F1 news in brief – Friday

  • Bottas ahead of Vettel in Barcelona. Is the Mercedes still ahead of the Ferrari?
    Bottas ahead of Vettel in Barcelona. Is the Mercedes still ahead of the Ferrari? If it is, not by much.

    Mercedes still ahead of rivals – Marko

  • Wolff admits Ferrari 'really fast'
  • Red Bull eyes F1 television rights
  • Liberty picks location for new F1 HQ
  • McLaren chassis 'restless' on track – de la Rosa
  • Pirelli to keep improving wet tires
  • Magnussen not commenting on negative report
  • Too early to consider next F1 deal – Hembery
  • Barcelona test 'win' not important – Bottas
  • Vettel: F1's 2017 overhaul 'like an aspirin'
  • Palmer hails 'big step' at Renault for 2017
  • Ex-Williams tech chief Symonds joins Sky

Mercedes still ahead of rivals – Marko
(GMM) Dr Helmut Marko thinks Mercedes continues to lead the pack in 2017.

Hopes were high that Red Bull or Ferrari would catch up to the reigning world champions thanks to the new regulations, but Marko thinks Mercedes is still ahead.

"The drivability of their engine and the packaging are incredible," the Red Bull official told Auto Motor und Sport.

Ferrari has looked closest to Mercedes so far, but it is also widely believed that Red Bull is yet to show its full hand.

"We are still driving conservatively," Marko admitted. "Let's see how it looks when we have full power.

"You can hear that Mercedes is doing the same thing."

As for Ferrari's apparent big leap over the winter, Marko commented: "It depends on how much fuel they are using. "As late as Vettel was braking into the first corner yesterday, there can't have been much in there."

It is also believed Red Bull will add a range of aerodynamic appendages at the second and final Barcelona test, but Marko said mischievously: "Our car is beautiful. And normally beautiful cars are fast.

"Why should we change something?"

Wolff admits Ferrari 'really fast'

Wolff and Lauda wondering about the Ferrari
Wolff and Lauda wondering about the Ferrari

(GMM) Toto Wolff says it is too soon to say Mercedes is still ahead of the field in 2017.

After the first of just two pre-season tests, the conventional wisdom is that Mercedes leads, Ferrari is close behind, and Red Bull is the third force.

But Mercedes team boss Wolff said: "Since we have these new rules, the teams are just trying to get a lot of mileage to know their cars.

"At Red Bull, we probably haven't seen the car that will be in Melbourne. But Ferrari is really fast," he admitted to Osterreich newspaper.

McLaren chief Eric Boullier admits that a pecking order is not possible to assess after four days of running, but he said Ferrari's pace has been "surprising".

"We did not expect to see them on the pace with the Mercedes. Red Bull seems a little behind, but we do not have all of the information to judge," he is quoted by France's Auto Hebdo.

"We may know a little more next week, but we really have to wait until Australia."

Boullier may be surprised with what he saw in Barcelona, but Red Bull's Max Verstappen seemed calm.

"Actually, nothing surprised me here," he is quoted by Het Laatste Nieuws. "And I think everything is still within reach for us."

Red Bull eyes F1 television rights

Riccardo in the Red Bull
Riccardo in the Red Bull

(GMM) Red Bull could be set to expand its involvement in F1 beyond being a team owner and race promoter.

Salzburger Nachrichten newspaper reports that Dietrich Mateschitz's broadcaster Servus TV is interested in taking over as the holder of Austria's F1 television rights for 2020.

"Generally, formula one is always a topic for us but we have not yet looked in detail," the Red Bull mogul said.

Servus TV already broadcasts MotoGP in Austria, and Mateschitz remarked: "MotoGP is probably the best motor racing series in the world, and we have a young, committed and above all competent team that does a good job."

Liberty picks location for new F1 HQ
(GMM) Liberty Media has selected the location of F1's new official headquarters.

When the buyout deal was completed, new CEO Chase Carey announced that ousted Bernie Ecclestone's current offices in London – where the long-time F1 supremo also lives – are "too small" for the Liberty era.

Now, it emerges that F1 will move into the fourth and fifth floors of the $500 million London development in St James' Market.

"Formula one is a global sport, attracting audiences of 400 million, and London is the perfect place to grow our international fan base," said F1 official Sacha Woodward Hill.

McLaren chassis 'restless' on track – de la Rosa

Alonso in the restless McLaren
Alonso in the restless McLaren

(GMM) Honda is having a troubled start to its 2017 season, but the McLaren chassis is also far from perfect.

That is the claim of the British team's former driver Pedro de la Rosa, who has been in Barcelona to take in the opening test of the pre-season.

"The McLaren is more nervous than I expected," he told El Confidencial.

"I see a Fernando (Alonso) who has to work on the steering wheel more than is ideal. The car is unstable in turns 1 and 5 and tends to lock wheels.

"No one is attacking like Fernando. I really did not expect the McLaren to be as restless on these wide tires," de la Rosa added.

On the other hand, de la Rosa hailed his other former team, amid widespread hopes that Ferrari can mount a challenge to Mercedes this year.

"The Ferrari is very agile and obviously good," said the 46-year-old Spaniard. "Of course, I don't know how much fuel they are using, but on the road it is really impressive."

De la Rosa, however, backs the consensus that Mercedes continues to lead the pack.

"The Mercedes is so good in turns 1 and 2," he said. "No car is faster there. I think the car has a lot of downforce.

"I really enjoyed watching the new cars — now the only missing thing is engine noise to match! In terms of how they look, I can't understand why the shark fins were allowed again.

"They had been banned because everyone found them ugly. Why are they back again?" wondered de la Rosa.

Pirelli to keep improving wet tires

Vandoorne testing Pirelli's wet tires in Barcelona
Vandoorne testing Pirelli's wet tires in Barcelona

(GMM) Pirelli has vowed to keep working on the effectiveness of its wet-weather tires.

On Thursday, the sight of trucks dumping thousands of liters of water on the Barcelona circuit was widely criticized, as F1's official supplier attempted to test its modified wets for 2017.

Some wondered why Pirelli didn't arrange to run instead at Paul Ricard, where a sprinkler system is in place.

"There's also Fiorano," Pirelli's Paul Hembery said, "but these conditions are different so in Barcelona you have to use these trucks which, as you know, is not the most advanced technology.

"As such, the conditions are constantly changing. But we can still see there are problems with the tire warming so we're going to continue to search for solutions."

Lewis Hamilton opted out of the 'wet' testing completely, joking on Wednesday that he would "fake a pulled muscle" before his car mysteriously developed an electrical problem on Thursday morning.

But Kimi Raikkonen – a critic of Pirelli's wets last year – was duly in action.

Asked if Pirelli has improved, the Ferrari driver answered: "Hard to say. The conditions when you wet the track are never like when it rains, so it's not easy for them.

"It's hard to make wet tires without being able to test them properly," he added.

Haas' Romain Grosjean said: "I think Pirelli has made progress, but the intermediates lost their effectiveness after one lap so it's necessary to do something more.

"But in general, this is progress compared to last year."

Magnussen not commenting on negative report

Are Magnussen's days numbered?
Are Magnussen's days numbered?

(GMM) Kevin Magnussen has declined to comment directly on reports 2017 is his 'last chance' in F1.

Last week, a prominent British outlet was highly critical of the Dane, declaring that a 'third chance' is rare in F1 — particularly for a driver who left McLaren and then Renault amid acrimony and internal criticism.

"I have no real comment," he told Denmark's BT newspaper.

"I feel that I deserve to be in formula one, and of course I am happy to be here at Haas. It's nice to come into a team that really wants me — because they think I fit well and can contribute something positive.

"Haas is the best experience out of the three seasons I have been in F1," Magnussen, 24, added.

Too early to consider next F1 deal – Hembery

Pirelli Tires
Pirelli Tires

(GMM) Pirelli is not ready to think about staying in formula one beyond 2019.

That is the claim of the Italian marque's F1 chief Paul Hembery, even though some race promoters are already inking extended deals with F1's new owner Liberty Media.

Last year, Pirelli signed a new deal to remain the sport's sole tire supplier from 2017-2019.

But Hembery says it's too early to be thinking about 2020.

"We're not even at the first race of this season, so it's too early to discuss the issue even at the level of our company," he said in Barcelona.

"Firstly we'd need to understand the direction of the sport, how the rules will change, what the geography of the championship looks like and so on. And the teams' contracts don't expire until 2020," Hembery added.

"I'm sure that the time to discuss all of these issues will come at the beginning of 2018."

Barcelona test 'win' not important – Bottas

Bottas is learning that anyone can be fast in an Aldo Costa designed car
Bottas is learning that anyone can be fast in an Aldo Costa designed car

(GMM) Valtteri Bottas has played down the significance of ending the week as the 'champion' of Barcelona testing.

The Mercedes newcomer clocked the fastest lap over the four days of the first pre-season test, despite switching at the last minute from Williams.

Asked if that 'win' means anything, the Finn responded: "This has no special meaning for me. We are here to test so there are no prizes.

"For me it was extremely important to get as much driving as possible, so it was a good week for me."

However, 27-year-old Bottas said the difficulty of the Mercedes switch – having spent his entire career to date at Williams – caught him by surprise.

"The team change was a bigger deal than I thought," he said. "It will still take some time, because the team is much bigger than Williams.

"But this morning I came to the track, looked forward to breakfast and everything felt normal — as though I had been here for a while. That was a nice feeling," said Bottas.

Bottas was not only the fastest driver overall in Barcelona, but also the one who did the most laps.

Asked if that is important, he agreed: "Very important. Because every lap, every minute, in my new team is important. This was my goal for the first test and we achieved that."

Vettel: F1's 2017 overhaul 'like an aspirin'

Sebastian Vettel
Sebastian Vettel

Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel says Formula 1's technical regulation overhaul has acted "like an aspirin" in improving all areas of car performance.

Formula 1 cars have been tipped to be three to five seconds per lap faster in 2017, depending on the track, as a result of revised aerodynamics and much wider tires.

Vettel got his first taste of Ferrari's new SF70H during this week's opening pre-season test in Barcelona, finishing second to a Mercedes on Monday and Wednesday.

Asked to assess the key differences between 2016 and 2017 F1 machinery, Vettel said: "I think from a driver's point of view it's pretty much better everywhere.

"Braking is better, cornering is better, you've got much more grip, and then also in low-speed, where the downforce effect is less, you have the wider tires, so more grip from them.

"It works pretty much like an aspirin, it fixes everything!"

Vettel says Ferrari is very much focused on itself during the pre-season, with World Champion team Mercedes using softer tire compounds over the first three days of running.

On Monday, Vettel's Medium-shod time was a tenth slower than Lewis Hamilton's effort on Softs, while on Wednesday, his lap on Softs was 0.247s down on Valtteri Bottas, who used Ultra Softs.

"There's a lot of work ahead of us, the team is pushing very hard," said Vettel.

"I think we had a quiet winter where we really tried to focus on what's important, and same here [in testing], we try to do our job – the list that we have to do is very long.

"We've had a good three days. It could have been better, but we did a decent number of laps.

"I didn't really pay much attention to what the others were doing.

"At the end of the day everybody is looking at one lap time, but it's much more important what happens throughout the day, so it's very difficult to read."

Pushed on whether he feels Ferrari has more potential in 2017, over 2016, he joked: "I don't have a crystal ball. I have two other balls, but they don't tell you much…"

Palmer hails 'big step' at Renault for 2017

Jolyon Palmer
Jolyon Palmer

Renault driver Jolyon Palmer reckons the manufacturer has made a "big step" with the overall ride quality of its 2017 challenger, compared to its predecessor.

Renault endured a dismal return to F1 as a works team in 2016, placing ninth in the standings, with only three top 10 finishes, as Palmer also initially struggled in his rookie campaign.

Renault, after initial troubles, racked up the mileage during testing in Barcelona, with Palmer and Nico Hülkenberg combining on Thursday to amass 90 laps, fewer than only Ferrari and Haas.

Palmer also fared well in terms of pace, finishing third to Ferrari's Kimi Räikkönen and Red Bull's Max Verstappen, while Hülkenberg placed fifth.

"I think the ride quality is where we were weak last year and we've made a big step this year, and we've got much better tools to fill the gap now," he said.

"It's something we learned from last year and we learned the hard way as we were rubbish everywhere on a street circuit.

"Clearly here we made good progress and also the balance of the car is much more consistent, it's very drivable – every time I get in it we know what to expect."

Palmer was also optimistic over Renault's lap times, although wary not to read too much into the overall standings, and where the team may sit in the pecking order.

"It's a pleasant surprise at the moment," he said.

"[But] we still don't really know [where we stand], there's lot more to come next week, but I'm sure everyone's got a lot [of upgrades], so it's all proportionate, it depends who has the most really.

"But I think for week one we can be pretty happy where we're at."

Ex-Williams tech chief Symonds joins Sky

Pat Symonds
Pat Symonds

Former Williams technical chief Pat Symonds has joined Sky Sports F1 as a new pundit and commentator for a selection of races in 2017.

Symonds spent several decades at Enstone through various guises before a stint at Marussia, which led to his role at Williams.

Williams claimed third in the standings in successive years, prior to slipping to fifth place, and Symonds departed at the end of 2016 when his contract expired.

"Pat will make a brilliant addition to our team, bringing a wealth of experience to Sky Sports F1," said Sky Sports Head of F1 Martin Turner.

"His knowledge, expertise and passion will add another dimension to our analysis and enhance the viewing experience for fans as they seek to understand the new cars and regulations.

"In this era of Formula 1 there is no-one better to explain it."

The first round of the season takes place in Australia on March 26.

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