Latest F1 news in brief – Tuesday

  • Shanghai Start
    Shanghai Start

    FIA may clarify grid position rules – Salo

  • Hamilton-Vettel battle to be season-long – Lauda
  • 'Relieved' Wehrlein set for Bahrain return
  • Marchionne not hitting back at Lauda jibe
  • Marchionne not commenting on future post 2019
  • Shanghai happier with post-Ecclestone era

FIA may clarify grid position rules – Salo
(GMM) F1 could introduce a rule clarification after Sebastian Vettel started Sunday's Chinese grand prix out of position.

Officials "noted" but did not penalize the Ferrari driver for being left of his painted grid 'box' in Shanghai.

"I didn't want to be on the line on the wet track, and there is nothing in the regulations about not doing that," Vettel said afterwards.

The incident went unpunished, but former F1 driver and Shanghai steward Mika Salo confirmed to Turun Sanomat newspaper that the officials looked closely at what happened.

The Finn said that what was discovered is that the rules are not clear about being strictly within the lines, because some grids like Monaco are complex and curved.

"When such an anomaly exists, we decided to let Vettel go in this case," said Salo.

"It could have been a warning, but it's better to have a more specific rule for these cases," he added.

Another incident that went unpunished but not unnoticed on Sunday was the clash between Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll.

"If someone had been penalized, it would have been Stroll," said Salo.

"In the previous corner he left room, but then in the next he turned in when Perez was already next to him," he explained.

Still, no penalty was applied, in accordance with a new philosophy in F1 about letting the drivers get on with racing whenever possible, even if they touch.

"I have always believed this is the right approach," Salo said. "The penalties had become too much.

"Really, the penalties should only be for things like overtaking under yellow flags or when behind the safety car, or when there is a gross violation of the rules."

Hamilton-Vettel battle to be season-long – Lauda

Can the Ferrari beat the Mercedes?
Can the Ferrari beat the Mercedes?

(GMM) Niki Lauda thinks F1 is heading for a season-long battle between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.

For the first time in the 'power unit' era, Mercedes has a genuine championship challenger this year in the form of a resurgent Ferrari.

Hamilton and Vettel have each won a race and finished second so far, and Mercedes team chairman Lauda said: "I am afraid that this duel will last the whole season.

"Sure, that's great for the fans," the F1 legend told Bild newspaper, "but I would not have had a problem if it had continued like it had for the last few years."

Indeed, Ferrari's Vettel won the opening salvo in Melbourne, but triple world champion Hamilton bounced back with victory in China.

"I was relieved," Lauda admitted. "I'm glad we now have our first race win under the new rules."

Now, attention is turning to struggling Red Bull, after Max Verstappen pulled off a spectacular podium finish in Shanghai last weekend.

"Max's performance was impressive," Lauda admitted, "but I do not think Red Bull really got any closer."

'Relieved' Wehrlein set for Bahrain return

Wehrlein to drive wherever Mercedes tells him too
Wehrlein to drive wherever Mercedes tells him too

(GMM) Pascal Wehrlein will make his return to the Sauber cockpit this weekend in Bahrain.

That is the claim of the Munich newspaper TZ, even though it was thought possible Ferrari reserve Antonio Giovinazzi will stay in the car for now despite his Shanghai crashes.

German Wehrlein has reportedly been training hard to recover his flagging fitness following a winter back injury.

"My back was extremely compressed in the crash and there were three small hairline fractures in the area of the thoracic vertebrae," the 22-year-old told TZ.

"A normal person could have resumed his job after a few days, but this is not the case with a professional athlete," added Wehrlein.

So when asked how relieved he is to be back in action in Bahrain this weekend, he answered: "Very.

"After some special training in Salzburg, I feel ready now."

So despite the waves of recent speculation, it appears that Wehrlein's F1 and Sauber career is now back on track — perhaps not only for 2017 but also beyond.

Wehrlein answered: "As long as I am under contract to Mercedes, they will decide about my future. But if it was up to me, I could imagine driving for longer with Sauber."

Marchionne not hitting back at Lauda jibe

Niki 'The Rat' Lauda said Ferrari cannot win because of its Italian "spaghetti" culture
Niki 'The Rat' Lauda said Ferrari cannot win because of its Italian "spaghetti" culture

(GMM) Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne has declined to hit back at a jibe made by Mercedes team chairman Niki Lauda.

Earlier, former Ferrari driver Lauda claimed the great Maranello marque was struggling in F1 because of its Italian "spaghetti" culture.

Now, referring to new technical boss Mattia Binotto, Lauda said: "You consider Binotto to be Italian? Actually he is Swiss, and it shows.

"Ferrari works now because there is a Swiss who organises the Italians, making them work but leaving them free to express their imagination and ideas."

When told about Lauda's comments, Ferrari president Marchionne responded: "I will not talk.

"If I do, I will send him a few insults. And I'm not going to insult a friend," he told La Repubblica newspaper.

But the truth is, Ferrari's self-imposed media ban may now be lifting, as even its own high expectations for 2017 are surpassed by the early performance of Sebastian Vettel.

"We are happy, no doubt about it," Marchionne said.

Indeed, the 2017 car has been born well, but most insiders believe the title will be won by a more intense than usual development race.

"Yes," Marchionne agrees. "In recent years we seemed to get a bit tired when developing the car. But this year we will not.

"There is a program that is going ahead at full speed. We just need a bit of time."

Marchionne not commenting on future post 2019

Sergio Marchionne
Sergio Marchionne

(GMM) Sergio Marchionne has refused to comment on reports he will stay in charge at Ferrari beyond 2019.

During the Shanghai weekend, reports from Italy suggested the 64-year-old will definitely step down as president of the Ferrari parent Fiat Chrysler.

But other reports claim Marchionne will in fact "stay at Ferrari until at least 2021, even after his planned exit from FCA".

When asked about that, the Italian-Canadian said: "Let's talk about something else."

Indeed, another hot topic is the expiring contracts of both Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, creating potential instability for Ferrari this year.

But Marchionne was quoted by La Repubblica as insisting: "Not at all. We will solve that too."

There is also the issue of Liberty Media's offer that top teams buy into F1, with Marchionne saying: "We have met with Toto Wolff to evaluate if it is worth it.

"Of course, the opportunity is there. If it makes sense from a financial point of view, we will."

And when told that Formula E might be a good fit for the Alfa Romeo brand, he answered: "Formula E is a good idea for many brands as well, for example Maserati."

Shanghai happier with post-Ecclestone era

The crowd was big in Shanghai
The crowd was big in Shanghai

(GMM) With Liberty Media now in charge of F1, organisers of the Chinese grand prix say hopes are high the Shanghai race will stay on the calendar.

Actually, China's latest multiple year contract is up for renewal, but officials met last weekend with Chase Carey, the new F1 chief executive.

"We haven't talked about details yet — it was more about the sport itself and how to promote it better here," Jiang Lan, boss of the China GP promoter Juss Event, told the Shanghai Daily newspaper.

Jiang indicated he is happy the forthcoming negotiations will be with Carey rather than his predecessor, the ousted long-time F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone.

"F1 has been seeing a drop in viewership worldwide. But I found Chase, who has a media background, more tolerant and open minded. He was willing to give more power to F1's local organisers," he said.

"Of course, we need to thank Bernie for all his contributions to the sport over such a long time. But it's obvious that the sport and its promoters are expecting some changes and renovations, especially on how to expand the market.

"Chase might not know about F1 as clearly as Bernie did, but he agrees that the F1 weekends should be more fun, which is in line with what we want," Jiang added.

"F1 is a disciplined sport with strict rules even for organisers. The activities and commercial booths we arranged near the entrance of the circuit had been questioned by the previous F1 management, but the new bosses like it," he said.

And so he said he is optimistic the forthcoming contract talks will proceed positively, also because crowd numbers were up in 2017.

"It shows that fans are also optimistic after the new changes in the sport," he said.

"There is little suspense about whether we will continue to host the race," Jiang revealed.

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