Latest F1 news in brief – Saturday

  • Hamilton trying to force Rosberg into a mental error
    Hamilton trying to force Rosberg into a mental error

    Hamilton engaged in mind 'tricks' – Wolff

  • Rosberg must avoid Hamilton crash – Berger
  • Hamilton lost focus in 2016 – Leinders
  • Grosjean backs Gutierrez axe
  • Drivers discussed wet tire criticism with Pirelli
  • Drivers key to 2018 introduction for Halo
  • Grid re-start rule change divides opinion
  • McLaren must sign title sponsor – Brown
  • Bold Boasts From Brown
  • McLaren switched focus to 2017 in July – Alonso
  • Brazil race last 'question mark' for 2017 – Ecclestone
  • Vettel plays down Ferrari gearbox failure
  • Dennis recruited his replacement

Hamilton engaged in mind 'tricks' – Wolff
(GMM) Mercedes chiefs say Lewis Hamilton is up to psychological "tricks" as his title battle with Nico Rosberg reaches its finale in Abu Dhabi.

Needing a win and Rosberg to finish lower than third to win the title on Sunday, Hamilton began the weekend by referring again to how the team shook up his support crew before the start of the season.

"You'll have to buy my book in ten years’ time and I'll tell you exactly what happened," said the Briton. "It will be an interested read."

But both team boss Toto Wolff and chairman Niki Lauda have responded to that, Wolff declaring in Abu Dhabi: "Maybe I'll write a book in ten years and we'll put some things in there."

And Lauda told Italy's Corriere della Sera: "I think Lewis was joking.

"But I tell you, if Toto and I decided to do a book, it would be much longer than his!"

Hamilton, however, kept the anti-Rosberg mind games flowing when contemplating the notion that, late on Sunday night, F1 might be crowning a new champion.

"I should keep this private," he said, "but in my heart, with how I have performed this season, I will feel that if he (Rosberg) is labeled world champion, it doesn't necessarily mean that to me."

But Wolff said he forgives all of the mind games.

"They can't be in love with each other this weekend but they need to play all the tricks to put themselves in a situation to hopefully win the championship," he said.

"Lewis needs that 'me against the world' thing," he added.

Rosberg must stay focused
Rosberg must stay focused

Rosberg must avoid Hamilton crash – Berger
(GMM) Nico Rosberg can't risk a crash with his teammate Lewis Hamilton on Sunday, F1 legend Gerhard Berger says.

Earlier this year, Berger advised the Mercedes driver during his negotiations for a new Mercedes contract, and now he is advising the German to stay clear of Hamilton in Abu Dhabi.

That is despite the fact that, in comparable situations, Michael Schumacher won the 1994 title by colliding with Damon Hill, while Ayrton Senna won in 1990 by taking out Alain Prost.

But Berger told Der Tagesspiegel newspaper: "Even if he is in front and closes the door, the risk would be too great that only Nico is eliminated and therefore he loses the championship.

"You can never control these things too well," he added.

Berger thinks a better strategy for Rosberg is simply to get around the "first corner and then take home second or third place".

But the former McLaren and Ferrari driver acknowledged the difficulty of Rosberg's situation, despite his points advantage.

"I think he is in an extremely difficult situation mentally," said Berger.

"It is really very difficult to resist the temptation to attack, but he should reduce the risk. He also has to choose his strategy so that neither Ferrari nor Red Bull get in his way."

Rosberg will have to keep "all eyes in the mirror and immediately open the door if someone attacks, as he cannot afford a failure", he added.

But Berger also said he thinks Rosberg is up to Sunday's challenge.

"In the last races, he has shown strong nerves, especially in the rain in Brazil which was a brutal challenge. I also trust that he can be at least third in Abu Dhabi," he insisted.

Crown Prince Lewis Hamilton
Crown Prince Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton lost focus in 2016 – Leinders
(GMM) Former F1 tester Bas Leinders thinks Lewis Hamilton lost focus earlier in 2016.

In Abu Dhabi, Hamilton has hinted that his likely title defeat to Nico Rosberg on Sunday would be due to an early-season engineer switch, and poorer reliability.

But Leinders, a Minardi test driver in 2004, said Rosberg would "definitely" be a deserved world champion if crowned late on Sunday.

"Critics might say that he has only become champion through Hamilton's misfortune, but that's not true," he told the Belgian source Sporza.

"Ok, Hamilton had mechanical failures but so did Rosberg.

"It is more about how Hamilton tackled his season. In the middle of the season he was too preoccupied with his friends in LA and Hollywood," said the Belgian. "That certainly had an impact."

So Leinders also hit out at the idea that Hamilton was clearly the best driver of 2016.

"Hamilton was not the best driver of the season," he insisted. "It was Max Verstappen. What he has done was phenomenal.

"If he gets into the right car, he will certainly be world champion."

Gutierrez just wasn't fast enough
Gutierrez just wasn't fast enough

Grosjean backs Gutierrez axe
(GMM) Romain Grosjean has hinted he fully supports Haas' decision to install a new teammate for 2017.

Esteban Gutierrez is reportedly hoping to continue his career at Manor next year, having fallen out with Haas team boss Gunther Steiner.

The pair were seen in a garage altercation recently, and Steiner said he needs to sit down for clear-the-air talks with the Mexican before he departs.

"I'll try to do it after the race," he said in Abu Dhabi.

Gutierrez had a notably difficult 2016, scoring no points compared with teammate Grosjean's 29 for the new American team.

But Steiner said his relationship with Gutierrez is not completely broken.

"It's alright," he said. "I think this happens in life — you can't always be satisfied all of the time."

Frenchman Grosjean, however, appears to fully back Haas' decision to oust Gutierrez, who will be replaced for 2017 by the Renault refugee Kevin Magnussen.

"Esteban is faster in qualifying than many think," Grosjean told Ekstra Bladet newspaper.

"In the races he has struggled a bit more. He did not race last year, but for the team, both cars must be able to score points."

Grosjean dismisses Gutierrez's explanation that bad luck is behind his failure to score points this year.

"Over 21 races, there are always some where you are lucky, some unlucky, but it balances itself out," he said.

So Grosjean said he is looking forward to sharing a garage with Dane Magnussen next year.

"Kevin has good experience now and has shown that he is a real racing driver," said Grosjean. "That's what the team wants."

2017 Pirelli rain tire
2017 Pirelli rain tire

Drivers discussed wet tire criticism with Pirelli
(GMM) F1 drivers had talks with Pirelli in Abu Dhabi, following criticism of the Italian supplier's wet weather tires.

Multiple drivers pointed the finger at Pirelli in the wake of the red flag and safety car-interrupted Brazilian grand prix.

"We discussed a lot, sharing impressions of the tires, the problem with visibility and aquaplaning, suggestions of what can be improved. In general, it was a positive meeting," said Toro Rosso driver Carlos Sainz in Abu Dhabi.

But the Spaniard denied claims the drivers were "angry" with Pirelli after Brazil.

"No one is particularly angry or critical, we are trying to help to make the right decisions to help Pirelli develop more efficient tires," Sainz insisted.

"I think Pirelli has a very difficult task to develop rain tires with little to no testing," he added. "I don't think the tire manufacturers in the past had those conditions."

Vettel ran the Halo again in practice Friday
Vettel ran the Halo again in practice Friday

Drivers key to 2018 introduction for Halo
(GMM) The drivers will be central to the FIA's decision about whether to introduce the controversial 'Halo' cockpit protection concept in 2018 or impose a further delay.

Although the Grand Prix Drivers' Association has said Halo is unanimously supported up and down the grid, some drivers have revealed their concerns.

So in another bid to change minds, the drivers were given a further presentation by the FIA in Abu Dhabi, demonstrating how Halo reduces the risk of injury and death.

"Even this morning I was opposed," Toro Rosso driver Carlos Sainz said in Abu Dhabi, "but then we were shown the video and I thought Halo is not so bad."

Germany's Auto Motor und Sport reports that if the majority of the F1 drivers back Halo, it will be introduced for 2018 — whether the teams like it or not.

Red Bull's Christian Horner said: "Only the drivers who have a contract for 2018 should be asked. Why would you ask Massa or Button?"

When asked for his opinion, Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat said: "F1 is watched by millions of fans so it's an issue of great importance for the sport.

"The final decision will still be taken by the FIA, but they want to hear the opinion of the drivers."

Grid re-start rule change divides opinion
(GMM) Opinions are divided in Abu Dhabi after Bernie Ecclestone and the teams agreed a novel rule-change for 2017.

It emerges that, pending the approval of the World Motor Sport Council, cars will return to the grid for a standing start after every safety car period from next year.

"Apparently this is for entertainment reasons," said Toro Rosso driver Carlos Sainz.

He said his first reaction is that a mid-race grid re-starts "seem artificial", and may also be a backwards safety step in the event of wet races.

But Haas team boss Gunther Steiner backed the idea.

"We all like starts," he said. "There is a certain amount of risk, but when there is a risk, someone can win and someone can lose. So I think it's worth it and a plus for all of us."

Zak Brown was brought into McLaren to land a major sponsor - that is his strength and that is what McLaren needs
Zak Brown was brought into McLaren to land a major sponsor – that is his strength and that is what McLaren needs

McLaren must sign title sponsor – Brown
(GMM) New McLaren chief Zak Brown says the famous British team must prioritize signing a title sponsor.

Since the departure of Vodafone and the start of the difficult works Honda era, Ron Dennis has reportedly refused to reduce McLaren's rate card in the search for a new title backer.

But Dennis has now been ousted, just as American Brown, formerly a F1 sponsorship guru, arrives at the Woking based team as executive director.

"It's critically important we find a title partner," Brown, revealing that a title sponsor will not be in place in time for 2017, said in Abu Dhabi.

"The brands we have on the car now are fantastic companies. We need more of them," he added.

Bold Boasts From Brown
Zak Brown joined the team last week when he was named executive director, along with CSM Sports previous chief executive.

Zak has highlighted the need for the team to find a new title sponsor and promises to bring one by 2018.

Brown observes in Abu Dhabi
Brown observes in Abu Dhabi

It has been almost three years since the team's contract with their previous sponsor Vodafone and although not necessary for funding, it may add a much needed boast to the company.

"Clearly a title partner is something that on a commercial basis, and as something that I'm most linked to, is something that is going to be critically important," Brown revealed to the press at the Abu Dhabi GP

"But I would start taking a look at 2018. 2017 is already kind of here and I don't have any tricks up my sleeve on that one yet."

"I don't think there's a number one, I think there's three legs to the stool as I put it and I think we need all three to be successful to have a bit of an ecosystem. First is the fans, I think we as McLaren – and Formula One as a whole – can improve our engagement with our consumers"

"The more fans we get the more sponsors we get and we want the fans buying our sponsors products and services. Then the more sponsors we get the more money we can get to put into our race team to go faster, and the faster we go the more fans we're going to get because they like the teams that run at the front"

"So I think all three of those are critically important and we need to get all three right. Just getting one right won't make the whole system work."

Alonso Friday in practive
Alonso Friday in practice

McLaren switched focus to 2017 in July – Alonso
(GMM) Fernando Alonso says he will not miss the F1 era that will end with the checkered flag on Sunday.

When asked about the grip offered by the sandy Abu Dhabi layout, the Spaniard told EFE news agency it has little to do with the desert location.

"The grip is like driving in the rain, as in recent grands prix," he said.

"It's not the sand, it's the tires. They're very slow. In the long runs we will do 1.47, the same as GP2," Alonso added.

If the Spaniard sounds frustrated, it could be because he admits McLaren turned its attention to the 2017 season some 12 races ago.

"Things have not changed much," said Alonso when asked about the Abu Dhabi pecking order.

"The first six are in another category, Williams and Force India fight for Q3 and we are in a group of the other teams.

"From Silverstone or thereabouts we were focusing on 2017," he revealed.

Ecclestone says Brazil deal still not signed
Ecclestone says Brazil deal still not signed

Brazil race last 'question mark' for 2017 – Ecclestone
(GMM) The final "question mark" on what has become a 20-race calendar for 2017 is Brazil.

That is the news from Bernie Ecclestone, whose earlier 21-date schedule has been reduced by one after he failed to reach a deal with Hockenheim.

"I'm not frustrated, just surprised," the F1 supremo said in Abu Dhabi, according to Globo.

"What else does Germany need to be interested in F1? They have drivers and a winning team. The only question mark now is Brazil, but we are solving it.

"I hope it will be resolved soon," Ecclestone added, referring to the historic Interlagos race.

Earlier, there had been doubts about Hockenheim and also Canada, but a solid deal with Montreal is now in place.

Ecclestone also played down any fears about Monza's fabled Italian grand prix, despite the fact that an actual contract is yet to be signed.

But the 86-year-old said he has enjoyed "many handshakes" with Italian officials about 2017 and beyond.

"After all, they are Italian," Ecclestone smiled.

"It could not be signed this week because they wanted to change some things in the contract, which we accept," he revealed.

For the future, however, there are doubts about Malaysia, who say they will stop hosting F1 after 2018.

But Ecclestone says: "They are good people. I never had problems with them."

And he also played down fears F1 could lose its spectacular night race in Singapore.

"They (Singapore organisers) said to me 'We've paid well in the last ten years, so we want it to be cheaper'," said Ecclestone. "I do not want to lose Singapore."

Vettel in the hapless Ferrari
Vettel in the Ferrari

Vettel plays down Ferrari gearbox failure
Sebastian Vettel played down the impact of his gearbox failure after he stopped on circuit during the closing stages of Friday's second practice session for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Vettel, who was fifth in the opening session on Soft tires, emerged as Mercedes' primary challenger on the Ultra Soft compound in second practice, taking third spot, 0.269s behind Lewis Hamilton.

Vettel, though, stopped beneath the Yas Viceroy Hotel with 10 minutes remaining in the session, following complaints over an ailing gearbox.

Vettel's gearbox was a dedicated Friday unit, so he will switch to another without penalty.

"Obviously, it is not ideal to have a gearbox issue on Friday," he admitted.

"But I am not worried and it shouldn't have any impact on the weekend.

"In general it was a very good Friday; the first session was somewhat tricky, as we struggled a bit on the hot track.

"But during the second session in the evening things calmed down, the car also calmed down, it was quite good and I was happy.

"In the long run I struggled a bit with the front end, maybe I was a bit too aggressive, but overall the car felt good."

Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen collected fifth position during the second session.

"The car was working pretty fine: it's just that I could not put a decent lap together, but overall it was a basic day," he commented.

"We had some tire graining, but this is very normal on the first day on track and it was not a big issue, as it's going to change for the race."

Boullier and Brown arrive at the Abu Dhabi circuit
Boullier and Brown arrive at the Abu Dhabi circuit

Ron Dennis recruited his replacement
New McLaren executive director Zak Brown has credited the Formula One team's ousted veteran boss Ron Dennis for his appointment.

"I text him all the time. Ron at the end of the day is the one who recruited me," the Californian told reporters at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, his first race in McLaren uniform.

"The last couple of years he's left the door open…he turned up the volume in the pursuit of me and I wouldn't be talking to you right now if it wasn't for Ron Dennis."

Dennis, the 69-year-old chairman and chief executive who built McLaren into a world-beating team and sportscar maker, was forced out by other shareholders last week and is now on 'gardening leave' until his contract expires in mid-January.

After that, he will remain a 25 percent shareholder and board member but others will run the team.

Brown, a former racer and marketing expert who introduced top brands to Formula One while head of CSM Sport&Entertainment, said McLaren felt like home and it was the right time to join.

He said he would be focused more on "external commercial business" while chief operating officer Jonathan Neale looked after the technical side.

The pair report to an executive committee controlled by Bahrain investment fund Mumtalakat and Saudi-born businessman Mansour Ojjeh.

Brown has emphasized the importance of securing a title sponsor for the first time since 2013 and he said bringing in more quality partners was also a priority, possibly from rivals.

"I'm positive we are going to bring in new partners," he said. "I'd like to think the well hasn't run dry and our talent in doing that.

"Everyone at times talks to each other's sponsors, it's not unusual to see sponsors move and I don't think that will be any different."

Asked how long it would take the Honda-powered team, who have not won a race since 2012, to return to the top, Brown offered no timescale.

"I just hope it's sooner rather than later," he said. "I'm going to keep my mouth shut and not make any predictions but we need to get back to winning soon. I think we're on a good path."

The American agreed the sport needed to revise its business model following a takeover by U.S. company Liberty Media.

"I think the Super Bowl does an excellent job," he said. "When they put on a Super Bowl… they come into town a week before, they take over the cities, the airports.

"We've got 21 Super Bowls that we put on across the world so I'd like to see that in market." Reuters

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