Mercedes and McLaren to run reserves in Pirelli test

Only six of the 10 F1 teams will run their 2015 race drivers on Tuesday’s Pirelli tyre test in Abu Dhabi.

Pirelli requested from the start that teams utilise their race drivers – or failing that a third driver who has extensive experience of this year’s tyres – in order to get good feedback.

Ferrari, Red Bull and Toro Rosso have all nominated both race drivers, while Williams, Force India, Sauber have one apiece. Mercedes will rely on Pascal Wehrlein, McLaren on Stoffel Vandoorne, and Lotus on Jolyon Palmer – arguably the only one of the three who properly fulfil Pirelli’s requirement for a third driver who has done a lot of miles this year.

Sauber, Force India and Manor have taken the opportunity to sell the seats (in the first two cases only for half the day) in order to offset the cost of the test, which has to be covered by the teams. Pirelli is only paying for the hire of the circuit.

Although obviously teams could yet change their plans the full list that Pirelli is currently working from is as follows:

Mercedes: Pascal Wehrlein

Ferrari: Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen

Red Bull: Daniel Ricciardo, Dany Kvyat

McLaren: Stoffel Vandoorne

Williams: Valtteri Bottas

Force India: Nico Hulkenberg, Alfonso Celis

Toro Rosso: Carlos Sainz, Max Verstappen

Lotus: Jolyon Palmer

Manor: Rio Haryanto, Jordan King

Sauber: Marcus Ericsson, Adderly Fong


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Red Bull ready to announce 2016 engine plans, says Horner

Christian Horner says that Red Bull Racing will announce an engine deal for 2016 “in the coming days.”

Although he wouldn’t be drawn on the identity it is now clear that Red Bull has finally agreed to stick with Renault, on the basis that the French manufacturer is accepting outside help on development.

Mario Ilien’s input was offered, and rejected, last year, but the Ilmor boss is now expected to play a role.

“Next year will be a transition year,” said Horner. “We have an agreement with an engine for next year which hopefully will be confirmed in the coming days. It will have a development path ironically in a way of what we were trying to achieve 12 months ago, and then we’ll see how that goes.

“Then the manufacturers are under pressure to come back by the 15th of January with an affordable, available engine that addresses all of the current issues. If that doesn’t happen then I believe that the independent engine will be brought into play. So we’ll wait with interest to see what comes back on the 15th of January.”

Asked if he was confident that the development would pay off he said: “It’s difficult for me to say at the moment without announcing what our engine plans are, but yes I believe we should be in a better position.”

Renault cannot build a “bespoke” engine for Red Bull, so any engine development will also be useful to the works Enstone team. However Horner says he isn’t worried about another team sharing any benefits.

“I think in the scale of things we don’t fear another team having the same power unit.”

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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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