John Floyd
Motorsport columnist
3 minute read
18 Oct 2017
11:48 am

US Grand Prix a show to watch

John Floyd

Honda team has new driver in 27-yearold New Zealander Brendon Hartley.

The Circuit of the Americas will play host to the US Grand Prix this weekend – and it promises to be a showbiz spectacular.

With announcements from the global voice of boxing and Saturday’s qualifying changing its usual time to accommodate fans who are there for a pop concert, it is aiming firmly at the home market.

Oh, and there will be a race at some stage. If you think I am somewhat cynical, you would be correct.

Despite the optimism of Sergio Marchionne, Maurizio Arrivabene and Sebastien Vettel, Ferrari’s chances of taking the 2017 driver’s title are remote.

Trailing current leader Lewis Hamilton by 59 points and with only 100 points available from just four races it would require a miracle to surpass the Mercedes driver’s total.

It is an even more daunting task when you consider the Englishman took victory in America, Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi last year.

I find Marchionne’s management style at Ferrari somewhat reminiscent of Toyota and Honda when their past attempts to run F1 teams ended none too well.

Attempting to run an F1 team in the same way as an automotive factory just does not work. Renault will be fielding their new team member Carlos Sainz, who left Toro Rosso following the Japanese event.

His new team-mate Nico Hulkenberg commented: “I only know him from the paddock, but he is an ambitious driver.

He is still young and wild, but he is certainly quick.” With Sainz’s departure, Daniil Kvyat regains his seat at Toro Rosso but will not compete alongside his new team-mate, Pierre Gasly.

The young Frenchman will not be in America since Honda, who provide the engine for his Super Formula car, are keen to see him continue to challenge for the title, being just half a point behind Hiroaki Ishiura, the leader in a Toyota-powered car.

It seems like a good opportunity for Honda to demonstrate that they can build reliable power plants, particularly as there will be a Honda in the back of the Toro Rosso next season.

To fill the gap left by Gasly, the Faenza-based team have called in 27-year-old New Zealander Brendon Hartley to contest the American round.

Hartley was a Red Bull junior driver who tested for Red Bull in 2009, becoming a test and reserve driver for their two teams.

For some reason, best known to the powers that be at Red Bull, he was dropped during the mid season break in 2010.

Hartley has achieved considerable success in sports car racing with the Porsche WEC team, winning the 2015 championship with team-mates Mark Webber and Timo Bernhard.

Winning the 2017 Le Mans 24- hour race with Bernhard and fellow Kiwi Earl Bamber, he currently leads the 2017 World Endurance Championship.

Team principal Franz Tost saidthat Hartley’s successes certainly led to his appointment.

Could this be an indication that Kvyat’s future is not too secure? Interestingly, Hartley’s fellow Red Bull junior driver at the time of his dismissal was none other than Daniel Ricciardo.

That programme has certainly nutured astonishing talent. McLaren’s racing director, Eric Boullier, has indicated that the FIA engine penalty system that most of us dislike is unlikely to be any better in 2018.

He has suggested that it could be changed to include financial penalties, rather than grid place demotion.

I have a problem with this.

Surely the idea of financially penalizing a team will mean greater hardships for the smaller outfits, whose budgets are already limited. So, if a part fails, you pay for a replacement – and then have to pay a fine. It makes no sense.

Meanwhile, there seems to be no urgency in changing the system. So another year will go by with the same system.

Only, in 2018 it is going to get worse as the number of engine units will be dropping to three. It promises to be one hell of a year.