Word on the beat

Rumour and gossip from the F1 paddock

HONDA’S Montréal engine upgrade was very successful, an extra 27bhp putting it approximately on par with the Renault, even after the latter’s upgrade. It is thought increasingly likely that the Red Bull senior team will announce a full works partnership with the Japanese firm, to take effect from next season. The commercial and financial differences between this and the existing customer relationship with Renault Sport are said to have played a significant part in the decision.   

The departure of WILLIAMS chief of aerodynamics DIRK DE BEER came just three weeks after chief designer ED WOOD had left, a reflection of the team’s disastrous start to the season with the FW41. De Beer had been with the team only since March last year, having previously served at Ferrari and the Enstone Lotus/Renault team, working with James Allison. In the wake of these splits, the technical structure has been re-organised, with DOUG McKIERNAN promoted to overall charge of design and aero, and newly promoted chief of aero David Wheater reporting to him. McKiernan joined Williams only in February as chief engineer after serving gardening leave from McLaren, where he was chief of aerodynamics. Speculation mounts that there are yet-more changes coming to the Williams technical department at a senior level.

SIMONE RESTA’S amicable departure from Ferrari as chief designer, to become technical director at Alfa Romeo Sauber, has led to inevitable speculation that Ferrari is preparing to increase its technical co-operation with the Swiss team.   

Force India’s VIJAY MALLYA is no longer a director of the team but remains its  principal amid legal difficulties related to his other businesses. Meanwhile a consortium of American businessmen is interested in acquiring the Silverstone-based team though at the time of writing Force India was saying it had received no credible offer.    

ESTEBAN OCON is expected to join the Enstone-based works Renault squad next year alongside Nico Hülkenberg. This leaves the options of the on-loan Carlos Sainz unclear if Daniel Ricciardo opts to renew his Red Bull contract.

Canadian businessman MICHAEL LATIFI – father of F2 racer and Force India third driver NICHOLAS LATIFI – has bought 10 per cent of the McLAREN GROUP for a reported £200m. The move has been interpreted as a message from the controlling Saudi group on the McLaren board that it is not inclined to dig any deeper into its pockets for now in the wake of the expensive withdrawal from the Honda partnership last year. Former Indycar star and Honda F1 sporting director Gil de Ferran continues to be linked to a role with the team.

Speculation continues about what FERNANDO ALONSO’S 2019 plans are. He has refused to confirm he will remain in F1 next year as he considers his options amid the disappointing beginning of the McLaren-Renault partnership. McLaren recently rebuffed an offer from TORO ROSSO for the services of its contracted reserve driver, 18-year-old LANDO NORRIS.