Latest F1 news in brief – Thursday

  • Alain Prost stuck foot in mouth and had to apologize
    Alain Prost stuck foot in mouth and had to apologize

    Prost confirms apology to Verstappen

  • Verstappen tells Renault to tweak setting
  • Lauda hints Mercedes to keep Hamilton
  • Brawn happy with Vettel-Hamilton battle
  • Honda improvement 'more than a tenth' – Hasegawa
  • Spa bad news for Bottas title – Salo
  • Hulkenberg not afraid of Alonso rumors
  • David Schumacher eyes F1 future
  • Sainz Jr. says Red Bull to decide future
  • Wolff: Alonso won't get drive due to his 'history' with Mercedes
  • Rossi: Alonso would be challenged in IndyCar
  • Williams plans 'substantial changes' for 2018 Formula 1 season

Prost confirms apology to Verstappen
(GMM) F1 legend Alain Prost has revealed he apologized to Max Verstappen.

The apology followed the latest Renault engine problem for Red Bull's incredibly frustrated young Dutch driver.

"I personally apologized to Max," said quadruple world champion Prost, who is an advisor for engine supplier Renault.

"I also apologized to Red Bull Racing. Not all of the six failures were our fault, but four of them were. And that's four too many," he told Canal Plus.

Prost denied any suggestion that it is an overly aggressive cockpit style that is contributing to Verstappen's run of technical failures.

"We often see inside a team that one driver has more bad luck than the other, for no apparent reason," he said.

"We are very unhappy about the incidents and must finally solve the problem," Prost continued.

Verstappen tells Renault to tweak setting

Max Verstappen reveals Renault stupidity
Max Verstappen reveals Renault stupidity

(GMM) Max Verstappen has urged Renault to remove a 'safety' setting on its F1 engines.

The frustrated Dutchman said it was a security setting in his engine that caused his failure at Spa on Sunday.

"They knew that this could happen," he said at a sponsor event in Milan on Wednesday.

"I understand that they want to protect their brand. But if the car stops, the car stops, whether it's for a safety setting or a blown engine."

Verstappen also admitted he lost his temper with a journalist at Spa, after it was suggested his overly aggressive driving style was causing his technical failures in 2017.

"I was upset because that's not possible. Even if I wanted to I couldn't break the engine," said the 19-year-old Dutchman.

"So if someone is saying that, he doesn't understand formula one at all."

Verstappen and his father Jos have been making noises about wanting to leave Red Bull, but team official Dr Helmut Marko says the brand will not let him go.

"Max must stay with us as we have a firm contract and we do not let him go," he told Auto Bild.

"Anyway, Ferrari and Mercedes are full," Marko insisted.

Lauda hints Mercedes to keep Hamilton

Duh, no kidding Niki!
Duh, no kidding Niki!

(GMM) Niki Lauda has suggested Mercedes will keep Lewis Hamilton beyond 2018.

In the past days, as Ferrari announced it is keeping Sebastian Vettel, there have been rumblings Hamilton now wants a new three-year deal at Mercedes.

"Ferrari is a dream for every driver," the triple world champion said, "but I guess I will not drive there at least in the next three years."

But Mercedes chief Toto Wolff says any talks about a new contract for Hamilton will be delayed until the end of the year.

Lauda, the Mercedes team chairman, told Osterreich newspaper: "Lewis is our best driver and we all love him.

"We will therefore find a solution for the future with which everyone can be happy."

Brawn happy with Vettel-Hamilton battle

Ross Brawn happy F1 has competition for first time in years
Ross Brawn happy F1 has competition for first time in years

(GMM) Ross Brawn says formula one is delighted with an epic battle for the 2017 world championship.

Long before he became the new F1 sporting boss, Brawn was the technical chief at Ferrari for Michael Schumacher's legendary title battles against Mika Hakkinen.

"Formula one has a legendary duel again," he now tells Sport Bild magazine.

"At that time, it was Michael and Mika electrifying the masses, and today it's Sebastian and Lewis."

Earlier, Ferrari struggled at the higher speed circuits like Spa and Monza, but now it appears the Italian team has caught up with Mercedes.

Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg told Sport1: "I can imagine it will remain as close as it was between Vettel and Hamilton at Spa until the very end."

Honda improvement 'more than a tenth' – Hasegawa

Yusuke Hasegawa defends Honda upgrade
Yusuke Hasegawa defends Honda upgrade

(GMM) Honda is continuing to improve its 2017 engine.

That is despite the fact that, according to the latest specialist media reports, the Japanese manufacturer and McLaren are now on the cusp of a split.

But Honda chief Yusuke Hasegawa told the Japanese source Sportiva that the marque made a clear step forward at Spa.

"We assume that the improvement was one tenth, but in fact it may have been more," he said.

"It is difficult to see because of the characteristics of Spa, but if we would have run it in Hungary, the result would have been different."

Hasegawa said the new specification seen in Belgium improved the torque of the engine at low speed.

"Although Spa is not a place where there are many low-speed corners, the eleventh place in qualifying shows the effect of 'specification 3.5'," he insisted.

Spa bad news for Bottas title – Salo

Valtteri Bottas too slow in Spa
Valtteri Bottas too slow in Spa

(GMM) Valtteri Bottas may be shunted out of contention for the 2017 world championship.

That is the view of Mika Salo, who thinks his Finnish countryman's strong opening campaign at Mercedes hit a major hurdle at Spa last weekend.

"It was not a good weekend for Valtteri," Salo, who was the FIA driver steward in Belgium, told Iltalehti newspaper.

"It would have been really important for the championship for him to have won there. Instead it was a demonstration that Vettel and Hamilton are in fact a step ahead."

Former F1 driver Salo says it is not definitely over for Bottas, but Mercedes will eventually need to put all its eggs in a single basket.

"It can still go either way, as a complete failure (for a driver) can turn it around completely," he said.

"But successes for Valtteri will mean points taken away from Hamilton, while Ferrari puts every point in Vettel's bag."

Hulkenberg not afraid of Alonso rumors

Nico Hulkenberg up for the challenge
Nico Hulkenberg up for the challenge

(GMM) Nico Hulkenberg says he would not mind being teamed up with Fernando Alonso at Renault next year.

In the past days, Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul has played down claims the French team will sign Alonso for 2018, as Renault is not yet ready for the title.

But also linked with Renault for 2018 is Robert Kubica, the once highly promising F1 driver who is looking to return from serious injuries next year.

Hulkenberg said: "I don't really care about the driver rumors about next season, because I don't see that it directly affects me.

"My future at Renault is long-term," the German wrote in his latest Sport1 column. "It is fun to work on the development of the team.

"Of course I have noticed that Alonso and Kubica are mentioned as possible new drivers for our team. For Robert, a comeback would definitely be good for him and the whole sport.

"And Fernando would of course be a real heavyweight for our team and I don't mind that at all. On the contrary, he would be a good measure for me and a great challenge.

"I do not think I would need to hide behind him," Hulkenberg insisted.

David Schumacher eyes F1 future

David Schumacher
David Schumacher to drive in German F4

(GMM) Ralf Schumacher's son has admitted he is targeting a future in formula one.

While it is his cousin Mick who is grabbing the most headlines, David Schumacher is set to move from karting into German Formula 4 next year.

"I definitely want to be in formula one," said 16-year-old David Schumacher, who will drive for the F4 team owned by his father Ralf.

"I would love to be in F1 together with my cousin Mick," David added.

Young Schumacher, whose 42-year-old father drove for Williams and Toyota until 2007, admits he feels the burden of his famous family name.

"The expectations are simply higher," he said, "especially as my cousin Mick is already very fast.

"For this reason I raced for the first few years with the name of my mother, Brinkmann, so that the media pressure would be lower," Schumacher added.

As for who his heroes are, David explained: "Clearly I have two.

"My father and of course my uncle Michael, simply because he is the most successful driver of all time. But my father was also very good," Schumacher added.

Sainz Jr. says Red Bull to decide future

Carlos Sainz Jr.
Carlos Sainz Jr.

(GMM) Carlos Sainz Jr. says his future in F1 remains in the hands of his Red Bull bosses.

As the sport moves onto Monza this weekend, rumors are swirling yet again that the energy drink team could agree to release the Toro Rosso driver to Renault for 2018.

It is rumored Sainz's release could be in exchange for a discount on the Renault engine bills.

The Spaniard told El Confidencial newspaper: "My future depends entirely on what Red Bull and Helmut Marko do.

"I do not discuss anything with them because it's all in their hands. All I know is that I have a contract with Toro Rosso for one more year and with Red Bull for a couple more.

"So my future depends on what they judge is best for me and where I have to go," Sainz added.

Although he fell out with Red Bull chiefs in July, Sainz now says he will be happy to stay at Toro Rosso for a fourth consecutive season in 2018.

"Hopefully Toro Rosso will be better next year and closer to the top three," he said.

"I am not the only driver who wants to take a step forward. There are many others in the middle of the grid in the same situation as me, so we have to be patient for when our moment will come."

Finally, Sainz said he is not sure why Red Bull rebuked him so harshly for his July comments, while Max Verstappen is being openly critical of the energy drink stable.

"I understand the question but I can only tell you to ask Helmut Marko," he said.

"I do not want to get too involved in the politics in F1."

Wolff: Alonso won't get drive due to his 'history' with Mercedes

In reality a Hamilton/Alonso pairing would be too toxic
In reality a Hamilton/Alonso pairing would be too toxic

Toto Wolff has given the clearest statement yet on why Mercedes are not pursuing Fernando Alonso to join the team for 2018. The McLaren driver is widely regarded as one of the best in the sport and his contract is up for renewal at the end of this season. But Wolff again denied Mercedes will take the opportunity to sign him.

“We have commented on that already," Wolff told the BBC. “Fernando has some history with Mercedes and it was not always the best."

“He’s certainly a very skilled driver but he’s not a consideration for us at that stage."

Alonso used Mercedes power for a single season in 2007 when he drove for McLaren. However the team became embroiled in a spying scandal, details of which were first revealed by Alonso, and led to them receiving a $100 million fine and disqualification from the championship. He then left the team at the end of season.

Wolff indicated the team will sign a short-term deal with Valtteri Bottas so they are able to review their options again in 12 months’ time. “It is a no-brainer that Valtteri has done a really good job in his first year with Mercedes," said Wolff. “He gets on with Lewis [Hamilton] very well and the dynamic between the two drivers is very important of the team because it spills over into the engineering debrief room. It’s a good environment to be in."

“So as it stands now we’d like to continue with Valtteri but it comes down to the nitty-gritty detail in the contract and the situation beyond 2018."

“I just want to understand how the 2019 and 2020 driver market develops. There will be vacancies, there will be drivers coming back onto the market."
“So as it stands, nothing against continuing with Valtteri short-term."

Rossi: Alonso would be challenged in IndyCar

Alexander Rossi
Alexander Rossi

Alexander Rossi is one whose opinion holds merit when talking about drivers from Formula One trying their hand in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

He speaks from experience.

He’s the California kid who bet on himself, crossed the Atlantic in search of a Formula One dream and came back home from nearly a decade of open-wheel racing in Europe to win the historic 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil last year – as an unheralded rookie for Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian.

Now 25, Rossi is competing in his sophomore Verizon IndyCar Series season and a devout believer in the level of competition and difficulty that it takes to succeed in the top level of North American open-wheel racing.

Two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso (shown above) tried his hand at this May’s 101st Indianapolis 500 in a partnership with McLaren-Honda and Rossi’s team, Andretti Autosport, that captured the attention of the motorsports world. The Spaniard qualified fifth, led 29 laps and was poised to be a factor for victory before engine failure extinguished his chance just 21 laps from the end of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing."

Alonso admitted to thoroughly enjoying his Indy 500 experience – a complete contradiction to the season he has experienced in Formula 1, where his car has made it to the finish in just three of 11 races. It’s led to rampant speculation that Alonso, 36, is considering a fulltime move to the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2018.

Rossi, who competed in five F1 races in 2015 and spent four seasons as a team reserve driver, believes Alonso would be challenged by the Verizon IndyCar Series circuits and the level of talent in the field should he try his hand at a full-season campaign. Rossi also believes his May teammate could succeed.

“I think there’s something to say for the fact that the quality of tracks in Europe are better than here, but that doesn’t mean they are better racetracks to drive," said Rossi (left), the 2016 Sunoco Rookie of the Year for both the Indianapolis 500 and the entire season.

“You go to a place like Abu Dhabi – which in my mind is one of the most beautiful racetracks in the world – and it’s boring to drive. I have thousands of laps around there (in F1 testing) and it’s not exciting. Whereas you go to say, Mid-Ohio (in the Verizon IndyCar Series) – which visually isn’t that impressive, it’s worn down in areas, it could use some work – but you have a smile on your face every single lap that you do around there.

“So it’s the tradeoff. Are you looking for enjoying a visceral and raw form of motorsports? Or do you want the whole glamor of what Formula 1 is? There are upsides to both, right?

“I think that Fernando wouldn’t have any struggles adapting. We saw that at Indianapolis, but I think what he would be continually surprised by, as I was, was just how good the guys in this championship are and how one tiny mistake – whether it’s from driving or setup direction – could cost you a tenth (of a second) and could literally be the difference between (running) fifth or 12th. We see that every single session, every single weekend and I think that’s pretty crazy."

Rossi, who has top-six finishes in his past four races and has climbed to seventh in the standings after being as low as 17th early this season, believes Alonso would be a welcomed addition to the Verizon IndyCar Series. From fellow competitors to fans to media alike.

“I think it would be massive for the championship," Rossi said. “We saw the response that we got from him coming to the 500 and obviously there’s more of a global reach that race has versus (other races on the schedule).

“With that being said, I think there’d be a lot of follow-over. He’s a pretty big name in the world of motorsports. I think it would definitely grow the sport, especially in Europe. It might even open the opportunity with a fan base there to have races there in the future.

“I think that, with Fernando, there’s not going to be any negative that comes from it and I think that he as a driver will just enjoy the chance that every single day he shows up at a racetrack, he has a shot at it. He doesn’t have that right now and hasn’t for a couple of years, and that wears on you."

The Verizon IndyCar Series returns to action this week at a road course favored by drivers around the world, Watkins Glen International. Practice for the INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen begins Friday, with Verizon P1 Award qualifying Saturday and the 60-lap race on Sunday. Live race coverage begins at 1 p.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. IndyCar

Williams plans 'substantial changes' for 2018 Formula 1 season

Paddy Lowe
Paddy Lowe

The Williams Formula 1 team will be making "quite substantial changes" to key areas of its car's philosophy for the 2018 season, according to its chief technical officer Paddy Lowe.

Williams is currently fifth in the constructors' championship with 45 points but is locked in a tight midfield battle with Toro Rosso, Haas and Renault, with just 11 points separating the four teams.

"We will be making some quite substantial changes," said Lowe, who joined the team from Mercedes ahead of this season.

"There are lots of different things that we'll be doing and we're well into that at the moment.

"There will be quite a few areas where we will be changing philosophy."

Felipe Massa said Williams is falling behind in the development race, after both its cars failed to progress from Q1 in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix

When asked by Autosport if he agreed with that standpoint, Lowe said: "That's always possible.

"It's difficult to conclude anything from single races, as there is a lot of variation from circuit to circuit.

"We have to look at the trends. We are fighting hard in that midfield group. We haven't created any distance ahead of it but if anything we've slipped well into it in the last couple of months.

"We need to understand if that's something where we're going wrong or if we have been out-developed."

Lowe said Williams, which is believed to have the sixth biggest budget of the 10 teams, was working hard to get the most out of its resources but conceded the team could be more efficient.

"We need to improve in all sorts of areas, that's the nature of the competition," he said.

"We have a set of resources and it's our job to do the best we can with those resources. It's about efficiency.

"We can be a lot more efficient than we are being at the moment.

"As we achieve more success, that will attract more resources to improve ourselves still further. That's the formula of grand prix development." Lawrence Barretto/Autosport

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