Ericsson sees Alfa Romeo Sauber tie-up as his big chance

Marcus Ericsson says the Alfa Romeo Sauber partnership deal for the 2018 Formula 1 World Championship provides him with “a big chance” in the sport as he aims to help the Swiss squad climb the team ranks.

After a difficult 2017 with year-old Ferrari engines and finishing bottom of the F1 World Constructors’ Championship, Sauber is targeting a fresh start having secured a technical and title sponsor deal with Alfa Romeo.

Ericsson’s place at the Swiss team came under threat when reports emerged that Ferrari, sister brand to Alfa Romeo in the FCA Group, were aiming to put both its junior drivers Antonio Giovinazzi and Charles Leclerc into the team for 2018. Ericsson has been able to secure a deal with a new look Alfa Romeo Sauber squad to retain his place alongside F1 rookie Leclerc and is preparing for his fifth consecutive season in the sport having made his F1 debut with Caterham in 2014.

Having endured two seasons without achieving a points finish, Ericsson’s last top ten result came at the 2015 Italian Grand Prix, the Swedish driver is eager to use 2018 as his opportunity to produce a competitive F1 campaign with Sauber set to use the latest specification Ferrari engine for the upcoming season.

“2017 was a difficult year but we worked hard as a team and made some good progress,” Ericsson said. “I am happy about the way we improved in the end of the season after having had a difficult first part.

“I have developed a lot as a driver and have a good level of experience that can be beneficial to the whole team.

“The partnership with Alfa Romeo is a great opportunity for all of us. For me, it feels like a big chance after having worked hard for many years. It will be my fourth season with the team, and I look forward to being back on track with everyone.”

The new look Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 team is expected to use a red and white colour scheme for 2018 as part of its tie-up with the Italian marque with its official launch date to be confirmed in the coming weeks.

Mercedes “100% aligned” with Ferrari on F1’s future

Head of Mercedes-Benz Dieter Zetsche says the German manufacturer’s future vision for Formula 1 is “100% aligned” with rivals Ferrari despite it being less outspoken over the plans laid out by new owners Liberty Media.

Having enjoyed four years of total F1 dominance with a quadruple of consecutive World Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships, Mercedes has been encouraged by the initial steps taken by F1 owners Liberty to improve the sport’s all-round attraction and engagement to fans.

Towards the end of 2017 Liberty unveiled its future plans regarding technical regulations, headed up by former Mercedes and Ferrari boss Ross Brawn, which were met by a backlash from Ferrari with the Italian manufacturer’s Chairman Sergio Marchionne threatening to pull out of the sport.

Mercedes also flagged up concerns about the plans, with particular focus around changes to standardising the existing power units, which could weaken its current dominance of F1 having produced the strongest power unit package in the V6 hybrid era.

Daimler AG Chairman and Mercedes boss Zetsche says he shares Ferrari’s thoughts and sees them as key allies ahead of negotiations on F1’s future regulations.

“We are the good cop and the bad cop,” Zetsche told Autocar. “We beat each other like crazy on the track and try to get every tenth of a second of advantage but at the same time we are 100% aligned on our thoughts in Formula 1 and our strategic actions in Formula 1. We are good friends.

“We are there to stay in Formula 1 but of course the platform itself has to stay meaningful and develop positively.”

Mercedes is targeting a fifth consecutive F1 World Constructors’ Championship in 2018 which would give the German manufacturer the outright second longest title stretch in the sport’s history by surpassing Red Bull’s four between 2010 and 2013 and McLaren’s four between 1988 and 1991.

Ferrari holds the longest consecutive F1 World Constructors’ title run with six between 1999 and 2004.

Stroll eager to build “close relationship” with Sirotkin

Lance Stroll has welcomed new Williams team-mate Sergey Sirotkin with open arms and is keen to form a solid working partnership to benefit his and the team’s 2018 Formula 1 campaign.

The Canadian driver has been thrust forward as the lead Williams driver in just his second F1 season after the announcement of Sirotkin as Felipe Massa’s replacement for 2018 having beaten Robert Kubica in the driver assessment.

Stroll, who is three years younger than his rookie team-mate, is eager to build to “close working relationship” with Sirotkin having endured an indifferent partnership with Massa in his rookie year as the Brazilian had previously hinted at financial reasons behind driver selections in F1.

“I would like to welcome Sergey to Williams and I am looking forward to having him as my team-mate,” Stroll said. “I know Sergey and I am sure we will very quickly form a close working relationship. 

“I really enjoyed my rookie season with the team, and there were a number of memorable highlights, on which I’ll look to build on in the coming season. I’m looking forward to Barcelona, and driving the new FW41 for the first time.”

Having become the youngest-ever F1 rookie podium finisher with third place at the 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix and the youngest-ever front row starter which came at last year’s Italian Grand Prix, Stroll is keen to build on his flashes of success with stronger consistency for the upcoming campaign. The Canadian teenager finished 12th in the final F1 World Drivers’ Championship last year – just three points and one place behind Massa.

Williams heads into the 2018 F1 season with the youngest and most inexperienced driver combination on the grid, with Stroll’s 20 race starts last year the only prior race knowledge to lean upon. As a result Kubica is set to play a key role as Williams reserve and development driver to help the British team get up to speed this year.

‘Renault’s building phase should end in 2018’

Date published: January 20 2018

2018 will mark the final year of Renault’s building phase as they look to become a championship-winning team.

Having purchased the Lotus team at the start of 2016, Renault set about putting foundations into place for a championship quest.

And managing director Cyril Abiteboul says this year’s campaign will mark the last year in that building phase.

“2017 was a year of progression and 2018 has to be the same, another year of progression, another year of construction,” he told Crash.net.

“By the end of the year we want to say the construction phase is over, it was a three-year phase from 2016 to 2018, and now the next phase will be about attacking the top teams.

“We need to accept that we can’t be perfect everywhere and things take time but at the same time we have to show we are in the right trajectory.”

Aside from racing their works team, Renault are also an engine supplier with multi-championship winning team McLaren joining their line-up in 2018.

Abiteboul believes it is a good move for Renault’s works team as it sets a benchmark.

“It is a great responsibility but also a great opportunity as I anticipate we’ll be compared to McLaren but is it an opportunity to benchmark our car and drivers to McLaren and assess the progress of the organisation.

“Frankly, working with the best is also an opportunity to work with the best.”

Cosworth open to Aston Martin collaboration

Date published: January 20 2018

With Aston Martin considering a future as an engine supplier, Cosworth have revealed their would be keen on a partnership with the manufacturer.

Aston Martin are taking up the role of Red Bull’s title sponsor in 2018 with an eye to becoming an engine supplier in 2021.

According to Autosport, the company has already begun talking with potential engine partners with Cosworth saying they would be keen to throw their name into the hat.

“We would like to work with that partnership,” Cosworth powertrains boss Bruce Wood told Autosport.

“We’ve done a lot of work with Aston for many years, we’re working very closely with Red Bull and the team for the Valkyrie [hypercar], so there’s a certain logic to it.

“Aston have been very clear that they want to be doing something more than just badging someone else’s engine.

“They also don’t aspire to designing it all themselves, so there’s a natural fit there and certainly that’s where some of those discussions are happening.

“Aston and Red Bull have a very strong relationship, so there’s definitely a desire to do something together there.”

Woods added that should Cosworth return to Formula 1 in the future, it would have be a “profitable” deal for the engine builder which means a partnership is a more likely option.

He added: “Obviously Cosworth is completely independent and we need to be profitable as our number one tenant.

“It isn’t like when we were owned by Ford as a cost centre to put Jaguar on the F1 grid. Anything has to be profitable and certainly that is easier to do if you’re sharing those costs with someone else.

“As companies, we’ve all grown up competing with one another in many respects, but I think we all recognise it’s probably in everyone’s interests and probably no single individual is going to be able to do it on their own.”

Mansell: Inexperience won’t hurt Williams

Date published: January 20 2018

Having an inexperience driver line-up won’t hurt Williams this season; that’s according to former World Champ Nigel Mansell.

Williams will race Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin in this year’s championship.

But while Stroll has a single season of racing in F1 under his belt, for Sirotkin 2018 will be his debut campaign.

Mansell doesn’t believe it will hurt the team as much as it would have done in years gone by.

“In years gone by, without the computer aids, I’d be concerned by two young drivers in the team,” Mansell told Motorsport.com.

“That is not so much the case now with so many support engineers and so much information.

“A Formula 1 car, until it is handed over to the driver at a certain speed, drives itself now. So they will get a lot of support.

“I hope if the car is good and that there’ll be some races where they can shine. I hope they don’t fall down the grid.”

McLaren ‘not at all’ worried about Renault reliability

Date published: January 20 2018

Although Renault had a torrid time in the latter half of last season with the reliability of their power units, McLaren are confident they’ve taken measures to resolve it.

Swapping to Renault power ahead of this year’s championship, McLaren are hoping for more pace and better reliability than what they had with Honda.

The latter, though, wasn’t Renault’s strong suit in the second half of last year’s championship so much so that Toro Rosso and Renault engaged in a public war of words.

Despite their troubles, which also affected Red Bull and the Renault’s work team, McLaren racing director Eric Boullier believe the French manufacturer will get it right this season.

He told France’s Auto Hebdo: “Not at all. Renault has taken the necessary measures and made great efforts to make progress in this area.”

McLaren have also had to do their part, adapting their car to the Renault power unit.

“The employees voluntarily worked throughout the holidays,” Boullier added.

“Everyone has taken the news about the transition to Renault very positively, and we are working perfectly with our new supplier already,”

As for going up against Red Bull and Renault with the same engine, Boullier denied that it ramps up the pressure, saying it is instead motivating.

“We do not feel additional pressure. On the contrary.

“The team is motivated by the fact that we will have two strong rivals in Red Bull and Renault. McLaren is in formula one to perform, not for the numbers,” he said.