Latest F1 news in brief – Thursday (Update)

UPDATE Updates shown in red below


  • Renault already looking ahead to 2017
    Renault already looking ahead to 2017

    Renault admits focus will shift to 2017

  • Raikkonen needs strong start to 2016 – manager
  • Manor can benefit from qualifying mistakes – Wehrlein
  • Ferrari link 'motivated' Haas switch – Grosjean
  • Ericsson thinks Sauber 'problems' over now
  • Verstappen wants 2016 podium, 'top car' in 2017
  • Honda to 'break cycle' in two years – Villadelprat
  • Radio clampdown not good for F1 – Alonso
  • F1 Team Functions As Marketing Vehicle For Haas Automation Brand
  • A very bad boy
    A very bad boy

    Toro Rosso Team Principal Accusing F1 Engine Manufacturers Of Stalling For Time

  • Hamilton Frustrating Mercedes Sponsors By Promoting Other Brands
  • Estrella Galicia 0,0 reinforces its commitment to Toro Rosso
  • Hulkenberg unfazed by Mallya troubles New
  • Williams' shorter nose passes crash test New
  • 2016 feature not working as planned – Pirelli New

Renault admits focus will shift to 2017
(GMM) Kevin Magnussen has more on his mind this week than the new color of his 2016 car.

Asked by the Danish press to rate out of ten his happiness as he returns to the grid, Magnussen beamed in Melbourne: "Eleven!"

But the glare of the world's media was on his RS16 car, now resplendent in traditional matte Renault yellow rather than the all-black interim testing livery.

"I care less about the color than whether the car is fast," Magnussen smiled to the Danish newspaper BT.

Unfortunately for the 23-year-old and his teammate Jolyon Palmer, the car is probably on the border of the points at best, after the eleventh-hour takeover of Lotus.

But Renault has taken a minor upgrade of its 'power unit' to the season opener in Australia, and it will also be supplied to customer Red Bull.

"I have received very positive feedback from Helmut (Marko)," Renault's Cyril Abiteboul said.

Indeed, Renault is expecting to be soundly beaten by its customer at least in 2016, as the French marque looks ahead with a greater focus into the new rules for 2017.

"Since we cannot fight for the top step of the podium this year," admitted technical boss Bob Bell, "we will look at the car for next year from an early stage.

"We will develop the current car during the season," he promised, "but perhaps not to the extent as would be the case in a normal year. 2017 will be a completely different car."

Therefore, the biggest difference between the RS16 tested by Magnussen and Palmer in Barcelona and the one to roar in Melbourne this weekend is the color.

"There has not been an awful lot (of car development) since then," the Dane admitted. "Generally it's the same car."

Kimi Raikkonen needs to show something
Kimi Raikkonen needs to show something

Raikkonen needs strong start to 2016 – manager
(GMM) Kimi Raikkonen's manager has admitted 2016 will be a crucial year for the 2007 world champion.

Most pundits are predicting that, if Ferrari is able to match Mercedes' might this season, it could be a three-way battle between the silver-clad drivers and Sebastian Vettel.

Indeed, Vettel's teammate Raikkonen has struggled during his current tenure at Ferrari, where he shared the team first with Fernando Alonso in 2014.

So it appears that a gaggle of up-and-coming drivers are targeting the 36-year-old's place for 2017.

Nico Hulkenberg, however, makes clear he is not among them.

"No," he told Auto Bild clearly when asked if he came close to moving to Ferrari for 2016. "And since I am both the driver and the manager, I always knew what was going on.

"I have renewed my contract with Force India until the end of 2017 and so I am firmly in this saddle."

But a trio of Hulkenberg's rivals probably have grander aspirations.

One of them is Romain Grosjean, who some believe switched from Lotus to Haas in order to take one step closer to Ferrari.

Another is Daniel Ricciardo, who is out of contract at Red Bull late this year.

"I'm really confident and hopeful that he'll land that Ferrari seat next year," Alan Jones', Australia's last world champion of 1980, told the Australian grand prix podcast.

A problem for Ricciardo, however, is that he beat Ferrari number 1 Vettel at Red Bull in 2014.

"Would Sebastian want Daniel in the same team at Ferrari?" former F1 driver David Coulthard wondered to AAP news agency on Thursday. "He knows how that went when they were together at Red Bull."

Indeed, it was Valtteri Bottas who came closest to moving to Ferrari for 2016, but may ultimately have been told by the Italian team to spend one more year honing his talent at Williams.

"I'm still a big fan of Valtteri's," Williams technical boss Pat Symonds told the Finnish news agency STT. "He is very good and our mission is to give him a winning car."

So with all that younger talent champing at the bit, the pressure is on Raikkonen to shine in 2016.

"Kimi seems to be very happy with the new car," manager Steve Robertson told the Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat.

"We both know how important it would be for him to get a strong start to this season. If Kimi can do that, he can fight for the world championship," he added.

Pascal Wehrlein hopes others screw up
Pascal Wehrlein hopes others screw up

Manor can benefit from qualifying mistakes – Wehrlein
(GMM) Pascal Wehrlein is looking past the qualifying controversy and instead sees an opportunity for the Manor team.

Many pundits and insiders are critical of the eleventh-hour 'musical chairs' tweak to the existing, popular elimination format.

"Why play with something that worked," veteran engineer Joan Villadelprat told El Confidencial, "when there are so many things that can be played with that do not work?"

Wehrlein's bosses at Mercedes, who have placed the 21-year-old at Manor for his 2016 debut, have even called the change "stupid".

As for the rookie German, he told Germany's Sport1: "We know the format could mean mistakes are made and of course we could benefit from that."

Wehrlein also told German reporters in Melbourne on Thursday: "First of all I would like to finish the race on Sunday.

"I would be really happy if we can be close to the other teams and fight with them — it is important that we are no longer a second behind them."

Meanwhile, Wehrlein admitted that he is in effect Mercedes' reserve driver in 2016.

Asked what would happen if Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg are unable to race, he answered: "We have not discussed it, but I guess I would probably jump in."

Romain Grosjean
Romain Grosjean

Ferrari link 'motivated' Haas switch – Grosjean
(GMM) Romain Grosjean has admitted that switching to Haas for 2016 moved him one step closer to a "dream" Ferrari seat.

To the surprise of many, the Frenchman turned down the opportunity to ride the transition of Lotus into the Renault works team in order to instead join F1's newest outfit.

"We will get the first idea about whether I was wrong or not here," the 29-year-old smiled to the French outlet RMC ahead of the Melbourne season opener.

"I'm not somebody who looks back — I made a choice and I will not have regrets.

"Overall, I'm happy with my choice and I feel so welcome at Haas. I know there will be difficult times because we are a new team but I hope we will also have a great time and keep our smiles," Grosjean added.

Haas has sided strongly with Ferrari for its new project, to the extent that many are saying it is effectively the Maranello marque's 'B' operation.

"Haas established a very intelligent technical partnership with Ferrari," Grosjean admits. "Mercedes did the same with Manor.

"If we have a problem, Ferrari will react quickly. This is something that motivated me to join the team. We should have fewer problems than other new teams that arrived in F1," he added.

And as for that tantalizing prospect of a works Ferrari seat in the future, Grosjean said he would not rule it out.

"I want to become world champion, for sure," he insisted. "Now I have 21 grands prix with Haas — it's a long season.

"One day, we'll see if it's Ferrari or not. I'm sure that for each driver, it is a dream to drive for the Scuderia."

Marcus Ericsson
Marcus Ericsson

Ericsson thinks Sauber 'problems' over now
(GMM) Sauber's drivers have put a brave face on swirling speculation about the future of the Swiss team.

Before the 2016 season even starts in Melbourne this weekend, it emerged not only that Sauber paid its staff late for February, but that technical boss Mark Smith has suddenly left the team.

Nonetheless, drivers Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson kicked off their stay in Melbourne this week with a trip to the local zoo, posing with kangaroos for the international media.

"It was fun. They are really nice and calm," Nasr, referring to the wildlife, is quoted by the German news agency DPA.

Less calm are the rumors about Sauber's future and finances, but Swede Ericsson insisted: "I have to focus only on the racing.

"I think there will be no more problems," he added.

As for Nasr, his manager Steve Robertson said it is an important season for the Brazilian.

"Felipe's second season means he now knows what to expect. He has been preparing carefully and is ready to squeeze everything right from the beginning," he told Finland's Turun Sanomat newspaper.

"We only hope that they (Sauber) have a strong package."

Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen

Verstappen wants 2016 podium, 'top car' in 2017
(GMM) Max Verstappen has joined his boss Franz Tost in targeting a podium for 2016.

After Toro Rosso chief Tost set the podium objective recently, team driver Carlos Sainz said he doubted the Faenza based outfit can achieve it.

Teenager Verstappen, however, is aiming higher than Sainz.

"Max has set the bar high for himself, but that's ok," the Dutchman's father, former F1 driver Jos Verstappen, told De Telegraaf newspaper.

Max, 18, confirmed that he is aiming for the podium.

"That's the goal. If you have had fourth places in the first year, the podium is the next step," he said.

And the next step after that, father Jos added, is a bigger and better team.

"Max is developing quickly," he said. "He is at Toro Rosso at the moment but I think next year he will be ready for the next step. We want to be in a top car."

With his audacious overtaking moves, Verstappen was a surprise standout of 2015. But that tenacity also landed him in trouble, attracting penalty points against his license amid the specter of a potential race ban.

"The penalty points system is a bit strange," Max said. "I got quite a lot of honors (awards) after last season which is a sign that I did something well, so what do they want me to do?

"Anyway, I can't change it and I certainly will not take a different approach to racing."

However, Verstappen may not need to be quite so audacious in 2016, as he is expecting more power from Toro Rosso's 2015-spec Ferrari engine.

"I hope to get them all on the straight now!" he smiled.

Honda to 'break cycle' in two years – Villadelprat
(GMM) F1 veteran Joan Villadelprat thinks Honda can eventually succeed in formula one.

"If they were alone, I'd say no," the Spaniard, a well-known former manager and engineer, told El Confidencial.

"As they are with McLaren, I say yes. I think they will break the current cycle in the next two years, especially if there is a strong change of regulations in 2017."

And Villadelprat said that when McLaren-Honda comes good, Fernando Alonso is still one of the very best drivers on the grid.

"The only thing that worries me is his motivation," he admitted. "But I know that if things start to work, we will see a more motivated Fernando to demonstrate the skills he has.

"I just wish he had the necessary tools. I don't think he can afford another year or two of frustration," said Villadelprat, who worked for the likes of McLaren and Ferrari.

As for the general pecking order in 2016, Villadelprat thinks little has changed since the end of last year.

"From what I've seen, Mercedes will stay above all the others unless something political forces them to do something different.

"The latter is important to understand," he added, "as there is great pressure on Mercedes in the sense that there may be a general discontent.

"But they have done an extraordinary job and the rest should be complimentary rather than envious," said Villadelprat.

Fernando Alonso pans F1 radio change
Fernando Alonso pans F1 radio change

Radio clampdown not good for F1 – Alonso
(GMM) Fernando Alonso thinks F1 is taking a backwards step with the further clampdown on pit-to-car radio communication in 2016.

The clampdown made a tentative first step last year, but now the allowed messages between the pitwall and the driver will be further tightened in a bid to end the impression that engineers are remote-controlling the cars.

It emerged in Melbourne on Thursday that only 24 radio messages are still allowed, including news about the weather, car damage and instructions to make a pitstop.

World champion Lewis Hamilton warned that the drivers' task will be tougher as a result.

"You will see stickers on the steering wheel because so much of it (the radio information) is just to keep the car going," he said.

And Alonso, already critical of the current 'power unit' and Pirelli tire-dominated era, warned that the radio clampdown could actually make the racing worse in 2016.

"I don't think it will give to the driver any more power to influence the race," said the Spaniard in Melbourne.

"Because of those limitations, the strategy for the race will be much more strict. We will follow, more or less, the (fixed) approach to the race – how we prepared in meetings – much more than before."

"It's strange the direction they are going," Alonso added. "In the era of communication and technology, formula one tries to restrict it, which is not really the normal way to go."

Gene Haas
Gene Haas

F1 Team Functions As Marketing Vehicle For Haas Automation Brand
When F1 rolls on Sunday to start its '16 season at Melbourne’s Albert Park, the starting grid "will feature something that hasn’t been seen in 30 years: a U.S.-led team," according to HJ Mai of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL.

And it "won’t be hard to identify the two cars of the Haas F1 Team either: They’ll be featuring the marks of team owner Gene Haas’ Haas Automation machine tool brand as their primary sponsorship."

Haas said, "Formula One is a premium brand, and our goal is to convey that premium brand to Haas Automation."

An industry source said that primary sponsorships in F1 range between $42M-$70M annually, so "there’s money being left on the table with the self-branding."

Haas said he "doesn’t expect his team to break even financially until year five." The company posted $1B in revenue for the first time in '14, but it still lags the likes of Germany’s Trumpf Group, which touts nearly $3B in annual revenue, on the global market.

Haas: "Right now, we have probably somewhere around a 1 or 2 percent market share in the world. If we can just go to 3 percent, that’s worth $400 [million] to $500 million."
CSM Sport & Entertainment has been working with the Haas F1 Team "to set up its long-term commercial plans and strategy."

CSM CEO Zak Brown: “The Haas Automation brand will get hundreds of millions of dollars in media exposure around the world. It’s the world’s largest annual televised sporting event. It’s an extremely efficient and economical way to build your brand around the world." SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL

GEARING UP: Haas F1 launched its official online store on Wednesday. The shop currently features only a limited selection of products ranging from a $36 men's graphic logo tee to a $96 replica sweatshirt.

More products are expected to be available in the coming weeks. Additionally, NBC Sports, the exclusive F1 broadcast rights holder in the U.S., will air a one-hour documentary about the team on Wednesday night. "Haas F1: America's Return To The Grid" chronicles the team's steps toward Sunday's starting grid and will premiere at 11:30pm ET on NBCSN HJ Mai, SBD Global

Franz Tost
Franz Tost

Toro Rosso Team Principal Accusing F1 Engine Manufacturers Of Stalling For Time
Toro Rosso Team Principal Franz Tost has accused Formula 1's engine manufacturers "of stalling for time with regard to the introduction of future power unit regulations," according to Ian Parkes of AUTOSPORT.

FIA President Jean Todt and F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone "threatened the introduction of an independent engine unless Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault and Honda came up with suitable proposals to address costs, supply, performance and noise."

But talks over the details "remain ongoing, and asked whether anything had changed" in the two months since the announcement, Tost replied, "They play it quite clever. They play the time card, and the longer we discuss, the less solutions we will come up with."

Tost is "adamant the manufacturers should bear the brunt of the costs given the relevance of the power unit to road-car technology."

Tost: "And what we missed in those days was saying, 'OK, if manufacturers are in Formula 1, if they come up with this new technology, which is technology for the future, then they should also pay for the possibility to present something all over the world, as a marketing tool.' They should pay for this, not the private teams. Now, it's the case that the private teams are covered with very high costs and this is not the correct way." AUTOSPORT

Lewis Hamilton does whatever he wants to
Lewis Hamilton does whatever he wants to

Hamilton Frustrating Mercedes Sponsors By Promoting Other Brands
Mercedes F1 driver Lewis Hamilton "has a tendency" to frustrate his team's sponsors by "promoting or wearing rival brands," according to Rob Harris of the AP. H

Hamilton does not "like to play by the rules — especially when it comes to clothing." But when Puma and clothing supplier Hugo Boss "are paying to sponsor F1's dominant team, they expect star drivers to be wearing their products."

Mercedes Dir of Legal & Commercial Affairs Caroline McGrory said, "It's constantly monitored. I always have to send stroppy messages on race weekends telling Lewis to stop wearing his bright yellow Louis Vuitton trainers when he should be wearing his Puma trainers."

McGrory also receives communications from Hugo Boss when Hamilton "turns up at fashion shows for competing brands." Hamilton was pictured last year at an Alexander McQueen show in London, tweeted an image from a John Elliott show at New York Fashion Week and wrote an article for the BBC which promoted Stella McCartney, Valentino and Chanel "but made no mention of Hugo Boss."

McGrory: "We get a phone call from Hugo Boss saying, 'Why is Lewis at an Alexander McQueen show?' He's doing that in his personal time. Actually he's allowed to do that. But it's a fine line, because then we have to phone Lewis up and say, 'Actually can you please not tweet so much about all these other fashion designers. Just say something nice about Hugo Boss now and then.'"

Drivers do not "like the fact they receive no additional cash from team sponsorships." McGrory said, "It also blocks out the category for the driver to be able to go and do their own personal deal." AP

Estrella Galicia 0,0 reinforces its commitment to Toro Rosso
Scuderia Toro Rosso is happy to announce that Estrella Galicia 0,0 is reinforcing its ambitious commitment to Formula 1 by strengthening the partnership agreement signed with the team last season.

As from this weekend in Australia, and for the whole 2016 World Championship, the beer brand will appear for the first time on the new STR11 of our two drivers Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen. Estrella Galicia 0,0 will be present on the car bargeboards, increasing significantly its visibility in comparison to last year. Franz Tost – Scuderia Toro Rosso Team Principal

"Following last year's fantastic co-operation, we are very happy that Estrella Galicia 0,0 has decided to confirm and increase the trust in Scuderia Toro Rosso.
"Like in 2015, their logo will feature prominently on the drivers' race suits, as well as on the team personnel's clothing, but in addition to this it will also be displayed on our new STR11's barge boards.

"Sponsors are the lifeblood not just of our team, but also of the sport of Formula 1 in general, so it is particularly pleasing to tighten our relationship with Estrella Galicia 0,0, towards what I expect to be an exciting season. Our companies share the same philosophy of being young and dynamic, with Carlos and Max being the perfect combination of drivers for both of us. In the name of Toro Rosso I want to thank the Estrella Galicia 0,0 management for this decision, I am convinced that we will achieve great results together." Ignacio Rivera – CEO at Hijos de Rivera

"Today is a very important day for the Company, a day that we are extremely proud of as it represents another step forward in our agreement with Scuderia Toro Rosso and our involvement in F1.

"We both share the same values and philosophy to support young talents, as is this case of Carlos and Max, who I am sure will offer us lots of happy moments this season.

"We are delighted and very satisfied for accomplishing a dream nobody thought we could, with the added incentive of achieving it during the year that we celebrate our 110th anniversary".

Nico Hulkenberg with Mallya and Perez
Nico Hulkenberg with Mallya and Perez

Hulkenberg unfazed by Mallya troubles
(GMM) Nico Hulkenberg on Thursday put a brave face on the speculation swirling around the future of Force India.

The speculation is the result of team co-owner and boss Vijay Mallya's legal troubles in India, with the former billionaire said to be appearing for questioning relating to huge debts on Friday rather than attending the 2016 season opener in Australia.

"Of course I read about what is going on," Hulkenberg, who drives for Mallya's F1 team, said in Melbourne.

"But it's hard to make a judgement when you don't know all the facts.

"All I know is that there have always been these stories about Vijay, but he is still there," the German added.

Williams to introduce shorter nose
Williams to introduce shorter nose

Williams' shorter nose passes crash test
(GMM) Williams' much anticipated new nose for its 2016 car has finally passed the mandatory crash tests.

Auto Motor und Sport reported from the Melbourne paddock that the ultra-short nose, right at the limit of the regulations at just 85cm, will make its bow in Bahrain in two weeks.

"It took us 10 to 12 tries" at the crash test, smiled technical boss Pat Symonds.

Coming with the short nose is a new front wing and aerodynamic details underneath the car, which according to Symonds is "one of the biggest steps for us in recent years".

However, only one version of the package will be ready by Bahrain.

Asked who will get it, Felipe Massa answered: "The driver who gets the most points in Australia."

Paul Hembery
Paul Hembery

2016 feature not working as planned – Pirelli
(GMM) Paul Hembery on Thursday admitted Pirelli's efforts to design tires that reach a sudden grip 'cliff' did not work out as planned for 2016.

We have reported that, to force more pitstops and spice up the show, a feature of this year's tire construction is a special layer that, when reached, results in a sudden performance dip.

But "In reality, the tire wear is not exactly as we would like," international media reports quote Hembery as having said in Melbourne.

And he said changes to the construction will not be made in-season, as the bulk of Pirelli's efforts will be on preparing for the vastly different regulations for 2017.

Pirelli's F1 chief Hembery also admitted that, while Bernie Ecclestone has signed off the commercial deal, Pirelli is yet to conclude definitive contracts with the FIA to remain in F1 beyond 2016.

"It is more a question of legal formalities," he said.

"However, an intensive dialogue is continuing and we are already pretty well advanced in those."

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