Latest F1 news in brief – Friday

  • Mercedes may pay to keep their junior driver at Sauber even though Ferrari is helping the team
    Mercedes may pay to keep their junior driver at Sauber even though Ferrari is helping the team

    Sauber tipped to choose drivers 'soon'

  • McLaren offered Honda 'sabbatical' option – Boullier
  • Vettel engine not damaged in crash – report
  • Mateschitz 'not tired' of F1 – Berger
  • Earthquake will not stop Mexico GP – spokesman
  • Sainz Jr. unsure of early Renault debut
  • China, Bahrain could swap places on schedule
  • McLaren-Honda stint 'a proper disaster'

Sauber tipped to choose drivers 'soon'
(GMM) Sauber will reportedly make the call about its 2018 driver lineup soon.

Earlier, it looked certain Pascal Wehrlein would lose his seat as team engine supplier Ferrari brings in one of its juniors Charles Leclerc or Antonio Giovinazzi.

Indeed, Sauber has now announced that young Monegasque Leclerc will get four Friday practice session outings at forthcoming grands prix.

But he will actually be in the seat of team regular Marcus Ericsson, whose place for 2018 earlier looked safe due to his strong links to the new Sauber owners.

However, it is believed Sauber could in fact accommodate both Leclerc and Giovinazzi next year, or keep Wehrlein at the team as the ideal teammate for Leclerc next year.

Wehrlein said he is letting Mercedes do his negotiating for him.

"I am their junior driver," he told Auto Motor und Sport. "I don't feel I would be better off with a personal advisor."

The German magazine tipped Sauber to make its decision "by the end of September, beginning of October".

McLaren offered Honda 'sabbatical' option – Boullier

Boullier gave Honda a sabbatical option, they refused it.
Boullier gave Honda a sabbatical option, they refused it.

(GMM) Honda rejected a proposal whereby it would take a "sabbatical" and return to McLaren at a later date.

It emerged in Singapore that the two sides have definitely split, with Honda staying in F1 only by teaming up with Toro Rosso next year.

But team boss Eric Boullier told the French magazine Auto Hebdo that McLaren tried to find other solutions.

"At the first tests of 2017 we realized serious problems were waiting for us," he said.

"We began to get nervous and started looking for solutions that could improve the situation.

"As a last resort, we were ready to offer that Honda skips the season while it improves and McLaren would use some other engines for that period."

But Boullier said other "easier" options were explored as well.

For instance, "Honda engineers and their colleagues from Mercedes could do a technical cooperation," he revealed. "Or forming our own group of specialists in the engine area made up of different companies to help Honda find more efficient solutions more quickly.

"Unfortunately, none of the proposals were properly explored and as a result we ran out of arguments. We had to come to the conclusion that there was no other way out except for the termination of the cooperation," Boullier said.

McLaren will use customer Renault engines from next year.

Vettel engine not damaged in crash – report

The start crash in Singapore that ended Vettel's title hopes did not damage the engine
The start crash in Singapore that ended Vettel's title hopes did not damage the engine

(GMM) Sebastian Vettel's engine was not damaged in his first-lap Singapore crash last weekend.

La Repubblica newspaper had reported that with his points deficit already blowing out to 28 points, Vettel might receive a further blow in the form of a grid penalty after photos showed damage to his Singapore power unit.

But Germany's Auto Bild reports that Vettel's engine "was not damaged" and can be used again later in the season.

Better still, Ferrari will roll out on schedule a new-specification power unit in Malaysia next weekend, the report added.

And teammate Kimi Raikkonen looks set to get right behind Vettel's campaign to catch up with Lewis Hamilton in the next two months.

"As drivers, we know exactly what Ferrari expects from us," the Finn is quoted by Speed Week.

"Of course I will help Vettel when it comes to the world title, just as I would expect help from him."

Before Raikkonen can do that, though, Ferrari will have to tackle Sepang, a circuit expected to favor Mercedes.

Raikkonen said: "You assume it will be difficult for us. We don't.

"We go there, it's another race, another weekend, and we go there full of fight and we'll do our best."

Mateschitz 'not tired' of F1 – Berger

Dietrich Mateschitz wants to cut how much money he is spending in F1
Dietrich Mateschitz wants to cut how much money he is spending in F1

(GMM) Gerhard Berger has hit back at rumors Red Bull is getting "tired" of formula one.

There have been paddock rumors the energy drink company's chief Dietrich Mateschitz is making moves to distance himself from his two F1 teams.

"That he is tired of formula one, I think is wrong," Berger, who was Red Bull's first sponsored driver in the late 90s, told the Austrian broadcaster ORF.

"Of course, he (Mateschitz) is not happy with the current situation of his team," the F1 legend added, saying the reason is linked to the 'power unit' era.

"But Red Bull is still a super strong team, and even in this difficult time hardly anyone has left, especially Newey at the top. Not having an engine that can bring title chances is of course frustrating in the long term," Berger added.

But the former Ferrari and McLaren driver doesn't think Mateschitz will quit.

"Red Bull has always had patience, and now is when it's needed," he said. "It cannot always go well.

"It's a difficult time now, but you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Honda coming to Toro Rosso is the start," added Berger.

However, Honda has struggled notably since returning to F1 with McLaren in 2015, but Berger said: "I believe in Honda, who have a sporting culture in the company, the resources and now a team with the Red Bull mentality.

"I could imagine Honda returning to its original form and building top engines," he added.

Another option for Red Bull is a closer relationship with team sponsor Aston Martin, but Berger thinks that's more of a long game.

"We have to wait for the new engine regulations," he said. "Until then nobody will burn their fingers on today's extremely difficult engines.

"Does Aston Martin have the resources and the possibilities to do it? I don't know but I doubt it," Berger added.

Earthquake will not stop Mexico GP – spokesman

Mexico City GP will go on
Mexico City GP will go on

(GMM) Next month's grand prix in Mexico City looks set to go ahead, despite a devastating earthquake whose death toll is approaching 300.

The circuit is currently being used as a staging area for humanitarian and rescue efforts, but the track surface and buildings appear to have escaped major damage.

"It's been inspected twice already from the track surface and also the buildings, and it's ok," a spokesman said.

"We'll continue doing the assessments as we go but so far there's really no concern. We'll have a race," he added.

However, sports events including power lifting and paralympic swimming have already been cancelled in Mexico City.

But the Mexico grand prix spokesman said formula one has the green light for now.

"Right now the concern is really getting everything back to moving from the city perspective and supporting any way we can," he said.

"If things stay the same, we'll just keep working on what we're doing. The track is fine so we just need to re-focus and get this show done."

Sainz Jr. unsure of early Renault debut

Junior's status is in limbo
Junior's status is in limbo

(GMM) Carlos Sainz Jr. says he still doesn't know which car he will be racing in Malaysia next week.

The Toro Rosso driver is being loaned to Renault for 2018, but there are reports he will kick off that adventure early by replacing Jolyon Palmer as soon as Sepang.

Sainz, 23, told Spanish radio Onda Cero: "Nobody has told me what I am doing yet."

But he did confirm reports his one-year loan to Renault only includes the possibility of a return to Red Bull's senior team in 2019.

"I am a driver being loaned to another team that can be strong from next season," said Sainz.

"If I return, it would be for the first (Red Bull) team," he said. "For me this is a vindication."

Asked if he feels he is being groomed for a world championship tilt, Sainz answered: "I think if I had a Mercedes or Ferrari I could be fighting for the world championship.

"Personally I see it more for 2020. I think the third title for Fernando Alonso is likely to arrive sooner than the first for Carlos Sainz," he added.

China, Bahrain could swap places on schedule

Chinese GP might swap dates with Bahrain
Chinese GP might swap dates with Bahrain

Formula 1 commercial chief Sean Bratches is "incredibly optimistic" that China will remain on the calendar next season, though says it could swap places with Bahrain.

China was one of two Grands Prix, along with Singapore, to be listed as provisional on the 2018 calendar, subject to confirmation of a new contract.

It is set to host the second round of the season on April 8, with Bahrain's Sakhir circuit given the third round a week later, in a back-to-back sequence.

However, Shanghai's F1 race currently coincides with the Qingming national holiday, also known as Tomb Sweeping-Day, when families pay respects to ancestors.

Bratches says talks are ongoing to find an amicable solution.

"We're trying to take into account global events, local events, religious holidays and things to ensure that we're maximizing the opportunity for fans to attend the Grands Prix," he told Reuters.

"We're talking to both of them [China and Bahrain] to that end and if we can reach a mutually agreed upon solution, which appears to be on track to happen, you'll probably see that."

On the subject of F1 chiefs agreeing a new deal with China, as per Singapore last week, Bratches added: "We're incredibly optimistic on bringing that to fruition."

Formula 1's 2018 calendar was announced back in June, with France and Germany returning, and a 'triple header' featuring in the middle phase of the season.

McLaren-Honda stint 'a proper disaster'

Boullier and Brown
Boullier and Brown

McLaren's latest partnership with Honda was "a proper disaster" for the team's credibility, says Racing Director Eric Boullier, who is now focused on "bouncing back" with a new engine supplier in Renault.

McLaren and Honda reunited in 2015, having previously won eight world titles together, but the manufacturer struggled to produce a reliable and competitive engine.

After complex talks, it was finally confirmed at the Singapore Grand Prix that McLaren will take on Renault power units in 2018, with Honda moving over to Toro Rosso.

Amid the ongoing woe, McLaren sits ninth out of 10 teams in this year's standings, but Boullier is confident of making significant gains with Renault next season.

In an interview with the official F1 website, he said: "When you look at the last three years, it's been a proper disaster for us, in terms of credibility and getting new sponsors.

"And then you have to take the long-term view: in the next five years I am absolutely sure that we will go back to where McLaren belongs.

"And with this bouncing back we get our credibility back and it will rebuild our sponsor portfolio. It might take two to three years.

"We are ninth in the championship – with a top engine I think we would be fourth right now and just on the FOM money we could cover the engine side, so it will not be a big risk on the monetary side.

"Thanks to the shareholders who have been brave enough to take a sporting choice and not hurt McLaren. They could have said, 'Let's wait until Honda wakes up'."

Boullier regrets that previous success could not be repeated.

"Actually the idea was great: to revive the story of McLaren," he said.

"I think it was more the approach to the project at the beginning.

"Things could have panned out completely differently if different decisions had been taken at the beginning – but this is always easy to say in hindsight."

Earlier this week, Honda's motorsport boss, Masashi Yamamoto, described McLaren as a "systematic" company which can struggle to adapt to change.

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