Dubai Autodrome poised to host pre-season tests

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Reports from the Hungaroring this morning suggest that the Dubai Autodrome will host two pre-season tests next season as part of a change to the regular schedule after rain disrupted the teams’ preparations this year.

According to British broadcaster Sky Sports, a deal has been reached to take Formula One to Dubai for the first time in an attempt to give teams ideal conditions in which to test in. In recent years, the scheduled pre-season tests have all taken place in Spain at the Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona and Jerez de la Frontera. Although these circuits do provide a good test for the drivers and cars, the weather has proven problematic and this affected many of the teams ahead of the opening round in Australia this year.

As reported by NBC over six weeks ago, the Dubai Autodrome expressed an interest in holding at least one test in order to increase F1’s popularity in the Gulf region. With Bahrain and Abu Dhabi currently hosting grands prix, the region is quickly becoming a hot-bed for Formula One, although it may not be so popular with the fans in Europe who like to attend pre-season testing as a cheaper alternative to grands prix.

This news also suggests that Bahrain could be in line to host the opening round of the 2014 season with teams travelling from Dubai to the Sakhir International Circuit in the middle of March.

F1: Red Bull Racing confirms switch to Honda engines next season

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Honda will become Red Bull’s engine supplier from next season after the Formula One team confirmed its anticipated split with Renault on Tuesday.

The Japanese manufacturer will supply engines for 2019 and 2020, and Red Bull team principal Christian Horner hailed the deal as “an exciting new phase” in the bid to return to the top of F1.

“After careful consideration and evaluation, we are certain this partnership with Honda is the right direction for the team,” Horner said in a team statement. “We have been impressed by Honda’s commitment to F1, by the rapid steps they have made in recent times with our (feeder) team Toro Rosso.”

It is a boost for Honda, which was unceremoniously dumped by McLaren at the end of last year.

Honda has started this season brightly as engine provider for Toro Rosso, and this may have been a key factor in Red Bull finally ditching Renault.

“Honda’s alignment with both Red Bull Formula One teams provides enormous potential,” Horner said. “Honda will have access to a wealth of data from both outfits, with Aston Martin Red Bull Racing leading the way, and the opportunities for faster, more effective and more competitive development are doubled.”

The deal brings to an end Red Bull’s 12-year partnership with Renault.

Although relations became increasingly strained between the two parties in recent years, it was once a dream partnership as Red Bull and Renault won four straight drivers’ and constructors’ championships with Sebastian Vettel behind the wheel from 2010-13.

During that glory era, Vettel and teammate Mark Webber won 47 grand prix. Since 2013, results have somewhat dried up and there have been only 10 race wins.

“We have sometimes had our differences but Renault has always worked tirelessly and to the best of its ability to provide us with a competitive power unit,” Horner said.

He was not always quite so complimentary about Renault. He has regularly and publicly criticized Renault’s reliability in recent years – although it has been hard to judge sometimes.

Red Bull showed good speed toward the end of last season when Max Verstappen won two races, and teammate Daniel Ricciardo won this season’s Chinese GP with a brilliant drive. The difference in speed between Red Bull and Mercedes appears less than before, although Ferrari remains noticeably quicker.

Verstappen’s form has picked up after a poor start to 2018, marred by crashes, and he has taken third place in two of the past three races.

Meanwhile, McLaren’s partnership with Renault has not been as successful as they anticipated after dropping Honda following three fruitless seasons together.

Two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso has failed to finish the past two races and has yet to place higher than fifth. Renault teammate Nico Hulkenberg has a best finish of fourth place.