Latest F1 news in brief – Wednesday

  • Heineken upset over sponsorship leak
    Heineken upset over sponsorship leak

    Heineken upset over sponsor deal leak – Ecclestone

  • Rosberg denies finger trouble in Hamilton crash
  • Ecclestone backs Melbourne's secret F1 fee
  • Honda wants to 'challenge Mercedes in 2017'
  • Jorda not ruling out 2016 F1 test drive
  • Gasly hopes for Toro Rosso seat in 2017
  • Ricciardo happy with Renault engine step
  • Proud Jos stayed in Spain after Verstappen win
  • Wehrlein replaces Ocon in Mercedes test
  • Verstappen a future champion – Prost

Heineken upset over sponsor deal leak – Ecclestone
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone has all but confirmed reports the Dutch beer brewer Heineken is entering formula one with a major sponsorship deal.

De Telegraaf, a Dutch newspaper, claimed last week the first signs of the five-year, EUR 200m deal will be trackside advertising in Canada next month.

"Heineken will probably also enter into a partnership with one of the teams as part of the sponsorship agreement with FOM," the report said.

F1 supremo Ecclestone told the Guardian this week: "Apparently it leaked on a website in Holland. Heineken told me they were very, very sorry and that they were p—-d off."

Heineken, however, is not yet confirming the deal, a spokesman saying only that "As a leading premium brand, we are constantly evaluating potential sponsorship and partnership opportunities".

"This includes F1 as well as many other sports properties," he added.

"We will not speculate on what we might do in the future as this is commercially sensitive," the Heineken official said.

Rosberg denies any blame
Rosberg denies any blame

Rosberg denies finger trouble in Hamilton crash
(GMM) Nico Rosberg says he was not to blame for a technical issue that contributed to the crash with Lewis Hamilton last Sunday.

After Mercedes team chairman pointed the clear finger of blame at Hamilton, boss Toto Wolff explained that it was German Rosberg who was in "the wrong engine setting".

"That was the reason he was significantly slower than Lewis," he said. "This explains why everything happened so quickly."

The implication is that Rosberg simply made a technical mistake under the new anti-radio communication regime, but the championship leader denies that.

"Suddenly I lacked power," Rosberg told Bild newspaper on Tuesday after testing in Barcelona.

"The switch for the engine mode was not in the correct position so we need to investigate why that was so," he added.

Rosberg said he even attempted to correct the situation mid-corner "but nothing happened".

As for whether he or Hamilton should take any of the blame, the German did not want to talk about it.

"It felt good to be back in the car (for testing) but Barcelona is finished now and I'm only thinking of Monaco.

"We go there with confidence but also keeping our minds on Red Bull and Ferrari," he added.

As for Mercedes' chances in Monaco, he answered: "I'm confident that we will be very competitive there. Clearly I want to get my fourth win in a row."

What, what? I can't hear you.
What, what? I can't hear you.

Ecclestone backs Melbourne's secret F1 fee
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone has joined the local state government in Australia in refusing to divulge the cost of the annual formula one race.

The race fee paid by Melbourne organizers to the Ecclestone-led Formula One Management is picked up entirely by taxpayers, but Victorian sports minister John Eren argues the actual amount must remain secret.

"We're not in the business of giving rival cities around the world that want our flagship event a competitive advantage," he told the local Herald Sun newspaper.

The report speculates the fee could be as high as US $38 million, but Ecclestone backed the government in keeping it a secret.

"I don't think there is any need to (inform taxpayers)," the 85-year-old said.

"Why do we need to? It's all a private thing," Ecclestone added.

Told that the taxpayers may object to the amount if it became public knowledge, he insisted: "I don't see it is anybody's business except the people that are party to the agreement."

Yusuke Hasegawa. Did Honda figure out Mercedes Graphene secret?
Yusuke Hasegawa. Did Honda figure out Mercedes' Graphene secret?

Honda wants to 'challenge Mercedes in 2017'
(GMM) Honda's Yusuke Hasegawa is looking ahead with confidence to the grand prix in Monaco next weekend.

Fernando Alonso called his Q3 breakthrough in Barcelona a "milestone", but Hasegawa said the McLaren-Honda package should be even better on the streets of the fabled Principality.

"In Monaco, engine performance is not as important," he is quoted by Spain's El Mundo Deportivo.

"It is one of the circuits where we can get better results right now. We have two great drivers and I have high hopes for this grand prix."

Indeed, McLaren says it has one of the very best chassis on the grid, while Honda has put the disaster of 2015 behind it by making significant progress this year.

Hasegawa insisted, however, that "not all the problems at McLaren have been due to the power unit. All parties need to improve in order to win the world championship next year," he added.

Diario Sport, another Spanish daily, claims Honda is currently working on an engine upgrade with a projected Montreal debut, but Hasegawa says "We have not decided (when) yet".

"We are working on it, finishing the details and we will put it on track only when we are ready.

"Our idea is to bring together with this evolution several tokens for a significant jump," he added.

"We hope it allows us to be regularly in the points."

The Japanese spoke of the possibility of a leap of "tenths" but stopped short of promising podiums later in 2016.

"It is very difficult, but we are working every day not to get a podium but to win. In this way, our rate of improvement since the start of the year is good, better even than Mercedes.

"We're happy, but still not enough," Hasegawa-san added.

He said the end of the controversial 'token' system for 2017 is "very good news for Honda".

"We have a plan to challenge Mercedes in 2017," he continued. "We are working to have a competitive car so that Fernando Alonso can win."

As for the relationship with McLaren, Hasegawa said that despite the challenges, all is well amid the "long-term" contract and collaboration.

"We are working very well together," he said. "Last year was terrible, but our relationship remained strong."

Carmen Jorda
Carmen Jorda

Jorda not ruling out 2016 F1 test drive
(GMM) Carmen Jorda is not ruling out the possibility she might make her F1 test debut later in 2016.

Although ridiculed at times for her development driver role at Lotus last year, the 27-year-old former GP3 driver was retained in a similar position as the team transitioned to Renault for 2016.

Not only that, Jorda has now made her return to racing in the Renault Sport Trophy, a one-make touring car series that has already held races this year in Aragon and Imola.

"The goal is to finish in the top three, but we'll see what happens after I have understood the car a little more on the limit," Jorda told Italy's Autosprint.

"I'll be closer to the leading pack in the next races, it's definitely my goal."

Another goal for the Spaniard, however, is F1.

"Certainly for me, being on the formula one team as a development driver is a great experience," said Jorda. "My goal of being in an F1 car one day is still alive."

Asked when that first F1 test might happen, she added: "Good question.

"At the moment there is not a fixed date but hopefully it will be this year, who knows."

As for those who write off the attractive blonde driver as a mere marketing ploy, Jorda answered: "I simply need more time and that is why I am racing now in the Renault Sport Trophy.

"Last year I did not have a chance to drive and people were surprised about that. But last season, as I said, Lotus had many difficulties with the budget and there was no space even for the development of the car.

"We were really just lucky to survive and get Renault back with us," she added.

Asked what her long-term future in racing is, Jorda said: "Renault. I see my career and my future with them.

"I don't know what will happen in five or ten years, but right now I'm with them."

Pierre Gasly
Pierre Gasly

Gasly hopes for Toro Rosso seat in 2017
(GMM) Pierre Gasly says the success of the Max Verstappen story is a boost to all up-and-coming young drivers.

However, not everyone agrees with that.

"Max is a bad example for the next group of young drivers," smiled Mika Salo, a former F1 driver who now works on developing young drivers from Russia.

"I'm really happy for Jos and Max, as they both worked hard for it," the Finn is quoted by De Telegraaf newspaper. "And now that Max has won a grand prix it is of course absolutely fantastic. Exceptional.

"But when asked if Max is a fine example for young drivers I see it differently," Salo explained.

"The youngsters should not think they can be like Max, to come into formula one the way he has. 17 is far too young to drive in formula one, but there are always exceptions. Not everybody is like Max and they must realize that," he added.

For 20-year-old Gasly, however, it might be a different story.

The Frenchman is now the cream of Red Bull's famous driver program, and he is in action for Toro Rosso at the Barcelona test this week.

Gasly is already leading this year's GP2 championship and, with Daniil Kvyat's career wavering, many are tipping a near-certain F1 debut next year.

Reports suggest Gasly's next test outing will be at the Silverstone test.

"For me it's important to get as many days as possible," he told the German-language "Because next year, it is of course my goal to get there (F1).

"So I have to gain experience, work well for the team and show that I am ready."

And so, as far as Gasly is concerned, the success of Verstappen's meteoric rise is a good thing.

"It is good if young drivers like him prove that they are ready earlier than in the past, because we started younger than in the past," he said.

"It is important for us as young drivers to show that, even if we are young and with less experience, we are also able to be good," Gasly added.

Daniel Ricciardo jokes around with Dr. Helmut Marko
Daniel Ricciardo jokes around with Dr. Helmut Marko

Ricciardo happy with Renault engine step
(GMM) Daniel Ricciardo is upbeat about the future after testing Renault's highly-anticipated engine upgrade in Barcelona.

The Australian admitted to being "bitter" last Sunday, when his brand new teammate Max Verstappen sensationally ended Red Bull's winning drought at his first attempt.

"It's frustrating — I think we just threw the win away," Ricciardo had said after the race, referring to his three-stop strategy versus Verstappen's two.

"I'm bitter right now. Not with Max, not at all, just bitter at the situation," he added.

By Tuesday, and the start of post-race testing at the same Barcelona track, Ricciardo's famous smile was back on track.

"So far everything looks quite good," he said, as Renault got to work on a significant engine upgrade that is reportedly 35 horse power up and an almost half a second boost on the earlier specification.

"The engine was reliable and the step is noticeable," Ricciardo added.

Esteban Ocon, who drove the works Renault in Friday practice last week, agrees that the new engine is a step forward.

The French teen tested the yellow car on Tuesday and observed: "The engine is really good, significantly better. You can feel the extra power."

Renault has penciled in Canada for the debut, but there are suggestions the engine could actually be raced for the first time in Monaco, where Red Bull is expecting a highly competitive race.

"We will use it where we can and it would be great if it is in Monaco, but we'll have to wait and see," Ricciardo is quoted by De Telegraaf newspaper.

Also pushing hard, however, is Ferrari, with Sebastian Vettel testing on Tuesday and insisting that Red Bull's sudden push ahead of the Maranello team was a one-off.

The German said Ferrari is using the Barcelona test to sort out its qualifying problems.

"I think it's an unique opportunity to have a test right after a grand prix on the same track, in more or less the same conditions," he is quoted by Italy's Mediaset.

"Saturday we had some problems and that is why today we tried some solutions."

Vettel said he expects Ferrari to be back in normal form in Monaco.

"I think Monaco is a good track for us — last year we were very strong," said the German. "Right now we are not the favorites, that is Mercedes, but if there will be the chance to win then we will try to do it.

"If we can get back to where we were in the final practice session (for the Spanish GP) then in the race Red Bull is not a threat to us," Vettel added.

"For sure they have improved, but so have we."

Max and Jos
Max and Jos

Proud Jos stayed in Spain after Verstappen win
(GMM) Jos Verstappen is still in Barcelona, even though his original plan was to fly out of the sprawling city immediately after the Spanish grand prix.

But that was before his 18-year-old son made F1 history on Sunday.

"This is so special, so I want to be with Max," the Dutchman and former F1 driver told De Telegraaf.

Max was always scheduled to stay in Barcelona after the race, as he is testing his new RB12 cockpit on Wednesday, following his shock switch from Toro Rosso.

"He has to test on Wednesday so he could be drunk only one night," Jos smiled to De Telegraaf. "Wednesday he should be fit again.

"I can be drunk the whole week!" Verstappen snr added.

Young Verstappen's rise to F1 glory has been meteoric, but Jos admitted that breaking through so quickly was never the plan.

"You can't plan for that," he said. "Our first goal was always to end up with a top team, then we got the call from Red Bull and knew that the podium was closer.

"But for it to happen immediately in the first weekend is very special. I don't know what will happen for the rest of the season but this can't be taken away from us."

Many were surprised after the race on Sunday, when Jos – known in his own F1 career as 'the boss' – was crying. He even had a blood nose.

Jos admits the win made him think of the hard road to F1.

"I helped Max of course," he said. "Pushed him. But he's the one who should carry it all. I know for myself that I have not always been the easiest for him, but he has not put a foot wrong. I think it's unbelievable."

At the same time, Jos said he was not surprised that his son could handle the spotlight of leading a grand prix and resisting the pressure from veteran Kimi Raikkonen.

"For him everything is normal," he is quoted by La Gazzetta dello Sport, "because his whole life has always been about competition.

"The first win is always special, but even more is the way he did it — always in control, doing nothing wrong. He really deserves it.

"In the last two weeks a lot has happened, but the important thing is that Max was able to handle everything, getting to work with a top team and showing once again all his ability to adapt to situations.

"Getting in a new team and winning right away is incredible," said Jos.

Pascal Wehrlein
Pascal Wehrlein

Wehrlein replaces Ocon in Mercedes test
(GMM) Manor driver Pascal Wehrlein got back to work at the Barcelona test on Wednesday.

But the German was no longer driving a Manor!

Still with his Manor-branded helmet, the young German rolled out of Mercedes' garage at the wheel of the championship-leading silver car.

Actually, it was scheduled that Esteban Ocon, another Mercedes-linked driver, would be at the wheel of the W07 on Wednesday.

"This rather talented young chap gets his hands on the (car) during Wednesday's F1 testing session!" Mercedes has declared as recently as Monday.

Then came the change of plans.

Speed Week, a specialist German publication, wonders if Mercedes baulked at the last minute at the idea that using Ocon might be contrary to the team's interests.

That is because Mercedes has loaned the 19-year-old to Renault this year, where he is reserve driver. Indeed, Ocon drove the yellow car in Barcelona on Tuesday.

Dr Helmut Marko said last week in Barcelona that another advantage of Max Verstappen's move from Toro Rosso to Red Bull was the inevitable flow of information.

"Now we will know much more about the Ferrari engine," he had said, referring to the fact that Toro Rosso uses 2015-spec Ferrari power versus Red Bull's Tag-Heuer branded Renault units.

Max Verstappen a future champion says Prost. Who can disagree?
Max Verstappen a future champion says Prost. Who can disagree?

Verstappen a future champion – Prost
(GMM) The sky is the limit for Max Verstappen, according to F1 legend Alain Prost.

Just days after his shock switch from Toro Rosso, the 18-year-old made history in Barcelona as he won his first grand prix for Red Bull.

"It's a breath of fresh air for F1," quadruple world champion Prost, an ambassador for Renault, told the French broadcaster Canal Plus.

"He certainly won the best race for a long time with great authority," said the Frenchman.

"He made not a single mistake since the beginning of the weekend, resisting the pressure of Raikkonen in the race.

"Although he benefitted from the collision of the two Mercedes drivers, his incredible maturity was really surprising. This is the confirmation of a champion.

"Now one wonders how far he can go," added Prost, "because he is only 18 and it's almost going too fast for him. He's already a star."

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