Latest F1 news in brief: Thursday

  • F1 will have egg on its face in Bahrain as well
    F1 will have egg on its face in Bahrain as well

    Four teams rejected qualifying compromise

  • F1 teams already looking towards 2017
  • Local official says Monza 'will be saved'
  • Todt also responded to GPDA letter
  • Verstappen 'moves on' after Melbourne anger
  • Ferrari have tire advantage for Bahrain – Surer
  • Raikkonen engine survived Melbourne fire
  • Merhi still not ruling out F1 return
  • Early 2016 win 'very important' – Rosberg

Four teams rejected qualifying compromise
(GMM) McLaren and Red Bull were not the only teams that objected to the tweaking of the highly-controversial 'musical chairs' qualifying system for Bahrain.

We reported on Wednesday that because those two teams rejected the FIA's proposal to tweak only the 'Q3' segment after the farcical debut in Melbourne, the sport is stuck with the same hated format for this weekend.

A senior insider told us McLaren, in particular, felt so strongly about wanting to revert to the full 2015 format that it was not prepared to accept the FIA "fudge" proposal.

Germany's Auto Motor und Sport now reports that Toro Rosso and Williams also opposed the only FIA alternative on offer, which was to stick with 'musical chairs' countdowns in Q1 and Q2 and revert to a 2015-style Q3.

FIA race director Charlie Whiting confirmed: "The strategy group, F1 Commission and the World Council approved the new format before the season.

"We are still ready to modify it, but not return to the old rules," he added.

Daniel Johnson, the respected young F1 correspondent for the Telegraph, said the four non-compliant teams should not be blamed.

"It was the failure of the FIA," he said, "to (not) allow the teams to vote on a return to 2015's qualifying format which broke the consensus.

"The lack of leadership by the FIA fits a worrying trend," Johnson added.

So it means that when it comes time to set the grid for the Bahrain grand prix on Saturday, F1 fans will face a repeat of the farcical Melbourne situation.

"Yes it does (come as a shock)," former F1 driver Mark Webber told the Daily Mail. "I thought we were leaving Melbourne in good shape with a decision to go back to a system which was working pretty well.

"But that's not the case and we are back to the Melbourne scenario which even at its best will struggle to equal what we had," he added.

Haas team to start on 2017 car
Haas team to start on 2017 car

F1 teams already looking towards 2017
(GMM) F1 teams will now begin to turn their focus towards designing a car for the all-new technical regulations of 2017.

While April 30 is the actual deadline for the new rules, it is now essentially clear that F1 will speed up substantially next year with a blueprint for wider cars and tires.

"Before too long he (Adrian Newey) will be starting to look at 2017," confirmed Red Bull's Christian Horner, "now that those regulations look pretty fixed."

Haas team owner Gene Haas added: "We're moving on to the 2017 car because it is a pretty radical change."

And Williams deputy Claire Williams told Christian Sylt in the Independent: "It will be a challenge because we'll be designing those (2017) race cars alongside this year's.

"But that's a good thing and I think it demonstrates that the drive is there to try and do something to help drive people back to their TV sets to watch the sport."

Monza to be saved says local official
Monza to be saved says local official

Local official says Monza 'will be saved'
(GMM) A local sports official is confident Monza will secure its place on the F1 calendar for 2017 and beyond.

Negotiations between Bernie Ecclestone and race organizers are ongoing and reportedly troubled, but Oreste Perri, president of Lombardy's Olympic committee, is upbeat.

"Just now I spoke with my delegate of Monza and he told me the grand prix will be saved," he is quoted by local reports including Mediaset.

"We must continue to work on it because we do not want it to be safe for one year only and then we are talking about it again," Perri added.

"Monza is Monza and I think formula one would lose a lot without it."

However, F1 supremo Ecclestone warned only on Sunday that the sport could survive without one of its most historic venues.

"I don't think we have to have Monza or an Italian grand prix," he told F1 business journalist Christian Sylt in the Mail on Sunday.

"Somebody once told me a funny thing that you couldn't have formula one without a race in France. But we do," added Ecclestone.

Jean Todt (R) with Claire Williams
Jean Todt (R) with Claire Williams

Todt also responded to GPDA letter
(GMM) FIA president Jean Todt also responded to the F1 drivers' public complaint about the sport's current governance.

Just after the 2016 season opener, the Grand Prix Drivers' Association (GPDA) revealed an open letter to F1 "stakeholders" expressing formal concern about recent decisions made on the sporting, technical and business sides.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone responded almost immediately, telling the drivers: "It is easy to analyze what is wrong so why not think and come back on this. At least it is better to think before you wish."

France's L'Equipe reports on Thursday that FIA president Todt has also responded, albeit "confidentially".

When asked about Ecclestone's response, GPDA president Alex Wurz said: "We are glad to have an answer, which he also disclosed to the media.

"Then it's one thing to have an answer but another to be heard and listened to. We are waiting for that now," the Austrian and former F1 driver added.

Wurz said it is imperative that F1 makes smart changes in the near future in order to address not only a decline in the sport's general popularity, but also that of motoring in general.

"I completely agree," he said.

"At a meeting of a working group dedicated to motor sport, I said "Car sports will have no problem as long as children love to play with toy cars and dream of driving them.

"But today that is less the case because of changes in society, with new technologies and the emergence of social media. We must adapt to these changes in behavior," Wurz added.

Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen

erstappen 'moves on' after Melbourne anger
(GMM) Max Verstappen says he has "moved on" after losing his cool at the Australian grand prix.

The 18-year-old, who made expletive-filled radio calls to the Toro Rosso pitwall in Melbourne, was furious about a bungled pitstop and being stuck behind teammate Carlos Sainz.

"I have never seen Max as angry as he was in Melbourne," father and manager Jos told the Swiss newspaper Blick ahead of round two in Bahrain, "neither in public or in private."

But Max insists he is over it now, even though his latest Twitter post is a video of him shadowboxing with his father alongside the caption 'Ready to rumble!'

"The race was a little bit frustrating, for sure," he said, "but it was not hard to move on from that because you just analyze what went wrong and try to do it better next time."

Verstappen qualified 'best of the rest' behind the top four cars in Australia, but he is not expecting even Ferrari to be able to challenge Mercedes in Bahrain.

"To be honest I don't expect people to be able to challenge Mercedes at the moment," said Max. "They're a bit too far ahead, but hopefully soon Red Bull and Ferrari of course will be able to challenge them."

Can Vettel smoke the Mercedes' in Bahrain?
Can Vettel smoke the Mercedes' in Bahrain?

Ferrari have tire advantage for Bahrain – Surer
(GMM) Mercedes might have made a tactical blunder in its preparation for this weekend's Bahrain grand prix.

That is the view of former F1 driver turned German-language pundit Marc Surer, after Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel almost beat the silver cars two weeks ago in Australia.

Now, Mercedes is expecting another tough battle in Bahrain.

"Ferrari were a real threat all weekend in Melbourne and it's clear that we've got a big battle on our hands," said Australia GP winner Nico Rosberg.

And now, the pundit for German Sky television, Surer, thinks Ferrari might even have the tactical advantage over Mercedes in Bahrain.

"Mercedes may regret having only one set of medium tires (per driver) available, as it was the compound with which they drove to victory in Melbourne.

"Ferrari on the other hand has three mediums (per driver) in the luggage."

However, Surer said teams actually made their tire choices for Bahrain long before Australia.

"It was impossible to predict what would happen in Australia," he agreed, adding that the new tire regulations for 2016 have succeeded in spicing up the sport.

"It is absolutely an improvement," said Surer. "The rules seem complicated, but in practice they are actually quite good."

Kimi Raikkonen
Kimi Raikkonen

Raikkonen engine survived Melbourne fire
(GMM) More reports claim Kimi Raikkonen's power unit has survived his fiery exit from the Australian grand prix.

The Finn retired in the pitlane as a marshal shot fire extinguisher fluid into his flaming airbox, but Italy's Autosprint said Ferrari was always confident the actual engine would survive.

"If we had seen on the telemetry that it was a problem with the power unit," said team boss Maurizio Arrivabene, "we would have asked Kimi to immediately turn it off rather than have him return to the box."

Turun Sanomat, a Finnish newspaper reporting from the scene of this weekend's Bahrain grand prix, said the problem was traced to the turbo.

"Ferrari is pleased that an engine change is not necessary," it said, adding that Ferrari sources confirmed that the quick thinking of the fire marshal was instrumental to limiting damage to just the turbo.

Raikkonen finished second in last year's Bahrain race.

He said this week: "Maybe I could have won but it's pointless to start guessing things, we were second and that's it. It was not too bad, but I guess it could have been better."

Merhi still not ruling out F1 return
(GMM) Roberto Merhi will complete the revival of the former Manor team in the world endurance championship this year.

With founders John Booth and Graeme Lowdon having left the F1 team that still bears the Manor name at the end of last year, 2015 driver Will Stevens was signed up to join them with a new entry in the LMP2 prototype category this season.

And the British driver will be joined at the team – whose Twitter handle is 'RealManor' – by his former teammate Merhi, it was announced on Wednesday.

"Actually the announcement caught me by surprise," the Spaniard told El Confidencial newspaper. "I was not expecting it this week.

"I picked up my phone as I woke up and was met with all the hype of the announcement," he laughed.

Merhi is disappointed to be leaving formula one, but said "It was very difficult to stay without sponsorship, even though there were possibilities to be a third driver.

"Manor is a team I know very well from F3 and F1 and I liked their offer to get into this (sports cars) discipline so let's see what can happen in the future," he added.

"The objective is to keep fit, and it is a good championship to move to the LMP1 category in the future or, who knows, go back to formula one," said Merhi.

Nico Rosberg
Nico Rosberg

Early 2016 win 'very important' – Rosberg
(GMM) Nico Rosberg has admitted that opening his 2016 championship campaign with a win was "very important".

The German has been beaten to the last two titles consecutively by his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton, but kicked off a run of winning form late last year that continued into Melbourne.

Australia was actually his fourth victory on the trot, but Rosberg told Sport Bild ahead of the second race of the season in Bahrain: "That may be nice statistically but I'm not thinking much about last year, except that it gave me a positive mood going into Melbourne.

"I'm here now," he added. "And it was very important to start the new season with a win, so perfect job so far."

However, it is also true that Rosberg was actually outpaced throughout the weekend in Melbourne by Hamilton, only getting ahead of the Briton at the start.

Indeed, Hamilton is not overly worried about trailing Rosberg after just one race of an unprecedented 21 this year.

"I have a good feeling about my pace," said the triple world champion. "I was ahead all weekend until the race start last time out, so I'm confident heading to Bahrain."

But Rosberg also says he is confident, even though his battle with Hamilton this year could be complicated by Ferrari's increased competitiveness.

"I enjoy the fight with Lewis and with Ferrari," Rosberg said.

"We (Mercedes) still have some lead, but Sebastian (Vettel) is quite close to us now."

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