Latest F1 news in brief – Friday (Update)

UPDATE Updates shown in red below.

  • Hamilton laughs at the dinner bill

    Hamilton laughs at the dinner bill while Rosberg stews about having to sandbag Friday

    04/15/16 Mercedes duo squabble over dinner bill

  • Toro Rosso engine could be least powerful – Sainz
  • Ecclestone eyeing new partners for Canada GP
  • Bottas gets turn with new Williams nose
  • Steiner tells Haas critics to 'read the rules'
  • Button opposed to new qualifying shakeup
  • Ferrari working on turbo fix for May
  • Magnussen did not expect McLaren joke anger
  • Hungary secures F1 race through 2026
  • Full green light for Alonso, tire problems in China
  • Horner: F1 nowhere near engine rules deal New
  • Construction not at fault for Williams & Renault tire failures New
  • Haas making 'clear mistakes' – Gutierrez New
  • Magnussen drama was suspension failure New

Mercedes duo squabble over dinner bill
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have for now confined their championship battle to a squabble over a dinner bill.

World champion Hamilton, 17 points behind and five grid spots down in Shanghai after a gearbox change, pointed the finger at his Mercedes teammate after the high-profile gathering of F1 drivers for dinner in China.

"Someone said 'Let's share the bill', so 18 receipts, 18 credit cards, it was the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen," said Hamilton.

He said he thinks "Nico" was the one who made the call the split the bill.

"Really? Interesting," Rosberg told reporters when asked about Hamilton's claim.

"From what I can remember, the hidden agreement usually is that the world champion pays, but that just might be my opinion," the German hit back.

Clearly the pressure is ramping up as the silver-clad pair's battle enters its third round in China, but Hamilton thinks his penalty means Rosberg will have an "easy" weekend.

"I just want to enjoy every moment," Rosberg said when asked about what will happen this weekend. "I am only looking at myself and I'll take it step by step."

Germany's Welt newspaper thinks that after two triumphs over Hamilton so far, and with a reportedly expiring contract, 2016 is Rosberg's "greatest (and last) chance".

But there are also conspiracy theories doing the rounds after three troubled rounds for Hamilton, with Brazilian correspondent Livio Oricchio writing in Globo that "Not everyone believes Hamilton's difficulties are all down to chance".

Sainz Jr.
Sainz Jr.

Toro Rosso engine could be least powerful – Sainz Jr.
(GMM) Carlos Sainz Jr. thinks it is possible Toro Rosso is already the team with the least amount of horse power on the grid.

Although the Faenza team switched from struggling Renault power for 2016, Mercedes' Paddy Lowe said recently he actually thinks Ferrari's 2015-specification engine is producing the least amount of power in F1 this year.

"I worry a bit that he says that," Toro Rosso driver Carlos Sainz told Spanish reporters in China, "but I think that even if it is not exactly true now, it will be by mid to late in the season.

"Both Honda and Renault have taken a very important step and I think that by the end of the year we will be behind them," he added.

It is impressive, therefore, that most see Toro Rosso as being in the group with Red Bull and Williams that are fighting for the places behind the big two teams.

Sainz explained: "I think this year the differences between the best and the worst engine are not as great as they were last year.

"If last year the difference was 14 or 15kph, this year it is 6 or 7," he said.

But the Spaniard's teammate Max Verstappen played down the likelihood that he or Sainz could finish the Shanghai weekend on the podium.

"I think it is not realistic — Mercedes and Ferrari are too far away for that," the Dutchman told De Telegraaf newspaper.

"Behind them the field is closer together, but I think Red Bull is slightly stronger than the rest," he added. "They are the third team now.

"After that, everything is very close together. Only Sauber and Renault are further behind," said Verstappen, probably forgetting to also mention Manor.

Ecclestone eyes changes in Canada
Ecclestone eyes changes in Canada

Ecclestone eyeing new partners for Canada GP
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone is getting involved in finding new investors for Montreal's Canadian grand prix, according to a report in La Presse newspaper.

The report said the F1 supremo has been in talks with Quebec businesspeople amid claims current promoter Francois Dumontier is struggling to pay suppliers on time.

"This is not new," argues Dumontier, the head of the current promoter of the race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Octagon Racing Group.

He said he is "comfortable" that Ecclestone has been in touch with potential investors.

"To the extent that I said I was looking for a partner, if Mr. Ecclestone meets someone and it could work between us, I have no real problems with that," added Dumontier.

"FOM and I have a valid contract until 2024, and as far as I know, we both intend to respect it," he said.

Valtteri Bottas gets the new nose
Valtteri Bottas gets the new nose

Bottas gets turn with new Williams nose
(GMM) Valtteri Bottas will get his turn with Williams' new front nose and wing this weekend in China.

Two weeks ago in Bahrain, it was teammate Felipe Massa who ran the new pieces, with the Brazilian admitting the jury is out as to whether or not they are actually an improvement.

"We will again have only one new nose here, but this time it will be on the other car," Massa said.

"We have to see how it works and if it is really better, or not, as in Bahrain it was hard to evaluate it. At the moment I am not 100 per cent sure," he admitted.

Asked why there is still only one new nose available, Massa said the next version is "in production".

Meanwhile, the new American team Haas is debuting a new front wing this weekend in China, but boss Gunther Steiner said both cars are fitted with copies.

"It is impossible to predict what kind of results we will achieve by the end of the season, so our policy is that the drivers get the same equipment," he said, referring to the fact that Romain Grosjean is currently ahead in points.

Gunther Steiner
Gunther Steiner

Steiner tells Haas critics to 'read the rules'
(GMM) Gunther Steiner says he is unfazed amid criticism of Haas' controversial approach to F1.

After two strong points finishes in Australia and Bahrain, some of the American outfit's established rivals have questioned whether allowing the relationship with Ferrari is the right way forward for F1.

"I think everyone has a right to their opinion," boss Steiner said.

"We are very pleased with the results that we have achieved by following the current technical regulations.

"So I do not pay attention to the criticism. All my attention is on the races, and while people can express their views, I suggest everyone also reads the rules, as they are easily available," he added.

And Steiner also played down the closeness of the Ferrari alliance, revealing for example that Haas cannot rely on its Italian partner for information and data about the circuits.

"No, we cannot get this information from Ferrari," he insisted. "It is not allowed."

Jenson Button
Jenson Button

Button opposed to new qualifying shakeup
(GMM) Jenson Button says he is opposed to ideas to improve F1 by shaking up the order of the grid.

The sport has dropped its new 'musical chairs' qualifying format following fierce criticism, but bosses will now put their minds to a potential new shakeup for 2017.

Bernie Ecclestone's new preferred option is a qualifying 'race' on Saturday.

But Button, a F1 veteran, said ideas that are designed to artificially put faster cars behind their slower rivals on the grid are fundamentally wrong for the sport.

"F1 has never been that, and it should never be," the Briton said in China. "There are other things we can do to make the sport better.

"It would be like going to Wimbledon and the guy who was eliminated in the first round is in the semi-final," McLaren-Honda driver and 2009 world champion Button added.

Sebastian Vettel agrees, with Salzburger Nachrichten newspaper quoting him as saying F1 should be "simple, raw and wild".

Button says F1's problem is not qualifying.

"The problem is that Mercedes and Ferrari are too far ahead of the other teams.

"I recently watched a qualifying session from 2003 and the first fifteen were within one second. For the fans it is difficult to understand as the cars all look so similar, but there are big differences now in the laptimes.

"So to bring the field closer together, we might have to think about changing the rules — even if Mercedes and Ferrari don't like it," he added.

Vettel on track Friday in Shanghai
Vettel on track Friday in Shanghai

Ferrari working on turbo fix for May
(GMM) Ferrari is designing a key upgrade for its turbo unit, according to German reports.

The major daily Bild, and the specialist Auto Motor und Sport, say the turbo fix is due in May.

And the broadcaster RTL says that until then, Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen will be running their current turbos – whose design was fundamentally changed for 2016 – at reduced power.

"Experts believe it is costing them up to half a second per lap" at the moment, RTL said.

Still, there is optimism. John Elkann, the Fiat Chrysler chairman, said on Friday: "Now that the gap to Mercedes is narrowing, I can't wait for us to beat them on the track."

He added that Vettel and Raikkonen remain "in good spirits".

Vettel, in Shanghai, agreed: "I'm sure that this year we can fight with Mercedes."

Magnussen did not expect McLaren joke anger
(GMM) Kevin Magnussen has admitted he underestimated the impact that poking fun at former employer McLaren's problems would have.

Last week, some of the Dane's fans on social media reacted angrily when he posted a 'meme' depicting a three-wheeled Ferrari and the caption: "Still faster than a McLaren".

"I had forgotten to think that there are still McLaren fans who follow me," said the 23-year-old, who was dropped by the British team last year and now drives for Renault.

"They were a little angrier than I had anticipated," Magnussen admitted to Ekstra Bladet newspaper in Shanghai ahead of the Chinese grand prix.

"I had just seen someone else post the picture and thought it was funny. I also thought it was funny because the Ferrari at the time was so ridiculously fast compared to all the other cars," he explained.

"But people thought only that I was scoffing at McLaren. It was not only that, but maybe it was not as funny as I thought it was," Magnussen said.

Indeed, Magnussen's own team is also struggling at present, but he said on Thursday that the spirit inside the Renault garage after the Lotus takeover is high.

"Basically we have a good car," he insisted. "It's not fast enough yet — we know that.

"But it's a long-term plan, we knew this was going to be sort of a transition year where everything is being ramped up again and patience is important, but we will get there."

Hungary gets extension
Hungary gets extension

Hungary secures F1 race through 2026
(GMM) Hungary's place on the F1 calendar is secure for a decade.

Reports out of Budapest say organisers of the annual race at the Hungaroring have inked a new-five year extension that will now see the deal run until 2026.

The news broke as the circuit launched its complete re-asphalting of the twisty layout.

"The contract has been extended for another five years, which means a place on the formula one calendar until 2026," confirmed Sesztak Miklos, Hungary's minister of national development.

"Without giving the details of the contract, I can tell you that we can organize the races for another five year period with very favorable terms," he is quoted by F1 Vilag, a specialist Hungarian media source.

Alonso cleared
Alonso cleared

Full green light for Alonso, tire problems in China
(GMM) After returning to action on Friday, Fernando Alonso got the green light to race on throughout the entire Chinese grand prix weekend.

Following medical checks on Thursday, the FIA declared that the Spaniard would need to be checked again after driving in only the first Friday practice session.

Alonso, who sustained chest injuries in his huge crash in Melbourne, was twelfth quickest in that session before meeting with FIA medical delegate Jean-Charles Piette.

"As the driver has been cleared to take part, no further medical checks will be undertaken unless the driver presents any abnormal symptom," the governing body declared in a statement.

The first practice session in China was also notable due to some apparent Pirelli tire failures.

Felipe Massa's Williams suffered two separate failures on his left rear, while the same corner of Kevin Magnussen's Renault was similarly affected.

The session was stopped for 30 minutes for an investigation, but Pirelli concluded that the failures were in fact "not tire related".

Williams agreed that smoke was coming from Massa's tire before it blew, with technical boss Pat Symonds admitting to Auto Motor und Sport: "We had a problem with the rims and we're investigating it now."

A modification was prepared for the second practice session, Williams confirmed.

Renault, meanwhile, declared on Twitter: "We're still investigating what happened on Kevin's car during FP1, and that means he won't be running in this (second) session."

Christian Horner
Christian Horner

Horner: F1 nowhere near engine rules deal
Formula 1 is nowhere near meeting the FIA's 2017 engine regulation criteria and is unlikely to find a solution before the April 30 deadline, says Red Bull boss Christian Horner.

Teams have been tasked with agreeing a new set of aerodynamic and engine rules for 2017, with FIA president Jean Todt expressing confidence earlier this month that the looming deadline would be met.

But while the aerodynamic changes are close to being finalized, it seems there is some way to go to find a way forward with the cost, performance, noise and supply of power units.

"It's a complex situation but fundamentally, there were four criteria that were requested by the governing body to be met to ensure stability moving forward," said Horner.

"Those four criteria were a significant reduction in cost to 12million euros, the availability or guarantee of supply, power convergence to within a relatively small bandwidth and to address the noise.
"As we sit here now, we're not anywhere near having met any of those criteria.

"Unfortunately what will happen, as is often the case with these things, is time will run out at the end of the month and nothing will be achieved and nothing will change.

"There is one more attempt in the Strategy Group meeting and F1 Commission meeting at the end of this month to discuss the concerns and where we are at but failing that, the regulations will inevitably stay as they are."

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff agreed with Horner that it was a complex scenario but insisted a solution must be found in time.

"It is a complex agreement," he said. "We have been given the task in coming up with solutions so no team is left without an engine.

"All manufacturers have acknowledged that.

"There is an aspect of price reduction which is important to most of the teams.

"We tried to cover that in a framework agreement.

"It is difficult to make everyone happy. Christian isn't so happy.

"But we need to come up with a solution by 30 April.

"At the moment, everyone is working hard to find the smallest common denominator."

Regarding the aero regulations, Horner said they have been "basically agreed" and the teams "are already tentatively looking to next year based on those regulations".

He added: "They are interesting rules, they add an element of variance compared to what we currently have so you will see some different solutions from different teams than you usually get when there is a regulation change such as that."

McLaren racing director Eric Boullier added: "It's exciting to have a new package.

"The cars will be faster and drivers will enjoy driving the cars. If the drivers are happier, fans are happier I guess."

Pirelli F1 tires
Pirelli F1 tires

Construction not at fault for Williams & Renault tire failures
The tire failures during Friday practice were caused by external factors. That’s the finding of an investigation carried out by Pirelli alongside the affected teams.

Felipe Massa, as well as Renault’s Kevin Magnussen, was hit by tire failures during the first practice session. The Brazilian encountered two rapid deflations in quick succession, spinning off in dramatic fashion due to the first one before recovering to his garage. The second one saw him trundle slowly back to the pits while he radioed in “Yeah, I need to stop – the same problem, the same problem."

With half an hour left in the session, Magnussen also recovered to the pits with a fully deflated left rear Pirelli – sparking concern that something may be awry with the tires themselves. The red flags were shown as a full investigation by both teams and Pirelli began, with the findings revealing that the issues appeared to be caused by the car’s bodywork – in Williams case, the brake ducts. Magnussen’s problem has been reported as suspension related.

Williams’ Rob Smedley says that safety was the first thing on the team’s mind after the failures:

“It was a difficult morning for us with the problems on Felipe’s car. Safety of the drivers is of paramount importance to us, so after FP1 and before FP2 we had to ensure we had fixed the problem. The issue had ramifications on what we did at the start of FP2, which then had further ramifications and compromised our low fuel and high fuel runs."

Esteban Gutierrez
Esteban Gutierrez

Haas making 'clear mistakes' – Gutierrez
Esteban Gutierrez has described his latest reliability problems as "clear mistakes" rather than bad luck after completing just six laps during Friday practice in China.

Having retired from each of the opening two races through no fault of his own, Gutierrez's run continued in FP1 when an electronics problem confined him to the garage after just two laps. The afternoon session saw Gutierrez have to pit on his first run with his rear brakes on fire and his frustrations started to show after the end of FP2.

"It was something related to the electronics on the gearbox [in FP1]," Gutierrez said. "One cable that was not properly connected. Things keep happening, different things.

"It is very frustrating but at the moment my job is to keep the focus over the weekend for the rest of the weekend and build up the speed step by step in practice tomorrow ready for qualifying."
When it was put to Gutierrez he is suffering bad luck, he replied: "I don’t think it is bad luck at the moment, it is clear mistakes.

"We just need to work on not having those mistakes."

However, Gutierrez says he is determined to recover the situation as best he can this weekend.

"I just have to keep looking forward and solve it. We need to find a solution to this and keep fighting.

"I lost the full day, I have no data and no reference at the moment. I will have to build up progressively in FP3 and get ready quickly for qualifying."

Kevin Magnussen
Kevin Magnussen

Magnussen drama was suspension failure
Renault Formula 1 driver Kevin Magnussen said he had no warning about the rear suspension failure that caused his Chinese Grand Prix practice puncture.

Magnussen appeared to suffer a destructive left-rear puncture before setting a time in Friday's first session, shortly after Felipe Massa's own two issues with tires on the same corner of his Williams.

It prompted a lengthy red-flag period to clear debris and complete a thorough track inspection.

However, just as Massa's punctures were caused by a set-up issue, Magnussen said his was the result of a rear suspension failure.

"[It was] a suspension failure," he said of the cause of the puncture.

"And then the tire punctured after. [The car] sits down and then the tire touches the floor and then it rips.

"I was doing 300[km/h], 310, and I felt the car go. And then boom, starting to dance around. So no real warning.

"It was fairly easy to control, a straight line, not in a corner, so I just lifted off and stopped the car."

Renault kept Magnussen in his garage during the second session as it investigated the cause of the issue, which the Dane reported had been identified and was being fixed.

He admits he will be "catching up" for the rest of the weekend, especially if forecast rain does hit Shanghai on Saturday.

"I guess if it's wet, it is a blow," Magnussen said.

"Because then we need to set the car up for the race, which looks like it's going to be dry, and then I'm going to have no idea what I'm going into the race with, which is going to be a little bit tough.

"That's what we have, going to try our best."

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