Latest F1 news in brief – Friday

  • Mansour Ojjeh and Zak Brown
    Mansour Ojjeh and Zak Brown

    F1 should add second China GP – Brown

  • Todt has questions to answer over Vettel – Hamilton
  • No 'big difference' from new Honda – Vandoorne
  • Perez career in 'now or never' phase – Ocon
  • Massa has eye on Kubica's comeback attempt
  • Vettel denies 'oil in fuel' story hurt Ferrari
  • Williams defends Stroll's private tests
  • Ferrari not confirming engine boss exit
  • Wehrlein admits Sauber atmosphere 'different'
  • Massa could stay in 2018 – Williams
  • Alonso dismisses Vettel, Hamilton comments
  • Failures not Verstappen's fault – Ricciardo
  • Sainz Jr. says 2018 STR seat 'unlikely'
  • Renault to give Kubica second F1 test
  • Hamilton still has 'utmost respect' for Vettel

F1 should add second China GP – Brown
(GMM) F1 should look into adding a second grand prix in China.

That is the view of McLaren boss Zak Brown, as rumors swirl about China's growing influence in the sport.

There is speculation not one but two separate Chinese groups are looking at either starting a new team, significantly investing in one, or buying a major existing outfit.

It comes as the Financial Times reports that McLaren is entering the "junk bond market" to finance the buyout of former team supremo Ron Dennis' shareholding. reported that F1 is also looking to "build strategic partnerships in China from 2018".

And now McLaren executive Brown wrote in Linkedin Pulse: "If you look at a truly massive Asian economy, China, I think there's definitely room within that marketplace for a second race."

Todt has questions to answer over Vettel – Hamilton

Hamilton wants answers
Hamilton wants answers

(GMM) The FIA has questions to answer after Sebastian Vettel escaped a further penalty following the recent Baku grand prix.

That is the view of Lewis Hamilton, who in Austria said he accepts the Ferrari driver's apology for having driven intentionally into him two weeks ago.

Hamilton told a packed press conference that "respect" between the championship-dueling pair is intact, but he stood by his claim after Baku that Vettel's actions were a disgrace.

Since then, Vettel was summoned to an FIA panel in Paris on Monday but was essentially pardoned.

"My opinion stays the same," said Hamilton on Thursday.

"With all due respect, Jean (Todt) should be sitting here to answer some questions because they didn't change anything on Monday, so the message that was sent still remains the same."

No 'big difference' from new Honda – Vandoorne

Vandoorne Friday
Vandoorne Friday

(GMM) Stoffel Vandoorne has backed McLaren teammate Fernando Alonso in playing down the 'spec 3' Honda engine that is set to debut this weekend in Austria.

As McLaren and Honda apparently race towards divorce, Spaniard Alonso said he expects "nothing" from the new Honda specification.

Teammate Vandoorne told the Belgian broadcaster RTBF in Austria: "I do not think it will make a big difference.

"We will have to see if there is really a performance gain on the track in first practice.

"What is positive is that there is something new, so from that point of view any small tenths are welcome," the Belgian added.

Nico Hulkenberg spent some time trackside at the recent race in Baku, and he confirmed that the McLaren-Honda is the oddest sounding F1 car in the 2017 field.

"In the slow corners, it is by far the loudest," he told Auto Motor und Sport.

"It gargles and rattles like a truck and you wonder how it can race at all. Then when they go on the throttle, the engine suddenly becomes quiet and you can almost not hear it at all," the Renault driver added.

Perez career in 'now or never' phase – Ocon

Sergio Perez not happy his rookie teammate might be faster
Sergio Perez not happy his rookie teammate might be faster

(GMM) Sergio Perez's F1 career is in a "now or never" phase.

That is the view of his teammate, Esteban Ocon, as tensions rise between the Force India duo.

In Montreal, Mexican Perez refused an order from his team to let the Frenchman past, and in Baku they clashed on-track.

Perez was still critical of Ocon, 20, ahead of the Austrian grand prix.

"Nothing like this ever happened between me and Nico (Hulkenberg)," the 27-year-old said.

"Esteban must understand what racing means without crashing into someone."

Ocon denied there is any real tension inside the Silverstone based team.

"We speak normally, we say hello, and that's what we need inside the team," he told RMC Sport.

"I'm not really going to answer him because the team agrees that the incident in Baku was 50-50.

"I think it's normal when there are two drivers who really push to have a result.

"He is in a decisive period in his career — it is 'now or never'. I do not have that pressure," Ocon added.

"I was the champion of Formula 3 and GP3 so I think I have enough experience to fight wheel to wheel. I'm not going to change my approach."

Massa has eye on Kubica's comeback attempt

Felipe Massa
Felipe Massa

(GMM) Felipe Massa admits he will keep a close eye on former F1 driver Robert Kubica's push to return to the category.

Renault has now confirmed rumors that, after giving the Pole a test at Valencia recently, Kubica will get a more comprehensive outing at Paul Ricard in the near future.

"This second test will be to assess his capabilities to return to the highest level of competition," said team boss Cyril Abiteboul.

The news comes amid speculation Renault might oust struggling team regular Jolyon Palmer, or at least consider Kubica as an option for a full-time seat in 2018.

Kubica, who said last week his comeback chances are as high as 90 per cent, lost his Renault seat six years ago after his now permanently-injured right arm was partially severed in a rally crash.

When asked about the 32-year-old's comeback attempt, former rival Massa said in Austria: "It's very difficult to answer because we don't know exactly how he is and how is his arm.

"It would be fantastic for formula one to have him back but I really hope he's really in the position to be back in the right way and strong enough to do the whole season," he added.

Vettel denies 'oil in fuel' story hurt Ferrari

Oil in the fuel decreases power but increases total fuel you can burn
Oil in the fuel decreases power but increases total fuel you can burn

(GMM) Valtteri Bottas says he is not ready to declare that Mercedes has definitely raced ahead in the 2017 championship battle.

After Sebastian Vettel's Monaco win, Ferrari appeared to suffer an obvious drop in performance, just as the FIA clamped down on the adding of oil to fuel.

Some suspect the FIA ruling was specifically to outlaw a questionable Ferrari technology trick.

Asked if it hurt the Maranello team, championship leader Vettel said in Austria: "I don't think so.

"I think it's better to ask somebody who understands a lot more about the engine," the German added.

Mercedes driver Bottas also said it's too soon to make any definite assumptions about the current pecking order.

"I do not have confidence that we are definitely ahead of Ferrari now," said the Finn.

"Montreal and Baku are unique circuits and not similar to here or the next circuits we will be on," he said at the Red Bull Ring.

"And there is still more than half of the season to go."

Williams defends Stroll's private tests

It pays to have a billionaire father
It pays to have a billionaire father

(GMM) The next steps in Lance Stroll's private test program are not known.

This week, ex-Williams driver Jacques Villeneuve criticized his former team for organizing private tests in a 2014 car for Stroll, the son of Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll.

"It's not fair to the other drivers because he is the only one to have this privilege thanks to his money," said the 1997 world champion.

Indeed, 18-year-old Stroll's last test outing was in Austin just prior to his maiden podium in Baku.

When asked when the next test will take place, Williams deputy Claire Williams said: "We do not have detailed information about whether this private testing will continue."

Told that Williams should at least be more open about Stroll's program, she added: "You mean we need to do these tests publicly and invite the fans?

"The purpose is just to familiarize with the track so there's nothing to see," said Williams.

When asked if he will get more private testing in the near future, Stroll said in Austria: "Actually I don't know, but I don't think so."

Ferrari not confirming engine boss exit

Where is Lorenzo Sassi?
Where is Lorenzo Sassi?

(GMM) Ferrari is not confirming reports that its engine boss has left the team.

Il Giornale, a Milan daily, reports that engine designer Lorenzo Sassi has left the Maranello outfit.

There are conflicting accounts as to why, with one source saying Sassi has actually been called up by president Sergio Marchionne to the parent Fiat Chrysler.

Ferrari has not commented.

And when also asked about the rumors, championship leader Sebastian Vettel said in Austria: "I don't know what you're referring to. I think it's better to ask those a little bit higher up about these kinds of things."

Wehrlein admits Sauber atmosphere 'different'

Wehrlein not Mercedes material
Wehrlein not Mercedes material

(GMM) Pascal Wehrlein is not ruling out staying at Sauber next year.

That is despite recent rumors suggesting the shock departure of boss Monisha Kaltenborn was linked with a driver equality spat involving the young German.

Now, with his ally Kaltenborn gone, Wehrlein admits the atmosphere at Sauber is different.

"We do not have a new team boss yet," he said in Austria.

"It's different, especially without Monisha, but that's the way it is," said the 22-year-old. "I'm just trying to drive as fast as I can.

"It is something new, you can feel it in the team, but as in Baku we are trying to make the best of it."

One possible conclusion is that Wehrlein's chances of keeping his seat beyond 2017 have taken a hit, but the German says that's not the case.

"I feel comfortable here and I've already got some points," he said.

"Compared to last year we have been able to take a step forward, but my future will be decided by Mercedes," Wehrlein added. "They will say what will happen to me next year."

Massa could stay in 2018 – Williams

Will Massa be retained? All depends whether Mercedes re-signs Bottas or kicks him back down
Will Massa be retained? All depends whether Mercedes re-signs Bottas or kicks him back down

(GMM) Felipe Massa could stay in formula one beyond the end of this year.

That is the view of Williams deputy Claire Williams, after the veteran Brazilian declared this week that he is not ruling out yet another year in F1 for 2018.

Massa actually retired at the end of last year but was lured back to the British team after Valtteri Bottas got the call up to Mercedes.

So when asked if a new deal for Massa is on the cards for 2018, Williams said: "I see no reason why not.

"We are fortunate that Felipe decided to interrupt his retirement and return to the team, and this year he is working very well, scoring points and helping Lance (Stroll).

"Also with his experience, he has been very effective in discussing with Paddy Lowe how to improve the car. So if we talk about next year, firstly it will be his decision if he feels sufficiently motivated to continue," Williams added.

Alonso dismisses Vettel, Hamilton comments

Hamilton and Vettel do not want a teammate who might beat them
Hamilton and Vettel do not want a teammate who 'might' beat them

(GMM) Fernando Alonso says he is not concerned if the top drivers at Ferrari and Mercedes do not want him as their 2018 teammate.

Rumors suggest the Spaniard wants to leave the hapless McLaren-Honda project and switch to one of F1's top two teams next year.

But when asked if they would like Alonso as their teammate, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel did not sound keen.

"I'm pretty happy with the teammate I have," said Mercedes' Hamilton.

And Ferrari's Vettel added: "I'm not responsible for signing the drivers but if I had a say, I prefer Kimi."

When asked about those comments, Alonso told the Spanish press: "I don't care.

"It was a question for them, they answered and that's it.

"I think if you ask the drivers about teammates or changing teams, they will usually not say anything," said Alonso.

"Look at Force India — they are having a battle inside the team but if you ask them, no one will say anything. Everyone says he's happy, he's focused on the championship — so it's understandable," the double world champion added.

Asked specifically if he might go to Ferrari or Mercedes for 2018, Alonso answered: "I don't know."

The rumors were actually fired by Alonso's manager Flavio Briatore in Baku two weeks ago.

When asked about that, Alonso said: "He has friends there (in Baku), he was one of the promoters of the race, so it's normal for him to be asked about the future.

"But I don't think any of us has a clear choice yet or anything to say. We are working on various plans A, B, C, and they are all going to be positive and with options to win straight away next year," he added.

Failures not Verstappen's fault – Ricciardo

Verstappen breaks competitors cars with his recklessness, and breaks his car by abusing it
Verstappen breaks competitors cars with his recklessness, and breaks his car by abusing it

(GMM) Daniel Ricciardo says his Red Bull teammate is not to blame for a run of technical failures.

Amid rumors he has been offered a seat at Ferrari for 2018, Max Verstappen has not hidden his fury with his current situation at Red Bull in recent races.

His father Jos has even denied rumors they are trying to deliberately breach the Red Bull contract.

But Marca, a Spanish sports daily, quoted a driver as saying in Austria that he heard Verstappen "would not come here to race this weekend because he has signed for Ferrari".

"Then I heard yes, he is coming," the unnamed driver added.

As for Verstappen's run of technical problems, another rumor is that it could be the 19-year-old's aggressive driving style that is the problem.

"He has beaten me in the last four qualifying sessions, so maybe he's driving too fast and the engine can't take it," Ricciardo joked to Brazil's Globo.

"No, I don't think you can say Max is causing these problems."

And the Australian is also quoted by De Telegraaf: "It's not his fault. Max is just very fast.

"Last year we were pushing each other and the longer we are teammates, the more that is. I just have to make fewer mistakes," Ricciardo added.

Sainz Jr. says 2018 STR seat 'unlikely'

Carlos Sainz Jr. out of F1 after this year. If he quits Toro Rosso who will he drive for?
Carlos Sainz Jr. out of F1 after this year. If he quits Toro Rosso who will he drive for?

Carlos Sainz Jr. says that he considers a fourth year at Toro Rosso "unlikely", suggesting his Formula 1 future beyond 2017 lies elsewhere.

Sainz Jr. graduated to Formula 1 with Toro Rosso in 2015 and holds ninth in this year's championship, with six top 10 finishes from eight starts, and a best of sixth in Monaco.

Sainz Jr. remains optimistic that he can seal promotion to Red Bull for 2018, though the squad has insisted that neither Daniel Ricciardo nor Max Verstappen will be leaving.

No driver in Toro Rosso's history has embarked on a fourth full season, with Sebastien Buemi and Jean-Eric Vergne both departing upon the conclusion of their third campaign.

Sainz Jr. does not believe that he will remain with Toro Rosso next season should he be unable to graduate to Red Bull's senior operation.

"I think it's still a very long season ahead, obviously these rumors are going to come at this stage," Sainz Jr. said when quizzed about his future ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix.

"As you know, my target number one is to be with Red Bull next year, and to start fighting for podiums or wins, or whatever they are fighting for next year.

"I'm going to keep pushing for this.

"If that doesn't happen, obviously a fourth year at Toro Rosso is unlikely, and I'm not going to close the door to any opportunity."

Sainz Jr. has scored 29 points compared to team-mate Daniil Kvyat's four so far this season, with Toro Rosso holding sixth in the standings.

Renault to give Kubica second F1 test

Palmer had better start to worry
Palmer had better start to worry

Renault has announced that it will hand Robert Kubica a second Formula 1 test in the 2012-spec E20 at Paul Ricard "shortly" in order "to assess his capabilities to return to the highest level of competition".

Kubica competed in Formula 1 from 2006 to 2010 but was ruled out of action after he sustained severe arm injuries in a rally crash in early 2011.

Kubica returned to competitive action, firstly on the rallying scene and then in circuit-based categories, before climbing back into an F1 cockpit last month.

The Pole trailed the 2012-spec E20, in association with Renault, at Valencia's Ricardo Tormo Circuit, completing 115 laps, and was eager to explore the possibility of a comeback.

Following a public demonstration at Goodwood last weekend, Renault has confirmed that Kubica will "shortly" take to the track at Paul Ricard, home of next year's French Grand Prix, for a further evaluation.

Renault has confirmed that the aim of the test is to "extensively evaluate his driving capabilities".

"Whilst the first day of testing at Valencia was no more than to let Robert get reacquainted with the feel of driving again, this second test will be to assess his capabilities to return to the highest level of competition," commented Renault chief Cyril Abiteboul.

"This is a new phase in his personal and professional journey and we are proud to support him in the form of lending our infrastructure at Paul Ricard that is suitable for professional and non-professional drivers.

"There are still many hurdles for him to overcome, and he knows better than anyone else that only his performance will determine if he can one day return to being a professional driver."

Kubica claimed earlier in the week that he has an "80 to 90 per cent chance" of returning to the sport.

Hamilton still has 'utmost respect' for Vettel

Hamilton (L) and Vettel (R) and Thursday's Press Conference
Hamilton (L) and Vettel (R) and Thursday's Press Conference

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton insists he still has the "utmost respect" for title rival Sebastian Vettel in the wake of their collision in Azerbaijan, and is happy the matter has now been resolved.

Vettel ran into Hamilton as the field prepared for a restart in Baku, before gesticulating, pulling level, and making side-on-side contact, believing that he had been brake tested.

Vettel was given a 10-second stop/go penalty, though the FIA decided to explore matters further, with Vettel attending a meeting at the governing body's headquarters in Paris on Monday.

After Vettel apologized, the FIA opted to take no further action and, speaking ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix, Hamilton said he had accepted an apology from his title rival.

"I don't think it does," said Hamilton, when asked whether the incident had changed the nature of their rivalry.

"Sebastian and I spoke after the race on Monday and then, shortly after that, he messaged me… the day after I think it was.

"I just said that I still have the utmost respect for him as a driver and will continue to race him hard for the rest of the season, in the same way we always have, no less hard than we have been until now."

Hamilton had nonetheless been eager to correct Vettel's view that he had been brake tested by the Briton as they drove through Turn 15.

"My only point was I felt that saying I had brake tested him… I was saying, 'I hope you can correct that publicly'," Hamilton commented.

"People watching felt that [brake testing] was something I did, the data showed that was not the case, in actual fact he [Vettel] accelerated.

"The goal [for Vettel] was to be as close as possible, it was an error of judgement [from Vettel], my point was I hoped he'd make that clear.

"I had no intentions [of brake testing], there was no need for me to do that as I was in the lead, I accept his apology and move forwards."

Vettel, who issued a public apology in the aftermath of Monday's hearing, expressed gratitude regarding Hamilton's approach.

"I'm happy to hear it doesn't seem to have an impact [on the relationship]; what I did was wrong and I apologized," said Vettel.

"I did a mistake and can understand if he's upset, but it's nice to hear we can move forward, the respect we have on track and off track helps us in this regard."

When asked why it had taken him until eight days after the race to issue a public apology, Vettel replied: "I don't feel the need to talk to all of you [media]… only when I have to.

"I think the person I had to talk to was Lewis, that was the most important [thing].

"On Monday I went to Paris to see the FIA, we had the hearing, they asked me my opinion in terms of what happened, to run through the incident, that's what I did.

"I don't think there was a need in that regard to talk to you [the media] straight after, you're not the most important people.

"As I said, the most important for me is the guy I'm racing with, and that's Lewis, and that's who I decided to call first."

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