Honda

Getty Images

Alonso’s Honda power unit cleared for Malaysia after Singapore clash

Leave a comment

Fernando Alonso’s incredible start at the Singapore Grand Prix offered the possibility of huge points, before he got collected at Turn 1 in the wake of the Kimi Raikkonen, Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel start-line crash.

But with Alonso’s McLaren Honda getting speared on the left side of the car, there were concerns his Honda power unit had been damaged beyond repair ahead of this weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix.

Somewhat fortunately considering the fractured and now set-for-divorce Alonso, McLaren and Honda relationship, Honda has confirmed this power unit was actually OK despite the first lap contact in Singapore.

“We were concerned that it may have been irreparably damaged, but fortunately after a thorough check back at the Sakura factory we can confirm it is okay to be re-used,” said Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda R&D Co. Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer.

Alonso, of course quite frustrated to have lost out on a potential big points haul in Singapore, is hoping similarly changeable conditions could give McLaren Honda a spark in Malaysia this weekend. Stoffel Vandoorne fortunately picked up six points for the team with seventh place there, his best result of the season and his career thus far.

“After Singapore, I’m already eager to get back into the car and hopefully make it further than the first corner in Malaysia! Of course, what happened was disappointing and it’s difficult to hide your frustration when you’re the victim of someone else’s incident. I felt we had the potential to be really competitive – one of our only opportunities of the year – and it’s a shame we couldn’t bring home the points to prove it, but these things happen,” he said.

“The conditions in Malaysia will be very similar to Singapore – hot, humid and challenging for the drivers and the car. The configuration will work less in our favor, but of course we will still fight for everything. There are six races left and we are still putting all our energy in finishing every race in the best possible position we can.”

Vinales takes Aragon MotoGP pole, Rossi P3 on return

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Maverick Viñales will start Sunday’s MotoGP race at Motorland Aragon from pole position after topping qualifying for Yamaha as teammate Valentino Rossi made a stunning return from injury.

Having broken his leg during a training accident at the end of last month, Rossi was cleared to race this weekend by MotoGP’s medical officials on Thursday, with the nine-time world champion gingerly returning to action in practice.

Rossi battled through to Q2 by finishing final practice 10th-quickest, before then producing a rapid final lap in the session to secure third place on the grid for Sunday’s race.

Teammate Viñales bagged his fifth pole of the season with a best lap of 1:47.635, lapping one-tenth of a second quicker than Ducati’s Jorge Lorenzo. Rossi was a further 0.08 seconds behind in P3.

Cal Crutchlow took fourth for LCR Honda ahead of Marc Marquez, who fell ahead of his final run and was unable to improve his initial lap time in Q2.

Marquez’s chief title rival Andrea Dovizioso will start seventh behind Dani Pedrosa, while Aleix Espargaro, Alvaro Bautista and Andrea Iannone completed the top 10 in qualifying.

McLaren ‘a little behind’ on 2018 F1 car plans after delayed engine call

Getty Images
Leave a comment

McLaren racing director Eric Boullier has conceded the team is “a little behind” in developing its Formula 1 car for next year after only finalizing its 2018 engine plans last week.

McLaren saw its long-running engine saga end in Singapore when it agreed a deal to end its current Honda supply and link up with Renault from the start of next season.

The move is expected to give McLaren a lift in performance and allow it to fight further up the field, but the delay in being finalized has put the team slightly behind schedule in developing its new car.

“We are flat out working on the 2018 car. There are a lot of changes in terms of layout of the engine, so we have to redesign some of the parts we already had in our mind,” Bouller told the official F1 website.

“We are a little behind in terms of decision. I would have loved this decision to have been made a couple of weeks ago.”

McLaren will no longer enjoy exclusive works status in 2018 as it has done with Honda, with Renault also supplying engines to Red Bull and its own factory team.

Boullier remains confident of a strong partnership between McLaren and Renault, though, and is sure it is the best path for the future.

“We are ‘privileged customers’ with Renault. We have the same engine and access to information as Enstone or Red Bull Racing, so this is a real partnership with Renault,” Boullier said.

“We also have the possibility to work with them – to put ideas in the box for the future that might be taken into consideration. That will allow us to influence in the future. But yes, a full works team is different from our situation in 2018.

“But it is like in school: you look at the plusses and the minuses, and looking at all the plusses and minuses we made our decision, which we believe will be the best one for McLaren for at least the next three years.”

Toro Rosso will consider Honda requests on F1 2018 driver line-up

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Scuderia Toro Rosso chief Franz Tost says the team will take into consideration any requests from Formula 1 engine partner Honda when it comes to decide on its driver line-up for next season.

Toro Rosso and Honda announced a new engine partnership on Friday starting from next season, the Japanese marque having agreed a mutual split with existing customer team McLaren at the end of the year.

An off-shoot of the deal was Carlos Sainz Jr. moving up to Renault for 2018, freeing up at least one seat at Toro Rosso for next year, which currently also fields Daniil Kvyat.

Red Bull has used Toro Rosso as a first step in F1 for its young drivers, with 2016 GP2 champion Pierre Gasly waiting for an opportunity to step up.

Honda has also aided the career of Japanese racer Nobuharu Matsushita in recent years as part of McLaren’s junior program, leading him to be linked with the Toro Rosso seat.

When asked about Toro Rosso’s driver plans for 2018, Tost said that no decision would be rushed into, with considerations from all parties being taken into account.

“Currently we have two quite successful and competitive drivers with Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz, and I assume that they will finish the season with us,” Tost said.

“Regarding the drivers for next year, Red Bull will decide who is driving with us, and of course we will also take into consideration any request from our partners.”

While Gasly appears to be a shoo-in for one of the Toro Rosso F1 seats in 2018, Matushita’s chances of stepping up seem limited given the requirement to score 40 FIA super license points in a three-year period.

As things stand, Matsushita has four points to his name, scored for coming ninth in GP2 in 2015, meaning he must finish in the top three of the F2 standings this year to hit the required figure.

With four races to go, Matsushita is sixth in the standings, 37 points shy of third-placed Artem Markelov.

Honda’s 2018 F1 fortunes could dictate Ricciardo’s Red Bull future

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Daniel Ricciardo has conceded that Honda’s performances with Toro Rosso in Formula 1 next year could dictate his future amid speculation of a similar engine deal for Red Bull in 2019.

Toro Rosso, Red Bull’s F1 B-team, announced on Friday in Singapore it would be working with Honda from the start of next season, with the Japanese marque’s existing deal with McLaren being terminated by mutual consent at the end of the year.

The deal has been tipped as a precursor for a future link-up between Red Bull and Honda in 2019 following paddock suggestions that Renault will stop working with the team at the end of next season, having picked up McLaren as a customer team this week.

Honda’s struggles since returning to F1 in 2015 have been well-documented, causing the McLaren relationship to fracture due to a lack of performance and reliability from its power units.

With his contract set to expire at the end of next year, Ricciardo is set to be a key player in the driver market for 2019 when seats at every single team on the grid are due to be available.

Should a deal with Honda be struck for Red Bull, Ricciardo conceded he would take its performances with Toro Rosso into account next year when it came to deciding his future.

“I guess next year would be a pretty big year for that to assess what is going to happen, how they’ll look, how Honda is with where it’s at,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.

“You’d assess the situation and go from there. It’s so early to think about it.

“But I’ll think about it next year, and that’ll dictate where I go.”

When asked directly if Honda would be supplying engines to Red Bull in 2019, general motorsport manager Masashi Yamamoto admitted on Friday it could be an option.

“Our main goal now is to absolutely concentrate on 2018 and Toro Rosso. We are going to give our best to achieve our best performance together as a team,” Yamamoto said.

“But if there is a chance in the future to supply engines, why not?”

The only driver who looks locked in for 2019 is Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari, with the rest of the field being free agents come the end of next season, including Ricciardo’s current teammate Max Verstappen.

Ferrari is understood to have expressed an interest in signing Ricciardo before, potentially rekindling the Australian’s partnership with Vettel at Red Bull from 2014.

Mercedes will also have two free seats for 2019, with both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas’ contracts expiring at the end of 2018.

Talking about Red Bull’s current driver line-up, team boss Christian Horner said he saw no reason to make any changes moving forward, but that there were plenty of options should they be required.

“Both of our drivers are currently under contract at least for next year, and it’s down to us to produce a good car and be competitive. Then, of course, why would the drivers want to be anywhere else?” Horner said.

“We’re not short of options on drivers, but our preference is absolutely to retain the two that we have in the car at the moment.”