Latest F1 news in brief - Thursday
Ecclestone says BBC cannot drop F1
|Bernie says BBC has to stay|
- Wurz and Whitmarsh say no to Manor boss role
- Honda to use 'more consultants' for F1 project
- Hamilton maligns Vettel, Webber, Raikkonen
- Verstappen should keep racing 'damn hard' - van der Garde
- Massa hopes for Mercedes engine parity in 2016
- Red Bull to be ready for first 2016 test
- COTA given extra time to pay race fee
- Alfonso Celis joins Sahara Force India as development driver
Ecclestone says BBC cannot drop F1
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone is unmoved amid reports the BBC will drop formula one.
The free-to-air broadcaster, who share the television rights with F1's main British broadcaster Sky, has a contract until the end of 2018 but reports suggest the coverage will be dropped after the BBC failed to renegotiate the deal.
F1 supremo Ecclestone, however, denied that will happen.
"Everything is great with the BBC," he told the Times. "They just want to pay less money.
"I am getting very stupid and old, so I had to ask them if they had a contract with us," added the 85-year-old. "They said they had, so I told them that we had better stick to it then."
|Whitmarsh turns down Manor|
Wurz and Whitmarsh say no to Manor boss role
(GMM) Alex Wurz and Martin Whitmarsh have each denied suggestions they might be set to succeed John Booth as Manor's new team boss.
The British backmarker has already replaced the departing Graeme Lowdon with former 'lie-gate' protagonist Dave Ryan, amid reports ex-Williams driver and current GPDA president Wurz had been identified as the favorite to succeed Booth.
But Austrian Wurz, who is contesting his last motor race in Bahrain this weekend as the world endurance championship concludes, told the BBC: "After a period of consideration, I have informed (owner) Stephen Fitzpatrick that I have taken the decision not to make myself available to Manor."
Another name linked with the job has been Whitmarsh, an experienced former team principal who worked closely alongside Ryan at McLaren.
Whitmarsh, now involved with the management of an America's Cup team, admitted to having contact with Manor but insisted: "I do not intend to become team principal at Manor."
He said he will "definitely say no" if Fitzpatrick asks him explicitly to lead the team in the post-Booth era.
|Arai must have finally figured out that the F1 engine formula is too hard to figure out for his engineers|
Honda to use 'more consultants' for F1 project
(GMM) Honda has had a change of heart towards the end of its abysmally-bad return to F1 this year.
Earlier, the proudly nationalistic Japanese carmaker was refusing to speed up the process of improving by poaching experienced F1 engine personnel from outside of Honda.
But Michael Schmidt, the respected correspondent for Germany's Auto Motor und Sport, said Honda is trying a new approach.
It was already known that engine expert Gilles Simon, formerly of Ferrari and more recently the FIA, has been working as a consultant rather than an employee for Honda.
And now, "While no foreign engineers will be installed at Sakura, Honda wants to engage more consultants" for the beleaguered F1 project, Schmidt said.
Indeed, McLaren-Honda drivers Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso are expecting a major step forward for 2016, having managed to beat only the backmarker Manor in 2015.
"If you look at the balance of power today," 2009 world champion Button is quoted by Speed Week, "then it is fair to say that the best teams will be Mercedes, Ferrari and perhaps Williams next year.
"But a lot can change in a winter. We are a team that will make massive progress. And I'm not saying 'I hope', I'm saying 'we will'," he added.
Meanwhile, Alonso's patience with the project has appeared to be flagging recently, but he insists that while it is a "difficult" period, he is in "the right place" at McLaren-Honda.
"It's been difficult," he admitted to UOL Esporte, "but in my case it has been difficult for some time. It was difficult when Red Bull was a second faster than anyone, and then last year when Mercedes was so much better as well.
"It was one of the reasons I came to McLaren, because the only way to beat Mercedes is to have a different approach. And I think I'm in the right place," the double world champion added.
He said Honda's obvious deficit has been made even more conspicuous in 2015 because the Japanese marque is a full year or more behind the other 'power unit' makers.
"The problems that Renault and Ferrari had in 2014 were much the same as what we are having now," said Alonso. "Only Mercedes has done everything right.
"But our numbers, compared to Renault's numbers and Ferrari's numbers last year, are much better. So if we do a good pre-season, we will achieve much better results than any other manufacturer," he added.
"If we get to the (winter) tests and the car is bad, it will be a big surprise because of the direction that we have been following. I am not worried that we will not be among the best teams next year," said Alonso.
|I am the greatest|
Hamilton maligns Vettel, Webber, Raikkonen
(GMM) In one fell swoop, Lewis Hamilton has maligned three more F1 stars.
Recently, the new triple world champion had to hit reverse gear after suggesting F1 legend Michael Schumacher's record seven titles were won with questionable tactics, while his own were the result of "my natural abilities only".
Now, the increasingly controversial 30-year-old has made his latest verbal gaffe in conversation with the German magazine Sport Bild.
When asked about the quadruple world champion and likely 2016 title challenger Sebastian Vettel, Hamilton said: "I have a lot of respect for him, but it's difficult to assess how good he really is.
"He's never been in a team with someone like Fernando Alonso, but always with people like Mark Webber, who was not on his level, and Kimi Raikkonen, who is no longer at the peak of his performance," the Briton added.
Before the Sport Bild interview, Hamilton's former McLaren teammate Jenson Button warned the Mercedes driver about letting his recent success make him "arrogant".
When asked about his arguably excessive confidence, Hamilton told Sport Bild: "I would not call it self-confidence, but extreme faith in myself.
"That is the key to success," he argued.
"Before my debut in 2007, I knew it would be hard to beat Fernando, but I also knew that I could do it.
"I still remember before the first race, Ron Dennis said I shouldn't be too disappointed if Alonso beats me really badly. But I knew that it wouldn't happen," added Hamilton.
|Max advised to go 100%|
Verstappen should keep racing 'damn hard' - van der Garde
(GMM) As his meteoric and history-making first season nears its end, the compliments are continuing to rain down on F1 teen sensation Max Verstappen.
While Lewis Hamilton complained that passing was impossible at Interlagos last Sunday, 18-year-old Dutchman Verstappen stunned with his moves on Sergio Perez and Felipe Nasr in an otherwise processional Brazilian grand prix.
"Max has no real weaknesses. In all areas he is already quite strong. And with more experience he will only become stronger," said his Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost.
Another impressed onlooker in 2015 has been Giedo van der Garde, who came close to becoming another Dutchman in F1 this year.
"I would have liked to race with Max," the 30-year-old, who so nearly drove for Sauber, said.
"I think definitely early in the season it would have been fun because Sauber was quite competitive," van der Garde told Red Bull's Dutch-language website.
"As the season progressed you saw how Sauber didn't improve so I think Max would have had no further trouble from me," he added.
Van der Garde admitted he has been surprised, "just like the rest of the world", by just how good Verstappen has proved to be.
Rookie teammate Carlos Sainz has also been impressive, but Verstappen has outscored the Spaniard by a factor of almost three.
"When you look at Sainz you see that he is making too many mistakes in these last races, I think because he is under pressure now," van der Garde said.
"Unlike Max, who is only getting better. Everything is working for him now and that boosts your confidence, and confidence is so important in formula one," he added.
With a strong involvement in Verstappen's career is his ever-present father Jos, and van der Garde says: "With Jos, Max has the best coach he could wish for.
"If I have any advice for him, it is to keep on doing what he has been doing. And that's racing damn hard."
Young Verstappen's manager Raymond Vermeulen, who also handled Jos' F1 career, is predicting great things for the teenager's future.
"When you see what he is already doing and what huge developments he has made, then there can be nothing other than him becoming a great driver," he said.
"Max is the first Dutchman who will win grands prix -- 100 per cent. For now we have to be realistic.
"We are in a learning curve, students in a junior team," Vermeulen added. "Red Bull is giving Max the time to learn, but that approach is eventually going to lead to something very good, that for me is a certainty.
"I think he has everything you need to become world champion."
|Massa can hope all he wants, the factory Mercedes team will always get the best engines|
Massa hopes for Mercedes engine parity in 2016
(GMM) Felipe Massa is hoping Williams will get back on par with its engine supplier Mercedes in 2016.
While dominant Mercedes and its customer teams are believed to have enjoyed identical equipment in 2014, Williams, Lotus and Force India fell one specification behind the German carmaker in the middle of this season.
Mercedes argued that its development specification for 2016 was not sufficiently tested for it to be released to customers, and it was also heard that the Brixworth factory was struggling to manufacture enough parts for all four teams.
Brazilian Massa hopes that all changes in 2016.
Speaking to Brazil's Globo Esporte about the tail end of Williams' 2015 season, he said: "The positive side is that we have third in the championship and that's very good.
"I certainly hope to finish the year well, but we are now looking to the last race and thinking 100 per cent for next year," the Williams driver added.
He said the specification of Williams' car will not change for the season finale in Abu Dhabi next weekend.
"The team has been thinking about the next (2016) car for a few months now," Massa revealed, "and I hope it will be more competitive than this year and we can keeping fighting in the season."
When asked about next year's car, the Mercedes-powered FW38, he answered: "We have not tested any parts yet, but we have ideas.
"If we have the same engine (as Mercedes) we can reduce this advantage. We do not have a better car than them, but they have a very good car and an engine that is a bit better than all of the others," Massa added.
|Red Bull will be ready|
Red Bull to be ready for first 2016 test
(GMM) Red Bull is on target to make the first test of the 2016 pre-season period, engineering chief Paul Monaghan insists.
Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya has announced that it will exclusively host the only winter testing early next year, on 22-25 February and 1-4 March -- just 8 days in total.
Amid Red Bull's engine supply crisis, there had been some doubt the team and Toro Rosso could get a car ready within the next three months in time for the first four-day test.
But it now appears that Red Bull Racing will use unbranded Renault power next year, with a deal expected to be announced ahead of the Abu Dhabi finale.
"We are working towards a deal," Monaghan said, "and if one can be achieved then it will be announced in time."
As for being ready for the first Barcelona test, he added: "We will still make it, don't worry."
|The rain in Austin this year killed ticket sales. That combined with the State's cutback in assistance means the promoters lost their shirt|
COTA given extra time to pay race fee
Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has confirmed that he is giving the Circuit of the Americas extra time to pay the hosting fee for this year's race, amid a reduction in state financial support.
The hosting fee, which comes in at just over $30 million, is due to be paid three months ahead of the race, but COTA organisers are still yet to present the funds almost a month after the event.
"We said they can pay late this year," Ecclestone is quoted by the Austin American-Statesman. "They get money from the state, and the money from the state is late, so that's why they are late."
Ecclestone's reprieve comes after the Texas state government confirmed that it is to reduce the subsidy it pays the track, as a result of new methods it has implemented to measure economic impact.
COTA received $25 million payments from the state in 2012, 2013 and 2014, but this is set to be cut by more than 20 per cent for 2015, to around $19.5 million, despite an annual hosting fee rise.
COTA Chairman Bobby Epstein previously admitted that the state reduction is a massive blow.
"To use a technical term, I think we're screwed," Epstein commented, adding: "It hit us cold. No one could foresee this coming. But the big question now is, 'Is the race coming back?'"
Speaking this week, Epstein stated that paying late could still prove troublesome: "It's OK paying after the race, but if they don't give you enough to pay the sanction fee, you still can't do it."
Alfonso Celis joins Sahara Force India as development driver
Sahara Force India is pleased to announce the signing of Mexican racer, Alfonso Celis, as a development driver. The 19-year-old will get his first experience of Formula One power behind the wheel of the VJM08 at the season-ending Abu Dhabi test – sharing driving duties with Nico Hulkenberg.
Alfonso is one of the most promising young Mexicans emerging from the junior formulas. Following karting success in Mexico, he moved to Europe in 2013 to compete in the Formula Renault NEC championship, and progressed to the GP3 Series last year. This year he raced for ART in GP3 in parallel to a World Series by Renault programme with AVF.
In his development role with Sahara Force India, Alfonso will spend time on the simulator at the team's Silverstone factory. He will also take part in seven official practice sessions at Grand Prix events during the 2016 season.
Alfonso Celis: "Ever since I started racing I've been dreaming of Formula One, so it's a huge honour to begin working with Sahara Force India. It's an amazing opportunity for me to learn about Formula One and to work closely with the engineers and race drivers. Being on the track in Abu Dhabi will be an incredible feeling. It's going to be the biggest moment in my career and I am fully focussed on doing a good job for the team."
Vijay Mallya, Team Principal and Managing Director: "I would like to welcome Alfonso to the team and wish him well ahead of his debut with us in Abu Dhabi. As our development driver we will work hard to prepare him for the demands of driving in Formula One and provide a good grounding in all aspects of the job. It's a fantastic opportunity for Alfonso to learn from Sergio and Nico, and to get valuable mileage in the car."