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Despite a strong driver line-up, an excellent chassis and an ever-improving engine, Helmut Marko believes the chances of Red Bull Racing winning the world title in 2018 is low.

Red Bull had put up an excellent fight in almost every grand prix in the last leg of the 2017 season, winning the races in Malaysia and Mexico.

While Marko is certain the Milton Keynes-based outfit will continue to be at the top of the grid, he believes winning the title is a much bigger challenge.

“I don’t think we’re in a situation where we can already go for the world championship,” Marko told Auto, Motor und Sport.

The Austrian admited that Ferrari’s ability to put their full weight behind Sebastian Vettel is an advantage. But the equal treatment that Red Bull follows for their driver pair Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen will help push the whole team ahead, he added.

“If you have two equally strong drivers, they both go for maximum performance, and they push the technicians and the chassis to peak performance.

“But when you have only one driver that goes to the limit, you do not know where you really are.”

He said Red Bull will continue to challenge the big two teams, Ferrari and Mercedes for race wins, starting right from the first grand prix. Thanks to the timely development of its new car RB14 and the progress that Renault has achieved in its latest power unit, the Austrian team is ready to be a challenger at Melbourne.

There is also worry about how much the rivals have advanced over the winter.

“The Renault engine should be more reliable and powerful in 2018, and we’ll be fighting with a competitive chassis at the outset.

“But Mercedes is producing a new engine, so the question is whether they’ll have an even bigger advantage. If the engine does what we’re promised, then we should be a lot closer to Mercedes.”

Adrian Newey’s new design inputs to improve RB14’s chassis is promising and is expected to give the team an edge right from the time the pre-season testing kicks in.

“Adrian saw that for the first time that we were able to beat Mercedes on our own and that you can race at the front when the engine is performing well.

“In the past, we’ve always been stronger in the second half of the season. The analysis showed that we always tried to leave it as late as possible, but it doesn’t help to try and find a few hundredths every two weeks.

“It’s more important that you go into the season well prepared.”

Formula 1 is considering a plan to adopt a “league table” like system for the race venues so that only the best ones get to the Grand Prix calendar.

For the upcoming season, F1 has 21 races on the schedule and the commercial rights owner, Liberty Media is keen to raise it to 25 in the coming years.

F1’s managing director of Motorsport, Ross Brawn believes the sport should go for quality rather than just increasing the number of races. He suggests creating a system where poorest-performing events get dropped and replaced by better ones.

In an interview with British Airways’ Business Life magazine, Brawn said: “The crucial thing is the quality of the race. There’s no value in just putting the number of races up,”

“But if we can provide great races in great locations throughout the world, then we should consider it.

“I’d love to see in the future a league table of races, where over time we’ve got a waiting list of top-class circuits and promoters that are waiting to get into Formula 1, and then if there’s any race that is not working well, you relegate that and put a strong race in.”

Malaysia dropped off the calendar while two historic race locations France and Germany came back into the schedule.

F1 plans to conduct more London style live events this year. Live events have been planned at Marseille, Berlin, Milan, Shanghai and Miami, according to commercial chief Sean Bratches.

McLaren chief Zak Brown hinted at the possibility that a Grand Prix may be held at Miami, eventually.

He said: “I’d be surprised if we can get it done for next year just because of the infrastructure which would need to be built up,”

“But l think it’s definitely a precursor to another race in North America and they are definitely very active in conversations around Miami. It’s definitely warming up America and that market.”

There are also a plan to conduct a street race in Copenhagen. F1 chief Chase Carey visited the city in January and held discussions with the city officials.

Williams F1 team should put an end to their midfielder tag and improve on their last year’s ranking, says deputy team principal Claire Williams.

The British team finished third in 2014 and ’15 in the constructor’s championship. But as Force India moved up, the Grove-based team slipped down to the fifth place in ’16 and ’17 ratings.

As Renault and McLaren get ready to rise in the standings, there even more pressure on Williams, which has the least experienced driver lineup on the entire grid.

Speaking with ESPN, Williams said: “I think it’s going to be incredibly challenging this year,”

“McLaren has its new engine and Renault has invested heavily within the infrastructure in its team, I think there’s going to be a lot more competition out there, unfortunately, this year.

“But then it’s our responsibility that they don’t overtake us in the championship, and equally we’ve got Force India who are a fantastic team and absolutely deserve their P4 last year.

“For us, it’s about what we need to change and we are a big team and have been in the sport for more than 40 years now and we have the infrastructure, we have the people, we have 700 people working on our racing team and we should be able to deliver a competitive race car. That’s really what we have to be aiming for.

“I’m not going to set any targets, I think it’s dangerous to do so, but we can’t finish P5 or lower this year.”

Williams realizes there is a lot of talk about their inexperienced line-up and suggests it is better to wait to see how they perform on the grid before judging them [the drivers].

“For us, there has been a huge amount of negativity out there, which I don’t quite understand. Why do people judge before they have seen the talent on the track? Let’s see how they do, let’s give them the opportunity to see how good they can be, and then we will have the conversation about it.”

Valtteri Bottas says he can beat fellow Mercedes driver and four-time world champion Lewis Hamilton for the title in the upcoming Formula 1 season.

Bottas was brought in to the Silver Arrows team after Nico Rosberg’s sudden retirement after winning the 2016 title. The Finn got his first pole position in the season’s third race and won three races in his first campaign with the German outfit.

After the initial podiums, Bottas had a slump in his form that took him away from the title fight. By the year-end, he gained his form back, won another pole position and came first in the season’s final race.

He finished the season  third in the driver’s standings, 58 points away from his British teammate.

At the end of the year, the Finn compared his data with Hamilton’s car and the results were revealing. From the analysis, he realised that he needs to adjust his driving style to get the most out of his car. There were also some positives that will give him an edge in the future races.

Did Bottas see anything in the data that can stop him from beating Hamilton in the upcoming season, we asked and Bottas said: “No”

“For sure he is one of the best drivers ever in Formula One, a four-time world champion who’s always on it, but I proved to myself a few times last year that I can do it and I can beat him.

“It’s up to me to be performing well consistently all through the year, not having those kinds of race weekends when I’m a couple of tenths off or something. I need to be in all conditions — no matter what track, which temperature and which tarmac — I need to be there.”

Armed with a year’s worth of experience in Mercedes W08, it will be easier for Bottas to be more consistent in his performance in the next campaign. Plus, the car would be tailor built to suit his needs this time, giving him an added advantage.

“I think all the development we have done with the team over the winter with the new car, everything looks in the right direction in terms of what’s good for my driving style. That’s how I see it now, in theory, but of course, we need to find out. I need to adapt, but I think I’m so much more of a complete driver starting this year than starting one year ago.”

Bottas is not shy to admit he wants to win the title in his second year with the outfit.

“I think everyone knows [my target]. For sure every driver wants to be world champion, but I am so hungry for it. I’m ready to do anything it takes.”

Bottas’s predecessor, Rosberg and Hamilton had a very combative relationship on and off the track. The German engaged in psychological battles and wheel-to-wheel racing with Hamilton and became the first of Hamilton’s teammates to win a title against the British driver.

But that is not Bottas’s style.

“Normally my style is not to mess with other people’s things,” he added. “I tend to focus on my performance and getting the most out of myself and the team around me. I’m not planning to change anything of what I do and I believe if I perform consistently from race one, then for sure we can have a bit more of a challenge with Lewis on track. But honestly, even though something would change, I can’t see any issues of why we wouldn’t be able to work together in the team.”

Bottas’s joining Mercedes started a new era of peace and harmony in the team. Hamilton claims it helped him focus on his goal of winning the title.

“Even though the harmony is there, I don’t see that it is making Lewis a better driver. I think he’s always on it and I just tend not to deal with that stuff. I just want to focus on my performance and that will hopefully get me further.”

Formula 1 should decide if it wants louder engines or efficient ones, as both cannot coexist in a V6 hybrid, says Renault’s Cyril Abiteboul.

The series is preparing to create a new set of rules for 2021 and one of the key factors being pursued is a louder engine. Formula 1 sporting manager Ross Brawn says a loud engine is one of the most demanded features in the car and hence should be considered in the new rules.

But trying to boost the sound of the power unit will affect the engine’s efficiency and take away the whole philosophy of making F1 technology road car relevant.

Speaking in a talkshow on Montreal radio broadcaster FM1033, Abiteboul said: “Fundamentally, it must be accepted that we won’t do it,”

“Sound is energy. If we want powerful engines with low fuel consumption, we must be able to use all the available energy.

“If we start converting that energy into sound, then we won’t achieve a good result in terms of energy efficiency. These are two contradictory objectives.”

The fans believe hearing the loud, piercing sounding engines is a part of F1’s thrill. But the Renault boss says it is only nostalgia for an era that has long passed.

“It’s a generation problem. Soon, there will be several generations which will not have heard a V10 or V8 engine, for whom a silent engine will be the norm,” explains the Frenchman.

“They’ll be used to other sorts of sounds: squeaking tyres, mechanical traction, a car’s aerodynamics… The problem is that we are in the midst of a generational and technological gap, and it’s all a bit complicated to take in.”

“It’s a question of time,” he says. “Perhaps Formula 1 moved a bit too fast, so in a sense, it’s ahead of its time today, and we must accept it.”

Robert Kubica has bagged three Free practice slots in the current season of Formula 1 as a part of his test driver role at the Williams F1 team.

The Polish driver tried hard to get a race seat in the British team. But,  he had to settle for the development and reserve role for 2018.

As per the agreement, the Pole will take part in the Barcelona pre-season testing, in-season testing and will also get three Free practice sessions (FP1) during the race weekend.

Speaking at William’s new car launch, Kubica said: “I will do three FP1s,”

“I will start in Barcelona, then I think Austria and then another one.

“I will do some pre-season testing and in-season testing. It was important to have the chance to drive. Currently, the regulations are such that driving is limited.

“The simulator plays an important role, as I am part of this project, it is important to build up a link between this tool and the real world.”

Kubica will focus on supporting the team with feedback on the car’s development and does not expect to spend time in mentoring the new drivers.

“Of course they make their job and I will for sure try to support, but I will never be in the position to teach them unless they think I can help them,” he said.

“The most important thing is to help the team and support the team – otherwise I wouldn’t be here.

“In the end, once you are in the same boat you work in the same direction. Once I knew I would make this job I agree myself it is my job to help them and support.”

The Pole says his driving ability in 2017 is about 90% of what he was capable of before the crash in 2011.

What will he need to prove to get a race seat, we asked Kubica, he said: “The clock is running I am 33.”

“Last winter there was a lot of talks around and a lot of people put own ideas and evaluation of myself but the only one who understands my limitations and what I need is myself.

“First of all, there is a role that I am covering this year and I have to make sure I am able to deliver and able to help the team to achieve the targets or the results we want and then we will see what the future will bring.

“Twelve months ago nobody would say I would have different tests in 2017. So who knows what the future will bring.”

He added: “I would prefer to be here as a race driver but if you look at it from a different perspective and where I was 12 months ago with nobody thought I would be in a position to drive an F1 car.

“I was more convinced now than ever that I am able to drive an F1 car even though the limitations are quite big.”

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen does not believe in having specific goals to motivate himself, and prefers to trust his will to always do his best.

This will be the Dutchman’s fourth season in Formula 1, having started in the series at the age 17 with Toro Rosso. Verstappen has won three races so far, and while he wants to increase the number of race wins, he does not have a specific target in mind.

Talking in a season preview interview, the Dutch prodigy said “You always try and do the best you can anyway,” “I don’t need particular goals to motivate myself because every race for me is a chance to win. Some, of course, are better for us than other tracks, but that’s what we have to find out with the new car.”

Verstappen is confident Red Bull’s RB14 will be an excellent machine, but admitted he hates the Halo cockpit protection device. The Austrian team’s new charger will be released on February 19th.

“The Halo, that will be very ugly, not looking forward to that,” he said.

The addition of Halo has added extra weight to the car, and is above the minimum weight allotted by the FIA (which is only 6 kilos). This may put extra pressure on the heavy drivers as the car’s overall weight would impact its speed.

Verstappen is adamant he will not go on a crash diet to lose weight.

“Because the halo is quite heavy, it will be more than six kilos, it is definitely not favourable for me,” he said.

“But I am not going to adjust my training for it, because otherwise, I won’t feel well during the races. Especially for me being a taller driver and also a bit of a heavier driver than most, it is definitely not ideal.”

“In general, I hope the car will look great and hopefully it’s fast and a good step forward, and that we’ve got straight away a good car from the beginning of the year, that we are not really chasing like we did last year.

“That’s the most important for us.”

Here is Max’s  season preview for the 2018 season:

Williams became the second team on the grid to reveal their 2018 challenger, the FW41. The car was unveiled at an event in London last evening.

The FW41 will have Paddy Lowe’s and aerodynamics chief Dirk de Beer’s influence for the first time, as both joined at the beginning of the last season.

Powered by Mercedes engine, the 2018 version features a significant change in its aero package as it was one of the major shortcomings in FW40 last year.

Lowe said: “The car has many new features, most of which are not all that obvious, but externally, the team has pursued a very different aerodynamic concept which has allowed us some significant progress in aerodynamic performance,”

“All Formula 1 cars are an evolution of what has gone before to some extent, but the FW41 does involve a number of departures from the directions that have been pursued in the past.

“Overall, the philosophy we are starting to see emerge is a new approach to the collaboration between aerodynamics and design to achieve the optimum working result.

“Aerodynamics, structure and weight are the three major trades to be made in designing a Formula 1 car, and all the work, alongside a number of radical changes to the car’s packaging to incorporate further developments from Mercedes HPP, has led us to the FW41 being revealed today.

“We hope that this car will make progress in the performance rankings relative to 2017.”

Lance Stroll and F1 rookie Sergey Sirotkin are the team’s primary drivers while Robert Kubica will take care of the development driving, testing and the reserve driver duties.

Deputy team principal Claire Williams added: “I am thrilled to be back and launching our new car, for a new season, with a new, exciting driver line-up.

“For many months, the team has put a tremendous amount of effort into the FW41 and I’m eager to see both Lance and Sergey take to the track later this month.”

Since the beginning of the V6 era, Williams used to be a prominent name on the podium and came third in the team’s standings in 2014 and ’15. It took the fifth place in 2016 and ’17.  The outfit was 104 points short of  the fourth-placed Force India in the previous season.

The Ferrari HQ got two pieces of good news recently. One was about their 2018 engine hitting the reliability targets on the dyno and the second news was about the encouraging outcomes from the new cylinder head concept.

Since the 2018 campaign is limited to only three power units per driver, every manufacturer is putting a big emphasis on ensuring their engines can last up to seven races.

The Maranello squad is working hard on their new engine, which is an evolution of their power unit 063 from 2017. The development has been intense and complex as the new rules dictate that the oil burn rate is to be further reduced.

The FIA has set a limit on the types of oils the teams can use. All the teams have to provide the FIA with a detailed reading after every race. This rule is being enforced to make sure none of the teams are using the oil burn for power-boosting.

The new focus on reliability has taken away Ferrari’s chance to make any drastic changes to its engine concept this year. The Italian outfit is planning to create an engine with a longer life while keeping the same power output as the last campaign.

In another development, Ferrari’s engine chief Corrado Lotti is working on a program to bring out a new cylinder head later this year. The new component will help in the pre-combustion phase of the engine cycle and is expected to offer the same advantage as the Mercedes’s magic qualifying modes.

Ferrari’s Ex-engine chief Lorenzo Sassi’s idea of an alloy steel piston will not a part of the new engine. Since the project didn’t deliver on its promise, it had been abandoned.

Sassi left the Italian outfit after the previous season’s engine debacle. He will join Mercedes after completing the mandatory gardening leave.

William tech chief Paddy Lowe says the team is taking a continuous improvement approach towards their car development, instead of a more radical method.

Lowe quit Mercedes at the start of the 2017 season to join the British team as its technical director and a shareholder.

Over the past twelve months, the British racing engineer introduced several key changes to the operations as a part of an evolutionary journey to gradually improve the car’s performance.

Speaking with RACER, Lowe said: “I think the important thing [to focus on] is the project itself, so the car for 2018, but in amongst that there’s developing the organization itself and developing the capability of that organization,”

“So what investments are we making in machinery or software or technology of all sorts? Making sure we’re using the budget in the best way in terms of distribution. Do we have enough effort in the right areas? These are all things that I’m working on in parallel with the project itself, which is the car.

“There’s nothing radical to be done, it’s not my style to go in and create revolution because I’ve not found that necessary or seen it effective.

“What we’ve got is actually a good team, it’s about making it better and that’s about evolving in the right directions, building what needs to be strengthened with the focus and the priority on the things that matter.

“There’s nothing particular to highlight in that way, or if there were I probably wouldn’t describe them!”

Since William’s budget is far below that of the bigger teams like Mercedes or Ferrari, it is important to exploit their existing resources and capacities to the maximum extent possible.

“Yeah, you do more often bump up against resource constraints in a small team than you do in a big team.

“So you can write a long list of all the things that are worth doing and then you have to go and look at what are the ones that you actually have the capacity to deliver.

“But even there there’s judgment needed and that’s part of the competition – making the right judgments about what things are worth doing and what things you leave for another day.”