F1 news in brief – Thursday

  • Stoffel Vandoorne
    Stoffel Vandoorne

    Vandoorne can relax amid McLaren crisis – Boullier

  • Ferrari triggers Mercedes 'alarm bells' – Lauda
  • Ferrari test hit by garage power cut
  • Bottas says he 'learned a few tricks' at test
  • Stroll enjoys opportunity to 'experiment'

Vandoorne can relax amid McLaren crisis – Boullier
(GMM) Eric Boullier insists F1 rookie Stoffel Vandoorne is "not under pressure" amid McLaren-Honda's current performance crisis.

One analysis of the situation might be that with the team struggling for pace and reliability, Belgian Vandoorne is risking his once-in-a-lifetime chance to prove he belongs in F1.

It comes after the highly rated Vandoorne, 24, was not able to even start in Bahrain due to a reliability problem, following two difficult races alongside teammate Fernando Alonso.

But McLaren boss Boullier insists: "He is not under pressure.

"Stoffel knows that we believe in him and that we have him under contract for a long time," the Frenchman told Auto Motor und Sport.

"He does not have to prove it to us in every race. We understand that this is not possible at the moment," Boullier added.

Meanwhile, Boullier admitted that he was not initially on board with McLaren executive Zak Brown's plan to let Alonso do the Indy 500 next month.

But, as with the Vandoorne situation, the Frenchman eventually acknowledged that McLaren has to look after its drivers at the moment.

"We do not want the fire in him (Alonso) to go out," he said. "Fernando wants to win, no matter what he does, and at the moment he cannot do that in formula one."

Finally, McLaren had a much better day of pace and reliability at the Bahrain test on Wednesday, but Boullier was cautious about celebrating too much.

"If we knew why … that is the problem," he is quoted by the Spanish daily AS.

Ferrari triggers Mercedes 'alarm bells' – Lauda

Wolff and Lauda watch their men get beat by Ferrari
Wolff and Lauda watch their men get beat by Ferrari

(GMM) Ferrari has set off "alarm bells" at triple back-to-back world champions Mercedes.

That is the admission of Niki Lauda, the F1 legend and Mercedes team chairman and co-owner.

Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton traded victories in Melbourne and China, but it was Vettel's win last weekend in Bahrain that has Mercedes worried, Lauda admits.

"The alarm bells are ringing with us," he told Osterreich newspaper.

"Those who win in Bahrain have a certain buffer for the next three races," Lauda added.

Indeed, both Hamilton and his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas admitted in Bahrain that the main problem with the 2017 car is the new Pirelli tires, particularly in hotter weather.

But others think Ferrari has simply given quadruple world champion Vettel a tantalizing sniff at a fifth title.

"The Vettel factor can decide the world championship this year," Vettel's first F1 boss Gerhard Berger told Sport Bild.

The former F1 driver admitted he is surprised with Ferrari's pace so far in 2017.

"I would have lost every bet before the season," Berger smiled, "because I doubted that Ferrari would really beat Mercedes."

Another of Vettel's former chiefs, Dr Helmut Marko, agrees: "Sebastian is at one with his car.

"He is constantly on the limit, not making the smallest mistake and always knowing what to do. This is pure driving pleasure for him.

"Like this, Vettel is very hard to beat — especially when Mercedes is making mistakes," the Red Bull official added.

Finally, an unnamed current F1 driver also tipped Vettel to emerge with spoils at the end of a long head-to-head with Mercedes' Hamilton in 2017.

"Hamilton lacks the bite," he said. "You can only rely on talent alone when you have a car that is a second faster. Three tenths per lap is not enough to beat a Vettel."

Ferrari test hit by garage power cut

Vettel testing in Bahrain
Vettel testing in Bahrain

Sebastian Vettel has revealed that Ferrari's day-two planned test program at the post-Bahrain Grand Prix test was hindered by a garage power cut, as the team struggled for mileage.

Vettel spent the majority of the morning session in the pit lane, with Ferrari mechanics working through technical issues, before the 'electrical black-out' impacted his afternoon running.

He nonetheless brought his lap tally up from nine laps to 64, improving his time to a 1:31.574 in the closing stages, some three-tenths shy of pace-setting Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas.

Vettel had spent Tuesday carrying out development work for Pirelli.

"It would be nice to have done even more laps," reflected Vettel.

"But today we had a few little problems in the morning, which is normal for testing and then, in the afternoon, we lost some time when there was an electrical black-out in our garage."

He added: "In any case, driving this car is always a pleasure, while the lap times don't mean much, given that we don't know what tantalizing the other teams are running."

Vettel leads the Drivers' standings after the first three races, seven points clear of Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, having won in Australia and Bahrain, and finished second in China.

Bottas says he 'learned a few tricks' at test


Valtteri Bottas says he "learned a few tricks" during his additional running at the post-Bahrain Grand Prix test, as Mercedes continued its long-run evaluations.

Bottas claimed pole position for last weekend's race at the Sakhir circuit, just ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton, but Mercedes lost out to Ferrari in race-trim.

Hamilton stated that progress was made on the first test day, which he topped, and Bottas shared the Briton's sentiments after setting the pace on Wednesday.

Bottas racked up 143 laps, equivalent to around two-and-a-half race distances, en route to a time of 1:31.280, 0.005s faster than Hamilton managed on day one.

Bottas hit his impressive mileage total despite a stoppage just after 13:00 local time, which was due to a mechanical issue with the steering wheel.

"Today was very good; we got so much running done," said Bottas.

"We were focusing all-day on the long-run pace, which was a bit of a problem for us [during the Grand Prix] on Sunday compared to Ferrari.

"We did some interesting tests to try and improve both the tire life and the race pace. We have definitely got plenty to analyze tonight.

"I think I learned a few tricks today as well.

"To stay here in Bahrain for a test after two back to back races is tough, but the guys have done a great job over these two days of testing."

Mercedes trails Ferrari by three points after the first three races of the season.

Stroll enjoys opportunity to 'experiment'

Lance Stroll
Lance Stroll

Williams rookie Lance Stroll says his half day at the wheel of the FW40 during in-season testing at the Bahrain International Circuit provided the perfect chance to "experiment".

Stroll has failed to finish his first three races in F1, having retired with brake failure in Australia, before being hit by Sergio PĂ©rez on the first lap in China and Carlos Sainz Jr. in Bahrain.

Stroll racked up 35 laps through Tuesday morning's running at Sakhir, using several tire compounds and making minor set-up changes, on his way to the seventh fastest time.

Speaking after his test run, Stroll said: "I used multiple sets of tires trying different little things, nothing special, just tweaking bits and more driving for myself, which is always good.

"I need to try small changes to see how the car feels. It really is about the simple stuff.

"For me, all the seat time I can get is good, as there is always something I can gain from being in the car.

"With tests like this when we are not limited on what we can do, it is just good to experiment. That is something Williams knows I have to do and also I know that myself.

"For sure, I am out there competing and trying my best, but it is also about understanding and learning before I can reach the maximum of my capability as a racing driver."

Felipe Massa took over for the afternoon, clocking the fifth fastest time, before handing the car to simulator driver Gary Paffett for Wednesday's final day of running.

Leave a Reply