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Brown: McLaren still targeting top five in F1 pecking order this year

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McLaren executive director Zak Brown says the team is still aiming to better its performance from last year despite currently sitting last in the Formula 1 constructors’ championship after five races.

McLaren has been hamstrung by issues with the power unit supplied by Honda, which has lacked both reliability and performance so far this season following a redesign over the winter.

The team has seen the checkered flag just three times so far this season and is yet to finish on the lead lap, leaving it at the foot of the teams’ standings. It is also the only team not to score a point so far this season.

Speaking to the official F1 website, Brown said that even with its current problems, McLaren’s pre-season target remains unchanged as it looks to grow in strength ahead of 2018.

“We want to be better than we were in 2016; that remains. Whether that is in the final points tally, that will probably be difficult,” Brown said.

“But finishing the season and being more competitive than a sixth-place team, that is the goal and that has not changed.”

Brown admitted that he thought McLaren would be stronger this year than it has been, but remains confident that time can be made up through the remainder of the campaign.

” I thought we would have improved from 2016, which clearly we have not after the Barcelona race where things looked promising for a blink of an eye with Fernando [Alonso]’s grid position. But it didn’t work in the race.

“But I am optimistic that we will catch and pass our 2016 performance at the end of the year.”

Hulkenberg upbeat about Renault’s Monaco GP chances

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Nico Hulkenberg is optimistic about Renault’s chances in next weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix as he looks to extend his streak of points finishes in Formula 1.

Hulkenberg led Renault to its best result since returning to F1 with a full works program at the beginning of 2016, finishing sixth.

The German has scored points in each of the last three races, scoring all 14 of Renault’s points so far this season – six more than it scored through the entirety of last season.

Hulkenberg will bid to extend Renault’s points streak next weekend in Monaco, but expects the conditions at the street circuit to play to the strengths of the team and its R.S.17 car.

“The track should suit us, especially with the super-soft and ultrasoft tires. I am looking forward to race day and obviously I’m aiming for a good result,” Hulkenberg said.

“Last year I performed there quite well and with the new cars it will feel even quicker. You need a good rhythm and a good harmony with yourself and the car and feel comfortable.

“Lap times can be tricky to find, but in recent years I have done well, so hopefully we can have another strong performance.”

The Monaco Grand Prix is live across NBC, NBCSN and the NBC Sports app next weekend.

Grosjean doubts Button will struggle on F1 return in Monaco

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Romain Grosjean doubts Jenson Button will have any trouble getting to back up to speed upon his Formula 1 return in Monaco next weekend with McLaren.

Button decided to stop racing full-time in F1 at the end of last year, but was drafted in by McLaren to replace Fernando Alonso in Monaco while the Spaniard takes part in the Indianapolis 500.

Button opted against testing the 2017-spec McLaren-Honda MCL32 in Bahrain last month, meaning his first taste of the car will come during first practice on Thursday in Monaco.

Given the significant changes between the F1 cars in 2016 and 2017, Button may face a steep learning curve, but Grosjean doubts the 2009 world champion will have too many issues getting up to speed.

“First thing he has to do is get used to the width of the car, especially in Monaco,” Grosjean said.

“Jenson is a great champion. He’s been world champion and he knows what he’s doing. He’s going to be on it pretty quickly.

“If we can take advantage of the fact that he’s not got much experience in the car at the beginning, we’ll use that for our own performance, but I’m sure he’s going to be good straight away.”

Speaking about Alonso’s decision to skip Monaco for the ‘500, Grosjean said: ““t’s pretty amazing and he’s doing well in the testing. It’s a really good race.

“It’s a nice one, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to watch. I’ll have a look at the highlights.”

Verstappen not dwelling on 2016 crash heading to Monaco

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Max Verstappen is refusing to let his crash in last year’s Monaco Grand Prix affect his confidence heading into this year’s Formula 1 race around the streets of the principality.

Just two weeks after becoming the youngest grand prix winner in history on his Red Bull debut, Verstappen came back down to earth with a bump in Monaco with multiple crashes over the weekend, including one at Massenet in the race.

Verstappen is yet to record a classified finish at Monaco, having also retired from the race in 2015 during his rookie season, but he is refusing to dwell on his past mistakes.

“There is no such thing as a low risk lap in Monaco, it doesn’t exist if you want to be fast because you have to be on the limit,” Verstappen said.

“Last year’s crash was very unfortunate but it doesn’t affect my confidence heading back there. It just makes me want to do better this year and learn from my mistakes.

“We still have a lot to learn from the car in terms of setup as it is always developing and we haven’t driven it on a tight street circuit yet.

“Preparation for Monaco is a little different, you definitely build up a little bit slower throughout the weekend and pace yourself. It’s important to find the limit carefully.

“With the new cars, I think the chicane around the Swimming Pool will be the most challenging corner this year.”

F1 bolsters team to work with Brawn on future technical regulations

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Formula 1 has bolstered its technical team to work with sporting managing director Ross Brawn in forming the sport’s future regulations.

Ex-Ferrari and Benetton technical chief Brawn returned to F1 in January after three years away when Liberty Media completed its takeover of the sport, appointing him its sporting chief.

Brawn has been working with teams and the FIA to begin to find a direction for the future technical regulations, and is now set to be supported by three new managers within F1’s motorsport division.

Jason Somerville has been appointed head of aerodynamics, having previously held a similar role at Williams and worked with a number of teams in both F1 and sportscar racing.

Craig Wilson joins F1 as head of vehicle performance, having also worked with Williams in its Advanced Engineering division. Wilson worked with Brawn at his eponymous F1 team in 2009.

Another figure joining with history at Brawn GP is Nigel Kerr, who is set to become finance director for the motorsports division in August.

“I am delighted to welcome three extremely experienced figures who have established themselves as experts within Formula 1 over many decades,” Brawn said.

“We are building a team that enables stronger links to be forged between Formula 1’s management and the sport’s various stakeholders, ensuring that regulations are implemented with the involvement of all parties.”