Latest F1 news in brief – Saturday

  • Marcin Budkowski
    Marcin Budkowski

    Rivals furious as FIA chief joins Renault

  • Alonso contract being written – Boullier
  • Gasly release for Super Formula finale not decided
  • Leclerc admits eyeing 2019 Ferrari seat
  • Hamilton should 'rethink' political tactics – Wolff
  • Alonso still 'studying' McLaren's potential

Rivals furious as FIA chief joins Renault
(GMM) A huge controversy has emerged as FIA technical boss Marcin Budkowski looks set to join the Renault team.

Budkowski, a 40-year-old Pole, was tipped to take over from F1 race director Charlie Whiting, but instead he has gone on three months of 'gardening leave'.

The big rumor in the Sepang paddock is that he is joining Renault — but rival teams are furious that he will take intimate secrets of their 2018 cars to the French marque.

An emergency meeting of the F1 strategy group was held at the Williams hospitality area on Friday.

"We take major issue if he ends up with a team," admitted Red Bull's Christian Horner.

Mercedes' Toto Wolff added: "I don't think it's correct because he's had access to a lot of information."

McLaren boss Eric Boullier said: "We are all concerned that an FIA official who had access to a lot of information can start working in one of the teams within three months."

Sauber's Frederic Vasseur said: "If we can't be open with the FIA, it's a tricky situation."

And Force India chief Otmar Szafnauer commented: "Three months is not long enough."

Horner said the "industry standard" gardening leave in F1 is 12-18 months, but under Swiss law, Budkowski is only prohibited from working for three months.

Boullier said: "We cannot prohibit anyone from changing jobs and we must respect the laws in force in different countries. But we think that for FIA representatives at that level, another minimum length for gardening leave must be established."

Alonso contract being written – Boullier

Boullier will have to put a lot of trailing zeros in Alonso's contract
Boullier will have to put a lot of trailing zeros in Alonso's contract

(GMM) A contract binding Fernando Alonso to McLaren-Renault for 2018 is being drafted.

That is the news from team boss Eric Boullier, tying in with the Spanish driver's comments in Sepang that an announcement could be made before the US grand prix next month.

It is believed Alonso's huge retainer has been agreed, but that the remaining sticking points are about marketing and other details of the deal.

For instance, 36-year-old Alonso is believed to want an exit clause, in the event that McLaren-Renault does not perform next year or if a more competitive team wants to sign him.

Boullier said: "Until agreements are signed, anything can happen. Wait for the official statements."

The Frenchman confirmed that McLaren has a 'plan B' in the event that the Alonso talks cannot be finalized.

"Yes — in the sense that there are several drivers who would like to drive for McLaren," said Boullier.

"But at the moment we are focused on agreeing with Fernando. However, we do not comment further on this topic as the process of drafting the contract is underway."

It is believed another contract sticking point is that Alonso would like to contest next year's Le Mans with Toyota, with McLaren executive Zak Brown saying recently he is open to that.

But Boullier said: "I would prefer to see Fernando achieve success with McLaren."

Gasly release for Super Formula finale not decided

Gasly Friday in Sepang
Gasly Friday in Sepang

(GMM) Red Bull has not decided if Pierre Gasly will be released to fight for the Japanese Super Formula title next month.

As the French rookie makes his debut at Sepang, it was rumored axed Daniil Kvyat could return to his Toro Rosso for Austin.

That's because Gasly has contested the full Super Formula season, and could win the title if he is able to return to Japan to do the Suzuka finale.

Suzuka clashes with the US grand prix, but Toro Rosso boss Franz Tost admitted it is not decided if Gasly will be allowed to race in Japan.

"In a normal situation, Pierre would be in the car for the remaining (F1) races," he told Speed Week.

"Austin clashes with the final of the Super Formula, so we will have to weigh everything and then make a decision," Tost added.

Earlier, team owner Red Bull said Gasly is replacing Kvyat so that the French youngster can be analyzed for a potential full race seat in 2018.

Tost said the Faenza based team is happy with Gasly so far.

"I assume that we will get together at the end of October to decide about our team (for 2018)," he said.

Leclerc admits eyeing 2019 Ferrari seat

Charles LeClerc eyes Raikkonen's seat
Charles Leclerc eyes Raikkonen's seat

(GMM) Charles Leclerc has admitted he has an eye on a potential Ferrari seat for 2019.

The young Monaco-born driver has revved up his chances of a 2018 debut with a series of Friday appearances for Sauber, the Ferrari-powered Swiss team.

Along with Antonio Giovinazzi, Leclerc is Ferrari's top junior driver and the Italian marque says it is trying to find the pair seats for next year.

Sauber team boss Frederic Vasseur, however, said at Sepang that he wants Leclerc to focus on trying to win the Formula 2 title over the next two months for now.

"I think he has to be focused on the last part of the championship, win the title and then we will see for next year," said the Frenchman.

Leclerc agrees that there is "nothing concrete" set up for 2018 yet.

"(Manager) Nicolas (Todt) and Ferrari talk a lot, but they think I should focus on Formula 2 — and I'm quite happy with that," said the 19-year-old in Malaysia.

"I'm sure Ferrari and Nicolas will do everything to find the best option for me in 2018."

One of those options is Super Formula, the Japanese series that this year's GP2 champion Pierre Gasly contested before getting his full-time F1 debut for 2018.

Leclerc said of the Super Formula option: "I would prefer not to.

"Let's see what options I have at the end of the year, but I hope I do not have to go to Japan."

Leclerc is clearly pushing for the 2018 Sauber seat, and after that his ideal scenario would be replacing Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari.

"Any driver who has a chance to drive for Ferrari would take it," he said.

"As I said, right now I'm focused on Formula 2, then I'll do next season, and after that I'll think about 2019. But of course I will do my best to be in a top team as quickly as possible."

Hamilton should 'rethink' political tactics – Wolff

Half-black and half-white Hamilton sides with black football players
Half-black and half-white Hamilton sides with black football players disrespecting the American flag

(GMM) Toto Wolff has told Lewis Hamilton to "rethink" his public political stance about controversial US president Donald Trump.

On social media, the Mercedes driver recently admitted he is siding with American NFL football players who are choosing to 'take a knee' during renditions of the US national anthem.

And now at Sepang, Hamilton posted on Instagram a video depicting a small dog 'humping' a Trump doll.

The video soon disappeared.

"I did not and I would not have removed it," Hamilton told Sky Italia at Sepang.

The rumor is that Mercedes told Hamilton's social media manager to delete the video.

Indeed, a reporter for La Gazzetta dello Sport asked Wolff in Malaysia if he is worried the video could have ramifications for Hamilton and Mercedes at the US grand prix next month.

"This is a very controversial and polarizing story," the Austrian admitted. "I wouldn't want to get involved in politics.

"Lewis' feelings about human rights are very strong and I think he wanted to show that and probably Instagram as the communication channel is something that he needs to rethink. But I can relate to his feelings," Wolff said.

"I think one of the most important things in the US is that you have the right to express your opinion and I would want to leave it there.

"I think we are here as sport teams and sports should unite and I'm not sure that is happening everywhere in the world. So I would rather lead by example and not comment on politics," he added.

But Briton Hamilton has vowed to continue to express his "freedom of speech", and is not even ruling out 'taking a knee' ahead of the US grand prix in Texas.

"I have not thought about it," he told the Times. "I've not even thought about that race but I will have to start to think about it — what would be right for me to do, or do I even need to get involved?

"I think we all do need to stand together."

The temptation for Mercedes might be to tell Hamilton to stay out of politics, but Wolff said that approach will not work with the 32-year-old driver.

"The more you try to limit him – put him in a box – the more detrimental it will be for his performance," he told the Telegraph.

"The old mentality of 'a racing driver has to be like this or like that' is invalid for Lewis."

Meanwhile, Hamilton said he is keen to open talks with Mercedes about a new contract beyond 2018, but Wolff says it is too early for that.

"We want him to stay a while," he said. "But we want to win the championship first and then open discussions because they can take a while."

Alonso still 'studying' McLaren's potential

He has no place else to race in 2018 that pays the kind of money McLaren will pay him. Alonso will race for McLaren and he knows it
He has no place else to race in 2018 that pays the kind of money McLaren will pay him. Alonso will race for McLaren and he knows it

Fernando Alonso says that he is still "studying" McLaren's potential for the 2018 season, ahead of a decision over whether or not to continue with the team.

Alonso returned to McLaren for its reunion with Honda in 2015 but has been limited to occasional points finishes due to an unreliable and uncompetitive power unit.

McLaren will ditch Honda for Renault power units next year, with Executive Director Zak Brown hoping that the move convinces Alonso to stay for another campaign.

Alonso, though, wants to understand how much of a boost Renault's unit will provide, with his behind-the-scenes checks continuing, before a final call.

"Still the same as in Singapore; it is still ongoing, we are talking," Alonso told the official Formula 1 website, when asked for an update on discussions with McLaren.

"My intention is to study everything to see that we have a competitive package – that the idea that I have for next year will come true: I want to be competitive in 2018.

"I know that the team has all the ingredients to be competitive."

When it was put to him that he could hold the team to ransom, regarding his pay packet, Alonso made clear: "No, that will not be a problem.

"The problem is to know how competitive the team will be, that is the only thing that really matters."

Earlier this month, McLaren Racing Director Eric Boullier suggested that Alonso "wants to stay" and was on the verge of putting pen to paper on a new deal.

Asked how close McLaren was with Alonso, he commented: "Very close. Fernando wants to stay. You can see it in his body language and the way he speaks.

"There are marketing details that have to be sorted out and that Zak is working on."

Alonso's F1 options outside of McLaren are limited, with Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull locking in their drivers, leaving Williams as the only potential, semi-competitive alternative.

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