Latest F1 news in brief – Thursday

UPDATE Updates shown in red below.


  • Christian Horner
    Christian Horner

    Red Bull to struggle early in 2016 – Horner

  • F1 must embrace 2017 rules revolution – Horner
  • Haryanto's Manor deal set for Thursday announcement
  • Good and bad news for Alonso
  • Williams confirms Barcelona test line-up
  • Horner: 'Clean sheet' for Red Bull in 2016
  • Force India to launch on Monday
  • McLaren-Honda not using 2015 engine in Barcelona New
  • Hype to keep Sahara Force India energized through 2016 season New

Red Bull to struggle early in 2016 – Horner
(GMM) Red Bull on Wednesday launched a fresh matte livery but warned that even the junior team Toro Rosso might be ahead early in 2016.

"The first half (of the season) is going to be less competitive than the second," said team boss Christian Horner at the Puma sponsor event in London.

Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo said he doesn't mind that Red Bull is keeping its expectations low, after a difficult 2015 and the fact the team is staying with Renault power.

"If you come out in Melbourne and Christian and everyone is saying 'It's awesome' and then it doesn't work, it's demoralizing," he said.

Ricciardo said his personal goal is therefore to perform at the highest level possible, in order to keep the momentum in his career that in 2014 had looked set to skyrocket.

"If you can't win, as long as you look good that's the second thing you want to do," he said.

At the same time, boss Horner is bullish about Red Bull's hopes for later this season, as even though more distance has been added to the relationship with Renault, the French carmaker is ramping up its efforts in F1.

"It doesn't surprise me most people have written Red Bull off but with the caliber of people we have, it would be foolhardy," he said.

A lot of those hopes are being pinned on Renault.

"I think we are going to start the year with some progress from the end of last season, but I think with our engine partner's commitment to buying a (works) team we will see staged progress during the course of the year," said Horner.

"There's a confidence from them we haven't seen for some time. They appear to have made the right moves within their technical structure. They've brought in expertise through contractors and they appear to be moving in the right direction.

"The biggest problem for them is time," said Horner.

For 2016, after the spats of last year, Red Bull and Renault have moved apart for the new season but Horner insists the team can win as a mere 'customer'.

"Let's not forget, we won a world championship when they had a works team in 2010 so I'm not worried about there being a differentiation in treatment," he said.

And he explained that Red Bull's old title-winning approach to making the chassis, including taking 'risks' other teams are not prepared to take, remains.

"We're probably the latest team to do any of the crash tests, which have all been done this week," revealed Horner.

As for the new livery, he added: "It looks right, and things that look good tend to go well. So hopefully we'll see that on track."

Horner agrees with Vettel, the drivers must be the stars, not the cars
Horner agrees with Vettel, the drivers must be the stars, not the cars

F1 must embrace 2017 rules revolution – Horner
(GMM) Christian Horner has urged F1 to push ahead with plans to substantially speed up the cars for 2017.

The Red Bull chief's comments follow hot on the heels of former protege Sebastian Vettel claiming formula one risks becoming "lost" amid the controversial power unit era in which Mercedes is dominating.

"I think Sebastian is right in that the drivers need to be the stars," Horner said on Wednesday at the launch of Red Bull's new livery for 2016.

"We've got a chance for 2017 and it's important that we get that right," he added.

"The chassis changes for 2017 need to put the emphasis on the driver and the cars for 2017 need to be big, difficult and powerful and really stretch the drivers so you get a bigger differentiation between them.

"We have got a golden opportunity to address that and it's important we don't miss that in the next couple of weeks," said Horner.

While the 2017 shakeup has been under discussion for some time, there have been rumblings recently that Mercedes is urging caution and Pirelli is warning that laptime cannot be slashed unless much more testing is done.

Behind the scenes, the situation appears highly political, amid rumors the FIA is even keeping open its options to bring Michelin back to the negotiating table.

Auto Motor und Sport claims Michelin thinks high-performance tyros can be supplied "without testing", and it could explain why the FIA is yet to sign off Pirelli's new 2017 F1 contract.

Mere weeks ago, Pirelli boss Paul Hembery admitted: "I guess if there's no contract anyone could walk away, but we have a contract with Bernie (Ecclestone) and FOM so the rest of the agreements I'm sure will follow in due course."

Pressure is also being put on the teams to agree a way forward within the coming days, as it emerges that authorities rejected Williams' plan to delay the rule changes until 2018.

"It was even suggested just before Christmas not to change anything, which would be a disaster," said Horner.

Auto Motor und Sport explained: "At the last meeting of technical directors, it was discussed whether to extend the deadline by a further two months, in order to stop poor compromises being made."

Horner thinks FIA president Jean Todt and Bernie Ecclestone should simply call the shots.

"We're never going to keep everyone happy," he insisted. "But by trying to placate different views we'll end up diluting change."

Rio Haryanto - has check will drive
Rio Haryanto – has check will drive

Haryanto's Manor deal set for Thursday announcement
(GMM) Rio Haryanto's deal to race with Manor in 2016 is done, and will be announced officially in Indonesia later on Thursday.

Indonesian media are reporting that a press conference featuring the 23-year-old GP2 driver and Dwi Soetjipto, the president of the state-owned oil company Pertamina, will take place at 15.30 local time in Jakarta.

A source close to Pertamina said: "It has been our priority to release the funds to help Rio Haryanto."

Reports in Britain on Wednesday revealed that Haryanto, who has been in GP2 since 2012 with a career-high of fourth overall last year, will replace Will Stevens to complete the 2016 grid alongside new teammate Pascal Wehrlein.

Sources close to Haryanto's management suggested the news emerged after a down payment of EUR 5 million was processed this week.

Alexander Rossi - no check, won't drive
Alexander Rossi – no check, won't drive

A spokesman for Pertamina confirmed that the company is supporting Haryanto financially.

"Essentially, we will do what we promised earlier," he said.

It is believed reports that Manor could split Haryanto's cockpit a further two ways, with Stevens and Alexander Rossi to share racing duties in 2016, were wide of the mark.

But just last Friday, even Haryanto had admitted it was a possibility.

"It has happened before this way," he said, "but hopefully we can do the full season which will increase the chances of getting offers from other teams (in the future)."

Alonso and pregnant Lara Alvarez
Alonso and pregnant Lara Alvarez

Good and bad news for Alonso
(GMM) There appears to be good and bad news this week in the world of Fernando Alonso.

The good news, according to the Spanish gossip magazine Diez Minutos, is that the McLaren-Honda driver is engaged to his girlfriend Lara Alvarez, a TV presenter.

Alvarez, 29, may also be pregnant, with their wedding reportedly to take place in Dubai or the Maldives by the end of the year.

El Pais newspaper declared: "We contacted the representative of the F1 driver, who said he knows nothing about the matter."

As for the bad news, there are reports in the specialist Spanish sports press that not all is well with Honda's preparations for the 2016 season.

Earlier, Marca newspaper claimed that while the Japanese carmaker's 2016 engine is more powerful than its woeful predecessor, the new and larger turbo unit has proved unreliable on the test benches.

Now, a Marca headline declares that Honda could take "the engine from 2015" to the first of just two pre-season tests in Barcelona from early next week.

Williams confirms Barcelona test line-up
Williams has confirmed its driver schedule for pre-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, with Valtteri Bottas set to debut the FW38 on Monday.

Williams will unveil the Mercedes-powered FW38 in the pit lane on Monday morning, after which Bottas will conduct a full day of testing in the new car.

Bottas will continue on Tuesday, before team-mate Felipe Massa receives two days of action to complete the test.

The same approach will be used for the second test, which takes place from March 1-4, with Bottas driving across the opening two days and Massa concluding pre-season running.

The new Red Bull, when it is unveiled, will be a clean sheet of paper
The new Red Bull, when it is unveiled, will be a clean sheet of paper

Horner: 'Clean sheet' for Red Bull in 2016
Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner says the squad's change in livery reflects its "clean sheet of paper" as it bids to bounce back from a difficult 2015 campaign.

Red Bull slipped to a win-less fourth in the standings as its relationship with Renault soured, though the French manufacturer continues to supply power units under the TAG Heuer guise.

Horner is nonetheless confident that Red Bull can make gains following its troubled year.

"We're going back to basics," he told media, including, at the launch of Red Bull's 2016 design.

"With the livery that we've unveiled, it's a clean sheet of paper. It's a new beginning for the team as we head into the next phase of Red Bull's [journey in Formula 1].

"Last year was a tough year, and we emerged from that, and it feels like we're picking up momentum. There's confidence in the factory and determination to get back into a competitive situation."

Horner remains wary, however, that Red Bull's RB12, which will be unveiled at the start of pre-season testing on Monday, is unlikely to be a match for reigning champions Mercedes.

"Mercedes will set the benchmark, then we'll have to try to get as close to that as we can," he said.

"That's the benchmark and we want to reduce the gap."

Force India to launch on Monday
Force India has confirmed that its 2016 challenger, the Mercedes-powered VJM09, will be unveiled on Monday morning prior to the start of pre-season testing in Spain.

The car will be launched in the pit lane at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya at 08:30 local time, 30 minutes before the first day of testing begins at the venue.

Force India finished fifth in last year's Constructors' championship with its VJM08, which was not introduced until the final pre-season test at the circuit.

Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg will continue at the team for a third successive season.

Kimi Raikkonen's 2016 seat-fitting
Join Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen as he completes his seat-fitting in the team's 2016 challenger.

McLaren-Honda not using 2015 engine in Barcelona
(GMM) McLaren and Honda on Thursday rubbished suggestions the 2015 engine will be taken to Barcelona next week.

Reports in the Spanish specialist sports press had suggested the Japanese marque may hold back the debut of its more powerful 2016 power unit due to reliability problems with the new and larger turbo.

"No, not true," a McLaren spokesman told GMM on Thursday.

And Honda spokesperson Akiko Itoga added: "(McLaren) is correct, we will be using the 2016 (engine)."

The first of just eight days of official pre-season testing in Barcelona begins next Monday.

Hype to keep Sahara Force India energized through 2016 season
Sahara Force India will continue its partnership with Hype Energy drinks for the 2016 season. Hype branding will be located on the cockpit of the VJM09, the inside of the rear wing end plate, as well as on the drivers’ suits.

The extended partnership allows Hype Energy to build on its strong heritage in motorsport, which dates back to the 1995 season when the Hype logo first appeared in Formula One. Since then the brand has matured to become one of the best tasting premium and lifestyle energy drinks on the market.

Fans of the sport can look forward to a busy activation program from Hype ranging from social media competitions to consumer events, including the expansion of the #MFPClub at key races on the 2016 calendar.

Vijay Mallya, Team Principal and Managing Director: “Hype Energy is one of those exciting brands that fits perfectly with Formula One. We enjoy working with them and it’s great to see the brand going from strength to strength with the introduction of new products. With their support last year we enjoyed our best ever season, so I’m delighted that we have expanded the partnership for 2016 and look forward to further shared success."

Bertrand Gachot, CEO of Hype Energy Drinks: “We’re extremely pleased and excited to continue our partnership with Sahara Force India. Last year, thanks to the great successes of the team, the Hype brand enjoyed huge growth and strengthened its global position in the functional drinks category. I enjoy working with this team and from a personal perspective it’s a natural choice: I was involved with the team since its creation in 1990 and raced for them in 1991. Now, as a sponsor, I’m proud to still work with some of the same people as I did as a racing driver. I have immense faith in them. I would also like to thank Vijay for making this possible and Otmar for his great strategic work."

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