Esteban Gutierrez

F1 notes and quotes: Bahrain Day 2

Leave a comment

An improved day for Renault in the reliability department, if not on pace, highlighted the rest of the runners behind Thursday leader Kevin Magnussen of McLaren-Mercedes in Bahrain.

  • First up, although his best time was only good enough for seventh, more than 5 seconds behind Magnussen, four-time defending World Champion Sebastian Vettel said Red Bull made some key strides after nearly 60 laps on track. “Definitely a better day today. We did more laps, so that’s encouraging,” he said afterwards. “It was good to get a proper first feel for the car and it feels OK but there’s a lot more to come. The most important thing is to run and we did that. I hope Daniel can get some more good laps in tomorrow.” Indeed, Daniel Ricciardo takes over on Friday for the final two days of the test.
  • Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg was second on the day but hailed his two days as “very positive.” Team COO Otmar Szafnauer added, “We had some aero devices on the car this morning and then continued with the set-up program that we started yesterday,” via the team’s official website.
  • Fernando Alonso hailed Ferrari’s work in the factory, as the team continues to work towards reliability first before outright pace. “Despite the bad weather in Jerez we managed to complete a lot of laps. Here, in two days, we have done 161, so on that front we can be pleased. The work at Maranello has been well done and now it’s down to us to make the most of all its potential,” he said via Ferrari’s website.
  • It was a simulated race distance for Mercedes, now with Nico Rosberg behind the wheel on day two. There were two slight stoppages on track, but nothing major. Additionally, Rosberg said he felt more comfortable with the new car and the buttons on the steering wheel. Teammate Lewis Hamilton took the day off from driving to participate in a fans’ Twitter Q&A session, linked here.
  • Williams’ Valtteri Bottas clocked in 116 laps, in a big day for Sir Frank’s squad after fuel system issues limited Felipe Massa’s running on Wednesday. Chief test and support engineer Rod Nelson traced the fuel issue to a wiring-loom manufacturing issue. Bottas hailed the team’s aero work and its ability to run a race simulation.
  • Caterham’s Kamui Kobayashi said there was a slight interruption in the morning with a telemetry issue. But the Japanese driver said the team was beginning to extract the performance: “Even though everyone knows laptimes don’t really mean anything in the tests, it’s good for the team to start to see us unlocking some of the car’s performance,” he said, via the team’s website. Marcus Ericsson takes over on Friday.
  • Scuderia Toro Rosso’s struggles have more or less mirrored Red Bull’s, with minimal running done thus far. That’s what made it such a good day for Jean-Eric Vergne on Thursday. “A good day, the best since testing began. This morning was relatively trouble free and we got through plenty of items on the job sheet. It’s the first time I’ve been able to push the car on track and I have to say in terms of its balance, it gave me a good feeling.” 
  • Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez ran 55 laps before electrical trouble limited running time in the afternoon. Said the young Mexican, “In Jerez it was important that everything was running and functioning. Here in Bahrain it’s time to put everything together and make sure all the components are in tune, so we can start working on the potential of the car.” He runs again on Friday with Adrian Sutil back in on Saturday.
  • Lotus made news earlier Thursday by announcing a Renault extension and Charles Pic as reserve driver.
  • Marussia got up to 17 laps completed with Max Chilton, but a fuel system issue interrupted its day. “Unfortunately we experienced the fuel system problem and to get to the root of that is quite a long and complicated process, so it took up most of the afternoon,” said the sophomore English driver to the team’s website. “We were seriously up against it time-wise, so all credit to the guys for pushing so hard and enabling us to get a further three laps in before the session end.”

DiZinno: Engine drama dominates 2015 silly season thus far

1 Comment

So it’s mid-October, and in both Formula 1 and IndyCar, the story of silly season 2015 is not about the drivers behind the wheel, but more about the lumps giving the drivers the power with which to do so.

The war in IndyCar has gone on more behind-the-scenes between Honda and Chevrolet as it relates to performance clauses and what can or can’t be updated for 2016.

However F1’s engine battle has been a very public spat, and been the dominant silly season storyline this fall.

F1’s driver silly season never really got going for next season. As my MotorSportsTalk colleague Luke Smith has chronicled, the one potential domino that could have made things interesting – Kimi Raikkonen’s status at Ferrari – will go unchanged into 2016.

As such, it leaves with a grid where the lineups at Mercedes, Ferrari, Williams, Force India, Sauber and most recently McLaren are confirmed to stay the same for 2016.

The only driver switch at present is Romain Grosjean leaving the unsettled, fluid situation at Lotus to lead Haas F1 Team’s charge in its maiden season.

This brings us then, simply, to the Red Bull teams.

Red Bull may give you wings, and wings right now are all that’s confirmed to power the teams into 2016.

A season-long row, spat, disagreement or whatever word you want to call it has occurred between Red Bull and Renault to the point where Red Bull has threatened to pull out of Formula 1 – which would leave its quartet of talented youngsters, Daniel Ricciardo, Daniil Kvyat, Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr. – all sidelined. Let alone all its talented mechanics and crew.

Mercedes has already moved its fourth engine supply from Lotus to Manor, and Ferrari has proposed offering a 2015 power unit, neither of which were really feasible solutions for Red Bull and by default, Toro Rosso as well.

It’s then left the two parties in a proverbial stalemate, where Red Bull needs Renault more than Renault needs Red Bull.

And in social terms, it’s a case of Red Bull needing to go back to the girl they want to dump, because it’s their only option. Perhaps it’s no coincidence the term “F1 booty call” was occasionally used on social media over the weekend to describe the situation.

The Red Bull quit threat, unfortunately, continues to persist. Adrian Newey, the sport’s most successful designer, has reiterated the concerns in an interview with Reuters over the weekend.

“Unfortunately, our relationship with Renault is pretty terminal — there’s been too much of a marriage breakdown, so we have no engine,” Newey told Reuters while in Abu Dhabi to judge the Nissan PlayStation GT Academy.

“Red Bull should not be put in a position where they’re only there to make up the numbers,” he added, noting the desired need for improvement from Renault.

One could argue, of course, that Newey’s departure has had a psychological effect on the team, perhaps as much if not a greater impact than Renault’s engine woes. And easy as it is to forget, Ricciardo still won three Grands Prix a year ago and was in mathematical championship contention until the final few races of the season.

Think in Renault’s case as well, that as a sole constructor and owner of Lotus as it is shaping up to be next year, it would behoove them to have a second set of data at its disposal, rather than going solo without another team. See Honda and McLaren for how that’s gone this year…

The fact that Red Bull has opted to go for the nuclear threat in print of quitting when all it’s really had is a bad year – something it’s experienced plenty both early in its own team lifespan, and in its prior guises as Jaguar and Stewart dating to the Stewart team’s inception in 1997 – really smacks of poor professionalism, unbecoming of the brand.

Red Bull didn’t get the top of the mountain in the business world, and in F1, without a desire to be the best.

But in the interest of becoming a true fabric of the F1 community through both thick and thin – as teams like Ferrari, Williams and McLaren have done for decades – it needs to take a step back, chalk 2015 up as a year to forget and figure out a way to bury the hatchet so it doesn’t leave all the affected individuals high and dry.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Ryan Briscoe

Ryan Briscoe
Leave a comment

MotorSportsTalk continues its review of the Verizon IndyCar Series field, driver-by-driver, with a look at Ryan Briscoe. Despite not having a ride to start the year, Briscoe ended strongly courtesy of a series of strong runs at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

Ryan Briscoe, No. 5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda

  • 2014: 11th Place, Best Finish 4th, Best Start 4th, 1 Top-5, 11 Top-10, 5 Laps Led, 12.8 Avg. Start, 10.6 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 18th Place (8 starts), Best Finish 5th, Best Start 2nd, 1 Top-5, 4 Top-10, 10 Laps Led, 17.8 Avg. Start, 12.0 Avg. Finish

For those who slag on Briscoe as being undeserving of top level equipment, his 2015 second half provided a friendly reminder of his overall ability level in what might be less than the best machinery.

Briscoe was thrust into the No. 5 car under trying circumstances to begin with, getting all of an hour’s worth practice replacing the injured James Hinchcliffe ahead of the Indianapolis 500. But subsequent drives on the ovals there, Texas, Fontana, Milwaukee and Iowa – even if the results were less than ideal – showcased a driver determined to show to the paddock he still had it, and then some. His defense against Juan Pablo Montoya in Sonoma was nothing short of brilliant, and courtesy of double points he actually finished ahead of full-season driver Stefano Coletti.

The Australian immediately gelled with the SPM team, engineer Allen McDonald and race strategist Robert Gue. He continues to prove he’s an asset, as he has enjoyed multiple opportunities to extend his career in various arenas of motorsport in both open-wheel and sports cars, the latter of which he won at both the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring with Corvette Racing this year.