Latest F1 news in brief – Tuesday

  • Szafnauer eyes change at Force India
    Szafnauer eyes change at Force India

    Force India not ruling out driver change

  • Alonso issues McLaren-Honda ultimatum – report
  • Angry Verstappen has nowhere to go – Mateschitz
  • Hamilton aided by wrong PU mode at restart
  • Ocon accepts Perez apology, moves on
  • Renault set for 'course of action' with RBR
  • Hamilton wary of ‘quicker’ Ferrari despite Belgian GP win

Force India not ruling out driver change
(GMM) Force India is not ruling out making a change to its driver lineup for 2018.

Earlier, although Sergio Perez is yet to commit to the Silverstone based team beyond this year, Force India bosses seemed more than happy to keep the Mexican alongside Esteban Ocon.

But tension has been steadily rising between the pair, and it boiled over big-time at Spa with two high speed collisions and Ocon's accusation that Perez "tried to kill me".

Force India reacted by imposing standing 'team orders' from now on and warning that race bans are possible for the pair in the eight-race run to the 2017 finale.

But a change of driver lineup also now seems possible, particularly with Renault reportedly already putting out the feelers to Perez.

"We'll have to wait," sporting boss Otmar Szafnauer told Auto Motor und Sport. "I hope it doesn't come to that."

However, Perez and Ocon have collided on multiple occasions in 2017, causing Force India chiefs to wonder what they can do to handle the deteriorating situation.

"Either we need better drivers, or we have to make sure they get out of each other's way for the rest of the season," Szafnauer said.

Alonso issues McLaren-Honda ultimatum – report

Alonso pushing for engine change at McLaren
Alonso pushing for engine change at McLaren

(GMM) Fernando Alonso has issued a 'Honda or me' ultimatum to McLaren, according to Germany's authoritative Auto Motor und Sport.

It appears that the fiery Spaniard's three years of patience are finally up, amid rumors he faked a Honda engine failure to retire from last Sunday's race at Spa.

"He had a funny feeling with the car," said team boss Eric Boullier, defending Alonso.

But Honda's Yusuke Hasegawa said: "We could not find anything wrong in the data."

It is a complex situation.

Auto Motor und Sport explained that if McLaren dumps Honda, it would be a simple breach of contract but with no consequences.

But if McLaren nudges Honda into quitting the deal, that would involve millions in compensation for the British team.

"In what world do they live?" Red Bull's Dr Helmut Marko wondered. "If you get rid of someone, you don't also get money."

So at the moment it appears to be a situation of stalemate, with McLaren waiting for Honda to make a decision — and vice versa.

Alonso is now making clear what he thinks should happen, particularly as his best alternative for 2018 appears to be a move to Williams-Mercedes.

Boullier said: "With a Mercedes engine, we would be two seconds faster than Williams."

Alonso said of the McLaren situation: "There has to be a change.

"I think there are answers out there but we have to find them — and they won't come from looking at the sky," he is quoted by Spain's El Mundo Deportivo.

"We have to sit down and work and hope to find the best solution for next year."

Angry Verstappen has nowhere to go – Mateschitz

Verstappen locked in at Red Bull
Verstappen locked in at Red Bull

(GMM) Team owner Dietrich Mateschitz is adamant Red Bull is not going to imminently lose Max Verstappen.

That is despite the fact the angry and frustrated rhetoric from the Verstappen camp has ramped up since the 19-year-old retired for the sixth time out of twelve races last weekend in Belgium.

"A 50 per cent failure rate is simply unacceptable," Red Bull mogul Mateschitz told Speed Week.

But earlier, Red Bull official Dr Helmut Marko said he would not release Verstappen from his 2018-2019 contract even for EUR 100 million.

"Dr Marko values me at 100 million, so who knows?" Verstappen told Ziggo Sport Totaal on Monday. "Maybe I will go to (football club) Paris Sainz-Germain," he joked.

According to Max's father and manager Jos, his son's patience is noticeably up.

"I notice that Max is very upset," said the former F1 driver.

"It's hard to keep your motivation when this happens all the time. He outqualified his teammate by half a second but in the race he is suddenly out after seven or eight laps.

"This should not happen in a top team," Verstappen snr added.

Given the escalation in rhetoric, it is therefore obvious to question whether Verstappen can remain committed to Red Bull for much longer.

"Perhaps it's not the right time to ask this question," Jos admitted, "but in a situation like this you do start to question everything."

However, the only teams more competitive than Red Bull at present are Mercedes and Ferrari, and their driver lineups are not going to change for 2018.

"We are the best team remaining," Marko told German television Sky.

Mateschitz agrees that Verstappen has nowhere else to go.

"At the moment, where would he go?" the Austrian billionaire wondered. "But we know we cannot keep Max in the future if we cannot give him a car."

All the fingers of blame are being pointed at Red Bull's engine supplier Renault, but Mateschitz said: "Nothing has changed for us.

"We cannot get a Mercedes or Ferrari, and a Honda would not help us."

Hamilton aided by wrong PU mode at restart

Make no mistake, the Ferrari was no match for the Mercedes even on softer tires
Make no mistake, the Ferrari was no match for the Mercedes even on softer tires

Lewis Hamilton has explained how selecting the wrong power unit mode actually helped him beat Sebastian Vettel to victory in Belgium, following a late Safety Car.

Hamilton's mistake led to Vettel closing in at La Source, as the race restarted, but the Ferrari then had a compromised run through Eau Rouge, running too close to the Mercedes.

Vettel could only pull out alongside Hamilton at the exit of Raidillon, with the latter positioning his car well to maintain the lead into Les Combes.

Hamilton, running on Softs, managed to build a small gap back to Vettel, on Ultra Softs, in the closing stages, moving to within seven points of the title lead by winning.

"Initially I got a very good restart," commented Hamilton.

"When we were on the back straight I could really pull away from him and I was able to catch him out as I was able to do in Baku on those three or four restarts behind the Safety Car.

"I broke away but then I didn't have the right power mode.

"I pulled away initially and then he started catching me up when he went into the last corner, which felt like a mistake, but as an actual fact it was a really good thing."

Hamilton intentionally did not use full throttle exiting La Source, to back Vettel up, with the knowledge that he would not want to pass him too early.

"In Turn 1 I had really cold tires, so I had this lock up and he was on the gas before me, I could hear him," he said, recalling the moments after the restart.

"Then as we were going down the straight I just didn't keep it fully lit the whole way, I just kept it 90 per cent just to keep him as close as possible.

"I knew he wouldn't come by because he knows that I would overtake him at the top part with the tow.

"As we were going up Eau Rouge that is when I really gave it maximum power; I got to the top and he had no space to really propel himself, he just pulled out alongside.

"It was really great to go into Turn 5 having just done enough to stay ahead, so I was really happy with that.

"After that I was really like nine, 10 laps of qualifying, just fast laps to try and continue that gap.

"He was very quick, he had the better tire, [so] I had to pull out some really good laps in order to stay ahead of him because he was very, very quick in that second phase."

Ocon accepts Perez apology, moves on

Ocon moving on
Ocon moving on

Esteban Ocon has accepted Force India teammate Sergio Perez's apology after they clashed in the Belgian Grand Prix and blamed the "heat of the moment" on his post-race comments.

Ocon stated that Perez "tried to kill me two times" during Sunday's race, having initially banged wheels on the first lap, before a separate incident at the exit of La Source.

In the first incident, Ocon's car was briefly sent into the air as he got squeezed between Perez (in the wrong engine mode) and the support pit lane wall.

Later in the race, after Perez jumped Ocon in the pit-stops, Ocon tried to reclaim the position between La Source and Eau Rouge, only to make contact again.

Perez apologized for the first incident, though felt that Ocon was at fault for the second, and expressed disappointment at the youngster's outburst.

Ocon has now moved to draw a line under the matter with a fresh post on Twitter, stating his desire to secure fourth in the standings and "reach even greater levels of success together".

"In the heat of the moment and given the dangerous situation, I was very much upset," said Ocon, referring to the comments he made.

"But we will be moving forward, we are a team and I appreciate my team-mate apologizing. We want to work better together.

"I'm committed to the success of Force India and I'm confident that as a team we will put this behind us to reach even greater levels of success together.

"We have a big challenge ahead with keeping fourth place and nothing will distract us from that goal."

Force India sits 58 points ahead of fifth-placed Williams.

Renault set for 'course of action' with RBR

Cyril Abiteboul
Cyril Abiteboul

Renault chief Cyril Abiteboul has apologized to Max Verstappen and Red Bull, following the Dutchman's latest engine failure, and will respond with a "course of action".

Verstappen suffered his fourth technical-related retirement of the season at Spa-Francorchamps, which was packed out with home fans who had made the trip from the Netherlands.

Speaking post-race, Christian Horner declared that Renault is providing his Red Bull team with a "below par" service, and urged the French manufacturer to "sort it out".

Abiteboul expressed his regret at the outcome, directly apologizing to Verstappen and Red Bull, and has vowed to push behind-the-scenes to get on top of the reliability troubles.

"An electronic systems issue seems to be at the heart of this problem," he said of Verstappen's retirement.

"I personally apologize to Red Bull Racing, and more specifically to Max and his many fans who are as disappointed as we are.

"We will work closely with RBR to define a course of action and a roadmap to eradicate issues such as this one which meant they couldn't harness their package's potential."

Verstappen himself commented that his retirement cannot simply be a case of "bad luck" and described the situation is "very demotivating".

He is also set for a grid penalty in Italy, due to anticipated power unit changes.

Hamilton wary of ‘quicker’ Ferrari despite Belgian GP win

Hamilton must be smoking something. The Ferrari had brand new Ultra Soft tires on and it still could not pass the Mercedes that had tires that were two grades harder.
Hamilton must be smoking something. The Ferrari had brand new Ultra Soft tires on and it still could not pass the Mercedes that had tires that were two grades harder.

Lewis Hamilton fears that, despite steering his Mercedes to victory in Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix, Ferrari have a faster car and he faces an uphill struggle to catch title leader Sebastian Vettel.

The 32-year-old Briton, who reeled off his fifth win of the year to reduce Vettel’s lead to seven points with eight races remaining, said he jad found it difficult to resist the German’s attacks.

“I think Ferrari were ultimately quicker. I was just able to keep them at bay," said Hamilton. “But if our cars were reversed, I don’t think I would have been able to hold as close as he did. If anyone’s out there thinking we have the best car this year then they need to think again because it’s not the case… We might have the upper hand in power, but that’s not enough – we have to keep improving."

Heading into Ferrari’s home race at the Italian Grand Prix, Hamilton knows he needs to make the most of Mercedes marginal power advantage in his bid to take the championship lead for the first time this year.

Mercedes introduced an upgraded engine at Spa-Francorchamps and their speed in straight lines on the long straights was critical to the result of qualifying and the race.

“I think we have the upper hand power-wise, but we’ve got to keep improving," added Hamilton. “The pressure is on. The next race, package-wise, should be similar to this weekend, but when we get to Singapore that’s really where the test is going to be – and where Ferrari should be really fast, as they were in Hungary…"

Hamilton added: “Ferrari have had the most consistent season and, while we’ve had a solid and well put together weekend, it was only just enough to stay ahead. I hope we have more to come and we need more to come in order to win this thing for sure. It’s going to take everything from every single one of us to finish these next eight races and come out on top. That’s how a championship should be so I’m really looking forward to that challenge. It’s going to go right down to the wire."

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff admitted his team were “surprised" by Ferrari’s speed and challenge.

“They have done a good job in bringing an upgrade package that works – this is a track that shouldn’t suit them, like Silverstone, but they were much closer than expected. “We just have to keep our development scope steep and continue to bring bits on the car and deliver faultlessly."

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