Steady Hulkenberg looks to continue points streak in Austria

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Nico Hulkenberg’s efficient season continued in Canada with a fifth-place finish, and as Austria now looms, the German driver is hopeful that his season-long streak of scoring points will carry on.

“We are in a very good position to keep scoring points, but we will need to keep our guard up and keep working hard as we did from the start,” he said recently.

“There will be tracks where we will be stronger and where we can capitalize on the opportunities we have, and tracks that will be more of a challenge.

“I know what plans the team has for the rest of the season and I see no reason why we cannot keep battling at the level we are at now.”

Force India currently sits fourth in the Constructors’ Championship and is looking up directly at Ferrari, which holds an 87-77 lead for third. Below them is McLaren, which is fifth in Constructors’ with 66 points.

As for the upcoming Austrian Grand Prix, Hulkenberg is optimistic that the Red Bull Ring will play to his car’s strengths.

“Together with Russia, this race is one of the big question marks for everyone this year,” he said. “The track has some long straights and a few slow corners that should suit us, and we can count on making the most of softer compounds as we did in Canada.

“When you go to a new track, it’s even more important to maximize the practice sessions because there is so much more to learn. The lap is quite short so the gaps between the cars will be minimal and even small mistakes can make a big difference.”

Also betting on a solid performance once again is Hulkenberg’s boss, Vijay Mallya, who isn’t expecting a major shake-up of the pecking order in Austria.

“…Cars that have been competitive so far will retain their advantage,” he said. “The track layout seems likely to be favorable to the characteristics of the VJM07, but the competitive order is very tight and we will need to be performing at our best to come away with a good result.”

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.