Latest F1 news in brief – Wednesday

  • Arrivabene chuckles at reports
    Arrivabene chuckles at reports

    Arrivabene plays down engine upgrade reports

  • Sirotkin deal could go beyond 2016 – manager
  • Rosberg finally ready to be champion – Hakkinen
  • Manor founder John Booth joins Toro Rosso
  • Still no agreement after key F1 meetings
  • New chassis not ready for struggling Nasr – Sauber
  • Formula One Mexican TV Audience Increases 500%
  • Red Bull Racing and Pepe Jeans renew partnership

Arrivabene plays down engine upgrade reports
(GMM) Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene has played down reports an engine upgrade is set to give the Maranello team a big boost in Russia this weekend.

We reported last week that with Sebastian Vettel a full 42 points behind the leading Mercedes in the drivers' championship, the German will get a key engine upgrade in Sochi that will cost Ferrari three of its upgrade 'tokens'.

But boss Arrivabene suggests it is mainly race incidents and reliability problems that have cost Ferrari so far in 2016.

"We are lacking only one tenth of a second to Mercedes," he is quoted as saying by the veteran correspondent Roger Benoit, writing in Blick newspaper.

As for the reports of the engine upgrade, Arrivabene is quoted by Brazil's UOL as playing down the significance of the step Ferrari will take in Russia.

"We will have something for Sochi, but nothing of great importance," said the Italian.

"We decided long ago that the philosophy would be of gradual development, because when you start a season with a totally new design, it makes no sense to come up with revolutionary (upgrade) packages.

"For the development of the engine we chose the same philosophy — of course we will use some tokens for performance, but it will be gradual," Arrivabene revealed.

Sergey Sirotkin in GP2 at Barcelona
Sergey Sirotkin in GP2 at Barcelona

Sirotkin deal could go beyond 2016 – manager
(GMM) Renault's new works team surprised the F1 world on Tuesday when it revealed the identity of its new test driver.

It was in 2013 when Sergey Sirotkin, then a teenager, was central to a so-called 'Russian rescue deal' for the struggling Sauber team that ultimately fell through.

Sirotkin is now in GP2 with the support of SMP Racing, which is linked strongly to the Russian bank SMP and also Vladimir Putin.

"I would like to thank SMP Racing for the great support given to my career, starting in Sochi, in front of my compatriots," Sirotkin, now 20, said on Tuesday.

Indeed, he has been shown the green light by the new works Renault team to drive in Kevin Magnussen's place in Friday morning practice this week ahead of the Russian grand prix.

Renault said in a statement that Sirotkin's drive is a "good start for the collaboration between Renault Sport and SMP Racing".

Sirotkin will also be a Renault test driver for the rest of 2016.

"The contract signed is until the end of 2016," his manager Nikolai Vetrov told the Russian news agency Tass.

"Then we will look at the possibility of extending it," he added.

It also seems possible that Sirotkin's Sochi outing may not be a one-off.

"If he can regularly participate in the Friday practices, it is a very good arrangement that has some promise," Igor Ermilin, the presidential advisor of the Russian automobile federation, told Rio Novosti news agency.

The news, however, had heads scratching within the specialist Danish media, as Magnussen will have to make way on Friday to someone who might be described as a 'pay driver'.

"It is very surprising," said Peter Nygaard, the respected correspondent for the BT newspaper.

"Renault should not be a team that desperately needs money, as Sauber did back then."

He said it is also surprising that it is Magnussen, and not the Briton Jolyon Palmer who finished dead last in China, who is having to vacate his Renault cockpit in Russia.

"It could imply that Palmer has a watertight contract that he must do all sessions and races, while it was Kevin who came into the team at the last minute," Nygaard speculated.

Nico Rosberg
Nico Rosberg

Rosberg finally ready to be champion – Hakkinen
(GMM) Mika Hakkinen says 2016 championship leader Nico Rosberg might finally be ready to win his first F1 title this year.

Hakkinen, the two-time world champion of 1998 and 1999, told the German-language Spox in an interview that he has known Rosberg since the Mercedes driver was just a boy.

"I remember him walking around as a four or five year old with a small helmet in his hand saying 'Goodbye, I'm going to drive my go-kart'," said Hakkinen, who was once managed by Rosberg's Finnish father Keke.

"When I see him now, I'm very proud of him," the 47-year-old added.

Rosberg, 30, was beaten to the crown both in 2014 and 2015 by his teammate Lewis Hamilton, but the German is now on a run of six consecutive victories and is leading the 2016 standings by 36 points.

"The talent was always there," Hakkinen said. "But now he has the goal clearly in mind that says with conviction 'Yes, I want to be world champion!'"

Coincidentally, there are parallels between their respective careers, as it took both drivers six years to win a grand prix, while Hakkinen was 30 – like Rosberg is now – when he broke through for his first world championship.

"Probably not everything is explained by chance," said Hakkinen.

"In everything, but especially in formula one, it takes time before you are ready to win. Put it this way: even if your own head says you want to be world champion, it doesn't mean that you are really ready for that.

"This step is made not just like that, but with all your conviction and every fiber of your body, and is more challenging than most people believe," added the former McLaren driver and winner of 20 grands prix.

"So my answer is yes, he is ready for the world title," Hakkinen added.

Finally, when asked about F1's main problems as a sport at present, Hakkinen said it is the rules that are "too complicated and change too often".

Hakkinen said F1 must work to recapture the days when drivers "got out of their cars dripping with sweat. Because when the drivers feel that again, the same passion will be felt by the fans".

"I do not understand why it is no longer possible to go flat out all the time," he added.

Manor founder John Booth joins Toro Rosso
(GMM) John Booth is returning to formula one.

At the end of last season, the Manor founder and boss left the F1 backmarker, with Stephen Fitzpatrick having rescued the team following the Marussia collapse.

Together with Graeme Lowdon, Booth re-emerged with a Le Mans team foray for 2016 but it was announced on Tuesday that he will now start work "on a consultancy basis" with Red Bull-owned Toro Rosso.

Booth will have the role of 'director of racing', starting in Russia this weekend.

"I am looking forward to getting started and working with Franz (Tost) and the team this weekend in Sochi," he said.

The higher downforce rules package planned for 2017 will ruin F1
The higher downforce rules package planned for 2017 will ruin F1

Still no agreement after key F1 meetings
(GMM) As the sport's key decision-making groups met outside London on Tuesday, the Austrian newspaper Kleine Zeitung talked of "the most important meetings for formula one in recent years".

Indeed, now just days before the end-of-April deadline for agreeing the radical plan, F1 seemed locked in dispute about whether speeding up the cars by widening the chassis and tires next year is as wise as was earlier touted.

Mercedes' Toto Wolff is the most outspoken critic of shaking up the current rules, as it emerges that not enough members of the F1 Commission turned out in Biggin Hill on Tuesday to either approve or scrap the 2017 plan.

But the German news agency SID reports that the faster cars are in fact still on track after the meetings.

More uncertain are the touted changes to the engine regulations, amid the FIA's push for cheaper customer deals and a 'convergence of performance' up and down pitlane.

"No solution has been found for the engine regulations," the SID report explained on Tuesday, "supposedly because several manufacturers were not present for the vote."

F1 stakeholders will now vote on the future engine regulations by fax prior to the Saturday deadline.

"I think unfortunately what will happen, as is often the case with these things, time will run out at the end of the month and nothing will be achieved and nothing will change," Red Bull's Christian Horner predicted recently.

Even if change does eventually come, F1 legend Alain Prost is not sure it will be enough to solve the problem of complex regulations that restrict the freedoms of teams and drivers.

"I remember Mexico in 1990, I started 13th because I sacrificed speed in qualifying to find the best settings for the race, making the car more comfortable and economical to work with the tires," he told France's L'Equipe.

Prost won that race, but he thinks repeating that feat is now essentially impossible as "too much depends on the aerodynamics".

"F1 must remain F1, with the possibility for a guy who is smart, who has worked hard, who takes a risk, to win. I'm not talking about artificial measures but increasing the number of options that can create intrigue in the race," he said.

"In my time it was possible to combine different tires, change at the last moment, hide data to mislead opponents. Now we are far from those days," added Prost.

Felipe Nasr
Felipe Nasr

New chassis not ready for struggling Nasr – Sauber
(GMM) Felipe Nasr will not be able to end his early 2016 troubles by switching to a new Sauber chassis this weekend in Russia.

After complaining about the handling of his chassis in all three race weekends so far and suspecting a flaw, it had been reported Nasr would get an all-new version of the C35 for Russia.

"I am 100 per cent sure the car is not right," Nasr was quoted by Brazil's UOL after China.

"I'm struggling all the time but he (teammate Marcus Ericsson)'s happy with the car from the start. I drove that (Ericsson's) car in Barcelona and I was happy too," he added.

But spokesman Robert Hopoltseder told Brazil's Globo that while the Swiss team is working on a third chassis at present, they are not sure it will be completed in time for Nasr to use it at Sochi.

Correspondent Livio Oricchio added: "Sauber's head of communications did not say it, but the reality that everyone in the paddock knows is that the assembly of the third C35 depends on having the resources to pay suppliers, which as of today is not the case."

Amid those financial troubles and Nasr's predicament, teammate Ericsson said after the Chinese grand prix that he is willing to swap chassis with Nasr in Russia.

"Why not? I'm willing," said the Swede. "I wouldn't mind. I will make this proposal and see what he says."

Ericsson suspects that he is simply out-performing Nasr on merit.

"I was already stronger at the end of last year," he said. "I have worked very hard in the preseason to be even stronger this year and I have confidence in the team and the car."

Amazing what happens when a country has two drivers in F1 to root for

Formula One Mexican TV Audience Increases 500%
Formula One has announced "some of its highest ever increases in viewership crowned by boosts of as much as 500% for races watched on television in Mexico," according to Christian Sylt for FORBES.

It drove total reach in Mexico to 3.4 million and was "fueled by the return of its home Grand Prix after a 23-year hiatus."

The results "vindicate the plan to return to Mexico" which was led by F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone, who is sometimes criticized "for taking the series to new markets at the expense of races in countries which have motorsport heritage."

It was one of "a series of gains in key markets which was driven by F1's strategic selection of broadcasters and the accelerating popularity of the sport due to local drivers or races."

The audience in Italy, F1's second-biggest market after Brazil, "rose by nearly 1.5 million to 32.9 million and the Media Report states that it got an early lift from Sebastian Vettel winning for Ferrari at the Malaysian Grand Prix in March."

The F1 audience in the Netherlands "accelerated thanks to the début of up-and-coming driver Max Verstappen."

Reach almost doubled, up to 3.5 million viewers, even before Verstappen "scored his first podium."

The return of the Austrian Grand Prix "drove an increase in F1 viewing figures on free-to-air broadcaster ORF."

The Media Report states that "reach in Austria increased to 3.7 million viewers, hugely impressive considering the population of 8.5 million." There was however "a dark cloud" in the U.S. where F1 is broadcast on NBC Sports with some races shown on the main NBC channel.

Total season reach "was down 9.5% from 12.6 million in 2014 to 11.4 million which equates to just 4% of the TV population in the U.S." FORBES

Red Bull Racing and Pepe Jeans renew partnership
Red Bull Racing are pleased to announce the renewal of our partnership with Pepe Jeans London. Pepe Jeans became a Team Partner in 2010, with their branding prominent on our cars during four double World Championship winning seasons and will continue their long running relationship with the Team as Official Jeans Supplier.

Established in 1973, the denim and casualwear designer has grown out of humble beginnings in the famous Portobello Road area of London’s Notting Hill district to become an international fashion brand, headquartered in Barcelona, with a global network of over 200 stores.

“We’re delighted to be continuing our partnership with Pepe Jeans," said Team Principal Christian Horner. “Pepe joined us at the start of a remarkable period for our team and it’s gratifying that our association will continue into an exciting future. Pepe Jeans are a great fit for Red Bull Racing: the two brands share values and a youthful attitude that complement one another perfectly."

Echoing Christian’s comments, Carlos Ortega from Pepe Jeans added “The Red Bull Racing team has been a great fit for us as both brands share the same dynamic, youthful and confident spirit. We are very happy to be extending what has already been an extremely successful partnership since 2010".

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