Latest F1 news in brief – Monday

  • Alonso could leave McLaren and Honda after this season
    Alonso could leave McLaren and Honda after this season

    Alonso leaving exit open for 2018

  • Ricciardo plays down 'B' car hopes
  • Bottas starts bid for 2018 Mercedes contract
  • Vettel: Victory chance lost at the start
  • Red Bull suspects brake issues unrelated
  • Wolff 'very proud' of Bottas after first win
  • Ecclestone: "It's difficult to make people look stupid. If they are, they are."

Alonso leaving exit open for 2018
(GMM) Fernando Alonso has admitted again that he could leave the McLaren-Honda project at the end of the season.

It comes after an horror Sunday for the Spaniard in Russia, as his car ground to a halt before the grand prix even started.

Obviously angry, Alonso tried to be philosophical.

"These are things that happen in the sport," he told the Spanish broadcaster Movistar.

"As for me, I tried this weekend to drive as fast as I can, helped the team in the way I could and now I'm going home. Next is Barcelona, but if I get there and I cannot run, what am I going to do?

"I do my job, but there is someone who doesn't do theirs."

Alonso even admitted that he tried to leave Sochi as soon as he broke down on Sunday.

"I tried but there were no planes," he smiled. "So I will have an ice cream and watch the race instead."

Alonso will then do the Indy 500 next month, but he insists he will not quit F1 in frustration of his situation.

"F1 is my life," he said. "I hope we can improve the situation soon."

But beyond 2017 and the expiration of his current contract, that could mean quitting McLaren-Honda at least.

"I think in 2018 we will see what will happen with each of us," Alonso told reporters.

Ricciardo plays down 'B' car hopes

Daniel Ricciardo
Daniel Ricciardo

(GMM) Daniel Ricciardo has played down hopes that Red Bull's early season struggles might soon be over.

The former champions have admitted that the current performance deficit is due to both the chassis and Renault engine.

So at Milton Keynes, Red Bull is busily working on what is said to be a 'B' spec chassis, set to debut in Barcelona in a fortnight.

"I think the top teams with more resources can obviously improve the most," said Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel ahead of the first European race of the season.

There are rumors of a 1 second per lap boost for the new Red Bull in the simulator, but Ricciardo said he isn't getting excited.

"I think I'll believe it when I'm driving it," said the Australian.

Indeed, it seems likely that the Spanish grand prix – and even the Montreal event two races later – will not be the silver bullet for Red Bull.

Germany's Sport Bild reports that a scheduled big upgrade for the Renault power unit will now not be ready for Canada, for reliability reasons.

The report said the debut has been postponed "indefinitely".

Bottas starts bid for 2018 Mercedes contract

Look for Mercedes to renew Bottas for 2018 and beyond now that he has established himself to be faster than Lewis Hamilton
Look for Mercedes to renew Bottas for 2018 and beyond now that he has established himself to be faster than Lewis Hamilton

(GMM) Valtteri Bottas' hopes of securing a new contract beyond 2017 took a big step forwards in Russia.

In his fourth race since switching from Williams to Mercedes, and amid reports he is a mere 'number 2' driver, the Finn won at Sochi.

And not just that, he also comprehensively outpaced his highly rated teammate Lewis Hamilton throughout the weekend.

"We need to find out why he (Hamilton) was not happy with his car," team chairman Niki Lauda said.

Boss Toto Wolff said the broad reason for Mercedes' on and off troubles so far in 2017 is the tires.

"It seems that Ferrari has a wider range of operating temperatures in the way they use the tires," he said.

Lauda agreed: "This was the 100pc confirmation that Ferrari is the new benchmark."

But also clear is that Bottas' place on the team now seems more secure. Indeed, the Finn might now be thinking about a shot at the world championship.

"Who knows?" said Lauda. "He won one race, his first victory, so now we will see but I think the next ones are always easier for a driver."

As for whether Bottas has now done enough to secure a contract extension for 2018, Wolff answered: "I think to discuss his position in the team after a few races is foolish.

"He should be given some time, because in the junior categories he did excellent results, and there was never a season when he was at Williams where he failed to beat his teammate.

"Now he has become Lewis Hamilton's teammate, he has a pole position and he won the race today," the Austrian added.

So for now, Wolff said he is happy with his choice about retired world champion Nico Rosberg's 2017 replacement.

"This race showed that our decision for Valtteri was right," he told Auto Bild in Russia.

"Both Valtteri and Nico are very analytical, with a calm approach. But the balance between him and Lewis also works well, and this dynamic is part of the success."

Vettel: Victory chance lost at the start

Bottas jumped both Ferraris at the start
Bottas jumped both Ferraris at the start

Sebastian Vettel believes his prospects of taking victory at the Russian Grand Prix were squandered at the start, as he lost out to Mercedes rival Valtteri Bottas.

Vettel claimed pole position at Sochi, his first since 2015, but was overhauled by Bottas off the line, with the Finn moving ahead prior to the braking point at Turn 2.

Bottas opened a solid lead across the opening stint and, while Vettel closed in after the pit-stop phase, Bottas held firm, ultimately winning by six-tenths of a second.

"I think our start was probably a match with Valtteri," said Vettel.

"Maybe he gained a bit of momentum at the beginning, but he had a massive tow, I defended the inside, but by the time we approached braking he was already in front and able to shut the door on me.

"So well done, and that's where he won the race.

"He did a superb first stint, I couldn't stay with him, he was very, very quick all race, making no mistakes, so he was the man of the race."

Vettel, having closely followed Bottas as the pair entered the final lap, lost a few tenths while attempting to lap Felipe Massa, but insists the incident made no difference.

"I tried everything to catch Valtteri, maybe I thought there'd be some opportunity on the back straight," he went on to comment.

"I was sure Felipe would lift around Turn 3, it's flat out, [I thought] he'd let me by, but I think I wasn't sure what he was going to do.

"I ended up losing a bit more than I was hoping for, but it doesn't matter, this is the man of the race today, big congratulations to Valtteri, his first Grand Prix win, it's his day."

Red Bull suspects brake issues unrelated

Ricciardo's right-rear brake caught fire
Ricciardo's right-rear brake caught fire

Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner believes the brake issue which struck Daniel Ricciardo in Russia was different to the problem encountered by Max Verstappen in Bahrain.

Ricciardo dropped out of the race at Sochi during the opening stages due to a right-rear brake issue, marking the third time in four Grands Prix that one Red Bull has failed to finish.

Verstappen's retirement in Bahrain was also brake-related by Horner believes the two problems were unrelated.

"It was a real disappointment to lose Daniel early in the race with a right rear brake issue, straight after the Safety Car restart," said Horner.

"We need to understand exactly what the cause of failure was.

"The outcome was similar to that which happened with Max in Bahrain but it looks like a different issue, so that needs thorough exploration."

Verstappen went on to finish in fifth place, coming home a minute adrift of race winner Valtteri Bottas.

"I managed to get past Felipe [Massa] and Daniel and from there on it was a very lonely race," he said.

"I could see the cars in front of me pulling away and I was pulling away from the cars behind so I just tried to manage the car home."

Red Bull sits third in the Constructors' championship, 79 points behind Mercedes.

Wolff 'very proud' of Bottas after first win

Wolff happy after this race
Wolff happy after this race

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says he is "very proud" of Valtteri Bottas after he claimed his maiden Formula 1 victory in Sunday's Russian Grand Prix.

Bottas jumped ahead of Ferrari rivals Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel at the start and held a solid advantage after the sole pit-stops.

Although Vettel, on fresher tires, closed in as the final stint developed, Bottas kept his composure to become the 107th driver to win a Grand Prix.

"I'm very proud," Wolff explained to Sky Sports.

"At the end, there was a lot of pressure with a four-time World Champion behind him, and bar one braking there was no mistake in the final laps.

"I'm very happy about the result and we're going to celebrate, that's for sure, because it's his first victory."

Wolff praised the Mercedes workforce for their efforts after a difficult first day of practice, during which Mercedes lapped significantly slower than Ferrari.

"I'm standing here and taking the credit but I'm taking it for all the guys back at home and here that have sorted out the problem we had on Friday," he said.

"We weren't particularly strong on the long runs, we weren't fast enough on a single lap, and we bounced back on the Sunday when it mattered.

"If I were Niki [Lauda] I would take my hat off to them."

Wolff conceded, however, that Mercedes still has work to do, after Lewis Hamilton struggled to fourth amid overheating issues and a general lack of grip.

"There are also lots of lessons to be learned and understood, how we can progress, how we can get faster, and why we couldn't give Lewis the car that he needed," he added.

"We hoped for strategy, for Safety Car, which would have been the only lucky punch to get back to P3, because Kimi's pace was just mind-blowingly fast.

"Once the balance on the car is not 100 per cent right and you're not able to get the tires in the window, you lack pace and that happened today."

Mercedes has moved a point clear of Ferrari in the standings.

Ecclestone: "It's difficult to make people look stupid. If they are, they are."

Bernie hits back
Bernie hits back

REUTERS' Alan Baldwin reported F1 "will not miss the Malaysian Grand Prix when it drops off the calendar" after this year's race because neighboring Singapore is "set to stay as the region's showcase," former F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone said.

The 86-year-old Briton also said that he "would not be buying Brazil's Interlagos circuit."
That track is "due to be sold off by local authorities who had talked up his potential interest when they announced their intentions this month."
Asked whether Malaysia's departure was "a blow," Ecclestone shook his head.
He said, "No, not at all. We've got Singapore. If we'd have lost Singapore it's not good. But we haven't lost Singapore so it's OK."
Ecclestone "hit back" at Sepang Int'l Circuit CEO Razlan Razali, who said last week that Ecclestone had showed a "lack of respect" and made promoters "look like idiots" with comments about charging high hosting fees.
Ecclestone: "Nobody made him look stupid, and it's difficult to make people look stupid. If they are, they are." REUTERS

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