Latest F1 news in brief – Monday

  • Jacques Villeneuve
    Jacques Villeneuve

    Villeneuve 'only sees the negative' – Stroll

  • Grosjean tips 'very strong' McLaren in 2018
  • Force India say Ocon is "every bit as good" as Verstappen
  • Haas: Aerodynamic department growth key to 2018 success
  • Wolff: Bottas needs to challenge for title

Villeneuve 'only sees the negative' – Stroll
(GMM) Lance Stroll has hit back at Jacques Villeneuve, saying the former Williams driver is "always negative".

1997 world champion Villeneuve, who drove for the British team when he won his title over 20 years ago, is a serial critic of his fellow Canadian Stroll.

Now, Villeneuve has hit out at Williams for reportedly selecting the heavily backed Russian Sergey Sirotkin instead of Robert Kubica to be Stroll's 2018 teammate.

"They already sold their soul to the billions of Lawrence Stroll, who only cares about his son," Villeneuve said.

Stroll, 19, hit back in the pages of the French publication Auto Hebdo: "I don't pay too much attention to what he's saying.

"It's always going to be negative anyway. He never supported me, in every sense of the word. He only sees the negative. Even the Baku podium was not a positive in his eyes," Stroll insisted.

However, Williams' 2018 lineup – expected to be made official in the next week or so – is raising eyebrows throughout the motor racing world.

But two-time champion Mika Hakkinen says sponsorship is just part of the puzzle as a driver moves towards F1.

"You definitely need all the elements to get into formula one — (including) good contacts and a lot of money," he told Sonntagszeitung newspaper.

"It's difficult to name an exact number, but when you reach formula one, you've already burned millions," Hakkinen added.

Grosjean tips 'very strong' McLaren in 2018

Can the McLaren surprise in 2018?
Can the McLaren surprise in 2018?

(GMM) Romain Grosjean has tipped McLaren to have a strong year in formula one after dumping Honda power.

The Ferrari-powered Haas driver said the works team of McLaren's new engine supplier – Renault – has "developed the project well and is already in front of us".

And so the Frenchman expects McLaren to be strong with Renault power in 2018.

"McLaren will be very strong," Grosjean is quoted by Italy's Autosprint.

"They have huge resources and probably the biggest structure in formula one," he said.

"The Renault is a respectable engine — they've had reliability problems but in terms of power they are there now," Grosjean added.

"The bigger question is about Williams, Force India, us and Toro Rosso with their new power unit. I think McLaren will be there with Red Bull, then there will be Renault," he said.

Force India say Esteban Ocon is "every bit as good" as Max Verstappen

Is Ocon destined to replace Hamilton or Bottas at Mercedes?
Is Ocon destined to replace Hamilton or Bottas at Mercedes?

Force India chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer reckons Esteban Ocon is just as talented as Red Bull's Max Verstappen.

Ocon and Verstappen are already tipped as potential future champions in Formula One, with Ocon impressing in his first full-season in the sport, while Verstappen has recorded four victories and turned in a string of superb drives since being promoted to Red Bull four races into 2016.

The pair were European F3 title rivals back in 2014, with Ocon coming out on top to be crowned champion. Verstappen recorded one victory more than the Frenchman and after finishing third in the championship, was instantly promoted to F1 with Toro Rosso for the following season. Mercedes junior Ocon had to wait until mid-way through 2016 until he got his own break with Manor, by which time he had also claimed the GP3 title.

When asked if he feels Ocon is as good a driver as Verstappen, Szafnauer told Sky Sports: "It's hard to know because they are driving different cars. But Max has signed a big contract with Red Bull and we've probably got Ocon for a hundredth of the price. I think Esteban is every bit as good. The first time we ran Esteban in the car we knew he was something special.

"He understands the car really well," he added. "He's got great car control and because of it he can get to the limit very quickly and then he describes what he feels. He also knows what he wants from the car, which is very mature for his age."

A remarkably consistent run of 18 points finishes from 20 races saw Ocon end 2017 just 13 points behind his more experienced teammate Sergio Perez and eighth in the drivers' standings, as Force India recorded its joint-best finish with fourth place in the constructors' and its highest tally of points.

"I think his biggest achievement is his continuous improvement. From where he started 2017 to where he is now, he's improved in many aspects and I think because of that he's scored in all-but two races and continues to push Checo. On any given Saturday we don't know who is going to out-qualify who."

Ocon, who is on "multi-year" loan deal to Force India from Mercedes, has continued to draw admiration from the German manufacturer and Szafnauer is under no illusions that Ocon is destined for a seat with the four-time reigning world champions sooner rather than later.

"Sometimes leasing is better than buying. They might have him back and I think the better he does, the more likelihood of him stepping up to a Mercedes role at some point but for now he's with us. We'll see what the future holds but I think he will continue to improve." Lewis Larkam/ESPN

Haas: Aerodynamic department growth key to 2018 success

The Haas must improve aerodynamically
The Haas must improve aerodynamically

Guenther Steiner says Haas' aerodynamic development will be "better and more consistent" in 2018 as the team continues to increase the size of its Formula One operation.

Haas has a close technical partnership with Ferrari, which includes an engine deal, and also works closely with Italian chassis designers Dallara. The team has been building its own aerodynamic department since joining the grid in 2015.

When asked if that had been the biggest area of growth for the team, team principal Steiner said: "Yes, absolutely.

"We started to get people in last year and there is more coming now. There are more as well as last year when we started we did not enough people as we just started. Our aero development should be more better and consistent [next year]."

Despite an improved second season in F1 and a big increase in points scored, Haas repeated its 2015 finish of eighth in the constructors' championship. Steiner is disappointed the team's continued internal growth did not materialize into a jump up the pecking order.

"I think we were better than last year but we cannot show it, we are in the same position with more points. Eight points more would make us heroes. If you finish sixth in your second your then your heroes but we are eighth like last year, it's like we haven't made any progress — not enough.

"We have made progress and I think the competition — which I think is a good thing and is not meant negative, there is no really bad team anymore in here which is a good thing. It's very difficult and competitive. I am happy with the progress, but disappointed that we cannot show that we made it as we are still where we were last year in the championship." Nate Saunders/ESPN

Wolff: Bottas needs to challenge for title

Wolff essentially tells Bottas to improve or he is out
Wolff essentially tells Bottas to improve or he is out

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says that Valtteri Bottas needs to challenge for the title in 2018 and has backed him to deliver a stronger second season with the team.

Bottas joined Mercedes from Williams for 2017, following Nico Rosberg's retirement as World Champion, and experienced a mixed first season onboard the Silver Arrows.

He classified third in the standings, with three victories and four pole positions, but finished almost 60 points adrift of team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who stormed to a fourth crown.

After his hopes of fighting for the 2017 title faded amid a tough post-summer break spell, Wolff reckons Bottas has what it takes to put together a more consistent challenge this year.

"That's what he has to do," Wolff told ESPN, on Bottas challenging for the title.

"We have seen some highlights in Sochi and in Austria and then after the summer Lewis came back very strong and the step that Lewis made up, Valtteri went backwards.

"He recovered at the end of the season and he is a Finn with a strong never-give-up mentality – Sisu.

"I expect him to come back strong with all he learning he has done during the season against the best Formula 1 driver of the current day and age."

Wolff ruled out Bottas playing any mind games in a bid to overcome Hamilton.

"That's not at all Valtteri's style," he commented.

"Valtteri wants to do it on the track in the best possible way and he has driving skills that have worked out for him at certain circuits where he was the one that set the benchmark.

"Valtteri will improve his weaknesses and continue to work on his strengths.

"What he wants is to be benchmarked against a four-time World Champion.

"If he can step up and challenge Lewis he has his place among the greatest drivers in Formula 1, [and] if he doesn't he's going to know it and there is no excuse."

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