Latest F1 news in brief – Saturday

  • Sauber Boss Vasseur being asked to run a Ferrari junior driver in exchange for current engines
    Sauber Boss Vasseur being asked to run a Ferrari junior driver in exchange for current engines

    Sauber not ready to name 2018 drivers

  • Gasly, Hartley not guaranteed 2018 seats
  • Ricciardo in no rush to decide future
  • Ecclestone says FIA helped Ferrari to win
  • Verstappen 'not worried' about Red Bull engine future
  • Unwell Magnussen will qualify in Mexico – Steiner
  • Alonso: McLaren 'sacrificing' Mexico for future
  • Hamilton: FP2 long run 'one of my best ever'

Sauber not ready to name 2018 drivers
(GMM) Boss Frederic Vasseur is refusing to say who will drive for Sauber in 2018.

According to some, the Swiss team could do a clean sweep and oust both Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson.

A frontrunner appears to be Charles Leclerc, the GP3 and now Formula 2 champion who is strongly backed by Sauber engine partner Ferrari.

But Sauber boss Vasseur insisted in Mexico: "We signed a contract for the supply of engines, not the supply of a driver.

"We are talking to Ferrari," he confirmed.

He denied some of those talks are about turning Sauber into a second Haas-like Ferrari 'B team'.

Vasseur said: "We are already well on our way with the new car and it's difficult to use parts from another constructor.

"Additionally, we have a lot of knowledge at Hinwil and do not want to lose that. We know how to develop a car.

"In the short term it would be easy to buy all kinds of Ferrari parts, but in the long run it would undermine the capabilities of our own team," he added.

However, another rumor is that Ferrari's other junior, Antonio Giovinazzi, is also in the running, while Sauber might prefer to keep at least one of its current drivers on board next year.

It is believed Ericsson, with close ties to Sauber's owners, would be the favorite.

"Next question," Frenchman Vasseur smiled.

"We hope to have an answer to that soon, but we know where we stand. The drivers are currently not our priority.

"More important is that we build a better chassis," he added.

What Vasseur will say, however, is that Ericsson's backers do not mean he will definitely stay at Sauber.

"No, the financial aspects do not matter here," he said.

"We have a long term plan for the team and a healthy budget, so we do not connect next season with the money that a driver brings."

Gasly, Hartley not guaranteed 2018 seats

Hartley hopes to remain in 2018
Hartley hopes to remain in 2018

(GMM) Toro Rosso looks set to head into the 2018 season with the driver lineup seen at this weekend's Mexican grand prix.

For the first time in Mexico, Pierre Gasly is lining up alongside new Red Bull re-recruit Brendon Hartley.

"Both are Red Bull drivers, both are high skilled drivers and we want to test them for the rest of the season," said team boss Franz Tost.

"There is a high possibility that this will be the driver lineup for 2018," he revealed.

Both Tost and Red Bull driver Dr Helmut Marko confirmed that Daniil Kvyat has not only lost his seat at Toro Rosso, he is no longer supported by the energy drink company at all.

However, especially given Red Bull's revolving-door reputation, Gasly and Hartley each said they are not 100 per cent sure they will be Toro Rosso's 2018 drivers.

"I've not been told yet," Frenchman Gasly said in Mexico.

"I've heard I'll be in the team until the end of the season, but nothing has been said to me since Japan," he added.

And New Zealander Hartley, who is being given a second chance by Red Bull after rebuilding his career at Le Mans, also said he still needs to prove he deserves to stay.

"It's clear that the pressure is higher for me now than in Austin," he said in Austin.

"The expectations were high from the beginning but everyone understood that Austin came very quickly for me.

"As a driver, you put most of the pressure on yourself, so it's about focusing on what's important and taking the car around the track as fast as you can," Hartley, who is 28 next month, added.

Ricciardo in no rush to decide future

Ricciardo in a happy place right now
Ricciardo in a happy place right now

(GMM) Daniel Ricciardo says he is calm despite the fact F1's top three teams appear to have set their direction in terms of drivers for the future.

In Austin, the Australian was surprised to learn that Red Bull has locked down F1 sensation Max Verstappen until the end of 2020.

So with Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel all set at Mercedes and Ferrari respectively, Ricciardo might be forgiven for thinking F1's best teams are not on the lookout for a 'number 1' driver.

When asked about Ricciardo, Hamilton said in Mexico that he is open to sharing Mercedes with the 28-year-old.

Ferrari's Vettel, who was Ricciardo's former Red Bull teammate, agreed: "Yeah, I don't mind. I like Daniel.

"Obviously for next year things are sorted, and then things can change quick. If you're not prepared to race whoever it is, then what is the point of racing?"

But Red Bull has made clear it wants Ricciardo to stay beyond his 2018 contract, and his current teammate Verstappen is also happy with the current situation.

"That would be good, because the relationship is really good," said the Dutchman.

Ricciardo, however, said he is not in a rush to decide, amid rumors one option could be McLaren.

"Max is off the market now, which is certainly not a disadvantage for me," he said.

"So I don't have to pull the trigger straight away. I can wait for the start of next season to get a picture of where Red Bull and the other teams are," added Ricciardo.

"I recall when Lewis left McLaren everyone thought it was a mistake and it turned out to be right, so sometimes you have to think a couple of steps ahead."

Ecclestone says FIA helped Ferrari to win

Arrivabene rolls eyes after hearing old man Ecclestone's comments
Arrivabene rolls eyes after hearing old man Ecclestone's comments

(GMM) Former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has admitted he, the FIA and rival teams would often "help" Ferrari to be more successful in formula one.

"F1 is Ferrari, and Ferrari is F1," the Briton, who turns 87 on Saturday, told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

After the Austin stewards controversy, Max Verstappen's father Jos furiously suggested on Twitter that the FIA should stand for 'Ferrari International Assistance'.

When asked about that charge, Ecclestone admitted: "Helping Ferrari has always been the smartest thing to do. It was always done through the technical regulations.

"The teams are important to F1, but Ferrari is more than that. So many things have been done over the years that have helped Ferrari to win," he added.

Asked if current F1 race director Charlie Whiting may still be biased, Ecclestone said: "No, Charlie has always done what he has to do.

"But Max (Mosley) has often helped Ferrari, and I too wanted them to win. There can be a season won by others, but even the other teams have an interest in challenging a competitive Ferrari," he insisted.

"It's one thing to win against Sauber and quite another to win against a red car."

Asked if Ferrari has had help to suddenly be so competitive in 2017, Ecclestone said that because he is no longer in charge, he cannot be sure.

"But certainly at one point they had help with this engine," Ecclestone charged.

"It's the same for Mercedes as it is for the others — a world championship win against Ferrari is always worth more.

"If Mercedes decided to transfer technology to Maranello, I say it was a good move," he said. "What is certain is that this friendly situation between the two teams is the best thing for Mercedes.

"It means Red Bull did not have the most powerful engines and Ferrari was competitive enough to be a credible rival to beat," Ecclestone added.

Mercedes has utterly dominated F1 throughout the 'power unit' era, and Ecclestone said that's because the German team got a head-start with its turbo V6 design.

"At the key time, Ross Brawn was in the engine group deciding the rules and he knew exactly what was going on," Ecclestone. "Not because he was a good engineer, but because he was with Ferrari.

"Then he went to Mercedes and took that information with him."

Meanwhile, Ecclestone said he did not enjoy the Indy 500-style driver introductions organized a week ago by F1's new owners Liberty Media for Austin.

"Maybe it was great for the Americans, but not for F1," he said.

"I built a five star restaurant and they are turning it into McDonald's," Ecclestone added.

"At one point I saw drivers dressed in pink. If I had anything to do with it, I would have told them to go back and dress appropriately," he said.

Verstappen 'not worried' about Red Bull engine future

Verstappen knows the future looks bright with Honda power
Verstappen knows the future looks bright with Honda power

(GMM) Max Verstappen insists he is "not worried" about Red Bull's current engine situation.

As it stands, Renault is standing by its 2018 commitment to the energy drink owned team, but not promising to supply a power unit beyond that.

So it was a surprise in the paddock when Verstappen signed on for three more years with Red Bull, even though a switch to Honda power for 2019 could be one of the only options.

But some believe there are behind-the-scenes talks taking place about engines that are leaving the Dutch F1 sensation feeling reassured.

"Clearly there's something going on that we don't necessarily know about," said F1 pundit Eddie Jordan.

Referring to his new 2020 contract, Verstappen confirmed: "Obviously I'm not worried, as you can see.

"What I can tell you is that we have options," he told Brazil's Globo publication in Mexico.

"Let's see what happens next year."

Unwell Magnussen will qualify in Mexico – Steiner

Does Kevin Magnussen have Montezuma's revenge? Did he drink the water?
Does Kevin Magnussen have Montezuma's revenge? Did he drink the water?

(GMM) Haas boss Gunther Steiner says Kevin Magnussen will be well enough to qualify for the Mexican grand prix on Saturday.

On Friday, the FIA excused the Danish driver from the mandatory driver briefing due to a "medical condition".

It is believed Magnussen is unwell with a stomach complaint and must be cleared by FIA doctors to return to his car on Saturday.

"I don't think it affected him too much," Steiner told Ekstra Bladet newspaper.

"I think there was a time when he had to leave the car because he needed something, but otherwise he was well enough.

"But we and (Magnussen's trainer) Thomas (Jorgensen) suggested that he should go back to the hotel instead of the driver meeting.

"He'll be fine," Steiner added.

"He was actually ok when he left, but my point of view was that he should not infect anyone else."

When asked if Magnussen will be well enough to drive on Saturday, Steiner answered: "Yes, yes."

Alonso: McLaren 'sacrificing' Mexico for future

Fernando ALonso says the McLaren-Honda is fast in Mexico City
Fernando Alonso says the McLaren-Honda is fast in Mexico City

Fernando Alonso says McLaren has to "sacrifice" its chances of a strong result at the Mexican Grand Prix, in order to boost its prospects at the final two rounds in Brazil and Abu Dhabi.

Alonso, and team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne, have taken on fresh engine elements, meaning they are set to start from the back of the grid, due to resultant 20- and 35-place penalties.

Alonso was upbeat over the one-lap pace displayed on Friday, having finished seventh overall, but accepted the decision to take on new engine parts to aid chances in the future.

"We did a lot of laps, a lot of tests, and most of them gave us good feedback," Alonso said of McLaren's run plan.

"We were only seven-tenths away from the fastest time and two tenths from [Valtteri] Bottas, so surprisingly competitive in both sessions on such a complicated circuit.

"We know it's going to be a difficult race anyway, starting from the back, and with little chance of overtaking because of our top speed.

"In some ways we have to sacrifice this race in order to have a fresh engine in Brazil and Abu Dhabi.

"We also don't yet know which way to go for qualifying – we need to decide on a few things in terms of tires, and see which decision gives us the least painful result."

Stoffel Vandoorne, meanwhile, classified a low-key 15th, having missed most of the opening session due to an engine change.

"I hope we will have a trouble-free day and continue our weekend as normal," said Vandoorne.

"On a new track, mileage is always the most important thing to achieve, especially when you're trying to dial in the car to the circuit in tricky conditions like the high altitude we experience here.

"I feel positive that we can find a better feeling in the car provided we can get the track time, and collect as much information as possible ahead of qualifying and the race."

Hamilton: FP2 long run 'one of my best ever'

Hamilton sets up car to win another race, and the title
Hamilton sets up car to win another race, and the title

Lewis Hamilton described his race simulation during second practice for the Mexican Grand Prix as "one of the best I've ever done", following a spin.

Hamilton finished second quickest in both of Friday's sessions at the Aut¢dromo Hermanos Rodríguez, initially trailing Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, before splitting the Red Bulls.

In the early stages of FP2, he suffered a wild slide through Turn 11, which ruined his set of Super Softs, forcing him to complete his long running on Ultra Softs.

But having been "on the back foot", Hamilton hailed the consistency of his race stint and was boosted by the data gathered for the remainder of the weekend.

"It's been a good day today," said Hamilton.

"It didn't really start out great, particularly in the second session with the big spin on my first lap, [which] really threw off the session and made it a little bit tricky to get the run on the Super Soft.

"I put myself on the back foot, but the single lap and then the long run on the Ultra Soft was probably one of the best I've ever done.

"I don't think I've ever done 26 laps that consistent, apart from in the race maybe.

"We got lots of information, the track was feeling better in the second session once the temperature came up – overall a good day."

Bottas ended the day fifth overall, behind the Ferrari drivers, admitting that he went in the wrong direction with his set-up ahead of second practice.

"First practice was good; I really enjoyed it," he said.

"It is such a fun circuit to drive because it has quite a low grip, so it is definitely challenging.

"We made some set-up changes for FP2 which went in the wrong direction, so in the end of the session we went back to the original set-up.

"For some reason I also struggled to get the tires to work in the second session. That's why it didn't look as good as the first one.

"But I think it was a positive day overall, I'm looking forward to qualifying."

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