Latest F1 news in brief – Sunday

  • Lauda says Kimi Raikkonen came out of his stupor. We're not so sure.

    Raikkonen mood key to pole – Lauda

  • Montoya not surprised by impressive Alonso
  • Pirelli agrees to drop hardest tire compounds
  • 2017 Mercedes car 'a diva' – Wolff
  • 'No reason' for Mercedes driver change – Lauda
  • Renault 'on track' to join top F1 teams
  • F1 career 'already over' – Button
  • Button to start Monaco GP from pit lane
  • Sainz Jr. surprised by qualifying result
  • Hamilton: 'Weekend done' after Q2 exit

Raikkonen mood key to pole – Lauda
(GMM) Niki Lauda thinks a good mood is the key to Kimi Raikkonen's return to the top in formula one.

More than 3000 days separated the Finn's last pole from his qualifying triumph at Monaco on Saturday.

"Kimi has woken up," F1 legend and Mercedes team chairman Niki Lauda told the German broadcaster RTL.

Lauda said he sensed something different about the 37-year-old in the hours before he secured pole for Ferrari.

"He happened to be walking next to me and suddenly he hugged me, which he has never done before, and said 'Niki, how are you?'

"I didn't know, but he said he had become a father for the second time. I told him about my children too and it was a very pleasant conversation," Lauda added.

"I thought 'This guy is in a good way', and if that is correct, then the accelerator pedal is correct. And now he has a performance that no one expected."

However, right behind Raikkonen on Sunday's grid is his Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel, who has a perfect opportunity to take a big points bite out of his title rival Lewis Hamilton.

So will there be team orders?

"As long as his car works, he will not let Sebastian go. Kimi wants to win," Lauda predicted.

Raikkonen says that sort of approach will be nothing new.

"I don't know why people expect that there will be something different to how it's been the last two years. Just trying to make a stupid story out of nothing," he said.

Montoya not surprised by impressive Alonso

Will Alonso win the Indy 500 on his first try like Montoya did?
Will Alonso win the Indy 500 on his first try like Montoya did?

(GMM) Former F1 driver Juan Pablo Montoya says he is not surprised by Fernando Alonso's impressive debut so far ahead of the Indy 500.

Many have expressed surprise that, during a brief one-race sojourn from his regular F1 duties, Spaniard Alonso touched down at Indy to qualify fifth.

"So far he has done a good job but I expected nothing less from him," Montoya, who is also in the 2017 Indy 500 field, told the Spanish daily Marca.

"Maybe the American drivers who don't know him were expecting something else, but I started out with him in formula one and knew he would not have any problems here," the Colombian added.

When asked if Alonso's F1 peers would have done a similarly good job, Montoya answered: "No, not all of them, obviously.

"I think Sebastian Vettel, someone like that, would also do well though," he said.

Pirelli agrees to drop hardest tire compounds

No more Orange hard tires
No more Orange hard tires

(GMM) Pirelli has confirmed reports it will drop the hardest tire compounds from its selection for July's British grand prix.

Following recent controversy, the drivers lobbied F1's official supplier to drop the hard compounds for Silverstone.

Pirelli has agreed.

"This is an experiment," the Italian marque's F1 chief Mario Isola told Auto Motor und Sport.

"We are being quite aggressive so I cannot say whether we will continue like that in the second half of the season. We will have to wait for the results," he said.

But many teams and drivers think Pirelli's 2017 tires are too conservative across the range, especially at Monaco where even the soft tires are too 'hard'.

"Actually we need a special, extremely soft tire for here," Isola admitted. "Here, even on the ultrasoft tires you could do a complete race distance without any significant wear.

"It would not be a problem to develop such a tire, but unfortunately we have no way to test them. Taking it to Barcelona would be quite pointless," he said.

2017 Mercedes car 'a diva' – Wolff

Hamilton could not extract time out of car no matter how hard he tried
Hamilton could not extract time out of car no matter how hard he tried

(GMM) Toto Wolff has described Mercedes' 2017 car as a "diva".

A 'diva', of course, is a talented yet temperamental individual, and so it proved at Monaco where Lewis Hamilton struggled to master the silver car at Monaco.

"I believe we have shown so far that we have a fast car," Mercedes boss Wolff is quoted by German media.

"But we also seem to have a bit of a diva, as far as bringing the tires into the optimum window. So we have to do better on that."

He denied that the problem at Monaco is simply the difference in wheelbase length between the long Mercedes and the comparatively 'short' Ferrari.

"If we had been the fastest, everyone would have said that the long wheelbase is no problem. Now they're saying it's to blame," said Wolff.

Team chairman Niki Lauda says he also sees a more fundamental handling issue with the 2017 Mercedes.

"I have talked to Lewis at length," the F1 legend told Bild am Sonntag.

"Our car is fast but restless. Driving fast requires more work than driving the perfectly-tuned Ferrari," he added.

And so on Sunday, on the tight Monaco streets, Hamilton faces a tough task to limit the damage to his championship rival Sebastian Vettel.

"Overtaking is impossible here," Lauda is quoted by Kolner Express newspaper. "Lewis needs to drive like a madman."

'No reason' for Mercedes driver change – Lauda

Wolff and Lauda are negotiating down Alonso's salary demands
Wolff and Lauda are negotiating down Alonso's salary demands

(GMM) Niki Lauda has given another clear hint that Mercedes is not planning a driver change ahead of the 2018 season.

Lewis Hamilton is already under contract, but there has been speculation either Sebastian Vettel or Fernando Alonso could wear silver next year after Valtteri Bottas' one-year deal expires.

But team chairman Lauda told Bild am Sonntag newspaper that Vettel is happy and competitive at Ferrari, while Spaniard Alonso is "absolutely no topic" for Mercedes.

"We have two great drivers and no reason at all to change anything," the F1 legend added.

Asked when he will extend the Bottas deal, Lauda answered: "Now let's look at this for a while and then we'll see. But there is nothing at all stopping it."

Renault 'on track' to join top F1 teams
(GMM) Renault is on track as it pushes towards the top in formula one.

The French carmaker returned to full works status in F1 last year.

But as former team champion Fernando Alonso goes on the driver market for 2018, Renault has delivered the message that it will not be ready to give the Spaniard a title-winning car.

Current driver Nico Hulkenberg, however, told Le Point: "We are progressing. We are on track."

Team boss Cyril Abiteboul agrees: "Next year, Renault will be able to settle in just behind the top teams Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull."

The report said "the majority of the staff" at Enstone and Viry are already working on the 2018 car, with Abiteboul promising an "extremely innovative" car-engine package.

F1 career 'already over' – Button

Button says F1 career already over
Button says F1 career already over

(GMM) Jenson Button has played down speculation he might be considering a full-time return to formula one.

The 2009 world champion retired at the end of 2017, but he signed a two-year deal for 2017 and 2018 to be McLaren's reserve and ambassador.

So when Fernando Alonso headed to the Indy 500, Button duly returned and enjoyed filling in at Monaco.

Earlier in the Principality, the Briton hinted he might be tempted to make a full-time return. But when asked if the checkered flag on Sunday will mean his F1 career is now over, 37-year-old Button answered: "It already was last November!

"I think if any of you guys (reporters) were invited to drive in Monaco, you might agree as well," he smiled.

So when asked if he might be tempted back for more one-off appearances, Button said: "Who knows, but I don't have plans for that.

"As far as I know, the team has no plans to change the drivers it has either. So I'm definitely not going to be in formula one this year."

Button to start Monaco GP from pit lane
Jenson Button will start Sunday afternoon's Monaco Grand Prix from the pit lane, with McLaren-Honda opting to change the set-up on his MCL32 after qualifying.

Button returned to Formula 1 action at this weekend's event in place of Fernando Alonso, who is in the United States and contesting the Indianapolis 500.

Button displayed impressive pace in Thursday's practice sessions, getting within half a tenth of regular driver Stoffel Vandoorne, before running into power unit trouble.

An issue with the MGU-H was detected following second practice, meaning a new MGU-H and Turbocharger were required, the fifth version of both elements used this season.

As it was the first time any of the six power unit elements have been fitted for a fifth time, Button received two penalties, one 10-place and one five-place, totaling 15.

Button went on to qualify ninth, and was due to start from the very back of the grid following the application of his combined penalty, but will now move to the pit lane.

"We've changed the set-up on JB's car, which means he'll be starting from the pit lane this afternoon," read a brief statement issued by McLaren-Honda ahead of the race.

Button will therefore miss out on a full F1 start on his brief return.

Sainz Jr. surprised by qualifying result

Sainz Jr.
Sainz Jr.

Toro Rosso's Carlos Sainz Jr. has admitted that he did not expect to finish the Monaco Grand Prix qualifying hour as the sixth-fastest driver.

Sainz Jr. and team-mate Daniil Kvyat showed competitive pace across the practice sessions, both finishing inside the top 10 in all three outings.

Despite their strong displays, a performance increase from the rest of the midfield in qualifying left the pair scrapping to reach the pole position shootout.

Kvyat narrowly missed out in 11th position, blaming his exit on the yellow flags for Stoffel Vandoorne's crash, but Sainz Jr. made it through.

Sainz Jr. went on to qualify sixth, behind only the Ferrari drivers, Red Bull drivers and Valtteri Bottas' Mercedes, after delivering a "very good" lap.

"It's a good surprise for all of us," said Sainz Jr.

"It's something that we really wanted because it has been a tricky first five races for us, and I think we all expected a bit more from the car.

"Suddenly to get this P6 around Monaco I think is the best push for everyone.

"It was a lot closer than on Thursday; on Thursday we were easily the fourth-fastest team on track. But the midfield teams, caught up quite a lot, a lot more than we expected.

"We were 11th, 12th, ninth, something like that in Q1, so we had to start going flat out in Q1, something I don't like doing around Monaco.

"Everyone is very happy [with the result], especially with the Q3 lap, because it puts us back where we've been all weekend as the fourth-fastest team.

"I was a couple of tenths behind Ricciardo, so that lap in Q3 was definitely very good."

Speaking about his tactics for the race, Sainz Jr. refuted any idea of simply defending his position.

"To go into a race defending is I think the worst thing you can do to your approach and to your self-esteem," confirmed Sainz.

"I'm going to attack at the start and then I'm going to be patient. It's a long race, more than 70 laps. You need to be quite lucky with the Safety Car with timing.

"We need to keep an eye on the midfield because they are going to try some crazy things, some might work, some might not work."

Hamilton: 'Weekend done' after Q2 exit
Lewis Hamilton believes his Monaco Grand Prix is "pretty much done" after he dropped out in the second phase of qualifying on Saturday.

Hamilton led proceedings in Thursday's first session, but set-up changes left him only eighth in second practice, before recovering to fifth when action resumed on Saturday morning.

However, Hamilton was down in 10th in Q1 and had to abandon his first run in Q2 after sliding through Massenet, narrowly missing the barriers as he gathered the moment.

Hamilton's benchmark left him a lowly 14th and his final attempt at reaching Q3 was only on the brink of the top 10 times, before the situation became academic when Stoffel Vandoorne crashed.

Hamilton was forced to back off, leaving him in 14th place, though will be promoted one spot on the grid due to Jenson Button's engine-related penalty.

"That's pretty much the weekend done, so tomorrow will just be driving around in whatever position outside of the top 10," said Hamilton.

"I will try and get up as high as I can but it's hard to overtake here, so it's going to be a nice Sunday drive tomorrow, I'd imagine."

Hamilton, who admitted he could not explain his pace deficit, labelled the timing of Vandoorne's crash as a "little bit unfortunate" but conceded a leading position would have been unlikely.

"I think that lap may have just got me into the top 10," he said on the effort he was producing prior to Vandoorne's crash.

"Then I probably would have struggled to be in the top five [in Q3] with the pace I had, whatever issue I had with the car.

"It's great to see Valtteri [what] was able to extract; the performance of the car. We'll have to figure out why I couldn't.

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