Latest F1 news in brief – Sunday

  • Hamilton does not want a teammate that might beat him
    Hamilton does not want a teammate that might beat him

    Hamilton doesn't want Alonso as teammate

  • Prost relishing Renault advisor role
  • Kaltenborn disputes Wehrlein injury reports
  • Prost doubts Rosberg will return
  • Title contenders admit Mercedes, Ferrari close
  • Red Bull gap not easy to close – Verstappen
  • FIA moves to stop 'T-wing' flexing
  • No engine improvement date set – Honda

Hamilton doesn't want Alonso as teammate
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton has given a strong sign that he doesn't want to share a garage with Fernando Alonso.

Actually, the pair were teammates when Hamilton was a rookie and Alonso was the reigning champion in 2007, but it soon turned to acrimony.

But now, Spaniard Alonso is almost certainly on the market for 2018, and Mercedes has a vacancy thanks to Valtteri Bottas' mere one-year deal.

When asked about the prospect of a Hamilton-Alonso pairing, however, Hamilton said in Shanghai: "It's not going to happen."

Before Finn Bottas, the Briton spent four awkward and acrimonious years with Nico Rosberg, and Hamilton thinks the balance at Mercedes is finally right.

"If you have got two kilos on either side, and then take the two kilos off and put four on, what is the point? You need the balance," he said.

Mercedes inked Bottas' one-year deal clearly to leave its options open for 2018, but boss Toto Wolff indicated the 27-year-old is doing what he needs to stay.

"Again here he is only two tenths behind Lewis, which is a strong performance given how great Hamilton's (qualifying) lap was," he said.

"I am also very happy about how well Lewis and Valtteri work together."

But that good working environment could be because Hamilton is narrowly but clearly ahead of Bottas so far.

F1 legend Alain Prost thinks the Finn could push closer to the triple world champion this year.

"There are drivers who are strong in a smaller team and then weaker after changing to a big team," he told Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

"But with Valtteri I have the impression that it could be the opposite."

Prost relishing Renault advisor role

Alain Prost
Alain Prost

(GMM) Alain Prost says he is working hard to help the works Renault team make progress in F1.

The French carmaker had a difficult return to full works status last year, but Nico Hulkenberg has been recruited as the top driver while F1 legend Prost is now an official advisor.

German Hulkenberg qualified a strong seventh in Shanghai.

And Prost said that through his relationship with Renault via the Formula E series, he could not resist getting closer to the F1 team.

"I wanted to hold back from formula one, but this new role was interesting for me," he told Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

"I'm not a part of the team, but I look at everything from a distance."

But on his precise role, quadruple world champion Prost remains cagey.

"What we call the role was for a long time open, but briefly I take care of anything that makes us better," he said.

"This can be talking with the drivers, marketing, but also the whole picture behind the scenes. I wanted a role with some distance from the daily business, so I have the best overview.

"Part of my job is also not to tell the press exactly what I do," Prost smiled. "But you can count on it that we have a lot to do."

Kaltenborn disputes Wehrlein injury reports

Kaltenborn says Wehrlein''s back is not broken
Kaltenborn says Wehrlein’s back is not broken

(GMM) Monisha Kaltenborn has taken issue with fellow F1 boss Toto Wolff's description of Pascal Wehrlein's injury.

German Wehrlein drives for Sauber, but he remains managed by Wolff's Mercedes development program.

So while the 22-year-old regains his fitness following a winter back injury, a frenzy of speculation surrounds exactly what is behind Wehrlein's layoff.

"I got tired of it because of all the conspiracy theories," Wolff said in Shanghai.

His latest comments follow his revelation in the German press that Wehrlein in fact suffered a compression fracture in his Miami race of champions crash.

"I was hearing (conspiracy theories) that Ferrari wants Giovinazzi in the team because of the engine in the car, and that Wehrlein is a princess because he doesn't want to sit in the car. It's not true.

"It was simply a serious injury that we did not want to push into the public, but I found it was time to say something so that people will finally give Pascal the necessary time."

But Sauber chief Monisha Kaltenborn says Wolff was wrong to have described the injury as essentially a broken back.

"What Toto said exactly I don't know," she told Bild newspaper, "but I cannot imagine that it was properly reproduced because it was not correct."

She says the fracture Wolff spoke about was simply "quite normal" micro-fractures in the thoracic vertebrae.

"This does not have to be dramatized, but it is not as trivial as before," said Kaltenborn.

She said Wehrlein will definitely be back in the car soon.

"Everything is now fine medically, which doctors have confirmed. So it is only a matter of time," she said.

Finally, it seems clear that the days of Mercedes or Sauber drivers taking part in the race of champions event in the future are definitely over.

Wolff said: "You have to keep your drivers happy, and others go snowmobiling or go skiing. You cannot forbid everything.

"But in retrospect you are always smarter."

Prost doubts Rosberg will return

Rosberg doesn't have the drive to come back
Rosberg doesn't have the drive to come back

(GMM) F1 legend Alain Prost doubts Nico Rosberg will ever return to formula one.

Prost, a quadruple world champion, actually made two comebacks after 'retiring': once in 1993 after a season out, and again in 1997 when he bought the Ligier team and returned as a team owner.

"That is something completely different," the Frenchman said when told his situation might be comparable to Rosberg's.

Last year, days after winning his first world championship, Rosberg retired at the age of 31.

"My retirement in 1993 was final," Prost told Bild am Sonntag. "After 1991 I did not go voluntarily, I just took time out in 1992.

"But a driver can of course come back to formula one after his career ends, like Niki Lauda," he added.

But he doesn't think Rosberg will be like Lauda.

"He (Rosberg) is quite young to have retired, but the way he did it I find was really good. He was criticized for it, but I thought it was great.

"I can't imagine him coming back, no," said Prost.

However, Prost does think it will take plenty of time for Rosberg to adjust to his post-F1 life.

"When I saw Ayrton Senna in my car, I had only been a few months out but everything seemed so far away already," he said.

Asked if he ever regretted retiring, Prost answered: "Not at all. After a few months, I was missing the feeling of having a great goal in mind: testing, training and racing for the world title.

"When that was gone, it was strange."

Title contenders admit Mercedes, Ferrari close

Vettel and Hamilton are pretty even this year
Vettel and Hamilton are pretty even this year

(GMM) 2017 title contenders Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel have admitted the performance of their respective cars is genuinely close.

For the first time in the 'power unit' era, Mercedes has a genuine rival for world championship spoils in the form of Ferrari.

Ferrari's Vettel won in Australia but Hamilton put his Mercedes back on pole in Shanghai, indicating the F1 world is in for a close battle for the whole season.

"We have a slight advantage over them in high speed sections," said Hamilton. "In slower corners they seem to be more agile.

"But I think the two cars are extremely close — and that's fantastic," said the Briton.

Vettel agrees with Hamilton that the silver and red cars are closely matched.

"I'd say we have a good car in any situation but we've seen that they (Mercedes) are particularly strong in qualifying," said the German.

"In Australia I think we had a better car on race day — we could see Lewis was struggling a little with his tires," Vettel added.

And so ahead of the Chinese grand prix, F1 is in the new and quite unfamiliar situation of another race in which the outcome is basically completely unknown.

"It's been a while since battling with Lewis and it's a lot of fun to be back fighting him for poles and wins," he said.

"I also like this formula a lot in that you can drive on the limit in the race compared to how it was in the last few years. It's back to how it should be."

Red Bull gap not easy to close – Verstappen

Verstappen knows Red Bull is out to lunch
Verstappen knows Red Bull is out to lunch

(GMM) Red Bull's drivers admit it will take time for the team to get close to the top two teams in 2017.

If the pecking order was unclear after Melbourne, the 1.5 second gap from the new Red Bull to the much-faster Mercedes and Ferrari is now fairly obvious in China.

But the biggest worry is that Red Bull does not really know what the problem is, with a lack of both grip and Renault engine power both obvious.

"We're not going to make this up overnight," Max Verstappen said in Shanghai.

And Daniel Ricciardo, 'best of the rest' behind the two Mercedes and Ferraris in qualifying, agreed: "We need a few really good upgrades.

"I feel better in the car and it was easier to set up, but I'm still too slow.

"The balance is good and I can attack, but in the end we are missing 1.5 seconds.

"I said in Melbourne that we need more rear grip, but I'm afraid that here we're also missing front grip. We can no longer say that it's the setup — at most there are two more tenths there.

"We're missing much more than that," said the Australian.

Verstappen continued: "We have no balance between slow and fast corners, we need more grip, and we lack power.

"This is not a job from one race to another. And it will be difficult to catch up because the others are moving forwards too with these new rules."

So Ricciardo agrees that Bahrain will also be a tough weekend for Red Bull.

"Bahrain is only in a week and there's not much going on between here and there," he said.

And Verstappen warned: "In 2016 we didn't start perfectly, but we did know what to do."

Red Bull's situation has surprised the entire paddock, and not just because part-time designer Adrian Newey is a renowned expert at making the most of new rules.

"They invented these rules," Mercedes' Toto Wolff is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport, "so it is a surprise to us that they are so far away."

FIA moves to stop 'T-wing' flexing
(GMM) The FIA has targeted the unpopular engine cover 'T-wings' and fins, with a view to ridding F1 of them in the future.

That plan is also backed by new F1 sporting boss Ross Brawn.

And their resolve was given more ammunition in Shanghai, when the 'T-wing' on Valtteri Bottas' Mercedes broke off in practice.

According to Germany's Auto Motor und Sport, the FIA now plans to introduce specific maximum flexibility values for the T-wings by Barcelona next month.

Earlier, Haas had already been told by the FIA to reinforce its T-Wing design.

The topic of the unpopular 'shark fins' also remains controversial, with Red Bull saying before the season that it wanted them to be banned for aesthetic reasons.

But Auto Motor und Sport reports that, among the teams, only Red Bull is now insisting that the shark fins be allowed to stay.

"At that time, they were still hoping that removing the fin would hurt the less strong teams," said correspondent Michael Schmidt.

"But Red Bull is now benefitting from it," he added.

No engine improvement date set – Honda

Alonso strapped with underpowered Honda
Alonso strapped with underpowered Honda

(GMM) Honda is still not promising when it will be able to substantially fix its badly struggling 2017 engine.

As it emerges McLaren boss Eric Boullier met with Mercedes' Andy Cowell in Shanghai, Honda was left to admit that the British team's biggest problem is the power unit it is supplying.

But earlier in China, McLaren chief Zak Brown said McLaren was not setting Honda a deadline.

Honda F1 chief Yusuke Hasegawa now says: "We cannot name the exact date for an updated and more powerful engine.

"But we try to make certain improvements before each grand prix — as was the case before this weekend," said the Japanese.

"I'm not sure if the drivers agree with me, but we have made substantial progress since the beginning of the season in vibration, but of course the problem is not completely solved."

However, Hasegawa said Honda is committed to keep improving in 2017, helped by F1's abolishment of the former engine performance upgrade 'token' system.

"Yes it helps," he said, "but when it is necessary to revise the layout of the engine, certain restrictions remain."

Hasegawa also said Honda is supportive of the likely next generation of engines for 2021, even though their troublesome and complex 'hybrid' nature will remain.

"We want to keep engines of this type, because they are highly efficient and less damaging to the environment," he said.

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