Red Bull boss Christian Horner says that Renault will not introduce any power unit performance upgrades before October’s Russian GP in Sochi.
That means the RBR and Toro Rosso drivers will have to get through Spa, Monza, Singapore and Suzuka before they see any improvement in the engine’s performance.
Renault still has 12 in-season development tokens, and the company is expected to use them to produce a revised V6 and turbo – but which will now be available only for the final five races of the season.
“I don’t think anything is scheduled now before Sochi,” said Horner today. “That probably is the earliest that we’re going to see any development or use of the tokens. The engines that we’ve got at the moment are what we’re having to live with for the time being.”
The extra problem for Daniel Ricciardo is that after a failure today he only has one usable V6 to use. If he needs another one before Sochi he will take a grid penalty and will also be stuck with the current spec – unless he takes a further penalty in Russia or beyond in order to get the upgraded engine.
Horner explained: “Engines four and five are what the drivers have been using between Friday and Sunday racing. Unfortunately Ricciardo has now lost engine four, so he’s only got engine five that came into service for the first time in Austria to get him through the next few races. Only time will tell as to whether we can get to Sochi or not without incurring another penalty before introducing an upgraded unit.”
Horner insisted that Red Bull would still be with Renault next year.
“Renault would be the first to admit that they are not at all happy with where performance and reliabilty has been with this engine. They are making progress, they are making strides. The problem with engines is that unlike the chassis they are long lead time items. Renault have got strategically some decisions to take over the coming weeks in terms of the direction they want to go, not just for 2016 but beyond that.
“We have an agreement with Renault to the end of next year, and of course as a partner we’re expecting them to enable us to run in a competitive manner. In order to do that we need a competitive engine. Of course Renault need that more than anybody as well for both their customer teams.”
Force India didn’t take part in FP2 in Hungary today after Sergio Perez had a heavy crash in the morning session.
The Mexican suffered a right rear suspension failure as he ran over kerbs on a corner exit, which led to a spin into the barrier on the inside. The car then rolled in spectacular fashion after a front wheel caught under the chassis. Perez was unhurt, but as investigations into the failure continued the team opted to keep Nico Hulkenberg in the garage as well.
A team statement said: “Sahara Force India will not take part in this afternoon’s second practice session at the Hungaroring as the team continues to investigate a suspension problem, which caused Sergio Perez to crash this morning. Sergio’s car suffered significant damage to the bodywork, wings and floor and repairs are ongoing.
“As a precaution, the team has chosen not to run Nico Hulkenberg this afternoon. The team will work hard to fully understand the cause of the failure and find a resolution in order to be ready for Saturday’s free practice session.”
Teams are still planning for two in-season F1 tests next season, contrary to some suggestions in the paddock.
While the two-pre season tests in March at Barcelona have long been set in stone, the teams are still discussing the dates and venues of the in-season tests, with the matter having been complicated by the new calendar confirmed by the World Motor Sport Council.
The FIA Sporting Regulations explain the testing rules thus: “Two team tests of no more than two consecutive days duration carried out on circuits within Europe where an Event has just taken place, such tests commencing no less than 36 hours after the end of the relevant Events.”
While as this year the first test is expected to follow the Spanish GP, finding a date for second has proved difficult. A return to Austria is the favoured choice, but because the race is followed by the first trip to Baku – which is a flyaway race – the transport logistics will be challenging.
Silverstone, dropped this year largely because of the price quoted by the track was too high for the teams, is back-to-back with Austria, so it cannot be used.
Hungary would eat into the summer break and in any case is not regarded as a good test venue, while Spa and Monza are seen as ‘one-offs’ and also not useful for testing. However the Belgian track was used for a test in 2007, and could be an option.
Lotus will be able to take part in the Hungarian GP weekend after Pirelli released the Enstone team’s tyres this morning.
A commercial issue, understood to involve a late payment, meant that Pirelli held onto the tyres overnight. The tyres had not even been mounted and prepared, as the rims and blankets remained at the Lotus truck.
Although the team was able to indicate last night that payment would be made, it was only this morning – presumably as a result of the banks opening in Europe – that the transfer was confirmed.
Team principal Matthew Carter was in phone contact with Pirelli motorsport boss Paul Hembery, who was still en route to the track, and at 9.10am the team was given permission to take possession of the tyres. Deputy team principal Federico Gastaldi even helped to transport the crates of empty rims to the Pirelli truck.
Hembery would only say: “They will be in P1. Everything’s fine.”
Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson have both been confirmed as Sauber race drivers for 2016.
The news comes as no surprise given that both men bring substantial sponsorship to the Swiss team, but it does mean that Nasr is no longer a potential candidate for Williams, should Valtteri Bottas move to Ferrari. Nasr was the Williams third driver last year.
“This early point in time shows that the drivers and the team are sure they are heading in the right direction,” said team boss Monisha Kaltenborn. “We have full confidence in the talents and skills of Marcus and Felipe. Both have shown solid performances, gained experience and learnt quickly. We enjoy having them in the team and they give it a positive boost.”
“I had a great start from the very beginning,” said Ericsson. “And it is worth mentioning my first points in Formula One that I scored right away during the season-opener. I am getting to know everyone within the team more and more, and feel I am being appreciated as a valuable driver.”
“The extension to the contract with the Sauber F1 Team is an important step in my career,” said Nasr. “During the first half of the season, in what is my rookie year, I was able to gain a lot of experience from a driving perspective as well as on the personal side. Finishing fifth at my first ever Formula One race in Melbourne in the Australian Grand Prix is so far my career highlight. Now I am looking forward to the second half of the season. My objective is to support the team as best I can, and also with regard to the development of the new car.”
Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have expressed their thoughts after attending Jules Bianchi’s funeral in Nice yesterday.
Championship leader Hamilton stressed that the sport should continue its push to improve safety.
“Saying goodbye to Jules was incredibly hard for everyone,” said Hamilton in a team preview. “For myself, I wished I had known him better. But from what I knew of him, he was a kind heart with a great spirit and a bright future.
“Now our sport embarks on a tough road ahead. We have been shown once more the dangers of our sport, that these should be respected and that we drivers commit ourselves to the chance that those dangers are there when we step into the car. We have made great progress for safety thus far and I know that the FIA will continue to make steps forward to improve even further.
“Hungary is a beautiful place, one of my favourites. I will be carrying Jules with me in my prayers and thoughts, not only this race but for the rest of my driving days. I know he’d want us to race hard as he did, and so I will.”
“It has been a very emotional week,” said Rosberg. “The drivers paid our final respects to Jules and said farewell. He was a very talented driver and a good guy. My thoughts in these days are with his family and close friends. Everyone will be sharing the same feelings in the paddock this week – but we must race on and race hard for Jules as he would have wanted to be doing himself.”
The FIA has confirmed that Jules Bianchi’s number 17 will no longer be used in the F1 World Championship. The news comes ahead of the Frenchman’s funeral in Nice tomorrow.
Since last season drivers have chosen a number that lasts for the whole of their career in the category.
An FIA statement said: “Jean Todt, President of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, announced that the car number 17 will be retired from the FIA Formula One World Championship in honour of Jules Bianchi.
“As F1 car numbers are now personally chosen by each driver, the FIA believes it to be an appropriate gesture to retire Jules Bianchi’s number 17.
“As a result, this number can no longer be used for a car competing in the FIA Formula One World Championship.”