Latest F1 news in brief – Thursday

  • Really just Renault's test car was shown at the launch
    Really just Renault's 2016 test car was shown at the launch

    No 2016 car or race livery at Renault launch

  • Renault seat 'a surprise' – Magnussen
  • Renault wants 200 more staff at Enstone
  • Renault to have 'difficult year' – Prost
  • Magnussen brings sponsor to F1 'second chance'
  • Renault chance 'even better' than McLaren – Magnussen snr
  • F1 sponsor hails Magnussen's return
  • Ghosn wants Renault return for Alonso
  • 2016 right time to enter F1 – Vasseur
  • Toro Rosso still 'on schedule' for test debut
  • Red Bull to get technical equality – Renault
  • Jorda has 'no problem' with Ocon deal
  • F1 pushing ahead with 'halo', faster tires for 2017

A slightly upgraded version of their 2015 car
A slightly upgraded version of their 2015 car

No 2016 car or race livery at Renault launch
(GMM) Renault revealed neither its 2016 car nor the race livery as the wraps came off a mostly black single seater during Wednesday's Paris event.

"Here is the Renault RS16 that you will see in Barcelona in two weeks," declared the French carmaker's Carlos Ghosn.

It soon emerged, however, that the mainly black livery is just an interim solution for testing.

"We'll be a different color by the time we get to you!" Renault said on Twitter, replying to a message from the British grand prix host Silverstone.

Not only that, the chassis displayed to the international press on Wednesday was actually a 'show car' — basically a re-painted 2015 Lotus, as the 2016 edition is still being put together at Enstone.

"It's a show car," confirmed managing director Cyril Abiteboul. "The real one will be assembled next week.

"We are not launching (now) but it (the 2016 car) will be at the test," he revealed.

"It will be with this livery but it will be the 2016 car. Then closer to Melbourne there will be a reveal of what the final colors will look like."

Reportedly, when the 2016 version is finally revealed at the forthcoming Barcelona test, it will not appear vastly different from its 2015 predecessor.

"The RS16 is basically the car from the last round of the championship last year, adapted to the new power unit," a source told Livio Oricchio, a respected correspondent for Brazil's Globo Esporte.

Nick Chester, the chassis technical director, doesn't deny it.

"It's been a super compact program, but we've seen with the homologation of the chassis that we can react quickly and do a great job.

"We want a stable foundation for development during the course of the season," he said. "The first car on the track should not present any surprises.

"We will work on many areas to make the car better and lay the basis for the project for 2017," the Briton added.

When Maldonado's check bounced, Kevin Magnussen's became big enough
When Maldonado's check bounced, Kevin Magnussen's became big enough

Renault seat 'a surprise' – Magnussen
(GMM) Kevin Magnussen was still letting the news sink in as he stepped onto the stage as a works Renault race driver on Wednesday.

At the eleventh hour, the French team split with the controversial contracted driver Pastor Maldonado, and new racing director Frederic Vasseur said Dane Magnussen was the "obvious choice".

"I don't know much about the background of everything that happened," Magnussen is quoted by the Spanish sports newspaper Marca, "but for me to be here now is a surprise. A very pleasant one!"

Still just 23, Magnussen debuted for McLaren in 2014 but was sidelined to the reserve bench last year before falling out completely with team supremo Ron Dennis.

Now, he is keeping his expectations low as Renault builds back up following the near Lotus collapse.

"It's hard to predict where I will be on Saturday in Australia," Magnussen said.

"Let's just go to Barcelona, try to make the best of what we have and then we'll see what can be done."

Teammate and rookie Jolyon Palmer agreed that, while Renault is playing down its chances at least initially, it is impossible to set any targets now.

"Only when we actually get in the car will we see if we can aspire to be top 5, top 10 or top 15," said the Briton.

"I don't expect an easy season, because Lotus was a bit of a mess. For us it's more about the long-term."

Magnussen agrees, saying that while Renault will not be immediate winners, he knows he is in the right place.

"There are only three teams in formula one who build everything themselves: Ferrari, Mercedes and now Renault," he told the Danish broadcaster TV2.

"But first it is really starting from scratch. They are taking over a new factory and while the engines have been running for some years, they have had problems and may not yet have gotten them the way they want them.

"But this is somewhere where I can be world champion, and that's what it's all about," he added.

Abiteboul wants to hire 200 more people
Abiteboul wants to hire 200 more people

Renault wants 200 more staff at Enstone
(GMM) Renault is aiming to add 200 staff to its Enstone chassis factory by the end of next year.

"A lot of positions are opening up," admitted chassis technical director Nick Chester during Wednesday's Paris launch.

When the team was sold by Renault to Lotus some years ago, it was downsized and the current head-count is 450.

"By the end of 2017 we want to have 650 people at Enstone again," confirmed managing director Cyril Abiteboul.

"About 2016, we have to be realistic," he added. "In some areas we are playing catch-up — it's no secret that we missed the start of the new power unit regulations and Enstone needs a bit of TLC."

Alain Prost
Alain Prost

Renault to have 'difficult year' – Prost
(GMM) Alain Prost has played down Renault's hopes for 2016.

The quadruple world champion is remaining an ambassador for the French carmaker, after Renault bought back its old works team that in recent years has been known as Lotus.

"It will not be possible already in 2016 to compete against the best," Prost, whose works Renault E-Dams team won the inaugural Formula E series, told Der Spiegel.

"It makes no sense to lie to people — it will be a very difficult year, especially at the beginning. It will be necessary to be patient," he added.

Prost said Renault's sights are set much further into the future.

"This is obviously a long-term project, which is normally nine years but it could be more," he is quoted by the Spanish news agency EFE.

"They do not need to win the first race in Australia. The expectation is to be one of the top three teams quickly, but that means perhaps two or three years and maybe four."

Prost said Mercedes is once again the favorite for 2016.

"Of course, but the championship may be somewhat more open with Ferrari," he said.

"If Ferrari was able to do it I think it would be good for formula one," Prost is quoted by Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport in Paris.

New Renault driver Jolyon Palmer, however, thinks Mercedes is the clear favorite.

"They have been the dominant team for two years now and the rules are not changing," he is quoted by the Spanish sports daily Marca.

"They have the best engine and a very good car, so I think yes, they are the favorites again."

Kevin Magnussen - had check will drive
Kevin Magnussen – had check will drive

Magnussen brings sponsor to F1 'second chance'
(GMM) Kevin Magnussen said he felt lucky to have been given a rare "second chance" in formula one.

The Dane was unveiled as a race driver for the new Renault works team on Wednesday, replacing Pastor Maldonado at the eleventh hour over a sponsorship dispute.

And Magnussen, 23, has his own backer, Danish billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen whose 'Jack and Jones' fashion label is now a prominent on-car sponsor of the Enstone team.

But Cyril Abiteboul, Renault's managing director, said he was happy to be giving Magnussen a "second chance", having performed "sensationally" for McLaren in 2014.

"Not many drivers get a second chance," beamed Magnussen at the Paris launch.

He said he feared that one more year on the reserve bench could have ended his F1 dream altogether.

"I don't think you can be out two years unless you're a world champion. This was literally make or break, and luckily I made it," he said.

When they split, Ron Dennis vowed to help Magnussen find a new race seat in F1, but Magnussen told the AP news agency on Wednesday: "No, McLaren didn't help.

"Hopefully I'll prove many points this year," he smiled later.

Magnussen admitted that being dropped by McLaren was a hard blow.

"I grew up a lot since then," he is quoted by Finland's Ilta Sanomat newspaper. "It's tough when you have to take some big steps backwards, but it's true what they say about hard times making you stronger."

"The main thing is that I feel much more relaxed this time. I felt a lot of pressure the first year at McLaren. I feel it now but in a much more positive way."

He also told the Danish newspaper BT: "It was unbelievably painful to watch my (McLaren) car driving around without me in it. There were times when I was close to giving up — just not quite.

"There were times when I was close to not believing in it anymore, but you find out how much you love something when you don't have it."

Kevin Magnussen's father Jan
Kevin Magnussen's father Jan

Renault chance 'even better' than McLaren – Magnussen snr
(GMM) Kevin Magnussen's father thinks the new Renault adventure has even more potential than if the 23-year-old had been retained by McLaren.

Jan Magnussen, himself a former F1 driver, was not in Paris on Wednesday as son Kevin walked onto the stage in his new black overalls.

"It was great to see him go out on stage," 42-year-old Jan, who instead watched from his home in Denmark, told the local broadcaster TV2.

"I had not seen him in the suit yet so it was awesome," he enthused.

"I knew for a few days what was going to happen, but it was still a lovely feeling to see him walking out with the others."

Jan said it was a tough time for his son since losing the McLaren race seat at the end of 2014. Magnussen spent last year as the team's reserve but was then ousted altogether for 2016.

"They have been working on this (return) ever since it started to go wrong with McLaren," he revealed.

"So I'm just super happy and I think that this chance could be even better than his first (at McLaren)," said Magnussen snr.

"The situation at Renault means he can build something up with the team starting as underdogs, and I think that will be very good for him," he added.

"I think Kevin is in a great situation with Renault now, where hopefully they can become world champions together in a few years."

F1 sponsor hails Magnussen's return
(GMM) A Danish businessman has hailed Kevin Magnussen's return to F1.

In 2014, the Danish bank Saxo Bank entered F1 as a sponsor with Lotus.

Now, Danish driver Kevin Magnussen has joined the same Enstone based team just as it returns to being the works Renault outfit.

Lars Seier Christensen is no longer the chief at Saxo Bank, but Christensen has revealed himself as a "personal sponsor" of another F1 driver, new Haas recruit Romain Grosjean.

Speaking about Wednesday's news from Paris, Christensen told the Danish broadcaster DR Sporten: "Kevin really deserves it. He is an excellent driver who has worked hard for it, and it's also a super thing for all the Danish fans.

"It's a difficult thing to get back into F1 after you've been there, which can only be an indication that he really wanted it and that he and the team around him worked hard for it."

Christensen, however, is actually cheering louder for a French driver, Grosjean, with DR Sporten claiming that Saxo Bank may also have followed him to Haas.

"I am one of Romain Grosjean's personal sponsors," he said. "I think one day in the right car he can be world champion, and the same is true for Kevin."

Carlos Ghosn wants Alonso
Carlos Ghosn wants Alonso

Ghosn wants Renault return for Alonso
(GMM) Carlos Ghosn on Wednesday did not hide that enticing Fernando Alonso back to the new works Renault team is an objective.

"Would I like to sign Alonso? For sure," he told the Spanish sports daily AS at the Paris launch of the new project.

In 2005 and 2006, Alonso won back-to-back titles for Renault but in more recent years has had up and down fortunes and no further championships as he switched between Ferrari and McLaren.

Now, the 34-year-old is helping to build up the works McLaren-Honda collaboration, but he finished last season a woeful seventeenth overall.

Ghosn continued: "Of course I would like to (sign Alonso) but it is not my responsibility. It is the team that has the responsibility and I support their decisions.

"During our years in formula one I have made many friends, we have met many talented drivers and Fernando is one of the best — he is definitely one of the best drivers in formula one today," he added.

Following his titles, Alonso returned to Renault in 2008 and 2009, but the budgets and results were lower and the carmaker ultimately sold Enstone to Lotus.

"When we left F1, other major brands such as Honda and Toyota had as well, because the crisis hit all of us," said Ghosn.

"We now believe it is time to take advantage of our experience and recover the history of our brand in F1. Our commitment is very firm and our priority."

It is not known for how many years current Renault drivers Jolyon Palmer and Kevin Magnussen have signed up for.

"I don't know if I can talk about the number of years," Magnussen told the Danish broadcaster TV3.

"I'm glad to have a contract and I'm here this year, and then the future is open."

Frederic Vasseur
Frederic Vasseur

2016 right time to enter F1 – Vasseur
(GMM) The sport's newest team boss, Frederic Vasseur, said 2016 is the right time for him to enter the world of formula one.

For years, the Frenchman has been on the very edge of the pinnacle of motor racing as he ran the top GP2 team ART with Nicolas Todt, whose father is the FIA president.

"I have been talking with Renault for several years," Vasseur was quoted as saying by L'Equipe, as he was unveiled as the new works team's 'racing manager' in Paris.

"We (ART) have had a lot of success and I said to myself 'This is the right time to turn the page'. I was also convinced that Renault would put the right people, structure and funding.

"It is not enough to say you want to win, it is necessary that the company is behind you. That was the catalyst for Mercedes' success.

"I have not seen the involvement of a manufacturer behind an F1 project like that for a long time, so it was an important factor in my decision," Vasseur added.

However, he has now arrived to lead Renault just after the acquisition of Lotus, who effectively collapsed financially during the course of 2015.

"The situation at Enstone was a bit complicated when I arrived, because of the tight financial situation not just of the last months, but even the last years," said Vasseur.

"On the other hand, there was a level of motivation and incredible expectation compared to other teams. A lot of the people had been at Enstone in the successful days," he added.

But Vasseur said motivation alone will not be enough power for 2016, with Renault Carlos Ghosn saying the aim is to be on the podium by 2018.

"The ambition of Renault is clear," Vasseur agreed, "to be on the podium in the third year and in a position to be champion by the fifth.

"The goal in 2016 is to build the team."

Max Verstappen says car on schedule
Max Verstappen says car on schedule

Toro Rosso still 'on schedule' for test debut
(GMM) Toro Rosso remains "on schedule" to debut its 2016 car on the first day of Barcelona testing.

Earlier, it was suggested the Red Bull junior team might be running late due to the eleventh-hour switch from Renault to Ferrari power.

"Yes, I would like more time, but our technical department has many experienced staff who optimize the time that we have," team boss Franz Tost had said.

We reported on Monday that the STR11 would be sent off for FIA crash testing late this week, with homologation necessary before F1 cars can be run even at tests.

The Faenza based team now confirms that it has passed the crash tests, as Max Verstappen suggested that the next step is to build up the first full car.

"The factory is currently working extremely hard, 24-7," the Dutchman is quoted by verstappen.nl.

"For now everything is still on schedule to be ready in time. I am confident that it will succeed," Verstappen added.

Cyril Abiteboul says Red Bull will get equal engines
Cyril Abiteboul says Red Bull will get equal engines

Red Bull to get technical equality – Renault
(GMM) Red Bull will enjoy the very same equipment as the Renault works team in 2016, the French carmaker has assured.

Even though Red Bull has reverted to mere customer status for the new season, even re-branding its power units as 'Tag Heuer', official Dr Helmut Marko said recently that the team's Renault deal ensures technical equality.

Cyril Abiteboul, Renault managing director, confirms that.

"Red Bull is a customer team but they will have the same power unit and during the season will benefit from the same technical development" as the works team, he is quoted by Italy's Autosprint.

"However, clearly the reference team for Renault will be our own," he added.

Abiteboul was also quoted by Brazil's UOL Grande Premio as saying: "It will be exactly the same engine (for Red Bull).

"In fact, we have an obligation in the regulations to provide the same equipment for them as we use ourselves. But for obvious reasons, there will be no form of association of the brands.

"Of course we will work differently for the teams, but the philosophy of Renault and also the regulation is that when we get an evolution, Red Bull will get it as well.

"But our first team is Renault, the factory team, so we will make an engine that perfectly fits our car. They (Red Bull) then get the same thing," he added.

Abiteboul also cleared up any confusion about the involvement of Mario Illien, who was drafted onto the Renault project by Red Bull last year.

"With Mario Illien we all work in the same direction; we are in the same boat," he said.

"Last year it was not like that, he had a more external role, but now it is part of the Renault group."

Abiteboul said the Renault deal is currently for one year only "but it can end up going further".

"And if we have a good engine as we did in the V8 times, more teams will want to be with us," he added.

Carmen Jorda
Carmen Jorda

Jorda has 'no problem' with Ocon deal
(GMM) A surprise face at the Renault launch on Wednesday belonged to Carmen Jorda.

Last year, the Spaniard and former GP3 driver was the female development driver at Lotus, which has been taken over by Renault for 2016.

But Jorda told Spain's Europa Press that she will have the "same role" this year too.

"The good thing is that Renault is going to put me in a category to race, which is what I want," she said.

And she told the Spanish daily AS: "I am still with the team and I'm very happy, because it is a major project for the long term."

Jorda also said she has "no problem" with the signing by Renault of Esteban Ocon, a 19-year-old Frenchman who is leaping straight into the reserve role.

Ocon was re-signed to Mercedes' driver development program late last year, but declared on Wednesday that he is "overjoyed that I can help a French team as a Frenchman".

"It's true, I signed a long-term contract with Mercedes at the end of 2015 so I am very grateful to Mercedes and to Renault in making this possible."

Ocon won the GP3 series last year for ART, the team co-run by Frederic Vasseur, who has now become the 'racing director' at Renault.

Vasseur told L'Equipe: "Esteban is still under contract to Mercedes, but I have an excellent relationship with Mercedes and it might have put a little oil to the wheels."

His other championship-winning driver in 2015 was Stoffel Vandoorne, who won the GP2 title for ART, but Vasseur said the Belgian was never in the running to join Renault.

"With Stoffel, the situation is very clear," he said. "He is under contract to McLaren and I really think he will go there next year.

"McLaren is aware of his results and his ability, so I cannot imagine for a split second that McLaren will let him go."

Alex Wurz
Alex Wurz

F1 pushing ahead with 'halo', faster tires for 2017
(GMM) F1 will press ahead with its plans to protect the drivers' cockpits in 2017, according to Alex Wurz.

Earlier, the Grand Prix Drivers' Association (GPDA) president said his F1 racing members were unanimously in favor of adding the 'halo'-style solution to the cars.

But rumors from the most recent F1 meetings in London and Milan suggested bosses are still yet to agree about how better to protect the drivers' heads in future.

The BBC, however, is now quoting Wurz as saying the plan is moving forward.

"Obviously the drivers are happy that the technical team representatives agreed for the additional head protection to come in for 2017 following the drivers' recommendation and the FIA research," he said.

Also on track is the push for faster-cornering tires for 2017, after several F1 drivers accepted Pirelli's invitation to join the Milan meeting on Tuesday.

An insider said: "In terms of ensuring the right people heard the issues, it was a good meeting and we made progress".

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