Latest F1 news in brief – Tuesday(Update)

UPDATE Updates shown in red below.

  • Rosberg refuses to criticize Hamilton
    Rosberg refuses to criticize Hamilton

    11/29/16 Nico and Keke Rosberg not critical of Hamilton tactics

  • Mercedes denies Hamilton refusing to test
  • New engine deal not awkward – Horner
  • Williams must not lose Rob Smedley – boss
  • Palmer frustrated by 'unbelievable' tire wear
  • Nasr: Ocon clash compromised prospects
  • Grosjean eyes Haas tire progress for 2017
  • Jost Capito expects a 'big step' from Honda engine next season New
  • Rosberg tells F1 to 'drop' Hamilton controversy New
  • Monza finally signs new GP contract New

Hamilton with his head down - a beaten man
Hamilton with his head down – a beaten man

Nico and Keke Rosberg not critical of Hamilton tactics
(GMM) Nico Rosberg and his equally famous father are not joining in the criticism of Lewis Hamilton following the 2016 title finale in Abu Dhabi.

Mercedes led the criticism after Hamilton ignored team orders in the closing stages of Sunday's race and deliberately left Rosberg exposed to the chasing Ferrari and Red Bull.

Many others also hit out, including 1992 world champion Nigel Mansell.

"I am a sportsman so I would not do this," he said on Twitter on Sunday.

But afterwards, Hamilton's tactics were also defended by many, notably including Red Bull team boss Christian Horner.

Horner's Mercedes counterpart Toto Wolff said: "Maybe he (Hamilton) should drive for him (Horner)."

The Rosbergs, however, are conspicuously not critical of Hamilton, even though Nico said the pressure he was under in Abu Dhabi and especially the last few laps was "ridiculous".

When asked to summarize Hamilton's tactics, Rosberg said: "Ridiculous.

"No, no, no, ridiculous is the wrong word," he added. "It was ridiculously intense — for me."

Actually, Rosberg said Hamilton's defensive driving was "perfect" for the situation, even though British newspapers said Mercedes was contemplating punishing the triple world champion.

But writing for the Telegraph, journalist Tom Cary said: "Hamilton's tactics were within the rules, hurt no one and made F1's finale more exciting — why the fuss?"

Max Verstappen agreed, admitting: "Of course I would have done the same as him."

And even Rosberg's dad, the 1982 world champion Keke Rosberg, was not surprised by Hamilton's 'go slow' tactics.

"It was not unexpected," the Finn said as he broke a six-year media silence in the wake of his 31-year-old son's title triumph.

"In the last two laps I might have even expected more, so you have to say that it was ok," Keke added.

But he also said the end of the race was tough to watch from his Dubai hotel room, after vowing to keep the pressure off Rosberg by staying away from the track until the win was secured.

"I think it was the hardest world championship ever, right down to the line of the last race," said Keke.

He also rejected any claim that Nico is not a deserving world champion, because Hamilton suffered more reliability dramas during the season.

Referring to Hamilton's reasoning for not winning the title, Keke said: "That is the sport.

"Button broke his suspension in Abu Dhabi because he hit the curb so hard he was lucky the car didn't break in two, but he said 'Oh, bad car'.

"It is the nature of the drivers," said Rosberg snr.

"I thought Lewis was lucky twice already, so why shouldn't Nico be once?"

Hamilton expected to test
Hamilton expected to test

Mercedes denies Hamilton refusing to test
(GMM) Mercedes has played down reports that Lewis Hamilton is refusing to get back to work this week.

In Abu Dhabi, it had been agreed that whichever Mercedes driver won the title would head to a Petronas event in Malaysia on Monday.

And the other would stay in Abu Dhabi to drive Mercedes' modified 2015 test car for the Pirelli tire test.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen told Algemeen Dagblad newspaper that he was actually looking forward to trying the 2017 slicks for the first time.

"For me, the tires are new so I'm curious," said the Dutchman.

But the German newspaper Bild claims that Hamilton, who is reportedly facing sanctions by Mercedes by refusing team orders on Sunday, is now refusing to test on Tuesday.

A team spokesman is quoted by Germany's Sport1: "That is not correct.

"Lewis is still on the schedule and expected to drive."

It is clear at least that some tension has crept into the Mercedes-Hamilton relationship, with boss Toto Wolff bristling that Hamilton found an ally for his tactics on Sunday in the form of Red Bull's Christian Horner.

"Maybe he (Hamilton) should drive for him (Horner)," Wolff said on Sunday, not just to British television Sky but also separately to the Channel 4 broadcaster.

A rumor even swirled in the Abu Dhabi paddock that Hamilton had threatened to quit the team altogether following his collision with Rosberg in Spain.

"That's all private stuff," Hamilton said, refusing to deny it.

"It's all in the past so it doesn't really matter."

Christian Horner
Christian Horner

New engine deal not awkward – Horner
(GMM) Christian Horner says Red Bull is now looking confidently into the future with engine supplier Renault.

Actually, the parties fell out spectacularly last year, with only a Tag-Heuer rebranding ensuring that French power units remained in the dark blue cars.

Team boss Horner admits "frustration" boiled over after 2014 and 2015.

"But there was restructuring and personnel changes and new enthusiasm and we hope that will remain for the next two years, as we have already extended the cooperation," he told Speed Week.

But asked if it is now awkward that Tag Heuer is actually getting the credit for Red Bull's 'Renault'-powered wins, Horner insisted: "No, because everyone knows we are using a Renault engine, even if it is called Tag Heuer.

"The Renault people are just proud that their product wins races."

So now, with Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen at the wheel, Horner said he is confident they could have a fully competitive car at their disposal in 2017.

But he admitted: "There is a lot of uncertainty about next season. These are the most serious changes since 2008 and at this point no one knows what the others are doing so all you can do is concentrate on yourself.

"It's possible a team will find something like the (Brawn) double diffuser."

Asked if Adrian Newey's RB13 car is on schedule, Horner answered: "As usual, our timetable is very, very tight, but we have to and will be ready for the first test."

As for his own future, Horner played down any claims he might be interested in replacing F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone.

"I am very, very satisfied with my job at Red Bull Racing," he answered. "I want to make the team world champion again."

Rob Smedley
Rob Smedley

Williams must not lose Rob Smedley – boss
(GMM) Claire Williams says the British team she leads does not want to lose Rob Smedley.

In the past decade, British engineer Smedley's career has been intricately linked with that of Felipe Massa, who headed into retirement at the checkered flag in Abu Dhabi.

And recently, Smedley indicated that he might follow his friend's lead by easing off the F1 throttle.

"I'm thinking that in two or three years I'll want to slow down a little," he said. "For professional reasons, coming to the races is the right thing, but on the personal side, I really miss my family."

Smedley's comments come at the end of a solid but also difficult year for Williams, with founder Sir Frank Williams unwell and the team even falling behind Force India in the championship.

"When we started out restructuring, we said we would no longer tolerate our decline in results," team deputy boss Claire Williams said. "Then we had several successful seasons.

"Perhaps this year has forced us to wake up again."

Claire said the Grove based team had already identified the reasons for its problems in 2016 and would implement fixes for 2017.

"I don't want to discuss in detail the causes of our problems — that would be wrong," she insisted. "But I know that we can solve them."

Asked if Smedley will be at the heart of those fixes, Williams answered: "Rob has done a great job since he joined the team and I do not expect any changes.

"He is an important part of the team, not just as a talented engineer, but also a very passionate person and that is what the team needs."

Told, however, that Smedley has mentioned easing off the throttle, Claire responded: "We can discuss that with him.

"He himself has to decide where his technical capacities will be most useful. Someone like Rob wants to progress and do more, and it's not always just associated with work on the track. So we'll see," she added.

Jolyon Palmer
Jolyon Palmer

Palmer frustrated by 'unbelievable' tire wear
Renault driver Jolyon Palmer says "unbelievable" tire wear hampered his efforts during the final Grand Prix of the year in Abu Dhabi, even before a clash with Toro Rosso's Carlos Sainz Jr.

Palmer progressed through to Q2 for the third time in four events and moved up to 11th at the start, before briefly running inside the top 10 when Valtteri Bottas retired.

However, excessive tire wear compromised his progress and he was forced onto a three-stop strategy, prior to clipping the back of Sainz Jr.'s STR11 at Turn 17.

Palmer was handed a five-second time drop for instigating the collision, as well as two penalty points, and came home as the final classified finisher in 17th place.

"I had a really good start – up to 11th – and was keeping pace with the Williams for a while, but unfortunately the tire degradation was unbelievable for us," he said.

"The overall pace was okay, but the tires were running out, which meant I had to do three stops.

"I was trying to fight with everyone through the race but I had no grip which makes it very difficult.

"I tried to pass Carlos as he left a gap, but he braked a bit early and I had no grip to slow down — it's a real shame."

Kevin Magnussen retired early on after sustaining suspension damage in a collision on the opening lap.

Felipe Nasr
Felipe Nasr

Nasr: Ocon clash compromised prospects
Sauber's Felipe Nasr rued a clash with Manor rival Esteban Ocon, which he felt compromised his chances of achieving a strong result at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Nasr started from 19th position at the Yas Marina Circuit but gained five places on the opening lap and held the spot until he tangled with Ocon through the Turn 11/12/13 complex.

The contact forced the Brazilian to alter his strategy, coming in early for his second stop, and he crossed the line in 16th, ahead of only Jolyon Palmer.

"In the middle stint we were looking OK, just making sure to keep the Manors behind us, but unfortunately there was contact between one Manor and myself," he said.

"The floor as well as the rim were damaged, and we also thought that the front wing was damaged, which forced me to come in for an earlier pit-stop than originally planned.

"The race was compromised by then. If this incident hadn't happened, we could have finished a bit higher up in the rankings."

Nasr's future at Sauber remains uncertain, amid the changes to his Banco do Brasil backing, but he was nonetheless upbeat to have secured 10th position in the standings for the outfit.

"Most important was to guarantee our 10th position in the Constructors' Championship," he said.

"I am happy that we confirmed this position in the end.

"It was a challenging and difficult season, but I think these are the times when we learn the most.

"My relationship with everyone in the team was strong while facing challenging times throughout the season."

Romain Grosjean in the anti-American Haas machine at Abu Dhabi
Romain Grosjean in the anti-American Haas machine at Abu Dhabi

Grosjean eyes Haas tire progress in 2017
Haas driver Romain Grosjean says the team has "so much" that it can improve on and believes it needs to focus on understanding Pirelli's tires.

Haas, as Formula 1's newest team, had a comparatively inconsistent campaign, often challenging for points one race before struggling for pace at another.

Grosjean rounded out Haas' debut season with 11th place at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, while the outfit secured eighth position in the Constructors' Championship.

"We've had a wonderful season and surprised everyone, ourselves included, with some highs and some lows," he said.

"We didn't score points [in Abu Dhabi] but if you take out the top-six cars of Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari, we're only the third team behind, which is not that bad.

"There are a lot of things we can improve through the winter, mainly about the tires.

"Clearly there were some laps where my pace was amazing and the car felt really good when the tires were working. Then a few laps later things are going out of sync.

"It's clear where we have to work.

"All the other teams are close to their limits where we have so much that we can improve on for next season."

Outgoing team-mate Esteban Gutierrez finished 18 seconds behind the Frenchman in 12th spot.

"I really did my best to give them my best performance and the best of myself," said Gutierrez of his race at the Yas Marina Circuit.

"Hopefully, this leaves them all with a great memory.

"It's been very nice and I've been very grateful to work with [team owner] Gene Haas and [team boss] Guenther Steiner."

Gutierrez will be replaced by Kevin Magnussen in 2017.

Jost Capito
Jost Capito

Jost Capito expects a 'big step' from Honda engine next season
McLaren Racing boss Jost Capito says he fully expects Honda to make a "big step" forward with their power unit in 2017, as they have had enough time to understand what is required of them and for the relationship with McLaren to fully form.

Whilst Honda have taken massive strides this season compared to 2015, their power unit is still considered the weakest on the grid.

The Japanese manufacturer has big plans for next year, which includes a complete overhaul of the power unit's design – which has been made possible by the decision to scrap engine development tokens.

Capito is therefore expecting huge gains on both sides as he admitted McLaren too must improve if they're to beat the likes of Mercedes and Red Bull.
"I expect improvement on the car from McLaren and a big step from Honda on the engine," he told BBC Sport.

"It takes always a certain time to form a team with a new partner like this," he explained. "McLaren and Honda were partners before but it was a long time ago. All new people are involved and it takes a while for Honda to understand how McLaren works and for McLaren to understand how Honda works. I think this is now achieved."

Capito is confident the improvements will lead to a competitive McLaren.

"It is a very good partnership and the Honda guys understand more what is needed from the chassis side and we understand more what is needed from the engine side as well," he added.

"I expect really not just the improvement of each but also the improvement of the overall relationship. So one plus one is not two – it should be three."

Rosberg takes the high road
Rosberg takes the high road

Rosberg tells F1 to 'drop' Hamilton controversy
(GMM) World champion Nico Rosberg says F1 should "drop" the current discussion about teammate Lewis Hamilton's tactics in Abu Dhabi.

Hamilton is being criticized, and Mercedes is reportedly considering sanctioning the Briton, after he deliberately backed Rosberg into chasing rivals on Sunday.

Rosberg told BBC radio on Tuesday that he can "understand" why the team is upset.

"But at the same time, it's easy to understand his perspective," said the German. "It's about the world championship so you can understand that he wanted to try whatever it was possible to do.

"We can just drop the whole discussion. There's no point discussing this topic any more. It's done and it's in the past," Rosberg insisted.


Monza finally signs new GP contract
(GMM) Monza and Bernie Ecclestone have finally signed on the dotted line of their race contract extension.

After a long-running saga, the 2017-2019 deal was actually agreed in September but actual signatures on the documents were missing until now.

But Monza's official Twitter account announced on Tuesday that the deal is now "signed".

"The Italian GP remains at Monza for the next few years," it declared.

And Italian media reports quoted Italian Olympic chief Giovanni Malago as saying: "I am really happy with this great result.

"Without the careful and stubborn work of (Italian automobile club) president Angelo Sticchi Damiani, Italy would have lost its grand prix," he added.

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