Latest F1 news in brief – Tuesday

  • It really is an 'epic' Hamilton-Vettel duel
    It really is an 'epic' Hamilton-Vettel duel

    Press hails 'epic' Hamilton-Vettel duel

  • Alonso contract talks 'like chess' – Hamilton
  • Wolff not ruling out Alonso for Mercedes
  • Strong Ferrari 'good for F1' – Zetsche
  • 'Too early' for contract talks – Bottas
  • Hamilton denies training less than rivals
  • McLaren Exec Dir Zak Brown Optimistic For Formula 1's Future
  • Wolff: Mercedes took risk with final stint
  • Horner: Ricciardo's engine saved mid-race

Press hails 'epic' Hamilton-Vettel duel

(GMM) F1's international press has hailed the return of a close battle for the world championship.

In recent years, Mercedes has utterly dominated at the front, but this year Lewis Hamilton is fighting back at Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel's points lead after five races.

Italy's La Repubblica said the Spanish grand prix last weekend "rekindled memories of the past after years of boredom in formula one".

Indeed, even with the top teams unveiling major car improvements for Barcelona, Hamilton noted that "It's strange that we are still within a tenth of a second".

"This is what we want to see in formula one," his boss Toto Wolff added.

Germany's Bild agreed after Barcelona: "This is Hamilton's toughest fight — wheel to wheel victory against Vettel.

"For three years he raced only against Rosberg but it is obvious that only now is he having to give everything to win."

L'Equipe, the famous French sports daily, added: "This was a rarely spectacular, dramatic, exciting grand prix with a formidable winner. But the difference with the man in red was ultimately tiny."

La Gazzetta dello Sport, another famous sports newspaper from Italy, noted: "Hamilton and Vettel is an epic rivalry that reminds of Federer and Nadal, or Ronaldo and Messi.

"Vettel fought like a warrior, wheel to wheel with Hamilton who has rediscovered the intensity of his golden days."

And Corriere della Sera continued: "Hamilton celebrated at the end, but this world championship is open as never before.

"They are two champions who could not be more different in character but each testify that even in a technological F1, the drivers are still crucial."

Alonso contract talks 'like chess' – Hamilton

Will Alonso be Hamilton's teammate in 2018?
Will Alonso be Hamilton's teammate in 2018?

(GMM) Lewis Hamilton says Fernando Alonso's forthcoming deliberations and negotiations about 2018 will be like "a game of chess".

The Spanish grand prix winner was asked by the Spanish broadcaster Movistar to comment on the high profile struggles of Alonso, who switched from Ferrari to the ill-fated McLaren-Honda project three years ago.

"F1 is an unusual sport," Hamilton said.

"You can be the best prepared, the fittest, the most talented and still have nothing. It's terrible and something that I don't like about the sport," said the Mercedes driver.

And so he said an out-of-contract top driver like Alonso finding the right seat "is like a game of chess".

"You have to make your moves with diligence and care, taking the right decisions at the right time to be in the right place at the right time," added Hamilton.

Wolff not ruling out Alonso for Mercedes

Alonso is at Indy the next two weeks
Alonso is at Indy the next two weeks

(GMM) Toto Wolff is not ruling out making a bid to sign Fernando Alonso for 2018.

The Spaniard is on the market, potentially out of patience with McLaren-Honda and keen to finally push for a third career title next year.

But earlier, boss Wolff said Alonso might not be a good fit for Mercedes, given the explosiveness of his character and his earlier relationship with Lewis Hamilton.

But Wolff now tells the Spanish newspapers Marca and El Mundo Deportivo: "You cannot say 'no' in advance — that would be stupid.

"What you can say is that if he is not the best, he is one of the best out there. His energy and motivation are still there.

"He's in the final stages of his career, but that does not mean he cannot win races and titles in the next two or three years," Wolff added.

But as McLaren's former works engine partner, Mercedes was notably burned by Alonso's famously fiery character in the past.

Wolff said: "If you could choose the Fernando today as he is, as a person, it would be much easier than to choose him with all the historical context.

"Lewis plays a key role in this. I think a driver always accepts a challenge, and Fernando would be a challenge.

"But it's much more than just Lewis feeling right with Fernando. The whole dynamic of the team is important. Everything has to fit, but I think Fernando is a different person to how he was in the past," Wolff added.

However, Wolff also said he is happy with Mercedes' current driver lineup, even though Valtteri Bottas is only under contract for a single year.

"The real situation is that, with respect to Alonso, there are other drivers who are a priority — Valtteri and Lewis first of all.

"We are also excited by our young talents and there are others who please me too. Fernando is part of this group but not more. I fully trust Valtteri, but there are many possibilities for 2018.

"Then there will be a big change in 2019 when all the great drivers will be available," he added.

Strong Ferrari 'good for F1' – Zetsche

Dieter Zetsche hugs Hamilton after winning in Spain
Dieter Zetsche hugs Hamilton after winning in Spain

(GMM) Daimler chairman Dieter Zetsche says Mercedes' close title fight with Ferrari this year is good for formula one.

With a quarter of the 2017 season now in the past, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel are tied on wins and separated in the standings by a mere 6 points.

"For the sport and all of us, a tight battle like that is good," Zetsche, the boss of the Mercedes parent Daimler, told Sky.

"Of course my nerves don't agree, but we are happy that Ferrari has made great progress.

"I have always said that the best way to win is by a margin of 1 point in the final race," Zetsche added.

'Too early' for contract talks – Bottas

Bottas will need to do better to keep Mercedes seat
Bottas will need to do better to keep Mercedes seat

(GMM) Valtteri Bottas' hopes of hanging onto his plum seat at Mercedes appear to have taken a step forward.

The Finn, who was given only a one-year deal for 2017 after replacing the suddenly-retired Nico Rosberg, won his first grand prix in Russia late last month.

At the next race in Barcelona, he was spotted in conversation with Dieter Zetsche, the chairman of Mercedes' parent company Daimler as he made a rare paddock visit.

The Finnish newspaper Ilta Sanomat reports that Bottas' chances of keeping the seat for 2018 are now higher.

But Bottas said: "It is too early to talk about a contract extension.

"We are fully focused on the championship this year, as we are battling with Ferrari at every circuit.

"Of course, at some point we will have to start negotiations about the future, but that time has not arrived yet," the 27-year-old former Williams driver added.

Hamilton denies training less than rivals

Hamilton was breathing heavily while his rivals sounded ok
Hamilton was breathing heavily while his rivals sounded ok

(GMM) Lewis Hamilton says he trains "just as much" as his F1 rivals.

The triple world champion's comments come after Barcelona, where although Hamilton won he was also heard on the radio apparently struggling physically with the demands of the faster 2017 cars.

"Physically, yeah, I probably lost two kilos in that race. It's draining," said the Mercedes driver, who said he goes without a drink in 2017 to reduce car weight.

"I was a little bit tired after that one."

Some might surmise that Hamilton struggled in Barcelona more than some other drivers due to his high-profile lifestyle, as he has less time to work out.

But he told Men's Health Australia: "I'm no less focused than any of my peers. They live a different life. They go home and are not pictured at events.

"I train just as much as them — maybe more. But I do this other stuff. I have so much energy," he added.

McLaren Exec Dir Zak Brown Optimistic For Formula 1's Future

Zak Brown (R) thinks F1 in good hands
Zak Brown (R) thinks F1 in good hands

The McLaren Formula 1 team has not won a race since '12, and after "suffering ongoing engine problems" with its partner Honda, it does not "look like it will any time soon," according to Kate Magee of CAMPAIGN LIVE.

McLaren Exec Dir Zak Brown has taken the "unusual move" of allowing driver Fernando Alonso to skip the Monaco Grand Prix to compete at the Indianapolis 500. Brown will "need to use all his commercial nous to find a new title sponsor" for the company for the '18 season — something the team has "lacked since Vodafone's contract expired" in '13. In '15, the top 10 F1 teams "only raised" $750M in sponsorship revenue, down from $950M three years before.

Brown believes Liberty Media will "be a good thing for the sport."

He said, "We’ve got strong times ahead of us. The previous owners were financial owners with a short time horizon who were not invested in the sport. They weren’t bad guys but after 10 years of no investment, it is exciting to have a media and sports expert with a long-range view." He also rejected the idea that the shift to pay-TV is a "problem."

Brown: "Sport now is consumed so many different ways. As long as the reduction of TV audience is replaced with a good spike in consumption in other media, it's not a loss of audience, it's a shift to other forms."

Liberty Media identified expansion in the U.S. as a "key goal."

Brown thinks U.S. companies "overlook the sport" because F1 is seen as European. He said, "Global companies that are based in North America miss out because they have a bit of a U.S. view, because that’s what’s in front of them.

There are a lot more global U.S.-based companies that could probably be in Formula 1, but it doesn’t have enough presence. … What the U.S. needs is a second race. … I don't think we'll see it in 2018, but perhaps in 2019."

In particular, he identified the tech companies as "great potential partners" for F1.

Brown also encouraged "more collaboration" between those involved with NASCAR and other American sports and those in F1. CAMPAIGN LIVE

Wolff: Mercedes took risk with final stint

Mercedes strategy won the race for Hamilton
Mercedes strategy won the race for Hamilton

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says the team took a "risk" with Lewis Hamilton's final stint, and hailed his charge's "supreme drive" to victory at the Spanish Grand Prix.

Hamilton started from pole position but was overhauled off the line by Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel, with the order maintained after the first round of stops.

However, Mercedes diverged strategically from Ferrari, with Hamilton placed onto the Mediums, meaning he would run the final stint on Softs.

Stoffel Vandoorne's stricken McLaren necessitated the use of the Virtual Safety Car and, as the neutralization period ended, Mercedes brought Hamilton in for his final stop.

Vettel followed suit a lap later, changing from Softs to Mediums, and narrowly held onto the lead, the pair rubbing wheels through Turn 1, with Hamilton taking to the run-off.

Hamilton regrouped and, within a few laps, breezed past Vettel, before controlling the remainder of the race to capture his second victory of the season.

"It was an epic Grand Prix, racing simply doesn't go more wheel to wheel – and we were treated to some fantastic racing for the win," said Wolff.

"The win was one for the whole team: an amazing drive from Lewis, great calls by our strategy team, good defensive driving by Valtteri [Bottas], the fastest pit-stops of the race and a quick, consistent upgraded car.

"It wasn't an easy race after we lost position at the start: we were on the back foot, so when Vettel covered the early undercut, we sent Lewis long and took the Medium tire.

"There was not a lot we could do so we tried to extend Lewis's stint and hope that towards the end of the race he had a better tire situation.

"Then we went on a remote strategy – putting the Medium tires on and keeping the Softs for the end to be able to attack. Hopefully attack!

"Then the VSC came and that forced us to rethink our strategy. Our strategy group opted now to do the opposite of what was planned: to pit at the very end of the VSC to make it impossible for Sebastian to react.

"Our timing was perfect! I take my hat off to James [Vowles, strategy chief] and his guys for that coup.

"After that, it came down to some brilliant driving and then managing the tires and engine just right to the final lap. This was Lewis' day with a supreme drive."

Mercedes extended its lead over Ferrari in the Constructors' Championship to eight points.

Horner: Ricciardo's engine saved mid-race
Christian Horner believes Red Bull improved its RB13 by 0.4s per lap at the Spanish Grand Prix, despite remaining behind Mercedes and Ferrari, adding it turned down Daniel Ricciardo's engine in race trim.

Red Bull emerged third-best across the opening 'flyaway' events, unable to compete on merit with the lead pair, but displaying substantially superior pace than the chasing midfield pack.

Max Verstappen reduced Red Bull's deficit to 0.557s across one lap in qualifying, but the Dutchman was eliminated at the first corner, following contact with Kimi Räikkönen.

Ricciardo, who qualified over a second behind Lewis Hamilton, picked up the pieces, running fourth, which became third when Valtteri Bottas retired amid engine woes.

Ricciardo finished on the podium, but crossed the line 73 seconds adrift of Hamilton, with Horner revealing Red Bull adopted a cautious approach once the picture of the race was clear.

"Daniel obviously had a pretty lonely race, benefitting from Bottas' retirement," Horner explained.

"Pretty much halfway through the race we turned the engine down to try and save engine life.

"Obviously it's got to do quite a few events, and the pace to the front running cars was pretty significant.

"We've still got plenty to do, we made some progress here this weekend, it's given us a very clear development direction, hopefully we'll be looking to capitalise on that on coming races."

Horner conceded that Red Bull's deficit was larger in race-trim than over one lap, believing it has to make progress in understanding the tyres.

"I think the delta was a lot bigger in the race," Horner commented on Red Bull's lack of pace.

"Daniel didn't look as happy with his car this weekend as Max but I'm not suggesting Max would have been 20 seconds up the road, there's still issues in that when you have a gap like that.

"The way you're working the tyres is a key element, particularly on this track, it gives an interesting workout on the tyres.

"We can see it's an area where we're giving away performance [as] we look relatively more competitive in the second half of the race than the first."

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