McLaren and Honda upbeat despite Jerez problems

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The new McLaren-Honda partnership got off to a less than impressive start in Jerez this week at the first F1 pre-season test, but both the team and the engine supplier are pleased with the initial running of the new MP4-30 car.

Honda returns to F1 after six years away in 2015, and reforges one of the most successful partnerships in the history of the sport with McLaren, the team with which it won eight world titles in the late eighties and early nineties.

The first test in Jerez saw both parties encounter a number of problems, meaning that the team could complete just 79 laps across four days. In comparison, front-runners Mercedes put in 515 laps in the same period.

Nevertheless, McLaren engineering director Matt Morris was pleased with what had been achieved in Jerez.

“Unfortunately, we’ve had a few issues this week – all of which have been pretty small – but cumulatively they meant we were stuck in the garage for quite some time,” Morris said. “Still, our prime objective coming away from this test was to ascertain that the main car architecture worked, and we’ve done that.

“One of the great benefits we’ve had in designing this car is the amount of work we’ve been able to undertake in close collaboration with Honda – particularly in terms of packaging.

“Jenson’s been able to give Honda some really good feedback – he’s been constantly providing analysis after every run. That’s to be expected: it’s a new power unit, so there’s a lot of information that being sent back to Japan, and Honda are constantly upgrading the car. We head to Barcelona hopeful of further refining and developing the package.”

Honda chief Yasuhisa Arai was not surprised to experience teething problems with the new power unit in Jerez, and is confident that the team will be stronger come the second test of the year in Barcelona.

“Looking back at the first four days of testing, I’m both happy and relieved that we’ve been able to get the car here and watch it run on the track – it’s a new car and a new power unit, so a huge undertaking for many people in both Sakura and Woking. I’m proud of all their efforts.

“Of course, we’d anticipated there would be issues – this is a test, after all – but the difficulties we faced here were more than we’d expected, so we weren’t able to get the running time we’d ideally wanted. Nonetheless, Fernando and Jenson’s feedback has been positive and comprehensive – they’ve given us some very good information.

“There’s now an incredible amount of positivity within the organisation. We’ll return to the track in Barcelona – with some modifications – and will be stronger at the next two tests.

“I’m extremely pleased to see Honda back where it belongs – in Formula 1.”

The second pre-season test in Barcelona kicks off on February 19th.

Michael Schumacher’s son to make F1 practice debut at Nurburgring

F1 Mick Schumacher
Joe Portlock - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images
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MARANELLO, Italy — Mick Schumacher, son of the legednary seven-time champion, will have an official Formula One drive during an F1 race weekend for the first time next week at the Nurburgring, Alfa Romeo and Ferrari said Tuesday.

Schumacher gets the practice drive in an Alfa Romeo on Oct. 9 on his home track in Germany as a member of Ferrari’s young driver program, taking over Antonio Giovinazzi’s car for the first session of the weekend.

“I am overjoyed to get this chance in free practice,” Schumacher said in a statement. “I’m going to prepare myself well, so that I can do the best possible job for the team and gain some valuable data for the weekend.”

The 21-year-old Schumacher leads the Formula 2 standings after winning races in Monza and Sochi. He won the European Formula 3 championship in 2018 and tested a Ferrari F1 car in Bahrain in April 2019. He also has done demonstration runs in his father’s old cars, most recently this month ahead of the Tuscan Grand Prix in a championship-winning 2004 Ferrari.

Michael Schumacher holds the F1 record with 91 victories, which Lewis Hamilton is on the verge of tying.

Ferrari said two other drivers in its academy program will also get practice drives in Formula One.

Callum Ilott, a British driver who is second to Mick Schumacher in F2, will drive an F1 Haas at the Nurburgring on the same day as Schumacher. Russian driver Robert Shwartzman will drive in practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Dec. 11, though Ferrari hasn’t said for which team.

The German round was added to the F1 schedule after the coronavirus pandemic disrupted the season and will be officially known as the Eifel Grand Prix after a nearby mountain range. The Nurburgring last hosted F1 in 2013.