Formula 1: Recapping the past week’s news

Photo: Getty Images
0 Comments

The season-opening Australian Grand Prix for the 2018 FIA Formula 1 World Championship produced somewhat of a surprise in race winner Sebastian Vettel, with he and Scuderia Ferrari taking advantage of a Virtual Safety Car to leapfrog Mercedes AMG Petronas’ Lewis Hamilton and hold the lead until the race’s finish.

News since then has revolved around the aftermath of the event, and a couple teams in particular found themselves under the microscope somewhat.

Below is a look at news from this past week following the Australian Grand Prix.

Haas Asserts that 2018 Car Is Not a Ferrari Clone

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 25: Kevin Magnussen of Denmark driving the (20) Haas F1 Team VF-18 Ferrari on track during the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park on March 25, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Haas F1 Team has had an association with Ferrari, in that they use Ferrari power units, since it’s debut season in 2016. And a few circles, particularly McLaren F1’s Fernando Alonso and Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner, believe that relationship has become a little close, with claims that Haas’ VF-18  is a little too similar to last year’s Ferrari SF70H.

Haas team principal Guenther Steiner hit out at those critics this week, dismissing such claims in no uncertain terms.

“They see ghosts,” he told BBC Sport. “(They say): ‘The car looks very similar to a Ferrari from last year.’ So should we have copied their car, which is behind us, or should we go with a car that goes pretty quick? Give me an answer to that.”

Steiner added that teams are only being critical of them because of how fast Haas has looked early on, especially in comparison to teams with bigger budgets.

“If you have to justify your incompetence, attack is the best defense,” he asserted. “If somebody has double the amount of money and is behind us, whoever owns the team should be asking, ‘what are we doing here?'”

Haas showed impressive speed in Australia, with Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean running inside the Top 5 five before the team cross-threaded wheels on their pit stops, leaving wheels loose on both cars when they re-entered the track and forcing them to retire.

Sergio Perez Confident That Force India Can Rebound from Tough Opener

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 23: Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Sahara Force India F1 Team VJM11 Mercedes on track during practice for the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park on March 23, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)

Sahara Force India, which has been the “best of the rest” and finished fourth in the constructor’s championship in each of the last two seasons, stumbled out of the gates in Australia.

Neither Sergio Perez nor Esteban Ocon qualified inside the Top 10 – they were 13th and 15th respectively – and neither finished inside the points, finishing 11th and 12th after failing to show the speed that has been on display since 2016.

Perez, however, thinks Australia was more of a blip than a forerunner of things to come.

“It was quite an unlucky weekend for us, but there are still positives to take from this race,” Perez said in a piece posted on Crash.com. “We came close to bringing home a point although it was just out of reach.”

Perez added that he had the pace to challenge for a points finish in the closing laps, but with overtaking proving difficult, he couldn’t find a way around Renault Sport F1 Team’s Carlos Sainz Jr. as they battled for tenth, the final points paying position.

“I was pushing throughout the whole race and especially chasing Sainz in the final laps. I got really close to him, but it wasn’t enough. Overtaking in Melbourne is very difficult – you could see the same with Bottas who couldn’t pass me during the first stint,” he explained.

Perez also noted the Virtual Safety Car as a factor in their struggles, highlighting that it worked against their strategy.

“The Virtual Safety Car also didn’t help us at all, but that’s just how things go sometimes,” he revealed. “I am still happy with my performance and the job we did as a team. We will need to move on and keep improving, but I believe we will soon be in a position to battle for points.”

Santino Ferrucci to Continue as Haas Development Driver

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND – JULY 12: Santino Ferrucci of the USA prepares to drive the Haas F1 Team Haas-Ferrari VF-16 Ferrari 059/5 turbo on track during during F1 testing at Silverstone Circuit on July 12, 2016 in Northampton, England. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

On the American front, Santino Ferrucci, set for a full season in the FIA Formula 2 Championship this year after joining the series midway through the 2017 season, will continue as a development driver with the Haas F1 Team.

“My goal since I began racing is to become a Formula 1 driver, and to be an American who is part of an American team is something I take a tremendous amount of pride in,” Ferrucci said in a piece posted on Crash.com.

The 19-year-old is a former winner in the British Formula 3 Championship and has completed two in-season test sessions for Haas – at Silverstone Circuit in 2016 and at the Hungaroring in 2017.

Ferrucci added, “My time with Haas F1 Team has really prepared me for my first full F2 season with Trident, and between the two teams I feel like I’m in the best position to succeed and, ultimately, get to Formula 1.”

Follow@KyleMLavigne

NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E and Ian James set to race ahead of electric motorsports’ curve

James McLaren Formula E
McLaren Racing
0 Comments

As Formula E enters their ninth season and McLaren Racing is set to compete in last year’s championship winning car, Ian James is passionate about pushing electric motorsports forward at a critical stage as race technology begins surpassing that of the street cars.

Midseason, McLaren acquired the assets of the Mercedes-EQ team as they were already on their way to winning a second consecutive championship. With those assets in place and coming off a successful debut in the Extreme E series, James is set to usher in a new era in electric car racing.

Last week’s announcement that Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast behind the wheel of the NEOM McLaren Formula E team was the last piece of the puzzle.

McLaren’s electric portfolio is building with the Formula E team coming one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour. There were a lot of lessons to learn in that series with growing pains during the first three of five rounds. Rounds 4 and 5 were a completely different matter with the team crossing the finish line first in Chile before being assessed a time penalty.

In the final round in Uruguay, they scored an elusive podium.

“McLaren kicked off the season in Extreme E at the beginning of this year, so our first [electric] race took place Neom, actually out in Saudi,” NEOM McLaren Racing Team Principal James told NBC Sports. “At the time, we were in very early discussions about opportunities with the Formula E team. I actually went out there to meet with Zak [Brown, CEO McLaren Racing] and that was my first taste of Extreme E.

“Since the transition, I joined them in Chile in Atacama Desert, and then Uruguay last weekend. [The second-place finish was] a lovely way to round out the season. The fact that they got that podium. It was very well deserved. It’s a great team and a great series actually. It’s just so very different from anything else. The team’s done a great job in getting set up, and it’s nice now to, we’re trying to use that momentum that we’ve got from Uruguay to get us into next season when it kicks off next year, which will be great. I think we’re mid-March is looking like the first race, so a little bit of time to get things prepped for that.”

 

James McLaren Formula E
The NEOM Mclaren Racing Formula E team was created through the acquisition of last year’s championship car from Mercedes-EQ. – McLaren Racing

Synergies exist between the single seater and rally series. Lessons learned about battery power and sustainability in the electric SUV carry over so long as one is mindful of keeping focus on the individual needs and nuances of each series.

Especially now that electric racing technology has caught up, and is ready to surpass, the existing technology that has gone into building street cars.

When internal combustion engines gained the upper hand soon after automobiles were invented, racing paced alongside. The pressure of competition pushed the development of their commercial equivalents. The same has not necessarily been true of electric cars. Street cars were not designed to undergo the same stress as racecars – and that vulnerability showed up on the racetrack.

“Formula E has come along a long way,” James said. “I think one of the most notable developments is in the battery technology. In Gen 1, you had the drivers jumping from one car to another car midrace because the battery technology and capacity simply wasn’t where it needed to be to do the full distance. That obviously changed in Gen 2 and we saw a power increase as well to the 250 kilowatts.

“Now going to Gen 3, we have 350 kilowatts in a smaller battery. But that means that we’re relying on the regeneration of energy and for that reason, we’ve got also the opportunity to regenerate on the front axle as well as the rear axle now. So, there’s all sorts of things that are developing in the right direction.

“In terms of throttle response, actually, we’re now in a situation with electric racing and the motors that it’s instantaneous. And one of the advantages of electric over combustion engine is that the torque is instantaneous as well, so that gives you a lot more room to play with.”

No matter the power source, racing has always been about resource management. Drivers and teams select tire strategies they believe produce the fastest elapsed time and fuel conservation comes into play.

On one hand, electric racing is the same, but there is a critical difference. With the battery as both the power source and an integral part of the engine, there are multiple reasons to manage it.

In electric racing, the brain of the car is the software – and that is where James sees the greatest room for advancement.

“As we are working with our drivers and engineers – and start to look at functionality to improve our efficiency and our performance, that’s something we’ll continue to push because that development is open throughout the season,” James said. “That’s going to be our focus going forward and provides enough of a challenge for us to get our teeth into.

“What’s going to be fascinating is as Formula E continues, is to really look at which areas of development on the car are going to be the most relevant and ensuring that we can focus on those together with the manufacturers so we continue and use the series as a platform for technical development that can then feed back into the road car side of things as well.

“At the end of the day, that’s what motorsports always been, a very powerful tool for, and I see Formula E as no exception.”

James McLaren Formula E
Jake Hughes and Rene Rast were chosen for their ability to drive fast and execute the necessary strategy for energy management. – McLaren Racing

Selecting Rast and Hughes as McLaren’s Formula E drivers was not simply because they know how to drive fast. James believes both drivers have the mental aptitude to execute energy management strategies throughout the race and squeeze maximum performance.

“As with many other motorsports, you’ve got a certain amount of energy that you’re able to deploy during the race and the management of that energy is absolutely crucial,” James said. “What we’re seeing typically in electric motorsports now is the hardware side of things. The efficiencies that we’re seeing in the powertrain as a whole, they’re getting up to the sort of 96%, 97%, 98% efficiency, so the gains that you get through that further and further become more marginal.”

With much more room for improvement, software is a different matter. To make the best decisions, the drivers need data, and that is where James believes McLaren Formula E will make their greatest impact.

“And then you really switch that focus to the software and that’s where you’re going to see the most the most improvement and the most gains,” James continued. “It’s then using that software to ensure that you’re deploying the energy in the most efficient manner during race, and thereby giving the driver the most performance. And that’s something which is incredibly complicated, but I find it a fascinating area to work in.

“The benefit of being involved in racing is you can really push the envelope in a way that you can’t do on road cars. And I think that that’s where that value comes in. It means that you accelerate the development a lot quicker. We will get ahead of the curve – and we are getting ahead of the curve now – and that will mean that the electric motorsports remain part of the overall development process.

“The key to that is also making sure that the racing’s exciting and fun for the fans. If we can, we can tick both of those boxes, then it’s got a very bright future ahead of it.”