Latest F1 news in brief – Tuesday

  • Bottas in the Mercedes. Yes the cars are faster, but the drivers say you cannot pass. Fans will go to a race and a parade will break out
    Bottas in the Mercedes. Yes the cars are faster, but the drivers say you cannot pass. Fans will go to a race and a parade will break out

    F1 delivers on much faster cars for 2017

  • F1 still at risk of investigation – source
  • Rivals rejected 'shark fin' ban – Horner
  • Liberty to 'unleash' new social media era
  • Injured Wehrlein set for next doctor decision
  • 2017 cars easier for older drivers – trainer
  • Sochi staying on calendar until 2025
  • Alonso 'not happy' as McLaren breaks down
  • Italy slams Ferrari for Barcelona 'news blackout'
  • Hamilton: Mercedes still the 'team to beat'

F1 delivers on much faster cars for 2017
(GMM) F1 has burst back into life for its all-new era, delivering on the promise of much faster cars.

"Lewis (Hamilton) is already quicker than qualifying last year," said Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo as the first of just two four-day Barcelona tests began.

That enthusiasm was obvious up and down the paddock and pitlane, but there remains some skepticism that the 'show' will be improved from an overtaking point of view.

"The tires are very hard and very consistent," said Mercedes' Hamilton. "I was behind a few other cars and it was not easy to pass them."

But Fernando Alonso said: "These are real racing cars again.

"We need to apologize to the fans for what we gave them over the past six years."

Ricciardo, however, is not sure the six second per-lap promise of the 2017 regulations will materialize.

"I don't know but I think that's pretty optimistic," he said.

Force India's Sergio Perez agreed: "I was expecting more grip. I would say the improvement in laptimes will be three or four seconds."

And although the chassis and tire rules are changing, the controversial 'power unit' regulations have remained fundamentally unchanged.

"We need to live with these engines until at least 2020," said Red Bull designer Adrian Newey.

As for Monday's pecking order, Mercedes came out a tenth ahead of Ferrari, with Toro Rosso's Carlos Sainz noting: "The worst thing today was comparing the laps we did compared with Mercedes.

"It is incredible to see how they are Ferrari arrive at the start of the preseason with their homework done so well."

F1 still at risk of investigation – source

There is a reason the Brits voted to leave the EU
There is a reason the Brits voted to leave the EU

(GMM) The possibility of a European Commission investigation into formula one remains open for now.

However, the BBC has reported that competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager in fact "rejected" calls for an investigation in a letter on Monday.

Vestager "has written to say the matter will not be taken any further", the BBC report claimed.

But F1 business journalist Christian Sylt says the BBC has simply got it wrong.

The calls for an investigation were led by British politician Anneliese Dodds, taking the side of small teams Force India and Sauber who claim the governance and income distribution models in F1 are wrong.

But her latest appeal to the Commission was about Liberty Media's recent takeover of the sport, which led to an $80 windfall for F1's regulator, the FIA.

Sylt told us: "The reply (from Vestager) specifically concerns the approval of the takeover, not the EC's intention to investigate an alleged breach of EU competition law as a result of it."

Explaining why the Commission's intervention on the Liberty sale was not necessary, commissioner Vestager said: "This transaction did not satisfy the turnover thresholds that must be met to fall within the Commission's jurisdiction".

The European commissioner added that authorities in Austria, Spain, Portugal and the UK all approved the Liberty deal.

Vestager also said her office is "looking at" F1's controversial British tax arrangements.

Rivals rejected 'shark fin' ban – Horner

The shark fin is ugly
The shark fin is ugly

(GMM) Christian Horner says fellow team bosses rejected his appeal for the 'shark wing' engine cover fins seen on the 2017 cars to be banned.

The aggressive, 'sexier' look of the new generation cars has been widely hailed, but many have joined Red Bull chief Horner in not liking the huge 'sails'.

"I think the new cars look fantastic," he is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport at the Barcelona test.

"The only thing is the long engine covers. We discussed the issue in the strategy group, then we went to the F1 Commission. But the request to ban them was rejected by majority."

Horner said the reason Red Bull's appeal was rejected was "the usual paranoia in formula one".

He explained: "The performance gain with the fin is marginal. If I ask our aerodynamicists, they want to keep it, of course. But we also need to consider it from an aesthetic point of view.

"Without the fin, the cars would simply look better."

Liberty to 'unleash' new social media era
(GMM) F1 is already turning a sharp corner in the early days of the post-Bernie Ecclestone era.

Former Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo told Italian radio Rai this week that the way the 86-year-old was ousted by Liberty Media was "not nice".

But others are hailing the sport's first post-Ecclestone steps.

For instance, teams were notably allowed to take more video footage of the paddock for social media as official testing began on Monday — something fiercely limited by Ecclestone in the past.

"They (Liberty) seem very keen to embrace ideas to make the sport more accessible and entertaining," Horner, who is a strong Ecclestone ally, said.

Also happier is Lewis Hamilton, who says he was consistently warned about taking social media footage inside the paddock under Ecclestone's reign.

But on Monday he 'tweeted': "Through testing I'll be live on Instagram from the cockpit to give you something new".

The change of heart follows a recent lunch between Hamilton, the triple world champion, and F1's new commercial managing director Sean Bratches.

"As a world champion, as a culture carrier of the sport, I wanted his point of view on what we are doing right (and) where are the opportunities to do things better", Bratches told the Times newspaper.

"I think that there are going to be guidelines to unleash Lewis, give him the ability to use F1 iconography to drive his brand which in turn helps drive our brand," he added.

Injured Wehrlein set for next doctor decision

Wehrlein stares as Ericsson tests on Monday
Wehrlein stares as Ericsson tests on Monday

(GMM) A dark cloud continues to hang over injured Sauber driver Pascal Wehrlein.

The young German is in Barcelona for the start of official testing, but still forbidden by doctors to drive after hurting his back in a January rollover crash.

"I haven't had any pain for a long time," he insisted on Monday.

However, Sauber ruled him out of action for the first of just two four-day tests, replacing him with engine supplier Ferrari's reserve Antonio Giovinazzi.

"We will monitor his medical progress and then decide on the next steps," said team boss Monisha Kaltenborn.

Wehrlein, 22, said in Barcelona that he will return for the second Barcelona test, but that decision has not yet been made formally.

"The next doctor's decision will be at the weekend in Zurich," he is quoted by the Swiss newspaper Blick.

"I hope they will say that everything is fine and I can be back in the car."

Veteran correspondent Roger Benoit said Wehrlein denied that he has damaged some vertebrae.

He said his resting phase is simply precautionary.

"Health is the most important thing," said Wehrlein. "I rely completely on the doctors' advice.

"It hurts to watch, but I'm trying to get as much information as possible about the car and the tires and get to know the team."

He also hit back at claims that, even if he does recover in time for the second test, he will not be ready for Melbourne due to falling behind in his training program.

"I'm not bedridden," Wehrlein insisted. "I'm still training. And by the time of the race of champions, I had already gained five kilograms of muscle."

2017 cars easier for older drivers – trainer

Raikkonen in the new Ferrari
Raikkonen in the new Ferrari

(GMM) F1's more experienced drivers will adapt more easily to the sport's much faster cars.

That is the claim of Mark Arnall, who for years has been 37-year-old Kimi Raikkonen's trainer.

"The younger generation have not experienced these G-forces before," he told Finland's Turun Sanomat. "But for Kimi and also Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, the situation is not completely new.

"In 2005 and 2006, the strain on the neck muscles in particular was extreme," said Arnall. "In the last few years, the physical requirement has been lower, but Kimi's program didn't really change.

"Of course it has changed again now, so I don't see any reason why Kimi should have any difficulty with these cars."

Sochi staying on calendar until 2025
(GMM) Russia is set to remain on the F1 calendar for the best part of the next decade.

We reported recently that Sochi race organisers have secured enough private sponsorship to pay the annual fee without any public funds.

Now, it emerges that the state-linked Russian finance group VTB has secured the naming sponsorship rights to the grand prix.

And deputy Russian prime minister Dmitry Kozak told Tass news agency: "Negotiations were conducted and the contract for the formula one race in Russia was extended until 2025."

Alonso 'not happy' as McLaren breaks down

Alonso watches as the team tries to get his Honda running again
Alonso watches as the team tries to get his Honda running again

(GMM) Fernando Alonso was "not very happy" when McLaren-Honda's new orange and black car for 2017 broke down after a single lap as official testing began.

That was the admission in Barcelona of team boss Eric Boullier, amid reports Honda acknowledges that an oil tank design flaw was the reason for the lengthy Monday breakdown.

It is just the latest setback for the Anglo-Japanese collaboration, which has floundered ever since the works collaboration with Honda began in 2015.

"I cannot hide that I am disappointed," said Spaniard Alonso, who revealed that he returned to his hotel after the breakdown to "play tennis".

"Of course you think about what happened in the past, but I can say that there is nothing dramatically wrong with the current project," he is quoted by the Spanish press.

"After the many problems in the last two years, the temptation is there to say bad things, but that does not help us.

"We have to continue working to gain the power and the downforce we did not have last year," Alonso said.

At the same time, boss Boullier was back-pedaling on earlier claims that while McLaren is "ready" to win races, he is not sure if the same can be said of Honda.

"I didn't say that," the Frenchman insisted.

"I simply said that I can only talk about McLaren because I know what we have done. If you ask if McLaren is ready to win, I say yes, of course — always."

Meanwhile, Red Bull boss Christian Horner fired a salvo at McLaren's new orange and black livery, saying the ousted Ron Dennis would be "going mad" about it.

Italy slams Ferrari for Barcelona 'news blackout'

It is clear the new Ferrari is fast, at least so far. While other top times were set on soft tires Monday, Vettel stuck with the harder medium tires. With that said most teams are sandbagging for this test.
It is clear the new Ferrari is fast, at least so far. While other top times were set on soft tires Monday, Vettel stuck with the harder medium tires. With that said most teams are sandbagging for this test.

(GMM) Italian media sources have slammed Ferrari for turning its low-profile preseason strategy into a total blanket of silence.

After president Sergio Marchionne admitted his bold proclamations of a year ago made him look "silly", Ferrari has taken a notably starkly contrasting quiet approach to its 2017 preparations.

But now, while the new Ferrari came out of the blocks with a reliable, technically courageous and apparently fast car in Barcelona, Sebastian Vettel was banned from talking to the media on Monday.

"Ferrari do not speak," insider Leo Turrini said. "But they are happy with the outcome of the first day of testing."

But the blackout has not been as warmly met by other Italian media insiders.

"Low profile is acceptable," said La Gazzetta dello Sport's Luigi Perna, "but not complete silence.

"Journalists are like engineers," he told the Finnish newspaper Iltalehti. "We should be able to give feedback to the fans, who have the right to hear the drivers."

Turrini said the decision was made by president Marchionne himself, triggering a furious reaction from the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

"Starting the season with a news blackout is absurd," the report declared.

"After the sad living nativity scene of the car launch comes this meaningless news blackout. A low profile asked by Marchionne is one thing, but this carelessness is quite another."

So for now, any commentary made about Ferrari is being left to others, like Red Bull's Adrian Newey.

He said on Monday: "The Mercedes looks very sophisticated. As for Ferrari, I do not quite understand the area of the sidepods, which look very complicated to me."

Toro Rosso technical boss James Key agrees: "The Ferrari looks really interesting — it is not like the other cars."

And former F1 driver Marc Surer said in Barcelona: "The Ferrari makes a good impression on me. You can see they've done a good job in the winter.

"From the (engine) sound, the Ferrari is in no way inferior to Mercedes," the pundit told Bild newspaper. "Now we'll have to see if that is synonymous with performance."

Hamilton: Mercedes still the 'team to beat'

Hamilton in the latest Aldo Costa creation
Hamilton in the latest Aldo Costa creation

Lewis Hamilton says he feels that Mercedes is still the "team to beat" in Formula 1 after topping the timesheets on the first day of pre-season testing in Spain.

Formula 1 has entered a new technical era for 2017, spearheaded by overhauled aerodynamics and wider Pirelli tires, with lap times set to drop by three to five seconds.

Hamilton led the way at Barcelona on Monday with a 1:21.765, set on Soft tires, faster than the benchmark during last year's pair of tests, and his 2016 pole position time at the venue.

Hamilton, who racked up 73 laps in the afternoon, after taking over from new team-mate Valtteri Bottas, said: "It's been a good day, a really positive day for the team.

"The car looks fantastic and it feels great.

"We did lots of laps and collected loads of information today, so we can try to improve the car as we move forward.

"We've not done any work to get the balance perfect yet, as today was all about ticking off the list of checkpoints and racking up mileage.

"Over the next few days we'll start to look to improve the car.

"I still think we're the team to beat, but we have a lot of work ahead of us to do, the same as every single team on the grid.

"Right now we're just focusing on our own job to do the very best that we can."

Bottas, having conducted initial runs in the W08 during a filming day at Silverstone last week, completed 79 laps in Monday morning's session.

"It was a very good first morning for us," said Bottas.

"We were doing quite a lot of mechanical tests, checking systems, while trying to do mileage.

"If we are going to face any issues with the car I hope we can face them now, [and] that's why we did more than a race this morning – that was our target.

"We worked on long-runs, trying to gain all the information we could from these conditions.

"We didn't really care at all about lap times today; as a team we still have many more important days ahead of us; the main thing to do is to get the mileage in and the car had no issues.

"The guys have done an amazing job over the winter; I only started just over a month ago, but the way the car has been running is impressive – it's a good feeling."

Mercedes is splitting its running on each test day to prevent driver fatigue.

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