Red Bull’s Helmut Marko believes Renault’s power unit is slowly but surely bridging the gap with its rivals, and expects a boost from the French manufacturer early in the season.
Marko is banking on an upgrade after the first four flyaway races in March and April, when the European season gets underway in Spain.
“We are seeing encouraging signs that the gap to the leaders is gradually decreasing,” he told Germany’s motorsport-magazin.com.
“For the European part of the season we should be in good shape,” Marko added.
“From the point of view of speed, our engine should be at Ferrari’s level unless they make a big jump, although we have not yet reached the level of Mercedes.
“However, the gap is no longer so great that we can talk about having no chance,” said the Austrian.
In addition to Red Bull, where the manufacturers’ engines are branded Tag Heuer, Renault shall also supply Toro Rosso, and its own works team of course.
McLaren-Honda race engineer Mark Temple says that Fernando Alonso’s prime qualities are his intelligence and ability to always extract the most out of a racing car.
Temple praised the Spaniard’s high-level capability of multi-tasking when behind the wheel, chasing the limit while always thinking about strategy.
“He’s the most intelligent driver I’ve worked with,” Mark Temple told McLaren’s official website.
“Combine this intelligence with a supreme level of natural talent and you’re left with a very potent combination.
“It allows him to do so much else while driving the car. He processes a lot of data and he’s always thinking about strategy.”
Temple also noted the two-time world champion’s ability to remain aggressive while never over-driving the car.
“Fernando extracts the maximum from everything around him,” he added.
“He drives it in a very aggressive manner. He really attacks the braking areas and throws the car into the corners, but he doesn’t lose out on corner exit.
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“Often, if a driver’s aggressive on entry he loses out on exit, but Fernando manages to keep the car on the limit in both areas.”
Like everyone at McLaren-Honda, Alonso is hoping the team’s performance will finally move to the next level.
And the Spaniard has been training hard to bring his fitness up to the optimum physical level which will be required by the 2017 cars.
“Fernando’s aerobic work in these past years has been good, but now there is more fitness, more weight, more strength needed,” said Edoardo Bendinelli, the drivers’ personal trainer.
“I can say that Fernando is in his best shape, stronger and more motivated than ever.”
Pirelli started its first day of wet tyre testing with Ferrari at Fiorano but running was cut short when Sebastian Vettel crashed at the outset of the test.
In a bid to test and improve its 2017 wet weather tyres and compound , Pirelli has scheduled a series of specific sessions with Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull.
The first test was scheduled today at Fiorano with the Scuderia using a mule-car to monitor Pirelli’s tyres.
Vettel apparently lost control of the Ferrari on warm-up lap, hitting the barriers head-on but fortunately with no damage to himself. It is unsure whether the car can be repaired as Ferrari assesses the damage.
Ferrari reserve driver Antonio Giovinazzi was scheduled to take over from the four-time world champion on Friday.
Given Vettel’s shorten run, it will be up to the German to decide whether he wishes to continue testing on Friday.