Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Power Boost Worries Renault, Ferrari, More
Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne has played down his team's impressive start to 2015 Formula One pre-season testing.
Kimi Raikkonen was the quickest man at the Jerez test, his time of one minute, 20.841 seconds more than a second faster than the best lap set by defending champions Mercedes. But Marchionne is under no illusions; he's looking to the second test at the Circuit de Catalunya to provide a more accurate picture of where each team really is.
Red Bull had a difficult time of things in Jerez and will be hoping to move forward in Catalunya. Despite working hard with Renault to rectify the issues which held them back, they found time this week to announce two new recruits to their highly successful young-driver programme.
GP3 runner-up Dean Stoneman will drive in Formula Renault 3.5 with Red Bull Junior Team backing. Fellow Brit Callum Ilott will step up from karting to race in European Formula Three.
Elsewhere, Renault's Cyril Abiteboul has raised concerns over the cost of 1000-plus horsepower engines, Ron Dennis doesn't believe true title sponsors exist any more and Williams have confirmed they supported Marussia/Manor's bid to return in 2015.
Read on for a full roundup of the top stories from the last few days.
Ferrari President Sergio Marchionne Not Getting Carried Away
Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne is refusing to get carried away over his team's performance in the first pre-season test.
The Scuderia's cars topped the timesheets on three of the four days, but Marchionne doesn't think we'll get a true measure of where everyone stands until after the next test. He is quoted by BBC Sport, saying:
I am encouraged by the performance of the new car, though it is one thing to do a quick lap, another to do an entire race. I have so much confidence in the work of the boys. I am proud of their work.
Now we'll see when the World Championship starts in Australia. I do not expect miracles, but it is important to see progress.
At the Barcelona test, I expect the ultimate proof of what we have done so far.
Ferrari's pace at Jerez was eye-opening, but it's clear they were doing a very different programme to everyone else. Andrew Benson's analysis of data from the test shows their average lap time was an incredible 1.4 seconds quicker than that of any other team, and 1.5 seconds quicker than Mercedes.
At the end of 2014 Ferrari were nowhere, more than a second slower than Mercedes. It's inconceivable that under stable regulations they could have swung it around by 2.5 seconds.
Cutting the gap by just half a second from last year to this would be impressive.
The Catalunya test begins on February 19, but even that will not tell the whole story. The first chance we'll get to see where each team really is will be in qualifying for the first race of the season.
Renault Boss Abiteboul Wary on 1000 Horsepower Jump
Renault Sport F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul would welcome 1000-plus horsepower engines in the future—but only if they remain affordable.
Speculatively pencilled-in for 2017, the more powerful engines were the showpiece proposal among a raft of measures to improve the spectacle and make F1 more challenging for the drivers. But with the cost of power units already high, questions have been raised regarding who would pay for the changes.
Asked for his views by Autosport, Abiteboul said:
Personally I would love it, but I need someone to pay for it. I hear small teams, the independent teams, are not prepared to pay the price of the power unit. And at the same time I hear that we need to add 200bhp or something like that. So how do you connect both?
If you can find someone who is capable of paying for that, I would love to see that. I would love to see the current cars and the current drivers having to deal with 1000bhp. But there is no easy way and cheap way that you can do that with the current regulations.
The current generation of V6 turbo power units would be capable of producing the magical 1000 horsepower figure with modifications, but Abiteboul asserts it wouldn't be easy. He went on to highlight some areas which would need changing:
You need to make some drastic changes, particularly to the fuel allocation, and that is a different ballgame. You need to resize some of the internal components of the ICE [internal combustion engine] but, if you need to change that, then you need to change the sizing of batteries, and the sizing of the MGU too.
You need to redesign the whole power unit, so you need to be a bit careful.
It would be nice if the cars were a little quicker and more difficult to drive. Increasing the engine power would certainly achieve that and if F1 has to shuffle aside a few of its "green" regulations like fuel-flow rates, so be it.
But there's no point having slightly more interesting engines if costs rise to such a degree that there are hardly any teams left to use them.
The need for progress and more exciting cars must be balanced against the cost of making it happen.
Ron Dennis Says Title Sponsorship No Longer Truly Exists
Ron Dennis believes the days of heavily involved, high-paying title sponsors in F1 are over.
His McLaren team have been without a primary sponsor since their deal with Vodafone, reported by The Telegraph to be worth $75 million per year, expired at the end of 2013.
Dennis told media in March 2014 the team would "definitely" feature a title sponsor after a few races; it failed to materialise.
Now, he says such relationships no longer exist in modern F1. He is quoted by Autosport, saying:
Title sponsorship doesn't exist any more as a concept. If you look at what title sponsorship would normally be, it would be somewhere between 40-50 per cent of your budget.
Where the budgets are for a competitive team, no company will come in and give you that kind of money. Therefore what you do is you cut it up into bite-sized pieces, so you get a range of companies with similar philosophies to join you on the car.
Do we have room for bigger brands on our cars? Yes we do. But the reality is that we put ourselves in a position where the technology side of our business is providing different dynamics [of revenue].
Dennis went on to repeat something he has been saying for a while—that the team's lack of recent success should not push down the value of space on the McLaren car. This suggests they have had offers, but declined them as they were considered too low.
While a major sponsor providing up to half the team's budget is indeed a thing of the past, title sponsorship itself is still hanging on. Mercedes have Petronas, Red Bull have Infiniti and Williams have Martini.
But it is becoming less and less common, largely due to the end of tobacco sponsorship. In 1995, nine of the 13 teams featured a title sponsor. The figure was eight from 11 in 2000, falling to five from 10 in 2005 and four from 12 in 2010.
It looks like being three from nine or 10 this season, but could still be four. Per Autosport, Dennis hinted at the start of the month his team may make a change to their 2015 livery if a big sponsor arrives.
Maybe it'll actually happen this year.
Williams Support Marussia/Manor Return
Williams have revealed they supported Marussia/Manor making a return to the grid in 2015.
Earlier in February, BBC Sport reported the Strategy Group had voted against allowing the minnows to race with a 2014 car in the season ahead.
But Williams, who have a permanent seat on the group, were in favour of the proposal. Deputy team principal Claire Williams told Sky Sports:
We’ve been very clear on our position around Marussia and their entry: we want a full competitive line-up on the grid next year and we will do anything to support Marussia coming back in.
We made it very clear in the Strategy Group that we would vote for them to be able to use the 2014 chassis this season. Unfortunately it hasn’t happened, but Williams want a competitive line-up on the grid and we want to help the smaller teams.
And I think we’ve demonstrated that and are always pushing cost control in Formula One. That’s to save the smaller teams that are really struggling, the likes of Marussia and Caterham, but also the middle teams as well at the moment that are facing some serious issues.
Marussia went into administration in October. In January, Sky reported they had run up debts of £60 million trying to stay afloat. The technological progression of the sport and huge sums spent by larger teams has seen costs soar.
Williams went on to reveal their own team needs to generate £60 million per year in sponsorship in order to keep racing with their own relatively modest budget.
Marussia's was lower, but their commercial magnetism was lower too. Williams have a rich history and a strong brand to attract potential backers—Marussia (or Manor, as they will be known if they return) do not.
Crash.net reports the team are still working on a return. Hopefully they'll find the funds to make it.
Red Bull Junior Team Signs Dean Stoneman and Callum Ilott
Red Bull have added two new names to their prestigious Junior Team.
The promotion of Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz, Jr. to F1 and Alex Lynn's departure had left the programme with just one driver—Pierre Gasly, who will race in the GP2 series in 2015.
He will now be joined in the team by 24-year-old Dean Stoneman and 16-year-old Callum Ilott.
Motorsports (@redbullmotors) February 12, 2015
Stoneman, 2014's GP3 runner-up, will race for DAMS in Formula Renault 3.5 in 2015. After the announcement, he said (h/t ESPN):
To be part of the Red Bull Junior Team has been one of my life goals and it is fantastic to be given the chance. You just have to look at the names that have gone before to see that only the best drivers get into the programme.
I'm thrilled about the year ahead, to be in the DAMS team in World Series is a perfect opportunity. I obviously have all the support I need and we have a great build-up planned before the start of the season, plenty of time in the SIM before track testing starts in about eight weeks.
I'm aiming very high, Carlos [Sainz, Toro Rosso driver] came from GP3 to World Series and won with DAMS last year. I think I showed last year in GP3 what I can do so I have no reason not to jump into Renault 3.5 and do well, get on the podium early and start racking up the points.
Stoneman won the 2010 F2 championship and tested in F1 for Williams, but his career was put on hold after he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Having beaten the disease he returned to racing in 2013, entering that year's British Porsche Carrera Cup and having two outings in GP3.
He raced in the series full-time in 2014, missing out on the title despite winning three of the final five rounds.
European KF karting champion Ilott is currently competing in the Toyota Racing Series in New Zealand. He'll race with Carlin in the European F3 championship in 2015, and said:
Being in the Red Bull Junior Team is a privilege, you just have to look at the history of the drivers that have gone before. Last season was very good for me so I was hoping for a good start in cars but I didn't imagine that I would get this opportunity.
The step up is quite something, I have a lot to learn but I have already had a very good start with a few F3 tests with Carlin and a couple of tests in a Renault 2.0 before coming out to New Zealand for the Toyota Series. There are a lot of experienced people around me to learn from and it gets better every time I go out.
This is my first open wheel race series and I am trying to learn as quickly as possible. I think it will be a good preparation for the F3. This car has less downforce and a bit less power but it is close enough to help.
The two Brits will be hoping to follow the likes of Daniel Ricciardo, Jean-Eric Vergne, Daniil Kvyat and Sebastian Vettel as successful graduates of the programme, but will face tough competition.
European F3 and FR3.5 are two of the most competitive junior formulae in the world. Stoneman's rivals will include McLaren youngster Nyck de Vries and promising fellow Brit Oliver Rowland, while Ilott will face Ferrari-backed Lance Stroll and reigning British F4 champion George Russell.