Latest F1 news in brief – Wednesday (Update)

UPDATE Updates shown in red below.

03/02/16

  • Marchionne tells Ecclestone that Ferrari can't support new confusing qualifying proposal
    Marchionne tells Ecclestone that Ferrari can't support new confusing qualifying proposal

    F1 under fire for 'unprofessional' qualifying farce

  • Ferrari Does Not 'Accept' New Formula One Qualifying Format
  • Alonso future depends on F1's 2017 revolution
  • Sauber may not be '100 per cent' in Melbourne – Nasr
  • Mercedes denies cracking 1000hp barrier
  • One-year deals for Magnussen, Palmer – boss
  • Bottas not among dieting F1 drivers
  • 2015 absence was Hockenheim 'wake up' – Ecclestone
  • Ecclestone Wants To Return To Africa, Add Second Race In U.S.
  • Alonso Announced as Official Ambassador for the 2016 Grand Prix of Europe! New
  • Pure Storage To Bring Mercedes AMG Petronas Data Advantage New
  • Leclerc/Haas F1 role still to be defined New

F1 under fire for 'unprofessional' qualifying farce
(GMM) F1 officials have come under fire for what major newspapers including the Independent and Telegraph are calling the 2016 qualifying "farce".

Mere weeks before the new season, the decision-making F1 Commission agreed to implement a new 'musical chairs' elimination format for qualifying this year.

But F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, reportedly the architect of the scheme, had to admit that his software-writers at Formula One Management are unable to write the necessary software in time.

"You can imagine the high-level meeting where that bubble burst … and they forgot to ask the people on the ground whether they can do it or not," former driver and now leading British commentator Martin Brundle told the Morning Star newspaper.

Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg agrees: "It's not very professional the image they are giving with that, going back and forth."

Arguably the bigger issue, however, is that the change had been put into place while so many stakeholders argue that nothing was wrong with the existing format.

"Of all the things I wanted to change, qualifying would probably be the last and that is the route they have decided to take," said Brundle.

Alonso calls new F1 qualifying format crazy
Alonso calls new F1 qualifying format crazy

McLaren-Honda's Fernando Alonso agrees: "(Spectator) numbers are down in all countries and so they are thinking about new things all the time to regain popularity.

"But some of the things they are thinking are crazy, like the new qualifying system, which is more complex than the one we had. We are giving the fans another headache," he told Spanish radio Cadena Cope.

More diplomatically, Alonso's teammate Jenson Button agreed: "I think everyone understands that a lot of things in formula one have to change.

"It's important that we are looking constantly to improve, I just hope the fans like it and understand it. From my point of view, I'm pretty experienced in formula one and it's quite confusing for me."

Ecclestone said the software should be ready by May's Spanish grand prix, but the latest twist is that Ferrari may nix the idea altogether through its famous veto.

"You can't criticize them (F1) for saying 'Let's try and do something different'," said Brundle, "but to introduce it and then have to pull back is nothing less than embarrassing."

But Rosberg says that stepping back to reconsider the matter is a good move for F1.

"It's such a major change," said the German. "It's good that we are thinking about it."

Ferrari Does Not 'Accept' New Formula One Qualifying Format
Ferrari Chair Sergio Marchionne "called for a rethink over the idea of elimination qualifying in Formula 1, after saying that he isn't sure Ferrari can accept the proposed format," according to Jonathan Noble of MOTORSPORT.

F1 teams approved a plan last week "to bring in a knockout format on Saturdays."

However, just a few days after the announcement, the planned introduction at the Australian Grand Prix has had to be delayed because F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone's FOM company "cannot prepare timing software in time."

With the plans now on the back burner, Marchionne believes that "the matter needs looking at again," as he suggested the Italian company is "against any tweaks to the current qualifying format."

He said, "I think we need more discussions about the new qualifying format. We must be careful not to upset the system. I'm not sure Ferrari can accept Bernie's ideas" Motorsport

Fernando Alonso
Fernando Alonso

Alonso future depends on F1's 2017 revolution
(GMM) Fernando Alonso says his future rests on the reforms that are slated to revolutionize formula one next year.

2017 will be the third and last in the Spaniard's current McLaren-Honda contract, amid speculation more midfield straggling in cars that no longer excite him could spell the end of his 16-year F1 adventure.

"The cars are less spectacular than some years ago," the former two-time world champion told Spanish radio Cadena Cope.

"The laptimes are much slower, the cars weigh 120 kilos more than 7 or 8 years ago, the sound has changed, the Pirelli tires have changed the races.

"There are a number of factors that have made the racing less dramatic, and I think no one likes it," Alonso insisted.

Told that he will be 36 when his potential F1 retirement comes along in 2017, Alonso smiled: "I think you could race these cars until you are 50.

"They are very undemanding. With the old cars you could not sleep some nights at first due to physical fatigue. We were doing 1.16s and now it's 1.26s, so it's very undemanding.

"About how long I will be in F1 I will know next year, because the cars are changing radically. They want to make the cars faster and that may be the turning point.

"If the cars are fun and F1 returns to being F1, it is attractive for any driver," Alonso added.

Felipe Nasr
Felipe Nasr

Sauber may not be '100 per cent' in Melbourne – Nasr
(GMM) Felipe Nasr admits Sauber's newly-launched car may not be 100 per cent ready for the 2016 season opener in Australia in just over two weeks.

While the rest of the teams were already testing their 2016 machines last week in Barcelona, Nasr's Ferrari-powered C35 was unveiled only on Tuesday, ahead of just four days of running prior to Melbourne.

The Brazilian answered "yes" when asked if there was a financial aspect to the holdup, but also explained: "It was a combination of things, even involving Ferrari.

"In fact we could have brought the launch forward, but it (the car) would not have been as we would have liked," he told Brazil's Globo Esporte.

"This car has a much better integration of chassis, aerodynamics and engine, and this takes time," Nasr added.

But with the midfield expected to be so fiercely-contested in 2016 – as Manor steps up with Mercedes power, Haas arrives with strong Ferrari backing and Lotus becomes Renault – it could be Sauber that is left at the very back.

"After all that I have seen us doing in the team, I do not believe it," insisted Nasr, "but of course it can happen.

"If it is, we have to find ways to reverse the situation and our team has the structure to do that. But as I said, I do not think it will be so."

And so the 23-year-old said he will not criticize Sauber for the new car's delay.

"If I had the car a week ago we would have done much of the work that we did today," Nasr said on Tuesday. "But I'd rather have the car now than to not have it.

"We have more work ahead of us, we still need time, and maybe it will not be 100 per cent in Australia, but I am as optimistic as possible.

"I believe we will have a good preparation for the first race," Nasr added.

Rumors have now surfaced that Mercedes will have 1,000 HP in qualifying trim. Others are saying Mercedes has widened its gap over Ferrari
Rumors have now surfaced that Mercedes will have 1,000 HP in qualifying trim. Others are saying Mercedes has widened its gap over Ferrari

Mercedes denies cracking 1000hp barrier
(GMM) With every passing test day, the feeling in the Barcelona paddock is growing ever stronger that Mercedes will decimate all comers early in 2016.

On Tuesday, as the last four days of pre-season running began, Nico Rosberg topped the field after finally running a set of soft tires — beating Williams' Valtteri Bottas, who was using Pirelli's much-faster 'ultra soft' compound.

Asked if that was a significant moment, Finn Bottas nodded.

"It's quite tricky for anyone to challenge them (Mercedes) at the beginning of the season," he said.

McLaren-Honda's Fernando Alonso went one step further.

"They (Mercedes) would have to do something catastrophic to not win the world championship," he told Spanish radio Cadena Cope.

"Vettel should be third, but I would not rule out Williams, Red Bull, Force India and hopefully us," Alonso added.

According to Germany's Bild newspaper, some insiders suspect that Mercedes has pulled ahead of the field thanks to its latest engine, which may have cracked the 1000 horse power barrier.

Team chairman Niki Lauda denies it: "At our level, there are no huge horse power jumps like that. Ferrari and Red Bull have more room for improvement than us."

Red Bull's Dr Helmut Marko adds: "Over the whole distance it would not be 1000hp, but perhaps on a fast qualifying lap."

At the same time, Ferrari is making positive noises about its radical new car, but reliability problems have limited progress so far.

"Ferrari's deficit (to Mercedes) is not small," an insider told Auto Motor und Sport. "It has increased."

Indeed, Nico Rosberg admitted that Mercedes did not want to show its hand on Tuesday, "but we also need to get a feeling for ourselves about where we are."

And boss Toto Wolff denied Mercedes is sandbagging by not yet touching the fastest Pirelli 'ultra soft'.

"It's about the time schedules," he insisted, "and that those tires don't really fit with this circuit."

Rosberg admitted: "I have a very good feeling. Our level is very high at the moment. But Ferrari is close."

When asked about Rosberg's claims about Ferrari, Kimi Raikkonen would not be drawn.

"I have no idea what Mercedes is doing in their program and Mercedes has no idea about us," he said. "So all the guessing is totally meaningless," he said.

The Finn played down the huge pressure that is on Ferrari this year, after president Sergio Marchionne said the Maranello team must be targeting victory in Melbourne.

"That is everyone's goal at Ferrari," Raikkonen insisted, "not just the boss. In formula one, you always have pressure."

Will Kevin Magnussen have a big enough check for 2017 too?
Will Kevin Magnussen have a big enough check for 2017 too?

One-year deals for Magnussen, Palmer – boss
(GMM) Frederic Vasseur, the new team boss at Renault, has admitted neither team driver has a guaranteed future with the French marque beyond 2016.

"Both drivers have a contract for one season," he is quoted by the Danish broadcaster TV2, referring to Dane Kevin Magnussen and Briton Jolyon Palmer.

"Formula one is moving all the time and you can't say your drivers are staying for five or six years. Right now for us it's more about building a strong base."

Indeed, after taking over the near-collapsed Lotus at the eleventh hour, Renault is keeping its expectations very low for the 2016 season.

"We are in the battle around the points," Magnussen said at the Barcelona test on Tuesday.

"Maybe just outside the points. I think if we get both cars in the points in Melbourne, that will be a really good weekend."

But Vasseur said that although 2016 will not be about winning, that does not mean the drivers are unimportant for Renault.

"It is very important that you have the right drivers," he insisted, "as the whole team is of course built on them. But first and foremost we need to deliver a car that they can do (good) results with.

"It has to be in the right order," Vasseur said.

The co-founder of the ultra-successful formative team ART, Frenchman Vasseur arrives in the F1 paddock already with a reputation for being one of the sport's hard men.

He laughs: "I'm definitely not the right one to answer that. But ok, maybe my leadership style can be hard. It's not the first time I have heard it!"

Indeed, his welcoming message for Dane Magnussen recently was that Vasseur's first choice for the 2016 seat was in fact McLaren's Stoffel Vandoorne.

But Vasseur insists: "I've known Kevin for a long time and I'm convinced that he's going to deliver.

"The feedback I am getting from the team describes someone who is extremely dedicated. Kevin has a really good reputation," Vasseur added.

Valtteri Bottas not dieting
Valtteri Bottas not dieting

Bottas not among dieting F1 drivers
(GMM) Valtteri Bottas has counted himself as not among those drivers who are dieting hard ahead of the 2016 season.

Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo admits he was told to lose 5 kilograms before Melbourne, while Toro Rosso rookie Carlos Sainz slammed the pressure put on drivers by the regulations to be lighter than is healthy.

"It's not safe and not the right way to go," Sainz told Reuters. "We like to be fit and thin, that's our job, but it's not our job to be extremely skinny."

But Bottas, who according to some reports dropped from 70 to 67 kilograms for the start of the heavier 'power unit' era in 2014, said Williams is no longer asking him to drastically diet.

"I am no longer eating plain lettuce," he smiled to the Finnish broadcaster MTV.

"2014 was the most difficult year for weight but it is not any problem this year," Bottas added. "I am at a good weight for me.

"It's a long season and you have to find the limit under which it makes no sense to go with your weight. So now I get to eat more than salad," he added.

Bottas was also upbeat about his general physical condition, having missed the season opener in Melbourne a year ago with a back injury.

"I do special training for it that is now part of my routine," he said.

"Physically I am in good shape overall and more ready than any other year."

Bernie Ecclestone told Hockenheim to pay-up or go pound sand
Bernie Ecclestone told Hockenheim to pay-up or go pound sand

2015 absence was Hockenheim 'wake up' – Ecclestone
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone is putting pressure on Hockenheim to up its game in order to secure Germany's future on the F1 calendar.

Hope that the Nurburgring might bounce back from its troubles is now all but gone, but F1 supremo Ecclestone said he preferred to see Germany sit out a year in 2015 than agree a cut-price deal for a Hockenheim stand-in race.

"We wanted to wake Hockenheim up a little bit," he told the German business newspaper Handelsblatt.

"They are still 20 years behind the times when I compare it to other places."

Ecclestone said the existing contract, set for two more races in 2016 and 2018, is "not very good", adding that whether Germany has a future in F1 is "in principle a question of money".

So with an unprecedented 21 races already on the calendar, the 85-year-old Briton might have to scrap existing events in order to take F1 to its next locations.

"I would like to see a race in Africa, somewhere we haven't been before," said Ecclestone.

"The first discussions have already happened, and maybe one more race in the US, let's see."

Ecclestone won't add a race in South Africa until he hears they can meet his money demands
Ecclestone won't add a race in South Africa until he hears they can meet his money demands

Ecclestone Wants To Return To Africa, Add Second Race In U.S.
F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone "has called for a return of the series to the African continent," according to BILD.

This year's calendar includes a record 21 races, only 10 of those in Europe. If it is up to Ecclestone, F1's withdrawal from Europe will continue in the future.

Ecclestone: "It looks like it. I would like to see a race in Africa where we don't have a championship at all. We are already holding initial talks."

Africa's "numerous conflicts leave only South Africa as a viable grand prix host."

F1 last raced in the country in '93 at the Kyalami circuit. Between '34-93, the South African Grand Prix was hosted 33 times. Other potential African racetracks "are located in Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, Morocco and Senegal."

Ecclestone also wants to increase the series' presence in the U.S. He said," Maybe another race in the U.S., we will see."

The only U.S. race on the calendar takes place at the Circuit of the Americas near Austin, Texas BILD

Alonso Announced as Official Ambassador for the 2016 Grand Prix of Europe!
Baku City Circuit (BCC) is today delighted to announce two-time Formula 1 World Champion and current McLaren-Honda driver, Fernando Alonso, as the official ambassador for the 2016 FORMULA 1 GRAND PRIX OF EUROPE.

Alonso counts as one of the most successful and popular drivers in F1’s history, with two world titles, 32 Grand Prix victories and 97 podium finishes to his name. Fittingly, he is one of only a few select drivers to have won a Formula 1 European Grand Prix, having secured first place at the event on three previous occasions including his memorable 2012 triumph in Valencia, which also happened to be the most recent edition of this historic Grand Prix.

As part of his role, Alonso will visit Baku for two days on March 8th – 9th. In doing so, he becomes the first F1 driver to visit Baku, where he will observe the progress being made on the city’s streets as the Baku City Circuit nears completion. During his visit he will be able to see first-hand some of the many challenges that await his McLaren this summer, including the soon-to-be iconic sequence of narrow uphill, winding turns along Baku’s Old Town walls and the main straight where cars are estimated to hit speeds of up to 340 km/h. In addition, he will also spend time in Baku engaging with both local and international media as well as fans and in particular with the many 2016 FORMULA 1 GRAND PRIX OF EUROPE volunteers and marshals who are currently undergoing extensive training ahead of F1’s arrival in Azerbaijan.

Commenting on the news, Alonso said: “I am thrilled be chosen as an ambassador for the 2016 FORMULA 1 GRAND PRIX OF EUROPE. It is a real honor to be the first F1 driver to visit Baku and inspect the new circuit facilities. I have heard and read many great things about the city and am immensely looking forward to seeing it for myself very soon. Having won three European Grand Prixs in my career, it seems a good fit for me to help promote the race’s return to the F1 calendar in this wonderful new location. In fact, the manner in which I won the last edition of the European Grand Prix in Valencia ensured that I would be forever emotionally linked to this particular race. From a technical point of view, I’m sure myself and my colleagues will love racing here in Baku, given that a street circuit is always an exhilarating challenge for any driver and from what I have already learned about this circuit, it seems clear that this one will be no exception.“

Baku City Circuit’s Executive Director, Arif Rahimov also expressed his excitement at today’s news: “We are absolutely delighted with today’s announcement and cannot wait to welcome Fernando to our beautiful city and show him the sights and sounds that will make this Grand Prix one of the highlights of the F1 season. With our track-build progressing daily, this is the perfect time to showcase Baku City Circuit and its many unique characteristics to one of the sport’s greatest drivers. I am sure he will relish the opportunity to acquaint himself with the circuit before he races here in June. To have the support of a two-time Formula 1 World Champion and all round sporting great such as Fernando Alonso is truly invaluable to us. Welcome to Baku, Fernando!"

To see what fans and drivers can expect in Baku this summer, check out this video highlighting both the city and the new street circuit

Pure Technology uses flash instead of spinning hard drives
Pure Technology uses flash instead of spinning hard drives

Pure Storage To Bring Mercedes AMG Petronas Data Advantage
The MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team today announced a multi-year partnership agreement with Pure Storage (NYSE:PSTG), a market-leading independent solid-state array vendor that is pioneering an all-flash revolution in the data storage sector.

Pure's technology platform allows businesses to achieve significant performance and efficiency gains over mechanical disk storage, while a radical and transformative approach to customer-friendly business models has differentiated the company as a sector trailblazer.

The MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team has significant data requirements for its remote trackside operations and at its UK headquarters in Brackley.

With each Grand Prix generating seven billion data points, the enhanced infrastructure provided by Pure Storage will deliver an array of benefits to the team including significant improvements in the speed of data processing, a reduction in costs and weight for trackside equipment, faster set-up times and a scalable solution that can grow as the team's requirements change.

The application of Pure Storage solutions will reduce the team's typical backend SQL query processing times by 95%, while engineers calling up race data will enjoy a 36% faster load speed, enabling sharper and faster decision-making. While engineers will have an enhanced end-user experience, both the hardware set-up at trackside and the future scalability of data storage will be dramatically simplified and obsolescence will be removed from storage solutions.

Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport said, "We're delighted to welcome Pure Storage as a partner of the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team. It is a strong positive statement for the team and for Formula One to confirm this new investment from a west coast technology leader. Technology is fundamental to our success – it enables us to perform across our business and ultimately on track. As we are predicting one of the most challenging and competitive seasons in the year ahead, Pure will give us the power we need to tackle our most demanding data challenges."

Reflecting on the new partnership Jonathan Martin, Pure Storage's CMO said, "Pure and the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team found common ground in a mutual everyday mission – to push the boundaries of what's possible. When fractions of seconds mean the difference between success and second best, the reliability, simplicity and speed Pure Storage delivers are paramount. Pure is proud to provide MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS confidence in the performance of its storage platform, so that the team's primary focus can be performance where it matters most – on the track."

Leclerc/Haas F1 role still to be defined
Haas team boss Guenther Steiner says the role of Charles Leclerc at the operation is still to be defined, after Ferrari revealed on Tuesday that he would be linking up with Formula 1's newest outfit.

Leclerc, 18, has joined Ferrari's young driver academy and the squad announced that he would act as a development driver for both the Maranello-based team and Haas.

"We are still taking this one through with Ferrari, [there will be] news in the near future, but still we talk about it," said Steiner, when asked about the French racer's arrival.

"I'm not surprised but we are still talking, finalizing, how we do it."

Steiner was reluctant to comment on further potential details – such as practice outings – of Leclerc's role at Haas, which has not yet named a reserve driver for its maiden season in Formula 1.

Leclerc, fourth in European F3 last year, will race for ART in GP3 this season.

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