Button and Alonso see Monaco as chance for McLaren

Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso both agree that the Monaco GP could give McLaren Honda its best opportunity for a good result in the near future.

It goes without saying that outright power is less critical in the principality than elsewhere, but the fact that the MP4-30 chassis is consistent, and inspires confidence, is also important.

“I think already in Barcelona you will see a good step,” said Button when asked by this writer. “But we’ve got a lot happening before Monaco with the car, so hopefully there will be a good step, not just with the power, but also with the aerodynamic grip. I’ve got a good feeling about it.

“There are a few areas where the car needs to be stonger right now for Monaco, if we’re going to go there tomorrow, but it will be an interesting place to drive this car, defintely. It’s such a tricky circuit to find the limit, and if you have a car that you are confident in, it makes a massive difference.

“I remember Jean Alesi in a Prost doing a really good job round there because he had confidence in the car and the balance was there. It worked for him and it gave him confidence, and that’s a thing that you need around there. You need it anywhere, really. Most drivers are talented, but it’s a real mental game, especially at Monaco, because it’s so unforgiving.”

“Lower power effect circuits will help us at the moment,” said Alonso. “So Monaco is the first circuit that we may enjoy a little bit better result. We’ll see. I think we need to think race-by-race, and Barcelona at the moment is the first step.”

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Hamilton ends long Arai helmet relationship as he swaps to Bell

Lewis Hamilton appears to have compromised his 20-year relationship with helmet supplier Arai by swapping to Bell.

Hamilton has long had a “gentleman’s agreement” with the Japanese company, who supply free helmets and service to F1 drivers, but have a policy of not paying them a fee on top.

Despite his Arai history Hamilton has been experimenting with a Bell in testing and practice sessions this year. However, Bahrain was the first time he used one in qualifying and the race.

Drivers usually take into account the aerodynamic properties of helmets – they are part of the complex interaction between the windscreen and the airbox – and Hamilton suggested in Bahrain that was important when asked if comfort, aerodynamics or a commercial arrangement influenced his thinking.

“It’s not something I’m willing to talk about at the moment,” he said when asked by this writer after he used a Bell in qualifying. “Because I haven’t made any decisions. I was just trying… As a driver you want to improve everywhere, and the [Arai] helmet’s not been in the wind tunnel.

“I’ve had Schuberth trying to get me to try their helmet as well. Ultimately you all know I’ve been with Arai since I was 10-years-old, a long, long, long time, but they don’t develop as Schuberth and the others do, and I like that, I like helmets that are developing and improving. That doesn’t mean that Arai… Arai’s still a damn good helmet and I’ve been with them a long time, and you see me swapping back, because I always go back to the old reliable.”

However the following day he opted to use the Bell in the race. Sources suggest that Arai’s Japanese management regard that decision as a tipping point, and that the company can no longer support Hamilton. In addition his comments about lack of development did not go down well. One source said: “The ‘undeveloped’ helmet won the last five World Championships…”

The Bell Racing Europe F1 operation now has strong Bahraini links and has recently opened a new facility adjacent to the Sakhir track, so getting a big name like Hamilton on board is clearly good business. However the management could not confirm that it has a new formal arrangement with the World Champion.

However the company’s Facebook page left little to the imagination when it noted: “Fabulous results for our Bell drivers Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkönen at Bahrain GP 2015.”


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Sergio Perez: Bahrain was “one of my best races”

Sergio Perez scored a solid eighth place in Bahrain

Sergio Perez scored a solid eighth place in Bahrain

Sergio Perez believes his drive to eighth place in Bahrain was one of the best races of his F1 career to date, given Force India’s form this year.

The Mexican, who also finished a superb third in the same event last year, had started from 11th on the grid. He managed to do two stops when several of those around him, including team mate Nico Hulkenberg, went for three.

“Today was one of my best races in terms of managing the tyres and managing the pace,” he said. “It was amazing what the team did, how we did the two-stop, because we never thought that was going to be possible. We thought we just too far away, the car was just sliding too much, and we were too slow on Friday. We picked up a lot of the pace and we managed the degradation, so I’m very happy with today’s performance.”

Explaining why things worked out so well he said: “I think this track suits us well with the engine. It’s not such an efficiency track. When we get to Barcelona we will struggle I think, but today was a very good opportunity to score points, and we did it. I think we as a team have done a very good step forward, and as I say I’m very happy for everyone, and very happy for the drive I did.”

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Martin Whitmarsh on his America’s Cup role – and what he learned at McLaren

Former McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh has now started his new job as head of the Ben Ainslie Racing America’s Cup challenge, where he will be reunited with Adrian Newey.

In an interview on the BAR website Whitmarsh compared his former and current roles, and talked about his original move from British Aerospace to McLaren.

“It wasn’t a logical career move,” he noted. “But it was an unavoidable and unmissable opportunity that I had to go and do. Everyone thought I was mad to leave that job – where I appeared to have some success and a large organisation of thousands of people working for me – to join a little team, but I never had time or thought or occasion to regret it.

“We grew McLaren within Formula One. But we also realised that racing was a volatile business, and if we were going to have a sustainable business, we needed to diversify and use our technology, our capability and, ultimately, our brand to spawn a range of other businesses. And so we founded McLaren Automotive, Applied Technologies, Electronics and all the rest. It was a fairly significant metamorphosis from the race team that I joined. It was an interesting and exciting path.”

Whitmarsh said the key is growing an organisation successfully: “I don’t think organisations necessarily have to grow for the sake of the organisation. They have to grow for the sake of the people in it. If you’re going to go out and recruit the best people into the team, then I think it’s implicit in your duty of care to them that you are going to grow.

“If you are growing, there are necessarily challenges and demands on people in the organisation and that leads to opportunity. If we said that in ten years time we were going to be the same size and the same organisation, then it’s hard to make a compelling case for people to remain motivated to stay here.

“Firstly [at McLaren] we had to make sure we could succeed and win. In any of these environments, to have confidence and credibility you have to go out and succeed in the core proposition, and develop technical capability as you do it. The next step is to say ok, we’ve got an organisation that’s running well, it’s performing, it’s got technology, how can we monetise that? How can we take some of those opportunities and create shareholder value?

“At McLaren, our first developments were largely technical, selling technical services, then we reached a point where the brand had become established in its own right. We’re in a brand conscious world and if you are going to sell to consumers as well as businesses you need the brand.

“The America’s Cup is a fantastic platform from which this team can demonstrate its capability in high technology, in performance, and in achieving things like cycle-time compression. I think we have a great opportunity to demonstrate how the technical endeavour associated with seeking to win the America’s Cup can be the catalyst of change in bigger technical organisations, can be a hotbed for technical development.

“I think it’s our job to ensure that we can capture the essence of that racing culture and tempo and speed of response, competitiveness and creativity. Those are things that are being searched for and worked hard for in big, big technical organisations. We have them, and that’s a valuable asset.”

He also spoke about the future of the America’s Cup – and made some observations that could also be applied to the state of F1.

“The Cup has been producing great contests for over 160 years, and has often relied on very wealthy benefactors. That’s great if you can find them, and great if you’ve got them, and we should be very grateful for the legacy that those people have funded and created. But if we’re going to have something with a little bit more continuity then we probably need to find a more consistent commercialisation of the sport, with initiatives like the America’s Cup World Series.

“The problem with any form of entertainment – and that’s the business we’re in – is that people have an almost infinite number of choices in how they can spend their leisure time. What I saw in San Francisco – watching as an average punter – was a truly exciting and televisual America’s Cup. And there are those who would say; great we can do it again in four years time. But I think it’s quite difficult to commercialise the sport and grow public interest in it when it only hits awareness once every four years.

“If we want to have the pinnacle of our sport with advanced technology then that costs money, and if it costs money then you have got to find either a rich oligarch who’s going to indulge you, or you develop a business that is actually sustainable because the commercial value of the business exceeds the cost of participation.

“And as I’ve already said, we owe it to the people here at BAR – who bring their time, energy, passion, knowledge and capability into this team – to see if we can not only win, but develop a business that means that they have a career path and development in front of them. That’s our duty of care to our people.”

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Renault know what they have to fix, says frustrated Horner

Red Bull Racing’s frustration with Renault moved up a notch after Daniel Ricciardo’s spectacular engine failure at the end of the Bahrain GP.

While the Aussie managed to get across the line in sixth place it means he will now be on his fourth V6 at the Spanish GP – and will thus be just one step away from the first grid penalty of the season.

“The engine decided to join the firework party at the end there,” team boss Christian Horner told this writer. “There was no warning, it was instantaneous. It went 200 metres before the line, so the good thing is he managed to get over the line.”

Asked what he would say to Renault he added: “They know what the situation is. I don’t need to say anything – they know what they need to do.”

In effect the RB11 proved itself the fourth fastest car in the race, but Horner takes little comfort from that.

“That doesn’t really mean much. We can see at the end of the stints that we’re closer to the pace, but there’s still about a second to find, and we know where that is.”

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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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