Latest F1 news in brief – Thursday

  • Aldo Costa's car will win F1 title yet again
    Aldo Costa's car will win F1 title yet again

    Mercedes can win team title in Malaysia

  • F1 pundits eye Hamilton vs Rosberg title battle
  • Ferrari 'disoriented' after Allison exit – Stewart
  • Ericsson fit to race after bicycle crash
  • Three 'provisional' races on 2017 calendar
  • F1 Releases Provisional Calendar For '17, With Hockenheim Named As German GP Host
  • Zak Brown Reveals Vision For Future Of F1
  • Berger doubts 2017 revolution right for F1
  • Alonso to trial upgraded Honda engine
  • Steiner rules out Leclerc for 2017 seat

Mercedes can win team title in Malaysia
(GMM) Mercedes could wrap up the constructors' world championship this weekend in Malaysia, with five clear races then to follow.

The mathematical match-point has come early because the utterly dominant German team has a huge 222 point gap over second-placed Red Bull.

When asked how Mercedes managed to get so far ahead with a full 30 per cent of the season still to go, technical boss Paddy Lowe answered: "We have built a car that works well no matter the circuit.

"In that way, it is not only power that matters, but power and efficiency," he told the German newspaper Bild.

The drivers' championship, however, is a different matter entirely, with Mercedes' Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton separated by a mere 8 points.

When asked what will happen, Lowe answered: "It is impossible to predict. I really don't know."

Which Aldo Costa driver will win the title this year?

F1 pundits eye Hamilton vs Rosberg title battle
(GMM) Although Mercedes is on the cusp of wrapping up the constructors' title, the battle for the drivers' crown is still wide open.

Indeed, up and down the pitlane, opinions are divided as to which silver-clad driver – Nico Rosberg or Lewis Hamilton – will take home the trophy.

"I would put my money on Lewis," former F1 driver turned commentator David Coulthard told Germany's Sport Bild.

"Nico still has to prove that he can beat Lewis when Lewis is not having problems. In a tough duel, with the same weapons, my impression is that Lewis always wins."

But F1 legend Sir Jackie Stewart thinks German Rosberg can outsmart his British rival.

"Nico is the best example of how a driver can master his head," the Scot told Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"He does a perfect job and I see virtually no errors. But that 8 point lead is not enough and Hamilton just didn't do well in the last race," Stewart added.

Another former driver, German-language Sky pundit Marc Surer, also thinks Rosberg is capable of winning.

"I have the impression that he is more confident this year.

"But I believe it will go back and forth now until the end of the season, because Lewis will definitely not give up — he will come back. I see luck playing a major role as well."

Surer also said the actual race starts, particularly with Mercedes' tricky clutch, are also crucial.

"The start is the key to victory and therefore the key to the championship," he said.

"If Hamilton wants to be world champion again, he has to work hard and concentrate more," added Surer.

Unprecedented attention will therefore be on how the pair handle each of the remaining races, beginning this weekend in Malaysia and then the final five in Japan, Austin, Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi.

Surer said: "Singapore was absolutely a Hamilton track, but he was never in top form all weekend. The setup of the car is extremely important and this seems to be more of a strength of Rosberg's."

He therefore thinks the new track surface at Sepang could play into Rosberg's hands.

"Definitely. Who can better adjust the car to the new conditions will have a great chance to win the race, but one also must reckon with the weather.

"When it rains here, everything goes haywire. And then anything can happen," said Surer.

Ferrari desperately needs to steal its designer back from Mercedes - Costa designed the Michael Schmacher Ferraris
Ferrari desperately needs to steal its designer back from Mercedes – Costa designed the Michael Schumacher Ferraris

Ferrari 'disoriented' after Allison exit – Stewart
(GMM) Ferrari is "disoriented", F1 legend Sir Jackie Stewart has surmised.

The great Italian team targeted the titles in 2016 but has instead failed to win a single race and even fallen behind Red Bull.

"The momentum, consistency and getting the team together has not worked," Mark Webber, Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel's former Red Bull teammate, told The Sun.

"Even things like reliability, they've not even managed to bag that," said the Australian. "Strategy looks flaky at times. They look reactive rather than proactive, so next year is a massive year for them."

Webber thinks a bad 2017 could even cost Ferrari its lead driver, German Vettel.

"Next year is a massive year for Ferrari and Sebastian," he said. "It is a juggernaut in terms of their collective belief in the team and whether they have the weapons in place to get the job done."

Triple world champion Stewart agrees with Webber when it comes to Ferrari's 'weapons', arguing that the loss of James Allison was a key blow.

"It didn't help that it separated with its technical director halfway through the year," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"The team was used to him as a leader and it takes time to recover from that. James Allison had managed to unite the team and win the trust of the people — for me, he is an outstanding engineer.

"Ferrari seems disoriented," Stewart added. "They had come to the point where they wondered why they were not winning races.

"James Allison lost his father, who meant a lot to him, and his wife – who didn't want to live in Italy – died as well. James was not happy," he said.

"But with his departure brings instability. And stability is still fundamental to success in formula one.

"Ferrari needs to get the right people now. Ken Tyrrell never had the most money, but he knew exactly who the right people were," Stewart added.

But for now, German-language Sky pundit Marc Surer said Vettel has little chance of repeating his 2015 win in Malaysia this weekend.

"Last year they had the advantage of less tire wear, but they don't seem to have that this year," he said. "I don't think Vettel has any chance of winning, except with luck."

Ericsson fit to race after bicycle crash
(GMM) Marcus Ericsson is bruised and battered but fit to race in Malaysia this weekend.

The Sauber driver confirmed reports on Twitter that he suffered a high speed cycling accident during a training camp in Thailand last week.

"Lucky to get away with only bruises and scratches," said the Swede, posting photos of himself covered with cuts and scrapes and a bent bicycle wheel.

"Hitting a (big) chicken doing 45kph is not recommended but I'm all patched up and ready for the weekend," Ericsson added.

He said the chicken escaped unscathed.

Sao Paolo needs an upgrade before getting final approval
Sao Paolo needs an upgrade before getting final approval

Three 'provisional' races on 2017 calendar
(GMM) Three of the 21 grands prix scheduled for 2017 have been given only provisional status on the newly-published race calendar.

On the whole, there are few surprises and no new hosts on the schedule, with June's Baku race set to clash once again with the fabled Le Mans.

But Bernie Ecclestone is reportedly unhappy with organizers of Montreal's popular race, and the FIA confirmed the Canadian grand prix's provisional status.

However, race spokesperson Sandrine Garneau-Bel insisted: "We aren't worried at all. It's business as usual for us.

"We have been working on the 2017 grand prix for some time. We asked for the date of June 11 and that's what we got," La Presse quotes Garneau-Bel as saying.

However, promoter Octane did admit that tickets for the Montreal race are yet to go on sale because of "negotiations" with Ecclestone.

Another uncertain race is Hockenheim, with Ecclestone said to be negotiating for semi-promotional rights to safeguard the German grand prix.

And even Brazil has provisional status, amid rumors it is delayed circuit upgrades that are casting doubt on the Sao Paulo race.

In a statement, organizers of the Interlagos event said they are "surprised" with the provisional status.

"There is a valid contract until 2020 and it will be rigorously complied with, as has always been the case in these last 45 years," Brazilian media quoted the statement as saying.

26 March Melbourne Australia
9 April Shanghai China
16 April Bahrain Bahrain
30 April Sochi Russia
14 May Barcelona Spain
28 May Monte Carlo Monaco
11 June Montreal Canada*
18 June Baku Azerbaijan
2 July Spielberg Austria
9 July Silverstone United Kingdom
23 July Budapest Hungary
30 July Hockenheim Germany*
27 August Spa-Francorchamps Belgium
3 September Monza Italy
17 September Sepang Malaysia
1 October Singapore Singapore
8 October Suzuka Japan
22 October Austin USA
5 November Mexico City Mexico
12 November Sao Paolo Brazil*
26 November Abu Dhabi United Arab Emirates

*Subject to confirmation

Montreal also needs upgrades
Montreal also needs upgrades

F1 Releases Provisional Calendar For '17, With Hockenheim Named As German GP Host
F1 on Wednesday released its provisional calendar for the '17 season, with Hockenheim surprisingly named as host venue of the German Grand Prix. The FIA World Motor Sport Council approved the championship's provisional schedule at a meeting in Paris.

The 21-race season will begin at Melbourne's Albert Park on March 26 and concludes exactly nine months later at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi on Nov. 26. There are no notable changes to the calendar, except that Hockenheim appears on the schedule with a race date set for July 30. German track organizers, however, made clear that they would only be able to host the race in '17 if F1 would assume all financial risks of the endeavor.

"We are not thinking about it," Hockenheimring Managing Dir Georg Seiler said about the possibility of hosting the German GP in '17. "We have a contract for 2016 and 2018, in between it's not our turn."

Hockenheim and fellow German racetrack Nürburgring have been alternating as host venues of the German GP on an annual basis since '08.

The Nurburgring was unable to fulfill its commitment in '15 due to its uncertain financial situation following its bankruptcy. After the cancellation of the German Grand Prix in '15, the race returned to the series’ schedule this season. Hockenheim has an existing contract with the series until '18 and is expected to fulfill its obligation. With F1 unlikely to forgo millions in hosting fees, the chances of a race on German soil in '17 are rather slim.

The three North American races in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico will keep their usual dates. Austin and Mexico City are again going back-to-back on Oct. 22 and Nov. 5. The two-week break between the U.S. and Mexican races is a slight change to this year's schedule, when the races take place on consecutive Sundays at the end of October.

UP NORTH: Montreal will host its grand prix on June 11, though the event at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is subject to confirmation. Local race promoter Octane Racing Group President & CEO Francois Dumontier: "The presence of the asterisk is due to the ongoing negotiations between Formula 1 and other local stakeholders, negotiations from which we are kept informed.

We are entirely confident that Mayor Denis Coderre as well as his administration will be able to come to an agreement as quickly as possible … For now, our tickets sales will remain on hold. As soon as we will be able to, we will advise fans as well as the media that tickets are available and as usual we will prioritize our 2016 clients when it comes to seat selection." Local promoters reached a deal with F1 in '14 to keep the race in Montreal until '24. As part of the deal, local authorities promised to make upgrades to the facility by '17. HJ Mai/

Zak Brown
Zak Brown

Zak Brown Reveals Vision For Future Of F1
Motorsport marketing exec Zak Brown "revealed his vision for the future of Formula 1" amid suggestions that he could "play a key part in the sport's new management," according to Matt Morlidge of SKY SPORTS.

Brown announced on Monday that "he will be leaving his role" as CEO of CSM Sport & Entertainment.

As a friend of F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone as well as Chase Carey, chair of the sport's new parent company Liberty Media, the timing of his departure "fueled speculation" that he could "form part of a commercial team in the near future."

And while Brown, a "former racing driver who has drawn comparisons with Ecclestone, could shed little light on potentially running the sport," he wants to continue working in F1.

He said, "I want to be in motorsport the rest of my life. I love Formula 1. I think I've contributed to the sport and I want to continue to be involved in the sport. I don't think there's ever going to be another Bernie, but I'd like to be involved."

Brown "also laid out his main points for a successful future in F1." He said, "I think we need to focus on the fan. Everything starts with the fan. If you can get more fans, younger fans, more diverse fans, then you'll have bigger television contracts, you'll have more sponsors, the teams will be healthier, you'll sell more tickets" Sky Sports

Gerhard Berger is 100% correct. F1 is already a parade. Now it will be parade on rails.
Gerhard Berger is 100% correct. F1 is already a parade. Now it will be parade on rails.

Berger doubts 2017 revolution right for F1
(GMM) F1 legend Gerhard Berger has questioned whether the 2017 rules revolution is the right path for the sport.

The new rules have been designed to tackle the perception of F1's dwindling challenge with more aggressive and faster cars next year.

Berger, the former McLaren and Ferrari driver and experienced official, said the move is "visually the right way" for F1.

But he also told the Austrian broadcaster Servus TV: "Whether it will bring to the show what we hope for — I doubt it.

"There will indeed be faster laptimes of two, three, four seconds. But the fans don't see the laptime on the TV or the race track."

Berger said the best example of that is MotoGP: F1's spectacular two-wheeled equivalent.

"The most spectacular motor sport at the moment is MotoGP," he said. "It looks much more spectacular (than F1) but it's 20 seconds per lap slower.

"It is the ratio of power to grip that is completely different in formula one, and I believe that is the key to more spectacular races," added Berger.

"If you halved the grip and had a third more power, the cars would be extremely difficult to handle. That's the direction formula one should go in.

"In my time we had spectacular races with up to 1400 horse power with half the downforce of today. It was like steering a cannonball around a track.

"We couldn't even talk on the radio because we had no breath, and after the race we had to be helped out of the car because we were so tired. We have to go back to that," Berger insisted.

Alonso to test upgraded Honda
Alonso to test upgraded Honda

Alonso to trial upgraded Honda engine
Fernando Alonso will test an updated engine during practice for the Malaysian Grand Prix, as Honda works through its final development tokens, a move that will result in at least a 30-place grid drop.

Alonso, who has suffered an array of reliability problems this season, will boost his engine pool for the remaining races by taking on a new ICE, Turbo Charger, MGU-H, Energy Store and Control Electronics.

He is likely to start the Sepang race from the back of the grid when his penalty is applied.

Honda has also included upgrades for Alonso to trial during Friday's opening practice session; the new unit features a lighter engine block and a redesigned exhaust, aimed at boosting efficiency.

As part of the plan, Alonso is set to return to an older engine for the race, previously used at the Belgian Grand Prix, but his penalty could still increase, as Honda may introduce more parts for second practice.

Alonso will thus be able to use the new engine without penalty at Honda's home race in Japan, with team-mate Jenson Button expected to take on updated parts at the following round in the United States.

"They [Honda] don't want to take any penalties at Suzuka, which is completely understandable; it's basically our home race, our second home race," said Button, on the subject of Honda's update plan.

"[At Sepang] I personally won't have a penalty – it will be a normal weekend for me."

Honda used two tokens for the upgrade, meaning it has one left to spend this season.

Charles Leclerc - his check must not have been big enough
Charles Leclerc – his check must not have been big enough

Steiner rules out Leclerc for 2017 seat
Haas team boss Guenther Steiner has ruled out giving a race seat to Ferrari youngster Charles Leclerc for 2017, stating that a rookie is "not an option" for the squad.

Monegasque racer Leclerc, 18, is in control of the GP3 championship with two rounds to go, and has made three Formula 1 practice outings with Haas in a development role.

Leclerc would gain the points required for a full Super License if he goes on to clinch the GP3 crown, but Steiner says he will not be stepping up to F1 with Haas so soon.

"I think for the position we're in, he's too inexperienced," said Steiner.

"I wouldn't say that he's too young, as Max Verstappen does a good job, but it's difficult that in two years, you get two 18-year-olds that are rockets, you know.

"We highly respect what Leclerc is doing, and in FP1 he was on the game immediately, but what we need as a team is more somebody who can score points.

"We need to train the team, basically, we cannot train a driver.

"When I was asked last year about Alexander Rossi… it could break somebody's career, as it's a new team, and we're still relatively new next year, the second year.

"If it doesn't work out, for sure we would be blamed, and that is not right, so we need to look after ourselves and make the team bigger so we are ready for young talent.

Pushed on whether a rookie driver is out of the question for Haas next season, he added: "It's not an option at the moment, exactly – it's not a thing we want to do."

Romain Grosjean is expected to stay onboard in 2017, though the future of team-mate Esteban Gutiérrez appears uncertain, with Haas holding out on a final decision.

"We are in a good position to wait, so we are waiting," Steiner said.