Mercedes to test Malaysian driver Friday at Silverstone

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You might remember earlier this year when Mercedes participated in a secret tire test that was later exposed and became the spring’s biggest F1-related scandal?

Well now, Mercedes will be doing the first running of Formula One’s offseason too. Except this time, it will conform to the regulations.

The team will test Friday at Silverstone with Malaysian driver Jazeman Jaafar, 21, using a 2011-spec W02 chassis (one two years old) with demonstration tires. Jaafar is backed by Mercedes’ title sponsor Petronas, and has competed in British F3 and the World Series by Renault in 2013. His best WSR result was third at Monaco, and he also finished sixth at this year’s Macau F3 race.

Jaafar’s test will be the first for a Malaysian in F1 machinery since Fairuz Fauzy had five Friday free practice one outings with the Lotus (now Caterham) team in 2010. Alex Yoong is the only Malaysian to have started a Grand Prix, competing with Minardi from 2001 to 2002.

Understandably, this test means very little in the grand scheme of things considering that teams can’t test their 2013 chassis following the last checkered flag of the year at Brazil about a week and a half ago. Additionally, teams have yet to get any running on the new-for-2014 Pirelli compounds, and details are still being worked about to figure out when that can happen and with what machinery.

Still, in a month where there’s little on-track action going on around the world, it will be interesting to see how Jaafar gets on.

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.