In the round-up today: Alonso says his season has been fantastic; Grosjean praises Magnussen, Steiner says early contracts helps the team; Renault engineer says Kubica had no problem with the car; Porsche already has started F1 engine works; Horner says F1 should run contrary to Formula-E.
Fernando Alonso says that while 2017 has so far been very challenging for his McLaren team, on a personal level it has been “fantastic”.
“As a team we can’t be happy with the season so far,” said Alonso.
“We were making it into Q3 normally last year, ninth/10th was our average position whereas this year we struggled a bit more.”
“On the personal side, it has been a very, very good season for me. With the 2017 cars, I’m able to drive back again to my driving style, I feel much more competitive than the previous years, I’m feeling competitive out there on the track.
“I had the Indy 500 which was a nice experience, go-kart circuit is going great, fantastic.
“So it’s been a fantastic first half of the season.”
McLaren has been hampered by Honda’s unreliability and poor performance this season, though the Japanese manufacturer has shown improvement in recent races.
“We can’t be happy with where we are with the situation of the reliability and performance,” said McLaren racing director Eric Boullier.
“So if we have to say after half a season where we are, we are working hard to recover at least our performance and competitiveness we had last year.
“With ambition, we need to do a better job this year. This is not where we are and where we want to be.”
Getting Kevin Magnussen as a teammate at Haas for the 2017 Formula 1 season stopped Romain Grosjean getting “complacent”, says Haas team principal Gunther Steiner.
Grosjean dominated Esteban Gutierrez in Haas’s first F1 campaign last year but the advantage has ebbed and flowed between Grosjean and ex-Renault driver Magnussen this season.
Asked how Grosjean reacted to Magnussen’s arrival, Steiner told Motorsport.com: “He reacted well. I think he took it down as a challenge.
“Maybe at the beginning he was maybe out of his comfort zone but I think they get the best when they are just a little bit out of their comfort zone because when you are in the comfort zone you stagnate.
“You get complacent. It’s very easy to get complacent if you’re not challenged. Especially in any business or sport where the performance level is high.
“You need always to get a little bit pushed because otherwise if you’re too comfortable it’s always too easy.”
Grosjean reckons Magnussen is underrated and praised their relationship as the best of his career with a teammate.
“I’ve got a really good relationship with him, it almost surprised me,” Grosjean told Motorsport.com. “Teammates are always in a war but we’ve both grown up and we both respect each other a lot.
“I think he’s underrated. He’s super-fast. He can do very well when the car is not suiting him, he doesn’t really mind.
“I’ll say I learned more from Kimi in how to set-up a car and the way to approach a weekend but I think Kevin in the other aspect is the best.
“In the other categories, younger categories, every teammate I just wanted to kill them. I just wanted to be the best.
“Even when you are in Formula 1 you have Kimi and you are like ‘I want to beat him because he is the benchmark’. But now I think we have two benchmarks and this is fine.
“If he’s faster, great I need to improve, and if I’m faster, great, I have had a good day.”
He agreed with Steiner’s suggestion that Magnussen’s pressure was healthy.
“I think it’s very important for a team to get two very fast drivers,” said Grosjean. “Whenever you’ve got one driver faster than the other one, the fast one gets slower and kind of has an easy life.
“Whereas when you’ve got two drivers pushing hard, as you can see at Mercedes with [Valtteri] Bottas pushing Lewis [Hamilton], it’s great.
“For Lewis it gets hard sometimes because he’s had to raise his game and in other teams that’s just not the case.”
Renault engineer Ricardo Penteado says that any doubts the team had about Robert Kubica’s physical abilities were quickly dispelled last week.
Kubica completed the first stage of his F1 comeback when he spent a day testing Renault’s new-spec RS17 at F1’s in-season test at Budapest last week.
Competitive times and consistency behind the wheel supported the overall view that the 32-year-old was indeed up to the task of driving this year’s faster and more demanding F1 cars.
“You can forget that question — he has no problem to drive the hybrid cars,” Penteado told Brazil’s Globo.
While everyone who witnessed the test was throughly impressed with the Pole’s performance and laps times, Penteado insisted Kubica could have done even better.
“The most important thing is that Kubica did not have fuel for just one lap,” he said.
“The other thing that stands out is the number of laps he did — the equivalent of two races,” Penteado added.
“It was 40 degrees and Robert did not get out of the car complaining of exhaustion.”
Given the lack of muscle in his injured right arm, it was feared that Kubica’s control behind the wheel could be hindered.
But Penteado said Kubica was able to drive the Renault with only minimal changes to the layout of the steering wheel.
“He had no difficulty,” he said. “We asked for a lot of changes from him via the steering wheel, and he did everything within the normal time.”
Porsche is keeping a close eye on F1’s developments and even admits that it has ‘high efficiency engine’ under development which could become the basis of an F1 project.
The German manufacturer recently announced its shock departure from the LMP1 World Endurance Championship and its move the burgeoning Formula E series.
Porsche is keeping its core LMP1 team together however, fueling speculation that its expertise could eventually be put to good use in F1.
“We need all of these (LMP1) people in the future,” Porsche’s research and development chief Michael Steiner told Auto Motor und Sport.
“The great team we built for LMP1 is highly motivated and represents an enormous wealth of knowledge,” he explained.
“So it is a good idea to have a concrete plan for the engineers, mechanics and even for the drivers.”
Porsche’s representatives sat in recently on Formula 1’s latest working group meetings chaired by F1 sporting manager Ross Brawn, in charge of defining the sport’s future engine platform.
“Like other manufacturers, we at the invitation of the FIA are participating in the discussions about the future Formula 1 powertrain,” Steiner admitted.
“The team at Weissach is not working on an F1 engine at the moment, but it is working on a high-efficiency engine at the concept level — without a decision about what we are doing with this engine,” he said.
Red Bull Racing boss Christian Horner believes F1 is at a crossroads and should choose to run in the opposite direction from Formula E with regard to technology.
With many manufacturers converging towards Formula E, the pinnacle of motorsport will need to make the right engine choice when it moves beyond 2020, when the current rules cease to exist.
Initial engine talks appear to be steering F1 towards a simplified V6 twin turbo power unit which would include less hybrid components. But Horner isn’t sure the choice will be right.
“I hope we do not end up with a bad compromise,” the Red Bull boss told Auto Motor und Sport.
“The manufacturers are all going to Formula E, which is their playground for future technologies. Porsche, Mercedes, Renault, Audi, Jaguar — that’s already more than Formula 1 ever had!
“The cost of Formula E is 5 per cent of a F1 budget, so what I can imagine is that the mass scale manufacturers go there and the sports car manufacturers like Ferrari, Aston Martin and Lamborghini are in F1. That’s their place.
“So I see Formula 1 at a crossroads,” he explained.
“If you believe the politics, we’ll all be driving electric cars in 2030, so F1 should be the counterpoint — pure racing, man and machine, a competition of the best drivers in the world with combustion engines,” he added.
In order to avoid a half-hearted decision or a bad compromise, Horner believes the crucial final word on the matter may be left with F1 sporting manager Ross Brawn who “needs the courage to make the right decision”.
Horner states that Red Bull has done “a lot of market research” for the Aston Martin supercar project which shows that “the overwhelming majority want a V10 or V12 and not a hybrid”.
“And I did my own survey at one of the fan forums, and everyone cheered when I said do we want to go back to the V10s.
“I doubt we are going to do that,” Horner acknowledged. “We’ll have to be content with the bi-turbo V6. But the sound is the key.
“Of all the criticism of the current engines, the most important thing for the fans is the sound.”