Latest F1 news in brief – Saturday

  • Cyril Abiteboul getting all the other team's secrets
    Cyril Abiteboul getting all the other team's secrets

    Teams to discuss Budkowski leave in meeting

  • Norris could replace Button as McLaren reserve
  • Boullier still pushing for Alonso signature
  • Gasly admits future still uncertain
  • Biometric gloves to help monitor drivers in 2018!
  • Can ESPN keep momentum going?
  • Hamilton: Mercedes ‘feels back to normal’ in latest spec
  • Raikkonen to take new gearbox, grid drop after crash
  • Bottas poised for five-place grid penalty
  • 2018 Alonso deal mere days from announcement
  • Ricciardo on driver market 'understandable' – Marko
  • Tires left for race

Teams to discuss Budkowski leave in meeting
(GMM) The issue of Marcin Budkowski's 'gardening leave' will be discussed during the next F1 strategy group meeting.

Renault finally announced at Suzuka that Budkowski has left his leading technical role at the FIA to become the Enstone team's executive director.

Team boss Cyril Abiteboul said he will start work in "early April", despite the fact that Swiss law and his FIA contract means he actually only has to serve three months of gardening leave.

"But we have had a constructive discussion with the FIA and I believe that we are close to reaching an agreement on a start date that would I say makes everyone comfortable," said the Frenchman.

However, Renault rivals remain furious, insisting that for an engineer with so much knowledge about every team's car should serve up to 18 months of gardening leave.

"Nobody wants to get in Marcin's way," said Mercedes chief Toto Wolff at Suzuka.

"We just need to discuss how long the gardening leave should be in such cases. The topic is on the agenda for the next strategy group meeting, where everyone can have their opinion."

McLaren boss Eric Boullier adds: "We have nothing against Renault. But we want to draw the attention of the FIA to this situation, because this is a matter of trust.

"In the case of leading technical experts, the mandatory leave period should be longer."

Norris could replace Button as McLaren reserve

Button wants to race
Button wants to race

(GMM) Eric Boullier has admitted Jenson Button could leave his role as official McLaren reserve driver next year.

Earlier in 2017, the 2009 world champion stood in for Fernando Alonso in Monaco, but Button indicated at Suzuka that he wants to return to another series full-time next year.

"I miss racing," said Button, present at the Japanese grand prix as a McLaren brand ambassador.

"I had sort of fallen out of love a little bit — I think maybe I left it a year too long in F1. But I want to go racing and have fun again."

Button said he has "some sort" of contract with McLaren for 2018, but team boss Eric Boullier admitted the 37-year-old could actually leave his role with the team.

"In my view, he wants to spend next season in a racing series, and it is obvious that we cannot offer him that.

"But he is also an ambassador of the McLaren brand, and we would be happy to continue this cooperation," said the Frenchman.

However, Boullier admitted that Button's new racing role could clash with his ambassador duties, and therefore McLaren would need to seek a new official reserve driver.

Lando Norris is the leading candidate.

"Yes," Boullier admitted. "Let's see, because if he becomes F3 champion, which is quite possible, he will have enough points to receive the super license."

Boullier still pushing for Alonso signature

Alonso tells Boullier to add more zeros
Alonso tells Boullier to add more zeros

(GMM) Eric Boullier is pushing hard to get Fernando Alonso's signature on a McLaren contract for 2018.

It appears that the two sides are headed for a new deal following the Honda split.

"Honestly, I don't think there are any special difficulties," Frenchman Boullier said at Suzuka.

"We are already discussing the details of the contract, and as both sides have an intention to continue, I think we will be able to agree."

However, Boullier said that as F3 champion, Lando Norris would have enough super license points to race next year, while Stoffel Vandoorne declared at Suzuka that he is "100 per cent" ready to lead McLaren from the cockpit in 2018.

"Is Stoffel ready?" Boullier said.

"So far he has 15 races this season and one more before that," he explained. "This is not a lot of experience.

"But if you see what he managed in the last three or four grands prix, it is clear that he knows how to use the full potential of the package. And that is helping the team a lot," said Boullier.

Alonso said earlier at Suzuka that Red Bull's Sepang victory shows that, with Renault power, McLaren should be able to win in 2018.

Boullier commented: "Their relationship with Renault has evolved over a period of ten years, but we are also determined to achieve the maximum possible results."

Gasly admits future still uncertain

Pierre Gasly knows his check has to be large enough
Pierre Gasly knows his check has to be large enough

(GMM) Pierre Gasly says he is still unsure how he will spend the remainder of the 2017 season — and then whether he will step up with a full Toro Rosso seat next year.

Heading into Suzuka, Red Bull's Dr Helmut Marko said the rookie Frenchman is likely to drive for Toro Rosso for the remainder of 2017, with the possible exception of Austin so that he can fight for the Super Formula title in Japan.

"Helmut said I will receive more information soon, but so far I have not," Gasly said at Suzuka.

But the 21-year-old said he has been assured more races at the wheel of the Toro Rosso, following the ousting of Daniil Kvyat.

"Many things are happening behind the scenes," he said, referring to the next F1 race date in Austin later in October. "I'll definitely drive, I just don't know in what series — Super Formula or formula one.

"I was told that Honda wants me to finish the season for them, but it's not for me to make a decision. But it makes sense, as we are fighting for the title.

"Personally it would be difficult for me to decide, so I will take any decision."

Asked if he would then return to Toro Rosso to race in Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi, Gasly admitted: "Potentially yes."

As for 2018, Gasly looks certain to get the full race seat, but he said: "At the moment I'm just doing what I've always done — drive as fast as possible.

"Red Bull has supported me for many years and Toro Rosso has a vacancy for next season, but at the moment I need to focus on what I am doing.

"I had pressure from the moment I started karting. After joining Red Bull the pressure increased even more, but I cannot say that in formula one I feel more pressure.

"I have the opportunity to be in the championship now and I have to use it."

Asked what Marko told him after his debut in Malaysia, Gasly revealed: "He said I did a good first race and should continue like that, but Helmut speaks very little anyway and I don't expect him to praise me.

"I just have to keep working and showing the best possible results."

Finally, Gasly was asked if he has been in touch with Russian Kvyat, who was axed to make way for his debut.

"No," he admitted.

"Perhaps I am mistaken, but imagine yourself in his situation. I'm not sure he would appreciate my message so much."

Biometric gloves to help monitor drivers in 2018!
Always on the cutting edge of technology, Formula 1 will introduce a biometric glove for drivers next season which will monitor several medical factors.

The technology includes a small sensor stitched inside a driver's glove capable of measuring pulse rate and oxygen levels in the blood, two parameters essential in addressing a driver's medical condition in the event of an accident.

Ultimately, the technology, which is supported by the Global Institute for Motor Sport safety, will also have the ability to monitor body temperature and respiratory rate.

Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull drivers tested the special biometric glove in Hungary this summer.

In an interview with the FIA's in-house magazine Auto, FIA Deputy Medical Delegate Dr Ian Roberts spoke of the merits of the technology and its purpose.

"We know that the monitoring of people is essential in terms of their medical care," he said.

"Drivers in incidents are no different. We would like to start monitoring and assessing them as soon as we possibly can.

"But the equipment that we currently use is relatively bulky and is only applied after the incident has happened.

"There are also times when the driver isn’t immediately accessible to us, so if we can’t see him or we’re not actually next to him, there’s limited information that we can get."

As an example of the technology's function and use, Roberts pointed towards Carlos Sainz' accident in practice in Russia in 2015, when the Spaniard was trapped under a barrier, making his condition impossible to assess.

"Accurate monitoring was impossible until we got hands-on, and obviously we couldn’t do that until the barriers were moved," he said.

"If we had monitoring on him straight away we could have planned our rescue even better than we did.

"With this new technology, the moment a driver has an incident we will receive physiological readings and biometrics, so he is continually monitored from point zero right through to the initial response and on to the medical center."

Can ESPN keep momentum going?
The big F1 news of the week was the racing circuit planning to switch from NBC Sports to ESPN next season.

ESPN will have to keep the momentum going for F1, as NBC Sports has seen strong gains this season.

NBC, NBCSN and CNBC have averaged 548,000 viewers for live races to date, up 13% from the same point last season.

This season’s average also is up 135% from the same point in ’13, which was the year NBC took over the package from Fox Sports.

Hamilton: Mercedes ‘feels back to normal’ in latest spec

Hamilton will sit on pole and lead every lap in Japan
Hamilton will sit on pole and lead every lap in Japan

As the title fight between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel reaches critical mass, the crucial nature of the 16th race of 2017 could be seen from the fact that even at four o’clock on Friday morning in Japan, Hamilton and his Mercedes engineers had yet to decide on the exact aerodynamic specification in which their cars would run, following their inconclusive outing in Malaysia last weekend.

Only just prior to FP1 did the team confirm that, unlike at Sepang, they would be using the latest update on both F1 W08s – and with the blessing of at least some dry running at a generally wet Suzuka, they ended the opening Japanese practice sessions glad they did.

“It's been an interesting day," said Hamilton, who topped FP2 and was just two-tenths off pacesetter Sebastian Vettel in FP1. “The car is feeling much better than it was in Malaysia. It feels back to normal, so I'm ready to race."

The news comes as a relief to Mercedes after their intensive analysis of everything that happened in Malaysia, after the two recent races in which the team believed they underperformed, and most especially after what both Hamilton and team boss Toto Wolff had described as the worst Friday of their season when Hamilton was 1.4s off the pace of the Ferraris at Sepang.

Raikkonen to take new gearbox, grid drop after crash

Kimi Raikkonen
Kimi Raikkonen

Kimi Raikkonen's heavy crash in FP3 has forced Ferrari into an impromptu gearbox change, meaning the Finn is set to take a grid drop into Sunday's Grand Prix.

Raikkonen got out of shape at Degner 2 and slid through the gravel into the tire wall mid-way through the final practice session at Suzuka, with his car having to be lifted back to the Ferrari garage.

Further inspection revealed gearbox damage, forcing the Scuderia into action – and with the change coming before six consecutive events, a five-place drop is a formality.

Raikkonen is not the only man facing a penalty for Sunday's grid: McLaren's Fernando Alonso is set to start from the back of the field after a cumulative 35-place drop, while Renault's Jolyon Palmer has his own 20-place drop to contend with. Toro Rosso's Carlos Sainz meanwhile also faces a 20-place drop.

Bottas poised for five-place grid penalty

Valtteri Bottas watches team fix his damaged car
Valtteri Bottas watches team fix his damaged car

Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas is poised for a five-place grid penalty at this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix, with a new gearbox to be fitted to his W08.

Bottas has endured a difficult string of races since Formula 1's summer break, with Mercedes chief Toto Wolff commenting that addressing the Finn's form is a "priority" for Mercedes.

However, a document issued on Friday evening confirmed that Bottas has taken on a new gearbox.

Drivers must use the same gearbox for six consecutive events, unless they retire from the previous race, and as a result Bottas is set to receive a five-place grid penalty.

Bottas finished fifth quickest during the dry-weather opening practice session at Suzuka and did not run in the rain-affected second session.

It is the third time this season that a Mercedes driver has taken a gearbox penalty, with Lewis Hamilton (in Austria) and Bottas (in Britain) previously suffering the setback.

Hamilton and Kevin Magnussen (due to their six-event cycle ending) and Carlos Sainz Jr. (who retired in Malaysia) have also taken on new gearboxes.

2018 Alonso deal mere days from announcement

Eric Boullier
Eric Boullier

(GMM) McLaren could be now just days away from announcing a new deal for Fernando Alonso.

Team boss Eric Boullier said earlier at Suzuka that he expects the Spaniard to eventually sign a 2018 contract.

Marca sports newspaper quoted Alonso as saying: "Next week I think everything will be clearer."

Alonso's former Renault teammate, Nelson Piquet Jr, commented: "Alonso is a great guy. For me he is one of the best drivers on the grid and we keep in touch.

"He continues to perform at a high level at his age."

As for 36-year-old Alonso's next career step, Piquet added: "He really has had not many options.

"In the end he has no choice but to stay in McLaren."

Ricciardo on driver market 'understandable' – Marko

Daniel Ricciardo
Daniel Ricciardo

(GMM) Daniel Ricciardo going on the market for 2019 is "understandable".

That is the view of Dr Helmut Marko, the Red Bull official who admits the energy drink company is having to look beyond Australian Ricciardo's current contract.

"For all his racing life Ricciardo was part of the Red Bull family," he told Kronen Zeitung newspaper.

"That he wants to look at other things now is understandable.

"A decision will be made in the first six races of 2018," Marko added. "Max (Verstappen) has a contract for another year (2019)."

After Verstappen's Sepang win, Marko said Red Bull is happy with its form in the second half of this season.

"For the first time in this terrible hybrid era, we overtook Mercedes on the road and beat them," he said.

"This is a huge satisfaction because everyone knows we have less horse power," added Marko. "This shows that our chassis development was sensational."

Tires left for race

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