Latest F1 news in brief: Friday

  • Lauda laughs at ridiculous 'musical chairs qualifying'
    Lauda laughs at ridiculous 'musical chairs qualifying'

    Qualifying situation 'crazy' – Lauda

  • Vettel denies F1 already fast enough
  • Rivals surprised after Alonso sidelined
  • Verstappen apologized to Toro Rosso
  • Ferrari admits Verstappen 'interesting' for future
  • Red Bull drivers try 'halo' alternative
  • Haas denies car failure caused Alonso crash
  • Massa still waiting for new Williams nose
  • Paddock 'Snapchat' ban for Hamilton
  • Vandoorne to use number 47 for debut as Alonso's replacement
  • Force India Team Principal Offers To Repay Less Than Half Of His Airline's Debt

Qualifying situation 'crazy' – Lauda
(GMM) A meeting to analyze the future of F1's qualifying format has already been scheduled for Bahrain.

In the paddock on Thursday, the widespread feeling was that the sport was "crazy" to have not scrapped the new 'musical chairs' system after Australia.

"It's crazy," said F1 legend Niki Lauda, "because we saw in Australia what happened. The teams and drivers were all in agreement.

"Nevertheless, Jean Todt wants to try again. And (Bernie) Ecclestone. Because they feel that their toes have been stepped on," the Mercedes team chairman told Osterreich newspaper.

"They say 'We make the rules!' So now we still have this stupid qualifying," added Lauda.

Also exasperated at the situation on Thursday was quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel, who likened it to F1 forcing fans to eat vanilla ice-cream when all they want is chocolate.

"Usually you do what your clients want you to do, so you're not really doing your job if you do the exact opposite," the German said angrily.

"This is something they can't be proud of."

But, for now at least, 'musical chairs' is still in place.

"I'm curious to see how the audience responds," said Lauda.

However, it emerges that the low-profile FIA president Todt, as well as Ecclestone, have traveled to Bahrain where a new meeting about qualifying will take place.

"I hope it is better here," said Haas' Gunther Steiner, "but after qualifying we will hold a meeting to figure out how to move on."

Paddock confidence, however, is not high. "My engineers say it's going to be exactly the same this weekend (as in Australia). So the fans are going to be unhappy again," said reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton.

"I just hope they do something afterwards."

According to one rumor, the F1 drivers are so collectively angry about the sport's decision-making process that they are asking for a seat at the F1 Commission.

"We've got different ideas," said championship leader Nico Rosberg when asked about the rumor, "but I don't want to go into detail at the moment.

"But qualifying is the perfect example — it cannot be that everyone is against this new qualifying, everyone wants the old one back, but we are here and it's like this because of a couple of people.

"As drivers we do want to contribute more to making the right decisions for the sport," the German added.

Vettel says F1 cars not too fast
Vettel says F1 cars not too fast

Vettel denies F1 already fast enough
(GMM) Sebastian Vettel has hit back at suggestions speeding up the cars for 2017 is not the right direction for F1.

With the tires and cars set to be wider next year, and the wings bigger, world champion Lewis Hamilton and others are concerned the real problem – the lack of genuine overtaking – is being ignored.

Indeed, that feeling is now becoming so widespread that there are rumors F1 could back-paddle on its 2017 plans, particularly because Hamilton's pole in Australia was actually empirically fast.

His laptime was just three tenths off Vettel's qualifying record of 2011, set in his V8-screaming Red Bull, and actually faster than Michael Schumacher in 2004, during the so-called 'glory years' of cornering speed and V10 power.

Vettel was quoted by Auto Motor und Sport on Thursday: "The problem is not the speed on a qualifying lap. The problem is the race.

"We are miles behind the pace of 2009 and 2010, because the cars are too heavy, we're carrying so much fuel and because the tires degrade too much," said the Ferrari driver.

Asked what his solution would be, Vettel answered: "I would get rid of the hybrid technology and return to conventional engines. What we have now is responsible for many of the problems that we're currently dealing with."

Alonso talks to Ron Dennis
Alonso talks to Ron Dennis

Rivals surprised after Alonso sidelined
(GMM) Fernando Alonso's rivals were surprised on Thursday when it emerged the Spaniard had been sidelined in Bahrain for medical reasons.

"I said 'Wow'," admitted fellow F1 veteran Jenson Button.

Alonso's countryman and friend Carlos Sainz added: "I knew he was not 100 per cent, but I did not expect that he would not race. I think it was a surprise for everyone."

Esteban Gutierrez, who was involved in Alonso's high-speed crash in Melbourne, agreed: "I was with him after the accident and happy that everything with his health was ok.

"Then I heard on Monday that he was not 100pc but I'm sure he will recover soon."

However, just as there was skepticism amid Alonso's mysterious winter testing crash early last year, that same sort of speculation is now doing the rounds again.

Gary Hartstein, the former F1 doctor, said on Twitter that "rib fractures do not require CT scans to diagnose".

And while Spain's AS newspaper said the condition and Alonso's Melbourne crash are not related, the McLaren driver reportedly suffers from something called 'Poland syndrome' as he has underdeveloped chest muscles on one side.

There is also the lingering story about Alonso's official merchandise being still unavailable on the McLaren website.

Alonso, however, is hoping to be fit by China in two weeks, but until then will be replaced by team reserve and reigning GP2 champion Stoffel Vandoorne.

However, the Belgian was in Japan for a Super Formula test when he got the urgent call-up from boss Eric Boullier on Thursday.

"I hope he gets some sleep on the plane!" said his new teammate Button.

"But he's an experienced driver, he's been here (in Bahrain) several times and won in GP2 last year," the Briton added, "and he also knows the car from the simulator and the way we work as a team."

24-year-old rookie Vandoorne's McLaren predecessor, Kevin Magnussen, also backed the Belgian to get up to speed quickly.

"I think he will be on Jenson's level straight away," said the Dane. "The McLaren simulator is great and it was good enough for me in my first race so I don't think it's a problem for him.

"He is definitely ready but it will be a little annoying for him to know that after one or two races he will have to get out of the car again, so he will need to do everything possible in this opportunity," Magnussen added.

Max Verstappen got a talk'n to
Max Verstappen got a talk'n to

Verstappen apologized to Toro Rosso
(GMM) Max Verstappen has revealed he apologized to Toro Rosso for his foul-mouthed radio abuse in the Australian grand prix.

"I apologized to the team for my comments on the radio," he told the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf. "I have to communicate more calmly next time."

The 18-year-old F1 sensation was furious in Melbourne about a botched pitstop and not being waved through to pass teammate Carlos Sainz, after qualifying an impressive fifth.

"It was not the best way to react but I was emotional. That says something about my mentality as well," the Dutchman insisted. "I always want to win."

Also in Bahrain, teammate Sainz was asked if he and Verstappen had sat down to clear the air.

"Well with Max, what did I do wrong?" Spanish media reports quote him as responding. "It's more about him and the team to find out what happened to him or his strategy or his pitstops."

Verstappen had been so angry in Melbourne, however, that the youngster lunged at Sainz and actually made contact with the Spaniard's sister car.

"He hit me," agreed Sainz, "but luckily nothing happened. Of course it's not ideal if someone is saying 'I am much faster, let me pass' because it wasn't true.

"But we both know what is expected of us and what we need to do in the coming races," he added.

Ferrari admits Verstappen 'interesting' for future
(GMM) Ferrari has joined Mercedes in admitting its interest in F1 teen sensation Max Verstappen.

"It is clear that he has a great future in F1," Mercedes' Toto Wolff said recently. "It would be stupid not to consider him as the opportunity arises.

"But at the moment this is not an issue," added Wolff, referring to the fact that Verstappen, 18, is firmly under long-term contract to Red Bull.

The longevity of that deal, however, reportedly depends on whether the young Dutchman is promoted to Red Bull Racing for 2017.

He currently drives for Toro Rosso, so if his paymasters want to keep him at the secondary team, Verstappen may become a free agent.

Indeed, Finland's Ilta Sanomat newspaper claims Red Bull is planning to free up a seat for Verstappen by relegating Daniil Kvyat to Toro Rosso for 2017.

That is because not only Mercedes but also Ferrari has a potential seat open for 2017, as Kimi Raikkonen's deal runs out this year.

"There are several interesting guys and he is one of them," team boss Maurizio Arrivabene, referring to Verstappen, told Corriere della Sera newspaper in Bahrain.

2007 world champion Raikkonen, however, has not been ruled out of the running.

"He did not get the opportunity to prove anything in Australia," Arrivabene said.

Normally, Ferrari prefers to rely on more experienced drivers than rookies, although Arrivabene said: "We are willing to open the doors to young talents, but if you make hasty or wrong choices you run the risk of burning careers."

Finally, Arrivabene played down Ferrari's chances of dominating this weekend in Bahrain, even though rivals Mercedes are talking up the red team's game.

"It is true that our car has improved a lot," said the Italian. "But I suspect when I hear Toto and Niki (Lauda) saying 'Ferrari will surely win in Bahrain', it is because they can then say either 'We told you' or 'We were very strong'.

"So I prefer to stop with these predictions," Arrivabene added.

He admitted, however, that the pressure being put on Ferrari to perform in 2016 by president Sergio Marchionne is very high.

"I do not see anything strange (about that)," said Arrivabene. "I would be more worried if we had a president who is happy with second and third place."

Red Bull 'halo' alternative
Red Bull 'halo' alternative

Red Bull drivers try 'halo' alternative
(GMM) Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat have tried a mock-up of Red Bull's alternative to the 'halo' cockpit protection concept.

Unlike the chicken wishbone-style 'halo', the Red Bull alternative is essentially an open-topped canopy protected by a forward-facing, bulletproof windshield.

Felipe Massa recently questioned whether the side supports would compromise visibility when drivers are cornering, but after sitting in an early mock-up at the factory Ricciardo said: "I didn't find the visibility too bad.

"The struts are about where the mirrors are. I haven't sat in the Ferrari (version) obviously but I just think our system covers a larger area."

Force India's Nico Hulkenberg is no fan of covering the cockpits, but he revealed on Thursday: "I like the Red Bull solution better. Also because there is the shield, so we would be better protected from smaller parts."

Also with 'halo', the issue of driver extraction has been raised recently, particularly after Fernando Alonso quickly escaped from his wrecked McLaren-Honda in Melbourne.

Ricciardo said: "I didn't find it too hard to get out of the car (with the Red Bull alternative). I think with our version Fernando could have gotten out ok."

Teammate Kvyat added: "Our system is better than halo. But the windshield is a question mark if for example the car in front of you loses oil."

Asked what solution there might be for that problem, the Russian smiled: "I don't know. I would suggest leaving the cockpits open!"

Why was Gutierrez going so much slower than Alonso? The team is not saying
Why was Gutierrez going so much slower than Alonso? The team is not saying

Haas denies car failure caused Alonso crash
(GMM) F1's newest team has denied speculation Fernando Alonso's crash in Melbourne was caused by a failure aboard the Haas car driven by Esteban Gutierrez.

With the Spaniard having hit Gutierrez at top speed from behind before braking, rumors have indicated the MGU-K system may have malfunctioned, affecting the Mexican's ability to brake normally.

"Yes, I know there were many rumors but the truth is there was nothing out of the ordinary, no loss of performance," Gutierrez told the Spanish broadcaster Movistar in Bahrain.

"I'm just happy that no one was seriously injured," he added, "but the accident was a misjudgment by Fernando, that's all."

Haas team boss Gunther Steiner confirmed that Gutierrez had not suffered a failure of any sort.

Gutierrez is sitting in a new chassis for this weekend's Bahrain grand prix, but he revealed that it was not being struck by Alonso that caused the damage to his original car.

"The suspension and floor were damaged but that could have been repaired," he said. "Unfortunately the (recovery) crane caused a crack in the chassis, which is not ideal but fortunately we had another."

Massa waiting for new nose
Massa waiting for new nose

Massa still waiting for new Williams nose
(GMM) The Williams team is still waiting for its highly-anticipated new ultra-short nose to touch down in the Bahrain paddock.

But even when it does arrive from Britain, it will not get fitted to Valtteri Bottas' car.

"Felipe (Massa) has more points," he is quoted by Finland's Turun Sanomat newspaper. "So if the front wing gets here, it will go on his car."

It is believed the earliest the single version of the new front assembly will then be fitted to Massa's car is Saturday morning.

"It should arrive tomorrow," the Brazilian said on Thursday, according to Globo. "We may not use it in practice. The idea is to have it on the car on Saturday morning."

A lot is riding on the performance of the new nose, with Bottas admitting that Williams risks falling behind both Toro Rosso and Red Bull and perhaps even Force India.

"That's why every little step forward at this point would help," he said.

"I still believe we are stronger than last year, but everyone has improved and some have made bigger jumps than us. Now we have to develop the car more."

Massa agrees: "The car was designed for this front. The indications in the wind tunnel and simulator are that it is an important improvement, but we won't know for sure until we see it on the track."

Hamilton was a bad boy again
Hamilton was a bad boy again

Paddock 'Snapchat' ban for Hamilton
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone has banned Lewis Hamilton from filming footage for his increasingly notorious 'Snapchat' videos inside the F1 paddock.

The reigning world champion has taken to summarizing his global travels with the social media app, ranging from his famous motorcycle 'selfie' in Australia to bizarre footage of himself sitting on an airplane toilet last week.

But according to Bild newspaper, F1 supremo Ecclestone has made it clear that the Mercedes driver must not film footage inside the paddock.

"My team has informed me that this is not allowed," Hamilton, 31, confirmed.

Led by Ecclestone, F1 is famously protective of its highly-exclusive video rights, with broadcasters paying millions in annual license fees.

However, while disappointed about the video ban, Hamilton said he is determined to continue to express his unique personality, even though he has critics.

"It doesn't bother me what people say," said the Briton.

"When I was younger I held more back, but as I separated from my father as my manager I got my first tattoo and the move to Mercedes was the decisive step to showing who I am."

He continued to explain to Germany's Auto Bild: "I remember at the beginning of my career Ron (Dennis) told me it was time to get a haircut. If someone told me to do that again I wouldn't, but at Mercedes nobody does anyway.

"It was a process that makes me the man I am today. And everyone is different," Hamilton added.

Stoffel Vandoorne
Stoffel Vandoorne

Vandoorne to use number 47 for debut as Alonso's replacement
Stoffel Vandoorne will use the number 47 for his Formula 1 debut at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Vandoorne, McLaren's reserve driver, has been called up to replace Fernando Alonso, who suffered a pneumothorax and broken ribs in his violent accident at the season opener in Australia.

Belgian racer Vandoorne, 24, claimed last year's GP2 title, and has made multiple Formula 1 test appearances for McLaren-Honda, most recently at Pirelli's dedicated wet-tire test at Paul Ricard in February.

Vandoorne's number was confirmed on the FIA's entry list, published on Thursday afternoon.

Vandoorne was in the middle of a two-day Super Formula test at the Okayama circuit in Japan, but immediately boarded a flight to Bahrain after hearing that Alonso would miss this weekend's event.

Vijay Mallya
Vijay Mallya

Force India Team Principal Offers To Repay Less Than Half Of His Airline's Debt
F1 team Force India Team Principal Vijay Mallya has proposed to repay 40B rupees ($600M), "less than half of what his defunct Kingfisher Airlines owes" to creditor banks that have approached the nation's highest court to recover their dues, according to Mohanty & Tripathy of REUTERS.

Mallya, who left India on March 2 and whose "exact whereabouts since then are not known," made the offer on Wednesday to the group of lenders led by State Bank of India to pay the sum by late September.

A lawyer for Mallya also told India's Supreme Court that Kingfisher "could pay another" 20B rupees ($300M) to banks if it wins a lawsuit "seeking damages from a plane engine maker."

Kingfisher, "once India's second-biggest airline," ceased operations more than three years ago after a stretch of losses, leaving creditors, suppliers and employees with unpaid dues. As of last November, it owed the group of banks about $1.4B including interest and fees REUTERS

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