Has Ferrari finally caught Mercedes? They were fastest in testing but Mercedes were sandbagging
Ferrari had best test season ever – Marc Gene
- Sainz tells son to forget Renault for now
- Hulkenberg waiting until 2019 for Renault title
- Wehrlein settles for 'patience' over top F1 seat
- Magnussen distances himself from Haas 'brake problems'
- Brawn to create new F1 overtaking group
- Teams wanted 'shark fins' for sponsors – Lauda
- Webber: Don't judge RBR on low-key winter
Ferrari had best test season ever – Marc Gene
(GMM) Ferrari test driver Marc Gene says the Maranello team is heading into the 2017 season in a particularly bullish mood.
Most observers believe the Italian marque is close to or even ahead of the formerly-dominant Mercedes team's pace after recent Barcelona testing.
Spaniard Gene agrees: "I've been at Ferrari for 13 years and I think this has been the best preseason I can remember.
"The drivers are very happy and the reliability we have shown has been excellent," the 42-year-old told Spain's El Mundo Deportivo newspaper.
Gene also thinks the 2017 field in general is going to impress the watching world this year.
"I think we're going to see a lot of track records," he said.
Sainz tells son to forget Renault for now
|Carlos Sainz Snr.|
(GMM) Carlos Sainz's father has advised the Toro Rosso driver to forget about rumors linking him with Renault for now.
It is believed the French works team made moves to sign the impressive Red Bull-contracted Spaniard for 2017, with Renault advisor Alain Prost still interested in the 22-year-old.
But Carlos Sainz Snr says his son should be happy where he is for now.
"He is privileged because he is in formula one and in the Red Bull orbit," he told the Spanish sports newspaper AS.
"What he needs to do is focus on Toro Rosso and forget about everything else. He should try to do another good year with Toro Rosso and realize there is more time in the future.
"If he has a good year, there will be other opportunities," Sainz Snr, a two-time former world rally champion, added.
"It is logical that he wants to develop as a driver and to do that you seek other opportunities, but my advice is to focus on Toro Rosso and the Red Bull world today."
So when asked specifically if Sainz Jnr. should forget about Renault's interest for now, the 54-year-old answered: "I think it would be a very serious mistake at this point to get confused — it is the worst thing you could do.
"I am convinced that if he continues as he has and does a good year, he will have his options."
Hulkenberg waiting until 2019 for Renault title
(GMM) Nico Hulkenberg says he is willing to wait a couple of years before gunning for the world championship with Renault.
If he does not make it into the top 3 race finishers by Monza in September, the 29-year-old German will take over from Adrian Sutil as the most experienced F1 driver without a single podium.
But Hulkenberg has switched from Force India to the Renault works team for 2017 and he says he is happy with his move.
"Renault has proved in the past what they can do. They have become world champions several times so when the project was presented to me, it was a clear decision to take," he told Germany's Sport Bild.
But unlike Valtteri Bottas, who has been slotted straight into the reigning world champion's seat at Mercedes, Hulkenberg says he knows he has to build up to a title challenge.
"What can I do? Turn this project into a success story," he insisted.
"This year we can't expect miracles, and anyone who does fails to understand this sport. But I hope that we can be at the front of the midfield this year, and from 2019 – in two or three years – I want to be ready for the title," said Hulkenberg.
And he said he has no regrets about signing for Renault 'too early' rather than waiting for Nico Rosberg to announce his shock retirement from Mercedes shortly after the season.
"Too early? There were three months in between!" he exclaimed.
"I would lie if I said Mercedes would not be tempting, but the timing made it simply not realistic this time. I had signed a long-term agreement with Renault.
"I also want to build something here," Hulkenberg added. "This is a huge challenge for me. I want to fight here and build it up rather than just go into an established team like Mercedes.
"I regret nothing," he insisted.
Wehrlein settles for 'patience' over top F1 seat
|Pascal Wehrlein has to prove himself first|
(GMM) Pascal Wehrlein says Mercedes did not sign him up for 2017 in order to safeguard the longevity of his F1 career.
German Wehrlein, 22, is the senior member of Mercedes' driver development programme and was therefore a favourite when Nico Rosberg announced his shock decision to quit F1 late last year.
But ultimately, the older and more experienced Toto Wolff-linked driver Valtteri Bottas was signed up for 2017, on a mere single-season contract.
"Toto told me he didn't want to burn me," Wehrlein told Germany's Sport Bild.
"He said they still believe in me and that I should instead build myself up in peace. Of course I hoped for a change to the world champion team, but when Mercedes went for Bottas, I wasn't too disappointed.
"Why? Because my original 'plan A' was still fulfilled," he said.
That 'plan A' was the 2017 move from the backmarker Manor to Sauber, a more established midfield team.
But winter testing has shown that, after almost collapsing last year and now set to use Ferrari's 2016-spec engine this year, Sauber will almost certainly be F1's new backmarker in 2017.
Still, Wehrlein is happy.
"Sauber is at the beginning of an era," he said. "There is enormous potential in the team and I am proud to be a part of this building back up. We have a highly professional, international team."
For instance, Wehrlein said he was blown away by Sauber's state of the art wind tunnel at Hinwil, adding: "As I said, I think there is huge potential in the team.
"But we will have to have a little patience."
Magnussen distances himself from Haas 'brake problems'
(GMM) Kevin Magnussen has distanced himself from the reported 'brake problems' at his new F1 employer Haas.
Last year, but then again as the American team tested its all-new car for the 2017 season, Romain Grosjean complained about braking issues relating to Haas' current supplier Brembo.
Brembo is an Italian brake manufacturer that comes to Haas through its technology partner Ferrari, but team boss Gunther Steiner has indicated Haas will trial rival Carbon Industrie brakes later this year.
However, Grosjean's new teammate Magnussen says he is not having any brake problems with the 2017 Haas.
"People ask about brake problems with our car, but I've had no problems," he is quoted by the Danish newspaper BT. "I think it is all working well.
"I am reasonably happy with the brakes, but I am still in the process of learning about the car, becoming more familiar and pushing it to the limit.
"When you achieve this, you obviously make more mistakes and have more problems, but until now it has been quite good," Magnussen added.
Brawn to create new F1 overtaking group
|F1 will be such a parade this year they have to study ways to improve the show. Try lower downforce, smaller brakes and skinnier tires. Guaranteed to work. What did the numquats do? Just the opposite.|
(GMM) F1 will look into producing rules that encourage more overtaking without resorting to artificial measures like DRS.
That is the claim of the sport's new sporting boss Ross Brawn, who is one of the new chiefs in the post-Bernie Ecclestone era.
Brawn told the French magazine Auto Hebdo he supports the much faster cars that have arrived for 2017, but fears the improved downforce will mean overtaking is more difficult than before.
"If it turns out that is the case, then that will motivate the search for solutions," said the Briton.
"It's a difficult problem, because we want to have cars that are quick but that can follow their opponents on the track.
"Is there a solution? Yes, but we need to put together the right people and give them a year and a half to find the answer," added Brawn.
Brawn acknowledged that overtaking working groups have made progress in the past, but he said those people lacked "the profound knowledge and opportunities that the teams have today".
"Previously, we did experiments in wind tunnels but it was a compromise because it didn't include the use of two cars. Now, CFD opens up new opportunities.
"We need to create a car with a high level of aerodynamic grip that does not leave very strong turbulence behind. Many will say it is impossible, but I am convinced of the opposite," he said.
Brawn said the new group will be organised directly by Formula One Management, with any potential rule changes answering three questions.
"One, how will the fans perceive it? Two, what will it cost? And three, do we know how it will affect the racing?" added the former Ferrari and Honda chief.
Teams wanted 'shark fins' for sponsors – Lauda
|No advertising on Mercedes' Shark Fin|
(GMM) Niki Lauda has suggested Mercedes backed Red Bull's push to ban the 'shark fin' engine cover appendages before they were ever launched in 2017.
Some believe the large stabilising fin, and the antennae-like 'T wings' also seen in winter testing, have ruined the otherwise aggressive look of the wider and faster new cars.
Christian Horner revealed recently that Red Bull argued for banning the shark fins, but was outvoted due to the "usual paranoia" in F1.
But Mercedes team chairman Lauda has now indicated Mercedes also backed the ban.
"The fin was a huge discussion in the strategy group," the F1 legend revealed to the Austrian broadcaster ORF.
"But the other teams said 'We can put sponsors on it', so that's why it was left," added Lauda.
However, no 2017 team actually launched its new car with prominent sponsorship on the shark fin.
Webber: Don't judge RBR on low-key winter
|Are the Red Bulls fast this year? We won't know until Melbourne|
Ex-Formula 1 driver Mark Webber says Red Bull should not be judged on its low-key pre-season, stating that the team has never been one to "shadow box".
Red Bull technical guru Adrian Newey admitted the team kept its RB13 "clean and simple" for the two test weeks, with few developments being applied.
It also faced a string of technical setbacks, as power unit supplier Renault battled an issue with its ERS, which it is working hard to resolve by the first round.
But Webber, who raced for Red Bull from 2007-2013, feels it would be unwise to write off the team, despite strong performances from rivals Ferrari and Mercedes.
"When the grandstands are empty Red Bull are never interested in getting involved in the shadow boxing," Webber explained to ESPN.
"That's typical of Red Bull, I wouldn't read anything into winter from them.
"Unfortunately the mileage wasn't great, that's the only thing we can read into that, [but] pace-wise it's impossible to read anything.
"They need to do a phenomenal job on aero [performance] to claw back the engine performance of the opposition, Ferrari and Mercedes.
"I think all will be revealed whether they've done enough with the car to challenge for pole and front rows and win the start and control the race.
"[It] is going to be a tall order but totally possible."
Webber nonetheless praised Ferrari for its apparent gains over the winter, as it topped the overall timesheets and finished second to Mercedes in terms of mileage completed.
"Ferrari were the surprise [of the pre-season], even though there was shadow boxing to a degree, [as] operationally they look very good," Webber added.
"I know it's a boring to talk about but it's a huge component to getting big points on the board. They look relatively stable there…
"They look pretty good and a match with Mercedes in terms of reliability, by the looks of it at the moment, so that's a huge feather in their cap."
Mercedes has claimed both titles in each of the past three years, with Red Bull taking second in 2014 and 2016, and Ferrari finishing as runner-up in 2015.