Latest F1 news in brief – Friday

  • Bottas choked in China, can he make good now?
    Bottas choked in China, can he make good now?

    'No panic' as Bottas builds confidence

  • Hamilton doesn't want 'team orders'
  • Ferrari 'media blackout' returns in Bahrain
  • Wehrlein hits back after injury speculation
  • Newey no guarantee of success – Ricciardo
  • 2017 not making Vandoorne doubt abilities
  • Grosjean would not let Alonso skip Monaco
  • Button to replace Alonso at Monaco GP
  • Alonso praises Brown for 'bigger vision'
  • Australian Grand Prix Corp. CEO Says Melbourne Has What Liberty Media Wants

'No panic' as Bottas builds confidence
(GMM) Valtteri Bottas says he is staying calm, despite being outperformed in his first two races since switching to Mercedes.

The Finn, having replaced Nico Rosberg, is on just a one-year contract, and in both Australia and China he was narrowly but clearly behind incumbent Lewis Hamilton.

"With Hamilton in the car, we are two tenths faster than Ferrari," an unnamed Mercedes engineer told Auto Motor und Sport.

But Bottas insists it is "much too early" to say that Australia and China have set the tone for the rest of the season, with Hamilton dueling only with Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel.

"It's much too early to say that only two drivers are fighting for the championship," said the 27-year-old in Bahrain.

"The season is just too young for such predictions."

In fact, Bottas says he is happy with his progress so far, even if he initially struggled to cope with the anger of spinning behind the safety car in China.

"I feel no hurry or panic," he said.

"My previous car (the Williams) behaved different mechanically, so I'm getting used to it now. And there are many small things that have a big impact in formula one."

F1 pundit Marc Surer agrees that Bottas is still building up to full speed at Mercedes.

"He's coming," the former F1 driver told the German broadcaster Sky.

"He's still making mistakes that are linked to nervousness due to being under pressure," Surer added.

Hamilton doesn't want 'team orders'

Hamilton wants a fair fight
Hamilton wants a fair fight

(GMM) Lewis Hamilton says he does not want 'number 1' status at Mercedes.

Some have said that, even after just two races in 2017, the pecking order with triple world champion Hamilton ahead of new teammate Valtteri Bottas is already clear.

"It (team orders) happens at Ferrari and it has for many, many years," Hamilton, jointly leading the championship with Sebastian Vettel, told the Finnish broadcaster MTV.

"But it won't happen with us. And I don't want it to happen.

"I think I can manage without a decision like that," he added.

However, it is evident that while Kimi Raikkonen is under pressure at Ferrari, clear 'number 2' status is not something that has been given to the Finn so far.

That was obvious in China, when Vettel had to overtake the sister red car without an order.

"It is still too early to give such orders," former Ferrari team manager Daniele Audetto told Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"But he (Raikkonen) should have understood for himself that in that situation he should move over," he added.

Ferrari 'media blackout' returns in Bahrain

Arrivabene (L) imposes Ferrari media blackout again
Arrivabene (L) imposes Ferrari media blackout again

(GMM) Ferrari's 'media blackout' is back in Bahrain.

Over the winter, and then at the season opener in Australia, it was obvious that Ferrari was taking an extraordinarily low profile when it came to speaking to the media.

Team boss Maurizio Arrivabene defended the approach.

"The thing is to find the balance," he said, explaining that Ferrari is trying to mix traditional communication methods with digital and social media this year.

Ferrari was then more open in China, but on Thursday in Bahrain it was clear the 'media blackout' was back as Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen did no appearances for the general press.

Germany's Sport1 quoted a team spokesman as saying joint championship leader Vettel was busy with sponsor events, and it would have been "unfair" to give the entire load to teammate Raikkonen.

Wehrlein hits back after injury speculation

Pascal Wehrlein - Mercedes' chosen one
Pascal Wehrlein – Mercedes' chosen one

(GMM) Pascal Wehrlein has hit out at the media, as he returns from injury to contest this weekend's Bahrain grand prix.

The German sat out both Australia and China following his winter rollover crash at the race of champions.

We reported this week that Wehrlein, 22, finally revealed that he had fractured three vertebrae in the impact, delaying his recovery and return to fitness.

But while he was out of action, wild speculation did the rounds suggesting either that Wehrlein was the victim of a political situation, or not sufficiently motivated to race whilst unfit.

Indeed, amid the rumors, his bosses at Mercedes and Sauber appeared to disagree about the extent of Wehrlein's injuries.

But the driver said in Bahrain: "Sauber and Mercedes knew from the beginning.

"It was clear that I would not get back into the car until I'm 100pc fit. The only unfavorable thing was the way some media reported.

"If you don't know what injury someone has, you should not criticize them," he insisted.

However, one interpretation is that the entire media saga could have been avoided if it was revealed from the beginning that Wehrlein had fractured back bones.

"We said that I was injured in my back. You only had to add two and two together to know that it wasn't a strain," Wehrlein insisted.

"Now, I want to enjoy this weekend. The most important thing is my comeback — the rest is a side issue."

And he said that despite his recent injury, he can now get on with the rest of his F1 career with confidence.

"The doctors say that the back can be loaded in the same way as before, and in fact that the bones become stronger at the fracture site," said Wehrlein.

Newey no guarantee of success – Ricciardo

Is Adrian Newey even fit to shine Aldo Costa's shoes?
Is Adrian Newey even fit to shine Aldo Costa's shoes?

(GMM) Daniel Ricciardo says it should be no great surprise that Red Bull is having to fight back in 2017.

Actually, many paddock insiders are shocked that, with a big rule change and Adrian Newey at the design table, Red Bull is over a second per lap off Mercedes and Ferrari's pace.

But Italy's Autosprint quotes Ricciardo as questioning whether the 'Newey equals success' equation is fair.

"Adrian Newey is certainly a great name, but Ferrari, Mercedes, the top teams all have great departments too," he said in Bahrain.

Ricciardo said Red Bull has plenty of catching up to do, but backed the team to be able to strongly develop the 2017 car.

"We have a great capacity for development and it's in that area that we were particularly good last year."

2017 not making Vandoorne doubt abilities

Stoffel Vandoorne was fast in GP2, but that doesn't always equate to being fast in F1
Stoffel Vandoorne was fast in GP2, but that doesn't always equate to being fast in F1

(GMM) Stoffel Vandoorne says he is not doubting his abilities, despite a difficult opening pair of races in 2017.

The Belgian actually made his F1 debut in Bahrain a year ago, but 2017 is his first full season at McLaren-Honda.

But in Australia and China, the obvious stand-out performer for the struggling team was Fernando Alonso.

Vandoorne, however, insists: "I do not doubt my abilities at all.

"On paper, it may not have been the two best weekends of my life, but I have no doubts at all. I know that when we get a weekend without problems, the result will be there," he told the Belgian broadcaster RTBF in Bahrain.

"The most important thing for us right now is to bring updates for the car and show that our package is improving weekend after weekend," the 24-year-old added.

Meanwhile, Vandoorne welcomed news that his teammate Alonso will skip Monaco next month to race at the Indy 500.

"It's great for him to have the opportunity," said the Belgian.

"But Monaco will perhaps be a grand prix where we will have more chances to do a good result, so we'll do our best."

Grosjean would not let Alonso skip Monaco

Romain Grosjean would prefer to parade around in Monaco than race at Indy.
Romain Grosjean would prefer to parade around in Monaco than race at Indy.

(GMM) Romain Grosjean says he is surprised Fernando Alonso has decided to skip F1's prestigious Monaco grand prix.

The Spaniard and McLaren-Honda shocked the racing world this week by announcing that they will tackle the fabled Indy 500 next month, even though it clashes with Monaco.

"The Indy 500 is a great race, but it's not necessarily a race that interests me," Haas driver Grosjean told France's RMC in Bahrain.

"When you're 100pc involved in a team, I don't want to miss a grand prix, especially Monaco where so much can happen and you don't necessarily need a good engine," the Frenchman added.

"So I'm pretty surprised. It's good if that's what he wants to do but honestly I'm surprised that it's happening," said Grosjean.

Alonso admitted on Thursday that the news has been made possible only by McLaren's new executive Zak Brown, as predecessor Ron Dennis would not have allowed it.

Grosjean admitted: "If I was a team boss one day, no, I would not let him do it."

However, Nico Hulkenberg contested the fabled Le Mans race two years ago while an active F1 driver.

The German said in Bahrain: "My case was completely different. I would never miss a race in formula one, as Fernando will.

"Especially Monaco," Hulkenberg added. "Fernando can do whatever he wants, it's his business, but I'm surprised by the situation — like everyone else."

Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo said the safety factor might put him off trying the Indy 500 in future, but conceded that Alonso is in an "unique situation" with his undoubted talent amid McLaren-Honda's performance crisis.

"I think he finds himself in a frustrating situation, so it's possible that in his place I would have taken the opportunity if it came up," he said.

Button to replace Alonso at Monaco GP

Button back with his old mates
Button back with his old mates

McLaren has confirmed that 2009 World Champion Jenson Button will return to a Formula 1 race seat for next month's Monaco Grand Prix, in place of the Indianapolis 500-bound Fernando Alonso.

Button, 37, stepped back from a Formula 1 race seat for 2017, enabling Stoffel Vandoorne to debut, though remained contracted to McLaren as an ambassador.

It was announced on Wednesday that Alonso will participate in a one-car McLaren team at the Indianapolis 500, meaning that he would miss the clashing Monaco Grand Prix.

No replacement for Alonso was announced in the immediate aftermath but McLaren has now confirmed that Button, victorious at the event in 2009, will return for next month's street race.

"I'm thrilled to be making a one-off return to Formula 1 racing, and I couldn't think of a better place to make that return than my adopted home Grand Prix: Monaco," said Button.

"I've won the race before, in 2009, and it's one of my all-time favorite racetracks.

"It's a tricky street circuit on which a good driver can really make a difference – and, although the McLaren-Honda MCL32 hasn't begun the season well, I think it may be more suited to Monaco than to the faster circuits that Fernando and Stoffel have raced it on so far this season.

"OK, I realize we won't have a realistic chance of repeating my 2009 victory, but I think we'll have an opportunity to score points, which will be very valuable to the team in terms of constructors' rankings.

"I'll drive the MCL32 around Monaco in the McLaren sim beforehand, and I reckon I'll be ready after that.

"I'm supremely fit, having done a lot of triathlon training, so I have no worries on that score."

Monaco and Indianapolis host their respective races on May 28.

Alonso praises Brown for 'bigger vision'

Alonso (C) praises Zak Brown (R)
Alonso (C) praises Zak Brown (Right of Alonso)

Fernando Alonso has suggested that his agreement to contest this year's Indianapolis 500 would not have been possible under previous McLaren chief Ron Dennis.

Alonso will enter next month's Indy 500, in the process missing the Monaco Grand Prix, in a one-car McLaren entry, run by Andretti Autosport and powered by Honda engines.

Expanding on the deal, Alonso praised Brown, who arrived as McLaren's new Executive Director over the winter, for having a "bigger vision" than other bosses he has worked with.

"I guess not," said Alonso, when asked if Dennis would have approved such a plan.

"I think Zak is a man that has a bigger vision than other team bosses that I've had.

"He sees motorsport differently, he sees McLaren bigger and not only concentrated on Formula 1. McLaren won Le Mans a couple of times and the Indy 500 a couple of times in the past.

"He is a true racer, so it is great that McLaren and Zak joined forces."

Alonso's upcoming run at the Indy 500 will come as part of his quest to claim motorsport's Triple Crown, which is also made up of wins at the Monaco Grand Prix and 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Asked about Le Mans, he added: "It was something on the table also this year.

"Zak, as an American, was pushing for the Indy 500, and [Racing Director] Eric [Boullier], as a Frenchman, was pushing for Le Mans, so I had two girlfriends in one moment!

"I think the McLaren-Honda partnership, to run in the Indy 500, was very attractive this year, and for Le Mans, it is something that I will do, probably as soon as I can.

"I don't know if it will be next year or following years.

"My only and first priority is Formula 1. If I can race together with Formula 1 and other series as I'm doing this year it will be great, but if not I will only do Formula 1."

Australian Grand Prix Corp. CEO Says Melbourne Has What Liberty Media Wants

Australian GP
Australian GP

The Australian Grand Prix Corp. is confident that its "mix of sport, business, innovation and industry is exactly the recipe" that F1 owner Liberty Media is "keen to promote" as it looks to maximize its multi-billion dollar investment, according to Andrew Tate of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD.

AGPC CEO Andrew Westacott said that F1 Chair Chase Carey and Managing Dir, Commercial Operations Sean Bratches "had been impressed by what Melbourne had to offer both on and off track."

Westacott: "In Sean Bratches' case, he has been 27 years in ESPN and enviously he has been to 28 Super Bowls, but that was his first ever Formula 1 event that he'd been to in the world. And what he saw was something that absolutely fits with where they want to take Formula 1."

Westacott said that Liberty was "focused on making the sport more accessible for fans through face-to-face and digital engagement."

He said, "It's brought a new focus of 'can do' on the fan experience, elevating the Formula 1 brand and separately to that digital and partnerships" SMH

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