Daniel Ricciardo will not be joining Renault Sport Formula One Team in 2019 after all… because they have tweaked their name to just Renault F1 Team.
The move by the French manufacturer is in an attempt to strengthen the links between the Renault brand and F1 as well as also making it sound “simpler and more natural” which will help grow its fan base worldwide.
The name will be used immediately ahead of the 2019 season.
“This new name and new logo will be assets to achieve the strategic objectives of developing Renault’s reputation and brand image through our commitment to Formula 1, while continuing to support the company’s product ranges, especially in the sports segment,” a team statement said.
“This new logo is more compact and more readable. Renault’s Losange – the diamond emblem – is now directly associated to the team name without any separation.”
Renault are just the latest team to change their name with Ferrari becoming Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow from next season while Haas will become Rich Energy Haas F1 Team and Red Bull has dropped TAG Heuer as its engine-naming sponsor.
Force India has been changed to Racing Point F1 Team but that name will be changed again ahead of the new season.
Renault later confirmed it was a Drag Reduction System (DRS) failure which caused the incident, before Hulkenberge took over for the afternoon.
Nevertheless, Ricciardo was optimistic over his new car, given that he had posted the second-quickest lap of the day at the time he was forced to stop.
“I was quite encouraged by the run I had before the DRS failure. I did quite a long run of about 15 laps and I was quite encouraged by that,” Ricciardo said. “When it broke, it’s like going into the corner with the DRS open, so as soon as I braked, I lost the car and spun.
“We avoided the wall and just coming back to fix the rear wing and all that it obviously takes some time and parts as well and at testing you don’t have a whole lot of parts so my morning was done after that.”
Despite a second tough day on track, the 29-year-old was pleased with how well he had settled into his new team – despite nearly falling into old habits when coming into the pits.
“Generally speaking I feel at home, I’m comfortable. I don’t know everyone’s name yet, but I feel like I am welcomed,” he added. “There is still a lot more for me to learn from a technical point of view and how to get the most out of the car, but let’s say from a feeling within the environment, I’m comfortable.
“The debriefs, what we go through with engineers and how many people are coming to me with feedback … I feel they are not really leaving any stone unturned.
There perhaps isn’t another driver coming into this new season with more pressure on him and more questions being asked of him than Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari. It seems odd to be so unsure of the ability of a four-time world champion but given how his uncharacteristic mistakes arguably cost him the title last year, he must do all he can this time around to remind people of his prowess in the cockpit.
But judging by not only his performances but his comments afterwards, he knows exactly what he must do to silence the doubters after posting a best time – and a course record – of 1:18.161.
“Honestly, we could not have hoped for a better first day. It was unbelievable,” Vettel said after his full day in the car. “I think the car was working really well, we had no issues slowing us down, we actually completed the program just the way that we wanted. We were able to squeeze a little bit more out even.
“It seems that the car is working. I feel comfortable, obviously I am still a bit rusty, I haven’t driven for a couple of months. But getting better, I certainly got enough laps today.”
It was perhaps his comments on new teammate Charles Leclerc which are most telling, however. Last time he had a younger, recently promoted teammate was a certain Daniel Ricciardo and we all know how that ended. Much of the same is expected from Leclerc at Ferrari and Vettel has had it easy with Kimi Raikkonen alongside him.
“He’s got the seat for a reason. I’ve got to take him very seriously,” Vettel said. “You always have a close rivalry with your teammate. He will be quick enough and put me under pressure.”
Williams in big, big trouble
When Renault showed up in Barcelona over the weekend to film their new car in action, Williams were also supposed to be there to do the same, but they weren’t. They also weren’t on track for day one of testing and won’t be on Tuesday or much of Wednesday either. The results of the delay in building the car – which is still at their Oxfordshire factory – will likely now have a knock-on effect for the first few races of the season.
It has also lead to much doubt surrounding the future of technical boss Paddy Lowe, who joined from Mercedes in 2017, fresh from being a senior figure in the team who at the time had just won their third consecutive world title double.
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Teams are only allowed eight days of testing – four this week and four next week – before the party begins in Melbourne and deputy team principal Claire Edwards described the delay as “extremely disappointing”.
There are fears, according to the BBC, that Williams insiders are expecting their car, once it finally gets on track, to be two seconds slower than last year’s effort, which was already comfortably the slowest car in the field.
Slow and steady Renault
Somewhat surprisingly, given all the positivity coming out of their Enfield garage, Renault’s two drivers were the slowest two on track, with Daniel Ricciardo propping up the timesheet at more than two and a half seconds behind Vettel.
Nico Hulkenberg was just one spot ahead of him but it seemed like Renault, unlike Ferrari, were looking to test other parts of their new car on day one while Ricciardo took some time to get him bum comfortably in the seat.
They were clearly holding something back, much like Mercedes were, when Lewis Hamilton failed to post a best lap good enough for anything better than P9.
Of his first proper run-out in a Renault, Ricciardo said: “It’s a good feeling to be behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car again after a long winter waiting. Today was about bedding ourselves back into it and, for me, continuing to learn about a new car and a new team.
“It was a decent afternoon and it’s important we keep increasing our mileage. We have plenty to analyse but it’s been a promising first official day. I’m excited to hit the track again and develop this new relationship.”
Renault will be an interesting one to keep an eye out for on day two, to see if their times improve at all.
Red Bull’s Honda a ‘thing of beauty’
Red Bull had been lauding over the engine Honda were going to provide them with all throughout the off-season and finally we got a first glimpse of what it can do on track as Max Verstappen completed 128 laps and posted the fourth-quickest time of the day.
Toro Rosso boss Franz Tost said he believed his sister team would win races this year and Christian Horner echoed those thoughts after seeing the Honda power unit in action.
“Power is a dominating factor, but I have to say that the installation of this engine into the chassis is probably the best one we have ever had,” he said. “When you look how neatly integrated it is into the chassis, it really is a thing of beauty.
“The whole engineering team collectively with Honda have done a great job in terms of installing what looks like a Swiss clock into the back of our chassis.”
With Ferrari’s bright start and Red Bull’s confidence we could be in for a much closer championship race this season, although it is only the first day of testing.
After years of promising the world and delivering nothing, McLaren took a different tact this year at their new car launch and instead tempered their ambitions with caution not seen by the team for a while. And how it has seemingly paid off as Carlos Sainz Jr recorded the second-quickest time of the day.
He also completed 119 laps – the third most of any driver – even though he suffered a delay when his car lost drive at the end of the pitlane exit and he was needed to be wheeled back in.
“I think everyone in the team has to be proud, has to be happy,” said Sainz. “I realise the quality there is at McLaren since the day I arrived at the team. That has never been a question, and even before arriving at the team, I had a lot of trust in this team.
“In six years you cannot forget how to make fast cars, although we are still far away from where we want to be. Although, in performance as I said, we are still not where we want to be and a long way to go.”
McLaren’s quick car will also give Renault hope, who are using the same energy and probably emphasises that they were testing other parts of the car on day one, not just the speed.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has warned Brexit will be a “nightmare scenario” for Formula 1 and is a major concern to all of the teams currently based in the UK.
Of the 10 teams in F1 this season, only three are primarily based outside the UK with Mercedes, Renault, McLaren, Red Bull, Williams, Haas and Racing Point all set to be affected by Brexit.
March 29th is the date the UK is set to leave the European Union and with the political uncertainty in the country at the moment, they are set to exit with a no-deal outcome, something that would be disastrous to F1 as a sport, claims Wolff.
A no-deal Brexit would mean British citizens would no longer be able to work abroad without a work permit and similarly no Europeans would be able to work in the UK without the correct documentation.
“Brexit is a major concern for us and should be a major concern for all of us that live in the UK and operate out of the UK,” Wolff said.
“We are Formula 1 teams that travel to races and test at least 21 times a year, we are moving in and out of the UK, our people move in and out of the UK, we are getting parts and services … and any major disruption in borders or with taxes would massively damage Formula 1 in the UK.
“Our team is an international team. We are a German car brand that has its Formula 1 operations in the United Kingdom … Formula 1 is very much exposed to the decisions that could be made on the political level and it is a risk for our people and a risk for the industry.
“(It’s) the mother of all messes.”
Only Alfa Romeo (Switzerland), Ferrari and Toro Rosso (both Italy) have all of their operations outside of the UK and Wolff believes a no-deal Brexit would shift the advantage to these teams.
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“If a no-deal Brexit would happen like having been discussed, I think we would have a major impact in terms of our operation going to the races and getting our cars developed and ready,” Wolff said. “That is a nightmare scenario that I don’t want to even envisage.
“Ferrari in Italy and Sauber (Alfa Romeo) in Switzerland, they would have a massive advantage over every UK based team.”
Wolff added he has already started working on contingency plans with Mercedes to guard against the fallout.
“We are looking through the various scenarios with Mercedes Benz UK. It not only impacts Formula One, but it impacts also the mother brand in terms of getting cars and parts in and out of the country.
“We have started (to put) contingencies in place like having more stock and thinking about how we get parts and people in and out of the country, but it would be a disruption and it would cause all the UK teams a lot of headache.”