature has to resort to the possibility of signing yet another rookie driver in what looks to be for financial reasons, which in reality is complete hogwash. To sign fast and experienced drivers, you need to show you can deliver the results for them to compete at a high level and as hard is it to admit, the Grove-based team just haven’t done that.

Their last title came at the hands of Jacques Villeneuve in 1997 and have only won a single race in 13 years with Pastor Maldonado at the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix taking the only one since Juan Pablo Montoya’s last win for the team at Interlagos in 2004. When you think about it in that respect, it’s certainly a no-brainer Williams just cannot attract the type of great names from the past that lies in their trophy cabinets.

Having utilised the talents of Rubens Barrichello and Felipe Massa since 2010 in order to try and gain stability within the team having an experienced driver helping in the development of the car and the team, it could be time to abandon that ideology.

Paddy Lowe openly stated mid-season the design philosophy of the car would change for the FW41 into 2018 in order to climb back up the grid and it seemed that having an experienced driver could help with that. But with changes in the technical departments, maybe it’s time to change how they view a driver line-up too.

While Stroll had a very mixed bag of results and form in 2017, he did show glimpses of what he and the team were capable of, Should Sirotkin be the one to partner the 19-year old next season, it may not be the worst line-up imaginable. With a fresh perspective from both drivers and a solid leader technically in Paddy Lowe, maybe some youth and speed behind the wheel isn’t a bad way to change to look for a change of fortune.

Sirotkin may come with money from his backers at SMP racing, every driver brings some form of sponsorship/money with them to an F1 seat, that’s just how it works. The 22-year old has had relative success in the junior series but has shown he has pace in F1 machinery after Renault’s Alan Permane said he believes the young Russian deserves a shot at the top level.

On Kubica I admit, when I first got wind of his possible return to an F1 cockpit I was supremely excited, a man who impressed three world champions in Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and his new manager Nico Rosberg claim was one of the best they’ve ever raced, was going to get a chance that was never supposed to have been possible.

Having run for Renault at the test after the Hungarian Grand Prix, it all looked good on paper, but eventually the French team passed over on the Pole in favour of the youth in Carlos Sainz. A decision you certainly cannot blame them for, especially as they’re looking forward and working hard to return to the front of the grid in years to come.

Kubica’s pace at the Abu Dhabi test behind the wheel of Williams’ FW40 did look to be quick, but there always appeared to be question marks over his performance through the subtle comments the team did say after the two days of running.

With seven years out of the cockpit, it appears that despite the efforts made to make him comfortable in the car, the pace we were accustomed too from him just didn’t seem to materialise in order to get himself back on the grid. Despite everything the 32-year old should be enormously proud of himself to be able to drive an F1 car again at speed, having once been told he would never drive a racecar again.

There are opportunities for Kubica outside of F1 in sport cars, especially with the WEC LMP1 field growing after the departures of Audi and Porsche in recent seasons and the rapid growth of the IMSA series in the USA, there is plenty of room for him to still find a spot on a race track and continue his own journey, even if it is away from Williams and F1.

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2016 Belgian Grand Prix Review

Photo: Red Bull Racing

The hills, the forest, it calls to them. A sacred ribbon of tarmac that weaves it’s way through the forest of the Ardennes. Many drivers have conquered the legendary 7.004km Spa-Francorchamps circuit, come rain or shine. The weekend certainly saw the bright sunshine and the unusually hot conditions that made this a Belgian Grand Prix we won’t forget.

During the free practice sessions on Friday, the unfamiliar high temperatures were causing the drivers a great deal of problems in managing their Pirelli rubber through the high speed nature of the demanding Spa circuit, it was clear the race was never going to be straightforward from then on.

For qualifying while Lewis Hamilton was out of the running for pole position after his three power unit changes left him at the back of the grid with penalties, it was up to the Ferrari’s and Red Bull’s to challenge the other Mercedes of Nico Rosberg for the front row. It turned out that no one could, Rosberg had just enough in hand to keep pole position but not by much. 

Heading into Sunday with the hot tempretures not abating, it was clear that tyre strategies were going to play a great role in how the drivers and teams negotiated the 44 laps of the day. Rosberg, Ricciardo and both Ferrari’s were smart in Q2 to utilise a strategy of starting of the yellow marked soft tyres to start the race with in the hope it would benefit them at the start of the race.

As the lights went out Max Verstappen got a poor getaway and tried to repass Kimi Raikkonen on the inside of La Source, unfortunately both were pinched by Sebastian Vettel making his way around the outside of both drivers, this led to a three way collision that damaged all three cars.

With Vettel left stranded at La Source waiting for the rest of the field to pass, Verstappen fought side by side with Raikkonen down the hill to Eau Rouge. On the other hand Rosberg made a great getaway and missed out on all the shenanigans going on behind.

Unfortunately it didn’t end there, into Les Combes Manor’s Pascal Werhlein ended up in the back of Jenson Button’s McLaren ending both of their races, this is a shame considering both of their great efforts from qualifying, luckily Werhlein’s new team mate Esteban Ocon managed to avoid the debris.

Kimi Raikkonen pitted to change his broken front wing but in the process of his mechanics trying to fit a new one, the underside of the car kept trying to catch fire, thankfully they managed to put it out and get the wing on.

On Lap 6 the race took a turn, after making a great start both Renaults of Jolyon Palmer and Kevin Magnussen were running in the top ten and doing well, unfortunately on the exit of Radillion Magnussen lost the rear of his car and spun at high speed into the barrier, luckily he managed to hobble out of the car despite a noticeable limp. Thankfully after checks in the medical centre and more later at the local hospital, he only suffered a cut to his left ankle and should be fine to race in Monza next week. 

Unfortunately his R.S16 Renault was a total write off, the most concerning part of his accident as that the head rest that bolts to the inside of the cockpit came loose from it’s fixings and left the car with quite a bit of ease. The FIA are going to look into the incident to find out why it happened and to perhaps see if there is something that can be learned from it.

With the barriers needing repair a red flag was called, prior to this Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton had made their way through the pack to end up fourth and fifth respectively, not a bad effort from the back of the grid.

As the race got underway once more, Nico Rosberg had swapped to medium tyre and quickly made a break for it to escape the clutches Hulkenberg who was under immediate pressure from Ricciardo. It didn’t take him long to pass the Force India in front and try to hunt down Rosberg, however the Mercedes had the pace to eventually sprint away.

Jolyon Palmer suffered after the red flag due to high temperatures to his car much to his dismay, the British rookie really hasn’t enjoyed much luck in F1 since his arrival.

As the race wore on Verstappen and Raikkonen found themselves on the same piece of tarmac once again, this time with the Finn on the offensive, Verstappen makes a late defence move to protect his position much to the dismay of the 2007 world champion. Verstappen faced further criticisms when he ran Raikkonen and Sergio Perez off the road at Les Combes with defensive manoeuvres that led to him not even staying on the race track himself. 

At the final set of pit stops Hamilton was chasing Hulkenberg for third and passed him quite quickly leaving the German still without a podium finish from his 107 starts so far in Formula One.

Fernando Alonso managed to hold off the advances of both Williams and Raikkonen in latter stages of the race after a very impressive drive, with Honda having brought updates to the car, it certainly showed at Spa, however Monza will be the ultimate proving ground as to whether they’ve made true ground on their rivals.

Ultimately Hamilton only lost ten points in the title battle with his team mate and he’ll certainly be grateful for the race he had, while Rosberg will wondering what else he’ll have to 

Just nine points seperate them with eight races left to go, 1 dnf apiece, 6 pole positions and 6 victories between them, it could hardly be a closer run in, there is still plenty of action, speed and no doubt controversy yet to come.

Monza up next!

Powering Into The Future

Photo: Mercedes AMG Petronas F1

Recently Mercedes executive technical director Paddy Lowe stated that with the current power unit regulations ending in 2020, discussions should begin on what will power our formula into the next decade.

Plenty of fans since 2014 have spoken out on their displeasure with current 1.6 hybrid V6 turbo era because of the lack of the high screaming pitch that had become so accustomed to the nature of the sport.

Yet despite all of this this we’re seeing the evolution of the fastest power unit the sport has ever seen, with the first iterations of these in 2014 showing not much more than around 750-800 horsepower. Heading into 2017 with no development tokens to hold them back, the fourth evolution could well take us past the 1000 horsepower barrier, in just four years a rough estimate of a 200 horsepower gain is incredible.

But alas, the current units are extremely technical and is alienating some of the fanbase who can’t understand the technology and are often finding that they don’t give the same thrill the old engines once did because of the noise generated. 

So how do we power into the future? 

With a move away from the current power unit the most likely scenario, the biggest question is; what will be the next power plant in the back of these cars?

A move back to the 3 litre V10s of old as some of the fanbase have called for is almost out of the question, the world markets and manufacturers are quickly steering away from such units as they are just simply to fuel thirsty. The V10 would run at nearly 190kg of fuel per hour, this versus the current V6 hybrid turbo running at 100kg per hour and producing the same power now if not more so, it would appear that progression of efficiency has clearly made the V10 now a cast into shadows of history in the technology stakes.

How about a move to an even smaller unit similar to that of the LMP1 Porsche 919? A 2 litre V4 block with a hybrid system that still as a package produces 1000 horsepower? A world away from a normally aspirated V10 sure, but it certainly would be an idea put forward by the manufacturers to allow the V4 to be the I.C.E (Internal Combustion Engine) and perhaps allow a the hybrid system to have a massive development window to increase the electrical power output. 

This might be more difficult to achieve in terms of technicality and with fans being put off already by some high tech being put out there, it might be a path the FIA may not want to adopt.

How about sticking with the 1.6 litre V6 format? It’s certainly not the most popular choice, but with the continuation of any regulation set will always sees the performance gap shrink, so why steer away again at possibly a great cost to again move to a different power unit? 

With 1000 horsepower, the removal of the development token system and the 30% fuel efficiency that has been achieved, it ticks all the boxes for manufacturers to continue down this path, but with some fans who still haven’t quite bought into the concept it might be hard to convince them that this is the way forward. 

The most common suggestion that has been put forward is to bring back the 2.4 litre V8 engine, but with perhaps a version of the current hybrid system attached including the turbo. While some of the technical aspects would remain because of the hybrid systems attached, a V8 ICE is something the teams know very well and would be easy to work with.

Fans want to hear the scream of an engine that makes their hairs stand on end and rightly so, the hybrid setup will give the power unit a very different scream because of the energy recovery systems at work, but no doubt it would satisfy fans as well as keeping manufacturers interested in sticking around. 

The tricky task would be efficiency, the V8 was roughly consuming 130kg/ph on fuel, to get back towards the 100kg/ph limit we have now would be a task for the manufacturers to work on, but no doubt they would be up to it; perhaps maybe even decrease the displacement to 2 litres  could help with this?

Parity With The Rules

With Paddy Lowe making the suggestions we should start talking about it makes perfect sense. When discussions started for the current era of power units back in 2011 there was a lot of things that just haven’t succeeded in the way they were intended, with limited power units and the early frozen development on a regulation set so new really hasn’t worked out.

To get discussions underway with 4 seasons remaining makes great sense, decide the unit, get the rules and regulations fixed fairly at a reasonable cost, all of this with some wiggle room for development without complete restriction would certainly please many in being prepared for the coming change.

It’s going to be a long way until 2021, but it all starts somewhere and I don’t think many would disagree with Paddy’s suggestion to start discussing it all now, I know I don’t.

Waiting In The Wings

Photo: Red Bull Racing

At certain points in time there will always be those who are trying to go out with one last hurrah; to prove that they can really make the difference they’ve always claimed, while there are some who are very hungry to prove their worth; to show that they are the next generation of champions that will drive the road to glory.

In recent years the manufacturers & recently the privateer teams have followed the Red Bull & McLaren archetype of a modern young drivers programme. Sebastian Vettel & Lewis Hamilton are the cornerstones of proof at how this philosophy has worked.

Hamilton was backed by McLaren for much of his youth after they saw the potential had even as a younger teenager, this added with Lewis telling Ron Dennis that he wanted to drive for him one day. Vettel was also found at a young age by the Red Bull junior programme and this was long before they bought out Jaguar at the end of 2004.

In 2016 Mercedes, Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren and Renault have the most notable young driver programmes, while  Williams and Force India have signed drivers from other series to be reserve and development drivers for themselves. 

The Scuderia Toro Rosso team is part of Red Bull’s modern junior programme with former Formula One driver Dr Helmut Marko at the helm, he has a major say in who goes where within the Red Bull programme, this is something that no other team has adopted thus far, this is despite numerous talk that Haas F1 is a now a junior team for Ferrari and Manor Racing likewise for Mercedes. 

Teams have also been known to utilise their reserve or development drivers in other racing series to keep them race sharp which makes perfect sense, this is coupled with bringing them in the garage as well as meetings and briefings over the course of a Formula One weekend to help their understanding of the teams operations. 

What does this mean for those younger drivers?

With the extended life of some drivers in modern Formula One, it’s become an increasing common occurance that some drivers will stay beyond 10 or even 15 years in the sport, this is creating a back log of younger drivers that are being groomed and prepared for their Formula One journey.

Stoffel Vandoorne is the prime example of this back log, a McLaren junior driver that has had plenty of success in junior formula including his domination of the 2015 GP2 championship; which he nearly scored more than double the points of runner up Alexander Rossi.

With Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button still occupying seats at the team, it has left Vandoorne waiting in the wings for a seat to open up, to put it into perspective Alonso and Button have a combined total of nearly 600 grand prix starts between them, this is also arguably the most the experienced line up in the history of the sport.

With Kimi Raikkonen being kept on at Ferrari for yet another year into 2017, Alonso, Button and possibly Felipe Massa still being kept on in their respective teams, it means that those younger drivers are not being given the shots that perhaps they feel they deserve.

Some drivers like Pascal Wehrlein, Esteban Guttierez, and now most recently Esteban Ocon have been given a chance on the grid through their parent teams by way of a relationship to the other teams. Werhlein and Ocon being Mercedes junior drivers being the prime example has helped them secure seats at Manor through the power unit deal they have with Mercedes.

Can the situation be resolved?

Of course it can, but it relies on the teams top brass being bold enough to take the decision to take them on. It feels as if teams have pinned themselves into a comfort zone where they feel they must trust the drivers with years of experience in an attempt to garner as much information to move forward.

This practice while it may work is now proving to be a hinderance to the numerous amount of junior drivers eager to make their mark, many have fallen by the wayside over the years because of this and with now a bottle neck clearly forming behind the scenes, the time has come for a new generation of youth to prove they have what it takes at the highest level.

Engine Upgrades Allowed in 2015, Except Honda

After all the evolving engine regulations for the new hybrid era of F1 we have entered, it appears that a loophole has been found in the regulations that means engine development can be continued throughout the season, except for Honda.

In what appears to be unfair advantage to the rest of the other teams this will be a blow to not just Mercedes, who could lose some of their edge, but it will also be a blow to Honda. Being a ‘new’ manufacturer, they must have their 2015 power unit homologated and locked in by February 28th.

During last season there were many concerned in the paddock that the pace of the Mercedes was going to be hard to catch up on, Mercedes were keen not to allow any relaxations in the regulations as to ensure they held their advantage, but there were protests from Renault and Ferrari, it appeared that there was going to a concession from Mercedes in form of offering their ERS unit to the other teams.

The engine freeze was originally put in place as a cost-control tactic with changes only allowed if the FIA agrees that it falls under a reliability, safety or cost-saving issue. It is understood that Ferrari are the ones to have found the loophole and after many meetings Renault then joined the cause.

With the FIA admitting that the wording of the regulations was open to interpretation, it has subsequently told teams that the “most logical and robust” way forward is to accept that there is no actual date for 2015 homologation.

The ‘tokens’ the engine suppliers are allowed to use is reference to any developments made upon the power units, the teams this winter have 32 tokens they can use, but not one piece on the engine is worth 1 token, certain parts of the power unit maybe worth more, so the teams have to work out where they can make the best gains in terms of speed and pace in the engine but also reliability, which has been a lot better than expected in 2014, but I’m sure Renault will want to certainly improve reliability as their engines were the most unreliable.

f1-red-bull-ferrari-eua-700

The teams will also be able to bring their developments whenever they wish throughout the season, this could mean one team gains advantage over another at different points in the season, this could prove an exciting development race from now on with now the engineers I’m sure in full swing back their factories.

Many questions will be now asked, Can Mercedes maintain their advantage with this new loophole discovered? Can Honda develop a good enough engine to keep up with the developing pack? How fast can the other teams develop to catch Mercedes

This is all part of the exciting world of F1 we all love and cherish, stay tuned!!

lilgodf1

F1’s Engine War Rages On

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/149/80413967/files/2014/12/img_1555.jpgAccording to BBC Sport, Formula 1 is considering cheaper, louder and more powerful engines in the future.

This for me is unacceptable in the wake of great strides the manufacturers of these power units have made in the past few years to get to this position, F1 finally took a huge step in it’s global attention when it decided to go down this hybrid route and it would be to great detrimental effect to go back now.

At the Team Principal’s press conference in Australia 2014 it was confirmed by Charlie Whiting who was in attendance that had the sport not gone to this new engine format, we would have lost Renault, Mercedes as an engine supplier and Honda would never have made it’s return, Mercedes would also not have come back as a factory team. F1 would be a Ferrari engined formula, and we all know this is not what the sport was all about.

In Formula One’s illustrious history we have seen many technologies come from the sport and put into our current road cars, ABS, Traction Control and Active Suspension to name but a few. Up to date road cars today are often having smaller engines attached to them with turbos to make up the power loss.

With hybrid technology is still new F1 can be a great researcher of this technology and help fine tune it for our road cars, current supercars are already attempting to utilise a KERS turbo type system, McLaren P1 and the Porsche 918 are examples of this.

Formula One needs to brave the start of this new era and keep the great work it has achieved so far, noise is only one aspect of this sport, we cannot go back to bigger and thirstier engines, in 2014 we achieved the target of 30% less fuel efficiency this new Formula, that to me is a grand success.

@SteveF1C

Engine Wars

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With Mercedes having said they know where they can find 60-100hp more when they fine tune the engines over the winter season, this must strike fear into the engine departments at the other teams.

Mercedes it appeared in winter testing to have a power unit running at about 750hp with Ferrari about 30-50hp behind and Renault 50-80hp. All the teams will know where they can make gains where they are allowed as per the regulations, but if every engine supplier made the same gains surely the status quo would remain?

I think we will see a continuation of Mercedes dominance in 2015, 2016 could be a different story, the F1 strategy group met yesterday to discuss engine regulations for that season onwards, Bernie wants to go back to normally aspirated engines in a V8 or V10, but it is clear that Formula 1 cannot take this backwards step again.

It is clear Formula 1 is heading into an engine war, Mercedes have the upper hand for now, but the future from 2016 is uncertain, who will come out on top?

Tell me your thoughts!

@SteveF1C