Latest F1 news in brief – Friday

  • Hamilton says F1 is broken
    Hamilton says F1 is broken

    Senior F1 drivers slam 'broken' sport

  • Schumacher, Alesi race towards F1 careers
  • 'Hard to say' if Hamilton's mojo is back
  • McLaren-Honda 'a little behind' – Alonso
  • Williams to race shorter nose in early 2016
  • 'Cheap engine' plan for 2018 could be revived
  • F1 Drivers Against New Elimination-Style Qualifying Format
  • Wehrlein: Manor deficit now 'much smaller'
  • Gutierrez gets extra running after troubles
  • Final Test Day lineup

Senior F1 drivers slam 'broken' sport
(GMM) World champion drivers on Thursday slammed the current direction of formula one.

Ferrari surprised the F1 world at the Barcelona test when Kimi Raikkonen emerged from the pits with a carbon mock-up of the 'halo' cockpit protection solution.

When asked about the visibility, the 2007 world champion answered: "It was a little bit limited in the front but there was surprisingly little difference."

Reigning champion Lewis Hamilton, however, couldn't believe his eyes.

"At lunch I saw some pictures of it," said the Mercedes driver, dramatically covering his face with his hand in mock despair. "What more can I say?"

He added on Instagram: "This is the worst looking mod in formula one history.

"I appreciate the quest for safety but this is formula one, and the way it is now is perfectly fine."

Plenty of others were also horrified, with about 75 per cent surveyed by Auto Motor und Sport, Blick and even Nico Rosberg's fans on social media opposed to the solution.

"For me it looks horrible," agreed Nico Hulkenberg, adding his plea to F1 authorities: "Don't do it."

Even some engineers are not impressed, as Force India's Andy Green told Auto Motor und Sport: "What happens if a part hits the upper element and is deflected onto the driver's chest?"

Hamilton's teammate Rosberg, however, made clear in capital letters on Twitter that he is 'ALL FOR IT', while the late Jules Bianchi's father Philippe suggested the solution does not even go far enough.

"This is a step forward," he told Canal Plus, "but it does not solve everything.

"The FIA wished to act after Jules' and Justin (Wilson)'s accidents, but it must go further," Bianchi's father added.

Hulkenberg, however, said that some danger in F1 is "sexy", and Red Bull's Daniil Kvyat agrees.

"There are many different opinions but formula one, for me, is for open cockpit cars," he is quoted by the Russian source Sportbox.

"I have pursued a career in racing in part because it's dangerous, and I'm willing to take that risk. That is my opinion," Kvyat added.

And that is not all. Many drivers despair about overly-quiet cars that are slower than a decade ago, while they were only consulted about the controversial change to qualifying for 2016 after the decision was taken.

"The drivers are generally in favor of leaving the old system alone," Jolyon Palmer admitted after a meeting on Wednesday with Charlie Whiting.

Asked if F1 is broken, directionless or healthy, Mercedes' Hamilton answered on Thursday: "I don't want to say too much, but I agree with the first two."

Another senior driver, two-time champion Fernando Alonso, described the plight of F1 today as "sad".

"When in one week we change the qualifying format three times, or pretend to change as no one has officialized anything, I don't think it's right," he said.

Kvyat concluded: "Even we don't understand what's going on — imagine the people watching on TV!"

Mick Schumacher
Mick Schumacher

Schumacher, Alesi race towards F1 careers
(GMM) Two young drivers with famous fathers will charge towards a future career on the F1 grid with strong support in their wake.

The most high-profile is Mick Schumacher, the 16-year-old son of F1 legend Michael who for 2016 has been signed up by the Ferrari-linked Prema team in Formula 4.

FIA president Jean Todt is a close friend of the Schumacher family, and he told Germany's Sport Bild: "Mick is fantastic; a great kid.

"That he has talent is unquestionable. Now it will depend on whether he is in the right team, has the right environment and how he handles the pressure," Todt added.

But also charging towards F1 is Giuliano Alesi, who like Mick Schumacher is also 16.

He has been signed by Ferrari's driver development 'academy' for 2016, and will race in the F1 support series GP3.

Like Schumacher, Alesi's father Jean also drove for Ferrari, and he told Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport: "Giuliano has got into a big family, and he will stay there for a long time.

"I have supported Giuliano's wish to get into the world of motor sport. He grew up in this world — my friends are drivers and managers," Frenchman Alesi added.

Hamilton will get his mojo back when the Mercedes engineers program his car to be faster than Rosberg's
Hamilton will get his mojo back when the Mercedes engineers program his car to be faster than Rosberg's

'Hard to say' if Hamilton's mojo is back
(GMM) One big question heading into the new F1 season is whether Lewis Hamilton has his 'mojo' back.

After dominating his teammate last year and wrapping up the title with three races to spare, the Mercedes driver was then clearly outclassed by the sister Mercedes of Nico Rosberg in Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi.

And now in pre-season testing, some analysts believe Hamilton is trailing Rosberg's pace in the new 2016 car.

Asked if he has got his 'feeling' back for his F1 car, the Briton answered: "It's hard to say.

"Generally I feel comfortable in the car," he is quoted by Speed Week.

"But we've rarely pushed really hard and haven't used the softest tires at all.

"Last year," Hamilton paused before smiling, "I allowed myself a bit of fun at the end of the year. But I'm working hard with the engineers to feel as good as possible in the car.

"We're on the right track," he added.

Some, however, have noticed that while many of his rivals' social media accounts have been full of tales of extreme dieting and hard training, Hamilton is apparently living a life of celebrity leisure.

"I took in everything I could" during the winter, he admitted.

"I was snowboarding in Colorado, in Mexico for my birthday, training in Toronto and LA, at the Super Bowl, at the Academy Awards. But I have trained better than ever," Hamilton insisted.

What there is little doubt about is that Mercedes' pre-season preparations have been little short of perfect, even though the team is declaring that Ferrari is not far away.

"For me there is no doubt," said boss Toto Wolff. "Ferrari has come closer. How close? We will find out in Australia.

"We are clearly not slow, but we don't know what fuel the others have, what engine maps they are running.

"We will see in Melbourne whether we are good enough and if Ferrari is behind us or not," he added.

Hamilton's teammate Rosberg agrees: "Ferrari is very, very close. They show it every day in testing.

"It will be an exciting fight," he told the German broadcaster RTL.

However, not everybody is buying it.

Former F1 team boss Eddie Jordan told Germany's Auto Bild Motorsport that anyone who believes Ferrari will regularly beat Mercedes this year is "dreaming".

"Mercedes' lead is immense," Jordan, now an outspoken broadcaster, said. "I think they could have a cup of coffee during every pitstop and still win.

"They are now dominating F1 in every field including politics. They are the new superpower," he added.

Jordan thinks Mercedes' nearest challenger this year will be Sebastian Vettel, "but the question is not how close Ferrari will get to Mercedes.

"The question is how close can Mercedes let them get so that their dominance is not too obvious," he said.

Is the McLaren close in speed as Alonso says?
Is the McLaren close in speed as Alonso says?

McLaren-Honda 'a little behind' – Alonso
(GMM) Fernando Alonso says he is not sure where he will line up on the Melbourne grid.

McLaren insists it has improved since its diabolical 2015, while Jenson Button described the latest engine step as the biggest Honda has made in 14 months.

But Alonso, who just last week was linked with early retirement, warns that McLaren-Honda still has improving to do.

"We still have some power to recover," he is quoted by Spain's AS newspaper, "as the pre-season has been very short. Hopefully we can unlock the potential during the championship."

Alonso said one obvious step compared to 2015 has been better reliability.

"We can't forget that last year we used 12 engines for the world championship and it's impossible to think that can be repeated," he insisted.

"We have improved in some respects and there is still more to come so it's difficult to assess, but we are a little behind where we would like," said Alonso.

Based on pre-season testing, he said the pecking order behind Mercedes and Ferrari is more difficult to read than ever.

"When we get to Australia, and everyone is on the track at the same time with the same tires and fuel, we will see if we are 17th, 11th or fifth and from there we can expect one thing or another for the season," said Alonso.

Remi Taffin, the engine chief at Renault, agrees that the progress made by Honda over the winter has been hard to gauge.

He claims Renault's step has been in the order of half a second per lap.

"From the data in the factory and what we have seen here (in Barcelona) I think we have improved half a second from last year," Taffin is quoted by Marca.

"It is difficult for Ferrari or Mercedes to have achieved that figure this year, and as for Honda, they are a mystery to us at the moment," he added.

'Cheap engine' plan for 2018 could be revived
(GMM) The earlier-touted 'cheap engines' solution might soon be back on the table.

That is the claim of Germany's Auto Motor und Sport, revealing that reforms agreed by the manufacturers to avoid the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone's plan for parallel engine regulations may now collapse.

Just days ago, the power unit suppliers – Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault and Honda – agreed a plan to lower costs, improve noise and ensure that something like the 'Red Bull engine crisis' of late 2015 does not happen again.

"Significant further progress was made regarding power unit supply," the FIA confirmed after the latest F1 Commission meeting.

But Michael Schmidt, the respected Auto Motor und Sport correspondent, claims that the new EUR 12 million per customer fee for 2018 is in fact "a sham".

He explained: "The 12 million includes only 6 engines per team and 5 engineers at the track. But it takes twice as many engineers to operate these complex units, so the manufacturers will charge more for extra support.

"Even fuel and oil are not included in the price," Schmidt added.

Not only that, the report suggested that while 'supply availability' is a cornerstone of the 2018 agreement, McLaren will not budge from its veto position regarding the exclusivity of its works Honda deal.

"Ron Dennis explained at the last strategy group meeting that he cannot sign because he will be in breach of contract, in which the veto is enshrined," said Schmidt.

The fact Ecclestone's low-cost alternative engine may now be back on the table will alarm FIA president Jean Todt, who was hoping a resolution might entice a new manufacturer like Audi to the grid.

Audi recently bemoaned the rules instability in F1.

"F1 for Audi is absolutely not a topic," Audi's new technical boss Stefan Knirsch is now quoted as saying by Autocar.

"We want to win Le Mans in a championship where electric and hybrid technology plays a very major role, while we are in discussions with the DTM about when we can introduce this kind of technology," he added.

Sergio Perez
Sergio Perez

F1 Drivers Against New Elimination-Style Qualifying Format
F1 driver Sergio Perez said that the F1 drivers "are against the new elimination-style qualifying format that is set to debut in the sport this season," according to Jack Leslie of GRAND PRIX TIMES.

F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone recently said that the new format "would be delayed to the Spanish Grand Prix due to problems implementing the software required to run it, but recent reports say part of the system could appear in Australia."

Following a meeting between the FIA and team bosses on Tuesday, motorsport's governing body then "met with drivers on Wednesday at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya after day two of the second winter test."

Perez said, "We [the drivers] are obviously not very happy with the new plans they want to implement. Let's see if they can change it. We felt that it could be very complicated for the fans to understand — it's complicated for us already. We also felt that qualifying is really good at the moment and there is no reason to change that." GRAND PRIX TIMES

Haryanto in the new Mercedes powered Manor
Haryanto in the new Mercedes powered Manor

Wehrlein: Manor deficit now 'much smaller'
Pascal Wehrlein has expressed optimism over Manor Racing's potential during the 2016 season, describing the team's deficit as "much smaller" compared to previous years.

Manor, revived for 2015, has switched to Mercedes power units, entered into a technical partnership with Williams and added a number of high profile names to its technical staff.

Wehrlein posted the eighth fastest time at Barcelona on Thursday, his final day at the wheel of the MRT05 before the first race, clocking a 1:24.913 on the Ultra Soft tire.

"We're in a good place with [car] set-up," commented Wehrlein, last year's DTM champion, who will compete alongside GP2 graduate Rio Haryanto at the team in 2016.

"Already the car feels a lot better than the one we started with [during the first pre-season test] last week, so it's quite exciting as there is a lot of development potential still ahead.

"There is a gap that we need to push hard to close but it's much smaller than before and though everyone is tired after working so hard, we have some things to look forward to.

"I feel at home and I can't wait to be racing together in Melbourne."

Haryanto has taken over for the final day of running, though Manor hit technical trouble early on, and is facing a race against time to get him out on track in the morning session.

Esteban Gutierrez to get some laps on Friday
Esteban Gutierrez to get some laps on Friday

Gutierrez gets extra running after troubles
Haas driver Esteban Gutierrez will get an extra half a day of running in the VF-16 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on Friday after his troubles earlier this week.

Gutierrez was restricted to just 24 laps over the first two days of the second test, having been held back by a fuel system issue on Tuesday, and a data anomaly on Wednesday.

Romain Grosjean took over the wheel for Thursday's running, racking up 78 laps, 12 more than a race distance, despite two off track excursions and a late stoppage.

Haas will run Grosjean on the final morning of testing, before giving Gutierrez the afternoon session in an attempt to boost his mileage ahead of the Australian Grand Prix.

Final Test Day lineup
The second pre-season test at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya concludes on Friday and, to keep you up to date with who is in action, has put together a list of the driver line-up.

Running will take place from 09:00 to 13:00 and from 14:00 to 18:00 (CET).

Lewis Hamilton (am), Nico Rosberg (pm)

Sebastian Vettel

Felipe Massa

Red Bull
Daniel Ricciardo

Force India
Sergio Perez

Jolyon Palmer

Toro Rosso
Carlos Sainz Jr.

Marcus Ericsson

Jenson Button

Rio Haryanto

Romain Grosjean (am), Esteban Gutierrez (pm)

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