Latest F1 news in brief – Sunday

  • Button not retiring but McLaren essentially retired him
    Button not retiring but McLaren essentially retired him

    Button on standby for Alonso exit – Surer

  • Massa could race elsewhere in 2017 – father
  • Manager backs Verstappen over Villeneuve row
  • 2017 pre-season test dates emerge
  • Ferrari 'in right hands' after Allison exit – Marchionne
  • Sale of F1 by CVC definitely done – reports
  • Button: I'm 'very definitely not retiring'
  • Vandoorne thrilled by 2017 McLaren seat

Button on standby for Alonso exit – Surer
(GMM) Jenson Button surprised the F1 paddock at Monza by announcing he is taking a sabbatical in 2017.

Asked if he is retiring, the McLaren driver said: "That is a terrible word and I'm definitely not doing that."

In a typical announcement by the British outfit, which is overseen by the detail-obsessed Ron Dennis, McLaren said it would have an "innovative three-driver strategy" next year.

It comprises Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne on the grid, with 36-year-old Button signing a new two-year deal that could involve him returning in 2018.

But when asked if he thinks Button will come back, F1 pundit Marc Surer told Speed Week: "No, I don't think so.

"But this strategy is not bad. They probably thought about what will happen if Fernando suddenly throws in the towel because the car is not better next year.

"In that case, they have Button who can step in again."

Asked if he thinks Button is therefore voluntarily stepping aside, former Swiss F1 driver Surer answered: "No, McLaren had no choice. They had to sign Vandoorne, otherwise they would have lost him."

Massa won't race dangerous IndyCars
Massa won't race dangerous IndyCars

Massa could race elsewhere in 2017 – father
(GMM) Felipe Massa's father says it is possible the retiring F1 driver will switch to another category in 2017.

Brazilian Massa, 35, announced at Monza that he will not be extending his long F1 career into a sixteenth consecutive season next year.

But his father, Luis Antonio, told Sportv: "He could race somewhere because that's what he loves to do. In a top category, no doubt, with a chance to be champion.

"There are some options," Massa snr revealed. "WEC, DTM, Formula E. No choices are made, but it will not be other than those three categories."

Villeneuve - has mouth will speak
Villeneuve – has mouth will put foot in it

Manager backs Verstappen over Villeneuve row
(GMM) Max Verstappen's manager has moved to put a lid on a war of words between the 18-year-old driver and 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve.

After Villeneuve suggested that the kind of aggression the Red Bull driver showed at Spa could kill someone, Verstappen hit back by referring to an incident in 2001 when a wheel from Villeneuve's flying car killed a marshal.

"What Max meant is that Villeneuve should be careful talking about his (Verstappen's) driving style and death at the same time," manager Raymond Vermeulen told the German newspaper Bild.

"I can only agree with Max and say it is disrespectful to the family of the marshal."

Vermeulen, who in conjunction with Max's father Jos looks after the teenager's career, said it is also important that Verstappen respects Villeneuve and his accomplishments.

"But we know that Villeneuve is not a fan of Max and doesn't assess him positively. We can live with that," he said.

"But the kind of accusations that he is doing now are very unfortunate."

2017 pre-season test dates emerge
(GMM) The 2017 calendar is really starting to take shape, as the dates for the pre-season test schedule now emerge in the Monza paddock.

Earlier, it was suggested Pirelli wanted some pre-season running for the bigger 2017 tires to take place in a hot country, but that now appears unlikely.

"The understanding is that we're likely to be in Europe," said Pirelli's Paul Hembery.

Auto Motor und Sport reports that the first of just two four-day winter test will begin on 27 February, with the final running before Melbourne starting on 7 March.

The report said the teams are favoring Barcelona as the location, but other possibilities are Jerez, Valencia and Estoril.

It is believed Pirelli is concerned that just 8 days of running is not very much, considering how different the wider and bigger 2017 tires will be.

"We have to hope that there are no problems with the tires in testing," said Pirelli's Mario Isola. "Because there would hardly be time to react before Australia.

"We would of course prefer to test in warm conditions and on different tracks."

It is understood that some teams have reacted to Pirelli's concerns by offering to run two rather than just one car per test.

The next phase of Pirelli's 2017 tire development, meanwhile, will take place next week at Barcelona and Paul Ricard, with Ferrari and Mercedes in action with their hybrid test cars.

"There's a lot of work for us to do of course," said Hembery, "and a very challenging time scale to deliver it."

Is Mattia Binotto going to beat Aldo Costa or Adrian Newey? Doubtful
Is Mattia Binotto going to beat Aldo Costa or Adrian Newey? Doubtful

Ferrari 'in right hands' after Allison exit – Marchionne
(GMM) Sergio Marchionne has backed Mattia Binotto as the right man to lead Ferrari back to winning.

Appearing at Monza, the Ferrari president commented on the recent departure from Maranello of the highly-respected technical chief James Allison.

"James, I'm sure, had an abundance of knowledge but it was really time to give a jolt to the team," Marchionne is quoted by the Italian press, "even if probably it came a little late.

"We had focused on a single person to be the answer to all our problems but with Mattia we are in the right hands. He has created a great and young team so let's let them work," he said.

"Why Binotto? Because he did a great job on the power unit in 2015 and 2016 and managing is a very precise and delicate process. We have many engineers working on the car and you have to organize them," Marchionne said.

He admitted that 2016 has essentially been a failure.

"We arrived perhaps a little too optimistic in 2016, thinking the car was there but others improved a lot and we stood still.

"But we have not lost too much time: the new engine of 2017 is already on the bench at least in part and I have not the slightest doubt that the car will be there," said Marchionne.

Sale of F1 by CVC definitely done – reports
(GMM) The deal is definitely done on the sale of F1's majority stake by current owners CVC, according to multiple authoritative publications.

Auto Motor und Sport (Germany), La Gazzetta dello Sport and Sky (Italy), the Sunday Times (Britain) and Auto Bild (Germany) all agree that Liberty Media, headed by US tycoon John Malone, is buying F1 for $8.5 billion.

The Sunday Times said F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone is "refusing to deny" that the first transaction will be done early next week.

And Auto Motor und Sport claimed: "When we asked, Bernie Ecclestone confirmed that the sale will be done in the coming week."

The reports claim the sale will be done in two stages, with Ecclestone to definitely stay as chief executive in the initial, transitional phase.

"I will do what I have always done," Auto Motor und Sport quoted the 85-year-old as saying.

"It is my decision what role I take."

The report linked Formula E chief Alejandro Agag with Ecclestone's role beyond the first phase.

Germany's Auto Bild claimed that Ecclestone is still pushing for CVC to sell to a Qatar group, so that he definitely retains his role at the top.

F1 legend Gerhard Berger welcomed the news that CVC is selling.

"It will bring in fresh ideas," he told the Italian broadcaster Sky at Monza, adding that the fact the new owner is American will also help.

"America is a nut that formula one never really cracked," Berger added.

Button says he is not retiring, but McLaren essentially retired him
Button says he is not retiring, but McLaren essentially retired him

Button: I'm 'very definitely not retiring'
Jenson Button insists he is "very definitely not retiring", after it was announced that he will step aside for Stoffel Vandoorne at McLaren next year.

Button has signed a new two-year contract with McLaren, in which he will take on a development role for the team, but will not compete at Grands Prix in 2017.

Button, though, is keen to stress that he has not retired from the sport and says that he is "massively excited" about his new position at the team.

"I'm delighted that I'll be staying on as a key member of McLaren," he said.

"In fact I'm massively excited about my new role, which has come about as a result of a number of in-depth chats with Ron [Dennis].

"Specifically, I'm looking forward to becoming even more deeply involved in the team's efforts to bring about the success we've all been striving to deliver.

"I love McLaren – I firmly believe it's made up of the best bunch of people I've ever worked with – and I have no intention of ever driving for another Formula 1 team.

"To be clear, I'm very definitely not retiring.

"I'm contracted for both 2017 and 2018, I intend to work hard on car-development, and I'm sure I'll get behind the wheel of the new car at some point."

Vandoorne thrilled by 2017 McLaren seat
Stoffel Vandoorne has described his promotion to a McLaren seat for 2017 as an "enormous honor", after the team confirmed he will race alongside Fernando Alonso next season.

Vandoorne has been a member of McLaren's young driver scheme since 2013 and has occupied the role of reserve driver since mid-2015, alongside his dominant GP2 title campaign.

Vandoorne made his Formula 1 debut in Bahrain, in place of the injured Alonso, but will now graduate to a race seat full-time next season, with Jenson Button stepping aside.

"First of all, I want to express my gratitude to everyone at McLaren, and especially Ron [Dennis], for showing faith in me," said Vandoorne.

"I've signed loads of autographs in my career, but, when I inked my signature on my McLaren-Honda contract today, it's safe to say I had an exceptionally special feeling as I picked up my pen to do so.

"It's an enormous honor to become a McLaren race driver, and I promise to work as hard as any Formula 1 driver ever has before.

"I already know the team extremely well – they're a fantastic group of extremely clever people – and I've already raced the car once and tested it often.

"I have total confidence in the potential of the McLaren project, and I firmly believe that, racing alongside a brilliant and experienced driver, I'll be able to make a strong contribution to the team's future World championship successes.

"I'm not saying when that'll happen, but I'm confident that that's what the McLaren-Honda team will achieve, and I'm determined to do my bit."

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