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Third is good but we still want to push Ferrari, says Claire Williams

Claire Williams says that her team can’t be too dissatisfied with the start of the season despite coming into it with ambitions to lead the chase of Ferrari.

The Williams has clearly been the third best car this season, although Valtteri Bottas did at least hold off the Ferrari of a delayed Sebastian Vettel in Bahrain last weekend to claim fourth spot.

“Those words frustrating and disappointing all come into play,” the deputy team principal told this writer. “But I think we’ve got to remember where we are and where we’ve come from. As much as last year was fantastic, especially at the tail end of it, Ferrari deserve to be in the position where it is, and we’ve just got to take the fight to them. We’re still third. Yes Mercedes are far ahead of us, but McLaren and Red Bull – two bigger teams with bigger budgets than us – are still behind us.

“We’ve just got to capitalise on these races, and I think we’ve done that in the four opening rounds, got the points we’ve needed to stay P3 in the championship, and we’ve just got to make sure we’ve got a strong development path in order to move forward. We’ve got an upgrade package for Barcelona, and then for the race after that.”

Williams was full of praise for the efforts of Bottas in Bahrain: “Valtteri did an amazing job to keep Vettel behind him for so many laps. It was fantastic. But you spoke to him afterwards and he was totally calm about it, and said it was easy! It was great for the team to have fought with Ferrari and come fourth, it was a real uplift for everybody.

“Felipe had a disappointing race from the start, as he had a gremlin with a sensor on the engine and had to start from the pitlane. And then he had an incident with Maldonado which meant he had some crash damage, which affected his pace throughout the race. But he still scored a point.”

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Horner says RBR interested in Ecclestone ‘parity’ engine plan

Red Bull Racing boss Christian Horner says he’s open to the idea of two types of engine competing in F1 from 2017.

Bernie Ecclestone wants to introduce a cheaper engine for the struggling midfield teams – potentially a V8 or twin-turbo V6, in either case with KERS – which would race alongside the current hybrid V6s.

Intriguingly, if the idea gains support it could open the door for Renault to make a version of such an engine. Given the ongoing problems with the Renault hybrid V6 that could potentially give Red Bull Racing an alternative future path, and a chance to level the playing field, depending on how the FIA manages parity between the two types of engines.

“It’s an interesting concept,” Horner told this writer. “We ought to have a good look at it and explore the pros and cons, to be honest with you. It’s happened before, and you might get certain engines competitive at different tracks, and it might move things around a bit. It’s certainly worth a good debate.

“It’s certainly interesting. I would think Renault would certainly consider it – it’s more of a question for Renault than it is for me. But I would have thought they would certainly consider it.”

The biggest challenge is how the FIA would ensure that there’s far competition between the two types.

“There are all kinds of permutations that clever engineers can come up with, but first of all let’s have a look at the concept. These days simulation is very accurate, we can simulate what the outcome could be, and then decisions could be made on an informed basis rather than guessing.”

Asked what the odds were on F1 ending up with two engine specs in the future Horner said: “No idea. Ask me in a month…”

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Ecclestone believes teams can run “cheap” engines in 2017

Bernie Ecclestone says that F1 engine options for 2017 remain open, despite Toto Wolff stating last weekend that all four current manufacturers want to keep a version of the current V6 for any new 1000bhp rules.

Ecclestone had been talking about a V8/KERS package, and that remains on the table as a cheaper option for struggling teams. There have also been suggestions that a ‘budget’ twin-turbo V6 with KERS could be made available to teams as a possible alternative.

In either case the idea is that these low-cost customer engines would run alongside their works counterparts. In other words we could have something like half the grid using the budget engines (assuming the likes of Williams and Haas stick their regular deals). It brings up the difficult question of how the FIA would ensure some form of parity.

“It depends what we’re going to do,” Ecclestone told this writer. “Toto does a lot of talking, but no action, if you know what I mean. It’s no good talking about, ‘This is what I’d like.’ They are one team.

“I never wanted to go back to V8s, I wanted to set up a single engine to be in F1, which they could run for let’s say 10% of what these manufacturers spend. It would be a different regulation, which would be cheaper. If the manufacturers then decide this would be a good thing, then that’s OK. Or if they want to supply [current] engines at a realistic price to the teams, then good.”

Asked about how two types of engine could compete in parallel he said: “We used to run turbos with normally aspirated engines before. You can do either.”

How the likes of Mercedes or Ferrari would react if they face stiff competition from a good team equipped with a ‘budget’ engine remains to be seen.

Meanwhile the discussions could also be seen as a way of putting pressure on the manufacturers to lower the prices for the current engines. Costs went up considerably in the move from V8s to the hybrid last year, and midfield teams feel that they are funding the R&D of the works operations.

“You never have everybody happy. At the moment they are doing a very good R&D project supporting by the teams that are paying. That engine will never be used in any car or a boat or anything. It was never designed to do that. Just the regulations were put out, the engineers got hold of it, and said this is what they can do. They’ve done a super job, but it has to be cheaper.”

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Kvyat will get stronger and stronger, says Horner

Red Bull boss Christian Horner says that Daniil Kvyat’s drive to ninth place in Bahrain will serve as a big boost for the Russian, who has had a difficult start to his first season with RBR.

Although Kvyat earned the same result in Malaysia this time he has to fight his way up from 17th after a troubled qualifying session.

“I think both drivers did a good job, they got everything they could out of it,” Horner told this writer. “The recovery Dany had from 17th was pretty good really. He drove a good race in Malaysia, but he’s had the lion’s share of bad luck. If anything’s gone wrong it’s tended to happen with him.

“It’s good for his confidence, a race like that. He just needs a clean weekend really, and the potential’s there. Then you’ll see him just get stronger and stronger.”

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Mercedes compromised brake cooling for performance, says Wolff

Toto Wolff admits that the changes Mercedes made to the W06’s set-up on Friday night in Bahrain contributed to the brake issues suffered by both drivers in the race.

Mercedes reacted to the Friday long run pace of Ferrari by trying to find speed and improve tyre usage for Saturday, and the race indicated that the team got its sums right. However some of the changes also made brake cooling marginal, and Nico Rosberg paid the price when he ran wide and lost second place to Kimi Raikkonen.

Lewis also had a problem on the last lap, but his lead was big enough to allow him to cruise home safely ahead of the Finn, although had it happened earlier he might have been in trouble.

“It was a good race and the changes we put on the car after a hard Friday into qualifying proved to be the right ones,” said Wolff. “The car was the quickest car today on both tyres. We certainly have to be happy with one and three, no doubt about it, but losing second place with Nico – everybody who ever doubted in Nico saw him at his best, fighting hard, overtaking, and losing that position because of a brake failure was a bit of a pity.

“We saw very hot brakes on Nico’s car in traffic, following Kimi and Sebastian first, and then lots of fighting and hard braking. So we monitored that. Then at the end with the backmarkers and lapping cars those brake temperatures went through the roof, and we had a brake by wire failure on both cars, in the same corner. It was on the hard braking on the straight, the temperatures went sky high, and when that happens the brake by wire switches into the conventional system, and then you are without weapons to defend with.

“You can’t do anything if the brake-by-wire collapses or fails and it goes to coventional, the pedal becomes long and the car doesn’t stop any more. This what happens to Nico.

“It’s set-up issues. We knew the changes we made on the car were compromising a little bit brake temperatures, so we knew what we were doing. But then it was a hard race, we had lots of overtaking, especially on Nico’s side. And then both cars struggled to make it through some of the backmarkers at the end of the race. You follow another car or you follow a couple of cars the air stream collapses, and this is why he made the brakes hot.

“On Nico’s car the brake failure didn’t come as a surprise, we saw high temperatures. On Lewis’s car it was a bit of a surprise, and it must have been linked to the fact that he gave it a gentle push seeing Kimi, and making his way through backmarker traffic.

Wolff admitted that Mercedes might now have to think again: “It is never one single solution so you try to tackle a problem, which we had on Friday, with a couple of adjustments. And one of them was linked to the capability of brake cooling. So in hindsight, knowing that this caused us the problem and nearly lost us the race, and it lost as P2, we will probably look at things again and do it differently in the future.”

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Maurizio Arrivabene: “We put together an aggressive strategy…”

Ferrari boss Maurizio Arrivabene says both his drivers would have finished on the podium in Bahrain had Sebastian Vettel’s race not been compromised by mistakes.

He also confirmed that Kimi Raikkonen’s strategy of using medium tyres in the middle stint was decided before the race.

“We had a clear strategy for the two drivers,” said Arrivabene. “Seb made two little mistakes, the big one was at the beginning so we were obliged to change the strategy for Seb. We told Kimi to follow our strategy, at a certain point he was not really convinced, and we said no, we stay as we are. He was brave enough and disciplined enough to follow, and it was a good result.

“With Seb we changed the strategy and we went to Plan B, but with Kimi we were following exactly what we preferred.”

Arrivabene said the team choose Kimi’s strategy after conditions turned out to be cooler for the race than in Friday practice, which led to the decision to use mediums in the middle of the race.

“Today we put together an aggressive strategy, and this is exactly what we discussed. Today we recognised the gap that we have with Mercedes, so the only way is to be aggressive, because at this stage you can make a mistake if you are aggressive. If you are not it’s not the right time. If one day, I don’t know when, we are able to catch them, of course the strategy must be put together in a way that is a bit different.

“You saw on Friday that our pace was quite good, but the temperature was different versus today. This is the reason why were changing the strategy that we had in mind before to the new one, due to the conditions of the track, which were changing. If everything was going well I’m sure we were going to have two drivers up to the podium. I don’t tell you which positions, but two drivers for sure. I don’t tell you the position because I don’t know! But one was very, very interesting.

“Regarding Seb I have to say he two little mistakes, but we don’t have to forget what he has done until now, he won one race, two podiums. Sometimes it happens, we are human beings, thanks God, and this is the beauty of the sport. I’m happy for Kimi because now I can officially, not that I signed a contract, that Kimi’s back. We have two strong drivers.”

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Lewis Hamilton: “I’m going to have my work cut out…”

Having qualified on pole in Bahrain Lewis Hamilton is hopeful that the Mercedes will be better on its tyres in Sunday’s race than it appeared to be in practice on Friday, when Ferrari had a clear edge on long runs.

The team made changes for today but the hot afternoon FP3 session was not representative, so the true test will only come in the race itself.

“There were a lot of small things that we changed overnight in the hope that they will make the tyres last a little bit better,” he said tonight. “The tyres are lasting fine, it’s just actually pure pace, so it’s getting more from the tyres. I was saying that in Malaysia we thought we were going to be ahead, and we ended up behind, then in the last race we thought they were going to be much stronger in the race, and they were no problem in the race… for me. But then tomorrow it appears that they are going to be strong. I don’t know which way it’s going to go, but I hope it’s the way I hope it’s going to go.”

Asked whether Sebastian Vettel or Nico Rosberg would be the biggest threat tomorrow he said: “Your biggest rival is always the guy that’s closest to you. When you go into a race your first concern is the one that’s closest to you. Even more so Sebastian because it appears that they were quicker on their long runs than we were. So I know that I’m going to have my work cut out while trying to stay ahead whilst looking after the tyres and making them go the distance.

“I don’t know how much he’s going to be on my tail. We might get round the first corner and it might be cool to be able to control it from then. In Malaysia each time I was kind of having to up the pace and he’d got an answer every time I did that. So I guess I won’t know until I get round the first couple of corners tomorrow.”

He also admitted that he doesn’t yet know where he might have an advantage over the Ferrari.

“To be honest I have no idea where their strengths are in terms of being on the track and seeing it. I’ve never really been behind them or with him to really know. The one little bit was at the end of one of the stints in Malaysia where he pitted and I came up the inside. So they’ve obviously got power on the straights. But otherwise I’ve not witnessed where the weak areas are of the car. But I would imagine they are probably comparable, both cars, in certain areas. Maybe tomorrow we’ll find out.”

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