Latest F1 news in brief – Sunday

  • Can Honda convince McLaren to keep them?
    Can Honda convince McLaren to keep them?

    Heavyweights at Monza as Honda saga nears conclusion

  • Ferrari and Mercedes 'absolutely equal' – Marchionne
  • Car failure to decide title – Todt
  • Marko, Lauda, criticize delayed qualifying
  • Renault to complete 2018 lineup soon – Prost
  • Vandoorne gets 25-place drop for new PU
  • Vettel mystified by Ferrari's pace deficit in wet
  • Final details of Bottas' contract being settled

Heavyweights at Monza as Honda saga nears conclusion
(GMM) The heavyweights have descended on Monza as the saga about Honda's future in F1 steps into its highest gear.

Toro Rosso seems to be the key to the outcome of McLaren-Honda's looming divorce, as the team has imposed a 6pm Sunday deadline for a conclusion.

The easiest way McLaren can split with Honda is if Toro Rosso takes over the engine supply, keeping the Japanese carmaker in F1 and freeing up the Renault deal for McLaren.

"Our priority is success as a factory team," Renault advisor Alain Prost said at Monza.

"If we had to supply four teams, it becomes very difficult for us with resources."

So as the talks hit their highest gear, the heavyweights descended on Monza.

Honda's Masashi Yamamoto touched down from Japan, for talks with all sides — including the FIA and F1's owners Liberty Media.

"There are a lot of talks at the moment to find a solution that everyone can live with," said F1 chief Ross Brawn. "We want Honda to remain in the sport."

Even FIA president Jean Todt is at Monza, admitting: "I've had talks with Honda. I really hope they stay."

It is believed the Frenchman thinks the best option is that McLaren simply stays with Honda.

"We know the rules — that no manufacturer can equip more than three teams. And changes of engine manufacturer must be announced before 1 June," he said.

"We have a team that already has a contract. Basically I do not want to talk about facts that are a bit unclear, but I will do everything I can to find a solution that keeps everyone involved in the sport," Todt added.

Another heavyweight at Monza and obviously involved in the talks is Flavio Briatore, who oversees the management of Fernando Alonso's career.

It is believed the Alonso camp is campaigning hard for McLaren to dump Honda.

"We have a very good feeling with McLaren," Briatore said. "Let's see what they are doing with the engine."

Ferrari and Mercedes 'absolutely equal' – Marchionne

Sergio Marchionne thinks the Ferrari is as fast as the Aldo Costa designed Mercedes. He msst be smoking something. It was over 2-seconds per lap slower in the wet where downforce and mechanical grip are paramount
Sergio Marchionne thinks the Ferrari is as fast as the Aldo Costa designed Mercedes. He must be smoking something. Ferrari was over 2-seconds per lap slower in the wet where downforce and mechanical grip are paramount

(GMM) Sergio Marchionne has backed Ferrari to remain toe-to-toe with Mercedes for the rest of the 2017 championship battle.

The Italian team had a bad qualifying at its home circuit at Monza — ironically perhaps the least-suitable track for this year's Ferrari package.

But president Marchionne said: "Compared to when I was here a year ago, the difference is night and day.

"The guys are extremely motivated and the renewal of Vettel and Raikkonen gives a clear perspective to the team.

"We have done a great job of improving the car and are convinced that it is absolutely equal to Mercedes."

However, Marchionne admitted that Monza has not been a great weekend for Ferrari so far.

"I have talked about it with Sebastian and Kimi," said the Canadian-Italian, "but the most interesting and encouraging point is that we have a car development plan for the rest of the year.

"It's not just about one race. Monza is the hardest of the races remaining but if we look at the development from here until the end we have a series of mechanical and aerodynamic changes that will improve the car and also be a solid foundation for 2018," Marchionne added.

"So we cannot be happier."

That is despite the fact a political row is bubbling behind the scenes, after Mercedes allegedly broke a 'gentleman's agreement' and now has a fourth engine this year that can burn oil as fuel at a greater rate than Ferrari.

Marchionne plays it down.

"The political battle with Mercedes is always there. The important thing is to keep it on a civil level," he said.

"The choice made by Toto (Wolff) could have its consequences because they must do the rest of the season with the engines they have, while we have the freedom to work on engine development for the rest of the year and introduce it when we need."

Car failure to decide title – Todt

Jean Todt
Jean Todt

(GMM) Jean Todt thinks reliability will decide the outcome of the 2017 world championship.

The FIA president said he is enjoying the close battle between his old team, Ferrari, and reigning champions Mercedes.

"I am really enjoying watching it. Everything is still open," Germany's Bild am Sonntag newspaper quotes the Frenchman as saying at Monza.

When asked if he thinks Sebastian Vettel or Lewis Hamilton will win in the end, Todt answered: "I believe the one who will lose is whoever experiences a failure.

"In the remaining eight races, a zero point (result) will be very difficult to recover."

Marko, Lauda, criticize delayed qualifying

Bottas in the rain
Bottas in the rain

(GMM) F1 veterans Dr Helmut Marko and Niki Lauda have hit out at Saturday's farcically-delayed qualifying session at Monza.

In the past, rain would not have necessarily stopped play at Monza, but in 2017 the FIA decided to delay proceedings for hours after Romain Grosjean's aquaplaning crash.

"We have the best drivers here, the best chassis and the best tires," Red Bull official Marko said.

"If Grosjean goes out, that is not meaningful as all the others did not," he added.

Told that safety car driver Bernd Maylander was giving feedback about the treacherous conditions, Marko answered: "Yes. Because when it's wet, it's slippery for everyone."

His fellow Austrian and F1 legend Lauda, meanwhile, said the real problem wasn't the FIA's caution, but the constant 15-minute delays that ultimately added up to a more than two-hour wait for action.

"It was just boring and pointless," he said. "I'd like to have seen a sensible decision for the whole sport and the spectators."

Renault to complete 2018 lineup soon – Prost

Alain Prost
Alain Prost

(GMM) Renault looks set to complete its 2018 driver lineup prior to Singapore in a fortnight.

It appears likely the French team will oust Jolyon Palmer, and the highest profile candidate to replace him would be former Renault champion Fernando Alonso.

However, boss Cyril Abiteboul and Alonso himself have played down claims of a Renault reunion, and now team advisor Alain Prost agrees a deal is unlikely.

"We cannot offer Fernando a winning (car) next year, which is very difficult for a driver of this caliber," he is quoted at Monza by the Times newspaper.

But Prost doubts Alonso will quit F1 if he cannot find a winning car somewhere in pitlane.

"For us it would be very good to have him, as we want to win and he would be a very strong piece of that," he told the Spanish broadcaster Movistar.

"Fernando knows that we cannot offer him a champion car in 2018 but in any case I don't see him leaving formula one at the end of the season," said Prost.

The other high-profile candidate to join Nico Hulkenberg in 2018 is Robert Kubica.

"He has done well," Prost said. "The test at Valencia was particularly surprising."

But also in the running are Carlos Sainz, Sergio Perez and perhaps even Red Bull junior Pierre Gasly, who is French.

"We have a few drivers that we are considering for the future. We want to set ourselves up before Singapore," added Prost.

Vandoorne gets 25-place drop for new PU

Vandoorn waves to the fans
Vandoorn waves to the fans

Stoffel Vandoorne will take a 25-place grid penalty for Sunday afternoon's Italian Grand Prix, with Honda replacing the power unit in his McLaren following an issue in the closing stages of qualifying.

Vandoorne suffered a loss of power during the final Q3 phase, denying him a "proper go" at a lap time, though still qualified 10th, which became eighth after Red Bull's penalties.

However, he will take a penalty of his own, after Honda located an MGU-K shaft issue and fitted a seventh Internal Combustion Engine, seventh MGU-K, 10th MGU-H and 10th Turbocharger.

"After the issue we had with Stoffel's PU during yesterday's Q3 session, the decision was made to replace his PU this morning," read an update from Honda.

"The problem was with the MGU-K shaft.

"Although it is possible to replace the MGU-K shaft without having penalties, due to parc ferme conditions we judged we would not have enough time to do so."

Honda confirmed that Vandoorne's replacement PU is 'Spec 3.7'.

Vandoorne will thus drop from eighth to the lower-end of the field, with F1's governing body, the FIA, to confirm the official grid in the build up to the race.

Vettel mystified by Ferrari's pace deficit in wet

Ferrari was out to lunch
Ferrari was out to lunch

Formula 1 title leader Sebastian Vettel admitted he was left surprised by his and Ferrari's deficit to its rivals in wet conditions as he qualified only eighth for the team's home race in Italy.

Vettel, having been third in Q1 and fourth in Q2, on Intermediates, could only post the eighth-best time when the rain intensified again in Q3, requiring the use of Full Wets.

He will move up to sixth place on the grid, as a result of the engine penalties for Red Bull's drivers, but was mystified by his 2.5-second deficit to pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton.

"Well, [I'm] surprised, let's say, by how quick the others went," said Vettel.

"Clearly we couldn't go the same pace. At this stage we don't know why. I'm sure there are a couple of things that we'll look into and try to understand.

"Nevertheless I think it was an important day, something didn't work, didn't come together, but now it is what it is and we'll see what we can do tomorrow."

Kimi Räikkönen, meanwhile, was only seventh quickest, albeit a tenth quicker than Vettel, and will start from fifth place due to the aforementioned Red Bull penalties.

"We're not fast enough," commented Raikkonen.

"At least for my car, I don't know [about] the other car, but I struggled a lot for the grip.

"Either we didn't make the tires work, or whatever… it was very slippery, that's for sure, especially with the low downforce you cannot you cannot put enough force in the tires."

Vettel, though, is confident of displaying greater pace in Sunday's anticipated dry conditions.

"We have a good car, so I don't think we need to be afraid," commented the German, who holds a seven point championship advantage over Hamilton.

"Today didn't go the way we wanted, but for tomorrow I think we can make up a lot of ground.

"The car is quick, we know that, and you can overtake here, so it should be a fun race."

Final details of Bottas' contract being settled

Bottas guaranteed to remain at Mercedes
Bottas guaranteed to remain at Mercedes

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says Valtteri Bottas' new contract with the team only needs to be "nailed and signed", with no doubt that he should continue alongside Lewis Hamilton.

Bottas made the switch from Williams to Mercedes for 2017, after Nico Rosberg's shock decision to retire from Formula 1 as World Champion.

He quickly settled in, taking two pole positions, two victories and six further podiums over the first 11 rounds of the season, trailing Hamilton by just 19 points.

After a tougher weekend in Belgium last time out, he is now 34 points back, but Wolff maintains that it is a "no-brainer" to keep him for 2018.

"It is a no-brainer for the team to continue with Valtteri," said Wolff.

"Within the team the dynamic between the drivers is important in order to extract the best possible result.

"We're very happy with Valtteri. It's his first year with the team. He had very good moments, like in Sochi, and he had more difficult races, like in Spa.

"But we are not manic depressive and therefore stability is important and we want to keep him in the team and it's just down to the contractual situation.

"[We need to] nail it and sign it, and hopefully we can do this."

Wolff also commented on the prospect of Bottas helping Lewis Hamilton in his fight against Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel in this year's title fight.

"Ferrari has a situation where Sebastian has been scoring lots of points and Kimi [Räikkönen], for whatever reasons, not so much," he said.

"Therefore, for them it's probably a little bit easier.

"Our boys were pretty close together, until probably Spa, and the situation is a little bit different now, but we would like to keep all options open.

"[We will] evaluate the situation in every race and see how it develops."

Bottas is set to start the Italian Grand Prix from fourth on the grid, after a rain delayed qualifying session, in which Hamilton claimed a record 69th pole position.

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