Formula 1: McLaren expect to enjoy ‘biggest difference in grid position’ in 2018

McLaren believe they will make the biggest step forward of all teams in Formula 1 this season.

The team have not won a race since the end of 2012 but are hopeful of a strong season after swapping their under-performing Honda engines for Renault.

McLaren executive director Zak Brown said: "We should be the team that has the biggest difference in grid position from last year to this year.

"Everyone, including ourselves, is eager to see what that looks like."

Brown said McLaren’s aim for 2018 was "being competitive – that is racing at the front, qualifying at the front, getting on the podium".

After three years of being Honda’s sole partner but suffering from the engine’s lack of performance, McLaren dropped the Japanese company and are now one of three teams with Renault engines.

But Brown said he was not nervous about being compared with Red Bull, who won three races last year, and the French manufacturer’s improving factory team.

"If we’re 0.9 seconds off Red Bull, that won’t look good, I agree," Brown said. "We don’t want to hide. It’s showtime.

"The beautiful thing about motor racing is hundreds of millions of people get to see how you do. That’s part of the adrenalin.

"We are looking forward to that. This team has won the second most amount of championships and they welcome and are excited about the pressure of having the spotlight on us. We will only want to hide if we are 0.9 seconds off Red Bull."

Competing with the top teams
McLaren-Honda Formula 1 team
McLaren-Honda won four consecutive drivers’ and constructors’ championships from 1988-91. Their renewed partnership was not so successful
Engineering director Matt Morris said he was "excited" about the new season and testing themselves against Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.

And chief technical officer (aerodynamics) Peter Prodromou, who joined McLaren from Red Bull in late 2014, said: "It has been difficult for us last three years not having someone to measure yourself up against.

"It is a very positive thing that we have two first-class teams to measure ourselves against and that is a very strong motivating factor for everyone in the workforce."

Prodromou acknowledged that Red Bull had a bigger budget than McLaren but said he hoped they could make up in efficiency what they lacked in resources.

"Perhaps we don’t have the luxury to look at as many concepts as they do but we are not feeling we have any excuses or disadvantage," he said. "Our aim is very much to compete with the two other Renault runners."

Renault was regarded as the third best engine in F1 last year behind those of world champions Mercedes and their main rivals Ferrari.

But Brown said he was optimistic about the French company’s performance in 2018 and not concerned about the reliability problems it had last season

"There’s no alarm bells," he said. "They seem to be very confident and happy with where they are at in terms of power and reliability and specifically the reliability they feel they are on top of.

"I know there is a big debate about what is the first, second and third best engine. I think in reality they are all pretty close. So we are excited and feel they really wanted to do business with McLaren and we feel we will have total parity (of engine specification) with Red Bull and the works team."

Alonso’s busy year
McLaren F1 drivers Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne
Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso will be partnered by Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne during the 2018 season
McLaren’s drivers in 2018 are two-time world champion Fernando Alonso and Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne.

Alonso is dovetailing his F1 commitments with an almost full programme racing for Toyota in the World Endurance Championship, as part of his ambition to win the Le Mans 24 Hours and tick off another of motorsport’s ‘triple crown’ of victories at the Monaco Grand Prix, Le Mans and the Indianapolis 500.

Brown dismissed suggestions this meant the 36-year-old’s commitment to F1 was dropping.

Brown said: "He races or drives every weekend, half the time under a different name when he’s karting. He just wants to be in race cars.

"I think it keeps him fresh and focused, it is what he wants to do.

"Fernando is very well prepared, knows what it takes to be successful and he wouldn’t have taken on the commitment if he didn’t think he could do both at the highest level. It is no other agenda than he wants to race and he wants to win."


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Fernando Alonso: World Endurance Championship race moved so F1 star can compete

Fernando Alonso will take part in all rounds of the World Endurance Championship this year after a race was moved to accommodate him.

The two-time F1 world champion is dove-tailing his F1 commitments for McLaren with racing for Toyota in the WEC.

The Japanese race clashed with the US Grand Prix but in a sign of Alonso’s pulling power it has been moved a week earlier than the F1 race in Texas.

The race at Fuji Speedway will now take place on 14 October.

The move was officially requested by Fuji but the track is owned by Toyota, so it effectively comes from Alonso’s team.

It is believed to be the first time an FIA world championship event has been moved solely to ensure one driver can take part in it, and as such demonstrates the remarkable appeal Alonso has as one of the biggest stars in motorsport

From Alonso’s point of view, it means the 36-year-old Spaniard can now target winning the WEC title as well as Le Mans, as he will be taking part in all races. He called it “awesome news” on Twitter.

Toyota said: “Fantastic for our Japanese fans that Alonso can also race in Fuji due to WEC date changes.”

The move means Alonso will be competing in 21 grands prix and six WEC races in 2018.

He is also committed to doing the three WEC races in 2019 which also count to the new ‘super-season’ championship, a long as they do not clash with a grand prix if he is still racing in F1 next year.

McLaren executive director Zak Brown said he had no concerns about Alonso’s workload.

“Fernando is very well prepared, knows what it takes to be successful and he wouldn’t have taken on the additional commitment if he didn’t think he could do both at the highest level,” Brown said.

“It is no other agenda than he wants to race and he wants to win Le Mans.

“What would he be doing those weekends otherwise? He wouldn’t be testing an F1 car or on the simulator.

“We have everything we need out of him on the F1 front so these are weekends he’d either be in a go-kart or golfing or whatever he wants to do. He’ll just be in a WEC car. He wants to spend his spare time in race cars.”

But Brown emphasised that F1 remains Alonso’s main priority.

“While he is going to go there and try to win the championship, because that’s what he does, when you think of Fernando you think of him as a McLaren Formula 1 driver first and foremost.”

WEC boss Gerard Neveu said: “How could we have someone like Fernando Alonso in our paddock, racing for Toyota, and say we are going to Japan without him in their car?

“Alonso is racing for a World Championship and to win that he can’t miss a race.”

The date change means the Fuji race now clashes with a sports car race in the IMSA series in the USA, in which some of the drivers in the WEC are racing.

Neveu said IMSA “fully understood” the situation and Alonso hoped it would be able to move the date of that race.


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Sauber to make Honda engine switch for 2018 Formula 1 season

Sauber will switch to Honda engines in 2018, ending an eight-year relationship with Ferrari.

The struggling Swiss team will be the second outfit using Honda power units next season, joining the Japanese company’s works partner McLaren.

McLaren welcomed the deal, saying it was “a chance to double the opportunity for research and development in 2018”.

Sauber are the slowest of the 10 teams in F1 this year and Honda have the least powerful engine.

The Japanese company admits it has failed to make the progress it expected with a new engine design this year but is hopeful it can improve as this season develops.

Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn described the new engine deal as a “strategic and technical realignment”.

Katsuhide Moriyama, Honda’s chief officer for brand and communication operations, said it was “a new challenge in Honda’s F1 activities” and the company would “strengthen the systems and capabilities” of its research and development base in Sakura, Japan, and its F1 satellite base in Milton Keynes.


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Formula 1: Ferrari rumours are disturbing – Valtteri Bottas

Valtteri Bottas says speculation about a move to Ferrari is “disturbing” as he looks to focus on winning his first grand prix with Williams. The 25-year-old has been linked with replacing Kimi Raikkonen at the Italian team from 2016 onwards.

However, Bottas – in his third season at Williams – says he is thinking only about helping his current team challenge for victories. “Once you’re in the car you don’t think about any speculation,” he said.

Jump media playerMedia player helpOut of media player. Press enter to return or tab to continue. Flying start from Williams to overtake Mercedes “There is nothing in your mind other than driving, but out of the car of course it is disturbing when there are some rumours.” Mercedes have been in dominant form through the first half of 2015. Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton has won five of the 10 races so far, with his team-mate Nico Rosberg winning three.

However, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel picked up his second win of the year in Hungary last time out, giving Bottas the belief that Mercedes can be toppled. “Mercedes are really strong at the moment but Ferrari showed in Budapest that it is possible to beat them,” he said. “Never say never, we are still aiming to win races. They have a really quick car but anything can happen in motorsport.

“We need to believe in it and take every opportunity – it could be there this season.”


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Manor Marussia announce Roberto Merhi as second driver

Manor Marussia have named Spain’s Roberto Merhi as their second driver for the start of the 2015 season.

The 23-year-old will line up alongside England’s Will Stevens on the grid for this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

The team was only cleared to race last week with a modified version of a 2014 car after coming out of administration.

“I hope to pay back the hard work of the team with a solid weekend,” Merhi said.

The Spaniard, who raced in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series last year with Zeta Corse, also gained some F1 experience in 2014 with three free practice outings for Caterham.

Merhi will compete in the “opening rounds” of the season, according to the former Marussia team, who have secured investment from Stephen Fitzpatrick, boss of energy firm Ovo, and have former Sainsbury’s boss Justin King as interim chairman.

King’s 21-year-old son Jordan will also join the team as a test driver, combining his duties with competing in GP2 – F1’s feeder series.

“This is another great step closer to my ultimate goal of racing in Formula 1,” Jordan King said.


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Lewis Hamilton feels he has mental strength to defend F1 title

Lewis Hamilton feels he is “stronger than ever” thanks to the “impenetrable” mental attitude he fostered in becoming world champion last year.

The Briton said he drew strength from winning the title amid a fierce rivalry with Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg.

Hamilton added that he would not let his break-up with Nicole Scherzinger affect him ahead of next weekend’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

“I developed a mental attitude I would like to say was impenetrable,” he said.

“Of course, in previous years it has been the case where it [a break up] has affected my life in general.

“But I feel I still carry that kind of mentality from last year – and while it’s not been easy, having been in this position before I feel stronger than ever, so I don’t feel it’s going to be a problem.”

Hamilton said the collision with Rosberg during the Belgium Grand Prix at Spa last season that strengthened his resolve.

Speaking to the Observer, Hamilton said: “After Spa I thought ‘I’m going to turn this up. I’m going to have to turn this up. This means war.’ After Spa I had a different approach.”

He described becoming world champion for a second time as “like a warmth in your heart that you carry”, but said there is “no less pressure” going into the new season.

The Briton added: “I didn’t arrive at the tests thinking ‘OK, I’m world champion.’ I’m thinking ‘I’ve got to do everything again and I’ve got to do it better than I did before because I know that everyone else will have taken a step.'”

Hamilton is close to signing a new contract with Mercedes, having conducted negotiations himself after leaving Simon Fuller’s management company XIX last year.

He said: “It’s been an experience. Learning something new and experiencing something like this, I’m glad I’ve done it. It’s a very, very nerve-racking kind of experience, but I just tried to do the best job I possibly could.

“Hopefully we’re in the final stages. I don’t really know what the timeline is. We’re not rushing, but we’re very much in the last stages of it.”


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Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso says team must start winning

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso has admitted he needs to start winning races if he is to have any chance of beating Sebastian Vettel to the title.

The Spaniard is 34 points adrift of the Red Bull driver after Vettel won Sunday’s German GP with Alonso fourth. “There is still a long way to go and if you have the package to fight everything is possible,” Alonso said. “To recover you need to win two or three races and at the moment it seems we are not able to do so.”

“If we concentrate in our own performance and improve the general weekend performance we can start to think good in terms of the championship”
Alonso admitted that Ferrari needed to “improve our situation” at the next race in Hungary on 28 July.
“If we concentrate in our own performance and improve the general weekend performance we can start to think good in terms of the championship,” he said.
“We’ve got three weeks until Hungary. They [the team] have got to do something, they’ve got to do it immediately.”

Vettel’s team-mate Mark Webber said that the drivers’ championship was “getting away from everybody”. Alonso climbed up from eighth on the grid to finish fourth at the Nurburgring, just four seconds behind Vettel, but he said that was down to the fact Ferrari had chosen a different strategy from the leading runners rather than outright speed.

“We started eighth and we finished four seconds behind the leaders, we did a good race from the position but obviously not good enough,” he said.
“It was very good the strategy. It gave us the possibility to fight for the podium. “We were not quick enough today. We didn’t have the pace and even with that we fight for the podium and were very close to the leading group.

“If I start fifth and we do soft-hard-hard-hard [tyre compounds] as the main competitors [did], I don’t think I finish four seconds behind them because we are slower than them and they will pull away so were fighting with them thanks to the strategy.” Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali said of winning the title: “It is do-able, for sure, 100%. Everything changes so quickly; everything is still possible.”

And Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton said he believed the possibility of winning the title was still “on” for Alonso.

Source :

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Neale: Hamilton deal close

McLaren Managing Director Jonathon Neale says the team are close to agreeing a new deal with 2008 World Champion Lewis Hamilton.

The British team guided Hamilton’s junior career before bringing him into Formula 1 in 2007, to partner Fernando Alonso.

The 27-year-old had been linked with a move to Red Bull and Mercedes, but with Mark Webber agreeing a new deal with the World Champions and Michael Schumacher looking likely to stay on for at least another year with the Silver Arrows, options for Hamilton are limited.

“We are closer and of course we are in dialogue,” Neale told Sky Sports.

Hamilton close to new deal

“For obvious reasons I can’t speculate more at the moment. We are working very hard to find a common ground.”

When asked if a new deal was what both Hamilton and McLaren wanted Neale added: “Very much so.”

Hamilton is currently 47 points behind Alonso in the standings, but, with nine races remaining and a possible 225 points available, Neale believes Hamilton can still be triumph in 2012.

“Mathematically it is still possible, 25 points for a win and it doesn’t take much to switch those,” he added.

“We have got a quick car. Our car was in better shape than Ferrari at the last race. He is a fighter, he loves a challenge. He just needs a sniff of it and to feel that the team is behind him and pushing.

“And I think if he feels we are pushing and bring the upgrades and dealing with the issues as they arise then he will be fighting for the title at the end of the season.”

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Ferrari admit there is ‘room for improvement’ on new car

Technical director Pat Fry said there was “still room for improvement” with just nine further days of running before the first race of the season.

Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso have failed to set any impressive times so far with the new F2012.

Fry said the team were struggling to make the car handle consistently.

Ferrari have deliberately taken a different approach to this car than to last year’s machine in an attempt to close the gap to world champions Red Bull – the Italian legends won only one of the last year’s 19 races.

But their decision to push for an “aggressive” design has meant they have spent the first three days of testing in Jerez in Spain this week simply trying to understand how to make the car work.

“The basic platform is okay,” Fry said. “We are looking at the various characteristics of some of the bits we have to test.

“We can play around with the three corner characteristics, so we can do different things at corner entry, mid-corner to exit, and it is really trying to find the right balance of those things.

“On each run we are trying almost a different configuration. There is a lot of analysis here and then back at the factory.

“We are using the simulation and the simulator to make sure everything ties in, so we can put the right package together.”

Fry said the team were not interested in putting the car into a qualifying-style configuration with low fuel and new tyres to try to set a headline lap time.

“We are not concentrating on taking the fuel out and trying to set a lap time,” he said.

“With only 12 days of testing before the first race, we have to make the most of all the time we have got.”

Last year, Ferrari’s preparations were set back when they discovered that results they were getting in the wind tunnel were not being matched on the track.

Ferrari had insisted last season that this correlation problem had been solved, but Fry admitted there was still a small concern in that area.

“There’s reasonable correlation,” he said. “I certainly wouldn’t say it was perfect.

“There is still room for improvement. I don’t think I could ever sit here and say it’s perfect. We have found some more issues since we have been here.”

Fry said the difficulties with the car were not related to the radical pull-rod front suspension – where the arm goes from the top of the wheel to the bottom of the chassis rather than the conventional way of the other way around.

He described that as “not that big a deal”, adding that it created a “small aero benefit, a small centre of gravity benefit”.


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Mercedes launch their new car – the W03 – for the 2012 season

Mercedes have launched their challenger for the 2012 season in Barcelona.

The team gave the W03 its first run at Silverstone last week before holding a private test in Barcelona on Sunday.

Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher has described the new car as “very responsive” after testing it for the first time.

Team boss Ross Brawn added: “The W03 is an elegant interpretation of the current regulations and a clear step forward over its predecessor.”

After two consecutive fourth-placed finishes in the constructors’ championship, there is a lot riding on the new W03.

Following a season in which Schumacher and team-mate Nico Rosberg failed to score a podium finish, Brawn admits that the team are under pressure to perform.

“We have to go forward,” said Brawn. “None of us are happy with a recurring fourth place.

“That is not why any of us are here. But I am quietly confident, with the strength we have got, the resources we have got and the team we are building, that we can do that.”

Mercedes are the only leading team to have waited until this week’s second pre-season test in Barcelona to run their car seriously.

World champions Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari all had their 2012 cars ready in time for the first test in Jerez two weeks ago, where Mercedes concentrated on tyre testing with a modified version of last year’s car.

Mercedes hoped to use the extra time in order to make its development stage as long as possible – theoretically an advantage.

But the decision means that they have only nine test days to prepare the car for the new season, compared with the other teams’ 12.

“Nowhere is the need to improve felt more greatly than at Mercedes, the team trying to make F1’s “big three” into a quartet”

Mercedes have added two experienced engineers to the team in former Ferrari technical director Aldo Costa and Geoff Willis, who has worked for Williams, Honda and Red Bull.

Brawn said he felt that their addition would make the team stronger.

“I don’t know where we’ll be with the car,” he said. “I feel reasonably comfortable with what we’ve done.

“But, wherever we are, I’m sure we’ll have a much stronger response than we were capable of in the past.”

He predicted that the team would be in a position to challenge for podiums this season – a minimum target for an outfit whose ultimate ambition is to win the world championship.

“We are definitely ready to go for podiums,” said Brawn.

“Any team that has not won the world championship has to look at how it can improve, how it can strengthen and how it can achieve better results.

Even if you win the world championship you still look at that.”


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