Latest F1 news in brief – Friday

  • Murray Walker not happy with Ecclestone
    Murray Walker not happy with Ecclestone

    Ecclestone criticism 'sad' – Murray Walker

  • Podium target too high for Sainz – father
  • Lauda, Horner reveal Melbourne qualifying doubts
  • Brazil plays down doubts over 2016 race
  • Wehrlein sure Manor right for F1 debut
  • Hulkenberg eyes first ever podium in 2016
  • 'Halo' decision must be made soon – FIA
  • Pirelli confirms Spanish GP tire compounds
  • Video: Mercedes technical insight – Combustion

Ecclestone criticism 'sad' – Murray Walker
(GMM) Murray Walker, the iconic voice of formula one, has added his disapproval to the latest criticisms of his beloved sport.

Now 92, and having retired as Britain's lead commentator some 15 years ago, Walker will play a minor role in 2016 for Channel 4's new coverage of F1.

So it was with dismay that he read recently that Bernie Ecclestone, the long-time F1 supremo, had said a ticket to a grand prix is not worth the money.

"It's very sad and unnecessary," Walker told the Guardian.

"Bernie has some agenda of his own — maybe he's trying to talk it down so he can buy the sport from CVC.

"(But) it's incumbent on people to be positive rather than negative about formula one, especially when you realize what a colossal audience it has," he added.

And so Walker, who began calling F1 races a staggering six decades ago, defended Mercedes' current and recent dominance of the sport.

"F1 last year wasn't any more boring than it was in the early 1950s when Alfas were winning everything," he said, "or in the middle 1950s when Mercedes were winning once more.

"What about 2000 to 2005, when you knew Michael Schumacher and Ferrari were going to win? Something will happen to stop Mercedes winning," Walker insisted.

"I don't know what it is and I don't know when it will be. But they can't go on winning forever. I hope Ferrari are going to give them a run for their money this year."

Sainz Jr.
Sainz Jr.

Podium target too high for Sainz – father
(GMM) Carlos Sainz's famous father has joined his son in putting the brakes on claims Toro Rosso could be ready to race to the podium in 2016.

It was the Red Bull-owned junior team's boss Franz Tost who set the podium target recently, but 21-year-old Sainz Jr warned that "Under normal circumstances, I don't think it's possible".

His father, the famous rally driver Carlos Sainz Snr, told Spain's AS sports newspaper that he agrees.

"Definitely. In formula one, testing is testing and everyone is trying to save their weapons until the first race," said the 53-year-old.

"What seems clear at least is that the car is more reliable than last year, but then the things I have heard about podiums I find too exaggerated."

As for his highly-rated son, however, who has been training with Spanish triathlete Mario Mola, Sainz said: "I see him much more mature, more focused, knowing what he wants and I think it will be a good season."

Sainz Snr also joined the ranks of those who are hoping Mercedes' recent domination of F1 is challenged in 2016.

"The hope is that Ferrari has caught up, because if the races continue to be all about Mercedes, it becomes tiring," he said.

Horner
Horner

Lauda, Horner reveal Melbourne qualifying doubts
(GMM) Niki Lauda has defended F1's controversial new qualifying format on the basis that the alternative floated by Bernie Ecclestone was "absurd".

After some back and forth, the World Motor Sport Council finally rubber-stamped the new 'musical chairs' system that will debut in Australia next weekend.

However, Red Bull chief Christian Horner thinks there might still be some doubt.

"I can sort of understand the direction they are trying to go in. They are trying to shake it up a bit, like a wet qualifying," he told the Sun newspaper.

"But of course, Ferrari have the right to veto these things. To be honest, I have no idea whether the new qualifying will be in place in Melbourne."

Horner has been an advocate for sweeping change in F1, but he is among those who think tweaking qualifying was unnecessary.

"Did it need to be done? Not really. Will it dramatically change things? Not really. Is it confusing? Yeah," Horner said.

F1 legend and Mercedes team chairman Niki Lauda acknowledges the controversy, but he told the German broadcaster Sky Sport News HD that what Ecclestone originally pushed for was much more extreme.

"About the new qualifying, you have to know the history," he said.

"Understandably worried about the (declining) audiences, he (Ecclestone) came to the strategy group with something completely absurd.

"Whoever took pole would have to start the race from tenth, and whoever is tenth would start from pole. An interesting idea.

"But for me it is against every rule of competition," the triple world champion said.

"To stop it, we all decided jointly to do this new system," Lauda explained, although like Horner he acknowledged there is still some doubt about whether it will actually debut in Melbourne.

"The stupid thing is that we decide something and maybe nothing will happen," he said. "I am anxious to see what happens.

"But if it cannot be implemented, it will not matter," Lauda added.

Interlagos
Interlagos

Brazil plays down doubts over 2016 race
(GMM) Just as the US grand prix ended its uncertainty, doubts have now emerged about whether this year's Brazil race will take place in November.

Brazilian reports say F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone told a media outlet that talks with organizers about solving a financial matter were underway.

The Portuguese-language Grande Premio quoted Interlagos race promoter Tamas Rohonyi as acknowledging Ecclestone's comments.

"When Bernie said that we are working to solve problems, he is referring to the effort to reduce organizational costs," he said.

"An example: there was a study to reduce medical staff costs required by the FIA and it was promptly answered," Rohonyi added.

So he played down claims Brazil's future on the F1 calendar is now under a cloud.

"Doing a major international event in the current situation is difficult, but not impossible. It will be done according to the contracts in place at least until 2020," said Rohonyi.

"But it is a fact that all the races that are not paid for by governments face difficulties because of the astronomical fees."

Pascal Wehrlein happy to get a free ride courtesy of Mercedes
Pascal Wehrlein happy to get a free ride courtesy of Mercedes

Wehrlein sure Manor right for F1 debut
(GMM) Pascal Wehrlein is confident Manor is the right place for his F1 debut.

The reigning DTM champion is stepping up with the strong backing of Mercedes, but some believe defending his title in 2016 and waiting for a better F1 seat might have been a better option for the talented German.

But Wehrlein, 21, told the German broadcaster RTL: "I believe that Manor is a very good team for me to begin with, to gain experience and get to know formula one as a driver.

"I also believe that Manor has significantly more potential now than it did in the last two years, and that is why I think it is a good step for me," he added.

Indeed, Manor will use the title-winning Mercedes power unit this year, and has recruited several well-known names from top teams, including boss Dave Ryan and Ferrari's Nikolas Tombazis and Pat Fry.

Still, Manor finished dead last in 2015 and was the only team that failed to score points.

"Sure, I cannot predict," said Wehrlein. "Maybe this year we will still be behind, but I just hope that we can at least fight for some positions with the other teams.

"If that is possible then it was the right move," he added.

So, when asked what news headline he would be happy with at the end of the year, Wehrlein smiled: "Pascal Wehrlein — extraordinary rookie season!"

Nico Hulkenberg
Nico Hulkenberg

Hulkenberg eyes first ever podium in 2016
(GMM) Nico Hulkenberg has set his sights on finally reaching the podium in 2016.

Remarkably, although one of the most highly-rated midfield drivers in F1, the 28-year-old has never finished one of his almost 100 grands prix in the top three.

"It must be a podium," he told the German broadcaster RTL when asked what his target is for 2016 as he lines up yet again for Force India.

"I think it has lasted long enough now to be here in formula one without a podium," added Hulkenberg, who won the fabled 24 hours of Le Mans at his first attempt in 2015.

So when asked why he has failed to add a podium to his resume after five seasons in F1, he answered: "So far it has just not worked out.

"There were one or two races in which it was realistically possible, but unfortunate circumstances just came together or things went wrong.

"But that's the way it was, it's history and it's behind me. Now the focus is on 2016 and having my most successful year in formula one," said Hulkenberg, who has also raced for Williams and Sauber.

Fifth overall in 2015, Force India has again looked promising in winter testing and is aiming to lead the midfield this year.

"It is good that we set ourselves high goals," said Hulkenberg, "but I also believe that it (a podium) is possible."

But even a podium, he admitted, will not completely satisfy him.

"I am feeling comfortable in my own skin and in a good position in my career," said the German. "But I'm still not where I want to be in terms of my formula one career and what I have achieved."

Halo must be approved soon
Halo must be approved soon

'Halo' decision must be made soon – FIA
(GMM) Time is running short for F1 to introduce better cockpit protection for 2017.

The FIA is pushing to put the controversial 'halo' on the cars next year, with Ferrari signaling that intention by running a mock-up for Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel to try during last week's Barcelona test.

FIA president Jean Todt confirms there is a "very real possibility" a solution will be in place for 2017.

"We are pushing very hard to integrate it as early as possible," confirmed FIA safety chief Laurent Mekies.

"I'm sure it (the testing) will trigger a few connected research topics, to assess visibility, extrication and some of the other aspects, so I'm expecting some validation testing to be done in the course of the next six months," he told the FIA's in-house magazine Auto.

"But we're all trying to make that cut."

Basic regulations for the following year should be agreed before March 1, but Mekies said that does not mean time has run out for 'halo' ahead of 2017.

"The real deadline is the teams' timing to modify their cars accordingly and our capability to assess all the connected issues," he said.

"Design is done very much in advance in F1, therefore if we want to make 2017 it needs to be decided in the next few months. Nobody wants to rush these things but we are all trying to go as fast as possible."

Ferrari's testing of 'halo' last week, however, triggered a strong reaction in the paddock, with Lewis Hamilton slamming it and even supporters Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel admitting it is "extreme" and "ugly".

However, there are alternatives. Red Bull is championing a bullet-proof transparent shield, and the FIA recently tested two alternatives to 'halo' on an airfield in England.

One of them is called 'AFP', or additional frontal protection, featuring a much less intrusive set of monocoque-mounted 'ramps' or fins designed to flick debris away from the driver.

"With this relatively inconspicuous structure we were attempting to impart enough vertical velocity to direct the wheel assembly over the driver's helmet," said FIA technical consultant Andy Mellor.

"With this approach we aim to achieve compatibility with the rim with a design that minimizes the reaction loads on the chassis, has the potential to be extremely lightweight and has a low visual impact," he added.

Pirelli confirms Spanish GP tire compounds
Formula 1 tire supplier Pirelli has announced that it will take its Soft, Medium and Hard compounds to the Spanish Grand Prix, with sets of the Medium and Hard rubber put aside for the race.

Pirelli had already revealed its nominations for the opening four races, the Canadian Grand Prix and the European Grand Prix in Azerbaijan, and has now finally confirmed its choices for Spain.

As expected, the Italian manufacturer will take its hardest three compounds to Barcelona.

In 2016, each driver will receive 13 dry-weather sets per event, with Pirelli allocating two sets for the race (only one of which must be used), and a set of the softest compound, only for use in Q3.

Drivers are free to select any combination of the chosen compounds for the other 10 sets.

Under the revised tire regulations, nominations for Formula 1's flyaway events must be made 14 weeks in advance, while for the European races the deadline is eight weeks in advance.

Pirelli's 2016 tire choices so far:

Australia – Super Soft / Soft / Medium
Bahrain – Super Soft / Soft / Medium
China – Super Soft / Soft / Medium
Russia – Super Soft / Soft / Medium
Spain – Soft / Medium / Hard
Monaco – Ultra Soft / N/A / N/A
Canada – Ultra Soft / Super Soft / Soft
Azerbaijan – Super Soft / Soft / Medium

Video: Mercedes technical insight – Combustion
In the quest for the unattainable ideal of perpetual motion, Silver Arrows Formula One engineers at Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains have managed to improve the thermal efficiency of the internal combustion engine two hundred times faster and further than all engineering endeavor in the preceding 140 years.

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