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DATE News (chronologically)
03/15/14
f1
Latest F1 news in brief - Saturday
  • Lauda: Mercedes buying championship with money
    Mercedes upped budget to succeed in F1 - Lauda
  • Renault still 'a month' behind - Taffin
  • Sport is 'formula engine' now - Lauda
  • Mercedes have discussed team orders in Melbourne
  • Newey finds loophole to hide FIA nose camera
  • 2014 rules expose 'huge safety risk' - Stewart
  • Software issued hampered Vettel
  • Bottas and Gutierrez handed grid penalties
  • Vettel sees bright side to unlucky 13

Mercedes upped budget to succeed in F1 - Lauda
(GMM)  Niki Lauda has admitted Mercedes upped its F1 budget in the quest to chase down the sport's top teams.

As the German marque looks set to dominate the 2014 season with a superior 'power unit' for the new era, paddock rumors indicate Mercedes might have spent a staggering EUR 500 million on the development of its turbo V6.

The German newspaper Welt said that figure is wildly wide of the mark, but team chairman Niki Lauda admits Mercedes did make a decision to spend more.

"The budget under the dictate of the RRA (voluntary resource restriction agreement) was the first major stumbling block," said the great Austrian, "because in practice it was not respected.

"The Mercedes executive board understood that we were fighting a losing battle with the resources we had available, because McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull were not respecting (the RRA limits)," added Lauda.

Welt newspaper claims Mercedes still spends less than Ferrari and Red Bull, but a more even playing field has allowed the Brackley team to step towards the front.

The result is the new car for 2014, the W05, which according to McLaren's Jenson Button is at least a second per lap faster than any rival circulating this weekend in Melbourne for the season opener.

"They're very quick," Button told reporters late on Friday.

"We were two seconds off them in the test and I think everyone's about a second off them here," Button added.

Button said the similarly Mercedes-powered Williams cars are next best, and the Grove team's Valtteri Bottas agrees that Mercedes are all alone at the front.

"Those times that Mercedes did (on Friday) ... it doesn't matter how much fuel they had in the tank, they were really fast," the Finn told Turun Sanomat newspaper.

After a disastrous winter, it appears world champions Red Bull have taken a major step forwards for Melbourne, but team boss Christian Horner thinks there is still "quite a gap" to the front-running "Mercedes and Ferrari" cars.

Force India's Nico Hulkenberg, however, thinks Red Bull is in even better shape than that.

"For me," he is quoted by Speed Week, "Red Bull are (only) behind Mercedes and pretty darn fast.

"It's not a real surprise," said the German, "as Daniel Ricciardo showed in Bahrain that the car is fast when it's working on the track.  Now it seems like they're getting their problems under control.

"That should be expected with a team such as that," added Hulkenberg.

Renault still 'a month' behind - Taffin
(GMM)  Renault is still "about a month" behind its rival F1 engine suppliers.

That is the admission of the French marque's Remi Taffin, despite the fact premier partner team Red Bull has taken a big step forwards in Melbourne after a disastrous winter.

Asked if Renault have been surprised by the superiority of Mercedes and Ferrari with the very same revolutionary rules, he told the French-language news agency AFP: "No, we are not surprised.

"This (Mercedes and Ferrari's level) is what we wanted, and what we imagined we would achieve.

"We're not there yet, because we've had reliability problems and that caused a bit of a delay.  We are about a month behind," said Taffin.

And Mercedes' F1 chairman Niki Lauda said no engine supplier is currently giving full power to its customers.

"Not even Mercedes," he told Kleine Zeitung newspaper.

Sport is 'formula engine' now - Lauda
(GMM)  The sport might now be called "formula engine", at least in the early phase of 2014, according to Mercedes' Niki Lauda.

The German marque has got a jump on its rival suppliers Ferrari and Renault after the revolutionary switch from normally-aspirated engines to the significantly energy recovery-boosted turbo V6s.

The milder tones of the engines got the thumbs-down from the Melbourne punters on Friday, who pined for the old days of earplugs over these 'sewing machines on wheels'.

Mercedes' Toto Wolff is unapologetic.

"This is modern technology, this is where road cars are going," he said on Friday.  "Downsizing is the motto and I think we just need to accept that the formula has changed."

It is not just the sport's noise that has changed.  Lauda said that even though the drivers are still in the spotlight, F1 is effectively now 'formula engine'.

"For the first five races we're not going to see formula one, but a 'formula engine'," he told the Kleine Zeitung newspaper.

"Only from the sixth, seventh race will the drivers again be driving (as before)," he explained.

What he means is that the drivers are now operating very much under the control of the engineers, who are carefully monitoring fuel consumption levels and battery recharge rates.

"You can't overcharge them (the batteries), nor undercharge them," Lauda said.  "Not too slowly, not too fast."

And he said a big job-list in the practice sessions is not car setup, but careful calculations to determine how Sunday's race can be run with just 100kg of fuel.

"Without engineers there is no driving at the moment," said Lauda.

McLaren's Jenson Button, the most experienced driver in the field who has raced throughout the transition from V10 to V8 and now V6, said: "You are more an engineer than a racer these days.

"But this is reality," he is quoted by the Times newspaper.

"It's not my favorite era and I've been worried that the racing will not be exciting, but we're not going back to V10s," said the 2009 world champion.

Mercedes have discussed team orders in Melbourne
(GMM)  'No team orders' is too simplistic a headline in the intricate world of formula one.

Earlier, we reported that dominant Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg's charge for victory this weekend would be unfettered by team play.

"We are going to try and avoid such measures," German Rosberg said, while chairman Niki Lauda added: "They can race against each other".

But when also asked on Friday if 'conversations' about team orders have taken place behind closed doors in Melbourne, team director Toto Wolff admitted: "Yes, we had those conversations, and I think it's important to have those conversations."

Wolff said Hamilton and Rosberg are not only fast but "very intelligent".

"They treat each other in a very fair way.  We went through some scenarios and I think we're in a good place," he added.

So what exactly does that mean?

Last year, Rosberg was unhappy when he was ordered to stay in third place behind Hamilton in Malaysia.

"We got caught out by surprise last year," Wolff said at Albert Park, "and we don't want this to happen again.  It's just very good discussions we've had."

So, Wolff suggested to Germany's Bild newspaper that the pair will not necessarily have a free hand to go wheel-to-wheel in Melbourne.

"Their first opponents are not their teammates, but everyone else," he said.

"We have explained to them how to respond in more than two dozen scenarios, for example if one of them is ahead but suddenly has a fuel problem.  They have to be clear what to do."

Newey finds loophole to hide FIA nose camera
(GMM)  Red Bull may have had a disastrous winter, but designer Adrian Newey's attention to detail is as sharp as ever in 2014.

Keen-eyed observers noticed throughout the winter and again in Melbourne on Friday that the new RB10 did not have the FIA camera mountings installed as per normal.

Because it was only testing, the nose configuration was not 'illegal' at Jerez or in Bahrain, but the camera mountings are mandatory at the actual grands prix.

So how is Red Bull getting away with it in Melbourne?

A much closer look at the nose of the Newey-penned 2014 car at Albert Park reveals that a hole for the television camera lens has been cut between the 'Casio' and 'Pirelli' logos in the nose.

The disguised FIA camera in the Red Bull can be seen at Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

"The trick by aerodynamics guru Newey, who reads the rules carefully, means no inconvenient parts are in the wind," said correspondent Michael Schmidt.

The rules say the mountings must not be located inside the carbon structure, but Newey has found a loophole by putting the camera inside the 'vanity panel', a non-structural covering introduced last year to hide the unseemly nose steps.

Newey's solution also means Formula One Management can no longer use the Red Bull for a rearward-facing television view, whose images last year led to suggestions the title-winning 2013 car had an illegally bending floor.

2014 rules expose 'huge safety risk' - Stewart
(GMM)  Sir Jackie Stewart on Saturday admitted he has a "very, very big" safety concern about F1's revolutionary new era.

"I see a very, very big problem," the F1 legend told German newspaper Die Welt in Melbourne.

Indeed, it is believed the very sort of concern raised by Stewart, F1's safety-pioneering driver of the 70s and a triple world champion, was also raised by experienced current drivers including Jenson Button in the FIA briefing in Australia.

The worry is that the new 100 kilogram per driver race fuel limit could mean some cars are aggressively saving fuel at the very same time as others are still racing flat-out.

"Drivers who are six seconds slower than the fastest cars is a huge safety risk," 74-year-old Stewart said.

"And when you're talking about safety in formula one, it is the question of life and death," the Scot added.

"If I understand the problem, I cannot understand that others seem to have thought so little about it," he said.

Software issue hampered Vettel
Renault says an engine software issue caused Sebastian Vettel's troubled Australian Grand Prix qualifying session.

While his new teammate Daniel Ricciardo qualified second in Melbourne, the reigning Formula 1 world champion will start only 13th.

Renault confirmed a software issue meant Vettel suffered from a lack of power, and the German said the issue had been present all day.

"This morning was still OK but definitely a step down, and then this afternoon when it started to rain I was struggling a lot with drivability and it made my life pretty difficult," said Vettel.

"I made it round, but I struggled a lot when going on the power, so drivability was down.

"We programmed it to be like yesterday, if not a little bit better.

"There was a different set-up and a software update, but with modern Formula 1 there's a lot of software programming and it's not easy for drivers to understand what's going on."

Bottas and Gutierrez handed grid penalties
Williams’ Valtteri Bottas and Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez will both drop five places on the grid in Australia following gearbox changes.

The 2014 regulations specify that gearboxes must last for six consecutive events, however after hitting trouble in Saturday’s final practice session in Melbourne, both drivers were forced to make an earlier than permitted change.

Vettel sees bright side to unlucky 13
(GMM)  Although visibly annoyed, even Sebastian Vettel late on Saturday could see the bright side under gloomy skies in Melbourne.

The reigning world champion is unlucky 13th on the Melbourne grid, while his teammate Daniel Ricciardo delighted the partisan crowd by driving through Red Bull's crisis and splitting the dominant Mercedes cars with P2.

"This shows what our car can do," Vettel told German television RTL.

Red Bull's Dr Helmut Marko agreed: "Our car is good, as we have seen (with Ricciardo).

"Again we have had a software problem with Sebastian, so the poor performance, it was purely a software problem," he insisted.

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