Latest F1 news in brief – Wednesday

  • Vettel off the hook
    Vettel off the hook

    Vettel off the hook after 'profuse' apologies

  • Sepang chiefs to hold F1 talks in Abu Dhabi
  • Verstappen defended by former F1 driver Lammers
  • F1 figures say Vettel could quit
  • Renault denies hinting over Magnussen future
  • Official doubts Ecclestone to be ousted
  • Williams' 2017 car to be named the 'FW40'
  • Haas 'didn't get anything right' – Grosjean
  • Vasseur: Magnussen's Mexico race 'puzzling'
  • New records for Mercedes in Mexico

Vettel off the hook after 'profuse' apologies
(GMM) Sebastian Vettel is off the hook after making a series of apologies to Charlie Whiting and the FIA.

F1's governing body had been looking into the tirade of expletives blasted by the Ferrari driver during the Mexican grand prix, including telling race director Whiting to "f— off".

"He did say sorry," Whiting told the Daily Mail.

"He was quite robust about finding me and apologizing. Given he has done that I'm not too hung up on it personally, but it remains to be seen how my boss may wish to pursue the matter."

Indeed, Whiting's boss is FIA president Jean Todt, who admitted that after Mexico, an investigation into Vettel's behavior took place.

But in a media statement, the FIA announced that Vettel "apologized profusely" in writing to Todt, and also revealed that the quadruple world champion would "be contacting" Max Verstappen after calling the young Dutchman a "c—".

And so, the FIA decided not to take action against Vettel.

The statement added: "In the event of any future incident similar to the one that occurred in Mexico, disciplinary action will be taken by bringing such incident before the FIA international tribunal to be judged."

Clouds have formed over future of Sepang race
Clouds have formed over future of Sepang race

Sepang chiefs to hold F1 talks in Abu Dhabi
(GMM) The future of the Malaysian grand prix could take shape during a key meeting later this month.

It has emerged that officials of the race near Kuala Lumpur, whilst extending their separate deal with MotoGP until 2021, are considering axing the 17-year-old F1 race at Sepang.

However, a valid contract with Bernie Ecclestone's FOM is in place until 2018.

So Speed Week reports that new Sepang chairman Tan Sri Mohamed Azman Yahya will accompany fellow race official Razlan Razali to next month's 2016 finale in Abu Dhabi.

In Abu Dhabi, they are slated to meet with Ecclestone and propose a compromise, whereby Sepang agrees to host the 2017 race but not the one in 2018.

The report indicated that if F1 supremo Ecclestone does not agree, the Sepang chiefs are prepared to not host the 2017 race either and fight it out in court.

Sepang's F1 exit would not be a good look for the category, given the circuit's enthusiasm about keeping the MotoGP in place for a further five years.

"Negotiation was not difficult because both Sepang and us wanted to continue having the event here," said MotoGP chief Carmelo Ezpeleta last week.

Max Verstappen gaining enemies quickly
Max Verstappen gaining enemies quickly

Verstappen defended by former F1 driver Lammers
(GMM) Former F1 driver Jan Lammers has leapt to the defense of Max Verstappen, following the latest bout of criticism aimed at the young Dutchman.

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel called the 19-year-old a "c—" in Mexico and was also blasted by Mercedes bosses for a clash with championship leader Nico Rosberg.

Lammers, 60, acknowledged that as a fellow Dutchman he admires his country's new racing hero, but also insisted he is a "big fan of objectivity".

"With that in mind I need to get something of my chest," he wrote on his Facebook page.

"I thought about the criticism and looked back at what Verstappen did that was so terrible. Looking back from when he started his first GP in 2015, I conclude that it was nothing — absolutely nothing," said Lammers.

"Yes, he did upset a few people, simply because he passed them in a brilliant way or they couldn't pass him because he was clever and skillful in defending. Of course he 'nearly' touched people or they 'nearly' touched him, but that's the skill part of it!"

Lammers, whose last F1 race was in 1992, also aimed fire at Mercedes team chairman Niki Lauda, who after Mexico blasted Verstappen's aggression as "arrogant" and "unacceptable".

But Lammers argued that Verstappen has in fact never damaged another competitor's car.

"How many of you formula one drivers can say that over the last two years?" he said. "Certainly not your two choir boys, Mr. Lauda!"

Aldo Costa
Aldo Costa Adrian Newey
Vettel has learned that unless Aldo Costa or Adrian Newey design your F1 car, you have zero percent chance of winning

F1 figures say Vettel could quit
(GMM) Experienced paddock dwellers are contemplating the notion that Sebastian Vettel might soon call time on his F1 career.

The German won four titles for Red Bull before switching to Ferrari last year, but those who have worked closest with Vettel, who is now 29, sense a change.

"Some things we have seen before with him, but it has been a bit more uncharacteristic than in previous years," said Vettel's 2014 teammate, Daniel Ricciardo.

The Australian is referring not only to Vettel's moving under braking that cost him the podium in Mexico, but his foul-mouthed antics over the radio which earned him an investigation and near-penalty by the governing FIA.

Vettel's former boss Christian Horner has also sensed Vettel's change.

"It is not an attribute he had when he drove for us," he said. "Obviously his frustration he is vocalizing, and everybody can hear that."

Vettel can stay home with his beautiful wife Hanna
Vettel can stay home with his beautiful wife Hanna

Curiously, both Vettel and Ferrari are not willing to discuss the terms of a new contract for the German beyond 2017, during a season in which teammate Kimi Raikkonen has regularly looked the better Ferrari driver.

Former F1 driver and now veteran commentator Martin Brundle said: "I'm beginning to think Sebastian Vettel won't be in formula one for the long haul.

"He came so young, he broke so many records. I just watch him at work and he's lost his mojo."

And an unnamed figure told the Times newspaper this week: "Seb could just walk away.

"He has won four titles and he has nothing to prove. He is a private man with a family. He doesn't crave the spotlight and he may think he has had enough.

"It would be a shame, but he could do it."

Kevin Magnussen waits to see which team his check is big enough for
Kevin Magnussen waits to see which team his check is big enough for

Renault denies hinting over Magnussen future
(GMM) A Renault official has played down suggestions the carmaker has dropped a big hint about the identity of Nico Hulkenberg's 2017 teammate.

A key vacancy at the Enstone team is open for next year, with current drivers Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer under pressure from several candidates.

Some, however, think this week's launch of a special 'Kevin Magnussen edition' of the Renault Clio road car in Denmark is a very clear hint that the Danish driver will be kept on board.

The car has been labelled by Renault Denmark, prompting the Danish newspaper BT to ask Renault's Danish arm if the Clio is in fact a not-so-subtle hint.

"We know as little as you about what will happen with Renault and Kevin Magnussen," said Soren Hyltoft Thomsen, a PR official for Renault Denmark.

"We made a deal with Kevin Magnussen in the spring to make the car, but there is no hidden message in it."

Bernie Ecclestone
Bernie Ecclestone

Official doubts Ecclestone to be ousted
(GMM) A key F1 official has played down reports that Bernie Ecclestone looks set to be sidelined.

It emerged this week that former Ferrari and Mercedes chief Ross Brawn could soon emerge from retirement to be F1's new sporting CEO, with some reports claiming he will in fact 'replace' supremo Ecclestone.

But Sergey Vorobyov, promoter of the closely Vladimir Putin-aligned Russian grand prix, doesn't think so.

Asked if he senses Ecclestone is stepping away from the sport after the Liberty takeover, he answered: "On the contrary!

"It seems to me that he is more active than ever.

"Last week I called to congratulate him on his birthday, and he asked about all the details of the grand prix of Russia that normally we discuss with his lawyers and staff," Vorobyov revealed to the Russian publication Sport Express.

So when it comes to the newly 86-year-old Ecclestone's decision to leave F1, Vorobyov insisted: "I'm pretty sure that any decision will be his and not imposed from the outside.

"It was he who made the sport what it is today, and he has earned the right to make his decision," he added.

Vorobyov also repeated his denial that Russia's Sochi race could have a short-lived future on the calendar, and hit back at English-language reports that several other grands prix are also in doubt.

"I find it difficult to comment on the arguments of the Western media that the formula one model is faltering and a number of countries are supposedly on the verge of giving up their races," he said.

"I think the number of races on the calendar shows that many countries are satisfied with Bernie's conditions and want to have races, as we do."

Asked for how long Russia's race is guaranteed, Vorobyov answered: "(Until) 2020.

"We see no reason to cancel the Russian grand prix or for the emergence of this rumor. Interest in formula one in our country and attendance at the race are increasing, so I am sure the grand prix of Russia has a good future," he said.

In fact, he said Sochi is seriously considering becoming F1's next night race.

"We gave up this option for 2017," said Vorobyov, "as it would have involved a lot of money and foreign partners.

"We went the other way, ensuring the money will stay in Russia and the price is adequate. I am sure that one of the races in Sochi will be at night in the coming years."

Bottas in this year's Williams
Bottas in this year's Williams

Williams' 2017 car to be named the 'FW40'
Williams has announced that its 2017 Formula 1 car will be designated the 'FW40', to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the outfit's first event in the sport.

Williams' first race came at the 1977 Spanish Grand Prix, after previous fruitless efforts, when it entered a March 761 for Patrick Neve at Jarama.

Williams soon emerged as one of Formula 1's leading outfits in the 1980s and 1990s, winning nine Constructors' championships and taking seven Drivers' crowns, most recently with Jacques Villeneuve in 1997.

Williams' current chassis is the FW38, continuing the pattern of FW – the initials of team founder Sir Frank Williams – followed by a number.

Instead of continuing the current naming pattern, next year's car will be known as the FW40, in order to celebrate the team's anniversary.

Williams added that a 'series of exciting events and special content' is also planned for next season.

The team will announce its 2017 driver line-up on Thursday, with European Formula 3 champion Lance Stroll poised to join incumbent Valtteri Bottas.

Romain Grosjean
Romain Grosjean

Haas 'didn't get anything right' – Grosjean
Romain Grosjean says Haas "didn't get anything right" during a troubled Mexican Grand Prix weekend in which the team slumped towards the back of the grid.

Grosjean scored a point at the team's home event in the United States but was the slowest of the 21 participants during qualifying and made only minimal progress in the race, finishing in 20th place.

"We tried to change a few parts to analyze what was going wrong, but we really haven't found the problem yet," he said.

"The car was just nowhere. It was very difficult to handle and to drive. We didn't get anything right.

"We're experiencing inconsistency with lots of oversteer and understeer. I never knew what I was going to get. The car was pulling on the left under braking. It felt weird."

Haas team-mate Esteban Gutierrez finished just one place higher in 19th.

"We were pushing all the way, pushing all the limits we could with the car we had," he said.

"I had to take care of the brakes as we were struggling with the cooling of them, so I had to brake a lot earlier than I would have liked to.

"This wasn't ideal when trying to fight your way up the grid, but it's the only thing we could do to finish the race."

Frederic Vasseur
Frederic Vasseur

Vasseur: Magnussen's Mexico race 'puzzling'
Renault team boss Frederic Vasseur has described Kevin Magnussen's lack of pace during the Mexican Grand Prix as "puzzling," as the Dane slipped down the order.

Magnussen qualified in 14th position at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez and gained a spot at the start when he passed McLaren rival Jenson Button.

However, Magnussen struggled and switched to a two-stop strategy, running a Soft/Medium/Super Soft approach, as he came home in 17th, marginally ahead of the penalized Daniil Kvyat.

"Kevin had a puzzling race as he was well-placed at the start but he struggled for pace whatever the tires," said Vasseur.

"We'll spend a lot of time checking the car and analyzing the race to understand how we could have done better."

Jolyon Palmer, meanwhile, started from 21st after missing qualifying due to a cracked chassis and stopped for Medium tires at the end of the opening lap, which he preserved throughout the race to take 14th place.

"Jolyon had a strong race where we made the most of an aggressive strategy and pitted him very early under the Safety Car," said Vasseur.

"He drove 70 laps on the same set of tires and was very consistent to finish in front of some of our nearest rivals.

"He put in a robust defense of his position, in particular against both Jenson and Fernando [Alonso]. It was a very strong race for him."

New records for Mercedes in Mexico
The Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez was the venue for the Mexican Grand Prix last weekend. The circuit in Mexico City has so far been a happy hunting ground for the Silver Arrows.

Last year, Nico Rosberg secured his first victory in Mexico, and this year it was Lewis Hamilton's turn to stand on the top spot of the podium.

GP win number 51 for Hamilton was enough to put him on level pegging with Alain Prost on the all-time leader board.

Only record F1 championship winner Michael Schumacher now has more victories (91) to his name than Lewis and 'The Professor'.

Impressive: 30 of his 51 GP wins over the last four seasons have been in a Silver Arrow designed by Aldo Costa, the same designer that gave Schumacher most of his 91 wins. Due to the open rules F1 is a engineering endeavor. F1 is 99% car and 1% driver and even the best driver cannot win without the best car. Case in point – Fernando Alonso – a backmarker without the best car.

On the way to wrapping up the sixth one-two victory of the season for the team, both drivers made only one pit stop each, switching from the soft to the medium tire. And on both stops, the pit crew put in a phenomenal performance: the times taken to change wheels for Lewis (2.09 seconds) and Nico (2.12 seconds) were separated by only three hundredths of a second!

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