Latest F1 news in brief – Thursday

  • Wehrlein won't be replacing Rosberg if he keeps getting beat by his ride-buyer teammate Rio Haryanto
    Wehrlein won't be replacing Rosberg if he keeps getting beat by his ride-buyer teammate Rio Haryanto

    Mercedes has options if Rosberg talks fail – Wolff

  • Drivers 'afraid' to criticize F1 over Bianchi death
  • Verstappen's Monaco mistakes 'unacceptable' – Villeneuve
  • Mick Schumacher needs more time than Max – Jos
  • Ecclestone 'world's best negotiator' – Monza
  • Alonso at 'end of his F1 career' – Piquet
  • Honda upgrade no 'revolution' – Boullier
  • F1 teams' EU complaint making progress – Kaltenborn
  • Maldonado looking to restart F1 career

Mercedes has options if Rosberg talks fail – Wolff
(GMM) Pascal Wehrlein is a real alternative for Mercedes as early as next year should negotiations with Nico Rosberg falter.

That is the warning of team boss Toto Wolff, as it becomes increasingly clear that talks about extending Rosberg's stay at the German team could be fraught.

It is believed Rosberg, assisted by family friend Gerhard Berger, is pushing for a retainer much closer to the value if Lewis Hamilton's current deal.

"Right now, our goal is to continue with Nico," Austrian Wolff told Sport Bild.

"But if we do not come together, we have to think of something else."

Wolff suggested that although Rosberg has been driving impressively over the last seven or eight months, Mercedes is also in a strong bargaining position.

"We know that we have the strongest car, a very strong team and are well positioned for the future as well," he insisted. "That would be the main argument for Nico.

"We also know what we have in him," Wolff added.

The fact Mercedes has a theoretical free seat for 2017 will undoubtedly mean that top drivers like Fernando Alonso are potentially interested in filling it.

What if Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel also makes an enquiry?

"I would tell him the same thing I've said to others in recent years," Wolff answered. "'First, we are talking to our regular drivers. Only when we do not reach agreement, we can start to look around'," he added.

Wolff also insisted that Mercedes has an in-house option for 2017 in the form of reserve driver Pascal Wehrlein, who this year was loaned out to Manor.

"Yes, absolutely," he said. "He has shown in DTM that he can win championships.

"At the moment he is in his apprenticeship at Manor and on the right track to being at Mercedes at some point," added Wolff.

Bianchi is tended to by F1 doctor
Bianchi is tended to by F1 doctor

Drivers 'afraid' to criticize F1 over Bianchi death
(GMM) F1 drivers are afraid to speak publicly about mistakes made by the sport's authorities that led to the crash and subsequent death of Jules Bianchi.

That is the claim of Bianchi's father Philippe, as he justified the family's decision to take legal action against Bernie Ecclestone and FIA.

A London firm representing the Bianchis says the suit will be about F1 accepting "that errors were made in the planning, timing, organization and conduct of the race which took place in dangerous conditions during the typhoon season in Japan" late in 2014.

But Philippe claims this view, although publicly a lone one, is not backed by Bianchi's fellow drivers only because they are "afraid" to speak out.

"One driver with me, with a camera will say nothing because I think all of the people are afraid to say something," he is quoted by the London newspaper The Times.

"With no camera, all the people come to see me and say 'It is not correct. Jules made (no mistake). They made a mistake'," Mr. Bianchi added.

Verstappen crashing at Monaco last year. This year he crashed 3 more times
Verstappen crashes a lot. Here he is crashing at Monaco last year. This year he crashed 3 more times

Verstappen's Monaco mistakes 'unacceptable' – Villeneuve
(GMM) Max Verstappen's performance in Monaco would have been a sacking offense had another driver committed the same errors.

That is the view of outspoken 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve, referring to the 18-year-old Dutchman's horror outing last weekend just two weeks after winning in Spain.

"It was a terrible weekend for him," he told the German-language Motorsport-Magazin.com.

"He's fast but he made too many mistakes."

Verstappen was drafted into Red Bull's race lineup after the Russian grand prix, where his predecessor Daniil Kvyat had caused a first-lap crash which according to Dr Helmut Marko was the result of him not coping with pressure.

But then in Monaco, Verstappen made at least three driving mistakes, including hitting the barriers in qualifying which left him at the back of the grid and then a race-ending crash the following day.

"Another driver would now be sent home," Villeneuve claims, "but because it's Max Verstappen, people start to make excuses because he is protected."

Asked if Verstappen's crashes might be justified on the basis that he was trying to make up for not having the same engine specification as his teammate Daniel Ricciardo, Villeneuve exclaimed: "Of course not!

"He made the same mistake twice, which is unacceptable, but three errors in a weekend is just too much," he added.

"But he is loved by Red Bull, loved by the fans — he is loved by everyone," Villeneuve continued.

Nonetheless, Villeneuve thinks Verstappen does have the potential to be world champion one day.

"If he learns from his mistakes then yes," said the French Canadian. "But if he has to go over the limit to be fast, it means he is not fast enough."

Mick Schumacher needs a lot more time
Mick Schumacher needs a lot more time

Mick Schumacher needs more time than Max – Jos
(GMM) Mick Schumacher needs more time than Max Verstappen did to develop into an F1-ready driver.

That is the view of Jos Verstappen, the father of F1 teen sensation Max who made his grand prix debut at 17 and won his first grand prix just over a year later.

Mick Schumacher, the son of F1 legend Michael, is now the same age that Max was when he debuted for Toro Rosso last year, but Jos thinks the young German was right to have been left in Formula 4 for a second season this year.

"I think Mick is someone who needs more time to reach the top level," Jos told the German magazine Gala.

"The pressure is extreme, because Mick is always compared with Michael," Verstappen, who was Michael Schumacher's teammate at Benetton in 1994, added.

"Mick of course misses his father, not only in the family but in racing, where Michael's experience would help him greatly," Jos said.

Bernie has a hearing problem until he hears you agree to his terms
Bernie has a hearing problem until he hears you agree to his terms

Ecclestone 'world's best negotiator' – Monza
(GMM) Monza's failure so far to ink a new F1 race contract for 2017 and beyond is in part due to Bernie Ecclestone's negotiating tactics.

That is the claim of Angelo Sticchi Damiani, the president of Italy's automobile club (Aci) that has been at the heart of the troubled talks with the F1 supremo.

"The situation for the grand prix at Monza is very complex, as I have said from the beginning," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"But it is a battle we have to fight because we believe Italy cannot and should not lose formula one.

"It is the first time the Aci has engaged in a transaction of this kind, but we knew it would be difficult to deal with what has been called the best negotiator in the world," Sticchi Damiani said.

"Ecclestone does not like to involve a single party but enough people to create an auction, which is normal for those who want the best result possible and stretch out the timing of the negotiations."

He admitted that it could result in Monza organizers having to pay more than before for the race beyond 2016, "but we are careful not to bite off more than can be chewed.

"Enthusiasm cannot make us forget our institutional duties," Sticchi Damiani said.

Fernando Alonso in the twilight of his career
Fernando Alonso in the twilight of his career

Alonso at 'end of his F1 career' – Piquet
(GMM) Fernando Alonso is edging towards the end of his formula one career, according to former Renault teammate Nelson Piquet Jr.’

Now 30, the Brazilian's own F1 career ended in 2009, after the explosion of the 'crashgate' scandal that was triggered by his deliberate crash in Singapore.

His the teammate, Alonso, went on to win that controversial Singapore race but Piquet claims the Spaniard's useful life in F1 is now nearing its own end.

"I think he's the best driver, but he's at the end of his career," Piquet, now the inaugural and reigning champion of Formula E, told the Spanish newspaper AS.

"If you don't have a car to win there is nothing you can do about it. It has happened to me as well — last year I was champion, but this year I'm not ahead."

That aside, however, Piquet says there is "no comparison" between F1 and the electric single seater series.

But he also says F1 has changed almost unrecognizably since his last season in 2009: "They are like different sports."

Asked his opinion about the growing battle between Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari in 2016, Piquet added: "I don't know — I'm no F1 expert."

Eric Boullier
Eric Boullier

Honda upgrade no 'revolution' – Boullier
(GMM) Eric Boullier has warned that Honda will not be unveiling a "revolution" when it is ready with a new specification of its F1 power unit.

McLaren and Honda figures have played down Fernando Alonso's claim that an upgrade will definitely make its debut next weekend in Canada.

"The new engine is coming, but it will not be a revolution," team boss Boullier is quoted by Italy's Autosprint.

However, there are positive signs. Honda and Renault have improved markedly since last year, and Renault's latest step in Monaco was achieved by using just 3 performance 'tokens'.

"Don't forget that we used a large number of tokens late last year, but we couldn't produce all the parts on time and only tried one of them in practice," said the French marque's Remi Taffin.

"We were criticized for it, but we could live with it because we knew that it would help us in 2016. It was the foundation of the current engine," he told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

Monisha Kaltenborn
Monisha Kaltenborn

F1 teams' EU complaint making progress – Kaltenborn
(GMM) A complaint filed by two disgruntled F1 teams continues to make progress within the organization of the European Commission.

In September last year, struggling independents Sauber and Force India formally complained to the Commission's competition authority over allegedly unfair governance and income-distribution systems in formula one.

Little has been heard since.

But Force India's deputy boss Bob Fernley has now told Auto Motor und Sport: "We hope to have an answer by the summer break."

Sauber co-owner and boss Monisha Kaltenborn has also indicated that the complaint is making good progress, as it has apparently been forwarded to a new European Commission panel designed specifically to deal with sporting matters.

And not just that: in April, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone revealed that he had been in talks with the Commission as a direct result of the Sauber and Force India complaint.

"I've got nothing more to add to it but that doesn't mean there's been no progress," Kaltenborn said.

"As you know, there has been a certain restructuring within the EU which is commonly known regarding sport cases so it's a very good move for sport generally and these kind of complaints.

"We are absolutely confident that it's going to be looked at and is being looked at very seriously," she added.

Pastor Maldonado - if he has check he will drive
Pastor Maldonado – if he has check he will drive

Maldonado looking to restart F1 career
(GMM) Pastor Maldonado has confirmed rumors he is "looking for a way" back into formula one.

The Venezuelan, whose F1 foray with Williams and Lotus was heavily backed by the state oil company PDVSA, lost his seat at the end of last year.

A polarizing figure and widely known as 'Crashtor' due to his regular on-track incidents, 31-year-old Maldonado has been doing some work with Pirelli recently but the Italian marque clarified that he is not a full-time test driver.

Maldonado, who lives in Monaco, was in the F1 paddock last weekend, triggering speculation he was eyeing the Manor seat that might be vacated by Rio Haryanto after July.

Reportedly, Maldonado tried but failed to find an Indycar seat for 2016, and is now doing some media work with Fox Latin America.

"I am not ready to stop with formula one," he told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport. "I am looking for a way back into the cockpit."

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