Despite 2018’s front running seats being locked down by their incumbents, it appears that a midfield shuffle is about to be triggered by Carlos Sainz Jr. Bizarrely, it would seem that power unit politics is the factor that is set to fuel a move for Sainz from Toro Rosso to Renault for 2018.
It is a switch which makes perfect sense, as it benefits all five parties that are either directly or indirectly involved; Red Bull, Renault, Toro Rosso, the beleaguered McLaren and – most poignantly – Sainz himself.
The penultimate day of testing saw five teams set their fastest times of this pre-season, as the cars are beginning to be stretched on performance runs. However, teams are still evidently reluctant to show their full hands.
Ferrari were once again today’s star performers, with Sebastian Vettel topping the timesheet, despite evidently backing off in the final sector on his fastest ultrasoft attempt. The SF70H was stunning all day, once again proving fast and reliable, and providing more supporting evidence to the theory that Ferrari is the real deal in 2017.
Here are FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED on day seven of pre-season testing…
The RS17 is an important car for Renault. After limping through 2016, clearly healing the wounds suffered by the financially beleaguered Enstone outfit throughout 2015, this season marks the first true signpost of their rank among F1’s other manufacturers.
Curiously, Renault Sport President Jerome Stoll offered a specific target for the season during the launch of the new car in London on Tuesday. “Since we have for the first time a car that has been developed by us, we expect to be fifth in the championship,” he stated.
Optimistic or pessimistic?
I’d say it’s a very clever approach to a very important season…
Manufacturer backing is like a silver bullet to an F1 outfit. The injection of funds and expertise will usually see an ‘on par’ team transformed into a winning machine.
Renault’s takeover of Lotus and the Enstone team at the end of 2015 was, admittedly, always going to be a long-term investment rather than a quick win, given the financial constraints that had crippled the team. As such, 2016 was a difficult campaign, where points finishes were seldom possible.
However, I feel like I’ve been watching a midfield team rather than recovering manufacturer. Frederic Vasseur’s decision to leave the team has only cemented my concerns for Renault’s prospects.
After key player Kimi Raikkonen signed a contract extension to keep him at Ferrari for 2016, the 2015 silly season was somewhat of a non-event, with the driver market remaining largely static. So far, this season has more than made up for last year’s deficit.
The rumour mill has been in overdrive over the past few months, with enormous speculation surrounding seats at Force India, Renault, Manor and Sauber. As always, a case of too many drivers vying for too few seats.
Monaco marked the first appearance of the purple marked ultrasoft Pirelli tyre at a race weekend. Introduced at the start of this season and initially billed as a qualifying tyre, the compound seems decidedly similar to a supersoft in both pace and longevity. An assertion supported by Haas and Renault’s decision to take just soft and ultrasoft tyres to the Canadian Grand Prix, avoiding the supersoft completely.
Max Verstappen’s breakthrough victory at the Spanish Grand Prix took the motorsport world by surprise. His already lofty stock has risen considerably in the past two weeks. The teenager’s new team Red Bull are certainly returning to form, out-qualifying both Ferrari’s in Spain and are preparing to fit an upgraded Renault powerunit into the RB12, which promises to deliver around half a second per lap of performance.