Latest F1 news in brief – Wednesday

  • Everyone came to say goodbye to Bernie and his wife Fabiana
    Everyone came to say goodbye to Bernie and his wife Fabiana

    Teams meet with F1 owner Liberty in London

  • Kvyat unclear over next F1 career move
  • Horner happy with Renault relationship
  • Bottas 'won't panic' if Hamilton faster
  • Liberty chief slams Azerbaijan race
  • Old engine makes Sauber's life 'hard' – Wehrlein
  • Mercedes defends removal of Schumacher branding
  • 2017 cars not harder to drive – Perez
  • 'Provocative' Vettel to be strong – Marko
  • Drivers to keep saving fuel in 2017 – Marko
  • 2017 to be 'tough' for Mick Schumacher – Rosberg
  • Alonso 'has spoken' about 2018 – Boullier

Teams meet with F1 owner Liberty in London
(GMM) The big names in F1 have this week headed from a farewell party for Bernie Ecclestone to a meeting with the sport's new owners.

Last week, the ousted F1 supremo's friend Flavio Briatore revealed that every major figure in the sport headed to London to farewell Ecclestone, 86.

"I was surprised that everyone was there," F1 legend and Mercedes team chairman Niki Lauda told the Austrian broadcaster ORF.

"After the first shock, he was in a good mood all night and the farewell party was very well received," he added.

Lauda said he and many others in the paddock will "miss" Ecclestone.

But at the same time, the sport is now looking confidently into its future headed by new owner Liberty Media and Ecclestone's successors Chase Carey and Ross Brawn.

Lauda says the F1 team bosses were invited to London this week to meet with Carey and his team.

"He will tell us where we are heading," said the Austrian.

"They bring new ideas to formula one, which we need." But Lauda also said patience is required, as there are limits to what Liberty can change straight away.

"The organisers have contracts, the teams have contracts," he said. "But there will certainly be news and I can imagine that they will be brought in this year."

Kvyat unclear over next F1 career move

What next for Kvyat?
What next for Kvyat?

(GMM) Daniil Kvyat is looking into his F1 career with confidence, after hitting a severe roadblock in 2016.

The young Russian began 2016 as a driver for Red Bull's main F1 team, but after a tumultuous chain of events ended up with the junior squad Toro Rosso.

"I have left everything that happened last year in a drawer and I will not remove it until I need to," said Kvyat. "I am very prepared to face this season."

So while mid last year he was merely clinging to his F1 seat, the 22-year-old told Spain's El Mundo Deportivo that his goal is now to "someday" be world champion.

"I don't know when or with what team, but I want to have a car good enough to go for the title," he said.

"What team it will be, that's another story. It's too early to talk about it.

"I am now with Toro Rosso and I want to give my 100 per cent. That's what I will do right now and what I will enjoy," Kvyat added.

Horner happy with Renault relationship

Christian Horner
Christian Horner

(GMM) Christian Horner has played down fears about the reliability of Renault's new-for-2017 engine.

It is rumored the new power unit boasts better performance than its 2016 predecessor, but it obviously struck consistent reliability trouble during Barcelona testing.

Red Bull team boss Horner said: "Renault has taken a big step forward with its 2017 power unit. Everything that was promised has been delivered.

"There are a few small reliability issues that need to be addressed now, but there are no deeper issues, just simple things," he told the French magazine Auto Hebdo.

Horner's comments indicate a much better current relationship between Red Bull and Renault, and the Red Bull chief credits that partly to his Renault counterpart Remi Taffin.

"Our relationship is going well," Horner agrees.

"It seems that under Remi's leadership, Renault has recovered the desire to return to the competitive position it had."

Renault-powered Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat is also expecting a good season with his French engine.

"Renault is known for its conservative beginnings, so they have to be given a little time because there has been a considerable improvement," the Russian told Spain's El Mundo Deportivo.

Bottas 'won't panic' if Hamilton faster

Bottas needs more time with Mercedes
Bottas needs more time with Mercedes

(GMM) Valtteri Bottas says he "will not panic" if Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton is faster than him early in 2017.

Based on Barcelona testing, Red Bull's Dr Helmut Marko and even Mercedes chairman Niki Lauda think Finn Bottas is not quite up to speed with Hamilton.

But Bottas, signed by Mercedes at the eleventh hour following Nico Rosberg's shock retirement, told Germany's Sport Bild: "I can deliver.

"I know I was lucky with Nico retiring. It was always my goal to be in a world-class car someday, and thanks to him this has now become a reality.

"Honestly, I feel no more pressure than before. I simply know that I have been given a special opportunity to drive the best formula one car ever.

"I have much more to win than lose," said the 27-year-old.

Indeed, Bottas said he is not even afraid of lining up in the same team as Hamilton, a triple world champion who shared an acrimonious relationship with his former teammate Rosberg.

Bottas said: "He is a real benchmark.

"For me, it will be interesting to see how he sets up the car and how his driving style works. I'm watching a triple world champion at work so to not use that opportunity would be stupid.

"For sure I won't give up," Bottas insisted. "And I won't panic if Lewis is quicker. From the first race I have to be right there, even if I know that my learning curve is steep."

Liberty chief slams Azerbaijan race

Taking down the fake facades after last years Baku GP.
Taking down the fake facades after last year’s Baku GP.

(GMM) A dark cloud has moved above the future of Azerbaijan's grand prix.

Under ousted F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone's leadership, a street circuit in the historic capital Baku made its debut on the calendar last year.

The Azerbaijan race is back for 2017, but it is now under fire from Greg Maffei, the chief executive of the sport's new owners Liberty Media.

He criticized the way Ecclestone used to select races for the calendar, saying that strategy was to say "'How much can I extract? How much upfront?

"So we end up with races in places like Azerbaijan where they paid us a big race fee but it does nothing to build the long-term brand and health of the business," Maffei is quoted by Forbes' F1 business journalist Christian Sylt.

"Our job is to find partners that pay us well but also help us to build the product," he added.

Old engine makes Sauber's life 'hard' – Wehrlein

Wehrlein says year-old Ferrari engine not as strong as new version
Wehrlein says year-old Ferrari engine not as strong as new version

(GMM) Pascal Wehrlein has admitted Sauber's year-old engines will be a disadvantage for the Swiss team in 2017.

Last year, Sauber almost collapsed financially, with its survival ensured only by a Marcus Ericsson-linked buyout and millions in F1 prize money snatched from the grasp of Wehrlein's former team Manor.

"Yes, the loss of the tenth place in the championship was the killer (for Manor)," admitted Wehrlein, "because it cost them around $20 million."

But now, as Wehrlein switches from the defunct Manor to Sauber, it is believed the young German's new team Sauber will be bringing up the rear in 2017.

That is due in part to Sauber using Ferrari's year-old power unit, even though boss Monisha Kaltenborn insists it will not be a major handicap.

But Wehrlein, 22, told the Swiss newspaper Blick: "The construction of the new car forced Sauber to take that decision.

"Clearly, it will be hard for us if the others are constantly developing their engines."

Still, Wehrlein is expecting an easier time in F1 with Sauber compared to Manor.

"(At Manor) we had about 200 employees, Sauber has 350. Compared to the others that is still a small number, but Sauber has one of the best wind tunnels. I was really blown away on my first visit," he said.

Wehrlein scored just 1 point in 2016, but ahead of his Sauber debut he declared: "I am sure we will score more than that.

"At least we will be able to constantly develop the car."

Mercedes defends removal of Schumacher branding
(GMM) Mercedes has defended its decision to remove the 'KeepFightingMichael' hashtag branding from the livery of its F1 car.

Ever since former team driver Michael Schumacher's horror skiing crash and brain injuries some years ago, Mercedes has published the supportive message on its car.

But some fans have noted with dismay that the 2017 silver car does not feature the Schumacher branding.

A team spokesman told the German newspaper Bild: "It was removed to free the way for future usage of the message.

"Now, 'Keep Fighting' is an initiative founded at the end of 2016 to encourage people based on Michael's legendary fighting spirit.

"Mercedes and the family of Michael Schumacher will work together on a variety of common activities which will be communicated in time," the spokesman added.

2017 cars not harder to drive – Perez

Perez says cars not hard to drive
Perez says cars not hard to drive

(GMM) Sergio Perez says he was surprised when he sampled F1's much faster cars for the first time in Barcelona testing recently.

The 2017 rules were penned to make the cars much faster, in turn requiring the drivers to train harder and put on muscle to deal with the greater G-forces.

But Mexican Perez told the Spanish sports daily Marca: "I noticed almost no difference in physical effort between the (2016 and 2017) cars.

"I think this point has been somewhat exaggerated," the Force India driver said.

Indeed, with Perez and teammate Esteban Ocon having put on muscle bulk over the winter, but with Force India's car reportedly 10kg overweight, it is claimed the team now wants the pair to lose 2kg each.

Perez's trainer Xavi Martos said: "Checo is one of the best physically prepared drivers on the grid and will have no problem with his neck even if he has to lose weight."

'Provocative' Vettel to be strong – Marko

Vettel appears confident
Vettel appears confident

(GMM) Sebastian Vettel's "provocative" behavior shows Ferrari is entering the 2017 season as a favorite.

That is the view of Dr Helmut Marko, who as Red Bull's driver chief brought the German into F1 and guided his four titles.

Now, Vettel is at Ferrari but Marko says he senses the 29-year-old is feeling very bullish at the wheel of his red 2017 car.

"Ferrari is very strong," Marko told the Austrian broadcaster Servus TV.

"I am concerned because I know Sebastian quite well and he was provocative by aborting his best lap (in Barcelona) on the finish straight several times. Everyone noticed it.

"Someone who does this is very confident in himself and his knowledge of the qualities of his car," the Austrian added.

It is believed Ferrari and Mercedes could be neck-and-neck ahead of the season opener in Australia next weekend, while a bigger question mark lingers over Red Bull's pace.

"The tests showed that Valtteri Bottas cannot match Lewis Hamilton's level. Mercedes still has the advantage but they will no longer occupy first and second places — there will be other drivers between them," Marko predicted.

Meanwhile, many pundits are expecting Adrian Newey's technical team to spring a surprise in Melbourne.

"Normally the teams take new parts to Australia," admitted Marko. "As for what we will have, I say only that our colors will definitely be the same!"

Drivers to keep saving fuel in 2017 – Marko

Dr Helmut Marko
Dr Helmut Marko

(GMM) Dr Helmut Marko has admitted he is worried fuel economy could affect the 'show' in 2017.

Red Bull's top official told the Austrian broadcaster Servus TV he is happy with the much faster cars in 2017, including a tougher physical challenge for the drivers who can push on more robust Pirelli tires.

But he is worried the drivers may still be nursing their fuel loads during races.

"At least in the first race everyone will be talking about the issue of fuel economy," Marko predicted.

"The fuel limit for the race has increased by 5kg, but it does not compensate for the increase in engine power, the width of the tires and the increased efficiency of the aerodynamics," he added.

2017 to be 'tough' for Mick Schumacher – Rosberg

Mick Schumacher - is he fast like dad? We doubt it.
Mick Schumacher – is he fast like dad? We doubt it.

(GMM) Mick Schumacher is facing a "tough" introduction to Formula 3 this year.

That is the claim of Nico Rosberg, who says he knows what it is like to be entering the upper echelons of world motor sport as the son of a famous father.

"Once you're asked about it 100 times, it starts to get on your nerves," said new world champion Rosberg, whose father is the 1982 title winner Keke.

"The expectations are very high."

Those expectations are even higher for young Mick, as his father is the seven time world champion and F1 legend Michael Schumacher.

Rosberg told Zeit Magazin Mann: "I just read somewhere that Mick is a favorite for the F3 title. But he is only in his first year!

"Lewis (Hamilton) was fifth in his first year of Formula 3. In my opinion you need two years to be successful there," said Rosberg. "But if it's already being written that Mick is the favorite, then he can only disappoint.

"That's tough. I have a lot of sympathy for him because I know what it's like. I can only hope that he takes after his father and takes no notice of it," he added.

Alonso 'has spoken' about 2018 – Boullier

If 2017 another terrible year we expect Alonso to leave for Ferrari or Mercedes
If 2017 another terrible year at McLaren-Honda we expect Alonso to leave for Ferrari or Mercedes

(GMM) Eric Boullier has admitted Fernando Alonso's future could depend on the competitiveness of the McLaren-Honda package in 2017.

On the face of it, the Anglo-Japanese collaboration is set for a third consecutive tough campaign as Honda grapples with the new design of its power unit.

"I see faces of anguish and desperation as they are missing more than 100 horse power and 30kph on the straights, and they will not recover easily, if at all," former McLaren team manager Jo Ramirez told Cadena Cope.

"The concept is better than they had before, but I cannot believe they are so short on power," he added. "I think Honda are a little lost."

Indeed, rumors that either Honda will quit F1 or McLaren will dump the Japanese marque are already circulating.

Team boss Boullier told the Spanish daily AS that the McLaren chassis is "good".

"I don't know if the engine will be able to compete with Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault, but if we have a good engine we can be competitive. Otherwise not, it's that simple," said the Frenchman.

As for Alonso's expiring contract, the fact the Spaniard recently said he will race beyond his 2017 deal has been interpreted by some as an invitation for other teams to tempt him away from McLaren-Honda.

"People say a lot of things," said Boullier, "but I think Fernando is being honest with us just like we are with him.

"He likes this new F1, and the next step is to be more competitive. If we are competitive, he will be happy."

As for whether talks about 2018 have started, Boullier answered: "Yes, but it's too soon. But of course we have spoken."

Finally, Boullier was asked how many times he has wondered where McLaren would be in the pecking order if it had stayed with Mercedes power beyond 2014.

"Let's just say a few times," he laughed.

Asked if McLaren would be winning races, Boullier added: "I think so. Yes, we would be winning again."

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