Latest F1 news in brief – Friday

  • Daniel Ricciardo ran the Red Bull Aeroscreen for one lap Friday morning in Sochi
    Daniel Ricciardo ran the Red Bull Aeroscreen for one lap Friday morning in Sochi

    Alonso finally recovered after Melbourne crash

  • New chassis may not solve problems – Nasr
  • Political progress 'a step forward' for Monza
  • Russia GP night race talks still on
  • Vettel confirms Ferrari updates in Sochi
  • GPDA tried to derail 2017 chassis changes
  • Magnussen admits 'pressure' from Sirotkin, Ocon
  • FIA confirms 'Aeroscreen' under consideration
  • Verstappen denies F1 career in plateau
  • F1 close to engine agreement for 2017, 2018
  • Hamilton unimpressed with Red Bull aeroscreen New

Alonso fully recovered
Alonso fully recovered

Alonso finally recovered after Melbourne crash
(GMM) Fernando Alonso said he is finally back to "100 per cent" fitness, more than a month after his huge crash in Australia.

The Spaniard missed Bahrain and returned to action in China, but said in Russia for the fourth round of 2016 that only now is he no longer "taking any pills".

"I have no aches and I'm training without any difficulty," the McLaren-Honda driver, who injured his lung and fractured two ribs in Melbourne, told Spanish media.

"After China for a few days I had a strange feeling, but since then everything is fine," Alonso added.

"The recovery process took longer than I expected — after Melbourne it was 42-43 days until I was 100 per cent, but that's probably the way it should be."

Meanwhile, Alonso's manager Luis Garcia Abad said on Thursday that the 34-year-old is also happy with progress at McLaren-Honda, after the awful 2015 season.

"I sincerely believe that the path is correct," he told Radio Marca. "Now I see the drivers satisfied when they get out of the car that big progress is being made. We are now less than a year behind."

McLaren-Honda has expressed interest in retaining Alonso beyond the end of his contract next year, but manager Abad said: "We are in a quiet situation from the contractual side.

"We will see as things unfold what the next steps are, but the bottom line is that Fernando Alonso has been in Japan (with Honda) these last days, which is an unequivocal sign of a driver's commitment," he added.

Felipe Nasr
Felipe Nasr

New chassis may not solve problems – Nasr
(GMM) Felipe Nasr is not completely sure a new chassis will fix the handling problems he has been suffering throughout 2016 so far.

The Brazilian confirmed in Russia that, after struggling with braking instability at the opening four rounds, he will get a new monocoque to drive at Sochi this weekend.

"It is a measure we take to try to solve the problems I have faced with chassis number 2," Nasr told Brazil's Globo. "But I'm not saying it will solve the problem."

That is because, amid Sauber's obvious financial problems at present, the Swiss team has a shortage of spare parts.

"Parts that I have used before will pass onto the new monocoque," Nasr confirmed.

"To try to solve this problem you would have to check and replace each mechanical, electronic, hydraulic, aerodynamic part, but it is necessary to have resources (for that) and we do not," he said.

Nasr's problems come at an awkward time for the 23-year-old, as his and sponsor Banco do Brasil's contracts with Sauber are coming to an end.

Not only that, the chassis rules are changing significantly for 2017, just when Sauber is struggling so much from a financial point of view.

"This lack of results does not interfere with my future," Nasr said when asked about his and Sauber's problems.

As for the looming 2017 rule changes, he admitted: "The difference between the big teams and the small ones will grow even more. There is no way a team like ours can focus on two projects.

"My manager (Steve Robertson) is seeing the options we have, here and elsewhere," said Nasr.

Political progress 'a step forward' for Monza
(GMM) Italy's automobile club chief has admitted political changes this week could be a "step forward" in Monza's quest for a new grand prix deal.

Reportedly after a running dispute with Bernie Ecclestone, the boss of the circuit operator Sias, Andrea Dell'Orto, stepped down.

"We could say it is a step forward," Angelo Sticchi Damiani, boss of the Italian automobile club Aci, told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"We are confident things will fall into place but to get into Ecclestone's head is never easy," he added.

Damiani suggested that the biggest sticking point now is a financial one.

"We are always negotiating to reach a meeting point between the demand and what we are offering," he said. "There is a difference that we will try to bridge in a reasonable amount of time."

It is expected the first draft of F1's 2017 calendar will be compiled in the next two months, so when asked if Monza will be on it, Damiani said: "I really hope so." (See related AR1.com rumor)

Russia could become a night race
Russia could become a night race

Russia GP night race talks still on
(GMM) Talks are still on track for Sochi to switch to a night race format in the future.

Last year, it was reported the Russian organizers, supported by president Vladimir Putin, were open to Bernie Ecclestone's push for a night race by 2017.

"The promoter of the Russian grand prix, Sergey Vorobyov, continues to negotiate on the question of the night race," Richard Cregan, an international consultant to the Sochi event, told Tass news agency.

"There is no decision yet but the idea is still relevant," he added.

Cregan said organizers have had enough on their plate simply to organize the 2016 race.

"Don't forget that there have only been six months since the last Russian grand prix took place," he said.

Updates for Ferrari, but will it be enough?
Updates for Ferrari, but will it be enough?

Vettel confirms Ferrari updates in Sochi
(GMM) Sebastian Vettel has admitted Ferrari has taken an engine upgrade to Sochi.

"You know more than we do so I don't need to say anything!" the German joked, when asked by a reporter about Ferrari's new engine and front wing in Russia.

"I think it is quite normal these days that you bring a few new things to a race," he added.

Team boss Maurizio Arrivabene said recently that he thinks the Maranello team only lags Mercedes' pace by a tenth, although incidents and reliability have affected Ferrari's championship campaign so far.

Vettel said: "What the updates will bring is hard to say. The computer gives us a number but I can't sit here and say it will be half a tenth or two tenths.

"I would love to say it will be one second, but unfortunately it's not that simple.

"We didn't have the first three races that we were hoping for, but I think we are in a better position than last year," he added. "It is natural to have a sense of pressure, especially from myself."

Red Bull, meanwhile, must wait until Canada in June for its new engine specification from Renault, but Daniel Ricciardo has high hopes.

"Honestly, we didn't expect the progress we have seen from the engine so early in the season," said the Australian.

"If the update for Montreal is the same sort of step, it will be very good and given the competitiveness of our chassis, it should be enough for a serious fight with Ferrari," Ricciardo added.

The F1 drivers are trying to stop the mental midgets who make the F1 rules from adding downforce to the cars that will ruin the racing
The F1 drivers are trying to stop the mental midgets who make the F1 rules from adding downforce to the 2017 cars that will ruin the racing

GPDA tried to derail 2017 chassis changes
(GMM) The drivers' representative body, the GPDA, made a bid to derail the new chassis regulations that will be introduced in 2017.

Several drivers have argued that speeding up the cars next year by adding downforce is not the right move for F1.

"Just like with the new qualifying, you hope the engineers who know what is going to happen are proven wrong," said reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton.

The Mercedes driver has argued repeatedly that the 2017 changes could actually make overtaking – what the fans really want – more difficult.

So GPDA director Jenson Button on Thursday revealed that a letter from the body was sent to the F1 Commission earlier this week.

"Jean (Todt) asked us to comment on the direction of the sport so we wrote a letter which was read at Tuesday's meeting," said the McLaren-Honda driver.

The F1 Commission, however, is believed to have pressed ahead with the 2017 changes anyway.

But not everyone is concerned that the 2017 changes are necessarily wrong for F1.

Fernando Alonso, for instance, argues that all the worrying about overtaking might be misplaced, as some of the most memorable races in F1 preceded the heavily-degrading Pirelli tires and 'DRS' era.

"First we need to wait for the final version of the rules," said the Spaniard, "but I think the direction is correct. The cars will be faster and they will look better.

"I remember the races at Imola in 2005 and 2006, my fights with Michael (Schumacher) — there were two or three overtakes the entire race, but the fans witnessed a fascinating spectacle," he said.

"That's why I think not so much attention should be paid to overtaking," Alonso added.

"Now, it is possible for someone in 16th or 17th place to put a fresh set of tires on at the right moment and overtake a Mercedes. I think that's hard to understand for the audience. Overtaking has ceased to be real, as it was in the past.

"To make an exciting show, the cars should be faster and louder and more drivers should be in the fight for the title," he said.

Magnussen's check wasn't big enough to secure his ride
Magnussen's check wasn't big enough to secure his ride

Magnussen admits 'pressure' from Sirotkin, Ocon
(GMM) Kevin Magnussen has played down the fact he will sit out Friday morning practice in Russia.

Renault has inked a deal with SMP Bank-backed SMP Racing, in which Russian hopeful Sergey Sirotkin will get an outing in Magnussen's car on Friday.

"I do not comment on the timing and whether it's right or wrong," Dane Magnussen told Ekstra Bladet newspaper.

"In the end it's a step forward for me if I get two sessions here, because it's more than I got in China," he smiled, referring to his problems two weeks ago.

Magnussen said he would prefer to stay in the car all weekend but also tried to see the situation from the point of view of a third driver like Sirotkin.

"Last year it was not ideal for me not to do any laps," he said, recalling his season spent as McLaren reserve.

The truth, however, is that the presence of the SMP-backed Sirotkin and also team reserve driver Esteban Ocon puts pressure on Magnussen and teammate Jolyon Palmer.

"There is always pressure from the young guys, the new guys," Magnussen, 23, told the Danish newspaper.

"That's the way it is. There is always pressure. It's normal."

FIA confirms 'Aeroscreen' under consideration
(GMM) The FIA has now confirmed that Red Bull's 'Aeroscreen' concept is in the running to be introduced in formula one.

Daniel Ricciardo tested the windshield-style driver cockpit protection in the opening minutes of practice in Russia. The Australian completed one installation lap with the device on the car before returning to the pits and having it removed.

Earlier, the FIA's preferred solution for 2017 was the Mercedes-devised 'halo' concept that debuted on the Ferrari recently, but F1 race director Charlie Whiting has admitted he actually likes the look of Red Bull's screen even more.

Auto Motor und Sport quoted him as saying that once all the tests are complete, the two solutions will be presented to the F1 Commission which will "decide what route we take".

Sebastian Vettel commented: "Neither are pretty, but the important thing is that they work."

Reigning champion Lewis Hamilton, however, worries that reducing the "risk" of being a F1 driver too much could affect the appeal of the sport to the fans.

He also hates the look of the 'Aeroscreen'.

"It looks like a bloody riot shield," said the Mercedes driver.

Others are less bothered.

"I don't care if it's an open or closed cockpit," said Williams' Valtteri Bottas. "I don't think it will change the sport.

"If we can reduce the serious accidents or injuries, that's great, but I have no particular preference."

Following the lap, Red Bull released two videos of static tests it had carried out.

One showed an F1 wheel fired at the aeroscreen at a speed of 225km/h https://twitter.com/redbullracing/status/725944717066661891 . The second was a one kilo ballistic test at a speed of 230km/h https://twitter.com/redbullracing/status/725950735557386240 .

The aeroscreen is one of two cockpit protection design solutions – the other being the halo that Ferrari ran in pre-season testing.

Max Verstappe
Max Verstappen

Verstappen denies F1 career in plateau
(GMM) Max Verstappen has denied he is already hitting a plateau, four races into the second season in his otherwise meteoric F1 career.

The young Dutchman was asked at Sochi about reports a former world champion had said that after Verstappen burst into F1 last year, he is struggling to make the same impact in 2016.

"I don't know who said that, but I'm satisfied with my work and my development," Verstappen, 18, replied.

"I'm in the points every race, I am ninth overall in the championship, the team wants to be fifth in the constructors' — I don't feel that I'm doing something wrong," he added.

Asked in what areas he is focusing on the most in order to improve, Verstappen answered: "Everywhere. I don't think that in any ways I have become worse or stayed at the same level. I keep progressing."

F1 close to engine agreement for 2017, 2018
(GMM) Contrary to reports elsewhere, it appears F1 is in fact close to agreeing changes to the engine rules for 2017.

After the strategy group and F1 Commission meetings early this week, reports suggested progress has not been made because key people were not in London.

But a source close to the FIA has told a French-language report by the AFP news agency that an agreement was in fact reached between F1's major stakeholders and the sport's governing body.

That agreement must now be rubber-stamped by F1 Commission members by late Saturday, through a fax vote.

AFP claims that with customer engine bills currently between EUR 15 and 20 million per year, FIA president Jean Todt has succeeded in getting that price reduced over the next two years.

Next year, engine bills will reportedly reduce by EUR 1 million, followed by a EUR 3 million reduction for 2018.

There has also been progress in the area of engine supply, according to the AFP report which cited a document marked 'confidential'.

It says that if a team – like Red Bull last year – is left without an engine contract for 2017, one of the four manufacturers will be selected to supply that team at a cost of EUR 12 million.

Hamilton would rather die than use a Halo, Aeroscreen or Full Canopy
Hamilton would rather die than use a Halo, Aeroscreen or Full Canopy

Hamilton unimpressed with Red Bull aeroscreen
Lewis Hamilton is not impressed with Red Bull's 'aeroscreen' protection device, saying it looks like a "bloody riot shield."

Red Bull fitted the design to Daniel Ricciardo's RB12 on Thursday as they plan to trial the 'aeroscreen' during Friday's first practice in Russia.

The device has been met with mixed reviews as while some say it looks better than Ferrari's halo, Hamilton has slated it.

"If they're going to do this, close the cockpit like a fighter jet," the Mercedes driver told Autosport.

"Don't half-arse it. Go one way or the other.

"That screen looks so bad. It looks like a bloody riot shield.

"You've got this cool, elegant futuristic Formula 1 car, and you've got a riot shield sitting on top of it.

"And the other one [halo], the carbon fiber structure was obviously good but Fernando [Alonso] wouldn't have been able to get out of the car potentially in his crash in Melbourne.

"But on top of that, it is a good thing to see the FIA does take safety seriously.

"It is a constant thing that always needs to be worked on – as long as it doesn't affect the aesthetics, the style and the coolness of Formula 1."

But while Hamilton agrees that the F1 should always work to improve safety, he feels cockpit protection is not the way to go.

He added: "When I get in that car, I know that there is a danger.

"That's been the same since I started when I was eight years old.

"That's a risk that I am willing to take and that every single driver that's ever got in the car has been willing to take.

"You look at Formula 1 as a kid and think 'these guys, they're crazy, they could die at any moment…'

"Everyone comes to me who's just started watching Formula 1 and says 'oh it's so dangerous'.

"That's a large part of why they are so in awe of what you do.

"Take away all that and that person could do it, almost."

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