More mechanical gremlins for Red Bull, Vettel in Bahrain

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Write off Red Bull at your own peril, given they’re likely to be on form once the Formula One community actually gets to the season opener at Melbourne, Australia next month.

But after the issues encountered in Jerez last month, and two weeks’ work at the factory, more mechanical gremlins popped up in today’s first running in Bahrain. Sebastian Vettel completed only 14 laps before stopping on track.

“We sorted out the issues from Jerez and we were able to do some laps today,” said the four-time defending World Champion, via the team’s official website. “However, very often you fix one problem and another pops up, which is what happened. That’s testing.”

Per veteran F1 journalist Adam Cooper, the issue today was brake-related, and led to a small fire in the rear of the car. It was one of several brakes issues reported.

Race engineering coordinator Andy Damerum said this was different than what occurred at Jerez.

“We are obviously playing catch-up and for us this was very much like a first test, so we were sending the car out to do one lap, then two and trying to build from there,” he said. “In that regard the laps completed were good. However, we were sidelined by a mechanical gremlin but one unrelated to the issues in Jerez.”

The next three days in Bahrain are crucial for Red Bull, as the team needs to get its issues ironed out before the end of the week. Full running at the second Bahrain test, without incident, will be the target at that point.

Vettel is in the car tomorrow as well, with Daniel Ricciardo taking over on Friday.

Ferrari, Mercedes launch 2018 F1 cars

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The title combatants from the 2017 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season both launched their 2018 challengers earlier on Thursday, with Scuderia Ferrari revealing the SF71H and Mercedes AMG Petronas revealing the W09.

For Ferrari, the SF71H represents an evolution of last year’s SF70H, which helped produce Ferrari’s best season in several years.

They presented a strong challenge to Mercedes for the championship, even leading the way at various points, with Sebastian Vettel recording five wins along the way. But, mechanical failures and crashes hampered their efforts late in the season, and they settled for second in the driver’s championship (with Vettel) and the constructor’s championship.

Entering 2018, the team is emphasizing the importance of building momentum with every race to ultimately secure their first constructor’s crown since 2008 and their first driver’s crown since 2007.

“There are no challenges actually. There are no challenges in the plural. There is just one challenge, which is the final challenge,” asserted team principal Maurizio Arrivabene. So that’s work that you build and you don’t build that work in one or two races. We’ve seen over the last few years, in the last championships, that you work race by race, and you always try to do the best you can.”

Technical director Mattia Binotto detailed some of the updates on the 2018 car, such as an new power unit and new suspension designs in anticipation of new tire constructions.

“We worked a lot on the power unit, we worked on its reliability and performance. We worked on the packaging, on suspensions in the rear axle because there will be new tires the following season, so we also tried to design the car to accommodate the new tires,” he explained.

Binotto added, “In regards to aerodynamics, we maintained our concept of having the inlets on the radiators, and everybody’s copying that, but we tried to make an additional step forward and what we showed today is not the same element of last year, but it is something more developed.”

Mercedes, meanwhile, will look to take it’s fifth consecutive driver’s and constructor’s championships with the W09. The team even took the car to the track for its launch, conducting a filming day at Silverstone Circuit.

“It is always a very exciting time because what has been designed is coming together and coming alive,”  team principal Toto Wolff said during the launch.

Despite facing challenges with last year’s car, the W08, the team elected to follow a similar design concept with the aerodynamics to improve on the car’s strengths while simultaneously addressing its weak points.

“We like some of the character traits from our diva,” Wolf quipped. “The W08 was the fastest car on the grid, scoring the highest number of pole positions and winning the most races last year. So we were careful not to lose the car’s many strengths just to overcome the difficulties.”

Both Ferrari and Mercedes are expected to slug it out again for the 2018 driver’s and constructor’s championships.

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