Latest F1 news in brief – Sunday

  • Did Vandoorne use Wolff to get Button's seat at McLaren?

    Wolff plays down Vandoorne comments

  • Wolff denies Manor now 'Toto Rosso'
  • Pirelli defends high pressures at Spa
  • Capito says he will be 'Boullier's boss'
  • Monza better for Hamilton's 'penalty weekend' – Wolff
  • Someone must save British GP – Ecclestone

Wolff plays down Vandoorne comments
(GMM) Toto Wolff has played down suggestions he is about to snap up McLaren's Stoffel Vandoorne.

The Mercedes boss caused a stir at Spa by reportedly telling the Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws that he rates Belgian Vandoorne as highly as his own chargers Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon.

"I've been following his career for five or six years," he said.

"I am 100 per cent sure he will be in formula one next year. If McLaren is crazy enough not to take him, I'll look for a place for him myself," Wolff added.

Later, Wolff said the comments had caused a "misunderstanding", and McLaren's Eric Boullier said he would not comment.

And Jenson Button, who would be ousted unless McLaren is 'crazy', said after qualifying an impressive ninth on Saturday: "I think I gave my answer (to Wolff) in qualifying."

However, it seems almost certain that McLaren will not let 24-year-old Vandoorne go. Mark Hughes, writing for the Sunday Times, claims the Honda-powered team has now told 36-year-old Button that Vandoorne will replace him.

Hughes added: "It is understood that Button has decided against a return to the Williams team with which he started his F1 career 16 years ago."

Wolff denies Manor now his puppet team
Wolff denies Manor now his puppet team

Wolff denies Manor now 'Toto Rosso'
(GMM) Toto Wolff has played down claims he is turning the F1 backmarker Manor into a Mercedes junior team.

The outfit, already powered by a Mercedes engine, now has both of Mercedes' junior drivers Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon in the cockpits.

Referring cheekily to rival Red Bull's own junior team, Bild newspaper said Manor is effectively becoming 'Toto Rosso'.

Asked if that is accurate, Wolff insisted: "No.

"However, after what happened with Max Verstappen we were convinced we could not miss the next talented driver just because we have no place for him.

"Our attitude to Manor has changed, but we do not support them and we do not plan to buy shares in them. We can deepen the partnership, but we do not plan to go beyond that," he added.

Pirelli knows why it recommended high pressures and stands behind it
Pirelli knows why it recommended high pressures and stands behind it

Pirelli defends high pressures at Spa
(GMM) Pirelli has hit back at fierce criticism of its tires this weekend at Spa.

Up and down the pitlane, drivers are complaining about severe degradation and mandatory high tire pressures that Felipe Massa says are "ridiculous".

"The super soft is just terrible — after two laps it's gone," said Lewis Hamilton.

Jenson Button agrees: "In my entire formula one career, I've not had to drive like this. If you push in the warmup lap they blister and overheat. It's crazy."

And Massa added: "My six year old could drive faster than me on the formation lap."

Mario Isola, Pirelli's F1 track chief, told Speed Week: "I don't understand all the fuss.

"The drivers knew already in February that we would go to the high-speed tracks with these sorts of pressures."

Jost Capito
Jost Capito

Capito says he will be 'Boullier's boss'
(GMM) A power struggle could be shaping up at McLaren, according to a Spanish sports daily.

After a long wait while he tied up his former role at VW, incoming McLaren chief executive Jost Capito is finally attending grands prix.

"He's going to start very soon — it's a question of days," said team boss Eric Boullier.

Capito is at Spa, but only as an observer in casual clothes. He will be in full McLaren uniform at Monza next weekend.

According to the Spanish daily Marca, Boullier said recently that he, Capito and McLaren supremo Ron Dennis will effectively divide their powers.

"No," Capito told Marca. "Ron Dennis it the CEO of the group. When Martin Whitmarsh left, he also assumed the same position at McLaren Racing, which is the position I will have.

"As such, I will be Boullier's boss and Ron will be mine."

Better for Hamilton to start at the back at Spa, Mercedes wants to completely embarrass Ferrari at home
Better for Hamilton to start at the back at Spa, Mercedes wants to completely embarrass Ferrari at home

Monza better for Hamilton's 'penalty weekend' – Wolff
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton is keeping an open mind and a modest target of breaking into the top ten as he prepares to start the Belgian grand prix from the back.

The world championship leader has incurred farcical penalties that count in the dozens of grid positions for a spate of power unit component changes at Spa.

Mercedes chose Spa as the scene of the inevitable penalty fest, believing the long blasts in the Belgian Ardennes would mean Hamilton can overtake.

But Hamilton said: "If you want to pass, you have to be close in the corner beforehand and that's very difficult. One lap following another and you're tires are gone."

Given the tire situation that has unfolded in Belgium, team boss Toto Wolff told Auto Motor und Sport: "In hindsight, Monza might have been a better place to take the engine penalties."

But Hamilton is at least happy that the specter of engine changes no longer hangs over his head for the remaining races of 2016, with Mercedes having stockpiled no fewer than 3 fresh power units at Spa.

"Who knows if I'll need them all," said the Briton, "but I'm happy that I can maybe drive a bit more aggressively now and don't have to worry about it."

The disadvantage for Hamilton is that Mercedes may make further updates to the power unit specification that the reigning world champion will not get.

"We have to accept this disadvantage," said Wolff, "as it is outweighed by the advantage he now has in having enough engines for the last nine races."

Hamilton, though, joins much of the rest of the F1 paddock in questioning whether the sport has its system of engine penalties right.

"No one knows what a MGU-H is," he said. "And no one's interested either."

In theory, Hamilton could have used his 'penalty weekend' at Spa to the max and deliberately incurred another reprimand, removing that sword of Damocles from above his head as well.

But he said: "That would have meant doing something deliberately illegal or dangerous, and I don't want to do that. And I could have shot myself in the foot by getting the penalty in the next race as well."

No one has more money than Bernie to do it.
No one has more money than Bernie to do it.

Someone must save British GP – Ecclestone
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone has admitted the future of the historic British grand prix is in doubt.

Writing in the Independent, F1 business journalist Christian Sylt said Silverstone's latest troubles follow the collapse of a $43 million deal between the circuit-owning British Racing Drivers' Club and Jaguar.

And that follows Silverstone managing director Patrick Allen having recently been suspended for being "too close" to a rival bid for the track.

Sylt said Silverstone has a F1 race deal until 2026, but F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone retains the right to drop the race.

"I don't know what is going to happen there. Somebody is going to have to step in and save it," the 85-year-old F1 supremo said at Spa.

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