Renault have reacted to a poor start to the 2019 Formula One season by announcing several high-profile changes to their senior structure, including the addition on a former Ferrari and Mercedes specialist.
The French manufacturer has endured a torrid time this season and has yet to see both drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg complete a race together.
Renault have suffered five retirements already to their works team drivers as well as the two engine-related retirements customer team McLaren have had.
Renault’s F1 team are under pressure for those above to deliver given the huge financial investment made in the team, and Ricciardo, in their bid to close the gap on the top three after being ‘best of the rest’ last year.
As part of that Christophe Mary, who was a senior figure at Ferrari’s most dominant era between 1994 and 2007 and then in a similar role at Mercedes for four years after that.
He will join Renault in August as director of engineering.
The change comes after team principal Cyril Abiteboul admitted that Renault’s results had fallen “short of expectations”.
F1 heads to Barcelona for the Spanish Grand Prix this weekend where traditionally a number of teams make big upgrades which shape the rest of the season.
“The start of the European segment of the 2019 Formula 1 season is an opportunity for us to reset,” said Abiteboul. “Overall, it’s been a tough start to the year and the Azerbaijan Grand Prix capped off a run of results that fell short of our expectations.
“We know we are capable of much more and we need to target clean weekends and races to make the most of our potential.
“To do so, we have work to do on all sides of our operation; chassis and engine on and off track, and work with the drivers to allow them to reach their respective capacities. We are motivated as ever to strive for more and we aim for a full recovery in competitiveness in Spain.
“We know that the midfield is tight, but this also creates opportunities. We’ve seen that fortunes can change in an instant so we go to Barcelona hungry to get our season campaign going.”
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“I know it wasn’t to my standards, that I was below myself, but I am very much at peace with it. I think I have another world championship in me… I am not too old and I still have a long time in me.”
Vettel, whose career tally of 53 grand prix wins has been surpassed only by fellow multiple world champions Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton, was positive about his move.
“Things are different here than Ferrari because the team is growing,” he said.
“It is not about the fancy looks and the fancy chairs in the office but the work done behind the scenes and from what I have seen the people are very talented.”
Team principal Otmar Szafnauer has cautioned that it will be three to five years before Aston Martin are in a position to challenge for world championships.
But Vettel said a team backed by Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll, whose son Lance is Aston Martin’s other driver, may get there sooner after F1 chiefs introduced budget caps to ensure greater competition.
“Formula One is changing and maybe you don’t need those three to five years anymore,” Vettel said.
“Maybe it will shrink and the hope is that everyone will be closer to the top and not just finish on the podium because the guys at the front retired or crashed.”
The new Formula One season starts in Bahrain on March 28.
The next great V8 rivalry will be born in Bathurst this year with the first completed Camaro to be revealed at Mount Panorama in October.
Set to take on the Mustang and create the next generation rivalry which will form the foundation of a sport, News Corp Australia can reveal the first Chevrolet Supercar will be completed in time for a Bathurst 1000 unveiling.
With components already being designing and constructed, the Camaro is part of the “Gen 3” program which will make the sport both more accessible and less expensive.
As part of News Corp Australia’s look into the biggest issues facing the sport, Supercars CEO Sean Seamer revealed the Bathurst 1000 was being targeted for the Gen 3 unveiling.
The Camaro will first be tested on tracks including Queensland Raceway before being unveiled to the public with a Mount Panorama hot-lap.
“At this stage I think we will be looking at the middle of the year (to test) based on the feedback that I have got from the committee,” Seamer said.
“It’s one of those things – you want to bring it to life, but you can’t rush it.
“Right now the middle of the year is the target.”
Seamer said the Gen 3 plans were progressing “very well” with his expert team navigating through the difficulties presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Obviously there is a tremendous amount of work to be done and continues to go on,” Seamer said.
“But the team and the committee and everyone involved has made the most of last year in particular, but also the extended break that we have had between races, this has been quite a long off-season by our standards, finishing at Bathurst at the end of October,” Seamer said.
“The time has been put to good use and they are flat out working through it.
“We are looking at making sure the transition is successful with the two platforms that we have got and now working towards a third manufacturer for the following year (2023).”
The firm charged with designing the new Supercar’s Camaro is confident of putting the revolutionary car on a racetrack by the end of the year.
“We continue to work with Supercars to try and ensure that what we put on track next year is what we have promised everyone,” said Triple Eight Race Engineer owner Roland Dane.
“I think the fans will gravitate towards the Chevrolet next year. The feedback that we have had has been overwhelmingly positive and continues to be.”
Also in charge of the Red Bull Ampol Racing, Dane said Chevrolet could replace Holden and become Ford’s next great rival.
“I think the demise of the Holden brand in the new car market here is unfortunate,” Dane said.
“But it has happened and it’s old news now and everyone has moved on.
“The Holden brand continues to hold a place in the hearts of many Australians as being something that they have grown up with and enjoyed etc and I’m sure that we’ll get plenty of Holden fans going forward even as we start racing Chevrolets.
“I don’t see that as an issue, the hangover from Holden fans. To be honest, our fan base across the country has become much broader than just Ford and Holden, but they do like to gravitate towards the brands when it comes to watching the racing.
“And we are going to continue that with Chevrolet, which is a very aspirational brand in this country. So I don’t see it as impediment, I think it is only going to add to the excitement.”
Holden great and “Car of the Future” mastermind Mark Skaife predicted the new rivalry between Chevrolet and Ford would be able to sustain the sport.
“I keep trying to think of the helicopter view of what Gen 3 stands for and to me it stands for three things: it stands for affordability, it stands for aspiration and it stands for authenticity,” Skaife said.
“So what we are trying to create is a car that looks very much like the car that we see in our showrooms and that we love, we are trying to create a next generation that is not a Ferrari or a Lamborghini or a McLaren or a whatever.
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“It’s not unachievable, it’s an aspirational car that is essentially affordable.
“Really it’s about being part of that brand and having the brand association. Even if you’re a young person, you just love the look of the Camaro.
“I was a little bloke and I used to watch Bob Jane in a Camaro, Allan Moffat in a Mustang. They were the name plates for me that I thought, ‘Oh, wow’.
“If we can provide the same wow factor in the modern era, I see no reason why we can’t make it work.”
Lewis Hamilton said Tuesday that winning a record-breaking eighth world championship in 2021 would not be the determining factor in whether he quits after the season.
The attempt to land a drivers’ crown that would move the 36-year-old Briton above Michael Schumacher to become the most decorated driver in the sport’s history will go hand-in-hand with the issue of his future in Formula One.
“I’ve made a really important decision in my mind, that I don’t want that to be the deciding factor,” Hamilton said in a conference call at the launch of the Mercedes car for 2021.
“I got into racing because I loved racing and I think that’s got to always be at the core of what I do. If all you’re going for is accolades, if all you’re going for is titles, I feel like you could potentially lose your way.
“Of course it’s the ultimate dream, but I don’t think that’s necessarily going to be the deciding factor whether to stay or keep going.”
Hamilton denied that a one-year extension to his contract had increased the possibility that the upcoming season could be his final one in the sport.
“I am in the fortunate position where I have achieved most of the stuff that I wanted to, so there is no real need to plan too far into the future.
“We are living in an unusual period of time. I just wanted one year, then we can talk about if we do more and keep adding to it by one if we have to.”
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff insisted that despite seven successive constructors’ titles the team had the “same fire, hunger and passion” as when he arrived in 2013.
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The Mercedes-AMG F1 W12 E Performance builds on the solid base of its predecessor but includes considerable aerodynamic changes alongside improvements to areas as such as the suspension, cooling system and power unit.
It will be seen on the track for the first time in pre-season testing in Bahrain on March 12. The season-opening Grand Prix takes place on March 28.
“Every year we reset our focus and define the right objectives,” said Wolff in a statement to mark the launch of the new car.
“That may sound simple but it’s damn hard and is probably why there are no sports teams out there with seven consecutive titles.
“So many things can happen and it’s very natural to get used to success, and therefore not fight as hard for it. But this team has not shown any of that.”
Wolff said Hamilton and Finnish teammate Valtteri Bottas, who underlined Mercedes’ dominance by finishing second in the 2020 drivers’ standings, always have new challenges which keep them motivated.
“I see the same fire, hunger and passion now as I did the first time I walked through the doors in 2013,” he said.
One of Hamilton’s crusades has been to promote and develop more diversity in Formula One.
As a result the car’s black base livery remains for a second season “to underline the team’s commitment to improving diversity and inclusion within the team and our sport”.
Wolff said the team had set itself targets to back up its words with actions.
“We’ve set ourselves the goal of at least 25 percent of all new starters coming from under-represented groups for the next five years,” he said.
“The latest step is a joint foundation that we will create together with Lewis to improve all aspects of diversity in motorsport.
“All of these measures are encouraging, but we know that real change takes time and we’re at the start of a very long journey.”