Latest F1 news in brief – Monday

  • Ferrari gap down to a few tenths says the sandbagging Mercedes team
    Ferrari gap down to a few tenths says the sandbagging Mercedes team

    Ferrari gap down to mere tenths – Mercedes

  • Magnussen 'bigger talent' than Palmer – Doornbos
  • Kaltenborn hopes March salaries paid on time
  • Rosberg contrasts 'focus' with Hamilton's lifestyle
  • Mercedes-like dominance not new in F1 – Montoya
  • 'No alternative' to Schumacher silence – manager
  • 'Musical chairs' to go ahead in Melbourne
  • Mercedes warns 'musical chairs' could backfire on F1
  • Williams Appoints Paul di Resta as Reserve Driver for 2016

Ferrari gap down to mere tenths – Mercedes
(GMM) Mercedes is getting specific amid its claims Ferrari has definitely closed the gap over the winter.

Silver-clad figures have been playing up Ferrari's chances of mounting a challenge this year, and now team chairman Niki Lauda is even willing to put a figure on it.

"It isn't Mercedes' fault if we've been faster the last two seasons," the F1 legend told Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"Our goal is to continue that but I think the gap has been reduced. Last season we had a 0.6 second advantage over Ferrari but they are closer this season. Our gap may come down to 0.2 so anything can happen," Lauda added.

Toto Wolff, the Mercedes team boss, agrees.

"Ferrari has definitely made a leap," he told the Austrian broadcaster ORF.

"Already from 2014 to 2015 they developed really well, and now they have continued that.

"If we have a head-start, it is not like it was last year — we are talking about two, three tenths. Maybe just one," said Wolff.

Wolff was also quoted by Germany's Auto Motor und Sport: "Ferrari looks very good. From testing we saw some really interesting laps from them that show they are on the pace."

And driver Nico Rosberg said: "Ferrari has really improved, and I believe they will even bring an upgrade to Melbourne. We will have a real fight with them."

Asked by the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag how many wins he is expecting the Maranello team to capture in 2016, Rosberg answered: "Lots. They are strong. Really strong."

Doornbos does not rate Palmer
Doornbos does not rate Palmer

Magnussen 'bigger talent' than Palmer – Doornbos
(GMM) Former F1 driver Robert Doornbos says he is not expecting Renault to shine in 2016.

One of the problems, the former Minardi and Red Bull driver said, is Jolyon Palmer, who Doornbos does not rate highly.

"He was the GP2 champion in 2014," the Dutchman acknowledged to Ziggo Sport Totaal, "but that was in my view a very weak achievement."

However, Palmer – making his F1 debut this year with Renault after serving as the Enstone team's Friday driver in 2015 – did beat the likes of Stoffel Vandoorne and Felipe Nasr in 2014.

But Doornbos insisted: "Magnussen is a much bigger talent."

The 34-year-old also has doubts about Renault, following the carmaker's eleventh hour takeover of the struggling Lotus outfit.

"I saw little of them in Barcelona," said Doornbos, referring to the recent winter tests.

"I believe that of all the teams, they were surely the ones who did the least kilometers. That does not help when they are testing a new engine in an existing chassis."

Monisha Kaltenborn says workers will be paid
Monisha Kaltenborn says workers will be paid

Kaltenborn hopes March salaries paid on time
(GMM) The sponsorship and income situation in formula one has left Sauber fighting for survival.

The Swiss team has at least caught up with late wage payments to its 300 staff at Hinwil, with an apologetic boss Monisha Kaltenborn promising better times ahead.

"I really regret the situation and hope we did not put anyone in difficulty," she told the Swiss newspaper Sonntagsblick.

"The March salaries should be paid on time," Kaltenborn revealed.

Sauber appears to have suffered a fate similar to Force India a year ago, with Kaltenborn confirming that "the first three months of the year are the most cost-intensive".

"Yes, it was an effort to bring the car to the starting line," she admitted, after the 2016 car was delayed. Sauber is, however, now setting up camp in Melbourne for this weekend's Australian grand prix.

But beyond that, things are less clear, with Kaltenborn saying the search for sponsorship is particularly difficult at present.

"Extremely difficult," she emphasized. "Even teams like McLaren are looking for a main sponsor."

Kaltenborn is also highly critical of F1's official income distribution system, which favors the richest and therefore most successful teams over the rest.

"The structural weakness of formula one is twofold," she said. "There is the technical side, where everything is increasingly complex and expensive. Then there is the commercial side."

As for what Kaltenborn is expecting on the track this year, she answered: "Mercedes will dominate again, that much is clear.

"Our situation is more difficult to assess, because we know little about (the performance of) our direct competitors. But the feedback from the drivers after the test was positive," she added.

Nico Rosberg focussed on beating Hamilton, but really it comes down to the Mercedes engineer's keyboard. A few strokes of the keys and you are a hero, another few strokes and you are a zero
Nico Rosberg focussed on beating Hamilton, but really it comes down to the Mercedes engineer's keyboard. A few strokes of the keys and you are a hero, another few strokes and you are a zero

Rosberg contrasts 'focus' with Hamilton's lifestyle
(GMM) Nico Rosberg says he has worked to simplify his life and narrow his focus upon beating Lewis Hamilton for the first time in three years.

Even if Mercedes dominates yet again, the all-silver driver battle could be fascinating in 2016.

That is because Hamilton dominated Rosberg for most of last season until he wrapped up the title, when the Briton admittedly let his off-track, celebrity trappings divert his focus.

"Lewis slackened off at the end of last season, which got Nico those wins," 1996 world champion Damon Hill told the Times.

"But that goes to show that you just can't – even if you are Lewis Hamilton – take your foot off the accelerator. Hunger and desire are really important components."

Mercedes team chairman Niki Lauda observed: "Lewis is into Hollywood, the fashion shows, the Super Bowl, but when he gets into the car he is still strong.

"Nico is much more focused on the technical side," the F1 legend told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

And what German Rosberg also has in his favor going into 2016, Lauda acknowledged, is form.

"If Nico starts as he finished last season, with pole position and a win, there could be a very interesting situation that is new for us," he said.

"When Nico is in the front, it is difficult for everyone else," added Lauda.

Rosberg is even tuning up on the psychological side ahead of 2016, although it was Hamilton who took a jab at Rosberg's greying hair during a Stuttgart press conference last week.

"I don't have grey hair!" Rosberg hit back in an interview with German newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

"He just said that because he didn't know how else to counter what I said," the German said on Sunday.

Rosberg is emphasizing the difference in approach between himself and Hamilton going into 2016, contrasting his focus with Hamilton's off-track antics.

"I am even more efficient than before," he insisted. "I have directed all my energy into focusing on the sport. I want absolutely nothing to distract me.

"It is all these little things that count in the end," said Rosberg. "I am now fully in world championship mode."

As for Hamilton, he declared just days ago that he has no intention of lifting the throttle on his celebrity lifestyle, saying he wants his off-track time to keep matching the excitement of racing in F1.

"Well then it will be a very interesting year," said Rosberg. "I'm curious about it because eventually it must be too much, right?"

And if Rosberg does keep his nose in front of Hamilton, it will have the added benefit of securing his place at Mercedes, amid the threat posed by Pascal Wehrlein.

"I'm sure I will be here at Mercedes for a few more years," Rosberg said. "It just works and our cooperation is great. I've been here from day one.

"But Pascal is still very young. Perhaps his time at Mercedes will come."

Juan Montoya says one car has always dominated in F1. Why? Because F1 is an engineering endeavor and the cars is 99.9% of the equation, the driver a mere 0.01%
Juan Montoya says one car has always dominated in F1. Why? Because F1 is an engineering endeavor, not a sport. The cars is 99.9% of the equation, the driver a mere 0.01%

Mercedes-like dominance not new in F1 – Montoya
(GMM) Juan Pablo Montoya says the current Mercedes era is no different to any other team's dominance throughout recent F1 history.

The former Williams and McLaren driver kicked off the new IndyCar series with victory in Florida, so when asked if he misses the so-called pinnacle of motor sport, he insisted: "No!"

"I have no regrets," added the Colombian, who quit McLaren and the series amid acrimony a decade ago, reverting to the American scene, initially Nascar.

"In F1, now as then, the driver with the fastest car wins, period," the 40-year-old, notably heavier now than in his F1 career, told Italia Racing.

"I never had a dominant car like the Ferrari of those times, but I fought for the title and I'm proud of what I did," Montoya added.

But he is happier now in the US.

"I think IndyCar is the maximum," he said. "On TV it's good, the public likes it, the races are hard-fought.

"F1 today is slow in the corners, there isn't much downforce. But at Phoenix we have 5G in the corners — not bad, right?"

Even so, he said it is wrong to blame Mercedes for making F1 boring.

"Is it different to when Schumacher always won?" Montoya asked. "And when McLaren dominated? Let's be serious, it's always been the same."

A bigger problem, he suggested, is F1's notorious "politics".

"As a child it was my dream to race in F1, but when I got there and saw how things worked, my dream was destroyed," said Montoya.

But he will be cheering for Ferrari in 2016, and in particular Sebastian Vettel.

"I really like him," Montoya said. "I've known him since he was very young. I think he's a more complete driver than Hamilton but winning the world championship does not depend on him alone.

"If Ferrari give him a winning car, he will do the job, otherwise not. It's the same old story."

As for the current struggles of his old team, McLaren, Montoya also has clear words.

"They underestimated the engine situation," said Montoya. "Why go looking for Honda when they already had a Mercedes?"

The Michael Schumacher we once knew
The Michael Schumacher we once knew

'No alternative' to Schumacher silence – manager
(GMM) Michael Schumacher's manager has defended the ongoing secrecy about the condition of the most successful F1 driver of all time.

Now more than two years after his skiing crash in the French alps, almost nothing is known about the former Ferrari and Mercedes driver's health — even whether he can walk or talk.

Still, manager Sabine Kehm defends the family's right to say nothing.

"At the moment I see no alternative," she told Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

Kehm said that if some information about Schumacher is given, it would simply open the floodgates to more requests for information.

"Each word would be the catalyst for new demands; a beacon for further information. It would never end," she insisted.

Anyway, Kehm said it would be impossible to "answer in a few sentences" all the questions posed more than two years after Schumacher suffered his brain injuries, as his recovery is "a continuous process".

And she is certain her 47-year-old boss would have wanted his privacy to be respected.

"Michael's private life was sacred to him even before the accident," said Kehm, "and everyone accepted it."

'Musical chairs' to go ahead in Melbourne
(GMM) Any doubt that the controversial 'musical chairs' qualifying format will make its bow in Melbourne have been swept aside.

Even though the format – which will see cars eliminated in 90-second segments in 2016 in a bid to spice up the grid – passed through all of F1's decision-making processes, doubts were still lingering mere days ago.

Red Bull's Christian Horner warned that Ferrari, for instance, has "the right to veto these things", while Niki Lauda added: "The stupid thing is that we decide something and maybe nothing will happen".

But La Repubblica, an Italian newspaper, said earlier noises of opposition about the new format from the Ferrari camp were "overcome" last week.

The FIA confirmed that last Friday by publishing the final version of the 2016 sporting regulations, with article 33 spelling out the definite 'musical chairs' rules.

An excerpt from the 'Q3' description reads: "The same (elimination) procedure will apply after 6m30s, 8m0s, 9m30s, 11m0s and 12m30s, leaving two cars eligible to continue."

Toto Wolff knows one bad lap and a driver can be eliminated in qualifying
Toto Wolff knows one bad lap and a driver can be eliminated in qualifying

Mercedes warns 'musical chairs' could backfire on F1
(GMM) F1's new qualifying format could backfire on the sport, Mercedes has warned.

The controversial 'musical chairs' elimination system has been enshrined in the sporting regulations ahead of its debut in Melbourne on Saturday.

The intention is to spice up the action and potentially shake up the grid, but Mercedes chiefs Niki Lauda and Toto Wolff worry that it will not work out that way.

"The goal is to have more drivers on the track, but I think now there will in fact be little action in the final minutes," team chairman Lauda told Austria's ORF broadcaster.

Mercedes boss Wolff agrees that the new system, with drivers to be eliminated in 90 second intervals, could concentrate the track action into the start of the segments.

"It will mean you have to go out immediately with new tires so you set your time," he said.

"In Q3 this could mean that there are no cars on the track in the last eight minutes," Wolff warned, "because by then you will have only used tires left.

"It's really messy," he added, referring to the debut of the new system.

"You can hardly believe that it is a global sport when we change the rules one minute until midnight."

Paul di Resta
Paul di Resta

Williams Appoints Paul di Resta as Reserve Driver for 2016
WILLIAMS MARTINI RACING is pleased to announce Paul di Resta as its official Reserve Driver for the 2016 FIA Formula One World Championship season.

Paul made his Formula One debut in 2009 as a test driver with Force India Formula One Team, after winning the European Formula 3 Championship in 2006. Paul subsequently secured the DTM title in 2010 and in 2011 made his Formula One race debut with Force India where he spent three seasons with the team, scoring a total of 121 points.

Paul will spend extensive time with the team at races to ensure he is fully accustomed to the controls and procedures of the Williams Mercedes FW38, should he be required to step into the cockpit during the season. He will also spend time integrating himself into the team with some simulator sessions to ensure he is fully prepared for his role this season.

Speaking about his new role Paul said: “I am delighted to be joining Williams as reserve driver and look forward to the 2016 season. It will be a busy year combining both driving in DTM with Mercedes AMG, and attending the Formula One Grands Prix in my new reserve driver role. I will be giving my full support to both and look forward to the exciting possibilities the year has ahead. I would like to thank Claire and Williams for the opportunity to be part of the team."

Claire Williams, Deputy Team Principal of WILLIAMS MARTINI RACING added: “We are delighted to welcome someone with Paul’s experience to the team. Having competed in 58 Formula One races throughout his career Paul’s racing knowledge will be invaluable. We are also confident that given his recent Formula One and current DTM experience Paul will be able to confidently step into the FW38 and assist with our 2016 campaign."

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