Kevin Magnussen, Haas, Circuit de Catalunya, 2018

Boullier notes progress made by Haas and Renault

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In the round-up: McLaren racing director Eric Boullier says the field has closed up in 2018 and names two of the team’s rivals which have made the most progress in the off-season.

What they’re saying

McLaren racing director Eric Boullier gave his assessment of the progress made by the teams in pre-season testing and named two of their midfield rivals among those who have made the most progress:

Obviously we are trying to guess where we are. It’s difficult to understand because of the tyres situation, temperatures, engine mode, fuel load. It’s complex this year, more complex this year than ever.

It looks to me like there is some teams who progressed well like Haas, Renault. I think the fight at the front will still be between Mercedes and Ferrari and Red Bull. The pack gets closer. And I think we believe we belong in the middle of the front.

Boullier said this before Fernando Alonso’s run on the final day of testing which left McLaren with the second-fastest time overall and made them the most-improved team in terms of year-on-year gains.

Renault made the second-largest improvement in terms of lap time and Haas achieved a comparable gain, though Toro Rosso and Sauber also showed similar progress:

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Comment of the day

Sunday’s IndyCar race prompted a lot of debate over whether F1 should adopt similar, lower-downforce cars. But not everyone is convinced the series has got it quite right just yet:

The racing at the St. Petersburg Grand Prix was interesting but there were too many yellow flags stopping and starting the race. That was one of the factors that cost Wickens the win.

The cars look better for sure but they removed 1,000lbs of downforce when they removed the aero kits. Most of the down force is now generated from the undertray. This may work great on the ovals because the air is less dirty but the knock on is lower traction at slow to moderate speeds. The cars were sliding all over the place so Indy needs to either increase the mechanical grip or give more wing to the cars for the road courses.

Hopefully they will make adjustments as the year goes on. I don’t want Indy to become NASCAR with everyone beating and banging into each other because the rear of the car is so loose.
Mark in Florida


Robert Wickens, Schmidt, IndyCar, St Petersburg, 2018
Robert Wickens, Schmidt, IndyCar, St Petersburg, 2018

Robert Wickens didn’t win on Sunday but he made a big impression on the IndyCar field.

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On this day in F1

  • Nelson Piquet won his home race for Brabham onthis day in 1983, while Keke Rosberg was disqualified from second place

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  • 67 comments on “Boullier notes progress made by Haas and Renault”

    1. If Ricciardo starts to get embarrassed by Verstappen straight off the bat, I wonder how that will affect his contract negotiating position. I’m not saying he will…..but….it will be an interesting thing to see develop. I expect fireworks on similar to Webber if we see history begin to repeat itself. Dan may get frustrated and look to move elsewhere rather than sticking around for another year. Maybe that is why he is holding off.

      1. Honestly, Ricciardo should be considering a move already. If Red Bull are in a title race, they throw their weight behind one driver, and going by the recent trend, it will be Max Verstappen. Max is a phenomenal talent, and I’m sure Dan knows that beating him is a massive task.

        I would love to see Ricciardo in either Mercedes or Ferrari. I think he’d give Lewis a real run for his money and would still be a strong team player for Mercedes. His title chances are also at their highest while driving for the Silver arrows. Would be great to see him instead of Kimi in that 2nd seat at Ferrari as well. I’m pretty sure that do a stellar job, unfortunately, a little too stellar for Vettel’s taste… which is why I see Vettel trying to block his move to Ferrari.

        1. No!!! Please, not “in that 2nd seat at Ferrari”! I just can’t stand the thought of Daniel as Number 2 driver at Ferrari. If he goes to Mercedes then at least he has a chance of winning the WDC.

          1. How should wait out a few years till old drivers like Alonso and Hamilton(whose retirement rumours have started again) retire. Then he’d become the key to the driver market.

        2. FlatSix (@)
          13th March 2018, 8:51

          Except he’s a number two at Red Bull already, and would also be at both Ferrari and Mercedes…

        3. @todfod

          I’m pretty sure that do a stellar job, unfortunately, a little too stellar for Vettel’s taste… which is why I see Vettel trying to block his move to Ferrari

          Pure speculations. It’s true that Vettel and Raikkonen do have a very good friendship and Vettel will always push to have Raikkonen as a teammate but no one in Ferrari (including Arrivabene) but Marchionne has a say when it comes to the driver’s line up. I don’t see why Vettel will block Ricciardo from joining Ferrari because as far as I remember, they did have a very good relationship at RBR too.

          1. @tifoso1989
            The only reason Vettel likes Kimi is because he’s a washed up has been who has no problem with playing 2nd fiddle to Seb. There is no way Vettel would risk getting beaten by Ricciardo again. I can guarantee you he will do everything he can to make sure a sub par #2 driver remains in that seat. We’ve seen how Seb gets when he’s got a competitive teammate.. Ala Webber. He wasn’t particularly happy when partnered up with Ricciardo either. It seemed to be a year of massive frustrations and radio rants for him that season.

            In the end it boils down to the amount of faith Marchionne has in his #1 driver. If Vettel has a repeat of his 2016 season, I could see Marchionne getting a proper talent to shake Vettel up. If he has lived up to Marchionne’expectations, he’ll get a driver of choice in that 2nd seat.

            1. @todfod Please be so kind to provide us with one single source stating Vettel actually has plenty of influence on the driver choice that it is indeed him keeping Kimi his career alive. He had nothing to say about Webber his contract, neither about Ricciardo coming or Kimi staying. it’s very simple a myth kept alive by fans.

              In the end this boils down to a ‘Oh look Hamilton is open to race anyone, and Vettel is making sure he gets a second rate driver next to him’. Well, you see how fine it went with Rosberg, and where Mercedes is now, but nobody is suggesting Hamilton forced the issue there simply because Hamilton is so kind to ‘explain’ the media he’d race ‘anyone’, whereas Vettel is only being asked whether he likes Kimi. Which fans immediately translate to ‘making sure he stays on contract’.

            2. @todfod Kimi may be “washed up” poor fellow, but I just learned today that he is worth over $200 million, more than even Lewis Hamilton and 2nd only to Fernando. I could only dream of being that “washed up”.

            3. @baron

              I’m not talking about how much money F1 drivers have. I’m talking about their ability when they step in the car. If you think Kimi isn’t washed up, then you haven’t been following the sport closely enough since 2014

            4. @flatsix

              Man… Ferrari are the 2nd most coveted team on the grid. Do you think they have the 3rd or 4th best driver on the grid in that 2nd seat? If Ferrari really wanted the 2 best drivers in those seats, do you think that Kimi is the best candidate? You have to ask yourself why they haven’t replaced him with someone more capable. Is it because they don’t want better results? Or is it because it keeps Vettel happy and harmony within the team?

              Ferrari have always been a team that supports one driver. They did it during the Schumi era, Alonso era and now Vettel era. The only break they took from that philosophy was in 2007-2009. (Ironically, when they had their best results).

            5. FlatSix (@)
              14th March 2018, 8:15

              @todfod To begin with I don’t think Kimi is as bad as many like to make it seem, Vettel is simply better, and so was Alonso in 2014. So taken all things into account I don’t see who would be experienced enough right now to perform at Kimi his level, bring in the cash, and provide excellent development feedback. Sure there are plenty of young hotshots in the pipeline but none of them are exactly what Ferrari needs, nor are they proven race winners. It’s fairly obvious Mercedes agrees with their philosophy too.

              What you must understand is I’m not arguing Ferrari (and Mercedes) their 1st/2nd driver philosophy, but I do detest the idea ‘Vettel is veto’ing everyone who he doesn’t like to make him look better’-myth.

        4. @todfod

          If Red Bull are in a title race, they throw their weight behind one driver

          Wouldn’t say that happened in 2010

          1. @davidnotcoulthard, @todfod Neither did it in 2011, 2012 or even 2013. As a massive Webber fan, it’s not easy to swallow but Vettel was just a class above.

          2. Winggate?

            1. aren’t those the things that are used in tube and train stations?

        5. @todfod, So you are saying that Daniel couldn’t beat Max but could beat Lewis or Seb if he moved to either of those teams? In essence then, you are intimating that Max Verstappen is already the de facto top driver on the grid? How disheartening for the other 19 drivers. I don’t believe Daniel will achieve anything more by moving teams to either get away from Max or to sit in the best car. His competitive spirit will be telling him that in order to be considered a true champion, he has to beat Max in the same team, in the same car otherwise any results he achieves will be stigmatised. That’s a very big ask when you have Marko pulling the strings, but what an incentive! It’s what I would choose to do anyway. Bring it on!

          1. All this talk of number ones and number twos…hey I get it and have observed it from many angles throughout the years…several ways drivers get designated this way.

            But call me naive if you want but I have no reason to suspect that KR, VB, and DR are about to be prevented from nailing their setups in Australia and dominating their teammates, at least from the car and opportunity standpoint, not trying to open a debate about talent. Just opportunity. I have little doubt all three perceived number twos will have equal equipment to their counterparts and it is up to them to raise their game.

          2. @baron

            So you are saying that Daniel couldn’t beat Max but could beat Lewis or Seb if he moved to either of those teams?

            Dan has already beaten Vettel.. and I’m sure he could do it again. Lewis is definitely an uphill task, but at Mercedes, he would get the same level of treatment as Hamilton in the title fight. (As displayed by the support Rosberg got from Mercedes when he was going up against Lewis.) At Red Bull, I doubt he’d be given the same amount of preference Verstappen gets.

            In essence then, you are intimating that Max Verstappen is already the de facto top driver on the grid?

            It’s just an opinion, but I’d rate Hamilton and Verstappen as the two top drivers on the grid currently. I’d only expect Verstappen to get stronger though.. which will make him even more difficult to beat in the seasons to come. As mentioned, it’s just my opinion.

            1. @todfod Just my opinion, but I do not think it is a given by any stretch that DR could ‘beat’ Vettel again, and I think it was unique circumstances that caused DR to best SV in 2014. I do not think whatsoever that SV would ‘fear’ DR based on 2014.

              We recall SV was extremely frustrated and vocal in 2014 as were the likes of Horner wrt Renault. Partly too, they were thinking the changes made for 2014 were to try to stop the RBR Championship train, as F1 is famous for doing when a run gets too long and predictable and turns fans off.

              I envision an SV that came off 4 WDC’s in a row in a WCC car that fit him like a glove, only to find in 2014 that he now had a dog on his hands that in no way whatsoever resembled his glory cars. Try putting yourself in his shoes and see how happy you’d be when you open your garage door in the morning only to find your ‘Ferrari’ has been taken away and now you’re driving a Lada. How inspired and joyful would you be going to work (often not even making it there) in that, after what you have become accustomed?

              Then DR comes along and he doesn’t know from WDC winning beauties, and all he knows is he’s in the best car on the best team he’s ever been on, and there’s no pressure. Do less than SV and it’s expected, do more and it’s gravy.

              I have no doubt whatsoever that SV would handle DR quite well in a more apples to apples circumstance were it to arise in the future.

              You and I are very much on the same page wrt Max though.

            2. @robbie
              Honestly, I don’t buy in to any conspiracies or explanations regarding Vettel’s motivation for 2014. He’s always focused and on it, and there is no way in hell he would have any motivational issues when it comes to beating his teammate, regardless of his championship chances.

              It also discredits Ricciardo’s achievement of stepping in to Vettel’s team and beating him pretty convincingly throughout the year. He out qualified him, out raced him and I remember him putting a sweet overtake on Vettel on Monza to add salt to the wound. I think Dan would do the same if he reached Ferrari.. but as I said Vettel won’t let it happen.

            3. @todfod Fair comment. I didn’t intend my opinion to indicate I thought SV was not motivated, and certainly no conspiracy, but I just think he must have been ultra frustrated, and without question the car was rarely there for him whereas for DR he thought he was in something great compared to what he had before.

              Put another way…SV didn’t suddenly forget how to win in 2014, nor how to beat a teammate. There must have been an awful lot to do with the car for him to have such a turn in fortune, and as drivers get coloured by their cars we now have seen a more competitive SV last year, as the car became more competitive. And ya, still that guy prone to frustration, no?

    2. Re: COTD About the cars losing 1000 pounds of down force and doing a lot of sliding around, I think a lot of viewers would say that they found that aspect the race to be quite entertaining. I’d be surprised if most of the drivers weren’t enjoying it as well. It should also be noted that despite the loss of down force, a new track record was set by Jordan King during qualifying.

      1. Agreed! Drivers fighting and cars sliding around is exactly what I want to see.

      2. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
        13th March 2018, 7:23

        Absolutely what’s more entertaining than loose cars and gladiator drivers wrestling them. Hats off to Indy.

      3. Exactly.

      4. In a street circuit with tight corners ot was to be expected that a new lap record would be broken, after all as you say, the cars had less drag

        1. Regarding the COTD, sound logic but the lap record was actually broken – by Jordan King, beating Will Power’s 2016 time.

      5. Also agree and note that this is when the driver becomes more important than the car.

    3. PeterRogers
      13th March 2018, 1:18

      RE: Indycar.

      People say the cars were moving around a lot over the weekend & attribute it to the new car, However when you go back & watch previous years footage from the St.Pete circuit you see the cars moving around pretty much just as much.
      St.Pete has always been one of the lowest grip tracks that has always featured a lot of slipping & sliding, Especially through turn 1 where there has been a lot of silly contact over the years caused by the low grip & bumpy surface.

      When you look at the bits of in-car footage from the new car testing on permanent circuits they actually look to be moving around significantly less & seem just as stable on those types of tracks as the old car was.

      And an oval (Pheonix).

      I think it’s far, far too soon to be heralding the new car as a success or a philosophy others should follow. The race on Sunday was good, I don’t think it was as great as some seem to think & i’m not sure the race been what it was is necessarily all due to the new car.
      I just suggest we give it some more races, Maybe even to the end of the year when we have a more full picture before we start heralding the new car as been some great revolution or something.

      1. Agreed.

        The suit looks good from very afar, and I couldn’t see how nitid the autograph is. On the footnotes it states that the suit was worn in the f1 87 season but there’s no guarantee that it won monaco, it be hard to prove it just looking at monaco 87 footage. First monaco victory, yet is the Toleman one more desirable?

      2. I agree, we won’t know whether the new car is a success until at least a few more races. After all, the “new car” is basically two new cars, with the oval spec being completely different, and we’ll won’t know how that works out until Phoenix.

        But at St Pete? That 2017 visor cam is night and day compared to the 2018 car. The minimum cornering speeds are dramatically, visibly higher in 2017, braking points are later, and hardly any throttle modulation is required on the exit.

        I know some people have argued that it was the full course cautions and not the new car that contributed to the entertaining race—but those cautions happened, in large part, on account of the new car being harder to drive. It’ll be interesting to see if the drivers adjust at the other street circuits over the course of the year.

        Frankly, though, if nothing changes on the permanent circuits, that’s not a knock on the new car—there was nothing wrong with the racing on road courses with the old car, either. They put on a good show even at Barber, which wasn’t even designed for cars—let alone high downforce single seaters.

    4. I saw an interview that Marshall Pruett did with Firestone chief race tire engineer Cara Adams, in which she said that they are going to address the cars tail-happiness during the season (which is the right way to go instead of adding rear DF imo), although due to lead-times, it will take some time to do.

    5. “Last year manufacturers tried with four engines and less races, and this year we have more races and less engines,”
      – There’s a difference of one race only, though, so people (not only Tost but Horner as well) should be talking about it in ‘singular’ form rather than ‘plural’ form.

      ‘Last year manufacturers tried with four engines and one less race, and this year we have one more race and one less engine’ sounds more natural.

      1. @jerejj – I’m probably mansplaining this (and sorry for that)… but while it would be more honest and accurate for Franz Tost to state it the way you’ve done, it doesn’t play into the angle that the two Red Bull teams are trying to pitch :-)

        Both teams are powered by engines that were the least reliable in 2017 (and previously as well in the latest era), so they’ll do anything to vilify rules that reward engine reliability.

        1. @jerejj, @phylyp well put, thought pretty much the same while reading the article.

          Still, will be interesting to see whether Red Bull goes with 4 engines,and also how this works in the midfield. I doubt Mercedes will need to go that way, unless in a situation like Brazil 2017. Ferrari would be ironic if they had to, I guess. You’d think they worked hard to not have the same unreliability at end of season.

        2. FlatSix (@)
          13th March 2018, 8:53

          @phylyp ‘mansplaining’, or clarifying, explaining, communicating,… hate the word.

          1. Read it as “stating the obvious” if that makes you feel any better @flatsix :-)

        3. @phylyp bang on.

          It’s not like Tost isn’t naturally doubtful of the regulation, it’s that he’s playing a role. RB not so much pressure the rule makers, RB twists the fan’s perspective. Using the fan’s “planted” opinion to boost their cause.

          Like horner saying fans wanted more downforce for better racing and then in 2017 pre season every one realised overtaking was going to be harder.

      2. I wonder what would happen if the teams got together and decided to take the penalties in the same races?

        1. @velocityboy – while that is a noble and idealistic wish, one must realize these are teams competing for prize money.

          Engine penalties give every team a chance at picking up a few points, which is money.

          Why would the 3 front-runners coordinate their penalties, if it means that by not doing it at the same time the other teams could grab a larger chunk of points. This could mean an elusive race win or podium for one of the #2 drivers in those 3 teams, for instance.

          Likewise, in each category (front-runners, midfield, tail-end), there is more of an incentive for teams to take penalties at different times. Of course, certain tracks might play into this decision as well, so it is likely that multiple teams take penalties at the same track (e.g. a new engine at Monza).

    6. Haas should be able to fight for P4 – Steiner

      Very ambitious but also realistic at the same time when taking the times on last two days of testing into account.
      I am actually interested to know if they can really achieve greater heights this season–consistent finishes in the top 10, fighting for points with Force India and may be even Renault.
      I think the mid field is going to extremely competitive this year. Amidst all this, Force India might be the biggest loser if their yet-to-be tested upgrades do not click at Albert Park.

      1. Pretty much spot on.

        Hopefully if the racing at the front turns into a borefest the TV directors will focus more on the midfield battles – they should be pretty good indeed. (And dont write off FI yet, they’ve made an art form of out performing their budget with a combination of great drivers and brilliant team management, something that most of the others haven’t quite been able to manage)

      2. As an American, I truly hope the Haas is solid, but my worries are much more rooted in the drivers. Grosjean may be able to produce, never been overly impressed with KMag however. Hopefully he can show consistency and get some good results. Both drivers are probably fighting for their F1 careers. Renault’s driver lineup in a similarly paced car worries me.

      3. @webtel, “yet to be tested upgrades”, I think “yet to be funded” is sadly more likely to be accurate.

        1. Just read Keith and Dieter’s article on how an additional 15m pounds can take them to third. But i think the understanding is that you can still be the best of the rest without that additional funding–as they have proved time and time again. What worries me is the lack of proof of the same in Barcelona during those two weeks of testing. Fingers crossed.

    7. So the toro rosso – honda honeymoon is already over.

      In other news I really hope haas has been able to improve their car enough to make it P4 contender. The P4 group is the most exciting racing battle (probably the only one as well) this year. Mclaren, renault, force india and maybe even haas and williams fighting for that 4th spot. The division 1 front runners are too far away (merc, fer, rbr) and the rear of the pack division 3 with toro rosso and sauber won’t be fast enough for the middle pack. Mercedes will win the division 1 but the division 2 could be good fun to watch.

      1. how did you went from “we expect deliberate penalties with Honda” to the honeymoon is over

        I would be surprised if other manufacturers weren’t already planning were to take the penalty of that 4th engine, they were counting on them last year, they will be expecting them even more this year

        1. Merc and ferrari are pretty confident they can do the season with the engines they have. Renault teams might hope they make it through without penalties (but know it is unlikely). But toro rosso already knows they have no chance making it without penalties. No chance.

          The honey moon is over. The realities are starting to dawn on them. Sooner or later they find themselves into the position mclaren found themselves. Focus on tight aero tracks (monaco, hungary) and throw away the faster tracks and use them for testing and engine penalties.

          1. @socksolid Did they really have a honeymoon which abruptly ended though?

            Besides unlike McLaren Toro rosso wasn’t created to do to RBR what they did in 2008

            1. I did not say abruptly. I said the reality is starting to dawn on them. Please read more carefully.

          2. The honeymon is over? It’s not really though is it, Renault (Team) has already said that it is looking to do the same which means that McLaren and Redbull will probably end up following suit.

            Aside from that, Gunther Steiner said that it is due to the engines loss of power over that many races rather than from an unreliability problem.

          3. I think that STR and Honda deciding together if/when to take a tactical PU engine change is showing that they are still happily married. A bit like a couple struggling to conceive discussing the options of IVF or abortion.

          4. A faultless, high mileage test hardly seems a good reason for discord.

        2. I envisage tactical engine changes, for example if a driver under performs/crashes/is blocked and goes out in Q3, may as well take another engine for later in the season.

          1. Interesting. If they stuff it in quali, might as well change the parts and take the penalty. Makes a lot of sense for circuits that the team knows they are uncompetitive in. oro Rosso could dump an engine and take grid penalties in power circuits, only to have a fresher inventory of engines for circuits they will be competitive in.

            Interesting approach, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see teams adopt this approach next season. Cunning strategies to deal with an absolutely disastrous regulation change.

      2. Mclaren fan?

    8. Love how everyone is bagging STR and RBR about their opinion on three PU’s.

      I suspect it’s an absolute given that Mercedes, Ferrari, RBR and quite possibly most of the customer teams will closely monitor PU performance with the view to selecting “strategic” venues for an engine swap just like they did last year.

      It wil probably happen even more this year in the midfield because the midfield will be so tight – the difference between a bag of points and no points will probably be “who has the freshest PU” & some will gamble that a start from the back for some races will give them a better chance at points at a venue that suits them.

      So it’s not whining or negativity, it’s a reality that PU strategy will play a significant role this year.

      1. deMercer (@)
        13th March 2018, 10:46

        So it’s not whining or negativity, it’s a reality that PU strategy will play a significant role this year.

        @dbradock Well said.

      2. Merc and ferrari also have the opportunity to introduce and switch to updated engine versions at the best moment for them. Last season merc could introduce an engine that have them a lasting oil burning advantage that nobody else on the grid had:
        Customer teams don’t have that luxury and most of the time they don’t even have the option to upgrade because merc and ferrari don’t have engines for them (on purpose).

        As such customer teams are more likely to have engine issues because if they have engine issues they either need to switch to new older version while their competitor gets a new newer version of the engine. So for the next 5 races or so they are at disadvantage with older engine versions. Disadvantage here being reliability. So a single engine issue could easily transpire into multiple engine penalties over a season just because one engine issue can put a team off schedule with the engine manufacturer updates.

        1. So a single engine issue could easily transpire into multiple engine penalties over a season just because one engine issue can put a team off schedule with the engine manufacturer updates.

          Not really as the engines are rotated, just because they lose an engine doesn’t mean that they have to run the replacement at the next venue/session.

          1. Every time you break an engine part you have to commit to using similar but new part. Every time you switch an engine part you commit to using the new similar one instead of waiting for possible upgraded version.

            For example if the engine manufacturer introduces improved engine mid season but you had a failure before that then you must finish the season with the less reliable old part or take the penalty. Or more likely you get the penalty anyways because your older less reliable engine breaks as well before the season is over.

    9. ”Haas should be able to fight for P4 – Steiner” – I doubt it.

    10. Mark in Florida
      13th March 2018, 16:37

      Thanks for the comment of the day Keith. In response to some comments I’m not opposed to the cars moving around and having limits. What I am opposed to is turning Indy car into rubbish with all of the bumping and banging going on. Close and exciting racing is one thing but taking out your rival and claiming my car was loose is something else. I want the cars to be balanced and to handle well with whatever amount of down force that is allowed by the series. Balance can be achieved either through overall down force or better mechanical grip. I just hope that Indy will evolve it as the year goes on to get the balance right.

    11. Late to comment on this, but the reason you should expect Honda penalties is because Red Bull will want to see how the engine develops. So it would make sense to take a penalty or two to see if the next version keeps improving.

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