Latest F1 news in brief – Monday

  • Mick Schumacher wins it Italy
    Mick Schumacher wins it Italy

    Italy hails new 'Schumi' after race wins

  • F1 must not repeat 'erratic' quali decisions – Wolff
  • McLaren 'confident' Alonso to race in China
  • GPDA letter a mistake – Johansson
  • 2017 rules could fail at Pirelli hurdle – report
  • Haas' controversial approach divides F1 opinion
  • Honda now turning focus to 'power'
  • Vettel – 'I am not a hero'

Italy hails new 'Schumi' after race wins
(GMM) Mick Schumacher is pressing the throttle on the next stage in his quest for future F1 glory.

The son of F1 legend Michael Schumacher, the 17-year-old is racing in both the Italian and German F4 series this year and at the weekend he kicked off his 2016 campaign with two wins in damp conditions.

Germany's Die Welt newspaper said that although the fiercely-private Schumacher family has guarded the youngster to date, he is now doing interviews and has launched an official website and Instagram account.

And the wider media is enjoying Mick's rise through the single seater ranks, with La Gazzetta dello Sport calling his performance at Misano at the weekend "spectacular".

Italy's Tuttosport agreed: "Schumi is back! But it's Mick, his (Michael's) legacy".

Carrying the torch at Michael Schumacher's old team Ferrari, meanwhile, is Sebastian Vettel, who said the seven time world champion is very much not forgotten at Maranello.

"What happened is tragic," the German told Welt newspaper's 'PS Welt' supplement. "For many people here, it is very hard when his name is mentioned.

"Those who have worked with him have tears suddenly in their eyes. The Italians and the Ferraristi have a strong relationship with Michael," Vettel added.

Toto Wolff
Toto Wolff

F1 must not repeat 'erratic' quali decisions – Wolff
(GMM) With the third round of the season now looming, F1 is heaving a collective sigh of relief that the hated 'musical chairs' qualifying is now gone.

"There was simply too much criticism," Jos Verstappen, a former F1 driver and father of Toro Rosso sensation Max, is quoted by De Telegraaf newspaper.

"The elimination system was a good idea, there were just too many teething problems. And a system with aggregate times would not have been appreciated by the neutral spectator," he added.

Getting rid of 'musical chairs' has been seen as a big win for the unanimously-opposed teams in the face of the might of Bernie Ecclestone and the FIA.

But Niki Lauda said: "We have offered to go away and look calmly at a new system that allows the objectives of Bernie to be achieved."

F1 supremo Ecclestone said the goal of 'musical chairs' was not just to spice up Saturday, but to shake up the grid.

So new ideas for 2017 and beyond are already being looked at.

"We've made a big enough muck up to do that for this year so must not do that again," Ecclestone told the British broadcaster Sky.

"We're looking at all these things which would be for next year obviously. Maybe having a race on the Saturday which would count instead of qualifying, for example," said Ecclestone.

But Toto Wolff, the Mercedes team boss, said F1 must never again introduce a fundamental change like a new qualifying format without properly assessing it first.

"The fundamental way we should tackle these things is to analyze them properly," he said. "Do some scientific research, look at what has worked in the past and what didn't and not just come up in an erratic way with some kind of 'Wait a minute, I have an idea, why don't we try it!'

"F1 is a global sport," Wolff insisted. "We have to be responsible to our audience and fans."

To that end, Wolff said his idea is for a top-eight shootout, "The last 8 cars, each car separately on track, maybe that would be an interesting format," he said.

Dennis and Alonso talk
Dennis and Alonso talk

McLaren 'confident' Alonso to race in China
(GMM) McLaren is "confident" Fernando Alonso will be shown the green light for his return to racing action this weekend in China.

With the McLaren-Honda driver sidelined in Bahrain with chest injuries following his huge Melbourne crash, Spaniard Alonso has been giving insight into his recovery to followers of his social media accounts.

On Twitter, his latest posts are photos of his former wins for Ferrari and Renault in Shanghai.

On Facebook, he published videos of himself enjoying downtime at his home with his entourage including physio Fabrizio Borra, and on Instagram he showed a photo of what appears to be a big bruise on his back.

"Gradually increasing the training session," Alonso wrote on Saturday. "Mainly indoor bicycle and elastics — the ones you are allowed with a broken rib! Happy with how things are going."

Alonso will not be cleared to race in China until a meeting with FIA doctors on Thursday.

"We are confident that Alonso will pass the test, but the FIA will have the final word," McLaren team boss Eric Boullier is quoted by El Mundo Deportivo newspaper.

Stefan Johansson

GPDA letter a mistake – Johansson
(GMM) F1 veteran Stefan Johansson has blasted today's drivers for their recent open letter.

Although signed off by the Grand Prix Drivers' Association (GPDA), it emerged recently in Bahrain that the letter was in fact backed by the entire field of F1's active drivers.

But some, like Jacques Villeneuve, have hit back at the drivers, with the 1997 world champion telling them to "shut up".

Former McLaren and Ferrari driver Stefan Johansson agrees that the GPDA letter, highly critical of F1's governance and direction, was "a very bad idea".

"All the letter did was state the obvious and I love the way Bernie dealt with it. Essentially he agreed with them but corrected their spelling and grammar, which only underlines the respect and reaction it got from the people it was meant to be addressed to," the Swede wrote on his blog.

The current drivers, however, have defended the letter on the basis that they are in fact well-placed to contribute at a difficult time for the sport.

"We are willing to help, as we are fans of this sport as well," Williams driver Valtteri Bottas told Finnish media on a visit to the country last week.

"So far, nothing has happened. We don't have any right to vote in these decisions that are taken," he added.

But Johansson, 59, thinks Ecclestone is right in simply answering "No" when asked if the drivers should be given a seat on a body like the F1 Commission.

"As long as the voice of the drivers is not one of the top guys, I don't think anyone will give two hoots about what they have to say," he said.

"Their current president (Alex Wurz) is not even an active driver anymore. Judging by the various comments from various teams and the governing bodies, I think they did a good job at shooting themselves in the foot, that's all," Johansson added.

However, yet another former driver, Gerhard Berger, thinks the drivers at least have the right to express their opinions.

"I think it's their right to open their mouths," the former McLaren and Ferrari driver told Germany's Auto Bild.

"The drivers are the only ones who are sitting in the cars, but the decisions need to end with Bernie and Jean Todt.

"One of the big problems nowadays is that everyone has a say and so decisions are forever stuck in working groups," Berger added.

"The leadership of formula one has sufficient knowledge, experience and intuition to make quick and correct decisions."

2017 rules could fail at Pirelli hurdle – report
(GMM) F1's radical rules changes for 2017 may stumble at the last hurdle, Germany's Auto Motor und Sport reports.

Earlier, it emerged that eight of the 11 active teams actually now oppose the rules for much faster cars next year, fearing they will only increase costs and actually exacerbate the sport's overtaking problem.

Explaining how hard it is for one car to follow another due to the aerodynamic 'wake', Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says: "The same will happen next year, but much more.

"I think for F1 in general and for overtaking, adding downforce was the wrong decision."

FIA official Charlie Whiting, however, has played down those fears by saying at least half of the slashed laptime next year will actually be due to "wider tires" supplied by Pirelli.

But that is precisely the problem.

Although Pirelli has signed a deal with Bernie Ecclestone for 2017 and beyond, the contract with the governing FIA is yet to be finalized.

One of the reasons for the delay is that Pirelli's demands not only for more testing but an adequate test car to trial the bigger tires for 2017 have not yet been met.

"If we are going to set them targets, they want the tools with which to achieve those targets," Whiting admitted.

But he said that teams have vowed to supply Pirelli with a 2015 car modified to simulate 2017 levels of downforce.

Where this car will actually come from, however, is still unknown.

"It would cost 10 million euros," a source is quoted as saying.

The source explained that championship-contending teams will not want to waste that expense on a tire testing car, while those further back on the grid simply don't have the money.

"Who will pay for it?" Auto Motor und Sport quotes Force India's Bob Fernley as wondering. "Will the wind tunnel testing count towards the 25 hour (per week) allowance?"

The approach American Gene Haas took toward F1 was very smart
The approach American Gene Haas took toward F1 was very smart

Haas' controversial approach divides F1 opinion
(GMM) The early success of the new F1 team Haas is splitting opinion in the paddock.

While some hail Romain Grosjean's double points-scoring efforts in Australia and Bahrain, others wonder if the close alliance with Ferrari is really a good thing for F1.

Frenchman Grosjean, meanwhile, is delighted at his decision to leave Enstone on the eve of the new works Renault project.

"Some people said it was suicide for my career," he told L'Equipe, "but I'm sorry for those guys who were wrong."

Indeed, former McLaren and Ferrari driver Stefan Johansson is impressed, not only with Grosjean but the new Haas model of becoming effectively a 'B' team.

"If you look at Sauber, Force India, Manor and the rest who sit at the back of the grid and rise or fall a little bit every year and wind up being similar at the end of day, you have to ask why" he said on his blog.

"What Haas has done seems to me to be the obvious way to go."

Johansson says he has worked closely in the past with Pat Symonds, who declared last week that he thinks the Haas 'model' threatens the very notion of what a F1 constructor is.

"Well," Johansson commented, "something has to change.

"When the bottom teams are spending close to $100m per year, something is seriously wrong. Everyone in the paddock is well aware that the model is unsustainable, yet everyone seems shocked at what Haas has done.

"Shame on everyone else for not adopting the same idea," he added.

It is undeniable, however, that all of Haas' F1 rivals at the moment are fundamentally full constructors, so Force India thinks the new team could run into trouble when it comes to developing in 2016 and preparing for 2017.

"The more stringent the rules regarding wind tunnel and CFD usage become, the more difficult the work between these manufacturer and client teams will be," deputy boss Bob Fernley is quoted as saying by Auto Motor und Sport.

Sauber team manager Beat Zehnder agreed: "What will they do in five years, when the rules are even stricter and you have to build the whole car yourself?"

Honda to now focus on power
Honda to now focus on power

Honda now turning focus to 'power'
(GMM) Honda is ready to push ahead with finding more performance from its 2016 power unit.

After the unmitigated disaster of 2015, when McLaren and Honda reunited but finished an embarrassing ninth overall, this season has started better for the Anglo-Japanese collaboration.

But the once-great team is still not yet a contender, causing former McLaren driver Kevin Magnussen to poke fun at the Woking outfit at the weekend.

On Instagram, the now Renault driver published a 'meme' depicting Michael Schumacher's three-wheeled Ferrari of 1998, after a famous collision with David Coulthard at Spa.

The text reads: "Still faster than a McLaren". Magnussen later deleted the post after criticism from his followers.

Honda has taken most of the blame for McLaren's struggles, but the Japanese marque is now pressing ahead with ramping up the performance of its turbo V6.

"We focused first on the reliability and I think despite the problems in Bahrain we've made some improvements," Yasuhisa Arai, Honda's latest F1 chief, is quoted by Italy's Autosprint.

"Now we will focus on engine performance and power, knowing that our current level is not good enough to take position in Q3," he admitted.

Vettel does not consider himself a hero
Vettel does not consider himself a hero

Vettel – 'I am not a hero'
(GMM) Quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel insists he has no desire to behave like a "hero".

While the reigning title winner Lewis Hamilton is commonly called a F1 "superstar", Ferrari's Vettel refuses even to sign up for Twitter or Instagram.

"I am a normal person like everyone else on the road," he told the Die Welt newspaper supplement called 'PS Welt'.

"I am no better, just because I can drive faster than other people. I'm not saving anyone's life, I'm not a hero," Vettel insisted.

A fiercely-private young father of – reportedly – now two children, 28-year-old Vettel says he cannot relate to the 'selfie' generation.

"This generation that constantly takes photos of itself is beyond me," he said.

Vettel also admits to not totally relating to the modern iteration of the sport he excels in. "The new (F1) rules are, I would say, very futuristic," he said.

"The cars have become more efficient in terms of consumption, but whether this thrills the audience or even the drivers, I am not sure," added Vettel.

He also said the rules have become too "opaque", further alienating the sport from its base, while he says the recent wrangling over qualifying was simply "embarrassing".

"We must be careful not to lose the spirit of F1," Vettel insisted.

"Since I have been here we have done a great deal to improve the sport — some (changes) have succeeded, many have not. Some things now are too artificial and the audience finds it hard to identify with that," he added.

Nico Rosberg is 100% correct
Nico Rosberg is 100% correct

Rosberg Voices Concerns Over 2017 Regulation Changes
Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg is concerned F1 "is heading in the wrong direction with the 2017 regulations and fears overtaking will become even more difficult," according to William Esler of SKY SPORTS.

Plans "are afoot to make the cars five seconds per lap quicker" by introducing wider rear tires and increasing downforce.

However, while wider tires "should increase mechanical grip and help the show, adding more downforce is only likely to increase the dirty airflow which currently makes it nigh on impossible for one car to follow another closely."

Rosberg said, "I’m concerned about the fact that we are trying to make the racing more exciting and so I am worried that it is the wrong direction. We know that to go quicker we need more downforce which is what we are aiming for and with more downforce it is more difficult to follow other cars. We know that, that is a fact. So I’m worried that it is not the right direction."

Force India Deputy Team Principal Bob Fernley confirmed that "adding downforce is part of the plan and expects the new rules to be signed off by the end of April."

He said, "I think we have to go with what our capabilities are. We are looking at the wider tires, more aggressive sexy design, adding some downforce and we have to work within the capabilities of the tire manufacturer which is guiding us in what they can do." SKY SPORTS

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