In the round-up today: Renault still open to Palmer for 2018 if he turns around his performance; Matsushita confident he’ll hit F1 superlicence target; F1 could introduce standard parts to cut down on costs.
Jolyon Palmer’s contract expires at the end of the season and Renault has been assessing Robert Kubica’s potential to return to F1 fulltime raising questions about Palmer’s prospects with the team.
Although Renault publicly acknowledges it is considering Kubica for a potential race seat, Abiteboul says it is also open to retaining Palmer’s services for next season if he can raise his game.
“Frankly, if he manages to turn around the situation, which he did last year, we are completely open to a future between the team and Jo for one more season,” Abiteboul told Motorsport.com.
“Stability would be good for the team. That’s also what we wanted last year – to have Nico changing we wanted not to have to change two drivers.
“Things could go his [Palmer’s] way, but at the end of the day that’s in his hands.
“He knows that right now he’s on a one-year contract and completely understands the team has to assess its options for the future.”
Abiteboul said Palmer had shown he is capable of performing strongly, but had lost confidence amid a run of poor reliability mixed with repeated driver errors.
“We’ve seen very good things with Jo, both during the winter tests, during the season, during a session,” Abiteboul added.
“He’s capable of extracting really good pace from the car, doing a very good job, providing accurate feedback, being very committed into the team.
“At the same time there’s been a mix of mistakes, missed opportunities – clearly not assisted by circumstance with reliability that has been clearly weaker on his side of the garage.
“Very rapidly what this sort of mix has created is, I believe, a lack of confidence – a lack of confidence in himself, a lack of ability to put his head down in the difficulties that will encounter any driver in a race weekend or in a season.
“And that lack of confidence has started to kick off in a sort of snowball and has led to the situation we have now.
“I’m really trying to protect Jo and to confirm to Jo almost on a daily basis my and the team’s commitment and full support – in order to recreate the confidence in himself and in the team. It’s not the job of one day.”
Honda protege Nobuharu Matsushita says he is fully confident he can finish in the top three of this year’s Formula 2 standings and get the superlicence points needed for F1.
Matsushita, 23, is in his third season of F2 (formerly GP2) with ART Grand Prix, and lies sixth in the current standings with sprint race wins in Barcelona and Hungary to his name.
However, in order to get the 40 superlicence points required to race in F1, Matsushita would have to finish no worse than third in the F2 standings, as he’d been ninth and 11th in his first two seasons in the category.
With four rounds remaining, Russian Time driver Artem Markelov holds third place in the points, 32 points ahead of Matsushita, with Nicholas Latifi (DAMS) and Luca Ghiotto (Russian Time) also between the pair.
“This year my objective is to be in the top three of F2, to get the superlicence to do F1 next year,” said the Japanese driver. “I have to do well in F2, and we will see next year.
“I think it’s very possible. We had some difficult weekends before this weekend [in Hungary] but Spa is my favourite [track], the car will be very good also. I’m positive for the next races. I can do a good job I think.”
Asked by Motorsport.com if he could stay in F2 for a fourth season if he missed this objective, he replied: “No, I don’t think so. But I will be in the top three.”
Matsushita got his first taste of F1 machinery when he tested for Sauber at the Hungaroring earlier this month, a legacy of the Swiss team’s now-aborted deal to run Honda engines in 2018.
Talks are ongoing between the Japanese company and Toro Rosso about an engine supply for next season, and an agreement could result in Matsushita landing a race seat with the Italian squad.
But, asked about a possible future at Toro Rosso, Matsushita would only say: “This is out of my control. I just need to do a good job with F2.”
Formula 1 could introduce standard parts to address the huge spending disparity across the grid, F1 CEO Chase Carey has confirmed.
The budgets of F1 teams vary wildly, with Ferrari spending an estimated £330million last year as the likes of Force India and Sauber spent £90m and £95m respectively.
McLaren executive director Zak Brown has backed a budget cap in the past, and also claimed “there are some that think we should standardise some parts”.
Carey has now confirmed that standard parts is an option F1 has considered to cut costs, as he reiterated Liberty’s sporting chief Ross Brawn’s claim that technology should not be “dumbed down”.
“There are many paths to get there, whether it’s cost caps, or other ways to address key components of the car,” said Carey.
“We’re not looking to standardise the car – we think it is very important to continue to have a sport that is competition married to state of the art technologies.
“We’re not looking to dumb the cars down, but I think we can standardise components of it.
“We are certainly looking for ways to address what some of the teams in particular spend that would improve the overall economics of the business and enable everybody in it to benefit, as well as improving the competition.”
It is not known what F1 would seek to standardise, although Brown’s suggestion earlier in the year was parts that “don’t improve the show and the fans don’t recognise the difference”, like suspension components.
Carey has also revealed “preliminary meetings” have been held with teams regarding cost cutting, although the objective was not to make everybody’s budget the same.
“One of the challenges we have today is there are a handful of teams that clearly spend at a level that’s much different from the others, and you can see the results on the track,” said Carey.
“So if we can bring the costs into an area where they are more comparable – not equal – to each other, it can enhance competition and would make the economics of the business much better.
“We’ve begun that process with the teams, so we’ve had some preliminary meetings.
“There are some big components to it, like addressing the engine, which is probably the most complicated part of the car as a whole.
“It is certainly our goal to address those costs, and we think the sport will on many levels benefit from that.”