In the round-up today: Honda aims to overtake Renault power by end of 2017; Ferrari and Vettel reportedly in dispute over contract; Jackie Stewart likens Halo criticism to that of 1960’s safety backlash; Haas reveal secret to a revamped approach to 2017 season.
Honda can leapfrog Formula 1 engine rival Renault before the end of the current season, says its motorsport chief Yusuke Hasegawa.
Honda has shown progress in recent races, with the team scoring its first points in June’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix – where it introduced ‘spec 3’ – followed by a double-points finish in Hungary last time out.
“I think we can keep the same ratio of the increasing of the power but it is difficult to catch up Mercedes or Ferrari,” Hasegawa told Motorsport.com.
“I really want to move ahead of Renault in terms of performance before the end of the season.”
When asked if he believed that would be a genuine possibility, given the Japanese manufacturer’s horsepower deficit to its rivals, Hasegawa replied: “Yes, I can see that on the data. I will not tell you the number, but we are closing the gap.”
Hasegawa added he felt this was the closest Honda has been to its rivals since rejoining F1 in 2015.
This comes after he said the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend was the first in 2017 where Honda was not plagued by reliability concerns.
Speaking about the engine performance in Hungary, Hasegawa said: “The drivability was OK but still the drivers highlighted a lack of power.
“They are very confident with the car, which is good, but it is still difficult to challenge the top three teams.”
Honda is pushing on with development of its 2017 engine at its bases at Sakura and Milton Keynes and intends to introduce ‘spec 4’ as soon as it can verify gains on the dyno.
Contract talks between Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel for 2018 may be complicated by the German driver’s insistence on a simple-one-year extension.
Ferrari boss Sergio Marchionne revealed recently that a potential deal had been delivered to Vettel, and that it was now the driver’s choice to remain at Maranello.
Reports last month claimed that Marchionne may have tabled a highly enticing offer worth 120 million euros associated with a three-year extension of Vettel’s contract with Ferrari.
But Finland’s Ilta Sanomat newspaper now cites sources saying Ferrari and Vettel may in fact not be in agreement over the duration of a new deal, with the German pushing for a mere one-year contract in order to leave his options open for 2019.
Future options for Vettel could include a deal with Mercedes for 2019, with pundits believing that Lewis Hamilton could retire at the end of next season when his Silver Arrows contract ends.
As he leads the world title fight, Vettel insists life is good at Ferrari however.
“As I’ve said, I’m not in a rush, I don’t think the team (Ferrari) is in a rush, and as far as I understand I think I have a good contact with the team and they would tell me otherwise,” said the 30-year-old.
“So as I’ve said there’s no problem — nothing wrong.”
Sir Jackie Stewart says the current outrage surrounding the planned introduction of the Halo to Formula 1 reminds him of the backlash against his own F1 safety push half a century ago.
The triple world champion led a safety campaign in grand prix racing in the 1960s that was not popular with many fans and observers at the time.
And Stewart feels that people these days would not be so swift to condemn the Halo if they considered the toll of death in motorsport.
Stewart, who was speaking ahead of the launch of the Great British Racing Drivers Season on UKTV channel Yesterday, outlined his belief that using the Halo was a price worth paying if it kept drivers safe.
“My view is: if you can save a life and if some of these people – if they had been to as many funerals as I’ve been to and wept as much as I have and seen close friends die [they wouldn’t object],” he told Motorsport.com.
“That’s all finished because we’ve got technology that’s taken away that.
“I’m afraid I don’t have a negative of the Halo. I read correspondent’s columns that [say] ‘this is the end of Formula 1 for me, I’m out of it, I can’t stick with this.’ Well that was like people saying ‘Jackie Stewart’s going to kill motorsport’ because of track safety.
“I think that you have to have as much safety as you can find and to think that you are destroying motorsport and Formula 1 – I mean, the full-face helmet was criticised because you couldn’t see the driver’s face so much.”
Stewart also explained that, from his point of view, it is better to adopt a pre-emptive position when it comes to driver safety.
“Preventive medicine is considerably more important than corrective medicine,” he said. “Corrective medicine is [also] considerably more expensive than preventive medicine.
“The Halo, in my opinion, [is necessary] because Henry Surtees got killed – not by his wheel but by somebody else’s – well, that can happen any time.
“That was just bad luck – but why depend on luck?”
Stewart, who won 27 F1 races during his nine-year career in the category, went on to explain that advancements in safety areas did not excuse drivers from acting in a dangerous manner.
“There’s no point in me saying [previous eras were] ‘just dangerous and then you had to be careful and cautious and when men were men’ – bullshit,” he said.
“A racing driver hasn’t changed from [Tazio] Nuvolari and [Rudolf] Caracciola and before them.
“However, if you start taking liberties because you can have huge accidents that you know the fellow is going to survive, you might be a little bit more liberal with your driving behaviours.
“You can’t overdrive – you’ve got to drive in a manner which doesn’t create a situation where life is going to be taken.”
The Haas Formula 1 team says its 2017 results show its tactic of an early development switch has prevented it falling into a second-year “hole”.
Haas started F1 by scoring points in three of its first four grands prix in 2016, placing it fifth in the constructors’ championship initially.
It only scored twice more thereafter and fell to eighth in the standings, having taken an early decision to focus its resources on 2017 car preparations.
This year it entered the summer break seventh in the standings, one place and one point ahead of where it was at the same point in 2016.
Team principal Gunther Steiner said this shows Haas has successfully avoided a trend of new F1 teams falling back in their second campaigns because they struggle to design a car amid their first racing season.
“Part of my job is to prepare not to get in a hole,” Steiner told Motorsport.com. “You can always end up in a hole but I had a terrible second season in one of my projects and I learnt a lot out of it.
“Everybody was aware last year that we needed to be careful not to drop the ball.
“When last year we decided to switch over to develop the ’17 car, because it wasn’t going bad for us [at the time] it was like ‘why are you not bringing updates, haven’t you got any money?’
“No, no. We didn’t want to, because we’d just confuse ourselves. First of all, we’d confuse ourselves in ’16 plus, we’d fall behind in preparing ourselves for ’17.
“I couldn’t promise, but I always said ‘we are of the second season [trend], it’s pretty logical why it goes wrong, and having had it go wrong you do your best not to have it go wrong [again]’.”
Steiner said last month that the final updates for the 2017 Haas would arrive at September’s Singapore Grand Prix at the latest, as “then there is no point [doing more] because we’re working full-time on the ’18 car”.
He also expects Ferrari to provide an engine upgrade at an undetermined race after the summer break.
Steiner added that Haas functions better this year simply because its personnel have more experience of working together.