Newey: Belgium about damage limitation for Red Bull

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Red Bull chief technical officer Adrian Newey has said that this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix is about damage limitation for the defending world champions, given that the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps will exploit many of the weaknesses on the RB10 car.

The biggest issue for Red Bull at Spa are the long straights and high-speed corners, which require a good top speed. All of the teams that use Renault engines have been suffering from a lack of power in 2014, and this was particularly clear during practice yesterday.

The Mercedes power unit is by far the best on the grid, with seven cars powered by the German marque finishing in the top ten in each session. Predictably, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg locked out the top two positions in both sessions for the works team.

For Newey, this race is about Red Bull doing as well as it can in light of the problems with the engine, and he believes that the team’s next opportunity to win a race will come at Singapore in one month’s time.

“Certainly unless weather plays a part in the race and we manage to get that right or unless we are plain lucky, then given a sort of normal dry race, it seems very unlikely that we will be battling for the win,” Newey said.

“At that point, it becomes damage limitation.

“Possibly Singapore we have a chance. I think it goes without saying that the circuits that have the shorter straights are the ones that suit us best.”

Red Bull has not carried over its championship-winning form from 2013 into this year, with Daniel Ricciardo’s two victories coming in races where Mercedes was not at the peak of its powers. Nevertheless, the team looks set to finish second in the constructors’, relying that it can fend off Williams and Ferrari behind.

Newey also spoke about his job change at Red Bull, with the aerodynamicist set to take up more of a mentor-style role at the team for 2015 so he can focus on other projects outside of F1.

“At the moment I’m still full-time at Red Bull Racing and will be certainly over the coming months as we finalize the general layout of the car,” he said. “It won’t be until Christmas that I start to really get into new roles.”

Hartley to make F1 debut from back of grid after penalty

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Brendon Hartley’s hopes of a points finish on his Formula 1 debut took a hit on Friday after the FIA confirmed the Toro Rosso driver will start the United States Grand Prix from the back of the grid due to an engine penalty.

Porsche factory driver and 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Hartley was drafted in by Toro Rosso as a surprise replacement for Pierre Gasly in Austin, with the Frenchman tied up with Super Formula duties at Suzuka this weekend.

Hartley took to the track in an official grand prix session for the first time on Friday in Austin, marking his first run-out in an F1 car since a test with Mercedes in 20120.

However, FIA technical delegate Jo Bauer confirmed in his pre-race report that changes had been made to the power unit on Hartley’s Toro Rosso car since the last race in Japan, triggering a grid penalty.

Toro Rosso elected to take a new internal combustion engine, MGU-H, energy store and control electronics on Hartley’s Renault power unit, totaling a 25-place grid drop that will be applied after qualifying. Confirmation of the penalty is set to follow later today.

The penalty comes as a setback for Hartley, but was necessary as Toro Rosso found itself short on engine elements to get to the end of the season.

Hartley is not the only driver to have a penalty confirmed, with Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne also taking new engine elements, also confirmed in Bauer’s report.

A new ICE, turbocharger and MGU-H for Hulkenberg will see him drop 20 places on the grid, while an eighth ICE of the year for Vandoorne will trigger a five-place drop.