Latest F1 news in brief – Wednesday

  • Verstappen says he can feel the extra power his Ferrari engine delivers vs. the Renault
    Verstappen says he can feel the extra power his Ferrari engine delivers vs. the Renault

    Verstappen can feel extra Ferrari power

  • Tost opposed to F1 'penalty points' system
  • F1 gets first look at faster 'ultra soft' tire
  • Williams 'a lot different' to 2015 car – Massa
  • Alonso surprised by Honda chief exit
  • Haas 'not desperate' to sign F1 sponsors
  • Alonso says Mercedes 'stronger than ever'
  • Wehrlein eyes Manor 'upset' in Melbourne
  • Palmer hopes Renault can fight with Haas
  • F1 to ramp up 'knockout' qualifying for 2016
  • Qualifying tweak 'good move' for F1 – Lauda

Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen

Verstappen can feel extra Ferrari power
(GMM) Toro Rosso has admitted time was so tight in the winter that a livery for the 2016 car had to be put on the backburner.

"We just ran out of time," technical boss James Key smiled in Barcelona, as the plain-blue STR11 was tested by Max Verstappen.

The Faenza based team said the full livery will be revealed on 1 March.

"We had three months to make a car," Key is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport. "Normally, you can't do that."

Toro Rosso's plans were thrown into disarray by the last-minute decision late last year to switch from Renault to 2015-specification Ferrari power.

Key said: "Just two months ago I could not imagine that we could be ready here in Barcelona."

150 extra staff were hired at Faenza, he confirmed.

"We had to make a few compromises with the (engine) installation," Key admitted.

But that does not mean the team is not expecting to be fast in 2016, with Key having even referred to a one second per lap boost compared to last year.

"Let's hope so," said Verstappen's father Jos. "But let's not forget that the other teams are not standing still," he told

Max was dead last on the timesheets on Tuesday, but he insists the car is good, particularly in the horse power department.

"I can feel more power and my helmet being pulled up more by the wind," said the teenager, contrasting the new Ferrari grunt with the Renault of 2015.

Franz Tost
Franz Tost

Tost opposed to F1 'penalty points' system
(GMM) Franz Tost has hit out at F1's system for penalizing drivers.

Max Verstappen, the teen sensation who thrilled fans with his audacious overtaking moves last year, enters 2016 with a cloud over his head, having racked up several 'penalty points' against his F1 super license.

"I am opposed to the current system," Toro Rosso boss Tost told De Telegraaf newspaper, when asked about the possibility Verstappen may be banned.

"Last year Max did great overtaking maneuvers, which is what the people want to see. But each overtake carries a certain risk," he added.

Tost warns that, as ever in F1, the second year can often be the most difficult for a rookie.

"An overtaking move such as his in Blanchimont might prove difficult now," he said. "The competition is more ready for Max."

Still, Tost said Verstappen is on course for a very bright future.

"In terms of racing we have nothing to teach Max. As a team, we must ensure that we help him to have the best possible car. The rest will follow," he added.

Vettel goes out of pit lane on the purple tires
Vettel goes out of pit lane on the purple tires

F1 gets first look at faster 'ultra soft' tire
(GMM) The F1 world on Tuesday got its first good look at Pirelli's new 'ultra soft' tire.

The best time posted by Sebastian Vettel was particularly noteworthy, as the Ferrari driver went almost two seconds faster than Nico Rosberg's 2015 pole.

Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo also impressed with the purple-colored tire, telling the Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat in Barcelona: "They are grippier and different in nature.

"They seem like fun," he added.

Even though F1's softest tires are now faster, however, Fernando Alonso says he is no longer blown away by the sensation of speed in modern formula one.

"F1 is now much slower in general than before," said the former double world champion.

"I was in the 1m 26s, which a few years ago I would be doing on the installation lap," Alonso, who drives for McLaren-Honda, is quoted by El Pais.

"But when we start racing in Australia, then the adrenaline will rise a little."

Massa says new Williams a lot different
Massa says new Williams a lot different

Williams 'a lot different' to 2015 car – Massa
(GMM) Felipe Massa has taken issue with reports Williams has been too conservative with the design of its 2016 car.

Following the FW38's launch, a correspondent from Brazil had reported his "disappointment" that the new car is visibly almost identical to its predecessor.

But Massa insisted to Globo Esporte: "The car is a lot different, although I don't want to talk about the technical details."

Teammate Valtteri Bottas, seventh on Tuesday's Barcelona timesheets, agrees: "We have addressed the weaknesses of the 2015 car. And you can feel it."

Bottas, however, said he has "no idea" where Williams is relative to the competition at this point, but reiterated that his goal for 2016 is to win races.

"We know that it will not be easy," he admitted.

Fernando Alonso and his preganant girlfriend
Fernando Alonso and his pregnant girlfriend

Alonso surprised by Honda chief exit
(GMM) Fernando Alonso was among those who were caught by surprise by Honda's announcement of the departure of F1 chief Yasuhisa Arai on Tuesday.

"I heard it at noon when I was jumping in the car," said the Spaniard.

"Let's see what changes this brings with it."

Actually, Arai's exit should not be a surprise, given the woeful performance of the new McLaren-Honda works collaboration last year.

"I fulfilled my task with Honda," Arai-san claimed on Tuesday.

"I will do my best to support him," he added, referring to his successor, Yusuke Hasegawa.

"He has a different personality," said Arai. Hasegawa agreed that he is "more conservative" than his optimistic predecessor.

Arai added: "This year we know what the gap is to the top teams, so we don't say such optimistic words. More realism."

Hasegawa is not a complete newcomer to F1, having worked on the earlier engine supply projects with Jordan and BAR.

"But of course," he admitted, "the technology is now completely different.

"I need to catch up but there are a lot of good people already with McLaren so I don't think it will be a big problem."

Hasegawa said Arai should not be blamed for the failure of Honda's F1 return so far.

"The problem is not the new technology," he said, "just that formula one is very complicated, and the competition is very high.

"Just to survive is not easy, so to get ahead of the other teams is extremely difficult. But we already knew that it would not be easy."

It means Hasegawa will not simply tear up Arai's 2016 plan.

"Maybe sooner or later I will be able to implement some new ideas, but hopefully with the plan we have we can improve rapidly," he said.

It might be said that Arai's refusal to look outside Honda for assistance might be one reason for his exit, but Hasegawa insisted: "In fact, this year we have recruited a lot of experts, including from Europe.

"Unfortunately, because Honda has traditionally communicated in Japanese, it is hard for Europeans to adapt to our culture."

He said the goal for 2016 is to "regularly" be in Q3.

Alonso got his first taste of Honda's 2016 engine on Tuesday, declaring that it is better than last year's.

"But that was clear even before the test," he told Spanish reporters. "Our deficit to the others was so great that we had to improve.

"I think this year we will improve, and even more for 2017. I really believe that only McLaren-Honda, with its potential, can beat something as dominant as Mercedes is at the moment," Alonso added.

Haas talks to reporters Tuesday in Barcelona
Haas talks to reporters Tuesday in Barcelona

Haas 'not desperate' to sign F1 sponsors
(GMM) Gene Haas insists he is "not desperate" to fill up the livery of the new American team's 2016 livery.

It is notable that, despite the huge interest in F1's newest team, only the personal sponsors of drivers Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez are easily visible on the grey, black and red car and their race overalls.

"We received many requests," Haas smiled as he attended the Barcelona test on Tuesday, "but we did not hear the numbers that we wanted to hear."

He told Speed Week that a lack of sponsorship is not a big deal.

"Good point," he answered when told that he probably wants to focus more on promoting his own company, Haas Automation, the world's biggest machine tool builder.

"We are certainly not a mass product like a car or an energy drink. If the right sponsor comes along, we will listen. But we are not desperate.

"We are prepared to be financially efficient: the budget is appropriate for what we want to achieve," Haas added.

However, Haas got off to a shaky start at its first official test when the front wing on Grosjean's car spectacularly failed at high speed, prompting a rapid re-design.

"This was because there was an error in the processing of the composite and aluminum," Gene Haas, who said he wants to come to about half of the 21 races this year, explained.

He said points are the goal for 2016.

"I think places 8 or 9 are feasible," said Haas. "Then we will increase the performance step by step. In the years beyond we want to win races.

"But we are willing to show a lot of patience."

Alonso says the same thing predicted months ago, no one is going to beat Mercedes again in 2016
Alonso says the same thing predicted months ago, no one is going to beat Mercedes again in 2016

Alonso says Mercedes 'stronger than ever'
(GMM) Fernando Alonso slammed a British journalist for having suggested that Tuesday was effectively 'D-day' in his formula one career.

London's Times newspaper had published a report suggesting the Spaniard would decide on Tuesday, when he drove the new McLaren-Honda for the first time, whether or not to retire.

"Yes, I read it and was very surprised," Alonso told Spanish reporters in Barcelona. "I think you should ask him about it."

It had been suggested that only a massive step forward by Honda would keep Alonso on board, but the Spaniard insisted that while the MP4-31 is better than its woeful predecessor, it is not yet ready to win races.

"The engine is still not fast," he said, "but it is no longer as it was last year.

"We have taken a huge step from last year, but it is true that last season we did a very poor championship. And now we are still a few seconds from the front."

Alonso, however, insisted that McLaren, at least, is not far from its goal.

"I think the target to have the best chassis is reachable," he said, "maybe by the European races."

As for the Times' report of his impending retirement, Alonso insisted: "I deny it, of course.

"I have a contract here for three years," he continued, this time to English-language media, "and I'm not thinking about anything else."

What he does admit to thinking about, however, is McLaren-Honda making "very important" progress in 2016, after the situation of 2015 that he described at one point as being "embarrassing".

"I am not here just to travel around the world, jump in the car and have some fun on a Sunday," said Alonso. "I am here to win."

But he knows that will not happen yet, particularly as Alonso joined the rest of the F1 paddock in amazement as Nico Rosberg put in an incredible day's work on Tuesday with 172 laps.

"The Mercedes domination hasn't finished," said Alonso. "With that amount of laps, they are probably stronger than ever."

Indeed, while Sebastian Vettel said he is happy Ferrari seems to have taken a "very, very big step forward" with its 2016 car, Mercedes is obviously not standing still.

The paddock was impressed on Tuesday when Mercedes debuted an odd-looking, Mad Max-style bargeboard, which Rosberg described as "futuristic".

"Our opponents are chasing us hard so we have to innovate to continue to be at the front," said the German.

Pascal Wehrlein eyes upset with Manor
Pascal Wehrlein eyes upset with Manor

Wehrlein eyes Manor 'upset' in Melbourne
(GMM) Pascal Wehrlein is determined to make his mark on formula one this year.

Backed by Mercedes, the reigning DTM champion makes his grand prix debut in 2016 with Manor, just as the backmarker team eyes a major step forward.

The team has secured the best engine on the grid, technology support from Williams, and well-known technical brains from Ferrari.

"We want to turn up at the weekend and be part of the event, not just to make up the numbers," said Dave Ryan, another new recruit who is putting the McLaren 'lie-gate' scandal behind him as he returns to F1 in 2016.

Wehrlein, wearing his new Steve McQueen-style overalls, has driven the new blue and red Manor so far in Barcelona and seems impressed.

"My aim is to close the gap to the other drivers and hopefully do one or two highlights this year," the 21-year-old German told Die Welt newspaper.

"Who knows, maybe we can cause an upset in Melbourne."

He will be wanting to make an impression on his Mercedes paymasters in 2016, as the contract of the German marque's long-time works driver Nico Rosberg is up for renewal.

Rosberg, however, thinks he is going nowhere.

"I'm sure there's going to be many more years to go here at Mercedes," he said. "We've achieved so much and there's even more to achieve in the future."

Jolyon Palmer sucking wind with Renault power at the back
Jolyon Palmer sucking wind with Renault power at the back

Palmer hopes Renault can fight with Haas
(GMM) Renault needs to up its game to avoid a "terrible" start to the 2016 season.

That was the warning in Barcelona of Jolyon Palmer, who has driven the black RS16, currently painted in interim black, so far this week.

He admitted to some concern that, after a bad start to his own campaign with two days of limited running, teammate Kevin Magnussen will now get a much clearer run on Wednesday and Thursday.

"Yes," Palmer was quoted by the Danish media, "right now he's in the box drinking coffee.

"Of course it's nice to get the first laps with a new car, but I'm sure that he'll do more distance than I've been able to, because some issues have been resolved.

"If this doesn't happen, then the start of the season for us could be terrible."

On paper, a works team should be eyeing the upper grid slots, but Renault took over the near-collapsing Lotus at the eleventh hour and had to remove the 2016 car's fully-competitive Mercedes engine.

It means Palmer is having to consider the fact that Renault could be outperformed by F1 newcomer Haas.

"It's hard to say," he said. "I'm sure they're not going to be like HRT or Virgin a few years ago. Haas will be in the fight, and I hope to be fighting them."

A lot is therefore riding on the progress Dane Magnussen is able to make in the second half of the first Barcelona test.

"It would be nice to get some more laps (than Palmer did)," he admitted to the Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet.

"But we'll see. We knew that it would be difficult as we were so late, but that's how it is."

Finally, his new boss Frederic Vasseur allayed any fears that Magnussen should be concerned that his first choice for the seat alongside Palmer was actually Stoffel Vandoorne.

"He (Magnussen) has nothing to prove," Vasseur told BT newspaper in Barcelona. "I am completely convinced of his potential, so he has nothing to worry about."

With the new qualifying rules, if passed, there won't be any sandbagging until late in each session anymore
With the new qualifying rules, if passed, there won't be any sandbagging until late in each session anymore

F1 to ramp up 'knockout' qualifying for 2016
(GMM) F1 looks set for a radical shakeup to its qualifying format, according to widespread reports in the specialist press.

The news, yet to be announced by the governing body, follows a series of meetings that took place on Tuesday in Geneva.

The meetings of the Strategy Group and F1 Commission had been billed as the last chance for F1 to agree sweeping changes to the technical regulations for 2017.

But the deadline for consensus, initially set to expire in just a few days, was instead simply delayed for another month.

Germany's Auto Bild, however, reported that the radical car blueprint for 2017 as devised by Red Bull, with a five second per lap boost and 50 per cent more downforce, "was rejected".

"The McLaren idea, with 30 per cent more downforce as a compromise, seems the most probable now," the report said.

FIA president Jean Todt is said to have described the meeting as having gone "quite well", amid reports the 2017 cars will now be only three seconds per lap quicker.

Todt also responded to Ecclestone's latest comments, in which the F1 supremo suggested the Frenchman should join him in simply forcing through change.

"I am not the dictator," he is quoted by the Guardian.

"A dictator could not work within our system of governance. I would end up being a murdered dictator, as can happen with dictators," Todt added.

So the biggest news from Tuesday's meetings, reportedly championed hard by Bernie Ecclestone, is a tweak to qualifying, based on the current three-phase 'knockout' format.

Citing sources, the Daily Mirror explained that "the slowest driver would be ejected every 90 seconds", with the change set to be rubber-stamped in the coming days.

Lauda knows that regardless of what gimmick F1 comes up with, Mercedes will be out front. They have Aldo Costa designing their cars and the most HP under the engine cover.
Lauda knows that regardless of what gimmick F1 comes up with, Mercedes will be out front. They have Aldo Costa designing their cars and the most HP under the engine cover.

Qualifying tweak 'good move' for F1 – Lauda
(GMM) Niki Lauda has shown the thumbs-up to F1's impending change to the qualifying format for 2016.

At meetings in Geneva on Tuesday, the sport collectively agreed that every 90 seconds during qualifying this year, the slowest car should be knocked out.

"This is a good move," F1 legend and Mercedes team chairman Lauda told Speed Week, "because the fans will see more cars on the track.

"We have adopted a meaningful change that will mean no one can afford to just stay in the box as they sometimes did. The new format is easy to implement and a good thing," he added.

Lauda acknowledged, however, that at the Geneva meetings, little else was agreed.

"We agree that the cars for 2017 should be faster and will look aggressive, and then the engine changes come for 2018," he said.

"That will be decided in March, but I am confident we will implement everything."

As for Mercedes' chances of winning a third consecutive world championship in 2016, Lauda sounds bullish.

"Basically, you always have to worry if you've won it two times in a row. But we are well prepared," he said.

"We even do so many kilometers that we have switched the program to a half-day each for Rosberg and Hamilton to lessen the burden.

"Actually, I was hoping that we would have some faults and defects here in Spain, because the more it happens in testing, the less chance it happens in Australia," added Lauda.

"But we far everything has been perfect."

Mercedes' closest rival in 2016, meanwhile, looks set to be Ferrari.

"First of all I was pleased with the new colors," said Lauda, "which reminds me of my old (1975) car.

"But how they are doing is impossible to assess after two days of testing. We'll see what happens next week here in Barcelona, but the real cards will only be seen in Melbourne," he insisted.

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