Jos Verstappen (L)
Strife may not hold Sauber back – Jos Verstappen
- Renault not spending more as works team – Stoll
- 'Silly season' not more important in 2016 – Bottas
- Mercedes 'has the edge' on Ferrari – Jos Verstappen
- 'Mature' Hamilton tips better Rosberg relations
- CVC sale could change how F1 is run – Ecclestone
- Red Bull F1 Facing Bleak Future
- F1 Has Become 'Too Much Of A Technology Race'
- Limits on F1 radio communication will make driving harder
- Lauda: New F1 qualifying stupid
Strife may not hold Sauber back – Jos Verstappen
(GMM) Sauber's already-troubled 2016 campaign has taken another hit with the shock departure of its technical boss.
Mark Smith only joined the Swiss team mid last year, but he has "decided to go back to the UK for family reasons", Sauber admitted in a media statement mere days before the season opener in Melbourne.
It is just the latest blow for Sauber, after confirming it fell behind in the payment of its February salaries for most of its 300 staff based at Hinwil.
"The drivers seem pretty excited about the car," noticed former F1 driver Jos Verstappen, "especially compared to last season.
"But the team is struggling with financial problems," the Dutchman, also father to Toro Rosso racer Max Verstappen, said in a pre-season feature for De Telegraaf newspaper.
"But Sauber also had the 'Sauber-gate' (Van der Garde) story last year and then had their best race of the year in Melbourne. So who knows?" Verstappen Snr added.
Elsewhere, Williams confirmed rumors that Adrian Sutil has been replaced as the official reserve driver for 2016 by another former Force India racer, Paul di Resta.
The Scot will split his new F1 duties with the DTM touring car calendar, admitting it will be "a busy year".
Renault not spending more as works team – Stoll
(GMM) Renault is apparently not having to spend much more on its formula one programmed despite returning to full works status in 2016.
As well as supplying Red Bull once again this year, the French carmaker acquired the struggling Lotus team ahead of the new season.
Jerome Stoll, the Renault Sport chief who was instrumental in the negotiations to buy Lotus and ramp up Renault's official F1 income, admitted that the company's solid financial results in 2015 were helpful.
"Having good accounts helps," he told a French-language interview with AFP news agency, "but the target set by our president was clear that it (being a works team) should not cost more than being only a supplier.
"That's what happens now," Stoll insisted.
"The economic equation is comparable because as a team we have access to the FOM rights (income), but the image from being a team is much better — it is nothing like being only a supplier," he added.
Stoll, however, said everyone at Renault and Enstone is aware that actual results on the track will not be instant.
"I do not want to disappoint or over-promise," he said, "as 2016 will be a rebuilding year.
"We want to give ourselves time to build up something more robust. We are not returning to F1 only for the passion of competition, but as part of a business plan around the technology," explained Stoll.
'Silly season' not more important in 2016 – Bottas
(GMM) Valtteri Bottas has played down claims he might be caught up in a more hectic than usual 'silly season' later this year.
The Finn's boss Claire Williams recently predicted a chaotic grab for the best 2016 race seats will take place, as there will be potential vacancies at Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull and elsewhere.
Bottas, 26, was already caught up in the 2015 silly-season when he was strongly linked with Ferrari, admitting afterwards that it affected his focus.
So when asked about how the 2017 driver market will shape up, he said: "Honestly, it will not be much different to any other year.
"The season is very important as always because, in F1, every season is important," Bottas told Finnish media including the broadcaster MTV.
"I have not changed my approach at all. I know that stress and pressure doesn't help anything, so it's better to just enjoy and try to perform as well as you can."
At the same time, Bottas is desperate to step his career up a notch this year, even though Williams looks set to be in a tight battle behind the Mercedes and Ferraris.
"Victory is my goal for this year," he said.
"If it requires me to take more risks then I will, because I just want to win."
However, in 2015 Bottas was often overshadowed by his older teammate Felipe Massa.
"I want the situation to be clearer this year," said Bottas. "I want to be ahead of him more often. It is my goal.
"In testing I had a very good feel for the car, so I set myself very high ambitions in this respect," he added.
|The Aldo Costa designed Mercedes is the best says Verstappen|
Mercedes 'has the edge' on Ferrari – Jos Verstappen
(GMM) Jos Verstappen thinks Mercedes will come out of the blocks in Melbourne this weekend with its dominance intact.
The German team has easily won every drivers' and constructors' title in the new 'power unit' era, and had a conspicuously smooth winter pre-season period.
"Let's hope Ferrari has made a big step forward," said Verstappen, a former F1 driver and the father of Toro Rosso sensation Max.
But he added in a pre-season preview for the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf: "Mercedes definitely has the edge over the rest.
"I walked around the circuit during the test days in Barcelona and the extremely good handling of that car is obvious. Plus a surplus of power."
Perhaps a more interesting question, the former Minardi and Benetton driver mused, is whether Lewis Hamilton can keep his position at the top of the Mercedes tree.
"For (Nico) Rosberg I think it's five minutes to twelve," said Verstappen. "This must be his year, otherwise his situation will become very difficult."
Behind the silver-versus-red battle, the 44-year-old Dutchman said Williams and Red Bull are closely matched, but Force India is also in the mix.
"The only thing that is somewhat uneasy about the team (Force India) is the situation around Vijay Mallya," said Verstappen, referring to his high-profile legal troubles and the specter of arrest amid his Kingfisher airlines debt.
"It could have an impact on the team," he mused.
Further back in the midfield, said Verstappen, will be the new Renault works team, even though in the wake of the Lotus buyout "the car is faster than I had expected".
"They have replaced Pastor Maldonado with Kevin Magnussen and that's a good move," he said.
"Maldonado might have given color, but in my opinion it was not the right color for formula one," added Verstappen.
He is also impressed by McLaren-Honda, who according to Verstappen has taken "the biggest step" forward of any team between 2015 and 2016.
"Personally, the car looks really interesting to me," he said. "The big question mark is the (Honda) engine, but I think they (the team) will be close to Toro Rosso."
Finally, Verstappen commented on F1's new team, the Ferrari-linked American outfit Haas.
"They were expressing a lot of confidence in the tests," he said, "but now the team owner has admitted to having somewhat underestimated the project, especially on the technical side.
"I think they can be fairly fast, but they will be nearer the back of the grid. And that makes sense for a new team," said Verstappen.
|Hamilton has to be more humble in 2016 as he probably knows his teammate has been preordained as the 2016 F1 champion|
'Mature' Hamilton tips better Rosberg relations
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton thinks he and Nico Rosberg will handle their rivalry better than ever in 2016.
Although once friends as boyhood karting teammates, the Mercedes duo has had a notably rocky relationship in the last two years as they fought at the front for the world championship.
And now, an even more intense battle could be looming for 2016, as German Rosberg is riding a wave of pole and race-winning form.
"I think Nico will continue to be strong," predicted Hamilton in a pre-season interview with the German broadcaster RTL.
"There are times when he is strong and others where I am stronger," added the Briton. "But I don't see any change.
"As we arrive at the first race, I don't know — I'm looking forward to a close race. It will be a tough fight as it always is, but as we get older and more mature, I hope that we can deal with it better," said Hamilton.
Some believe Rosberg's late-2015 form is explained by Hamilton's post-title shift in focus, but the German may also have taken advice from team chairman and F1 legend Niki Lauda.
Asked what has made the difference as Hamilton won the titles in both 2014 and 2015, Lauda said: "With his character, he just 'bites' more. He doesn't give an inch and just drives full-risk.
"Rosberg has come to me and said 'What Lewis did was unfair'," Lauda told the Austrian broadcaster ORF, but I say 'Why are you on the outside again? Stay inside, and then the reverse will be true'."
Finally, Hamilton has begun his trip 'Down Under' with a run-in at a New Zealand casino, tweeting that staff at Sky City Auckland, New Zealand, "treated me like dirt".
The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper speculated that Hamilton fell afoul of the casino's banning at tables of sunglasses, hats and mobile phones.
Hamilton later deleted the tweet, and Sky City tweeted: "So sorry to hear Lewis Hamilton didn't have a good time with us last night. We pride ourselves on being good hosts — we're following up with him".
|Ecclestone (L) says if CVC no longer calling shots things could change|
CVC sale could change how F1 is run – Ecclestone
(GMM) CVC's decision about selling formula one could change how Bernie Ecclestone runs the sport, the F1 supremo said on Tuesday.
The potential sale has been on the cards for months, but Ecclestone is now urging CVC co-chairman Donald Mackenzie to make a decision.
"I'm hoping that Donald Mackenzie will decide if he wants to dispose of the company or not," he said, "because if not we will be running it perhaps in a different way than we do today and we can make a lot of improvements."
Ecclestone, 85, has been openly critical of the hands-off approach of FIA president Jean Todt, and the fact the competing teams and manufacturers cannot agree a way forward.
The Briton said recently that F1 has now reached the point at which he would not bother spending money on a ticket as a spectator.
"I have been running things with my hands tied behind my back a little bit," Ecclestone told Tuesday's business section of the Telegraph newspaper.
"I'm still running the company like a public company," F1 business journalist Christian Sylt quoted him as saying.
"There are lots of things I would love to do which I haven't done because CVC has been very clear that the company has to be run like a public company," he added.
Last week, it emerged that F1's board commissioned a report to look into the running of the sport, amid speculation it might urge them to plan for life after Ecclestone.
"It was a report to see if the company needs help," Ecclestone confirmed on Tuesday. "The result is that we could do with some help with servicing our partners."
|Christian Horner knows Red Bull will again be out to lunch|
Red Bull F1 Facing Bleak Future
Red Bull F1 faces a "bleak future" that could mean it never wins another title, according to Kevin Eason of the LONDON TIMES.
The team starts the new season "as outsiders" in a sport it once dominated. Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner "refused to face the question," but even he was "unable to put forward a case for optimism in a sport riven by self-interest."
There are only two competitive engine suppliers in F1 — Mercedes and Ferrari — and "neither want to supply Red Bull for fear of unleashing a beast that would beat them."
Horner said, "Until the engine rules are sorted out, we are at a disadvantage and we can’t hide that. Ferrari and Mercedes are engaged in a power struggle with the people who control the sport — and we are caught in the middle.
"We know that Mercedes and Ferrari do not want to supply us with competitive engines and there is nothing we can do about it, which means we have to do the best with what we have. Until that changes, nothing changes. But everyone has to realize that sport is entertainment and to have entertainment, you have to have competition."
There will be more than one team in the F1 paddock in Melbourne that "will think this is no more than" what Horner and Red Bull Owner Dietrich Mateschitz deserve.
One source said, "Look, it is payback. They ruled the roost and no one liked it — especially Ferrari and Mercedes. Now they are getting a dose of their own medicine while Ferrari and Mercedes carve things up between them." LONDON TIMES
|Any driver can win in a Mercedes|
F1 Has Become 'Too Much Of A Technology Race'
Red Bull F1 Team Principal Christian Horner said that Formula One has become "too much of a technology race" and drivers once again need to be the "heroes," according to Rebecca Williams of the HERALD SUN.
Horner’s comments come as Australian Daniel Ricciardo "called for more noise and equal machinery as part of his blueprint for the future of the sport."
Horner said that the sport had moved away from "pure racing" and drivers' skill was not as much of a factor "as it should be." Horner said,
"The drivers need to be the heroes. At the end of the day, without the fans, there is no Formula One. We have a responsibility to put on a show for the fans and it should be man and machine at
the limit and it’s too much of a technology race at the minute as opposed to pure racing."
FIA said last month that new bodywork rules were aimed at creating "more exciting cars, delivering additional downforce to increase speeds and lower lap times."
Horner: "I would like to see cars that are harder to drive that sort the men out from the boys, that they can race wheel to wheel, that they are going to be spectacular and you’re going to think ‘Wow’ when you see that car live" HERALD SUN
|Drivers will have to use their brain more in 2016|
Limits on F1 radio communication will make driving harder
AUTOSPORT's Lawrence Barretto reported defending F1 champion and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton said that this season's increased restrictions on radio communications will make life "a lot harder" for drivers.
There will be a stricter enforcement of the regulations around radio messages, requiring each F1 driver to drive his car "alone and unaided."
Mercedes Exec Dir Toto Wolff believes the rules will make drivers "more prone to making mistakes or wrong strategic decisions during a race."
Hamilton: "It is a big change and whether or not I agree with all the of the implications I think it's definitely going to make it a lot harder" AUTOSPORT
Lauda: New F1 qualifying stupid
MOTORSPORT's Pablo Elizalde wrote three-time world champion Niki Lauda believes the new elimination Formula 1 qualifying format introduced for '16 is "stupid."
The new format has "not been well received by several drivers." Lauda, a non-exec chair at Mercedes, joined the group of detractors, although he said that "it is a better alternative than reversed grids," an idea proposed by F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone.
Lauda: "The new format seems stupid. … The initial proposal was to reverse the grid, with the fastest time in 10th place and so on. For us at Mercedes it was not a compelling idea. So it was better to accept the other proposal, though I don't know if everything will be ready in Melbourne to deliver it." MOTORSPORT