Category Archives: Grand Prix News

Lotus much easier to drive on limit now, says Chester

Lotus technical director Nick Chester is confident that the team has made a big step with the E23, and not just as a result of the timely switch from Renault to Mercedes power.

Chester says that the chassis is much improved, and compliments the stronger power unit.

“This year is looking a lot better, the power unit is a big step forward,” said Chester. “The chassis is also a step forward, the drivers can get a lot more from it and it’s easier to drive on the limit, as well as being more predictable.

“We spent some of the test exploring the E23’s suspension geometry and it has a lot of effect on the balance of the car in the middle of the slow speed corners. We’re also making the car less sensitive for the drivers so it’s easier to extract performance.

“The power unit has strong performance and response and it’s extremely reliable, we’ve only used one unit throughout testing. Its installation is nice which gives us some benefits, such as the way we’ve organised our cooling system.”

Chester admitted that there had been some challenges associated with the change of supplier, especially related to cooling and installation: “The response of the power unit in addition to peak power does play a significant role and we have found that tuning our control systems has been made easier with a very responsive power unit.

“I don’t think our approach changes as we’re always aiming to make the car better. The area where we didn’t take too many risks was the engine installation. We wanted to be reasonably comfortable with cooling and we’ve been quite conservative ahead of Melbourne. The rest of the car is our usual approach, pushing the boundaries as we try to keep finding improvements.

“It’s been a challenge to fit the engine as the rear surface of the chassis is quite different and we had to do a lot of work to have a neat installation. We’ve gone back to air to air charge air cooling because the packaging switch to Mercedes power on a short timeline meant we had to find a simple solution.”

Chester says that the E23 has already been significantly upgraded, and that bigger updates are coming for Malaysia and China.

“It has changed, there’s been some updates throughout testing and some more minor ones are on the way for Melbourne, with the bigger upgrades planned for rounds two and three.

“We have a normal programme through the race weekend, it won’t be particularly conservative and will be about maximising the car. We take a view based on risk for fitting development parts, sometimes there is minimal risk for extra performance so parts can be introduced immediately. Sometimes there can be a downside and you need to accumulate mileage for a few practice sessions before fitting for qualifying and the race.”

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Magnussen gets his chance as Alonso misses Melbourne

McLaren has confirmed that following medical advice Fernando Alonso will not take part in the Australian GP and will instead focus on being ready for Malaysia a fortnight later.

Alonso will be replaced in Melbourne by Kevin Magnussen, who tested the MP4-30 in Barcelona last week.

Meanwhile the team continues to insist that there is nothing wrong with Alonso, and that the delay in his return is just a precaution.

A statement from the team said: “Having performed an exhaustive series of tests and scans – some of them as recently as yesterday evening – McLaren-Honda driver Fernando Alonso’s doctors have informed him that they find him asymptomatic of any medical issue; that they see no evidence whatsoever of any injury; and that they therefore describe him as entirely healthy from neurological and cardiac perspectives alike.

However, Fernando’s doctors have recommended to him that, following the concussion he sustained in a testing accident at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on February 22nd, for the time being he should seek to limit as far as is possible any environmental risk factors that could potentially result in his sustaining another concussion so soon after his previous one, so as to minimise the chances of second impact syndrome, as is normal medical procedure when treating athletes after concussions.

In order to limit those environmental risk factors, specifically, his doctors have advised that he should not compete in the imminent Australian Grand Prix meeting, which will take place on March 13th, 14th and 15th.

Fernando has understood and accepted that advice, and the two McLaren-Honda cars will therefore be driven in Australia by Fernando’s team-mate Jenson Button and the team’s test and reserve driver Kevin Magnussen.

Fernando’s doctors acknowledge that he feels fit and well, and that he regards himself as ready to race, and, that being the case, they are comfortable with the fact that he has already recommenced physical training, with a view to preparing for a return to the cockpit of his McLaren-Honda car for the Malaysian Grand Prix meeting on March 27th, 28th and 29th. Indeed, his doctors are supportive of that ambition, satisfied as they are that he sustained no damage whatsoever during his testing accident on February 22nd.

All at McLaren-Honda fully support Fernando’s decision in respect of his doctors’ advice.”

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Williams to give Wolff more FP1 outings

Susie Wolff is to have two more FP1 sessions with Williams this year, in addition to one of the four in-season test days.

Wolff will again be in action at the British GP, and will also have a chance to drive on Friday in Barcelona. Last year she drove at Hockenheim – a venue she knew from the DTM – but with the German GP’s future still uncertain, the team has clearly decided to allow her to drive at another track she knows well. She has already driven the FW37 at one of the winter test days in Barcelona.

Wolff will also drive on one of the test days immediately after the Austrian GP. Teams are obliged to devote two of the four in-season test days to rookies.

“Last season Susie impressed with her performances during FP1 at Silverstone and Hockenheim and we were keen to give her another chance to test in 2015,” said deputy team principal Claire Williams. “She knew the FW36 well and with the FW37 being a gradual evolution, we were keen to utilise this knowledge and get her in the car to help assess and validate the approaches we have taken.”

Wolff added: “Our focus this year is to build on the success of 2014 – I’ve been training hard all winter and I am physically in the best shape I’ve ever been, so I am ready for the season ahead. As Official Test Driver I will have additional time in the FW37 and by correlating this with my work in the simulator, the team can ensure we are getting the best from the car and check how updates are performing. All of us drivers on the Williams roster have been working closely together on this and we are ready to give everything we can to the 2015 season.”

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Vettel on Alonso: “I couldn’t see how the accident started…”

Sebastian Vettel now says that he was too far behind Fernando Alonso’s accident in Barcelona to have seen what happened – and he insists that he only caught the end of it.

Earlier comments from Vettel to the effect that the car was going slowly when it suddenly turned right fed conspiracy theories in the days following Sunday’s accident.

However a video taken at Turn One on the lap that Alonso crashed showed that Vettel had gone wide, let Alonso past and returned to the track some distance behind the McLaren, suggesting that he was still some way behind when the accident started.

Today Vettel was asked if the wind was strong enough to put a car off line.

“Yes I think it was,” he replied. “I think Carlos [Sainz] had an accident where he lost the car. It was very windy on that day. I’m not sure what exactly happened. I was right behind, but didn’t really see. I was a bit too late, so I couldn’t see how the accident started. I only saw the last bit where he was hitting the wall. But what happened before, I don’t know, I can’t judge whether he lost the car with the wind or not.

“I went straight away after it happened to see the McLaren people, and basically told them what I saw, and asked if Fernando was OK. At this stage we didn’t know. Obviously still shocking to hear that he still needs to recover, but the most important thing right now is that in general he is fine.”

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Magnussen stands in as Alonso misses Barcelona test

Fernando Alonso left hospital in Barcelona today, but McLaren has confirmed that the former World Champion will miss the test that runs for four days from tomorrow.

He will be replaced for the test by third driver Kevin Magnussen, although Jenson Button will definitely drive on the first day.

A short statement said: “Following his testing accident at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya last Sunday, we are pleased to confirm that Fernando Alonso has now left hospital. He has returned to his family’s home in Spain for further rest and recuperation.

“As a result, he will sit out this week’s final winter test, at which he was due to share driving duties with Jenson Button. Kevin Magnussen, McLaren-Honda’s test and reserve driver, will replace him.

“Jenson will be testing the McLaren-Honda car tomorrow (February 26), and the team will confirm the full day-to-day running order in due course.”

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Stevens confirmed as Manor F1 aims for Australian GP

Manor Marussia F1 has announced that it plans to be in Melbourne – and that Briton Will Stevens will be one of the race drivers.

In the light of the team not being permitted to run its 2014 chassis it has worked away quietly to prepare a legal one. It’s understood to carry over much of last year’s car, which is a logical step, given the time constraints.

It had been widely assumed that the team would have to miss the early races before it could be ready.

Intriguingly Marussia appears to have been retained in the team’s name, presumably to avoid the legal complications of dropping it completely in favour of Manor.

The team said: “The car with which Manor will begin the season is now in an advanced stage of build at the team’s current race preparation facility in Dinnington, UK, where personnel are working 24-7 towards the air freight despatch date of 6 March.”

It added: “The approval by the Company’s creditors on 19 February 2015 to a Company Voluntary Arrangement paves the way for the team to exit from administration and since that time everyone involved with Manor has been working flat out on the key components of its 2015 challenge.”

Stevens was a Marussia reserve driver before making his F1 debut with Caterham in Abu Dhabi.

He said: “It’s very exciting to see everything coming together at Manor after the tremendous effort that has gone into saving the team. It would not have been possible without the incredible support we have received from all the suppliers and from within the sport, but most of all the fantastic team of people at Manor who are working around the clock to ensure we are ready for Melbourne.

“My thanks to the team for their confidence in me and I can’t wait to see all the hard work rewarded when we line up on the grid in two weeks’ time.”

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Gerard Ducarouge 1941-2015

Legendary F1 chief designer Gerard Ducarouge has passed away at the age of 73. The colourful Frenchman is best remembered for his work with Ligier and Lotus, where he was responsible for a string of race winning cars.

Born in October 1941, Frenchman Ducarouge qualified in aeronautical engineering. He first came to prominence with Matra, where he designed the cars that won Le Mans in 1972, ’73 and ’74.

After Matra closed its works team he joined Guy Ligier, who was creating a Matra-powered F1 car for 1976. Ducarouge designed the JS5, famous for the ‘teapot’ airbox that it used in the first few races of the season. Jacques Laffite took pole for that year’s Italian GP, and then gave Ligier its first GP victory with the JS7 in 1977.

Ducarouge is perhaps best known for the JS11. The car dominated the early part of the 1979 World Championship in the hands of Laffite and Patrick Depailler, although later in the year the team was overhauled by both Ferrari and Williams. The updated JS11/15 was also a frontunner in 1980, when Didier Pironi joined the team. Laffite then won two more GPs in 1981 with the JS17.

Ducarouge subsequently fell out with Ligier and joined the works Alfa Romeo F1 team, where he designed the 182, with which Andrea de Cesaris took pole at Long Beach.

In May 1983 he turned down the chance to join Renault and instead made a move to Lotus. The team had lost founder Colin Chapman at the end of the previous year, and new boss Peter warr was keen to find a ‘name’ to help placate sponsors JPS. In fact he had been offered a job by Chapman himself in the past, but had turned it down.

Employing a more methodical approach than that associated with ideas man Chapman, Ducarouge helped Lotus create the 94T almost overnight in the middle of the 1983 season, working with Martin Ogilvie. In 1985 Ayrton Senna joined the team, and the Brazilian formed a close bond with Ducarouge. Senna scored his first GP wins in Portugal and Belgium with the Renault-powered 97T. Ayrton added four more successes over the next two years with the 98T and the Honda-equipped 99T, before moving on to McLaren.

Ducarouge himself left Lotus after a disappointing 1988 season and joined the team run by his former Matra colleague Gerard Larrousse, before returning to Ligier for a second spell in the early nineties, where he was involved with the JS39 that ran in 1993-’94. Subsequently he drifted away from F1 and rejoined Matra to work on other projects.

A charming and stylish man, he was much admired and respected in the paddock.

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