Latest F1 news in brief – Wednesday

  • Baku is ready for F1
    Baku is ready for F1 and F1 is excited to go to this new venue

    F1 'excited' by Baku despite human rights pressure

  • Zetsche says Wehrlein is Mercedes 'future'
  • Ricciardo the best driver in F1 today – Marko
  • F1 system 'distorting competition' – Kaltenborn
  • Alonso to decide F1 future next year
  • Symonds expects Montreal to suit Williams
  • Super Soft tire favored for Azerbaijan
  • Rosberg prepared himself for defeat
  • Verstappen eyes Canadian GP podium

F1 'excited' by Baku despite human rights pressure
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone is being asked to speak out about human rights, just over a week before formula one sets up camp for the first time in Azerbaijan.

A year ago, just as the Azerbaijan capital Baku was added to the 2016 schedule, the Formula One Group unveiled a new policy vowing to respect "human rights in all of our activities".

But Azerbaijan has been constantly criticized by human rights bodies, for reasons including arbitrary arrests, indefinite detentions, beatings and torture.

The F1 supremo, however, said a year ago: "I think everybody seems to be happy. Doesn't seem to be any big problem there."

But it now emerges in the British media that, while it was not Ecclestone himself, two representatives of his organization met up with the 'Sport For Rights' human rights group.

The group's chief, Rebecca Vincent, said: "We have called on Bernie Ecclestone to publicly speak out on human rights issues in Azerbaijan.

"We wrote him an open letter and there has not been a public response yet.

"I do emphasize that it was a constructive meeting compared to our engagement with other bodies, (but) Ecclestone himself has been making some unhelpful comments and we might be expecting some more of that because that seems to be his nature," she added.

Another human rights campaigner also urged Ecclestone to "make a stand".

"We're not asking them to cancel the race, we're not calling on people not to go. We are asking Mr. Ecclestone to use it to make a stand instead of enabling repression," Phil Bloomer, of the business and human rights resource center, said.

"He (Ecclestone) said last year that there was no big problem with human rights in Azerbaijan, and people seemed happy. It takes just five minutes on Google to see what is really going on," he added.

The only official comments about Baku by F1 authorities this week have been made by race director Charlie Whiting, who after an inspection gave the street track a ringing endorsement.

"I must say that the standards of the circuit built so far are absolutely superb and personally I am getting quite excited about the idea of coming here to race in a week's time," he said.

Pascal Wehrlein is Mercedes future. Now if he can just beat his ridebuyer teammate on a regular basis
Pascal Wehrlein is Mercedes future. Now if he can just beat his ridebuyer teammate on a regular basis

Zetsche says Wehrlein is Mercedes 'future'
(GMM) As Nico Rosberg's expiring contract comes under the spotlight, Daimler chief Dieter Zetsche has revealed his vision for Mercedes' F1 "future".

"Pascal (Wehrlein) is our future," Zetsche is quoted by the Swiss newspaper Blick.

He is referring to the Mercedes-backed Manor rookie, just a week after Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff agreed that the 21-ytear-old German and reigning DTM champion is on track for a future in silver.

Zetsche and Wolff's comments come as negotiations between championship leader Rosberg and the German marque about a contract beyond 2016 spill into the public.

The Rosbergs, including Nico's father and former world champion Keke, have appointed Gerhard Berger to spearhead the public image of those talks.

"The negotiations are not to make great tactical moves," Berger said, "as Nico appreciates having the Mercedes family around him and knows that it is the best car.

"On the other hand," the former Ferrari and McLaren driver added, "Mercedes knows what it has with Nico, who is leading the championship."

Berger told the German broadcaster Sky that he is sure the current talks are on "a good path", explaining that Rosberg will only start to look around at the alternatives if that changes.

"But it's still quite a way until then," he added.

Berger therefore said suggestions of talks with Ferrari and McLaren are just "speculation".

Mercedes team chairman Niki Lauda, who knows Berger well, said it is good that Rosberg has brought in the 56-year-old Austrian to head the contract talks.

"Gerhard knows what he's doing," he said. "He was a racing driver, he negotiated for himself and is not an external manager who has no idea.

"I am sure that he has already agreed with Toto that they should conclude things relatively quickly, so that Nico can calmly get on with winning races," added Lauda.

Daniel Ricciardo and Dr. Marko
Daniel Ricciardo and Dr. Marko

Ricciardo the best driver in F1 today – Marko
(GMM) Daniel Ricciardo might be the best performing F1 driver at the moment, according to Dr Helmut Marko.

The Australian driver was nothing short of livid after the Monaco grand prix, where a fouled-up pitstop by Red Bull cost him victory from pole position.

And just two weeks earlier in Barcelona, when his new teammate Max Verstappen won, Ricciardo claimed it would have been him at the top step of the podium if he had been put on the same winning strategy.

"We cost him victory in Monaco," Marko, a leading Red Bull official, admitted to Auto Bild Motorsport.

Dr Marko said he understands Ricciardo's foul mood after Monaco, as the team had failed to deliver for him not only in the Principality but also in Barcelona.

"He had the wrong strategy in Barcelona and in Monaco he deserved victory," said the Austrian.

"Two times he had it torn from his hands. I have told him that at the moment he is driving at such a high level – maybe even the highest out of all the drivers – that victory for him is now only a matter of time," Marko added.

It is an interesting time for both Red Bull and Ricciardo, with the team enjoying a resurgence in form and Ricciardo constantly linked with a move to Ferrari.

Marko said Renault's improving engine is helping Red Bull.

"We already have the best chassis," he said, "which is a big plus."

Championship leader and Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg said he is expecting Red Bull to have another strong weekend in Canada, with the team having apparently sped ahead of Ferrari in recent weeks.

"It's an awesome track and I'm sure our car will be great there too," said the German ahead of the weekend in Montreal.

"It will be interesting to see where Red Bull are this time. We are hoping to get a little bit ahead of them again, so let's see."

Monisha Kaltenborn
Monisha Kaltenborn

F1 system 'distorting competition' – Kaltenborn
(GMM) Monisha Kaltenborn says she continues to campaign for a more level playing field in formula one.

Together with her Force India counterparts, the Sauber co-owner and boss is waiting on the next steps after formally complaining about F1's income and rule-making processes to the European Commission.

"Yes, and this struggle continues," the Indian-born Austrian told the Swiss newspaper Blick.

"Take the premier league in England. There, last place in the championship gets only slightly less money than the champion, because the big ones already have an advantage with more sponsorship and advertising revenue," said Kaltenborn.

"With a system like that, a club like Leicester can win the title. But in formula one, the big teams get multiples more than the smaller teams.

"The distribution of money and privileges when it comes to the rules are a distortion of competition," she alleged.

Indeed, Sauber is currently struggling merely for survival, and is now faced with the task of preparing for radically different chassis rules for 2017.

Asked if the Swiss team is already working on next year's car, Kaltenborn confirmed: "Yes.

"The cars will be wider and more aggressive, but it's also even more expensive, because the big teams determine where we are headed with the rules."

Kaltenborn has ruled out cutting costs by emulating Haas' 'B team' approach to F1, and she also played down the likelihood Sauber might turn its attention to Formula E or Le Mans.

"I can't imagine it, because formula one is our core business," she said.

Instead, she said talks with potential investors are currently taking place.

"They are confidential," Kaltenborn insisted, when pressed for details.

"A responsible entrepreneur will not go public until everything is signed and sealed," she added.

Fernando Alonso
Fernando Alonso

Alonso to decide F1 future next year
(GMM) Fernando Alonso has admitted he is waiting to drive F1's next-generation cars of 2017 before deciding if he wants to stay in the category.

The Spaniard has made no secret that, after winning his titles in 2005 and 2006 with V10 and V8 power respectively, he enjoys the current 'power unit' and Pirelli-shod era less.

Alonso is therefore looking forward to 2017, when wider and bigger tires and significantly more downforce are slated to slash between 5 and 6 seconds off laptimes.

2017 is also the last year of Alonso's current McLaren-Honda contract.

"At the moment I still enjoy driving," he told Germany's Sport Bild.

"It's my life and the only thing I can do really well.

"If the cars are not fun next year then I will change category," Alonso announced. "It is a goal for me to one day win the 24 hours of Le Mans."

The 34-year-old also said he does not regret leaving Ferrari at the end of 2014, insisting "It would have been too painful to finish behind Red Bull or Mercedes for a sixth and seven years".

"And I wanted to keep good memories of Ferrari, not painful ones," Alonso added.

The powerful Mercedes engine will help Williams on Montreal's long straights
The powerful Mercedes engine will help Williams on Montreal's long straights

Symonds expects Montreal to suit Williams
Williams technical chief Pat Symonds expects the characteristics of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve to suit the Mercedes-powered FW38 and mark a "return to form" for the team.

Although it delivered an improved showing, Williams still struggled to compete with the frontrunners in Monaco, with the outfit's recent struggles at low-speed tracks exposed once more.

As the Formula 1 paddock moves on to Montreal, where Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa finished third and sixth last season, Symonds is hopeful of fighting at the sharp-end.

"Being a fast track with long straights, the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve certainly favors the characteristics of the Williams car, as shown by our strong performances last year," said Symonds.

"This should mark a return to form for the team.

"The circuit itself has very low-average speed corners, with one quick corner at Turn 5 being easily flat and therefore not counting for much these days.

"Good top speed, stable braking with the track being hard on brakes, good change of direction for the multiple chicanes and adequate traction are key things required here.

"It's also the second race in a row that we see the new Ultra Soft tire (the softest in Pirelli's range), but even with this we expect most cars to be on a one-stop strategy."

Symonds added that Williams will bring a number of aerodynamic and chassis updates to this weekend's event, as it looks to defend fourth position in the standings.

Super Soft tire favored for Azerbaijan
Formula 1 teams have loaded up on Pirelli's Super Soft tire compound for the European Grand Prix at Azerbaijan's Baku City Circuit later this month.

Mercedes, Red Bull, Renault, Toro Rosso and Haas have all selected eight sets of Super Softs per driver, with much smaller Soft- and Medium-tire allocations.

Felipe Nasr has the biggest quantity of Soft tires, taking six sets, one more than his team-mate, with others choosing either three, four or five sets of the rubber.

No driver has chosen more than two sets of the Medium tire.

Azerbaijan hosts the returning European Grand Prix from June 17-19.

Rosberg always loses to Hamilton at Montreal
Rosberg always loses to Hamilton at Montreal

Rosberg prepared himself for defeat
Championship leader Nico Rosberg has admitted that he prepared himself for a "difficult" phase of races after building the joint-second longest winning streak in Formula 1 history.

Rosberg won seven consecutive races, from Mexico 2015 through Russia 2016, to join Alberto Ascari and Michael Schumacher on the all-time list, behind only Sebastian Vettel (nine).

Rosberg's run came to an end in Spain, before another tough race in Monaco, where he slipped from second on the grid to seventh position in a dramatic wet/dry encounter.

"I expected and prepared myself for some difficult races after the awesome start to the season," said Rosberg, who now leads team-mate Lewis Hamilton by 24 points.

"This is where experience helps me; in the last Grand Prix I hopefully got all of my bad luck out of the way in one race, so onwards and upwards again from now!"

Rosberg hopes Mercedes can pull clear of Red Bull at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, after Daniel Ricciardo took pole position and led the early stages of the race in Monaco.

"It's an awesome track and I'm sure our car will be great there too," added Rosberg.

"It will be interesting to see where Red Bull are; we are hoping to get a little bit ahead of them again."

Verstappen eyes podium in Canada, if he can just avoid crashing
Verstappen eyes podium in Canada, if he can just avoid crashing

Verstappen eyes Canadian GP podium
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen is hopeful of fighting for a podium finish at this weekend's Canadian Grand Prix, where he will run Renault's upgraded power unit for the first time.

Renault introduced its new engine in Monaco, but only had two units available, with factory driver Kevin Magnussen and Verstappen's team-mate, Daniel Ricciardo, getting the nod.

Verstappen and Jolyon Palmer will also receive the update at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, with the Dutch teenager eyeing a return to the rostrum after triumphing in Spain last month.

"The track is quite special as it has a lot of long straights and then slow corners with low grip so we have to find the right balance with our set-up," said Verstappen ahead of the Grand Prix.

"I like the braking area at the last hairpin where there are a lot of people watching who always cheer us on.

"You're very close to the walls [around the track], so there is a special feeling to drive there.

"Hopefully with the engine update it should be a positive race for us – we'll try and aim for a podium."

Verstappen crashed out of qualifying and the race at the last round in Monaco.

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