Latest F1 news in brief – Tuesday

  • Palmer says Maldonado not as bad as made out to be
    Palmer says Maldonado not as bad as made out to be

    Ousted Maldonado 'not a bad driver' – Palmer

  • Ferrari has matched Mercedes power unit – Rivola
  • Red Bull cautious on 2016 performance
  • Titles 'not mandatory' for Renault – Prost
  • Piquet Jr admits F1 return chances low
  • Lack of money stopped F1 career – Bird
  • Jorda role prompted Sorensen to quit Renault
  • No change to Sauber's 2016 car plan

Ousted Maldonado 'not a bad driver' – Palmer
(GMM) 2016 rookie Jolyon Palmer says he is happy to be teamed with Kevin Magnussen for his first season in F1.

Actually, the 2014 GP2 champion was scheduled to be paired with Pastor Maldonado, but the controversial Venezuelan has been ousted by Renault at the last minute over a sponsorship problem.

Recently, former F1 driver Mark Webber singled out Maldonado as the worst driver in F1.

"He's not a bad driver," Palmer told the Guardian newspaper.

"He won GP2 and he won a grand prix, remember. Throughout last season he ran Romain Grosjean close a lot of the time. It was just that he made mistakes at important moments. That's where Romain (Grosjean) had the advantage.

"But I think Kevin will present a stronger, more consistent challenge. He and Jenson (Button) were very even at McLaren. He's a known reference point for me," added Palmer, whose father is the former F1 driver Jonathan.

Jonathan Palmer, a British race circuit magnate, urged his son to push hard to make an immediate impact, after Lotus chiefs last year said he was often too cautious in his Friday practice duties.

Palmer Snr said: "If you don't make the best of the opportunity you're going to get spat out very quickly. It's important he does justice to the car and furthers his reputation for future years."

And Jolyon also hailed Renault's decision to keep supplying Red Bull this year, despite the two sides' recent falling out.

"I'm pleased Red Bull are sticking with the Renault engine because they're pushing very hard to get the most out of it. You find out twice as much if you have two teams," he said.

Massimo Rivola has been smoking something
Massimo Rivola has been smoking something

Ferrari has matched Mercedes power unit – Rivola
(GMM) Ferrari is ready to take on Mercedes in 2016, according to the Italian marque's long-time team manager Massimo Rivola.

For the new season, Rivola is leaving the fabled race team to head Maranello's driver development academy, but he is nonetheless expecting a good showing from Ferrari.

"We could do some nice results in the past year," he was quoted as saying at an Italian automobile club event in Sicily, "and the new project seems to have been both healthy.

"Everyone is expecting a great championship from Ferrari," Rivola added.

"As for the power unit, I am convinced that the team has done a great job and has prepared an engine that has reached the level of performance of Mercedes," he is quoted by Speed Week.

"With the chassis, we hope we will find the competitiveness that we were missing last year," said Rivola.

Red Bull cautious on 2016 performance
(GMM) Red Bull is keeping its expectations in check ahead of the new F1 season.

After a long and bitter spat with engine partner Renault, the premier energy drink-owned team is staying with French power for 2016, albeit as an unbranded customer.

"I wouldn't like to make predictions," part-time technical chief Adrian Newey told Britain's Sky.

Adrian Newey is cautious
Adrian Newey is cautious

"But Honda I'm sure will be making a good step forwards for McLaren. Even Toro Rosso having a one-year out-of-date Ferrari engine will have a good step on their performance. So it's very difficult for us to forecast exactly where we're going to be," he added.

Renault insiders are whispering about a 50 horse power boost compared to the end of 2015, and Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has hopes the deeper involvement of Ilmor's Mario Illien will also pay off.

"Wait and see. There's always hope," he said. "Mario's doing a great job."

At the same time, Horner is also not expecting that Red Bull can challenge Mercedes this year.

"The regulations are virtually unchanged," he is quoted by Speed Week, "so for me it's logical that Mercedes, given its big gap, will retain its dominance.

"I don't know what odds the bookmakers are giving, but I don't think it would be a good idea to bet against them," Horner added.

Team test driver Sebastien Buemi is also unsure what Red Bull will be able to achieve in 2016.

"We have big teams like McLaren that are behind," he told, "but Red Bull is doing a good job.

"It depends what progress Renault makes."

Alain Prost
Alain Prost

Titles 'not mandatory' for Renault – Prost
(GMM) F1 legend Alain Prost says it is "not mandatory" that Renault ever adds to its current tally of world championships.

As an engine supplier, the French carmaker has won titles with Williams, Benetton and Red Bull, and as a works constructor with Fernando Alonso last decade.

Now, Renault is returning to F1 as a full works team, but quadruple world champion Prost argues that more world championship success is not compulsory.

"To be world champion is not mandatory for Renault," he told Auto Motor und Sport.

"But we must at some point be able to race at the top of the world championship," the Renault brand ambassador said. "So that people around the world feel that Renault is a top team.

"For Mercedes or Audi, winning is much more important, while for us the world title would be a bonus," Prost added.

Nelson Piquet Jr knows his check is not big enough for F1
Nelson Piquet Jr knows his check is not big enough for F1

Piquet Jr admits F1 return chances low
(GMM) Nelson Piquet Jr has acknowledged that his formula one days are over for now.

Famously, the Brazilian found himself at the center of the biggest race-fixing scandal to ever hit the sport after crashing deliberately in the 2008 Singapore grand prix.

He rebuilt his tattered career in Nascar, rallycross and also Formula E, where he is the reigning champion, but acknowledges that F1 is unfinished business that he will probably never complete.

"I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but it happens," Piquet, now 30, told the Argentine sports daily Ole.

"I am very realistic about my time in formula one, as every driver would like to be on a team that allows you to win races. But I had a podium in my first year and did many things that others would not do in five or six years.

"Today my career is Formula E and I don't think much about returning to F1.
"There are at least six drivers who have the money and the sponsors to take the places from the others.

"I'm happy with my career," added the son of the triple world champion with the same name, "and I have had several challenges — not everything is about F1."

Sam Bird won last weekend's Formula E race
Sam Bird won last weekend's Formula E race

Lack of money stopped F1 career – Bird
(GMM) Former Mercedes tester Sam Bird says only a lack of sponsorship prevented him from making his mark in formula one.

Between 2010 and 2014, the now 29-year-old Briton worked for the German giant alongside Michael Schumacher, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

He says his hero was Schumacher.

"He is the greatest I ever saw and I was lucky enough to work with him," Bird told the Argentine sports daily Ole.

He was speaking in Buenos Aires, where he won the latest Formula E race — his third victory in the category.

As for why his F1 dream didn't work out, Bird answered: "Why? Very simple: I didn't have a check for 20 million euros. Instead, I am paid to be in Formula E."

Marco Sorensen comes to the hard realization that money, not talent, is what counts in F1
Carmen Jorda

Jorda role prompted Sorensen to quit Renault
(GMM) Marco Sorensen says he quit F1's Enstone team in protest of the status of female development driver Carmen Jorda.

Jorda, a former GP3 driver, was controversially appointed by Lotus last year, but it surprised many when it emerged she has kept the role for 2016 in the wake of the Renault takeover.

For Danish driver Marco Sorensen, whose test role at Lotus was reportedly linked with the now-departed sponsor Saxo Bank, he claims that his departure was actually because of 27-year-old Jorda.

"She was 12 seconds slower than me in the simulator," Sorensen is quoted as saying by the Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet. "Still, she ran away with all the rewards.

"For the past two years I have spent at least 60 days in the simulator, which is about the same as Kevin (Magnussen) at McLaren. So I felt violated to the point that it finally became too much and I had to stop," he added.

However, Sorensen insists he has no hard feelings that his countryman Magnussen has leapt straight into the Renault race seat.

"I could not come up with 50 million kroner ($7.5 million), which I've heard is the starting amount if you want to buy a formula one seat," he said.

Sorensen now races for Aston Martin in the world endurance championship.

As for countryman Magnussen's forthcoming teammate battle with Jolyon Palmer this year, Sorensen predicted: "It will be close, but I think Kevin has more talent than Palmer."

New Sauber will be late
New Sauber will be late

No change to Sauber's 2016 car plan
(GMM) Sauber is pressing ahead with its plan to begin testing its 2016 car only at the second and final pre-season test next month.

The Swiss team announced on Monday that the C35, which will not be in action when official testing begins in Barcelona later in February, has at least passed the FIA crash tests.

"It is not excluded that we will drive between the first test and the roll-out on a filming day," a team spokesman said in January.

But when asked if the newly-passed crash test means Sauber has accelerated its program and will now be up and running this month, a team insider told us: "There are no changes to the original plan."

It means Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson will only have the 2015 car to drive at the first Barcelona test, albeit in a new livery.

Ericsson told the Swedish newspaper Teknikens Varld: "But we can still get some work done, to gather data from the tires and also test some new parts and settings."

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