F1 news in brief – Wednesday

  • The McLaren Honda has had major reliability problems so far
    The McLaren Honda has had major reliability problems so far

    McLaren 'sticking with plan' – Vandoorne

  • Rosberg to attend Barcelona test
  • Wolff, Horner say Melbourne protest possible
  • Ferrari 'close' to Mercedes – Steiner
  • Drivers 'less important' in 2017 – Alonso
  • Canada GP secure through 2029 – promoter
  • Ferrari's 2017 approach 'risky' – Montezemolo
  • Ferrari media blackout set to end
  • Wehrlein not dwelling on missed Merc seat
  • European politician frustrated over F1 reporting
  • New Ferrari 'huge step forward' – Marchionne
  • Pirelli happy to deliver on 2017 promises
  • Mercedes denies mixing oil with fuel for F1 boost
  • New F1 Owners Bringing 'Aggressive' Growth Strategy, Bratches Says

McLaren 'sticking with plan' – Vandoorne

Vandoorne
Vandoorne

(GMM) Stoffel Vandoorne says he has not been told if McLaren will modify its test program in light of the problems struck so far.

As the Barcelona test began and Fernando Alonso struck technical trouble with Honda's new engine, team boss Eric Boullier admitted the later schedule could be tweaked so the Spaniard could catch up with mileage.

But then Belgian Vandoorne struck similar trouble with Honda's redesigned power unit on Tuesday, with McLaren's situation being called a "nightmare" by sections of the Spanish media.

It is believed Honda only brought three engines to Barcelona, so it is now rushing to fly in another unit from Japan.

Asked if the test program will have to be modified, Vandoorne said in Barcelona: "We have not discussed this, so I assume we will stick to the original plan.

"Everyone is working their hardest," he insisted. "We are professionals and know how to make the most of the time that we have to prepare.

"This is only the second test day as well, so there is no reason to give up hope."

As for his relationship with Alonso, whose patience with the McLaren-Honda situation is always being questioned by the media, Vandoorne answered: "So far we are getting along very well.

"We are both working together to put the team back on the road to success."

Rosberg to attend Barcelona test
(GMM) Two F1 test days into his retirement, world champion Nico Rosberg will be in the paddock on Wednesday.

The German, who suddenly quit Mercedes and the sport after winning the title late last November, was already in Barcelona this week for a Mercedes sponsor event.

He said there: "I might go to the track tomorrow (Wednesday) just to say hi and check it out, as I'm here anyway."

And Rosberg later confirmed on Twitter: "(I) stayed in Barcelona to go check out the new cars at the track tomorrow. Will be fun.

"I'll let you know what I think!"

Wolff, Horner say Melbourne protest possible

Mercedes bosses Wolff and Lauda
Mercedes bosses Wolff and Lauda

(GMM) Mercedes and Red Bull say the risk rival teams could lodge a protest in Melbourne still exists.

It comes despite the FIA issuing a new clarification about allegedly illegal 'active suspension'-like systems, which makes clear that any aerodynamic effect has to be only incidental.

A source at Mercedes is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport: "If (Maurizio) Arrivabene wants to look a fool, he can quietly continue to work in this direction."

And team boss Toto Wolff said: "Our system was always legal, so this clarification does not concern us."

It is believed that the clarification could actually have more effect on Red Bull's interpretation of the rules, but team boss Christian Horner says the real problem is the vagueness of the regulation's wording.

"We spend too much money in this area," he said. "The fans don't benefit from it at all because they neither see nor understand the technology."

Nonetheless, Horner admitted that a protest threat still lingers.

"The FIA seems to be happy with the way we have interpreted the rules. If anyone has problems with that, they have the right to protest," he said.

Wolff agreed: "I think it's the usual posing before the season starts.

"If someone wants to file a protest then they should file a protest. I think it's pretty clear: we don't go anywhere near what we see as dangerous territory.

"There may be other teams that have stretched the rules a little bit, we don't know," he added.

Ferrari 'close' to Mercedes – Steiner

Raikkonen's Ferrari just nipped Mercedes on Tuesday
Raikkonen's Ferrari just nipped Mercedes on Tuesday

(GMM) Mercedes and Ferrari are leading the 2017 pack, according to a rival chief.

After two days of testing, the boss of the small American team Haas said: "The Mercedes is a beautiful and well-designed car.

"But the Ferrari is also fantastic," Gunther Steiner also told the Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet. "They are the two fastest cars out there.

"From what I've seen so far, I think Ferrari is pretty close to Mercedes. What Ferrari has shown is very encouraging, because we might have a close fight for the championship," he added. "I hope so."

However, Max Verstappen says it is too early to play down the chances of his team, Red Bull.

"I was getting used to the car and getting through the program," the Dutch driver said after Tuesday's running in Barcelona, according to Het Laatste Nieuws newspaper.

"The speed? That comes later."

Drivers 'less important' in 2017 – Alonso

Fernando Alonso pushed for faster cars and now he has live with his ideas.  Whereas the car was 99% of the equation now it is 99.5% of the equation.
Fernando Alonso pushed for faster cars and now he has to live with his ideas. Whereas the car was 99% of the equation, now it is 99.5% of the equation.

(GMM) Fernando Alonso has played down hopes the 2017 rules will put the skill of the driver right back in charge in formula one.

In fact, whilst hailing the fact the new cars are much faster, the Spaniard warned that the driver is becoming "even less important" than before.

"I think for pushing the car and expressing your driving style, yes they (the 2017 rules) do allow more than the previous cars," he is quoted by Marca sports newspaper.

"On the other hand, with the technology we have now, with the current aerodynamic packages, the engines, I think the driver is even less important," Alonso added.

"I think this year a few corners are disappearing and so if last year you had 20 horse power less and lost three or four tenths, this year you might lose half a second."

Canada GP secure through 2029 – promoter
(GMM) Canada's place on the F1 calendar for the next 13 years is secure.

That is despite the fact that, mere months ago, the 2017 edition of the popular Montreal race at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve was under a dark cloud.

That uncertainty was about renovations to the aging paddock, but we reported in October that the city of Montreal was in fact "negotiating to extend the (contract) by five years, from 2025-2019".

In the paddock in Barcelona, race promoter Francois Dumontier revealed that the contract extension has been signed.

"Some said the end was 2028, but it's 2029," he told the Journal de Montreal newspaper in Barcelona.

"This is nothing new. I'm not telling you anything new."

Indeed, Montreal mayor Denis Coderre had referred to the 2029 extension during a radio interview in January.

But the latest confirmation follows a recent meeting between Dumontier and representatives of F1's new owners, Liberty Media.

"The meeting was favorable," Dumontier said, "their vision of the future is interesting and it's music to our ears.

"But we have to give them time, because these people are in a very sharp learning curve. That being said, they seem to have an openness to discuss and work with promoters."

As for his Barcelona visit, Dumontier said it was really to witness Canadian teenager Lance Stroll test the 2017 Williams for the first time.

A high-speed spin for Stroll actually ended the 18-year-old's day, but Dumontier said the son of billionaire Lawrence Stroll is actually very important for the Canadian grand prix.

"As promoter of the Canadian grand prix, I had to be here," he said. "Personally, I feel an excitement around Lance and I am moved and very proud to see him arrive in F1, especially since I've known him since he was a boy."

Ferrari's 2017 approach 'risky' – Montezemolo

The Ferrari is now designed by all Italian engineers. Did they make the right move? So far so good.
The Ferrari is now designed by all Italian engineers. Did they make the right move? So far so good.

(GMM) Ferrari is taking a "risky" approach to the modern era in formula one.

That is the claim of former president Luca di Montezemolo, who fell out spectacularly when he was ousted a few years ago by Sergio Marchionne.

Now, amid a bizarre media blackout, Ferrari is nonetheless impressing so far with its 2017 car but Montezemolo still wonders if the team's approach is right.

"Ferrari made a risky choice," he told Italian radio Rai. "They want to have a car constructed exclusively by Italian engineers, but in formula one you need the best people in the industry.

"It would be nice to win with Italians alone, but excellence is not always in a single country," Montezemolo added.

The 69-year-old warns that Ferrari's strategy could soon cost it the patience of number 1 driver Sebastian Vettel.

"Vettel has one (Ferrari) victory," he said. "He will assess the competitiveness of this car after two or three grands prix. As his contract expires, he will then decide his future.

"Raikkonen? He is not the future of Ferrari," Montezemolo added.

As for the promise shown by Ferrari's 2017 car in early testing, Montezemolo commented: "Good times are positive, but times that are worth something will only be in Melbourne."

Ferrari media blackout set to end
(GMM) Kimi Raikkonen impressed at the wheel of Ferrari's 2017 car even though he is suffering from the flu.

That is the news from the Italian team's spokesman Alberto Antonini, amid a controversial self-imposed media blackout for Ferrari that will only end on Wednesday.

The Finnish broadcaster MTV reports that Sebastian Vettel will finally speak to the press in Barcelona on Wednesday, with Raikkonen following suit on Thursday.

However, it is understood that team boss Maurizio Arrivabene has no plans to talk to the media.

"It is no mystery (why)," Antonini explained. "We want the drivers to concentrate fully on driving. We really have a lot of work to do."

As for Raikkonen, he admitted the Finn is suffering from a minor flu.

"It is no more than that," Antonini insisted.

Wehrlein not dwelling on missed Merc seat

Pascal Wehrlein starring into blank space
Pascal Wehrlein starring into blank space

(GMM) Pascal Wehrlein insists he is not dwelling on having missed out on the plum Mercedes seat for 2017.

The young German was seriously considered as a potential replacement for the retired Nico Rosberg, but the seat ultimately went to Valtteri Bottas.

"I've already forgotten about it completely," Wehrlein, who will instead race for Sauber in 2017, is quoted by the German broadcaster RTL.

"From the moment it was clear that I would be with Sauber this year, I focused completely on that," he added.

Wehrlein was speaking as he attended the first Barcelona test, and is hoping to get a green light over the weekend to return from a back injury next week.

European politician frustrated over F1 reporting
(GMM) The spokesman for a European politician has expressed frustration with reporting by the F1 media this week.

A letter to parliamentarian Anneliese Dodds from the European Commission's competition commissioner was interpreted by several publications – notably the BBC, City AM and F1 blogger Joe Saward – to mean that an investigation into F1 had been ruled out.

Dodds is pressing the Commission to look into not only the income and governance systems in F1, but also the recent takeover completed by Liberty Media.

A spokesman for Dodds said that as soon as he noticed the publications were "annoyingly" saying an investigation had been ruled out, he "sent messages" to all of them.

"I can assure you that the Commissioner is well aware of our position, and what they have and haven't ruled out," he said.

"I'm going to be speaking with Anneliese about all of this when she arrives in Brussels later today and we'll think of the next steps."

Also alarmed at the F1 media's reporting is top F1 business journalist Christian Sylt, who said analyzing the letters between Dodds and the Commission was "actually really simple".

"The crazy part is that they (the journalists) didn't stop to check whether it made any sense," he told us.

New Ferrari 'huge step forward' – Marchionne
(GMM) Sergio Marchionne has broken Ferrari's media silence to declare the Italian team "optimistic" ahead of the 2017 world championship.

The fabled Maranello outfit is in the midst of a bizarre self-imposed news blackout as it tests in Barcelona, where the 2017 car is so far appearing a match for the Mercedes.

"We are optimistic," president Marchionne is quoted by Italian media, "but I don't know if this machine is able to win the championship.

"But we will not be ashamed this year, and that is important," he added.

When asked specifically about the 2017 car, Marchionne was quoted by La Repubblica as answering: "It's more powerful, for sure. From what I saw yesterday, I'm happy.

"The forecasts that we did have been fulfilled. The behavior of the car on the track is in line with expectations. It is a huge step forward compared to where we were last year," he added.

Pirelli happy to deliver on 2017 promises
(GMM) Pirelli is happy it has delivered what F1 requested as the sport looks into its new era.

A major part of the laptime boost for 2017 is thanks to Pirelli's bigger tires, which are designed to allow the drivers to push rather than nurse heavy degradation.

"I drove 20 laps with the soft tires, and I was able to attack for 20 laps," Williams' Felipe Massa told Auto Motor und Sport at the Barcelona test.

Pirelli's technical boss Mario Isola said: "Last year, no one could have driven 20 laps with the soft tire in Barcelona. Because you would have lost 4 to 5 seconds.

"Now the degradation is 1 to 1.5 seconds."

However, there are concerns in some quarters that the lack of degradation will lead to predictable one-stop races.

And drivers are reporting that the big tires are upsetting the airflow behind the cars, making the prospect of overtaking even less likely.

Isola said: "We built the tires we were asked to build. If it turns out that the races are more boring, we are ready to change our approach for 2018."

Mercedes denies mixing oil with fuel for F1 boost
(GMM) Mercedes has shot down a rumor that a secret of its speed has been uncovered.

According to Auto Motor und Sport, Red Bull suspects Mercedes is able to deliver a huge power boost for qualifying because it mixes oil with fuel.

But Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff denies that the German marque's illegal trick has been found out.

"We've never done it," he insisted.

"Even before the season starts, some teams are already seeing a lot of ghosts. It was always clear that oil cannot be in the fuel."

New F1 Owners Bringing 'Aggressive' Growth Strategy, Bratches Says

Sean Bratches (L)
Sean Bratches (L)

More teams, more sponsors and more circuits "are all on the long-term wish-list" for Formula 1's new owners, who said that fans "will see changes already this season as part of an aggressive strategy for growth," according to Alan Baldwin of REUTERS.

Managing Dir, Commercial Operations Sean Bratches said that "every area of the business is being looked at." He said, "There will be a point in the season … where we start to effectuate change.

"It’s not going to be … where we just drop our vision one day and that’s the vision. It’s going to be a build and we are going to be very aggressive. We are going to try new things, all in the spirit of better serving Formula 1 fans."

The first "small sign of change" came on Monday when teams were told they and their drivers "could post snippets of video on social media channels from inside the paddock confines." REUTERS

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