Latest F1 news in brief – Friday

  • Carey (L) wants F1 teams to have skin in the game
    Carey (L) wants F1 teams to have skin in the game

    Liberty urges teams to buy into F1

  • Bottas takes sponsor to Mercedes
  • Marko would have taken Wehrlein 'risk'
  • Mercedes seat may have 'destroyed' Wehrlein – Wolff
  • Wolff unsure Bottas can beat Hamilton
  • Vandoorne to 'fight and work with' Alonso
  • Haas 'easier' than McLaren, Renault – Magnussen
  • McLaren appoints Ben Priest as vice president, Americas

Liberty urges teams to buy into F1
(GMM) New F1 owner Liberty Media has urged the teams to buy into the sport.

Earlier this week, we reported that because the share offer would not include actual voting rights on important decisions, the teams were not keen.

Nonetheless, Liberty has announced that it has reserved shares "for issuance to the F1 teams at a per share purchase price of $21.26".

Liberty CEO Greg Maffei said: "We think it's important to offer the teams the chance to invest in F1 and further align our interests."

And new F1 chairman Chase Carey added: "Several of the teams have expressed interest in investing and we have already begun productive discussions to make the sport more competitive and even more exciting."

But while Liberty is extending an olive branch to the teams, much less certain is the future of the long-time F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone.

We have reported that the 86-year-old appears left out of Liberty's plans, and Ecclestone has now told the Press Association news agency that he is not sure if he will continue.

"It is not a case of my terms, it is a case of let's have a look and see which way they would like to go," he said.

Bottas takes sponsor to Mercedes

What sponsor would not be on a winning car
What sponsor would not want be on a winning car

(GMM) Valtteri Bottas is taking a personal sponsor with him from Williams to Mercedes.

Throughout his career, the 27-year-old has been backed by Finnish industry conglomerate Wirhuri, which had prominent signage on Williams' livery.

But now that Bottas is moving, the Finnish broadcaster MTV has revealed that Wirhuri is changing camps too.

The report said Wihuri has signed a one-year sponsorship deal with Mercedes, in line with Bottas' new contract.

A Wihuri spokesperson said "everything worked well" with the now concluding partnership between the company and Williams.

Marko would have taken Wehrlein 'risk'
(GMM) Dr Helmut Marko says that in Mercedes' place, Red Bull would have taken a punt on a young driver rather than sign up someone like Valtteri Bottas.

In the end, Mercedes weighed up between extracting Bottas from his Williams deal or taking a punt on its available youngster, 2016 Manor rookie Pascal Wehrlein.

Red Bull's Marko, the head of the energy drink company's well-known and notorious young driver program, said: "For us, we would have done differently.

"We would have trained a junior. No risk, no fun," the Austrian told motorsport-magazin.com.

However, some might argue that Bottas was a wise choice by Mercedes, as the Finn might now be regarded as a clear 'number 2' to Lewis Hamilton.

At the same time, Red Bull's highly competitive lineup of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen could be fighting for the title against Mercedes whilst taking points off one another.

"This danger is quite real," Marko admitted, "but it does not change our racing philosophy or enthusiasm in any way.

"With us, there are no team orders. We are more racers than that."

Mercedes' other prominent junior driver is Esteban Ocon, and the German marque has now also signed up George Russell, an 18-year-old Briton who will race in GP3 this year.

Mercedes seat may have 'destroyed' Wehrlein – Wolff

Wolff (L) and his new driver Bottas
Wolff (L) and his new driver Bottas

(GMM) Toto Wolff says the retirement of Nico Rosberg was regarded as an "opportunity" for Mercedes rather than a problem.

The world champion team has signed up long-time Williams driver Valtteri Bottas to replace Rosberg, with boss Wolff insisting he was never downbeat throughout the process.

"Obviously it was a shock," he told the French daily L'Equipe when asked about Rosberg's eleventh hour retirement plans.

"But the departure of Nico will perhaps allow the emergence of a super talent. I prefer to see an opportunity rather than worry."

Some, however, have criticized Mercedes for overlooking its own junior drivers Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon in order to go for the 'safe' option of Bottas.

"Yes, we have Pascal and Esteban in our young driver program," said Wolff. "But our idea is to develop them, not throw them unprepared into an inappropriate environment."

So he insisted the decision to go with Bottas should not reflect on Wehrlein's talent.

"He is fast and brilliant and he was always considered," Wolff said. "But he is in his development phase. He must be able to make mistakes and learn. And he could not have done that with us.

"Look at Sergio Perez, Heikki Kovalainen or Kevin Magnussen. They arrived too early at McLaren and were not well enough prepared."

Wolff said the same also applies to Esteban Ocon.

"Yes," he said, "especially as he had already signed a contract with Force India. We do not want to destroy careers by moving too fast. I don't want to burn young people we believe in."

Among the most critical of Wolff's caution is Red Bull, who took a punt on 17-year-old Max Verstappen, who turned out to be nothing short of an F1 sensation.

Wolff insisted: "We must not forget that even Max had his development phase. Red Bull prepared him perfectly, first with drives on Friday morning, then doing a season and a half at Toro Rosso.

"And even when he arrived at Red Bull, he did not have to fight for the world title or compete with a driver like Lewis Hamilton. He one won race versus nineteen for us, and was not always at the front.

"And he made mistakes, as in Monaco or Austin, which a young driver must be allowed to do. Because there are no second chances."

Wolff unsure Bottas can beat Hamilton

Of course Bottas will win races in the Aldo Costa car
Of course Bottas will win races in the Aldo Costa car

(GMM) Toto Wolff has admitted it is possible Valtteri Bottas could be replaced at Mercedes by a bigger name for 2018.

Some expressed surprise when it emerged that, despite being pryed out of his Williams contract, Finn Bottas has signed only a one-year deal for 2017.

Mercedes chief Wolff admits it is to leave the team's options open for 2018.

"It is true that the driver market is more dynamic for 2018," Marca sports newspaper quotes him as saying.

"Then there are a number of options: young drivers, Sebastian (Vettel), Fernando (Alonso), Valtteri, and more.

"Valtteri understands this," Wolff added.

Former Red Bull driver Robert Doornbos is more blunt as he assesses the situation in conversation with Dutch broadcaster Ziggo Sport Totaal.

"Bottas is an interim solution," he said.

"Basically Mercedes is looking at Vettel. Only if Bottas wins the title, or makes it very difficult for Hamilton, will he stay."

Doornbos says Bottas was once "really hot property", but his star faded a little at Williams when "the gap to Felipe Massa was in my view smaller than it should be".

So even Wolff admits that Bottas now needs to prove he belongs at Mercedes this year.

"He must demonstrate that he can fight against Lewis (Hamilton)," he told the French daily L'Equipe.

"For us, his personality is perfect, as it was important not to upset the dynamics of the team," said Wolff.

"Valtteri is not at all political or emotional, but his passion for racing is enormous. It will be interesting to see the dynamics between him and Lewis."

Asked if Bottas can actually beat Hamilton, however, Wolff answered: "It's difficult to say when the new cars haven't turned a wheel.

"Valtteri is an exceptional driver and has the ability to push Lewis as Nico did. We believe in him. But can he beat the best driver currently in F1? I don't know."

Vandoorne to 'fight and work with' Alonso

Vandoorne is quick
Vandoorne is quick

(GMM) F1 rookie Stoffel Vandoorne agrees with his McLaren teammate Fernando Alonso that their head-to-head fight will not be too intense in 2017.

Some have likened the new pairing to Alonso and then rookie Lewis Hamilton in 2007, which ended spectacularly badly.

But Alonso said of his new Belgian teammate: "He is not a driver to fight for the title against me now, because our goal is something else.

"We must fight but also work together and help the team to make this difficult period as short as possible," the Spaniard added.

Vandoorne agrees that as McLaren-Honda continues to build towards the front, the internal fight will not be too intense this year.

"The main goal is to work with Alonso to steer McLaren back to the top," the 24-year-old told the Belgian broadcaster Sporza.

"If we start to produce results, there will of course be some more competition between us. That is just typical formula one.

"But in the beginning I will obviously need to learn a lot," Vandoorne added. "It is perhaps the first time I have gone into a season not really knowing how it will go.

"But personally, I feel capable of competing for the world title.

"At any rate, with Alonso I have a good reference point. He is a two time world champion and almost the entire paddock still thinks he's the most compete driver on the grid.

"For me it's very positive to be able to race alongside him. McLaren treats its drivers equally so we will both have the same opportunities. And of course people will compare me and Fernando," he added.

New McLaren executive Zak Brown is also looking forward to the 2017 team pairing, amid reports he wants to open talks with Alonso about a new contract early this season.

"Stoffel and Fernando on the same team will be great," he is quoted by Sporza.

"Stoffel is an incredible driver and a future world champion. Of course he will make some rookie mistakes, but he will learn a lot from Alonso. It is not our intention to have a big gap between the drivers," Brown added.

Haas 'easier' than McLaren, Renault – Magnussen

Kevin Magnussen
Kevin Magnussen

(GMM) Kevin Magnussen says he is already enjoying life at his new F1 home.

After an abortive career so far, falling out with both McLaren and Renault after single seasons with the respective teams, the Dane has switched to the American outfit Haas for 2017 and beyond.

"It's a good team," Magnussen told the Danish newspaper BT, during a visit this week to the Ferrari-linked outfit's UK base.

"It is much easier to navigate than the other teams I've worked with," he explained. "And it's not just that Haas is smaller, with fewer people.

"It's also because it is clear who is doing what. Who is responsible. It suits me well," the 24-year-old added.

Some have suggested Haas is actually another downwards step in Magnussen's career, having debuted for McLaren and then also falling out with Renault last year.

"This building in Banbury is not very big compared to McLaren's headquarters in Woking," Magnussen admitted. "But you have to remember that Banbury is only one of several sites for Haas F1.

"Next week I'm going to the US to visit the Haas department that is there. Before Christmas I was in Italy and visited both Dallara and the department that Haas has at Ferrari in Maranello," he revealed.

"On Friday I will drive the Haas car for the first time in Ferrari's simulator," Magnussen said.

He said he is happy about Haas' strong links with Ferrari.

"I believe that Ferrari had the second best engine last year," said Magnussen. "Behind Mercedes, but ahead of Renault and Honda. And I think that will be the case again this year."

But he played down claims that Haas will have a tough second season in F1, as is so often the case for new teams.

"I have heard that theory, but I think Haas can build on the good season it had in 2016," said Magnussen. "In that respect I think the atypically small organization and the close collaboration with Ferrari will be an advantage."

As for his new teammate Romain Grosjean, Magnussen said: "I've had some good fights with him in the past, and what I do know is that we are completely equal (at Haas)."

BT said Haas has scheduled a private 'filming day' for its 2017 car two days before official testing begins in Barcelona late next month.

McLaren appoints Ben Priest as vice president, Americas

Ben Priest
Ben Priest

The McLaren Group has announced the appointment of Ben Priest as its new vice president, Americas – Partnership Development to spearhead the company’s focus on commercial interests in the United States.

McLaren is currently going through a period of change following the resignation of long-running chairman Ron Dennis at the end of last year.

Dennis spent 35 years at the helm of McLaren, but was replaced by American commercial expert Zak Brown, who became executive director.

On Thursday, McLaren announced the arrival of Priest in a new role, having previously worked with Brown at marketing agency JMI.

“Based in New York and reporting to CEO Ekrem Sami, Ben joins the Partner Development team at McLaren Marketing, the global sports and technology brand’s dedicated in-house activation agency," a statement from McLaren reads.

“Tasked with developing innovative partnerships for McLaren throughout his territory, with a particular focus on Silicon Valley as the spiritual heart of the US technology and innovation industry, Ben brings to McLaren his considerable marketing agency expertise.

“Most recently Vice President of Business Development at a leading New York agency that represents many iconic athletes, Ben has spent the majority of his career in motorsport.

“After co-founding his own agency, he previously led the North America Partnership Development division for JMI, the largest global motorsport marketing agency, and was involved in consulting the entry to motor racing for several of the most prominent new brands in recent years.

“His appointment forms a key part of an ambitious global marketing strategy aimed at utilizing the global reach and power of McLaren as an iconic sports and technology brand that now includes its fast-growing McLaren Applied Technologies business."

“I’d like to welcome Ben to McLaren as part of our ambitious global marketing strategy," Brown said.

“He brings with him considerable expertise that will help us unlock new business in the US and, in particular Silicon Valley, where there are fantastic, untapped opportunities for our brand."

“I’m extremely excited and proud to be joining the team at McLaren," Priest added.

“I have a great deal of respect for the company both as a race team and, increasingly, as an exciting technology brand with innovation at the heart of everything we do.

“North America, and the US in particular, presents a fantastic growth opportunity for us, and one which I’m already very focused on exploring."

Brown recently spoke to NBC Sports about the need for Formula 1 to grow its presence in the United States, believing that a second race would help its efforts to crack into a market brimming with potential.

Priest’s appointment marries up with Brown’s focus on the United States, and comes at a time when McLaren is lacking a title sponsor that could add an injection of cash to its F1 efforts. MotorSportsTalk

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