Latest F1 news in brief – Friday

  • Ecclestone says more European GPs to be toast
    Ecclestone says more European GPs to be toast

    F1 to 'definitely' drop European races – Ecclestone

  • Prost says Baku coverage 'a disaster'
  • Williams recapturing 'winning mentality' – Smedley
  • Alonso wants third title in 2017
  • Todt plays down future F1 race clashes
  • Force India not unhappy with Hulkenberg
  • Raikkonen alternatives 'potentially faster' – Prost
  • Verstappen listened after Monaco crashes – Marko
  • FIA must approve Ecclestone successor

F1 to 'definitely' drop European races – Ecclestone
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone has confirmed reports he intends to drop "one or two" European rounds from the F1 calendar.

The F1 supremo was quoted this week as saying that while this year's schedule stands at an unprecedented 21 grands prix, the 2017 calendar could have as few as 18.

"Absolutely," Ecclestone has now told the Russian news source RBC.

"That is exactly what will happen — one or two countries will be excluded, definitely.

"I can't say which ones, but the new countries will be from a different part of the world. Not from Europe," he insisted.

Already, F1 has moved away from traditional European markets like France, while Germany and Italy are now endangered stops on the calendar.

"Formula one is not the European championship," Ecclestone said. "This is the world championship."

But there have been several examples in recent years of new countries – like Turkey, Korea and India – joining the calendar but not enjoying any longevity.

Asked what a new venue like Azerbaijan can do to avoid the same fate, Ecclestone answered: "Pay!"

Told that many hosts argue that F1 races are no longer profitable, he added: "It's not my fault. I don't organize the races. It's their task to attract the fans."

Alain Prost
Alain Prost

Prost says Baku coverage 'a disaster'
(GMM) Alain Prost has described the coverage of last weekend's inaugural race in Baku as a "disaster".

While the street circuit itself was lauded for its spectacular layout and scenery, the F1 legend says he was bored whilst watching the television coverage.

"It was the first time in years that I could not follow free practice and qualifying," said Prost, "but the widespread enthusiasm on social media meant that when I sat on the couch to watch the race I had great expectations.

"But the only thrill I saw was the left-right bend at the end of the lap," he is quoted by La Gazzetta dello Sport as saying at the FIA conference in Turin.

"So there was something that was not working. For a young or inexperienced viewer they would have got the idea that driving in F1 is not too far away from the Playstation," said the quadruple world champion and Renault ambassador.

Williams recapturing 'winning mentality' – Smedley
(GMM) Williams is working to rediscover its "winning mentality", according to Rob Smedley.

Smedley, now a senior engineer at Grove, arrived at Williams just as the famous British team re-established itself as a top-three force in the new 'power unit' era.

Nonetheless, Williams has won only a single grand prix since 2003, and not added to its tally of seven drivers' titles in the almost two decades since 1997.

Not only that, after being F1's clear third force in 2014 and 2015, Williams has now fallen behind both Ferrari and Red Bull.

"In Canada, we beat Red Bull because our car was better," insisted Smedley, speaking to the French publication Auto Hebdo.

"And the next races in Spielberg and Silverstone should be good for us too. Our ambition is to get closer to Mercedes and Ferrari — teams with far more resources than us," he added.

Smedley insists that, despite these fewer resources, Williams is recapturing the "winning mentality" of the past, demonstrated by the team's field-leading pitstop speeds that are stunning the paddock in 2016.

"This is the winning mentality that we are putting in place within the team," he said. "Winning is not just about a winning car, it's also a state of mind, and that's what we need to get back."

Fernando Alonso tells Dennis he wants a title next year
Fernando Alonso tells Dennis he wants a title next year

Alonso wants third title in 2017
(GMM) Fernando Alonso says he hopes to be fighting for the world championship in 2017.

McLaren-Honda has made strides this year after its disastrous 2015, but next year is the last in Spaniard Alonso's current three-season contract.

He is leaving his future beyond 2017 very much open but insists that the graphite grey package this year "is developing very well".

"There is still a long way to go because we want to win, we want to be world champions and now we are not in that position, but we're closer," said Alonso in London, as McLaren this week unveiled a new sponsorship deal with fashion brand Michael Kors.

"I think this is an important season for us and we hope that next year we can take the final step and fight for the championship," Alonso is quoted by the Spanish sports daily Marca.

For now, F1's two Spanish stars are level-pegging on 18 points apiece: Alonso, the high-earning former world champion, and Carlos Sainz, a 21-year-old youngster.

"I would be happy if Carlos is ahead this year and I'm able to fight for the championship next year," said Alonso, currently equal 13th overall with Sainz.

"It's not a huge satisfaction to finish ninth or tenth or whatever," he added.

Jean Todt (R)
Jean Todt (R)

Todt plays down future F1 race clashes
(GMM) Jean Todt has paved the road for more high-profile date clashes between key races like F1 grands prix and the iconic Le Mans.

This year, the clash of the inaugural Baku round with Le Mans was highly controversial but FIA president Todt has this week played it down.

From the FIA sport conference in Turin, Italy's Autosprint quoted the Frenchman as saying that preventing calendar clashes is "a kind of mission impossible".

"I talk about how many important categories of motor sport there are and the fact there are only 52 weekends," he said.

Indeed, just last weekend, 70-year-old Todt attended the start of the Le Mans 24 hours and then by Sunday was on the Baku grid.

"Even on TV it was possible to follow the start of the grand prix and the end of the 24 hours if you really wanted to," he insisted.

Many people pointed the finger at Bernie Ecclestone for the 2016 Baku-Le Mans clash, and Todt admitted that he would like the FIA to have a bigger say when it comes to governance.

As for the future, Todt indicated that when Ecclestone is eventually replaced, the Paris federation will have a say on who his successor is.

"The current promoter has done a remarkable job to develop formula one," he said.

"That does not mean we are always in agreement, but I respect all that has been done.

"Bernie has his own style, as anyone does. If the majority shareholder decides to change the management, they will make a proposal and it should be adequate for the FIA, so I have no real concerns.

"But without going into details, yes, there needs to be a final agreement with the FIA," Todt added.

Force India not unhappy with Hulkenberg
(GMM) The impressive form of Sergio Perez does not mean Force India is unhappy with his teammate.

Many observers rate 2015 Le Mans winner Hulkenberg more highly than his Mexican teammate, but it is Perez who has scored two podiums within three races and is now strongly linked with a move to Ferrari.

But deputy Force India boss Bob Fernley says the Silverstone based team is happy with both of its drivers, including German Hulkenberg who last year signed on for 2016 and 2017.

"Both drivers have shown good performance in recent years so we have no problems at all — we have a great driving pairing," he said.

"They complement each other well but they each have their different driver styles, which helps our engineers to get the maximum out of the car," added Fernley.

As for the fact Perez has had significantly better results recently, scoring almost double Hulkenberg's points tally, Fernley explained: "Sergio has had some luck, while Nico has had bad luck.

"I think only Checo has been able to deliver on his performance, but we are fortunate to have two drivers of this quality," he added.

Raikkonen on the hot seat
Raikkonen on the hot seat

Raikkonen alternatives 'potentially faster' – Prost
(GMM) F1 legend Alain Prost has weighed into Ferrari's deliberations about the future of Kimi Raikkonen.

Amid rumors linking Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz with the Maranello team, Prost said Ferrari is right to be weighing up the pros and cons.

"The advantages and disadvantages are obvious," the Frenchman, who drove for Ferrari in 1990 and 1991, is quoted by Speed Week as saying in Turin this week.

"There are some drivers on the market who are potentially faster than Kimi, but there is no way to know that for sure.

"On the positive side for Kimi is the good relationship between the (current) Ferrari drivers," Prost added, also referring to Sebastian Vettel.

"I see now a clear number 1 and number 2, not on paper but on the track. I see nothing to criticize Ferrari about — I am sure they will make the correct decision," he said.

Verstappen listened after Monaco crashes – Marko
(GMM) Dr Helmut Marko says Max Verstappen has learned a valuable lesson after his 'hero to zero' outing in Monaco last month.

Fresh from his sensational victory on debut for Red Bull in Barcelona, the 18-year-old hit rock bottom two weeks later in Monaco by crashing not only in qualifying but also during the race.

But Red Bull official Dr Marko – the controversial architect of Verstappen's mid-season promotion to Red Bull – said the criticism aimed at the Dutchman after Monaco was "amazing".

"It's amazing how a driver can be a hero one Sunday and 15 days later he is criticized hard for some mistakes," he told Brazil's Globo.

Nonetheless, Marko said he sat down with Verstappen to talk about his calamitous Monaco weekend.

"My concern was to show him the complete uselessness of trying to be as fast as he was in the race," said the Austrian.

"He was doing an extraordinary job, having done several overtakes, reaching fifth place and as the leaders were too far away, on a track like Monaco, there was nothing left to do.

"It made no sense to take those risks for nothing. I talked a lot with him and Max seems to have heard us. I see it that the error was an important part of his learning," Marko added.

FIA must approve Ecclestone successor
Jean Todt has revealed that although Bernie Ecclestone's successor will be chosen by CVC, the candidate will have to meet the FIA's approval.

Ecclestone maybe 85 years old but at present F1 supremo shows no sign of slowing down.

The sport, though, is preparing for the day when he is no longer around.

Although CVC owns a controlling share in this Formula One, FIA president John Todt has revealed that a candidate to replace Ecclestone will have to meet the motorsport governing body's approval.

"The actual promoter has been doing an extraordinary job to develop Formula 1," Todt said of Ecclestone during at FIA Sport Conference in Turin.

"That doesn't mean we do always agree, but I do respect all that he has been doing. Bernie has his style, everyone does.

"There is a major shareholder — CVC — they are very strong, talented business people.

"The day they decide something needs to change in the management of one of their assets, I'm convinced they know what to do.

"They know who to handle the situation.

"They will make a proposal. It has to be suitable for the FIA, but I don't have any real concerns."

Asked whether the FIA would have the final say on Ecclestone successor, Todt told Autosport: "I'm not going to get into the detail of the contract.

"But they need to have a final agreement from the FIA, yes.

"We are talking with very respectable business people."

The Frenchman also touched on Formula One's Concorde agreement, conceding that if he takes a third term of office as FIA president the governance of Formula One will be one of the big issues he will have to deal with.

"Clearly it will be the renegotiation of the Concorde Agreement, with the strong issue of the governance," he told Motorsport.com.

"On Formula 1 governance, on regulation, I would say that things are quite clear. [We have the] 2017 new regulations, [and with the] engine situation I don't see any kind of revolution arriving since it's quite stabilized.

"I must say the agreement which was dealt with recently at least we don't hear any more about alternative engine, about all those things. Those things are stable, which is important, and I think it is what I mentioned earlier."

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