Latest F1 news in brief – Thursday

  • Robert Kubica
    Robert Kubica

    Kubica unsure of next step in F1 comeback

  • Bottas wants new contract and 2017 title
  • Marchionne not confirming Monza driver call
  • FIA to 'push limits' of Halo design
  • Russell 'saw more' with halo by end of day
  • McLaren hails Norris as 'star of the future'
  • Q&A: Kubica on his official F1 test return
  • Mercedes F1 announces new partnership with NetJets

Kubica unsure of next step in F1 comeback
(GMM) F1's past and future merged in Hungary on Wednesday as Robert Kubica made his bow in the 2017 Renault car at the post-grand prix test.

But the 32-year-old Pole's day got off to a literally bumpy start, when he clipped the garage wall and brought the 'Nico Hulkenberg' hoarding that was fixed above to the ground.

"It was one of the most stupid mistakes you can make in formula one," he smiled. "It made me realize how much wider these cars are."

Indeed, Kubica – permanently injured in a 2011 rallying crash – recently tested the much narrower 2012 car but on Wednesday was only narrowly slower than Jolyon Palmer's qualifying time of last weekend.

As for what comes next, he said: "I don't know. All I know is that tomorrow I'm getting on a plane and going home.

"I have not made a secret of trying to come back, but I'm also a realist. If it does not work out, I cannot be disappointed.

"Three months ago, I never thought I could be part of an official test," Kubica said.

Some of the dozens of Polish reporters at the Hungaroring claim that the next time F1 sees Kubica will be at Spa after the summer break, but the 2008 Canadian grand prix winner is not so sure.

"We have to be realistic. The way back is long.

"For sure I want other ways to test. After the heat and on one of the most challenging tracks here, I know I would go well elsewhere. Nico Hulkenberg said to me that if I can drive here, I can probably drive anywhere.

"I do not have any pain although I'm tired after eight hours of driving.

"Maybe something else will come now and I hope, but it's already a great feeling to be honest. I need to keep going step by step and if I have a chance I'll give it my best shot. If not, I'll look for something else," he added.

F1's future was also on display over the two days in Hungary, with Lando Morris driving the McLaren as quickly as Fernando Alonso had last weekend, and Charles Leclerc shining for Ferrari on Tuesday.

Bottas wants new contract and 2017 title

Bottas has eye on title and new contract
Bottas has eye on title and new contract

(GMM) Valtteri Bottas says his target for 2017 is a new contract for next year and a shot at the world championship.

In Hungary, the headline news was that title contender Lewis Hamilton gave up three points in his battle with Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel by voluntarily handing a place to his teammate.

But that teammate was Bottas, who qualified ahead of the sister Mercedes in Hungary, has won twice in 2017, and is now just 19 points behind Hamilton in the drivers' standings.

As for Hamilton letting him past last Sunday, Bottas said he was not surprised.

"Not every teammate would have done that for a podium, but on the other hand, I would have been angry if Lewis had not accepted the deal.

"The team has made it clear right from the beginning that we are both treated and respected equally," he told Sport Bild.

"We get the same equipment, there is no number 1 and number 2 driver, and I trusted that was the case. I am fighting for the world championship, as this is also about my own career.

"I do not want to be in Lewis' shadow," the quiet 27-year-old insisted.

When asked if he really thinks he can win this year's title, Bottas answered: "Yes. I can become world champion.

"There are still nine races to go, and I believe that I can beat Lewis and Sebastian — I have already done both this year.

"I am getting better and better. There is no limit for me," he added.

"I would never say that one of my opponents is better than me. I believe in myself."

However, it is true that Mercedes is yet to sign him up beyond November's Abu Dhabi finale, but Bottas insisted: "This has also been the case for me every year.

"At this time of the year I often did not know how it would go on for me, so I have a lot of practice," he smiled.

"And it's ok, as I feel comfortable in the team and have only received positive feedback. So I'm not too worried."

Marchionne not confirming Monza driver call

Sergio Marchionne
Sergio Marchionne

(GMM) Sergio Marchionne is not saying if Ferrari plans to announce its next driver lineup at Monza in one month.

The fabled Italian team often targets its home race as the scene of key announcements, amid strong speculation Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen are staying on board for 2018.

But there have been rumors linking Vettel with a dramatic swap with Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton.

"Hamilton's ending his career with Ferrari would be a privilege, but so far we have not gone far with such plans," Marchionne, the Ferrari president, said.

"I'm not talking about the future as we already have two great drivers with us."

As for the claims a Monza announcement is scheduled, he answered: "I have not heard if Maurizio Arrivabene intends to do so, as I do not plan the schedules myself.

"But at this moment only 11 races have been run, with nine still to go.

"I have spoken openly about the situation with Sebastian, because if he wants to stay with us, he is more than welcome to do so.

"In Kimi's case, we're pretty sure or we know that he wants to stay."

More broadly, Marchionne said he is happy with how the 2017 season is going for Ferrari.

"I'm happy with the season but there's still nine races," said the Italian-Canadian.

"We have moved ahead of Mercedes in the drivers' championship, and we are closer in the constructors, which means we have great chances," Marchionne admitted.

Finally, he welcomed the early impact being made in the post-Bernie Ecclestone era by new F1 owners Liberty Media.

"Liberty Media has made a big investment and there is a good chance it is the way to make money and make formula one become profitable," said Marchionne.

FIA to 'push limits' of Halo design

Vettel testing ugly Halo
Vettel testing ugly Halo

(GMM) F1's mandatory-for-2018 'Halo' concept took a step forward in Hungary on Wednesday.

Many in the paddock and beyond are railing against the dubious aesthetics and anti-F1 DNA of the cockpit protection system.

"Of course you can't reject the safety argument," Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg wrote in his new column for the German broadcaster Sport1.

"But must formula one be safer than it is? Should motor racing not be a little dangerous? Is that not part of the attraction and appeal for both drivers and the fans?" he asked.

The argument against F1 from an aesthetical and driver visibility point of view took a knock on Wednesday when Mercedes youngster George Russell pulled out of the pits.

His silver car was fitted with a Halo development whose central support – the part immediately in front of the driver's eyes – was notably thinner.

FIA technical boss Laurent Mekies confirmed: "At the moment, the central support is 2cm thick, but we believe there is scope to improve the visibility for the drivers.

"We will carry out tests and reduce the thickness to 16 millimeters. We will push the system to its limits."

Russell said after trying the 'new' Halo: "My vision was not restricted at all by the Halo, surprisingly."

Russell 'saw more' with halo by end of day

George Russell driving car with Halo
George Russell driving car with Halo

Mercedes junior George Russell says he "saw more than usual" with the halo fitted to his car as the final day of in-season testing at the Hungaroring drew to a close.

Russell trialed a modified version of the halo, which will be introduced in 2018, at the start and end of Wednesday's running, giving Mercedes and the FIA further data.

Several drivers have criticized the cockpit protection device, and the effect it has on vision, but GP3 title leader Russell was pleasantly surprised by his experience.

"The halo was more surprising than I expected," said Russell, who carried out both days of testing for Mercedes in Hungary, after a run in older machinery earlier this year.

"I had a much better view than I ever imagined.

"One very funny positive was that at the end of the day, when the sun was coming down, the halo actually blocked the sun from my eyes, so I saw more than I would usually see.

"To be honest, from a driver's perspective, when you're doing a qualifying lap, or whatever, the visibility is completely fine.

"The only hindrance could be potentially the start lights at the start of a race, but I was extremely surprised by it and how much I could actually see."

Russell also described getting in and out of a car with the halo attached.

"I think it just takes a bit of experience to find the right techniques," he said.

"I struggled initially, but towards the end, after a few trial runs, I was fine getting in and out.

"You still put your elbows on the headrest and then hold on to the halo as you pull yourself up.

"The only tricky thing is getting your leg into the car, as it's quite high, but I think most people will just have a step to stand on to jump in and out of the car."

McLaren hails Norris as 'star of the future'

Lando Norris
Lando Norris

McLaren Racing Director Eric Boullier hailed Lando Norris as a "potential star of the future" after the young Briton impressed during his first public Formula 1 run at the Hungaroring.

Norris, who joined McLaren's young driver scheme at the start of the year, turned 91 laps in the MCL32 and held second place to Sebastian Vettel for much of the day's running.

He chipped away at his best time during the afternoon session and wound up with a 1:17.385, posted on Ultra Softs, 0.261s behind Vettel, his only moment coming with a spin at Turn 4.

Boullier heaped praise on the 17-year-old, who sits second in his rookie Formula 3 campaign.

"Lando has impressed us all with his maturity, professionalism and speed," said Boullier.

"He got to grips very quickly with the car in only his first outing in the MCL32.

"His feedback with the engineers has been valuable and accurate, and he's certainly an asset to our test driver line-up – not to mention a potential star of the future."

Norris also reveled in his maiden run at the Hungarian Grand Prix venue.

"Today has been a very exciting day for me, and something I've looked forward to for quite some time," he said.

"It's been a really good day – and a very productive one for all of us. I managed to get through all the tests that the team asked me to complete, and everything went well.

"Getting used to the car was a bit of a challenge at first, but by the end of the day I felt very comfortable. I got a lot of laps under my belt and I really enjoyed the experience."

Q&A: Kubica on his official F1 test return

Robert Kubica
Robert Kubica

Robert, can you sum up your emotions?
It is mixed feelings, as always. At the start of the day it was not so easy, [hitting the garage wall] was probably one of the biggest f**k ups in Formula 1. To be honest, I was so concentrated on people in front of my garage, I forgot the cars are longer and wider! That was the only mistake I did, so that's positive. It would be better to not do anything, but I think it has been a very productive day, for me, but also for the team. We have done plenty of items to test. We missed only one run in the end due to the red flags, otherwise we were perfectly on the timing with the program and what there was to be done. It was hot! I was busy behind the wheel; the cars are fast. The biggest… not difficulty, but difference is this car has nothing similar or same as the cars I have been testing lately. When you have so many different things, it normally takes a bit of time to adapt, but I think we have to be happy. Of course, you always want more, but we have to be realistic. It was not an easy day, but I think we have done a good job.

You said you would feel happy if you did a good job. Do you feel happy?
Yes, but not 100 per cent happy. There was a turning point, actually. The first time I jumped out of the car was at the lunch break… I got in the car before nine o'clock and I drove until one o'clock, not having time to think about what's going on, to reshuffle everything, to give priority to things. I was just collecting information and picking up feelings, but I didn't have the time to sort them out. Once I jumped out of the car I had a big break and when I jumped back in at two o'clock I felt like a different driver. The car felt much more familiar, which is a good sign. You know, a lot of people think you improve only by driving, but you can improve also by thinking, thinking where you can improve, and this is what happened. For sure, if I was driving [another day] I'd have some idea of where I can improve. I can feel more familiar with the car and everything will come easier and more natural, which is the target.

How was the day for you physically?
Hungary we know it's a difficult track, it's one of the most physical tracks. Coming here, Nico Hülkenberg said the same, that once I will be able to drive here, probably I will be able to drive everywhere [on the Formula 1 calendar]. It has been hard work, but I think most of the drivers had a hard time behind the wheel. You can predict it wasn't easy, which I'm not hiding, but it was good. We did over 140 laps, and I think I could drive [another day] easily, so the fitness level is good. There are sides which need to be improved or need to get better, but it's always like this. If someone would tell me three months ago that I would be here and cover 140 laps, I would have signed straight away, but once you are here, you want to do better and more. But I have to say that we have to be happy and I'm happy.

Did you have to deal with any pain?
No, I didn't have any pain, I actually feel quite well. Of course, I'm tired, because in the end the biggest issue is the heat, it has been a hot day. In eight hours of running I jumped out only once, for 10 minutes, and once you're in the garage the car gets very hot. I knew this, that's nothing new.

How were the steering wheel buttons?
Yeah, I think it's not a problem at all!

Kubica in cockpit
Kubica in cockpit

What about the modifications on the steering wheel?
For the adaptation of the steering wheel there is one part that was done especially for me. OK, there are some adaptations on the gear shift leaver, but it's something that's been used in the past, it's still been used lately with some other teams, which I used in the simulators. There is nothing that's been done strictly for myself; this steering wheel was adapted the past two days, just to reshuffle the button positions to give the highest priorities which I can operate easier, and the lower priority buttons which you never use, or when you use them it's once in a while, in the positions that are more difficult to reach. But apart from this everything was standard.

You were only 0.160s down on Jolyon Palmer's best qualifying lap; were you looking at times?
To be honest, I don't remember what times they were doing on race weekend here. We had a plan to be covered, which were valuable things. There were some runs to get me in the car, which I could only concentrate on getting information for myself, but most of the job was done to evaluate some parts for the team and to learn some new things. I think the target was to cover as many jobs as we could and I think we reached the target, so that's most important.

Have you had any thoughts about your future?
The only plan I have is to take the flight back and go back home. I don't know… for sure, I would like to have other opportunities [in a Formula 1 car], but the reality is that I don't know and we'll have to wait and see.

In 2013 you said an F1 return was an impossible dream. Is that still the case?
Well, nothing is impossible. I have been the last six years through different periods and stages of my life, mainly dedicated to my physical issues and injuries, then there was a lot going on in my head, which is normal I think. My approach was very simple, anything can happen. If we see where I was four months ago compared to where I am now, it is a big change and it happened very quickly. I think if in three months I did improve a lot and moved forward quite a lot, everything can happen in the future, but we have to be realistic, nothing will be easy. For sure, my target is to get the kind of role in F1 if I can and if I will have a chance, but I don't know. Everything can happen in the future, but we have to be realistic, nothing will be easy. One thing is sure, if it [a full-time return] doesn't happen, I will not be disappointed, because I am looking at this chance, this situation, very, very realistically. I appreciate Renault and what they did; when we met for the first time I don't think anybody was thinking to let me drive at the Hungaroring official day, but it happened. It shows the last two-and-a-half months were quite important, not only for myself. There is a lot to go, but it is far, far ahead, so I would like to enjoy the moment and to have a think about what has happened today, because a lot of things happened whilst I was driving. If I get the chance to jump again in the car I will find it much easier, more familiar. For a driver the best feeling you can have is when everything comes so easily that you don't think about it, but when everything is new you have to think about it and concentrate on things. I am honest, the last thing I wanted to do was to go off or crash the car.

Did you have any F1 opportunities with other teams?
I think if I would like to I could test an F1 car earlier, a couple of years ago, but for me I had different priorities at that point and it was clear that if I had a chance I would do my job properly. I have to be prepared for this, and I think that was the correct decision.

Can you explain how your condition has changed over the past few months?
Nothing has changed. I am the same guy which I was 10 months ago, four months ago, one week ago – my limitations are the same. From that point of view, nothing has changed. From a physical point of view and preparation, let's say a lot has changed, because I've started preparing… I was not targeting to come back, but I knew that if I would get the chance I have to be ready and F1 is a very demanding sport. The current cars are even more demanding than previous cars, they are the fastest cars of the last 20 years. In the end, the cars are even heavier, and this is the biggest difference, and probably no-one is talking about it because they got used to it, because every year or every two years there were minimum weight increments. For my side, when I last drove a car the minimum weight was 620KG, so to have 100KG [extra] bringing around the track… it makes a big difference. In a rally car, when you put a 20KG spare wheel in a car which is weighing 1,300KG, you feel it. Imagine in a 600KG car adding 100KG! There were quite big changes for me from what I knew and what I learned in the past, so there were a lot of things to learn. But from a physical point of view, inside the car, it is much better than it looks outside the car, and that's what's most important.

Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport announces new partnership with NetJets

Bottas riding in a NetJet
Bottas riding in a NetJet

Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport is delighted to announce a new partnership with NetJets, the worldwide leader in private aviation.

With an expanding race calendar and resulting greater travel burden on both race drivers and team members, the Team has made it a major focus to optimize travel times and improve the efficiency of its logistics as much as possible.

For example, the 'triple header' of three consecutive race weekends planned for the 2018 season will present the Team with new logistical challenges. The prospect of gaining back working hours at the factory that would otherwise be spent travelling is a particularly valuable prospect.

"Over the past season, we have been working to optimize every area of our team operations and that includes how we best manage the challenges of race travel," explained Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport.

"People will automatically think that private aviation means luxury lifestyle – but it has been common practice in Formula One for some time and will provide us with valuable time savings that can then be invested in finding more performance.

"We know that these extra hours can make the difference and also keep the team fresher and fitter as the season goes on. I am delighted that we have been able to transform this work into a partnership with a market leader like NetJets."

To mark the new partnership, Valtteri Bottas took his first journey with NetJets from Nice to Budapest on a Phenom 300 ahead of last weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix – and took our camera along for the ride. Click here to watch.

"We share a special kinship with motorsports professionals who thrive at the intersection of speed, safety and innovation," commented NetJets Executive Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Patrick Gallagher.

"We've always had a keen interest in Formula One racing, and Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport is the pinnacle of that. NetJets gives the drivers and team engineers a competitive edge by giving them faster access to tracks like Baku and Spa, at a fraction of the cost of whole aircraft ownership. That's a big plus in an industry where speed and efficiency matter."

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