Latest F1 news in brief – Monday

  • Vettel stands by his damaged car. His title hopes are over
    Vettel stands by his damaged car. His title hopes are over

    Stroll crash could cost Vettel at Suzuka – Lauda

  • Malaysia may return to F1 in future – PM
  • Boss defends 'bad boy' Magnussen
  • Palmer blames wind for Sepang spin
  • F1 reveals initial results of research into its fans
  • Alonso: Drivers '19-1' against Magnussen
  • Hamilton says Mercedes has 'big problems'
  • Vandoorne: Malaysia best race of F1 career
  • Raikkonen: Ferrari 'hurt' after engine issues

Stroll crash could cost Vettel at Suzuka – Lauda
(GMM) Sebastian Vettel's title hopes look set to take yet another hit, after a bizarre post-race incident in Malaysia.

It had already been a horror weekend for Ferrari, with Vettel starting the race from the back of the grid and Kimi Raikkonen not starting at all with a near-identical turbo issue.

Germany's Auto Bild reports that the problem may be a bad batch of carbon pipes.

It all means Vettel's points deficit to Lewis Hamilton blew out by a further 6 points, despite a stunning drive through the field to fourth by the German.

But team boss Toto Wolff nonetheless called Malaysia "painful" for Mercedes.

"We didn't have the pace to challenge Red Bull or Ferrari," he said. "We need to get on top of why we underperform on certain circuits."

But Mercedes' weekend was not nearly as bad as Ferrari's, with Vettel almost running out of fuel at the end before he got involved in a bizarre post-checkered flag crash.

"I think he just didn't look," said Vettel, after hitching a ride back to the pits on the sidepod of a rival's car.

Vettel was referring to Lance Stroll, but the Williams driver was not willing to take the blame for the crash.

"The race was over, so I'm not looking in the mirrors," he told Bild newspaper.

The big fear now is that Vettel's gearbox may be damaged, which could cost him a five-position grid demotion this weekend in Japan.

Vettel said the rear of the car is "very damaged".

As for whether he will take a five-place drop at Suzuka, he answered: "I don't know. We'll find a way.

"It's not my fault if somebody crashes into me."

Indeed, it is believed that Ferrari immediately asked the FIA for special dispensation due to the bizarre nature of the post-race crash with Stroll.

It is also believed that the FIA said no dispensation would be granted in the event Vettel's gearbox needs to be changed.

Niki Lauda, the Mercedes team chairman, blames Vettel.

"To be polite, crashing after the race is not good," he said. "Why is he overtaking after the race? There is no reason.

"Ok, maybe the fault is with both of them. But it could be a more of a problem for Sebastian in Japan," Lauda added.

Malaysia may return to F1 in future – PM

According to the race promoter yesterday, the race won't return until the engines scream again
According to the race promoter yesterday, the race won't return until the engines scream again

(GMM) Sunday's Malaysian grand prix may not have been the last at Sepang.

That is the view of the country's prime minister Najib Razak, who was speaking as many F1 insiders sadly farewelled the venue near Kuala Lumpur after almost two decades.

For cost reasons, the Malaysian government has withdrawn from the F1 calendar, and the Sepang circuit boss this weekend backed that decision by saying the track wouldn't host a race in 2018 even if Liberty Media waived the fee altogether.

But PM Razak said he attended Sunday's final Malaysian grand prix with "a sentimental feeling".

However, he backed the decision to stop hosting the race.

"It has been diminishing returns for us and because of that, the economic viability of it became less attractive," he told the local Star newspaper.

"We decided to review and terminate (the contract) but that doesn't mean we can't reconsider it at some point in time in the future, provided economic returns are favorable to us," Najib added.

"I feel 19 years is a good stretch and we decided to close the book and concentrate on other races here."

Boss defends 'bad boy' Magnussen

Kevin 'The Moving Chicane' Magnussen
Kevin 'The Moving Chicane' Magnussen

(GMM) Kevin Magnussen's boss has defended the under-fire Danish driver.

In Hungary, Haas driver Magnussen famously told Nico Hulkenberg to "suck my b-lls", after the German called him "unsporting" following an on-track clash.

And Fernando Alonso agreed after Sunday's Malaysian grand prix: "Hulkenberg was right."

Alonso called Magnussen an "idiot" after their wheel-to-wheel clash at Sepang.

"More or less the drivers agree. It's 19-1 (against Magnussen)," the McLaren-Honda driver added.

But Magnussen's Haas team boss Gunther Steiner has hit back, defending his driver on the basis that fans want to see a hard wheel-to-wheel battle.

"Alonso is a very charismatic and skilled driver," he told Ekstra Bladet newspaper. "And if someone confronts him, then that's how he reacts.

"I think both of them pushed it to the limit, which is what people want to see," Steiner added.

He said Magnussen is right to be pushing hard on the track, tipping him to eventually emerge from his reputation as the 'bad boy' of F1.

"You have to go through tough periods and earn respect," said Steiner.

"If you always move out of the way, people think they can walk over you. So you have your battles as long as you don't overdo them or become a bully.

"So even if he gets a little of a bad reputation now, it can turn around later," he added.

Palmer blames wind for Sepang spin

Jolyon Palmer says the wind made him spin
Jolyon Palmer says the wind made him spin

Jolyon Palmer has blamed the wind for the first spin he suffered at the Malaysian Grand Prix which saw his race unravel in Sepang.

The Brit, who will leave Renault at the end of the season, was in P12 before a tailwind ensured that he lost a position to Fernando Alonso.

"I think I was quicker [than Hulkenberg]," Palmer told Autosport. "Then I lost it, because I was too close to him in the end.

"We saw there was a big tailwind, which is affecting you in the tow, and you're in the gust.

"I lost a lot of aero. I turned in pretty much the same as the other laps and suddenly I had no rear.

"I struggled with it [that corner] a lot in FP3 with oversteer, but then we changed the car and it was much better.

"It was good in qualifying and it was settled in the race.

"Then just one lap, it was very different to the other laps, it really caught me by surprise."

Soon after, Palmer spun again at Turn 1 and conceded that he was a little bit ambitious trying to keep Kevin Magnussen at bay.

"I had very hot rears from the [first] spin and then spin turning [to rejoin]," he said.

"I had Verstappen lap me and then pull right in front so I had no aero and I was trying to limit the loss from the spin already.

"That was an annoying one, it was ambitious trying to keep Kev behind after I spun once.

"It was just a mistake, I lost a lot of downforce when I had Max literally right in front.

"I only touched him when I spun. I'm pleased the stewards didn't do anything."

F1 reveals initial results of research into its fans

Sepang
Sepang

At the Sepang International Circuit, details were made public of new research carried out by Formula 1, in partnership with Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute, into F1 fans.

In a bid to identify and understand fans and their needs, 14,000 in 7 key markets were surveyed as Formula One's new owners seek to take the sport forward.

"Over the past number of months we have surveyed more than 14,000 people in seven different countries, the UK, US, Germany, Italy, Brazil, China and Russia," said Matt Roberts, Head of Data and Research at Formula 1, "in a bid to understand just how much sports fans are invested in our sport and the results make for fascinating reading, with two thirds of sports fans identifying as being interested in Formula 1.

"We have discovered that great opportunities exist to grow the popularity of Formula 1 in a wide variety of markets and across a wide cross-section of sport fans," he continued. "We will now expand this research even further and the findings will inform how we develop Formula 1 going forward, by putting fans first and seeking to deliver the world's most exciting motor racing action."

According to the research, "two thirds of fans surveyed identify as F1 fans", which "equates to a possible total of some 556m fans across the seven markets being engaged with Formula 1 across a variety of levels".

9% class themselves as fans who 'never/rarely miss a race'.

27% consider themselves regular viewers who try to stay up to date with developments within the sport.

15% says they are "occasionally interested in the sport and likely to seek out results and news"

12% said they had a basic interest and were aware of Formula 1.

"Formula 1 is an incredibly rich sport, mixing many elements, including technology, human interest, heroism and glamour into a really exciting package," said Roberts.

"However, different elements appeal to different people and while some are entranced by the technology others focus on the human story of the driver rivalries or the glamour of the location, the personalities and the celebrities.

"What this survey confirms to us is that no two fans are the same. Everyone interacts with the sport in different ways and it's our job to deliver a sport that appeals to the particular interest of all of our fans."

A further break down of the results revealed that 20% are seen branded 'Excitables', "a group that has a younger age profile, is attracted to a range of different sports, is a regular attendee of sporting events and is keen on purchasing merchandising".

Then there are the 'Purists'," explained Roberts. "This group is very engaged but they would be more into the technicalities of the sport. Curiously, they may actually be less likely to go to a race, feeling that watching the event on television delivers a more immersive experience for their area of interest."

'Sociables', are "younger, more digitally active and likely to become more interested when the sport generates a significant talking point", while 'Habituals' is a "group that continues to watch, though they feel that the sport has lost appeal in recent times and often look back to past eras of the sport as being more in tune with their needs."

To further groups were recognized; 'Peripherals' and 'Incidentals' for whom engagement with the sport is low.

In terms of the top two tiers of engagement the survey revealed that a significant proportion of those who might be classed as such hail from the US and Chinese markets, signaling that both are regions with potential for growth.

The survey also gave an indication of the elements of the sport that most attract fans, with 55 per cent saying that it was the racing that appealed, 48 per cent saying speed was the attracting element and 34 per cent pointing to the drivers being the most appealing aspect of the sport.

One in four fans pointed to noise as a contributing factor in the sport's appeal.

In terms of greater engagement, a third of F1 fans want to better understand the technology behind the cars, while half want to know more about the drivers, believing they are the stars of the show.

In conclusion, response to the survey revealed that if people can be brought closer to the sport they are likely to become invested in it. "However, few have attended the races themselves. So the challenge is how to bring the experience to them," the report concludes.

The research is set to continue with Australia due to become an eighth territory surveyed.

In addition, Formula 1 is conducting spectator research at eight Grands Prix this year in a bid to include opinion from as many fans as possible.

Alonso: Drivers '19-1' against Magnussen

Alonso tries to hold off a charging Vettel on Sunday
Alonso tries to hold off a charging Vettel on Sunday

Fernando Alonso says Formula 1 drivers are "19-1" against the manner of Kevin Magnussen's racecraft after they came to blows during the Malaysian Grand Prix.

On lap 33/56, after the pit-stops, McLaren driver Alonso attacked Haas rival Magnussen with DRS on the main straight and dived up the inside into Turn 1, appearing to complete the move.

But Magnussen fought back on the exit and squeezed Alonso up against the curb at Turn 2, the pair making contact, with Alonso holding on to 13th position.

Alonso then shouted over the radio, "What an idiot! Hülkenberg was right!", referring to the Renault driver calling Magnussen an "asshole" earlier in the season.

"For his driving, we more or less agree with the other drivers, it's 19-1," added Alonso after the race.

Alonso then lamented being in the "wrong place" after losing positions on the first lap, as Force India's Esteban Ocon got squeezed between the two Williams drivers.

Having started from 10th position, Alonso slipped back into the midfield as a result of the drama and was unable to find his way back into the points, ending up 11th.

"We've had better days, definitely," he commented.

"We were in the wrong place… it was a shame at Turn 2, the two Williams drivers in front of us touched each other, and we lost a few places there.

"We were always in secondary groups, always slower than our true pace, but we could not overtake, so as I said, we've had better days."

Alonso also brushed off criticism from Sebastian Vettel, as the Ferrari driver, on a recovery drive, struggled to put a lap on him late in the race.

"I didn't see on television," said Alonso.

"For me in the car it looks okay, but we've heard many times, 'blue flags, blue flags', from him, so it's probably one of those."

Hamilton says Mercedes has 'big problems'

Mercedes is winning everything for the 4th straight year.  If they have big problems how would Louie characterize the problems the rest of the grid has?
Mercedes is winning everything for the 4th straight year. If they have big problems how would Louie characterize the problems the rest of the grid has?

Lewis Hamilton believes that Mercedes has "some big problems" with its car that need to be rectified ahead of the 2018 season, after the team struggled for performance during the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Mercedes has taken nine victories this season, and holds a comfortable 118-point advantage over Ferrari, but has typically struggled at high-downforce venues with short straights.

Sepang was expected to suit Mercedes, but both Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas struggled for pace on Friday, as the pair trialed a revised aerodynamic package.

Hamilton reverted to the older specification for Saturday and edged Kimi Raikkonen for pole position, though was overhauled early in the race by Max Verstappen.

With Raikkonen out, and Sebastian Vettel compromised by starting at the back, Hamilton was able to preserve second, his prospects also aided by Daniel Ricciardo losing time stuck behind Bottas early on.

Despite the Briton stretching his title lead to 34 points, he underlined that Mercedes has to address "fundamental" weaknesses when it comes to next year's package.

"The car's good, obviously, [but] in some places and in some others the issues that we have with the car are magnified, so we do have some big problems with it," he said.

"We struggled with pace, as you can see, but still, it was good enough to get second.

"There's still work to do to try and fix it, but I think it's a fundamental issue with this year's car, so we've just got to try and work on improving it for next year."

Hamilton conceded that he is unsure how the W08 will perform at each of the next five Grands Prix.

"Going on towards the next races, I have no idea how it will work out but the others have generally picked up a bit more pace I would say than us," he said.

"And as I said, at circuits like this there are corners that really magnify the issues we have with the car, so that's something which we struggled with here.

"Whether or not that will be the same at the next races we go to we will see."

Vandoorne: Malaysia best race of F1 career

Stoffel Vandoorne
Stoffel Vandoorne

McLaren-Honda's Stoffel Vandoorne has described his drive to seventh position in the Malaysian Grand Prix as "my best ever race in Formula 1" so far.

Vandoorne, having qualified three spots ahead of team-mate Fernando Alonso, maintained position on race day to deliver his second successive P7 finish.

He has moved up to 14th in the standings, two places and three points clear of Alonso, who got caught up in first-lap drama and made contact with Haas' Kevin Magnussen.

"I can say that this was my best ever race in Formula 1 – up until now," said Vandoorne.

"All weekend, I've been really strong and felt really confident with the car.

"After qualifying seventh, we weren't really confident about where we'd finish in the race, so to pull off seventh today is an amazing result.

"I made a great start; we knew it was probably going to be difficult to hold off the Force Indias and the Williams behind, but only [Sergio] Pérez came through.

"From then on, I had amazing pace, pushed hard every lap to try and manage the tires and maintain the gap over [Lance] Stroll, and I managed that until the end."

McLaren Racing Director Eric Boullier paid tribute to Vandoorne.

"This was his second consecutive finish in seventh position, and was a result that demonstrated just how much effort and dedication he's applied to make this work for him," he said.

"Before the start, it was by no means looking like an easy race, particularly as we knew that we would probably be at the mercy of some of the faster cars behind us.

"I think we can be proud of all we achieved this weekend."

Raikkonen: Ferrari 'hurt' after engine issues

Kimi Raikkonen
Kimi Raikkonen

Kimi Raikkonen says everybody at Ferrari is "hurt" after engine issues afflicted both of its cars during the Malaysian Grand Prix weekend.

Raikkonen, who qualified second, was unable to start Sunday's race at Sepang, after Ferrari detected a technical problem on the reconnaissance laps.

Mechanics wheeled him back to the garage in a bid to fix the issue, but his 'retirement' was officially confirmed a handful of laps into the race.

Ferrari suspects that Raikkonen's problem was similar to the one suffered by team-mate Sebastian Vettel in qualifying, leaving him at the back of the grid.

Although Vettel recovered to fourth, Raikkonen rued what might have been for himself and the team, given their outright pace at the track.

"We don't know what happened today, it's too early to say," said Raikkonen.

"The car had been working perfectly all weekend and suddenly, out of nothing, we had an issue. It's one of those things that unfortunately can happen.

"Car- and speed-wise we have been very good, but then unfortunately Seb had problems yesterday and we had ours today.

"I'm pretty sure that I would have had a very good car today, but obviously you never know and it's pointless to start guessing.

"We have a good package, but we have to take the most out of it.

"What happened today is very disappointing and hurts all of us, but there's nothing we can change right now.

"The next race [in Japan] is a new challenge again, we'll go there as in any race weekend, and then we'll see where we are."

Ferrari is now 118 points behind Mercedes in the standings.

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