It has been just over seven weeks since the final race in Abu Dhabi closed off the 2017 season. Thus, many F1 fans are suffering withdrawal symptoms.
The good news – only 66 days separate us from the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park in Melbourne. If you want to whet your appetite the first official practice in Barcelona begins on February 26 and runs until March 1, the second pre-season tests start on March 6 and end on the 9th, just 16 days before Melbourne.
With Williams having the only seat still available for 2018 it would appear that Robert Kubica’s attempt to re-enter F1 will be lost to 22 year old Sergey Sirotkin. The Russian is apparently bringing a large sponsorship package which will mean that the team will effectively have two drivers who supply a much needed financial boost, Lance Stroll being the other.
But whether the choice of two relatively inexperienced drivers is a wise move rather than retaining the knowledge of a more mature driver will only be shown later in the season.
Another Russian receiving a break is Daniil Kvyat who was dropped from the Red Bull driver programme after a very turbulent 18 months following his demotion to the Toro Rosso team. Kvyat has moved to Ferrari where he is expected to fulfil duties as a development driver.
Force India, expected to change its name in the near future, has appointed a new reserve and test driver, Nicholas Latifi. The 22-year-old Canadian was previously a Renault test driver and joins Vijay Mallya’s team in a similar position following a strong season in F2.
Re-elected FIA President, Jean Todt, issued an interesting statement regarding the current problems of F1 and it is a rather unusual point of view.
Todt believes that the teams that head the field at present have one thing in common – they are too reliable and that is due to overspending. He said: “Even if the Mercedes was not always the fastest, Lewis scored points in 20 of the 20 Grand Prix. The cars are too reliable.” He continued. “Ferrari impressed me as well. I stay with what I said – Ferrari and Mercedes were too reliable. “That costs money. Test, simulators, it’s all too much.” He concluded with. “We don’t need all of that for a good sport. Actually, the contrary.”
I am confused. Is the FIA chief suggesting that reliability should not be a goal of the teams?
The fact that the cars keep running to the end is surely the objective of all teams – one has to first finish to finish first. I think I can understand what Todt is trying to say but I cannot rationalise this with the fact that we are about to introduce even stricter regulations for the 2018 season.
Power units are now limited to three per season and many of the components of this engine are being reduced to two units per year – all in a bid to reduce costs. But with these reductions the drive of all manufacturers will be towards more reliability to avoid possible grid penalties.
How can the FIA President claim this as a reason for the processional racing when he is adamant that he will not change the three power unit limit, surely exacerbating the situation.
Christian Horner, Red Bull team principal, said: “There will be plenty of grid penalties in 2018. What we would hate to see is a championship decided on grid penalties. “Getting to the point with three engines in 21 races, it is nuts.” He further commented “We want to see the guys out on the track. Obviously we don’t throw caution to the wind with costs, but for me five engines for a 21-race championship would be a more sensible and logical number.”
His sentiments are shared by the outgoing Honda chief Yusuke Hasegawa. He also believes the three engine rule is unreasonable and could once again compromise the Japanese manufacturer’s progress with its new power unit housed in the Toro Rosso chassis.