Latest F1 news in brief – Saturday

  • Haas laughs at F1's crybabies
    Haas laughs at F1's crybabies

    Gene Haas aims fire at F1 'whiners'

  • Ferrari poised to challenge Mercedes in China
  • Vettel plays down risk of F1 driver strike
  • Mallya to miss more F1 races as passport suspended
  • McLaren wants to keep Alonso beyond 2017
  • Todt should let F1 war go to court – Mosley
  • Pirelli now close to FIA contract – Hembery
  • Red Bull could test canopy in Sochi practice

Gene Haas aims fire at F1 'whiners'
(GMM) Haas, the new American team, has stepped up the tone of its rhetoric amid criticism of its close alliance with Ferrari.

The team's two points finishes in Australia and Bahrain respectively have sparked controversy in the pitlane that driver Romain Grosjean brands as "jealousy".

Technical boss Gunther Steiner, meanwhile, said Haas is doing nothing wrong by buying parts from Ferrari, declaring in Shanghai: "While people can express their views, I suggest everyone also reads the rules, as they are easily available."

Haas happy to beat the F1 whiney babies
Haas happy to beat the F1 whiny babies

And now team founder Gene Haas has come out with an even stronger rejoinder to the critics, telling reporters in China the complaining is simply "sour grapes".

"A lot of the teams at the back really don't know what competition is," he said. "They're getting maybe a little too fat and happy.

"I guess there are a lot of whiners in F1 that talk about our success."

Haas' final comment about "whiners" may also be a reference to none other than F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, who told business journalist Christian Sylt recently that the new American squad's car is good "because it's a Ferrari".

The French news agency AFP said Haas, 63, was even ready with a "sheet of paper detailing a list of parts his team makes itself".

An insider told us the Californian is being very bold in facing down Ecclestone.

"I've honestly never seen anything like that before and it made me think that success has gone to his head," the source told us.

The source explained that the fact Haas has compiled a written list of the parts it makes for itself could be a sign he is "worried" about a potential challenge.

"We never came into this (sport) to run at the back," Haas insisted. "If people don't like that then that's their problem, not my problem."

Raikkonen but Vettel saved a set of tires for the race
Raikkonen choked but Vettel saved a set of tires for the race

Ferrari poised to challenge Mercedes in China
(GMM) Ferrari may be poised in China to secure its first victory of 2016.

The red cars were first and second in Friday practice at the Shanghai circuit, and fast not only over a single lap but also in the crucial 'long runs'.

Mercedes, whose Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton have won every grand prix since last September, say they are taking notice.

"Ferrari is closer," a team engineer told Auto Motor und Sport.

"On a lap it is now three tenths rather than six. And in race trim they are a real challenge."

World champion Lewis Hamilton told Sky Italia: "It seems that we're going to have a bigger fight than we ever have, so it should be good for the fans."

It could also be perfect timing for the Maranello team, whose demanding president Sergio Marchionne is planning to attend the Chinese grand prix on Sunday, according to Italy's Tuttosport.

"We promise to earn more (money) and win in formula one," the Italian-Canadian said after a shareholders meeting in Amsterdam.

"These things are sacred and non-negotiable," Marchionne insisted.

Team boss Maurizio Arrivabene, however, moved to ease some of that pressure by describing Mercedes as "the strongest team I have seen in the last ten years".

But former F1 driver David Coulthard told the Telegraph: "Ferrari don't really have any excuses. They have done their restructuring, have all the budget in the world, and still don't quite seem to be there.

"Now is their chance to prove us wrong," he said.

Vettel scoffs at rumored driver strike
Vettel scoffs at rumored driver strike

Vettel plays down risk of F1 driver strike
(GMM) Sebastian Vettel has played down speculation F1 drivers' anger at the political situation in the sport could lead to a strike.

The response to the controversial letter penned recently by the drivers' association GPDA, in which the drivers hit out at F1's governance, was generally dismissive.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, for instance, called the drivers "windbags", but Vettel was quoted by the German news magazine Focus as playing that down.

"None of us takes that too seriously as he is known for always having a quote ready on his lips," said the Ferrari driver, who along with Alex Wurz is a GPDA director.

"The debate must not be reduced to a single person," Vettel told Bild newspaper.

But the other GPDA director, Jenson Button, seems less impressed, describing the backlash to the letter as "catty".

"Our comments were correct and in the right manner," the McLaren driver insists. "It's up to people to reply in the right manner, and so far I haven't seen any of that."

18 of the current drivers made another stir on Wednesday this week by getting together in Shanghai for an ultra-rare collective dinner.

"The current problems have united us (drivers) more than was the case with previous generations," said Vettel.

But he played down the notion that the drivers might make their voices heard more loudly than ever by organizing a strike or race boycott.

Vettel insisted: "I don't believe that is an issue in the current situation."

Vijay Mallya headed to jail or an F1 race next?
Vijay Mallya headed to jail or an F1 race next?

Mallya to miss more F1 races as passport suspended
(GMM) Vijay Mallya will miss more F1 races in the immediate future, after the Indian government suspended his passport.

Indian reports say the Force India boss and co-owner "stopped cooperating with investigators" over the huge debts owed over the collapse of his airline Kingfisher.

"Passport of Vijay Mallya suspended by the government of India on request of enforcement directorate," the directorate confirmed on Twitter.

The external affairs ministry confirmed that the suspension will have effect for four weeks.

Former billionaire Mallya, 60, did not attend the Australian, Bahrain or Chinese grands prix so far this year. He is reportedly in Britain, but his actual whereabouts is in fact not known.

The next step could be for Mallya's passport to be completely revoked or impounded.

"If Mallya fails to respond within the stipulated time, it will be assumed that he has no response to offer and (external affairs) will go ahead with the revocation," the government said in a statement.

Eric Boullier wants to keep Alonso
Eric Boullier wants to keep Alonso

McLaren wants to keep Alonso beyond 2017
(GMM) McLaren-Honda has opened the door for Fernando Alonso to renew his contract beyond the end of next year.

"If he continues working and driving in the same way for us, we would like him to stay," team boss Eric Boullier told the Spanish sports daily Marca in China.

Former F1 driver Johnny Herbert caused a stir in Bahrain recently when, as the Spanish driver recovered from chest injuries, the Briton urged Alonso to retire.

But Boullier said: "It has been a difficult four weeks for Fernando, but he has behaved like a really motivated driver whose sole ambition was to return to the car as soon as possible.

"We told him he could go home in Bahrain to rest, but he preferred to stay with us," the Frenchman revealed.

When asked about speculation Alonso is close to calling time on his career anyway, Boullier answered: "Everyone can think what he wants, but I think retirement for him is still far away."

As for Herbert's criticism, he continued: "It is his opinion, but mine could not be more different.

"I have not seen anyone as motivated as Fernando. He is one of the main pillars of this team."

And Boullier said Alonso will have noticed the progress McLaren-Honda has made so far in 2016, revealing: "We are seeing light at the end of the tunnel now.

"By Monaco we will have one of the best chassis and we could reach the podium, why not?" he added.

He dismissed the suggestion McLaren is actually a formerly great team on a downwards spiral, demonstrated by the fact the Woking team has failed to sign up a title sponsor.

"No problem," said Boullier. "We have a group of sponsors that is enough, including Honda, so we do not mind not having a title sponsor.

"Last year we did not win (much) money being ninth place in the world championship, but this year being around fifth, we will," he added. McLaren-Honda is currently eighth in the standings with a single point.

"The team, as a company, has always made money," Boullier explained.

Ecclestone and Mosley
Ecclestone and Mosley

Todt should let F1 war go to court – Mosley
(GMM) Jean Todt's predecessor says the Frenchman should put formula one back on the right track by having the current agreements challenged in court.

Amid a poisonous political climate at present and fierce criticism of the sport's deadlocked governance processes and rules, current president Todt admitted in Bahrain recently that the FIA should have total control of F1.

But he said Bernie Ecclestone's existing agreements with the Paris federation and the eleven competing teams do not expire until 2020.

So if he behaves like a "dictator" and tears up the rules and the contracts, Todt tipped the FIA to be sued.

"But I've been entrusted by 250 FIA members to be the president, so I cannot allow the FIA to be sued, and we would lose," said the Frenchman.

But getting sued, argues Todt's much more brazen predecessor Max Mosley, is exactly what could steer F1 back onto the right track.

"Todt is terrified of being sued," Mosley told London's Times newspaper. "But the only thing you can do is to go to litigation and arbitration.

"Todt is all for peace and compromise but you have to be prepared to risk litigation or you can't do anything. You have to be prepared to go full steam ahead," he insisted.

Paul Hembery
Paul Hembery

Pirelli now close to FIA contract – Hembery
(GMM) Pirelli is now edging close to finally sealing its new deal to stay in F1 beyond the end of this season.

The deal with Bernie Ecclestone is already done for 2017 and beyond, but details over the next contract with the FIA have held up the rubber stamp.

The biggest issues are over testing, with the Italian supplier demanding much more running in order to prepare bigger tires for the much-faster cars of 2017.

When asked how those talks are progressing, Pirelli's F1 chief Paul Hembery said in China: "I think we are moving forward.

"At the beginning of next week the final decision will be taken, including a contract with the FIA."

Indeed, obvious progress has been made in the Shanghai paddock, as it emerged that Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull, McLaren-Honda and Williams have all put up their hands to modify 2015-spec test cars to simulate the speeds of 2017.

Hembery confirmed that "five teams" have decided voluntarily to help with the 2017 tire development, with the first test outing already tentatively penciled in for "the end of July, around Hockenheim".

And crucial wind tunnel tires in 2017 specification have now been released to the teams, allowing design work to press ahead on the cars for next year.

But that doesn't mean everyone is happy with Pirelli, with Romain Grosjean even calling the mandatory minimum tire pressures imposed for Shanghai "ridiculous".

"It's like a piece of wood, it's just not drivable," said the Haas driver.

And Grosjean was not the only driver complaining, so Hembery said it is possible the mandatory pressures will be tweaked.

"The process is that on Friday night we will get telemetry data from the teams, compare it with the results of computer simulation, and check to see if the prescribed pressure settings are correct," he said.

Red Bull concept
Red Bull concept

Red Bull could test canopy in Sochi practice
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has revealed that the outfit could test its proposed canopy-style cockpit concept during free practice for the Russian Grand Prix.

Formula 1 is evaluating increased driver head protection for the 2017 campaign, with a mock-up of the 'halo' device appearing on the Ferrari during pre-season testing.

Red Bull has come up with its own solution, which will undergo further static testing in the coming days, with a view to it getting an on-car test at the next round in Sochi.

Instead of wrapping around the cockpit with three struts, as the 'halo' does, Red Bull's version is closer to a canopy, with a clear, large windscreen sitting in front of the driver.

"We're going to test the canopy solution over the next week, static testing, so we're going to fire a wheel at in on a plinth to see how that withstands it," Horner told Sky Sports.

"Then if that goes OK, we may put it on one car very briefly in Sochi.

"I think the canopy offers a bit more protection as it has a windscreen. We believe there's better visibility and it's a more elegant solution, rather than the boomerang that is the halo."

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