What we’ve learnt this week is a weekly round-up of all the paddock news and gossip, we will bring you all the stories from the teams and drivers. This week we bring you the stories following the Belgian Grand Prix and it’s no surprise that a lot of them revolve around the driver market.
Renault Opens up about Ocon:
Renault confirm Mercedes’ role in Esteban Ocon’s future was a contributing factor as to why they didn’t sign the frenchman. Before the summer break Esteban Ocon looked set to sign with the French marque but they opted for Daniel Ricciardo instead.
“We’ve been extremely honest in our decision with people around Esteban – as always with these things the discussions are never with the driver – but in the present case it was a bit awkward because it was a competitor, Mercedes.”
Cyril Abiteboul makes references to their decision to take a Red Bull driver last season (Carlos Sainz) which has worked out well for them but insists it’s something the team doesn’t want to pursue in the future as it continues it’s climb up the gird.
“One more year or two more years, 2019 and ’20 – in years we are supposed to, if we are to comply with our road map, start competing with top teams… Being dependent on that top team, a competitor, for a very important resource, felt a little bit awkward.”
Charles Leclerc drove 2018 Ferrari in July:
It has come to light that Charles Leclerc took part in a filming day for Ferrari in Monza in July. During a filming day a team can only run a maximum of 100km and run standard non-performance Pirelli tyres. Of course this means it would be very difficulty for Ferrari to assess Charles but they only need to see his on track performances this year to be convinced.
This is very interesting as it could be an indication as to where Ferrari’s mindset is towards it’s driver lineup. With Monza coming up and it usually being Ferrari’s favourite place to announce it’s driver lineup, could we see Charles be announced as a works driver?
German GP looks set to remain on 2019 calendar:
The German GP looks set to remain on the 2019 calendar following a successful Grand Prix this year with a race day crowd of around 70,000. It would be the first time we would see back-to-back German Grand Prix’s since 2013-2014.
The race could be supported by Mercedes with the German brand keen on keeping it’s home GP.
“We have tried to facilitate a comeback, we’re involved in the discussions with the various parties, but I haven’t got visibility as of today whether the German GP will happen, or whether we’ll be involved.” – Toto Wolff
A provisional calendar is expected to be announced this week during the Italian Grand Prix and looks set to remain at 21 races.
Red Bull to run Renault “C-Spec” engine:
Red Bull will debut Renault’s “C-Spec” engine in Monza this weekend as it seeks to find performance to compete with Ferrari and Mercedes. With Daniel Ricciardo set for an engine penalty regardless it makes sense for Red Bull to try this, this new engine however is said to have reliability concerns but can deliver around a quoted 0.3 seconds of lap time in Monza.
“Depending on fuel used, the power gain is in the order of 0.3s per lap in qualifying on a circuit like Monza, which is a substantial step forward.” – Remi Taffin (Renault’s Engine Technical Director)
Due to the reliability concerns McLaren and Renault themselves won’t be running it citing their positions in the championship; with a tight midfield battle that this would be too high of a risk. It would make sense though for Nico Hulkenberg to add it to his engine allocation as he will be more than likely be starting from the back of the gird thanks to his 10 place penalty for causing the turn 1 crash in Spa.
Sergio Perez to make McLaren return?
It is understood the Sergio Perez is now in the frame to replace Stoffel Vandoorne at McLaren next season. It has been indicated however that the Mexican had already signed with Force India prior to the team entering administration in July but his contract could be bought out by McLaren or even Mercedes who would prefer to keep Ocon at Force India.
Esteban Ocon had also been linked to McLaren but it is believed that Ocon is too tall for the McLaren at 6ft 1inches; discovered when he had a seat fitting with the team during the summer break. This would certainly rule him out of a mid-season switch this season and with his Mercedes ties it makes it difficult for him to make the switch.
The other drivers in contention are Lando Norris and current McLaren driver Stoffel Vandoorne. The former will take part in his second FP1 session in Monza as the team looks to evaluate the young brit. Stoffel looks very unlikely to remain but a lot of people are certain Ferrari will replace Kimi Raikkonen every year but that hasn’t happened yet.
Vandoorne not in contention for Sauber seat:
Fred Vasseur has confirmed that Stoffel Vandoorne is not in contention for one of the Sauber drives next season. Stoffel had been rumoured for a mid-season switch replacing Marcus Ericsson but this no longer looks to be the case. With it looking likely that one seat will be reserved for Charles Leclerc or Antonio Giovinazzi (dependant on whether Leclerc moves to Haas or Ferrari) that only one seat is available and Marcus Ericsson looks to be in a great position to stay with the Swiss outfit according to Vasseur.
“The best way to keep the position and the place for every single driver in the paddock is to do a good job, and he’s doing it.”
An all Russian line-up at Williams for 2019?
We may see an all Russian line-up next season at Williams. It is understood the Artem Markelov is in talks with Williams about a potential drive next season but also confirmed that he could stop racing all together if he couldn’t find a drive in F1 next season.
“Maybe finishing. Why not? Finishing or Formula 1. So, a nice word for the writing. Finish or Formula 1.”
He does come with significant financial backing and would have enough super licence points to make the move. We have seen some stunning overtaking from Artem in his junior category career and he certainly is a master of tyre saving so he wouldn’t be undeserving of an F1 seat.
And that’s our lot for this week. There will be no doubt more to bring to you next week so stay tuned.
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