Latest F1 news in brief – Thursday

  • Lewis Hamilton leaving his jet he is accused of evading taxes on
    Lewis Hamilton leaving his jet he is accused of evading taxes on

    Hamilton determined to ride tax 'storm'

  • Brawn, not Lauda, convinced Hamilton to make F1 switch
  • Hamilton to keep sights on Vettel beyond 2017
  • Hamilton just as good as Senna, Schumacher – Massa
  • Giovinazzi not giving up on 2018 F1 'dream'
  • Sainz Jr. fends off 2019 Red Bull switch rumors
  • McLaren adapting 2018 car for Renault engine
  • F1's Sean Bratches Details Plans To Build Its Brand

Hamilton determined to ride tax 'storm'
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton insists the "storm" surrounding his tax affairs won't derail his push for victory this weekend.

Actually, the Mercedes driver wrapped up his fourth title two weeks ago in Mexico, but he says that doesn't mean he is not targeting victory in Brazil.

"The championship is done but there are still two races to go and it is important to win those two races to solidify what I have worked on this year," Hamilton said.

Hamilton will at least be relieved that he is not still fighting for the title amid sensational new accusations he dodged millions in tax by claiming his personal jet is used only for business.

Through a lawyer, the 32-year-old has denied any wrongdoing, insisting he "relies upon" professional advisors.

And speaking in Brazil, Hamilton himself said: "Obviously right now there is a bit of a storm surrounding me.

"There are many different stories around, but I don't have anything to add to the whole scenario that has happened.

"It doesn't distract me from my core values, and also what I am here to do which is to try and win the Brazilian grand prix for a second time in my life."

Brawn, not Lauda, convinced Hamilton to make F1 switch

Ross Brawn landed Hamilton when he was at Mercedes
Ross Brawn landed Hamilton when he was at Mercedes

(GMM) Lewis Hamilton has corrected the industry-standard story about how he decided to switch from McLaren to Mercedes some years ago.

According to the paddock grapevine and also the F1 legend himself, it was Niki Lauda who joined Hamilton late at night in a hotel room to convince him to make the switch for 2013.

"I love Niki and I have a great relationship with him," Hamilton, the new four time world champion, told Brazil's Globo.

"But the truth is that it was not Niki who convinced me to go to Mercedes. It was Ross Brawn.

"He came to my mother's house, we were having tea in the kitchen and I was like 'Why does the guy I saw on TV leading guys like Schumacher want me on his team?' It didn't make sense to me," Hamilton explained.

Brawn, now the F1 sporting boss, was once the team boss at Ferrari and Mercedes.

"That was the key day that convinced me to go to Mercedes," Hamilton added.

The 32-year-old has already wrapped up the 2017 title, but he has vowed to race on and even wants to extend his current Mercedes contract beyond next year.

Hamilton said: "The question is how much longer I want to commit to this sport.

"I know it won't be much longer because I also want to do other things like having a family and business. There are other challenges for me," he insisted.

Hamilton to keep sights on Vettel beyond 2017

Hamilton's Mercedes will sport 2018 Aldo Costa bits the last two races of the year
Hamilton's Mercedes will sport 2018 Aldo Costa bits the last two races of the year

(GMM) Lewis Hamilton says he will remain focused on beating Sebastian Vettel over the next few years in formula one.

Many are talking about young sensation Max Verstappen joining the title battle next year, but new champion Hamilton expects his 2017 rival Vettel to remain strong.

"Sebastian just signed for three more years with Ferrari, which is good," Spain's Diario Sport quoted the Mercedes driver as saying in Brazil.

"In my head the objective is to keep making his life difficult.

"Perfection is the goal," Hamilton added. "I want to get as close as possible to perfection."

To that end, although Hamilton himself is targeting victory in Brazil, Mercedes has its eye on the bigger picture this weekend.

Team boss Toto Wolff says that because both titles are already wrapped up, Mercedes will take the opportunity to test for 2018 in Brazil and Abu Dhabi.

"We are looking at the next two race weekends as the first two grands prix of 2018," he said.

Mercedes confirmed in a statement that in Brazil and Abu Dhabi, "new and interesting concepts" will be tested in a "series of experiments".

Hamilton just as good as Senna, Schumacher – Massa

Massa ranks Hamilton with the best
Massa ranks Hamilton with the best

(GMM) Lewis Hamilton is just as much a legend of F1 as Ayrton Senna or Michael Schumacher.

That is the view of Felipe Massa, who says countryman Senna was an idol and Schumacher the most important "teacher" in his career.

And his 2008 title rival Hamilton, having just won his fourth drivers' title, "lacks nothing to Senna or Schumacher or any name in the history of world motor sport", he said.

"What he has shown, with the number of grands prix he has contested and the records he has already broken, is impressive," Massa told the Sportv program Bem Amigos.

"He lacks nothing to them. He is undoubtedly one of the best drivers in formula one history," he said, referring to Hamilton.

Massa, 36, was speaking ahead of his last home grand prix in Brazil, having just announced his second and final retirement from F1.

"I'm very pleased with the way I've driven this year," he said.

"I could have done another championship, yes, because I had a lot of fun this year with these cars with the level of aerodynamic load they have."

However, Massa says Williams has decided "another path" for 2018 and beyond regarding Lance Stroll's next teammate.

"I had a conversation with my team, who pointed out that for some time that the financial situation has been very, very difficult," he revealed.

"I said I wanted to know by the Brazilian grand prix. The team informed me that the path would be different," Massa added.

He said he had been particularly keen to keep racing for Williams because the British team expects to have a better car in 2018.

"I have information about next year's car from inside the team," said Massa. "It will not be a car to win the championship, but it is better than the last two years, which were not competitive cars.

"That's also why I wanted to continue — to maybe have a better car. But it won't happen," he admitted.

Giovinazzi not giving up on 2018 F1 'dream'

Antonio Giovinazzi
Antonio Giovinazzi

(GMM) Antonio Giovinazzi says he still has his eye on the big "dream" of racing in formula one for Ferrari.

The Italian actually had a minor role in this year's F1 season, replacing the injured Pascal Wehrlein at Sauber early on.

"The year gave me more than I expected," said the 23-year-old, who was Ferrari's official reserve and also a Friday practice driver for Haas, another Ferrari-powered team.

"I do not hide that after a great year in GP2, I felt ready to race a full season in F1, but that's how it is," Giovinazzi told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"But now I feel even much more prepared than I did last winter."

However, the next step for Giovinazzi is not clear. In China, he had an awful race weekend for Sauber and since then it has been Ferrari's other junior, Charles Leclerc, who has commanded most of the attention.

"In Australia I had a great time but China was the worst weekend of my entire career as a driver," he admits.

"It happened to me on the most important stage when I had all the media pressure on me. Critics attacked me a lot. I understand better that you always have to keep your feet on the ground," Giovinazzi insists.

"I do not want to say that it went to my head, but perhaps in China I set goals that were bigger than I could do at that time. You have to be aware of your limitations and that everything comes to you in time.

"But the disappointment has helped me to grow."

Indeed, it is Leclerc who is believed to have definitely secured the Sauber seat for 2018, with the Swiss team wanting to please its owners by keeping Marcus Ericsson.

But there are rumors Ferrari is still pushing hard to convince Sauber to pick Giovinazzi to be Leclerc's teammate instead.

Sauber boss Frederic Vasseur is expected to make his decision before the end of the 2017 season.

Also rumored is that Haas is still under pressure to accommodate Giovinazzi in 2018, even though Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen are already under contract.

Asked by La Gazzetta dello Sport to explain why he deserves to be on the grid, Giovinazzi answered: "Because, like so many others, myself and my family have made great sacrifices to get me here.

"F1 is not football, where you can play for many teams. Here there are only 20 places in the world but I have always believed I could do it just like Vettel and Hamilton, who also achieved great success from scratch.

"I can say that I'm still dreaming to follow Schumacher.

"When I signed for Ferrari I could not believe it," he revealed. "I had always been a 'gypsy' in my single seater career but now I live near Maranello, I am almost every day at the factory and I feel at home now."

Sainz Jr. fends off 2019 Red Bull switch rumors

Carlos Sainz Jr.
Carlos Sainz Jr.

(GMM) Carlos Sainz Jr. has batted away rumors his stay at Renault could be fleeting.

The Spaniard has moved from the Red Bull family to the works Renault team, as part of the complex deal that sees Toro Rosso switch to Honda power for 2018.

But Sainz, 23, is merely on 'loan', with Christian Horner insisting that he can be pulled away to Red Bull for 2019 if Daniel Ricciardo decides to leave.

When asked about that, Sainz fended off the question.

"I feel very good at Renault," he told EFE news agency ahead of the Brazilian grand prix.

"They have made me feel at home from day one, helping me to adapt to the team and the car very quickly, in addition to the desire I had to join the team and move forward."

Sainz said that, like Red Bull, Renault is also a F1 "world champion", insisting: "Everything about 2019 and the Red Bull rumors do not interest me right now."

He also defended Renault amid criticism of widespread reliability problems, saying: "They are small problems, and I would not even call them problems.

"They are simply problems with experience, with adaptation of how the car reacts to different situations in the race," said Sainz.

McLaren adapting 2018 car for Renault engine

McLaren must adapt car
McLaren must adapt car

(GMM) McLaren is reportedly working hard to adapt its 2018 car to the very different Renault engine.

When the British team began the 2018 project, it might have expected to stay with Honda power beyond this year.

Instead, after three years of struggling with its Japanese works partner, McLaren is moving from Honda to Renault.

But Auto Motor und Sport reports that the Renault power unit has a "completely different architecture".

McLaren designer Matt Morris confirms: "We had to redesign the clutch and the gearbox."

The cooling and radiator requirements are also completely different, with Morris admitting that McLaren will simply rely on Renault's recommendations for the first year.

"Only with more experience does it make sense to develop something of our own," he said.

F1's Sean Bratches Details Plans To Build Its Brand

Sean Bratches
Sean Bratches

Formula 1 Managing Dir, Commercial Operations Sean Bratches wants to "put the spectacular back into the spectacle" that is the global racing series. Bratches, speaking on Day 1 of the 2017 NeuLion Sports Media & Technology conference, detailed his plans for the series next year, including new OTT offerings and a "reinvented fan experience." Bratches joined F1 in January, and said that upon arriving he realized what an "undermanaged asset" the racing series was.

"I always joke with (F1 CEO) Chase Carey about pulling me up and pulling a bait-and-switch," Bratches said. "He asked me to come run the business. But when I got there, there was no research group, no digital group, no sponsorship group, no media rights group. It's like going from the Sears Roebuck catalog to the internet and trying to do it in a very compressed amount of time."

Bratches sees parallels between joining F1 and when he started at ESPN, where he spent 28 years. "We didn't call it that at the time, but (ESPN) was a startup," he said, "And you really didn't know, I was being maligned by many for going from broadcast to this cable thing that was never going to work. And it worked out famously. Formula 1 is an asset that you can actually see an end game."

ENHANCING THE FAN EXPERIENCE
: F1 is building a responsive web platform from the ground up and building a live and non-live OTT product on the digital front. All will be launched before the '18 season, Bratches said. He noted F1 has been perceived as an "incredibly exclusive sport," so to counter that, the series is trying to create seams where fans "can play, can touch the brand."

F1 is introducing "Grid Kids" next year — similar to what Premier League clubs do with children walking on the field with players prior to a match. F1 also will hold five day-long fan festivals in Berlin, Milan, Marseille, Miami and Shanghai. "It's a real opportunity," Bratches said. "We don't stand for anything [now]. We don't have a social platform right now."

IMPROVING THE BRAND
: Bratches said that F1 did a global brand strategy through Wieden + Kennedy, London, when he arrived, and subsequently "learned a lot about the consumer." F1 learned the fan demographics were about 70-30 male to female, which for a motorsports platform is "actually pretty good."

Meanwhile, Bratches noted F1 is "underpunching our weight right now" on the sponsorship front with just five corporate sponsors. Bratches: "You look at the American leagues … and then Liverpool has 31 sponsors and ManU has 96. I don’t think we're going to get to 96, but there's an opportunity above five." Bratches said that F1 retained CAA and is opening a sales office in N.Y. and also in Asia.

"One of the things critically important to this is to expand the amount of sponsorable inventory that we can bring to the market and tell our stories. … This array of opportunities to invest in F1 if you're a brand is expanding."

ESPN'S NEW DEAL: F1 announced just a month ago that it would move from NBC to ESPN next season as part of a multi-year deal. Bratches said that NBC was a "fantastic partner," and his first instinct was to do another deal with that network. Bratches: "When you get down to brass tacks, the ESPN deal was more favorable in terms of where we were going. … I'd love to be able to see [Mercedes driver] Lewis Hamilton drive up to the Oscars in his F1 car." Bratches did say that F1's content will not be streamed on Disney's forthcoming OTT platform. Josh Alexander/SportsBusinessDaily

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