Stroll confirmed as Williams development driver

Williams has confirmed that Lance Stroll has left Ferrari to join its Young Driver Development Programme, as had been rumoured for some time.

The team says that the 17-year-old Canadian will be “fully immersed” into Williams, in the same way that Valtteri Bottas was when he first joined in 2011.

His programme will include “extensive simulator time, work placements in several departments throughout the factory, as well as specific training in the fields of race engineering and marketing.” Meanwhile he will continue to race in European F3.

Deputy team principal Claire Williams said: “At Williams, we are committed to using our resource and expertise to help talented young drivers to reach their potential. We have a track record of success in this area, having supported Valtteri Bottas in his growth from a development driver role to a race driver and one of the most respected talents in Formula One.

We have identified Lance as a promising talent for the future and we are happy to provide our support to his development as a driver. We look forward to working with Lance in 2016 and to the success he can achieve in the future.”

Stroll added: “I cannot wait to start working with Williams and very much hope we can achieve great things together in the coming years. It’s a very exciting and crucial time in my short motor racing career. Reaching F1 was always the ultimate goal, I suppose ever since driving a go-kart my father had bought me for my fifth birthday.

Williams has a long history of nurturing young drivers at the start of their F1 careers. David Coulthard, Jenson Button, Nico Rosberg, Nico Hülkenberg and most recently Valtteri. This element was something that was important to me in making the decision to join Williams.”


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Alternative engine rejected by F1 Commission as manufacturers promise own ideas

The FIA has confirmed that the controversial plans for an alternative “client” engine for 2017 did not gain approval from the F1 Commission yesterday, as had been expected.

Given that a majority was required it was always likely that the votes of the teams would stop the alternative plan, which is being championed by the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone.

Instead the manufacturers have agreed to tackle the key issues that the alternative engine was supposed to address. They have to submit a proposal by January 15, with the first meetings on the subject taking place in Abu Dhabi this week.

Significantly manufacturers will have to supply a minimum number of teams, if required.

Regarding the alternative engine plan, the FIA noted: “The meetings acknowledged the four credible Expressions of Interest made for the manufacture and supply of a less expensive alternative customer engine.

“The F1 Commission voted not to pursue this option at this stage – however, it may be reassessed after the Power Unit manufacturers have presented their proposal to the Strategy Group.”

The latter reference makes it clear that the alternative idea could yet be revived if the manufacturers do not come up with answers.

The new proposal will seek to address the issues that the alternative engine was aimed at, most importantly cost and guaranteed supply.

It could be argued that such an outcome is exactly what Jean Todt and Ecclestone wanted in the first place, and that the threat of the alternative engine has in effect done its job.

The FIA noted: “The parties involved have agreed on a course to address several key areas relating to Power Unit supply in Formula One. These areas are:

– Guarantee of the supply of Power Units to teams
– The need to lower the cost of Power Units to customer teams
– Simplification of the technical specification of the power units
– Improved noise

“The manufacturers, in conjunction with the FIA, will present a proposal by 15 January, 2016 that will seek to provide solutions to the above concerns.

“The proposal will include the establishment of a minimum number of teams that a manufacturer must supply, ensuring that all teams will have access to a Power Unit.

“Measures will also be put forward to reduce the cost of the supply of hybrid Power Units for customer teams, as well as improving their noise.

“All stakeholders agreed that the developments will aim for the 2017 season at the earliest, and 2018 at the latest.

“The first meeting between the FIA and the Power Unit manufacturers on this topic will be held this week at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.”


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Cosworth says “no thanks” to FIA’s 2017 F1 engine plans

Cosworth Engineering co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven says the company has decided not to pursue the FIA’s alternative engine route for 2017 – because the costs involved would not justify a development programme.

The key issue is that Cosworth would have to start from scratch, as it does not have an engine which could be used as a starting point for an F1 V6 project – in contrast to other known bidders Ilmor and AER, who respectively have Indycar and LMP1 engines that could form a base (see earlier story).

We took a look at it and looked at who the potential customers would be,” Kalkhoven told this writer. “And the answer is essentially Red Bull, as they don’t have a long-term engine contract. Then we looked at the economics of developing an engine from scratch, which is what we would have to do.

The economics of it just don’t work out. It would cost roughly £20m to develop from scratch, with everything else that goes with it. You’ve also got to pay for the on-track support, as well.

It’s also too short a time to produce an engine unless you’ve already got a design. We could do it, but the company is extremely busy at the moment, and to take on a speculative investment without the return that our other projects bring is not good business sense. So we have politely declined the opportunity to lose money!”

Meanwhile Kalkhoven acknowledges that it will be hard for the FIA to create parity with the hybrid V6s: “How they would manage to balance the performance of two sets of engines is completely baffling.”


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AER and Ilmor respond to FIA call for budget F1 engine supplier

Advanced Engine Research has joined Ilmor Engineering in responding to the FIA’s call for expressions of interest for an alternative F1 powerplant for 2017.

The FIA wants an engine of up to 2.5-litres which produces around around 650kW (or 870bhp) and does not feature energy recovery.

The call is the first step to issuing a full tender, after which a winner will be chosen. However it remains to be seen how the required change of rules will be voted through at next week’s F1 Commission meeting – although the FIA may yet try to force it through the World Motor Sport Council without getting the majority support of the Commission, on the basis of force majeure.

Ilmor’s submission was expected, given that it is closely associated with Red Bull and has a V6 Indycar engine which could form the basis of an F1 project.

UK-based AER held the GP3 engine contract from 2013-’15, and was a serious contender for the current GP2 deal before losing out at the last minute to Mecachrome. AER also provides the Indy Lights spec engine, and supplies both the Rebellion and Kolles LMP1 teams. It’s a smaller capacity version of the latter WEC engine, a twin-turbo V6 known as the P60, which will form the basis of the proposed F1 engine.

AER’s engineering manager Andrew Saunders has extensive F1 experience as he was previously with Ilmor, and he worked closely with McLaren in 2001-‘7as track support manager.

AER are very interested in the proposal from the FIA,” company CEO Mike Lancaster told this writer. “We’re putting in a submission for it. The request seems to fit nicely with our latest V6 GDI engine.

They’re looking for something which produces a lot of power, and we have an engine that can do that. The WEC engine is the P60, the engine we’re proposing is called the P66, which is a higher revving version of that. It will be ideal for the job, we believe.”

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Williams won’t appeal against Massa exclusion

Williams F1 had decided not to appeal against the FIA’s decision to exclude Felipe Massa from his eighth place in the Brazilian GP for a tyre temperature and pressure irregularity.

The team served notice to appeal on Sunday in Brazil and then had 96 hours to decide whether to go ahead. Although the team is convinced that it had not committed an offence and that it has the evidence to prove that, it has decided that it wasn’t worth formally pursuing the matter given that the lost points make no difference to the constructors’ championship situation, and that there would be legal costs involved.

The FIA deemed that the team was in breach of Article 12.5.1 of the FIA Formula One Technical regulations, Article 3.2. of the FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations and Article 12.1.1.i of the FIA International Sporting Code after the right rear tyre was reported to be at 137C, or 27C above the maximum tread temperature of 110C.

However, the team had data that indicated that the temperature had not gone above 107C.

Williams said today: “Following detailed consideration the team has concluded that despite not agreeing with the exclusion and believing it has sufficient evidence with which to successfully contest the ruling, it will not formally appeal the decision as a hearing date is unlikely to be available until after the end of the season impacting a time when the team wishes to turn its attention to its 2016 campaign.

Given the financial climate of the sport, and the fact that the decision does not impact the team’s Constructors’ Championship position, it has been decided that this would be an unnecessary cost to endure.”

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Renault willing to supply Red Bull – but Horner still eyeing Honda

Renault Sport boss Cyril Abiteboul says he would be happy to continue with Red Bull Racing next season despite the uncomfortable relationship between the two parties – but no decision has been made as yet.

Most signs still point towards Red Bull ultimately opting to stick with its current partner, albeit potentially running the engines unbranded next year.

However RBR team boss Christian Horner has not yet given up on getting a second supply from Honda, despite the Japanese manufacturer indicating in recent weeks that time had run out. Red Bull remains convinced that Honda can make big steps next year, after its disastrous first season.

The biggest hurdle to such a deal remains the veto on the identity of Honda customers that is held by McLaren, and which clashes with an agreement between Honda, the FIA and FOM that it would extend to a second team in season two, if requested to do so.

Ecclestone remains convinced that his agreement trumps any between Honda and McLaren, and he confirmed to this writer in Brazil that he was “still talking to Honda” on Red Bull’s behalf.

If Honda does ultimately fall through then Red Bull’s only hope would be to continue with Renault, despite the ongoing friction between the two parties. The disappointing performance of the upgraded engine used by Daniel Ricciardo was just the latest frustration for RBR.

Nevertheless Renault is prepared to look to a brighter future.

“I’ve always been clear that there was no appetite to burn bridges with Red Bull,” Abiteboul told me. “Clearly I’m not going to confirm anything for now – when we will be in a position to announce something, we will do so, obviously.

“In my opinion it’s clear that we want to change things, and we want to be pragmatic and opportunistic also in our approach. And if there is a continuation of the Red Bull relationship, it will be for a good reason, and there can be a mix of very good reasons. I would encourage everyone to look forwards rather than to look backwards – to look to the positive impact that it could bring Renault, rather than the negative impact that it could have had in the past.”

The issue of running the engine unbranded is a complex one, given that manufacturers are in the sport as works teams or as suppliers to customers in order to generate PR.

“As long as it good PR, and you could argue that both from a product quality perspective but also from a PR management perspective with our partners. But I don’t want to go further than that.”

Abiteboul insists that the hefty chunk of cash that would come from Red Bull is not the key reason why Renault would remain involved with its long time partner in addition to its new arrangement with Lotus.

“Very often sales in F1 are at a loss. I think what is fair to say is that we have a huge amount of work ahead in terms of engine catch-up, and I think that it’s better to have a couple of teams rather than just one team, for the very simple reason that it multiples the number of miles that you do, and therefore the learning curve.”

That same philosophy could equally be applied to Honda. Renault appears to be last resort for Red Bull, but Abiteboul says he’s not worried about the prospect that in the end, RBR may yet go elsewhere.

“Frankly I know the discussion that we’ve had together, I don’t know the discussion with other people. Our life as I said could be maybe improved slightly, or it could be positive or not for Renault if we continue to work with Red Bull. If we don’t, it’s not a drama.

“So frankly I’m not paying too much attention to all the rumours of Honda. There have been so many that if I had to stop reading every time there was a rumour I would be suffocating right now!”


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Fernley: Force India aiming to improve on fifth in 2016

Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley believes that the team can target Williams next season, given that the Grove outfit is also a Mercedes customer.

Force India achieved its highest ever World Championship placing this year, having formally secured fifth place in Brazil. It had previously finish sixth on three occasions, although under its previous identity of Jordan the Silverstone-based team finished as high as third in 1999 and fourth in 1998, as well as achieving fifth in 1991, 1994, 1996, 1997 and 2001.

This year’s result gives the team guaranteed extra funding from FOM for next year, while more useful support will come with the Aston Martin deal, if and when it is confirmed.

“It does show that there has been a genuine step-up,” Fernley told this writer. “Our powertrain is probably the best in the business, so I don’t think there are any issues there. And I think chassis-wise we are a genuinely top four or five car. To take the next move into the top four requires another step, but we’ve got the assets to do it today.

“What we have to look at is setting our sights on whether or not we can compete with Williams, because they are a similarly-funded team with similar assets, albeit a bit more in-depth because of the amount of investment they’ve put in over the years. Clearly we want to close down on them. I think we’ve been chipping away at them over the second half of the season.”

Fernley says that switching the wind tunnel programme to the Toyota facility in Germany was a key factor in this year’s performance, and he stresses that it was important to get that transition out of the way well before teams start preparing for major aero changes in 2017.

“It’s the result of enhancing the aero programme in Germany. I think you’re seeing the results of that coming through now. For us it was very fortunate to do it last year, because this year it would have been very difficult with the new regulations coming in 2017. We just got the timing right for the first half of the season.”

Meanwhile in the short term confirmation of fifth place will allow the team to do a little more development work at the final weekend of the season.

“I think it allows as more freedom for Abu Dhabi. I think you can afford to do a little bit more testing work in the sessions and things like that. Whenever you do testing in FP1 and FP2 sessions you tend to compromise the race set-up or the qualifying set-up.”

Regarding the status of the Aston Martin deal he said: “I don’t think we can offer a better package to Aston. The decision now is between their shareholders and the Force India shareholders.”

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