Latest F1 news in brief – Saturday

  • Adrian Newey in Spain Friday
    Adrian Newey in Spain Friday

    Newey denies 'new' Red Bull in Spain

  • Todt eyes third term as FIA president
  • Grosjean names non-GPDA members
  • Alonso plays down tennis criticism
  • Pirelli defends tire pressure increase
  • Bottas must keep Hamilton points gap small – Massa
  • Vandoorne plays down regular Alonso defeats
  • Force India against Mercedes/Honda deal
  • Hamilton hails 'amazing' Mercedes effort
  • Vettel 'not very happy' with initial balance

Newey denies 'new' Red Bull in Spain
(GMM) Max Verstappen says Red Bull is "still the third team" in F1, despite high expectations about the team's car upgrade for Barcelona.

Some reports suggested the team's chassis upgrade warranted the description of the car as a 'B' spec.

But designer Adrian Newey played that down. "This is not a new car. Not even half-new. It's a normal upgrade," he told Auto Motor und Sport.

However, team boss Christian Horner thinks Red Bull nonetheless succeeded in closing the gap to Mercedes and Ferrari.

As for the 'B' car, he said: "I think that was probably overstated slightly in various media outlets, but it's a pretty significant upgrade.

"I think we are closer to Ferrari and Mercedes than we've been at any point so far this season," Horner added.

Still, Newey acknowledged that he has more work to do.

"I have been quite involved in other projects for the last two years and so there have been difficulties in communicating with my colleagues," he said. "We will improve that."

He played down claims Red Bull's biggest problems for 2017 were 'correlation' issues between the wind tunnel and the track, and the FIA's clampdown on clever suspension systems.

"It would be foolish to deny that," said Newey. "But the suspension doesn't explain everything."

So at the end of the day, Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull have all made fairly equal steps forward in Barcelona, with Lewis Hamilton surmising: "Everyone's taken a step forward. So nothing has really changed."

Todt eyes third term as FIA president
(GMM) FIA president Jean Todt will push to be elected for a third consecutive term as the head of F1's governing body.

The Frenchman confirmed his intentions in a letter that said under his leadership "the FIA is stronger and more united now that it has ever been".

"Over coming months, my team and I will lay out our detailed program for the term ahead," Todt added.

Todt, 71, became FIA president in late 2009.

Grosjean names non-GPDA members

Grosjean
Grosjean

(GMM) Romain Grosjean has hit out at F1 drivers who are not members of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association.

The Haas driver has just been appointed a director of the safety-oriented body, which is also led by president Alex Wurz and fellow GPDA director Sebastian Vettel.

But Grosjean said there are too many active drivers who are not members at all.

"Formula one is changing, and we as drivers could achieve more if we were a unit of 20 athletes," he is quoted by Speed Week.

"I think it's ok to have different opinions, but we must unite our sport. We all want more from Liberty and we can do that better if we speak with one voice."

Asked which F1 drivers are missing, Grosjean did not hesitate to pull out his mobile phone.

"I can tell you exactly who is not with us. Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen, Stroll, Massa, Wehrlein, Sirotkin, Celis, Raikkonen, Hulkenberg and di Resta," said the Swiss-born Frenchman.

"When I entered F1, I wanted to be a part of it right away. So I'm a little surprised that so many are not. We're working on it."

Alonso plays down tennis criticism
(GMM) Fernando Alonso has responded to criticism of his decision to swap the F1 track for a tennis court on Friday.

The Spaniard's McLaren-Honda nightmare continued in Barcelona practice, when his engine spectacularly failed on the first lap.

But instead of staying at the Circuit de Catalunya afterwards, he left with his manager and trainer to play tennis.

"There are busy days ahead with all the travelling between America and Europe, I cannot train a lot, so I said I'd rather train than sit around in the paddock for two hours," Alonso explained afterwards.

"What am I to do? Maybe some people misunderstood my action, but it was not about making fun of the work of the team," he is quoted by Speed Week.

"It was about doing a little bit of training and getting my head clear. And that's exactly what I did," Alonso added.

It is the third consecutive year of Alonso's McLaren misadventure, but he insists he is not banging his fist on Honda's table.

"It is not about my career, my skills and my reputation," he insisted. "It is about Honda and their money and their image," he said.

"I try to support the team as much as possible and give everything in the car. I think the problem is bigger for Honda than for me."

Pirelli defends tire pressure increase

Pirelli Tires
Pirelli Tires

(GMM) Pirelli has defended its decision to ramp up the mandatory minimum tire pressures in Barcelona.

Following criticism in 2016, F1's tire supplier agreed to drop tire pressures for this year, to the collective relief of the teams and drivers.

But in Spain, the pressures were put back up by 2 PSI.

Pirelli's Mario Isola explained: "We got the new downforce data from the teams three weeks before the race and the numbers were massively higher than before.

"We have simply reacted to that," he told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

However, Isola said the starting pressures in Barcelona could be seen as precautionary.

"After the first day, we will look at the situation again. When everything is in the safe zone, we will go back down with the pressures," he said.

Indeed, it is believed teams can now run the usual lower pressures from Saturday practice.

Bottas must keep Hamilton points gap small – Massa

Valtteri Bottas
Valtteri Bottas

(GMM) Valtteri Bottas needs to keep up his run of good form to avoid serving as Lewis Hamilton's number 2.

That is the view of Felipe Massa, who for the last several years was Bottas' teammate at Williams.

But Bottas has switched to Mercedes for 2017, and in Russia won his first grand prix, closing the points gap to Hamilton to just 10 points.

Massa says the Finn now needs to keep that gap small.

"To be in a position to compete with Hamilton for the title, he must finish ahead of him in the next two or three races," the Brazilian veteran told the Spanish newspaper El Pais.

"If Lewis gets 20 or 25 points ahead of him, then he (Bottas) will have to work for him for the rest of the year. It's that way because Raikkonen will also work for Vettel this year," Massa added.

Vandoorne plays down regular Alonso defeats

Stoffel Vandoorne
Stoffel Vandoorne

(GMM) Stoffel Vandoorne has played down the fact that he usually trails McLaren-Honda teammate Fernando Alonso's pace.

The Belgian entered F1 this year as a highly rated rookie, but amid the team's performance crisis is normally outpaced by his experienced teammate.

However, Vandoorne is looking on the bright side of the McLaren-Honda crisis.

"There are worse things in life than being a McLaren-Honda driver in formula one," he told the Belgian newspaper La Derniere Heure.

"I certainly did not expect at the start of the season that it would be so hard, but I'm keeping a cool head," the 25-year-old said.

"I always enjoy coming to the circuit to drive, even if at the moment we really don't have the chance to race. But I remain confident that one day we will have a good package," Vandoorne added.

As for being regularly outpaced by two-time champion Alonso, he insisted: "With a less good car, experience is always even more important.

"I did not always have the same equipment as him, and here again he (Alonso) started with pieces that I will only get on Saturday," Vandoorne revealed in Barcelona.

Force India against Mercedes/Honda deal

Perez in the Force India
Perez in the Force India

Force India has stated that it would not support an agreement which leads to Mercedes helping Honda overcome its current reliability and performance problems.

As McLaren's engine partner continues to struggle to produce a competitive engine, speculation has grown about a potential deal between the Japanese firm and Mercedes.

However, when the topic was addressed at the Spanish Grand Prix, Bob Fernley, Deputy Team Principal of Force India, which is supplied by Mercedes, opposed such an idea.

"As a team that's not only paid for its engines, but contributed to the development of them, I would certainly be very negative towards sharing that technology with another team that it a competitor of ours," said Fernley, after Mercedes boss Toto Wolff stated that "I'm not commenting".

Wolff was later pushed on the issue and insisted that a deal has not been done.

"We are not doing anything for Honda; that is the current status quo," said Wolff.

"So, unless that situation changes, I don't want to contribute to rumors out there, which are false, damaging for Honda and create hardened standpoints from teams or other stakeholders."

He added: "We'll see what happens [in the future]."

Honda has refused to comment on the rumors.

Hamilton hails 'amazing' Mercedes effort

Hamilton in the Aldo Costa Mercedes
Hamilton in the Aldo Costa Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton praised his Mercedes team for an "amazing" effort with its Spanish Grand Prix update package, which is working "just as we expected".

Mercedes dominated first practice, finishing around a second clear of the pack, and retained a one-two in FP2, albeit with a smaller advantage over its main rivals.

Mercedes ended the day three-tenths clear of the fastest Ferrari, and six-tenths clear of the fastest Red Bull, and Hamilton was pleased with his day of work.

"First practice was very, very good," said Hamilton.

"In second practice, the track changed and shifted quite a lot, so it was slippery and quite a lot slower for everyone, especially with the gusts of wind.

"It was massively challenging, but still fun nonetheless.

"The team has done an amazing job with the upgrades and the car is working just as we expected."

Hamilton also put a difficult Russian Grand Prix behind him, adding: "It's been a much better start to the weekend for me than in Sochi, so I'm very happy.

"We've just got to keep our heads down and keep working, we want to be number one."

Bottas shared Hamilton's optimism over Mercedes' updates, despite an off-track excursion in the closing stages of FP2, when he took to the gravel at Turn 7/8.

"Today was an important one for us with the new upgrade package on the car," he said.

"Our target was to evaluate if the new upgrades are working well and it seems like they are. It's way too early to tell exactly where we are, but everything seems to be working well so far.

"It's always nice to start the weekend in a positive way, but the main days are Saturday and Sunday. As always, we will work hard to find any performance.

"I hope we can squeeze some more performance out of the package."

Vettel 'not very happy' with initial balance

Vettel on Friday
Vettel on Friday

Sebastian Vettel described himself as "not very happy" with the balance of his Ferrari after the first day of practice for the Spanish Grand Prix.

Ferrari started the weekend's action in Barcelona around a second adrift of championship leader Mercedes, while Vettel lost some track time with a gearbox glitch.

It closed the gap to three-tenths in FP2, with Kimi Räikkönen the quicker of the Ferrari drivers, as Vettel suffered a late off-track excursion at Turn 4.

Asked if Ferrari's car feels as strong as it did over the first four races of the season, Vettel replied: "I think [the car] works here as well, but not so well yet.

"Today I wasn't very happy with the feeling I could get, but I can also feel that the car is quick. It's a question of getting it [the balance] right.

"It was quite slippery, but I think it was due to the conditions."

On the subject of the upgrade packages applied up and down the pit lane, and which team has potentially made the biggest step, Vettel added: "I don't know who brought the most updates.

"I don't think it matters who brought the most, I think it matters who brought the best.

"Some of the updates are more visual than others. I'm happy with what we brought. Some of the stuff you can see, some of the stuff you will not see."

Räikkönen also hit technical trouble in the other Ferrari, as his engineer repeatedly told him to cool the engine in FP2, while he conducted race simulations.

"It was a difficult day overall," the Finn summed up.

"I think the conditions were very tricky, especially at the end, but it's the same for everybody.

"It's pretty normal after [pre-season] testing, the circuit feels always very good, then we come [for the race] in the summer and it's more slippery and tricky.

"It wasn't an easy day, but we kept trying things and we'll see were we come out tomorrow."

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