Latest F1 news in brief – Saturday

  • Not a good Friday for Hamilton in Austria
    Not a good Friday for Hamilton in Austria

    A bad day for Hamilton in Austria

  • Magnussen confident he will stay at Renault
  • Pirelli hints pressures could come down now
  • FIA did Halo extraction test in Austria
  • Massa hints at Williams pay-cut
  • James Key departure would be a blow – Sainz
  • Red Bull, Kvyat, not ready to decide future
  • Row brewing over Ecclestone's income proposal
  • Honda close to next engine upgrades
  • Verstappen: Walls better than new curbs

A bad day for Hamilton in Austria
(GMM) It was not a good start to the weekend for world champion Lewis Hamilton in Austria.

Bidding to close his points gap to Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg, the Briton had to admit after Friday practice that so far he is "off the pace".

And Hamilton's rivals then began to round on him in other ways.

One was Romain Grosjean, who complained that Hamilton was driving carelessly at the Red Bull Ring.

"If I get a chance, I'll talk to him. I could have had a serious accident with him," said the Frenchman.

Then the issue of Hamilton's argument that the radio clampdown should be eased emerged, as Fernando Alonso declared: "If someone does not know what to do, it is because he has not spent enough time in the simulator or with the engineers."

And finally, Rosberg and Max Verstappen were at odds with Hamilton as well, as the latter 18-year-old alleged that the Mercedes driver is hypocritical when it comes to the matter of driver safety.

Hamilton had publicly hit out at "moaning" drivers last time out in Baku, and now he has criticized drivers complaining about supposedly "dangerous" new curbs in Austria.

"In the media he says he doesn't care (about safety)," Verstappen told reporters on Friday.

"But I had an incident in the (Baku) briefing when I said the pit entry was tricky. He (Hamilton) was like 'Oh you shouldn't bother about it'.

"Then Nico jumped in and said 'Wait Lewis, you just said (in the Mercedes briefing) that you were getting a turtlehead when entering the pitlane'.

"Maybe he (Hamilton) wants to be cool," Verstappen surmised.

Kevin Magnussen's check big enough to continue with Renault
Kevin Magnussen's check big enough to continue with Renault

Magnussen confident he will stay at Renault
(GMM) Kevin Magnussen said he is feeling "no stress" over his future in F1.

The Dane has been arguing that Renault should give up on its uncompetitive 2016 car in order to focus fully on the new regulations.

Some have inferred that means Magnussen is feeling confident about being retained for a second season at the new Renault works team.

"I am not feeling any real stress about 2017," he confirmed to the Danish newspaper BT in Austria.

"I don't really see any threat to my position," added Magnussen, whose F1 career was rescued by the former Lotus team after being ousted by McLaren.

"If I deliver what I need to, I think Renault will take up the option they have on me. They seem happy with my performance, although nothing is certain in this business," the 23-year-old added.

Renault has youngsters Sergey Sirotkin and Esteban Ocon champing at the bit, but Magnussen indicated he feels so secure at Renault he has not even looked around at any alternatives for 2017.

"Because I believe in a future here at Renault, I have no plan B at the moment," he said.

"But I've been in this situation before and it can't happen again, so if Renault doesn't come back in the next two months, I will start to look around."

Williams might be one potential option.

Magnussen said: "I had contact with Williams up to this season and still have a good relationship with them, but as I said – I want to stay with Renault. It's a team on the rise.

"Ok, there is not much to celebrate at the moment in terms of results, but there is a lot going on behind the scenes. It's just not something that is going to make this car faster.

"It's frustrating, but while before I was more impatient, now I am focusing on the future," he added.

Mercedes team blistering the ultra-softs now that they can't cheat on the tire pressures
Mercedes team blistering the ultra-softs now that they can't cheat on the tire pressures

Pirelli hints pressures could come down now
(GMM) Pirelli has indicated that the FIA closing a loophole could mean exorbitantly high tire pressures can be eased in the forthcoming races.

F1's governing body has put a stop to teams heating the wheel assembly prior to the tires being fitted on the grid, which had allowed those tires to be inflated less but still meet Pirelli's strict pressure minimums.

It is believed the very high pressures demanded in Austria this weekend are a direct result of those heating measures, which have been spearheaded by Mercedes and Red Bull.

"If the result of the new procedures is the lowering of the starting pressure then we are very happy with it," Sauber team manager Beat Zehnder said at the Red Bull Ring.

Indeed, Pirelli chief Mario Isola indicated that he could have good news.

"If we find the pressures are now higher whilst driving with the new system, we can once again reduce the initial pressure," he is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport.

The drivers will also be relieved, but it seems some would prefer if Pirelli's guidelines were relaxed altogether.

"I have my opinion but I'll keep it," Fernando Alonso is quoted by Marca newspaper.

"It's the same for everyone, but this is the only category in which you cannot decide how to run your own car," the Spaniard added.

Drivers have to be able to get out quickly with the Halo
Drivers have to be able to get out quickly with the Halo

FIA did Halo extraction test in Austria
(GMM) Despite some early fanfare in Austria, problems on Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari meant the titanium 'Halo 2' did not make its practice debut on Friday.

But the FIA has been working on it in the background anyway, it now emerges.

Auto Motor und Sport reports that a mechanic was sat at the wheel of the Ferrari, under the cover of the controversial cockpit protection system, to determine how easily marshals could pull him out in the event of a crash.

The report said that in one instance, it took marshals 12 minutes to get him out.

"It was the first test of its kind and not about speed," insisted Charlie Whiting. "We just wanted to know what difficulties would arise."

The test findings will now be forwarded to a meeting of technical chiefs at Silverstone next week, with a decision about whether Halo will be introduced for 2017 now due.

Massa hints at Williams pay-cut
(GMM) Felipe Massa has hinted he might take a pay-cut in order to continue his F1 career into 2017.

Williams is openly re-thinking its lineup of the veteran Brazilian alongside Finn Valtteri Bottas.

Asked in Austria by Brazil's UOL if a cut to his estimated EUR 4 million retainer might be on the cards, Massa replied: "I have never raced thinking about money.

"I believe that in the end, if I see that there is a possibility to do a good job on a team, money will not be most important because I've got enough to have a good life."

The report claims 35-year-old Massa's manager, Nicolas Todt, has made enquiries with Renault about a potential vacancy at the French works team.

"I'm talking not only elsewhere but also here at Williams because they know about my work," said Massa. "The improvement of Williams in the past years has a lot of my work in there.

"And in a year in which everything in the rules changes, undoubtedly my experience becomes even more important," he added.

Will James Ky leave Toro Rosso?
Will James Ky leave Toro Rosso?

James Key departure would be a blow – Sainz
(GMM) The departure of James Key would be a blow to Toro Rosso, according to Carlos Sainz.

Although Briton Key recently played down rumors he is being coveted elsewhere in pitlane as he has a long-term contract, the rumors are swirling once again this weekend in Austria.

Asked if that worries him, Spaniard Sainz – who is staying at Faenza for a third consecutive season in 2017 – answered: "Of course, because James plays a key role in the team.

"For me he is one of the main assets of Toro Rosso," he added. "So if he goes, it would be bad news for us," he added.

Told, however, that one scenario is that Key might be promoted to Red Bull and that he could join him, Sainz laughed: "Of course, I would not mind that at all!"

Is Daniil Kvyat's check big enough to keep Toro Rosso drive?
Is Daniil Kvyat's check big enough to keep Toro Rosso drive?

Red Bull, Kvyat, not ready to decide future
(GMM) Daniil Kvyat has indicated he could be open to staying at Toro Rosso in 2017.

After his shock demotion from Red Bull Racing, the disappointed Russian hinted he intended to leave the energy drink stable altogether next year.

But Dr Helmut Marko, Red Bull's driver program chief, and now Toro Rosso boss Franz Tost, say it is possible Kvyat will be retained after all.

Kvyat said in Austria: "I want to be a team player so yes, we will talk about it.

"There are always possibilities and options, everywhere and for everyone.

"Of course, Red Bull has strongly influenced my career and they play an important role in these decisions. But now is an intense month with a lot of races and I want to focus on my performances on the track."

Tost said early in 2016 that he thinks Kvyat is a potential world champion of the future, and in Austria he said he stands by those comments.

But Carlos Sainz has already been retained for 2017, while Red Bull waits over its decision about Kvyat.

"Red Bull will surely make a decision eventually, but at the moment it's not a priority," Tost told Austria's Laola1.

Kvyat continued: "I like Toro Rosso and I feel good here."

Row brewing over Ecclestone's income proposal
(GMM) A row over the future of F1's income distribution system is brewing.

A few days ago, Bernie Ecclestone declared that Toto Wolff should not get ready to bank Mercedes' huge championship 'bonus' payment because he wants to rethink the entire system.

"He can't do that," Red Bull's Dr Helmut Marko told Brazil's Globo in Austria. "We have a contract until 2020."

But F1 supremo Ecclestone's comments come amid a European Commission investigation into the distribution and governance systems in F1, prompted by complaints made by Sauber and Force India.

"Definitely we support the comments of Bernie," Sauber chief Monisha Kaltenborn said.

"It may be that it relates to our decision to question the system with the EU."

Force India's Bob Fernley has a similar suspicion.

"There's something behind this initiative of Bernie's," the team deputy said. "We don't know what it is, but if he's saying something now it's because something happened — he knows something and needed to act."

Told, however, that the current agreements are enshrined until 2020, Fernley answered: "Yes, but if there is an EU decision, it will have to be abided by."

Yusuke Hasegawa
Yusuke Hasegawa

Honda close to next engine upgrades
McLaren engine partner Honda is set to introduce its latest batch of upgrades in the next "couple of races", according to the manufacturer's power unit chief, Yusuke Hasegawa.

Honda started the season with 14 tokens remaining, and has used only two so far, on a turbo-related upgrade at the Canadian Grand Prix, as it works out the best way to spend them.

Hasegawa insists, however, that more updates are on the way.

"We are hopeful that we can introduce some of the upgrades in a couple of races," said Hasegawa, when asked about Honda's development plan for the remainder of the season.

"We see some good elements, so as soon as we are ready we will introduce it."

Honda will have the freedom to overhaul its power unit for 2017, with the controversial token system to be dropped, and Hasegawa outlined the planned approach.

"Not completely redesigned… of course, there are a lot of places we need to redesign," he said, when asked how far Honda will go in changing its power unit.

"We introduced a new turbo at the Canadian Grand Prix, but of course we are never satisfied with the performance, there is always room to improve.

"Regarding the ERS, the maximum power is 120 Kw and the energy is limited, so I think we have achieved almost a decent, satisfying level from the turbine.

"Last year the power was cut off in half of the straight; it was a disaster, so we are proud.

"But on the other hand, with the internal combustion, we need to improve the engine performance and we are trying the very hard job to improve the engine for next year."

Verstappen: Walls better than new curbs
Max Verstappen feels that walls would be a more effective anti-cutting measure than the new exit curbs at the Red Bull Ring.

For 2016, various curbs have been added on the entry and exit of corners to prevent drivers from leaving the track and gaining time.

In FP1, Verstappen lost part of his front wing on the curbs at the exit of Turn 8, before damaging his suspension over the strip at Turn 6.

Although he backed the move to prevent cutting, Verstappen questioned the profile of the curbs used, and reckons they should be changed.

"I understand that we have to respect the track limits, but then it's better to put a wall there," Verstappen explained to reporters after Friday's pair of practice sessions.

"I destroyed two front wings and a suspension.

"I know that we have to stay off them as well, but I think it's a better idea to just have a straight curb, a bigger one, like at Turn 1, instead of these smaller ones."

Verstappen is nonetheless hopeful of a strong weekend, after he finished eighth and seventh fastest, and team-mate Daniel Ricciardo made the top five in both sessions.

"I think the pace was good before that happened, and again in FP2," he said.

"I wanted to learn a bit more [during the sessions], but it's not too bad. I didn't expect to be that close [to the front]. We will just have to see what happens with Mercedes tomorrow."

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