Latest F1 news in brief – Thursday

  • Vettel among drivers speaking out
    Vettel among drivers speaking out

    F1 drivers say governance threatens sport's future

  • As Britain switches, Wurz worried about F1's pay-TV future
  • Verstappen says no feud with Sainz
  • Rosberg first in queue for 2017 talks – Wolff
  • Hamilton returns fire after Charlie Whiting criticism
  • Renault not giving up on 2016 – Vasseur
  • Lauda denies Mercedes still sandbagging
  • Monza not giving up on Italy GP yet
  • Schumacher was right about Vettel – Clear

Button also involved
Button also involved

F1 drivers say governance threatens sport's future
(GMM) F1 drivers have caused a stir by criticizing the governance of the sport.

An open letter published by the normally safety-oriented Grand Prix Drivers' Association (GPDA) was described by some media on Wednesday as being an "extraordinary revolt" and an "astonishing act of public rebellion".

Headed by Alex Wurz and current F1 racers Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel, the body described "some recent rule changes" and "some business directions" as "disruptive".

The letter did not refer to any changes in particular, like for example the to-ing and fro-ing over the qualifying format, but claims F1's current governance "could jeopardize (F1's) future success".

However, the GPDA insisted its letter should not be taken as a "blind and disrespectful attack", as "every individual acts with the very best (of) intentions".

"Therefore, the drivers have come to the conclusion that the decision-making process in the sport is obsolete and ill-structured and prevents progress being made," the letter added.

Coming just days after the farcical debut and rapid-fire axe of 'musical chairs' qualifying, GPDA president Wurz insisted to publications after revealing the letter that it is not a mere "knee-jerk reaction".

"This statement was well considered and planned between all drivers for quite a while now and discussed again in Melbourne," the Austrian told the BBC.

In London, Jack de Menezes reported the letter read, "The Grand Prix drivers would like to state our following position: We drivers love our sport! Since childhood, we dreamed of racing the fastest race cars from the top teams on the coolest tracks against the best drivers in the world. We seek competition and love F1 almost unconditionally, which makes us most probably the people with the purest interest for Formula 1, beside our fans.

Formula 1 is currently challenged by a difficult global economic environment, a swift change in fan and consumer behavior, and a decisive shift in the TV and media landscape. This makes it fundamental that the sport’s leaders make smart and well considered adjustments. We feel that some recent rule changes — on both the sporting and technical side, and including some business directions — are disruptive, do not address the bigger issues our sport is facing and in some cases could jeopardize its future success."

While the GPDA has not identified "any individual decisions that it is concerned with," it is known that the recent qualifying changes "are not alone in leaving the grid confused and upset with the constant flow of alterations."

The limitations imposed on radio communication over the past two seasons have "also prompted a backlash, with drivers left unsure as to what they can discuss" during race with their engineers. INDEPENDENT

REUTERS' Alan Baldwin reported the letter added that the decision-making process "reflected negatively on the sport, compromising global growth" and preventing it being fit "for the next generation of fans." The GPDA represents most of the F1 grid, with "some exceptions," and serves as a common voice and negotiating body with Ecclestone and the FIA.

Alex Wurz
Alex Wurz

As Britain switches, Wurz worried about F1's pay-TV future
(GMM) F1 needs to adapt to the changing shape of the world and media.

That is the view of Alex Wurz, who on the same day as the release of the GPDA's controversial open letter on the state of the sport also spoke to the Austrian newspaper Kurier.

Also late on Wednesday, Bernie Ecclestone announced that pay channel Sky will be given exclusive television rights to formula one in Britain from 2019.

That sort of trend is worrying Wurz, a former F1 driver and now president of the drivers' union.

"F1 has pursued a rigorous business model in the past two years to switch from public to pay television in some countries," he said.

"Despite good financial results, the viewing figures have dropped," Wurz argued. "But in countries where the TV contracts have not changed, the ratings have stayed the same and even risen slightly here and there."

Wurz argues that more of the same thinking is eroding the very foundation of F1 today — the fans.

Lewis Hamilton, for instance, has reportedly been forbidden by F1 supremo Ecclestone to film with his iPhone actual footage inside the paddock, for use in his increasingly notorious 'Snapchat' videos.

Asked if F1 risks alienating a new audience, Wurz answered: "Absolutely. This is a good example of how the formula one model needs to be adapted.

"One thing that is unstoppable is technology, and the ways in which one can reach new fans has changed. They are no longer sitting and waiting for us in front of the TV."

He thinks F1 can learn something from the world of Le Mans prototype car racing, where Wurz has applied his driving talent in recent times until retiring.

"Le Mans as a single product is extremely good because it is authentic and has a very clear message," said Wurz. "Man and machine against 24 hours.

"Formula one is lacking this kind of clarity," he said. "Some talk of it as a sport, others as a show."

Max Verstappen And Carlos Sainz Jr
Max Verstappen And Carlos Sainz Jr

Verstappen says no feud with Sainz Jr.
(GMM) Max Verstappen has played down claims his rivalry with teammate Carlos Sainz has turned into a feud.

The Dutchman was furious at the Australian grand prix, launching foul-mouthed tirades on the radio after getting stuck behind the sister Toro Rosso.

In an interview with Laureus, Verstappen admitted he was frustrated.

"Qualifying was absolutely perfect," said the 18-year-old.

"Then in the race we had some miscommunications, I would say, and not a great finish."

But when asked if it means he is now feuding with Spaniard Sainz, Verstappen insisted: "Honestly, it doesn't really feel like that.

"Off-track, everything is going well, so there are no issues and it doesn't affect me. I think everyone wants to beat their teammate," he added.

Verstappen admitted, however, that after the long-haul trek back to Europe from Australia, he hasn't had a chance to sit down with Sainz yet.

"But I do not see big problems with this," he said.

With Williams declaring that the Faenza based team has raced ahead in 2016, Verstappen agreed that Toro Rosso "has improved" since last year.

But when asked about the possibility of winning a race for Toro Rosso this year, as Sebastian Vettel managed to in 2008, he answered: "That would be going a bit too far.

"You always dream and have hope, but we would need a lot of luck for that."

Nico Rosberg
Nico Rosberg

Rosberg first in queue for 2017 talks – Wolff
(GMM) Nico Rosberg is first in the queue to race with Mercedes in 2017.

That is the claim of team boss Toto Wolff, with media reports in Germany declaring that 30-year-old Australian grand prix winner Rosberg's current deal is definitely expiring late this year.

"Nico is part of the Mercedes family," Austrian Wolff told Sport Bild. "So he will be the first person we speak with. Then he has to tell us what he imagines also."

It is clear that, shortly behind Rosberg in the queue is Pascal Wehrlein, the strongly Mercedes-backed reigning DTM champion who has been placed at Manor this year for his F1 debut.

"Pascal has been given the responsibility at a young age to lead the Manor team," Wolff said. "We will watch him closely and then decide how to proceed with his career."

Lewis Hamilton not happy
Lewis Hamilton not happy

Hamilton returns fire after Charlie Whiting criticism
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton has hit back at Charlie Whiting for singling him out over the course of the Australian grand prix weekend.

Following the world champion's claim that drivers are not consulted on rule changes, F1 race director Whiting revealed that a key meeting was actually held at the Barcelona tests "but he (Hamilton) didn't come".

"It's interesting that Charlie complained about me," Briton Hamilton is now quoted as responding, according to Kolner Express newspaper.

And quoted by Speed Week, Hamilton added: "It was true that I was not there (at the meeting) in Barcelona. I was at a meeting with the Mercedes engineers.

"It is also very rare that anything is implemented as a result of our observations at such meetings," he insisted.

"At most of the ones I've been to, Sebastian Vettel is the only one who talks. So why do I need to be there? I can read about what has happened later.

"I can only say it again that the decision-makers should consult us more," Hamilton continued.

"For example, we have only one clutch lever now, but did the starts become more difficult? No they did not.

"For sure I've never been asked about the problem of following the car that is in front of you, which was a problem in Australia," he added.

Frederic Vasseur
Frederic Vasseur

Renault not giving up on 2016 – Vasseur
(GMM) Renault has not given up on the 2016 season, team boss Frederic Vasseur insists.

After the eleventh-hour takeover of Lotus, it had been reported that the French carmaker will quickly turn its attention to making a new car for 2017.

But engine customer Red Bull is talking up a Renault engine upgrade that is scheduled for Montreal, and now boss Vasseur confirms that improvements in 2016 will be made.

"We have some updates on the way as we know that there is work to do on both the engine and the chassis," he is quoted by the Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet.

"Right now we must focus on 2016 in order to get the maximum out of our people and the car. We will decide when we shift the focus to 2017 later on," Vasseur added.

"It is important to keep our people under pressure by getting the best out of the races — to completely ignore the 2016 season would be a mistake," he said.

'The Rat' lying through his teeth?
'The Rat' lying through his teeth?

Lauda denies Mercedes still sandbagging
(GMM) Niki Lauda has hit back at claims Mercedes is still sandbagging, one race into its 2016 championship campaign.

It was rumored the dominant champions of 2014 and 2015 held fire on its full performance potential over the winter, and Red Bull's Dr Helmut Marko charged even after Melbourne that Mercedes could actually have "lapped the field".

The suspicion is that, amid the political goings-on, a close battle between Mercedes and Ferrari will calm suggestions the current 'power unit' era has been an abject failure.

But when asked if Mercedes was really worried about being beaten by Ferrari in Australia, F1 legend and team chairman Lauda insisted: "I was very worried.

"We almost lost to them, did you not see it?" he is quoted by the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

The reporter agreed that the gap between the two top teams in Melbourne appeared to be small.

"Ferrari threatened to win the race, there is no 'but' about it," Lauda charged.

As for claims Mercedes is exaggerating the closeness of the gap for the sake of the show, he answered: "Rubbish. The truth is that there was no gap at all between the two cars. It was only the red flag that saved our life otherwise they would have won.

"It was the most exciting grand prix that I have seen for three years at least," declared Lauda.

"I think it was the best grand prix of this era."

Monza not giving up on Italy GP yet
(GMM) All hope that Monza will keep hosting the Italian grand prix beyond 2016 is not lost yet.

That is the claim of the fabled Autodromo Nazionale's operating company Sias, hot on the heels of reports that negotiations with Bernie Ecclestone have broken down terminally.

"Autodromo Nazionale Monza has not received any official communication regarding the failure of the negotiations to renew the agreement with FOM," Sias declared in a statement.

"We therefore reiterate our confidence in Angelo Sticchi Damiani, president of the (Italian automobile club) Aci, that he is doing everything possible to ensure that Monza continues to be the natural home of the grand prix in our country," it added.

It has been reported the next host of the Italian grand prix could be Imola, having last staged a round of the world championship in 2006.

Jock Clear learning just how good Vettel is
Jock Clear learning just how good Vettel is

Schumacher was right about Vettel – Clear
(GMM) Michael Schumacher was "absolutely right" to have urged Ferrari to sign up Sebastian Vettel for the future.

Well-known F1 engineer Jock Clear has returned from a year of 'gardening leave' to take up a leading position at Ferrari, where Vettel is now regarded as the Maranello's great hope of reviving the Schumacher-esque glory days.

And Clear knows Schumacher well, having worked with him at Mercedes until the great German's second and final retirement from the sport.

"Michael Schumacher always boasted about Sebastian," the Briton is quoted as saying by Speed Week. "And he was absolutely right.

"Now that I work with Sebastian at Ferrari, I can confirm that nothing Michael had said about him was exaggerated," added Clear.

"It is especially his incredible loyalty to detail that Vettel has that brings the best out of all the staff and drives the team forward. His contribution is invaluable, and the nature of his work is precisely the difference between a four-time world champion and other drivers in the pitlane," he said.

Clear says he is happy to have returned to F1, after a full year away.

"It's not easy to go from being at every race for 21 years to suddenly sitting at home on the sofa and watching on TV — it's not fun," he admitted.

"I also found it remarkable how quickly you lose the pace of the decision-making that goes on in F1. I am still getting back up to speed — qualifying and the race were a shock," he smiled.

"Luckily I have great people around me."

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