In the round-up today: Renault confirms talks held with Mclaren but outcome not yet known; Raikkonen quips signing contract doesn’t make him faster; Vettel says he did not do his best job today; Renault still wants answers about Kubica; RedBull’s low drag setup fails to hit the right notes; Perez criticizes ‘dirty’ Magnussen; Williams hit with fine for tyre mix-up as they change Felipe Massa’s chassis following his FP1 crash; Sauber not interested in Haas-style deal with Ferrari; Honda failed to produce Spec 4 engine in Spa.
Renault has confirmed that talks have taken place with McLaren about a potential customer engine supply next year.
Speaking at the Belgian Grand Prix, Renault F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul admitted that there had been discussions but suggested that a deal was not looking likely.
“The situation is we have a multi-year contract with Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso,” said Abiteboul.
So frankly we are open to discussions. I can confirm there have been discussions with McLaren, but right now there is a restriction in the regulation if we wanted to supply more than three teams.
“In addition to that, I don’t think it would be reasonable to believe that we could supply more than three without degrading the level of service, the quality of service, for the other teams.
“We have had discussions and frankly, we have [current] contracts in place. We value the relationship with Red Bull. It is a long-standing relationship and we would like to carry this relationship until 2020, but if there is something to be done [elsewhere], why not?
“But right now I understand things are very quiet and they are not necessarily pushing for anything.”
Fastest in his very first practice session after a signing new contract, Kimi Raikkonen says while that has settled a few issues, it has no impact on a driver’s speed.
His best in the afternoon on the ultrasofts, a 1:45.015, put him 0.262s behind Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton
“A new contract doesn’t make you go faster, it is just from your side[media], their side[Ferrari], it is less hassle for me with the same questions,” he told reporters.
“But it doesn’t make you faster or slower but obviously you don’t need to worry about it and can concentrate on the real things.”
As for the gap to Mercedes, Raikkonen conceded that Ferrari were perhaps a little closer than many had predicted they would be.
“Probably closer than many other people think.
“It is only Friday so we’ll keep working at it and keep improving and see where we end up tomorrow.
“For sure we can go faster.”
Ferrari Formula 1 driver Sebastian Vettel says he knows he can go faster that his pace in practice for the Belgian Grand Prix suggested.
Vettel finished Friday’s second practice at Spa-Francorchamps close to half a second down on pacesetter and title rival Lewis Hamilton, and was slower than teammate Kimi Raikkonen in both sessions.
“I’m not entirely happy,” said Vettel of his Friday running. “Overall, the car is OK. We just need to put it more together. It was a bit so-so, I didn’t find the rhythm, especially on the short run.
“The long run was better. Overall, I think the car is there to do the job, to go fast, but we just need to get it right on all fronts. I need to do my job and then we should be fine.
“I wasn’t doing the best job today, I didn’t find the rhythm the way I wanted to. So I know I can go faster.”
Vettel conceded Mercedes was favourite around the Spa, but hoped an improved performance from himself would allow Ferrari to give Mercedes “a hard time”.
“I think they [Mercedes] look very strong,” he said. “Whenever they went out, they had the possibility to go fast. It’s a long track and it’s not so easy to put everything together.
“What everyone is looking at is always the times, the lap time itself, but there is a bit more to it. They look very strong no doubt.
“Friday is difficult to judge because on Saturday everyone seems to make a step. If we can make the same step, then yeah, we can be close. Mercedes is the favourite but we are here to give them a hard time.
“The grip is fine, but we just need to find the right balance. I’m sliding a bit too much in places with the rear, washing out with the fronts.
“It’s stuff I can influence by driving differently. It should be fine tomorrow.”
Renault admits that it still does not have all the answers it wants on Robert Kubica’s potential about making a full-time return to Formula 1.
“We said we wanted to be extremely methodological and analytic about the way that we were approaching things with Robert,” explained Abiteboul.
“It was not a PR exercise, it is something that we are taking very seriously and we are trying to leave the emotions on the side.
“We don’t have all the answers that we potentially wanted to get from the test, after this test, and in addition to that F1 is very restrictive in terms of tests you can do.
“In a perfect world we would want to do more of this type of test to see if he can race again at the level that he and we could have wanted. It may or may not be possible, we will see.”
Abiteboul suggested that one of the factors it needed to understand was whether Kubica could cope with racing scenarios – like changing weather and first corner chaos – that he had not experienced for some time.
“Testing in isolation, a private test, one car, in control of the run, without rain, without first-lap action – all of that needs to be factored into the decision of pursuing or not pursuing,” he said.
“I don’t want to go further with this. I don’t want to create speculation. I don’t want to put that the team will have some obligation to go further because there is an interest and willingness to see Robert back. We would all like to see Robert back but it has to make sense.”
With regards to timing, Abiteboul said that with other teams sorting out their driver line-ups for next year, his outfit may need to move quick to decide what it does.
“The [driver] market has started to go with the different announcements this week with Ferrari and McLaren, and I expect there will be some other announcements,” he said.
“So we will not be sitting back and deciding things ourselves. It has to follow the timing of all the drivers.”
Red Bull’s strategy of going for an extremely thin rear wing set-up on Daniel Ricciardo’s car proved to be the wrong one at Spa-Francorchamps on Friday.
Ricciardo ended the day eighth tenths slower than his Red Bull team mate Max Verstappen. Despite setting fastest times in the first and third parts of the circuit, he lost any of the hoped-for performance advantage in the middle of his flying lap.
“We tried,” Ricciardo said afterwards. “I would have liked it to have worked but it didn’t.
“The first and third sector is very fast and in the second sector you need the downforce,” he explained. “The middle sector I’m in probably a Formula 3 car.
“I tried to be quick in the first and third part, but the compromise wasn’t good enough. I still lost too much in the second sector.
“Yes, there was some traffic as well. Without that I could’ve probably gone a few tenths quicker. But it still wouldn’t have put me in the top five.
“For sure we won’t keep the same set-up tomorrow,” he said. “”The objective is not to lose too much time on the straights.
“Whether we’ll go in Max’s direction or try to find a better compromise between the two we’ll see,” he added. “But we’ll definitely be stronger tomorrow.”
Although he was faster on Friday than his team mate, Verstappen said that the day as a whole had been “nothing special”.
“At the moment we don’t seem too far off the two top teams but it is only Friday,” he said. “I’m sure it will be a different gap tomorrow.
“It’s hard here to find the set-up to be competitive on the straights but also balanced in the corners. We will make some steps in the right direction tonight, hopefully.
“In the dry I think we will be the solid third team like we have seen so far this season,” he offered.
Sergio Perez believes an “angry” Kevin Magnussen moved over on him on purpose during practice for Formula 1’s Belgian Grand Prix, but the Haas driver denies the move was deliberate.
Perez had only just let Magnussen past when he tried to get back ahead exiting the Turn 8 downhill hairpin after Les Combes.
He had to back out of the pass, then started to pull alongside Magnussen on the run down to Pouhon before Magnussen moved to the left and forced Perez to slow down.
An irate Perez told his team over the radio that “Magnussen is so dirty, always”, and raised the incident in drivers’ briefing.
Asked if he thought Magnussen’s move was intentional, Perez said: “Yes, he knew I was there because had just overtook me.
“I don’t know what he was angry about but I just don’t think it’s the way to react. We’ve seen Kevin has reacted that way a couple of times already.
“It’s not good, the speeds we are doing you can cause a very bad incident.
“That’s why I wanted to raise a point. Hopefully Charlie [Whiting] keeps it in his mind because tomorrow there could be an accident and it may be too late.”
It is the second grand prix weekend in a row that Magnussen’s driving has been criticised by a rival.
Asked by Motorsport.com about the incident with Perez, Magnussen insisted it was not deliberate.
“I didn’t know he was trying to get back again, as he’d just let me past,” he explained. “So I started warming up my tyres and he was close, but I hadn’t seen him. It was not intentional.”
Williams has been fined 10,000 Euro for a breach of the tyre rules in Friday practice for the Belgian Grand Prix.
Formula 1 teams are supposed to hand back one set of tyres from their allocation after the first 40 minutes of opening practice – although this can be delayed slightly if the session is affected by a red flag.
This delay happened on Friday thanks to Felipe Massa’s accident, but Williams was found to have run one of these nominated sets on Lance Stroll’s car at 11.09am and 11.21am.
The FIA looked into the matter and, although Williams openly admitted it had made a mistake, the governing body decided that a fine was necessary because of previous offences.
Williams had been handed a suspended fine of 10,000 Euro from the 2015 Malaysian Grand Prix after a similar offence when Massa ran tyres in a practice session that should have been handed back.
In what was a double whammy for Williams, Felipe Massa did not run in second practice after a heavy accident in the morning session forced the Williams team to change his chassis for the remainder of the weekend.
After the team inspected the damage it was quickly decided that the spare chassis will have to be built up, leaving the mechanics with a heavy workload.
Under FIA rules, a driver cannot run again on the same day if a chassis change is required, as it the car to be re-scrutineered.
The rules state: “Any car that has a change of survival cell after being passed by the scrutineers must be re-presented for scrutineering approval.
“Any such re-scrutineering may only take place with the consent of the stewards (following a written request from a competitor) and will be carried out the next morning.”
Sauber boss Fred Vasseur has no interest in his outfit having a Haas-style relationship with Ferrari, even if it does become a de facto junior team in the future.
But while Vasseur has spent recent weeks exploring the scope of any increased collaboration with Ferrari, he does not see any need for his outfit to go as far as having the customer-style relationship that Haas has.
“I am not considering at all Haas,” said Vasseur. “They have their own collaboration with Ferrari and I have mine. I don’t want to compare or to say, okay, Haas are doing it like this. It is not my issue at all.
“But we have to develop our own project with Ferrari. Our basic collaboration is based on the engine and the gearbox and we could extend to some other parts: but to be honest it is not so easy to take some parts from one car to another one.”
He added: “I think the best compromise for us will be to be supported by Ferrari, but on the other hand I think we have a very strong facility, which is not the case for Haas.
“We have probably one of the best wind tunnels on the market and we have also to use our assets.
“At one stage we have to find the best compromise for the collaboration but I want to keep the lid on the development. I don’t want to be just a B-team or a customer team.”
Vasseur saw closer ties with Ferrari as an essential way for Sauber to move up the grid, with the most likely first move being for the team to run drivers from Maranello’s academy.
“For sure, it is in the DNA of this company to work together [with Ferrari] and there are a couple of guys in the company who know perfectly the situation at Ferrari, so it is probably much easier to start from this point,” Vasseur explained.
“We have to build up the collaboration on the past historic story – it was important for us. It was the same between my friends at Enstone and Renault. They were successful in the past and it is important to try to rebuild something like this. Ferrari was really open to the discussion and collaboration.”
When asked if the Ferrari junior driver situation meant that Mercedes junior Pascal Wehrlein’s future was in doubt, Vasseur said “We have no driver under contract so far, even with Ferrari it is not done. We have no other contract for the future.
“I think everything is open. We will have to take a decision quite soon for sure.”
Honda had hoped to introduce a ‘Spec 4’ Formula 1 engine for this weekend’s Belgian Grand prix, but failed to meet its development schedule, according to Yusuke Hasegawa.
“We had planned to introduce ‘spec 4’ here but we failed, we didn’t match our schedule,” said Hasegawa. “We’re halfway through our upgrade so we called it 3.5 and 3.6.”
Honda feels the upgrade has boosted performance, but Hasegawa said the gain was difficult to quantify given this is the first circuit it has run on.
“It’s difficult to compare the previous engine to this engine because it’s a different circuit,” he said. “From the data point of view, we see a good update of the performance here.”
McLaren executive director Zak Brown noted a step forward at Spa, but conceded the outfit, which is currently down in ninth in the constructors’ championship, had been hoping for more.
“I don’t think we’ve been satisfied all year but I don’t think Hasegawa hasn’t been satisfied with how things have gone,” said Brown.
“We’ve seen some improvements here at Spa, not to level we had hoped for but some improvement nonetheless.”
Hasegawa said Honda took comfort from that result, but knows it still has a lot of work to do be on par with its rivals.