Latest F1 news in brief – Thursday

  • Liberty's Chase Cary looking to get rid of controversial Concorde Agreement
    Liberty's Chase Cary looking to get rid of controversial Concorde Agreement

    Liberty to introduce 'franchise' model for F1 – Wolff

  • Only judge Stroll in 2018 – Prost
  • Mercedes not favorite for Hungary – Salo
  • Red Bull must give Verstappen winning car – Horner
  • Verstappen not ruling out Ferrari, Mercedes switch
  • McLaren hands Norris F1 test opportunity
  • Rowland to get Formula 1 run with Renault
  • 68 poles: Hamilton on verge of F1 record
  • Ilmor seeking partner for 2021 F1 engine project
  • Ocon: 'Without Wolff I'd be flipping burgers at McDonalds'

Liberty to introduce 'franchise' model for F1 – Wolff
(GMM) Liberty Media is looking into replacing the F1 teams' current 'Concorde Agreement'-type commercial contracts with a franchise model.

That is the claim of Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff, amid rumblings that early talks about the commercial direction of the sport post 2020 have already begun.

The current income distribution model, devised by the now-ousted former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, is highly controversial as it heavily weights payments to the richest teams and leaves the smaller outfits struggling for influence and survival.

What does seem clear is that Ecclestone's 'Concorde' agreements will be allowed to simply lapse.

"Liberty Media has a very good approach, namely that the Concorde Agreement, as it was formerly called, will no longer exist," Wolff told Austria's ORF broadcaster.

"In principle, a team in future will have this 'franchise' forever, which helps to add value because you do not have to renegotiate every eight years," he revealed.

Only judge Stroll in 2018 – Prost

Alain Prost
Alain Prost

(GMM) Quadruple world champion Alain Prost has defended F1's teen rookie Lance Stroll.

Canadian Stroll's debut for Williams this year has been the subject of controversy, as his career has been bankrolled by his billionaire father.

Not just that, although the 18-year-old broke through for his maiden podium in Baku, he notably struggled during the first half of the season.

But Prost thinks much of the criticism was unfair.

"He was being criticized even before he started," he told Le Journal de Montreal newspaper.

"I said before the season that it would be difficult for him to manage his age and his inexperience. It's true that he has tested in the 2014 car, but he has had so much to learn, especially this year with these faster cars.

"But when you know F1," Prost explained, "you know how difficult it is to get started. Look at Stoffel Vandoorne. He was considered one of the greatest hopefuls and he has had difficulties since the very beginning.

"But he's going to get better and better, and it's the same for Lance," Prost added.

Prost, also an advisor for Renault's F1 program, thinks the biggest pressure on Stroll this year was the wealth of his father, billionaire fashion mogul Lawrence Stroll.

"It put extra pressure on him," Prost said. "And I think that's a pity, because without a minimum amount of talent, he would not be in F1.

"We have to give him time. Where we can judge is in his results by the end of the year and especially next year," he added. "His progress. Today, it is still too early."

But Prost, 62, said Stroll's podium performance in Baku was noteworthy.

"At the moment, he's not doing badly," said the famous Frenchman.

"Honestly, in Baku, I looked at his race and he was one of the only drivers not to make a mistake."

Mercedes not favorite for Hungary – Salo

Do they really think anyone can beat an Aldo Costa Car? It happens every once in while
Do they really think anyone can beat an Aldo Costa Car? It happens every once in while

(GMM) Mercedes is not the certain winner of this weekend's Hungarian grand prix.

That is the view of former Ferrari driver and regular F1 steward Mika Salo, who thinks Ferrari could bounce back at the Hungaroring after a difficult recent period.

The Finn told Ilta Sanomat newspaper that Red Bull is also expected to be strong on the tight, twisty circuit near Budapest.

"And I think Ferrari will be strong," said Salo. "Mercedes could have a bit of trouble again because of their long wheelbase.

"But of course, Mercedes is always strong on every track, and so much will come down to qualifying because you can't really pass there," he explained.

"If you quality well, that's already a big part of the race," said Salo.

Indeed, Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel said after Silverstone that it is Saturday afternoons on which the Italian team needs to improve.

But Mercedes boss Toto Wolff is not willing to say the German team is definitely the favorite for Hungary.

"First I'd like to see how our car works there on a slower, high-temperature track. That could give us a more complete picture," he said.

Red Bull must give Verstappen winning car – Horner

Horner is really saying that F1 is 99% car and 1% driver and Verstappen, or any driver for that matter, can win in F1 without the best car
Horner is really saying that F1 is 99% car and 1% driver and Verstappen, or any driver for that matter, can't win in F1 without the best car

(GMM) Christian Horner has acknowledged that Red Bull needs to give Max Verstappen a winning car for 2018.

Recently, the 19-year-old Dutchman and his surly father Jos have not categorically rejected rumors Verstappen is linked with a future switch to Ferrari.

At the same time, even though an often clearly frustrated Verstappen is locked in a Red Bull contract until 2019, his car this year has been regularly breaking down.

So when asked if he was relieved when Verstappen finally finished a race recently at Silverstone, Red Bull team boss Horner admitted: "You could say that."

When asked about Verstappen's recent outbursts, he told Algemeen Dagblad newspaper: "Of course he has shown some emotion, especially when you stick a microphone under his chin after a bad race, but he has also always been under control.

"This phase in his career is still character building for him, because F1 is not a sport that relies simply on a racquet, bat or ball. So he will only get stronger and more complete," Horner explained.

He said Red Bull is at least making serious progress with pace and performance, after a less than impressive start to 2017.

"Since Barcelona, there has been real progress in every race with the possible exception of Silverstone, but we're clearly on the right track," said Horner.

He said there is no doubt Verstappen will still be a Red Bull driver next year, but admitted that the energy drink-owned team needs to make a step for 2018.

"It's up to us to give Max a car with which he can win before we talk about the future," said Horner.

"If we do that, I'm sure there's no team Max wants to race for other than ours."

Verstappen not ruling out Ferrari, Mercedes switch

He can dream, but Red Bull owns him
He can dream, but Red Bull owns him

(GMM) Max Verstappen is not ruling out a future switch to top teams Ferrari or Mercedes.

Amid obvious frustration with the performance and reliability of his Red Bull this year, speculation has suggested the young Dutchman is looking for a way out of his 2018-2019 contract.

When asked about the Ferrari rumor in particular, 19-year-old Verstappen told Germany's Sport Bild: "I know Ferrari has a great story in formula one.

"It's the same for Mercedes, by the way," he admitted. "Quite honestly, I only want to sit in the best possible car. The color doesn't really matter."

However, he acknowledged that he is still firmly committed to Red Bull for now.

"I believe in the strength of Red Bull," said Verstappen. "We're on the right track. The car and the engine are constantly improving."

Verstappen is admired not only for his speed but also his daring and aggression wheel-to-wheel, even though he is regularly criticized by Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel.

"They can call me what they want," Max insisted, referring to his critics. "'Mad Max' or whatever.

"I say that on the track you have to be an assh*le. Look at Michael Schumacher! At the end of the day, a F1 driver needs to know how to win races and titles, not how to be a nice guy."

As for Vettel in particular, Verstappen said: "I do not expect him to send me a Christmas card or invite me to his birthday."

And he said he has a bigger challenge to worry about than Vettel, anyway.

"Daniel (Ricciardo) is a bigger challenge for me," Max insisted. "When the two of them drove for the same team in 2014, Daniel was stronger."

McLaren hands Norris F1 test opportunity

Lando Norris
Lando Norris

McLaren junior Lando Norris will get a run in the team's 2017-spec Formula 1 car at next week's post-Hungarian Grand Prix test, it has been announced.

Norris, 17, took titles in the Toyota Racing Series, Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 and Formula Renault 2.0 NEC through 2016, before joining McLaren's young driver scheme for 2017.

He graduated to European Formula 3 full-time this year, with Carlin, and has so far claimed three victories to hold third place in the standings at the halfway mark of the campaign.

McLaren will kick off next week's test, which runs on Tuesday and Wednesday, with regular driver Stoffel Vandoorne, before Norris gets his opportunity.

McLaren chief Zak Brown recently expressed his view that Norris has the ability to emerge as a future World Champion, given his early single-seater success and initial work with the F1 team.

"He looks to be about as naturally talented as any driver that I've ever seen," said Brown, when asked by about Norris' potential.

"I think that [view] is shared by most people that have seen him race.

"He's very focused on racing, very grounded, I definitely think he's a future World Champion.

"We're very happy he's in our system as he's doing great in Formula 3, took pole and won his first race, and he's third in the championship."

Norris won the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award at the end of last year, prior to joining the team, which entitled him to a private Formula 1 test run.

Rowland to get Formula 1 run with Renault

Oliver Rowland
Oliver Rowland

Renault will hand development driver and Formula 2 race winner Oliver Rowland a run in Formula 1 machinery at the upcoming Gamma Racing Day event in Assen.

Rowland, who sits third in the F2 standings, having won the Monaco Feature Race and claimed five further podiums, will share driving duties with Nico Hülkenberg.

"It's a really exciting time for me to drive Renault's F1 car in front of 100,000 people in Holland," said Rowland, who is set to drive the 2012-spec E20 on August 5, before handing over to Hülkenberg.

"I see this as a step in the right direction to achieving my dream of driving in Formula 1."

Rowland's run will not be his first in a Formula 1 car, having tested a McLaren at Silverstone back in 2012, after winning the McLaren Autosport BRDC award.

He made another F1 outing at the venue with Red Bull in 2015, as a reward for leading Formula Renault 3.5 at the midway stage of the season, before clinching the title.

68 poles: Hamilton on verge of F1 record

Aldo Costa wins F1 championships, not drivers. Aldo Costa wins F1 poles, not drivers
Aldo Costa wins F1 championships, not drivers. Aldo Costa wins F1 poles, not drivers

Lewis Hamilton will match Michael Schumacher's pole position record if he tops qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix. puts his Formula 1 statistics into perspective.

Since making the switch from McLaren to Mercedes and the Aldo Costa designed car, Hamilton has claimed 41 pole positions, his total rising every season (five in 2013, seven in 2014, 11 in 2015 and 12 in 2016).

At the midway point of the 2017 campaign, he is on course to equal his 2016 pole tally, having posted the fastest lap time in six of the 10 qualifying sessions so far.

However, while he could soon equal Schumacher in terms of poles, Hamilton does not hold the overall best percentage, the Briton sitting back in fifth in the all-time list.

Juan Manuel Fangio tops this chart, with 56.86 per cent, having claimed 29 poles over 51 starts, putting him comfortably clear of Jim Clark, who took 33 poles over 72 starts (45.83 per cent).

Alberto Ascari, on 43.75 per cent with 14 poles over 32 starts, and Ayrton Senna, on 40.37 per cent with 65 poles over 161 starts, also feature ahead of Hamilton (33.84 per cent).

Schumacher, meanwhile, is down in eighth, on 22.15 per cent with 68 poles over 307 starts, his number affected by a less successful spell with Mercedes from 2010-2012.

If he takes pole in Hungary, Hamilton's first opportunity to move ahead of Schumacher on the pole list will come at the Belgian Grand Prix, where he is set to make his 200th start.

All-time F1 pole position list:

1. Michael Schumacher, 68 (Aldo Costa car)
2. Lewis Hamilton, 67 (Aldo Costa car)
3. Ayrton Senna, 65
4. Sebastian Vettel, 47
5. Jim Clark, 33
Alain Prost, 33
7. Nigel Mansell, 32
8. Nico Rosberg, 30
9. Juan Manuel Fangio, 29
10. Mika Hakkinen, 26

Pole position percentage:

1. Juan Manuel Fangio, 56.86 per cent (29 poles/51 starts)
2. Jim Clark, 45.83 per cent (33 poles/72 starts)
3. Alberto Ascari, 43.75 per cent (14 poles/32 starts)
4. Ayrton Senna, 40.37 per cent (65 poles/161 starts)
5. Lewis Hamilton, 33.84 per cent (67 poles/198 starts)
6. Sebastian Vettel, 25 per cent (47 poles/188 starts)
7. Stirling Moss, 24.24 per cent (16 poles/66 starts)
8. Michael Schumacher, 22.15 per cent (68 poles/307 starts)
9. Damon Hill, 17.39 per cent (20 poles/115 starts)
10. Jackie Stewart, 17.17 per cent (17 poles/99 starts)

Note: List only includes drivers with 10 or more poles

Ilmor seeking partner for 2021 F1 engine project

Ilmor owner Roger Penske eyeing F1 engines
Ilmor owner Roger Penske eyeing F1 engines but needs a manufacturer to badge it

Ilmor boss Mario Illien is keen to produce an engine for the 2021 F1 regulations, but only if the new rules address costs, and he can find a partner to fund the project.

New F1 sporting chief Ross Brawn is keen to encourage independent suppliers to come into the sport, an initiative supported by teams such as McLaren and Red Bull, who are looking at future options.

Former Mercedes F1 engine boss Illien, who has stayed in touch with current technology by working as a consultant, has attended recent FIA meetings where the future engine format has been discussed.

A twin-turbo V6 with KERS is the most favored option, and further studies have been launched.

"Obviously there is a desire to have the possibility for independent manufacturers to come in," he told "That's one reason I'm in the meetings, to see whether it's going the right way for an independent.

"It will take a lot of simplification, and we'll have to take a lot of cost out – and make racing better and the sound better. If you have say a standard turbo for everybody, you could take a lot of cost out, for sure."

Illien is adamant that costs have to be brought down in order to encourage new entrants.

"That would be a necessity for independents to have a chance. It's not only the initial costs, it's also the development costs.

"I think everyone will develop and make progress, but the rules should be written in such a way that there is a relatively small gain that you can make with a lot of development."

He also believes that restricting the number of engines allowed per year has increased development costs.

"I think that has to be addressed. Next year, having three engines is more expensive than producing four engines.

"All the new parts you are developing have to go through testing on the dyno, to make sure you have achieved the mileage for three engines a year. And that is expensive.

"I think even four is not enough. We're half way through this season, and half the field has got a problem."

Even allowing for cost reductions Illien says Ilmor won't supply an engine under its own name based solely on having deals with one or two teams, because the funding still wouldn't be sufficient.

"No, I think that's unlikely, because somebody has to fund the initial development costs. Customers are probably not the right way to go, that doesn't pay for it.

"You probably need a manufacturer to support it. But if you look at Red Bull they've got TAG, so it doesn't need to be a car manufacturer, it could be anybody."

Illien suggests that F1 made a mistake by going too far in the direction of road relevance with the current formula, which was introduced in 2014 and will now run to 2020.

Ocon: 'Without Wolff I'd be flipping burgers at McDonalds'

Esteban Ocon
Esteban Ocon

Force India's Esteban Ocon says that without the support of Mercedes and Toto Wolff in particular, it's unlikely he would be racing in Formula 1.

The French driver started his racing career in karting with the help of his hard working father, Laurent Ocon, a mechanic who owns a garage in Evreux.

The young charger was signed by Gravity Sports management when he was 14, a move which enabled him to tackle the junior categories and ultimately win the European Formula 3 Championship in 2014.

Mercedes then took a keen interest in Ocon, including the 17-year-old in its young driver program.

"Between the end of 2014 and the start of 2015, if Toto Wolff had not been there to help me, I'd probably be flipping burgers at McDonald's now," Ocon told Italy's La Gazetta dello Sport.

"Without the support, I would not have been able to continue racing. I didn't have any money. But then Toto came to talk to me…"

The Mercedes protégé has lived up to the manufacturer's expectations in a very big way, as Ocon, who has scored points in every single race this season bar one, is perceived as one of F1's most promising talents.

His current allegiance is with the German manufacturer and Force India, but having grown up as a devoted Michael Schumacher, Ferrari is obviously rocking his dreams.

"My model was Michael Schumacher, I raced with the same helmet and red overalls as him," admits Ocon.

"Ferrari is a dream and a team that represents so much for me. I did a test at Fiorano back in 2014 and I remember it as if it happened yesterday. So one day, yes, I would like to drive for them."

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