Nico Hulkenberg, Renault, Paul Ricard, 2019

Hulkenberg surprised how “bad” McLaren’s race pace was

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In the round-up: Nico Hulkensberg says he expected stronger race pace from McLaren in the French Grand Prix after their qualifying performance.

What they say

Speaking after Sunday’s race Hulkenberg was asked if McLaren’s performance surprised him:

Yes, they were pretty bad today. Today, in a way, bad, I mean we beat one of them. Carlos [Sainz Jnr] wasn’t far ahead of us, I believe. It was only a few seconds.

Looking at Friday’s pace and [Saturday’s] pace we were more worried [whether] we could take the fight with them today too. We were able again to do it today and I expected a bit more from them today.

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

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Mercedes Formula E test, Varano, 2019
Mercedes Formula E test, Varano, 2019

Gary Paffett and Stoffel Vandoorne tested Mercedes’ Formula E car at Varano on Monday and Tuesday, covering over 200 laps.

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Comment of the day

Magnus argues it’s time for Formula 1 to become more of a ‘spec series’:

Sometimes I wonder if F1 today has reached a form of perfection. Cars are extremely reliable, and there are signs that ‘largest corporate budget’ will have a massive advantage. This is not likely to change. So perhaps it is time to think about where to go from here.

It seems to me the large corporate motor industry has decided to go electric anyway. This is also what governments want. So the ‘development side’ of racing will be more likely to take place in Formula E in the future.

There would not be much more development of the ‘combustion engine’ anyway (or even hybrids).

Bearing this in mind, perhaps it is time for F1 to morph into a spec series similar to IndyCar.

Personally I would like to put forward the idea of F1 using spec V10 engines (and/or V8/V12) and also a spec chassis. Massive savings – meaning opportunities for new teams to enter.

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On this day in F1

  • 20 years ago today Heinz-Harald Frentzen won a rain-affected French Grand Prix for Jordan ahead of Mika Hakkinen

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Keith Collantine
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  • 28 comments on “Hulkenberg surprised how “bad” McLaren’s race pace was”

    1. re CoTD: F1 as a spec series? We already have that. It’s called F2.

      If F1 becomes a spec series like Indy, then I want to see the big teams spend billions on setup technology. And be at least 2 seconds faster than F2. And ovals. Lots of ovals. And 20 second pitstops. Oh wait…

      F1 is the last bastion of the over-spend what ya brung in motorsport. While the latest spec ICE have reached 50% thermal efficiency, there’s still more performance to be found. Bending the laws of thermal dynamics is never going to be cheap.

      When Merc, Ferrari, McLaren and RBR are all in administration, then we can advocate just another spec-series like all the others. ;-)

      1. It isn’t as bad an idea as it sounds initially. If we are honest, F1 has already been through a phase where it was a quasi spec series. Back in the late 60’s and 70, any Frank, Ron or Colin could buy a Cosworth DFV, a Hewland gearbox and mate them to their own chassis. There are obviously exceptions to this (Ferrari, Renault and Alfa Romeo did their own engines), but I think the point stands.

        I think as long as the teams have to design and build their own chassis, that will be ok. As much as I love the tech behind the current powerunits, I don’t mind regulation/simplification on the engine side to keep costs down and keep the sport healthy.

        1. @geemac There is a gigantic difference between the possibility for a team to buy an engine and a mandated spec series.
          And COTD completely drops the ball then by once again pushing this twisted narrative of early 00s nostalgia that some people just can’t get over. If you think races are boring NOW,… how did you ever survive your so called ‘golden age’?
          F1 as a spec series is the worst idea in the long and sad history of sad ideas (excuse the hyperbole). And you know why? exactly because basically ALL single seater series are spec. It is the one thing that is special about F1. If you get rid of it, you will end up with just another indycar series: A race series that some people still follow for what it once was, that may or may not produce interesting races from time to time, but that ultimately nobody cares about anymore.

          1. If I could downvote you I would.

    2. Nico Hulkensberg wouldn’t have beaten Norris, but the finger trouble at McLaren, a problem that never seems to far away for the Woking team.

      1. He wasn’t all that far from Sainz either.

        I think it’s more likely that Mclaren we’re managing tyres (like the rest of the field) and made Renault’s performance look better comparatively than it was.

        The tyres this year are the one single thing that has completely messed up any form of “racing”. Bring on 2020 – hopefully Pirelli will adjust their compounds or their thickness to make it at least possible formteams to get somewhere near the “window”

        1. @dbradock, Jon Bee, Sainz said he was indeed in conservation mode since shortly after Verstappen, and then Vettel, got past, and could have been a lot faster, but there was nothing to gain, being comfortably ahead of the fight behind him once Norris hit trouble, and clearly slower than Vettel and Verstappen.

          1. Having said that though, having their cars drive to a somewhat conservative laptime, clearly cost McLaren when Norris ran into car trouble, so for the strategy manager: you calculated in too little margin to those behind. Or, in other words, which will surely agree with Hülkenberg, if only had driven fast, you would have finished first (in the battle you now got), you lost out.

      2. Ricciardo wouldn’t have beaten Norris either. The only reason he caught up was because the hydraulics were failing on Norris’ car around a dozen laps before the end. It also seemed like Norris had more pace in the car when he was stuck behind Sainz. So, I don’t think Renault has superior race pace to Mclaren at France.

        1. They probably all had to take it easy on the engine. Not sure if it would last till the end.

    3. Not agreeing with COTD at all. We already have enough spec series. I’m of the opinion that it would actually hasten the demise of F1. For all the talk about what’s wrong with F1, all it would take for the racing to be spectacular is for the more well heeled teams like Red Bull & Ferrari to a slightly better job all around. Maybe they need to have a closer look @ Mercedes’ aero & suspension. The whole paddock is so used to copying whatever Newey/Red Bull are doing (every team bar Mercedes pursuing the high-rake concept that they pioneered) that they’ve basically been ignoring the philosophy that’s been kicking their tails the last few seasons.

      1. And Formula1 is already a spec series without a single build chassis or engine.
        There is not a single solution to F1

    4. CoTD I don’t think so.

    5. I get the feeling that Renault haven’t been giving McLaren the credit they deserve. They created much hype about their upgrades for France, but were destroyed in qualifying and beaten in the race by their customer, who had gone quietly about their business since Canada.

      And now we have Abiteboul saying that McLaren isn’t faster than Renault and Hulk calling their race performance bad. Not only that, Abiteboul also said that Renault was much faster than McLaren in Canada, conveniently failing to mention all the troubles faced by the Macca drivers in Montreal.

      I think it’s time to stop talking, time to stop thinking whether McLaren’s race pace was bad so that you can feel good about yourself…it’s time to deliver convincingly and consistently. Both Renault and Hulk need to step up, because they haven’t been at their best (Seriously Nico, sort out your qualifying please).

      1. @neutronstar I’m a bit taken aback too by Nico’s qualifying runs in the past 4-5 grands prix. At the start of the season, I was of the opinion that Nico would have the upper hand in qualifying, while Danny would have the upper hand in races. I’m astounded as to how its the other way around. But definitely, its time for Nico to up the ante in qualifying.

    6. COTD:


    7. Re COTD:

      Spec-everything but the engine and we have a winner.

      Attracts more manufacturers, cuts down costs, levels the field more, might reintroduce unreliabilty.

      1. Works for me. I’d also say bring on more tire manufacturers.

    8. I do still enjoy the roundup and especially the selection of tweets, but the rote inclusion of the teams’ press briefings is pretty much just filler, I feel. i totally skip over them and occasionally the roundup is nothing but press briefings. perhaps it’s my selective memory but i think you used to cast the net a bit wider and include more stuff from the wider motor racing press. or is it a case of the motor racing press getting smaller/less interesting?

    9. Spec engine would level things a lot. Something like naturally aspirated v12 engine is very well understood tech and instead of 4 engine manufacturers f1 could easily have at least double. It is also the thing everybody wants except merc and renault. The v12 engines are also cheap to build and getting 950hp out of 3 liter v12 engine is pretty achievable goal at good cost (read: massively cheaper than the electric boat anchors we have today). The sound would be marvellous too. The engine weight could easily reduce the car weight by 80 frigging kilograms (probably more) which alone already means we can take a lot of downforce without sacrificing any lap time. We don’t need to focus on fuel saving which is the only one thing hybrid does well. We can actually focus on outright speed and big horsepower. No rev limits, no fuel flow limits and no computers controlling where the electric power is used or harvested. Minimum fuel for each race will force each engine manufacturer to go for the maximum power and not for the maximum fuel saving. These engines are so cheap you could have new one for each race and still remove a zero from the current engine budgets due to reduced cost of manufacturing, running and engineering.

      Spec chassis for f1 is a bad idea. F1 is chassis building championship and has been for 60 or 70 years. Engine and tires has always been the part you can get somewhere else but the chassis is what the team has to create. And even if today the cars look pretty similar they still look different if you look at them. In indycar all the cars look exactly the same with just different liveries. No point doing indycar when indycar already does indycar. With budget gap we can theoretically make the rules even freer and allow more variation (get rid of center of mass location restriction for example) and make the cars even more different looking. Spec chassis could also include spec suspension which is another thing I am against. One of the few areas of innovation in modern f1 car is the suspension with its complex hydraulic interlinked fidgetry. Even in lmp1 cars this is/was a big thing. If we need a spec part then active suspension should be that. Or some parts of it (the control unit). At least in the first season when that tech is used. Then if does good for f1 then make it more free and allow teams to build their own complete active suspensions. Active suspension also helps little with dirty air as the ground clearances of diffusers and front wings can be better controlled when following other car for example. Active suspension is also one area where f1 can actually reverse the current trend of road car technology going into f1 and develop something that could be used in road cars.

      One can always dream. It will never happen. The accountants and lawyers love these engines. Not too loud, pretty similar to what they have in their prius, lots of electrics to help the driver feel unstressed and comfortable and fuel efficient because surely the only redeeming factor for a race engine is to save fuel? I don’t think so. But the perception of fuel saving is all that matters so this is what you have. And are going to get more of later.

      1. @socksolid – I’m not saying I’m necessarily for spec series, but your reasoning against it leaves a little to be desired.

        Who is pushing for NA V12s to the point you think we could have 8 engine manufacturers on the grid? Are there 8 top flight engine builders still making V12s that could support an F1 engine? I doubt it. Even on a good day, Ferrari, one from the VW group (Lamborghini?), Aston Martin, and then you either have to get BMW to rejoin or convince Merc to stay. You probably lose Renault and Honda, and likely Merc. At best you have 4, but very possibly less. I’m not sure what that gains you.

        And current cars are faster. Hybrid doesn’t just get you fuel savings, it gets you massive acceleration. There is a reason that nearly every prior track record is now beaten. These are faster. Yes, they are more fiddly, and they are heavier, but that is what technology development is about. Weight will come down, power will increase, and reliability will get better.

        Why V12s and not V10s or V8s? Is it because 12 is more? Because that is what you remember as your favorite? V12s won’t magically make better racing, all they will do is make louder racing. I think this exactly the sort of issue that F1 needs to sort out in its own rulemaking. It is trying to dictate the inputs and not what comes out of it.

        Do we actually want closer racing? If so, regulate for that. Stop telling teams that the mirrors have to be X, Y, and Z dimensions, regulate the effect. Example, regulate the wake cars leave. If you exceed that, DSQ. If you find an innovative way to achieve lower wake that makes you better, great. Regulate maximum power output to get cars closer together. Teams will find ways to make that power more efficiently to reduce fuel usage/weight. I realise that such a change would be very difficult to set up, and difficult to manage/test. But I think actually regulating what you want rather than minutiae that will get exploited away from what you want anyway should be looked at. The side-benefit being, it could allow different design approaches, thus avoiding spec series.

        1. That V12 (or v10 or v8) does not require a car manufacturer input. They can be produced by anyone with the technical experience and CNC equipment to make engines. In motor racing companies like Ilmor and Cosworth spring to mind. There are aircraft engine manufacturers like Rotec or Continental. Those with long memories will remember the Coventry Climax racing engines engines that were originally used to power stationary water pumps for fire brigades.

          We might even see truck engine manufacturers enter the fray with lightweight billet aluminum engine blocks and cylinder heads. They have the technology. Cummins power in F1?

          We might even see a “repco” like engine where a manufacturer gets a stock engine block and turns it into a multiple world championship motive power with their own cranks, conrods, pistons, heads fuel injection, etc.

          The world for F1 engine supply is not limited to car manufacturers only.

          Heck; you could even get a drag engine manufacturer like Donovan to make your F1 engines.

          So easy, add another half a block and you have a V12.

          There are plenty if vids, on the interwebby of things, showing billet block engine manufacturers so engine supply in F1 is not a problem.

        2. @hobo
          Naturally aspirated V12 is an engine that is cheaper to build than these mega expensive hybrids. Even not-so-big car manufacturers like aston martin who have no hope of making any part of the hybrid engines can make a competitive v12 engine. Then you have companies like gibson and cosworth and even the teams themselves (mclaren, red bull) who can do it. Instead of multi billion dollar engine program we are talking about something with 1 less zeros in the end of the number. What the v12 can also get you is less political power and reliance on dying engine formula. It takes away one key card for the deck of the big manufacturers who use their engines to control the mid field teams. Not to mention smaller teams could spend more on the chassis while still having an option of competitive engine unlike now when the only two competitive engines are the ferrari and mercedes cars. Isn’t it blindingly obvious by now that to be competitive in f1 you need to be a manufacturer team who can spend billions after billions on these engines? That needs to go.

          Hybrid is not faster. It has short period on the track corner exit where it is faster because it can optimize (and electronically control) its electric power output to the most important part of the track. Corner exits. Hybrids also have advantage in traffic as they can choose where to use that electric power whereas naturally aspirated engines don’t have that extra for those moments. But hybrids need to waste lap time to harvest that energy too. Which creates extra motivation for fuel saving and coasting into corners. If you can lift and coast and doing that will recharge your battery then it is very clear that everybody will do it. So hybrid is not even close to being faster. The electric systems alone do not produce enough power to even offset the additional weight in the car. You don’t even need to compare to a V12 engine. It is incredible simple calculation I did here:

          Basically 50kg of more fuel will make an f1 car or any car faster than 50kg electric hybrid junk. 50kg of fuel give you 750MJ of energy. 50kg of battery, electric motor and ecu gives you 240MJ of energy. No matter how intelligently the computer deploys that 240MJ. And not only is your v12 engine putting out more power it is also 50kg lighter by the end of the stint.

          As for different engines types. I don’t really care massively which type of engine is used as long as it is high revving naturally aspirated engine because that gives f1 everything it direly needs right now. Those engines are light which means the car is light (smaller turbo engines weigh more). V12 would be amazing but I would not object to transverse I6 engines, V8, V6 or W12 or something else. In the end V10 is pretty good because it is lighter than a V12 of same displacement, cheaper to make with slightly lower peak power number compared to v12.

          Only thing f1 needs for closer racing are these things. Lighter cars which means we can take off downforce without losing lap time. Lighter cars with less downforce put less stress on the tires giving pirelli a lot easier time to make tires that are fast and durable when drivers need to push to chase an overtake or defend. To make overtaking easier the cars need to produce less dirty air while at the same time be more resistant to it. This means less downforce. Less downforce means you produce less dirty air and if you follow other car you lose less downforce.

          Only way to reduce weight in f1 car is the engine. The cold hard fact is that the hybrid engine weighs 80 to 100kg more than a v10 or v8 and it doesn’t give you 80 to 100kg worth of power back. Not even close. Even if you replace that 100kg with just 50kg of fuel you still get more power out of the naturally aspirated engines as I proved in the calculation earlier. And f1 doesn’t even need more power. Less downforce with lighter cars will make that 900-950 bhp from the v12 more than enough. I would even look at going back to narrower tires. The bigger tires you have in race car the softer you can make them because the surface area increases with bigger tires. This means bigger tires can be and are softer. Bigger tires also create more dirty air and aerodynamic lift.

          1. @socksolid – You said a lot there but the facts are these. Lighter, naturally aspirated V12s and V10s and/or V8s drove on a number of the 21 tracks in the current season. Yet only 7 have lap records held by V10s, and 1 by V8s. Mind you, those cars also had the benefit of refuelling, so they were always out on lower-fuel runs than current cars (barring perhaps the end of the race when it was likely equal), with fresher tires. This formula is faster than the last. You may not care for it, but it is faster. And it doesn’t matter where they are faster, they are faster. On top of that the earlier eras didn’t race any closer.

            In addition, the current formula is hamstrung by fuel flow rate limitations, which keeps revs down (even below the rev limitation), which keeps power down, which keeps speed down. If these cars were allowed to refuel or run a higher flow rate with a bigger tank, they would be even faster.

            And hybrid technology is still evolving. It will soon be twice as efficient (weight to power) and not long after probably double that again.

            Basically 50kg of more fuel will make an f1 car or any car faster than 50kg electric hybrid junk.

            Talk to Tesla about their 5000lb sedan being the fastest car 0-60 currently in production.

            It would be at least interesting if people were waving around race-ready V12s or V10s but they don’t exist. The manufacturers aren’t going to make them. And if you could coax Cosworth and Ilmor to do so, now you have two engine suppliers. How is that better?

            I agree that cost needs to be reigned in, and I would like to see competition increase. But going backward isn’t the way to do it, in my opinion.

            1. @hobo Come on! Don’t talk about facts when you have none. I can prove anything I say. The lap records the v10s did where on tires that had grooves and half the downforce of the current cars. With drs and all that stuff. Are you trolling because this is ridiculous? Lap records don’t even mean anything at all because it is all about downforce. And the current cars have more than ever before. More than the ground effect cars, more than the fan car.

              Rev limit or fuel flow limits don’t keep the revs down. Turbo engines don’t make their power at high rpms. Another fatal flaw in your argument. You don’t even understand the most basic differences between naturally as pirated and turbo engines.

              Talk to Tesla about their 5000lb sedan being the fastest car 0-60 currently in production.

              Yes. In DRAG RACING if all you need to do is one 0-60 run. You are clearly trolling. We are talking about 300 kilometer races around spa, suzuka and whatever. Not winning burnouts on red lights. You have absolutely zero clue at all. Tell me how many times in f1 race do you accelerate from 0 to 60? The answer is once. After one lap your tesla’s batteries will overheat, after couple more they are empty.

              The cold hard fact is that 3 liter naturally engines are 80-100kg lighter than hybrids. For sources:
              Racecar engineering 2013 engines special issue, page 11. Direct quote:
              ” ‘From that stage, one of the key areas we needed to investigate was the packaging of the power unit. The current V8 is 95kg, or 100kg if you add the weight of the MGU. This increases to 120kg when you include the ancillary parts, such as the radiators and other cooling devices. With the 2014 power unit, the V6 turbocharged engine will be a minimum of 145kg, plus 35kg for the battery.

              Now find a weight for v8 or v10. Or don’t I am not really interested hearing you invent more fantasy about tesla drag racing…

              You post is totally worthless. I thought you had at least interest in the topic after your first post but this is just complete trash.

    10. Not quite, Will. 34 C was yesterday’s max temp in the Spielberg area.
      I disagree with the COTD. Doing that would take uniqueness away from F1.

    11. Why make F1 and F2 the same thing.
      F2 is a spec series, and we are all free to watch equal cars and engines there.

    12. I think the COTD has a point. With the level of spend and resources the large teams have, the F1 field is always going to be pretty uneven even post 2021. What used to give F1 part of its unpredictability was unreliability but that seems to be largely a thing of the past.

      Ultimately I think F1s future probably lies in it becoming more of a spec series. I agree with others here though that perhaps a spec engine might be the better option than chassis. F1 has always been about building the best chassis and I guess if we go back far enough, there was a time when most of the engines were built by the same people ie Cosworth.

      Perhaps consider the F1 field today if all of the teams had an engine that produced the same power. It would be a lot more even.

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