Latest F1 news in brief – Friday

  • Michael Schumacher

    Schumacher news 'not good' – Montezemolo

  • Magnussen had another F1 offer for 2016
  • Renault can win again in future – Briatore
  • McLaren-Honda must be better in 2016 – Prost
  • Magnussen sympathizes with ousted Maldonado
  • Chris Dyer returns to F1 with Renault
  • 2016 Renault car 'conservative' – Abiteboul
  • Renault not surprised by Marko comments
  • Friday outings possible for Ocon
  • Video: Bob Bell discusses Renault technical role

Schumacher news 'not good' – Montezemolo
(GMM) Michael Schumacher's former boss has caused a stir by suggesting the health condition of the F1 legend is "not good".

"I constantly get news about him and it is not good," former Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo said.

The Italian was speaking at an anniversary event for the Quattroruote magazine, adding: "He was a great driver, but a ski accident has ruined him."

Montezemolo's comments might be interpreted as alarming, given the lack of official information about Schumacher's condition following his return home to Switzerland in late 2014.

68-year-old Montezemolo, now the Alitalia airline chief and also heading Rome's 2024 Olympics bid, was also asked about Ferrari's hopes for the 2016 F1 season.

"It's a different Ferrari to my day, another thing, but I follow it. After all, it was and is my family and the most important thing in my life," he said.

Magnussen's check was also big enough for Manor
Magnussen's check was also big enough for a Manor seat

Magnussen had another F1 offer for 2016
(GMM) Renault wasn't Kevin Magnussen's only F1 option for 2016, according to the Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet.

When asked if he had turned down an offer from another team, the Danish driver answered simply: "Yes."

Ekstra Bladet claims the other option was Manor, the only F1 team still yet to announce its race drivers for 2016.

Another Danish newspaper, BT, claims Magnussen's return to F1 has been powered by about EUR 7 million in backing courtesy of wealthy Danish businessman Anders Holch Povlsen.

He heads the company Bestseller, whose brand Jack and Jones was clearly visible on Renault's black testing livery at the Paris launch earlier this week.

Magnussen confirmed: "Anders really is a great support in every possible way. I have a lot to thank him for."

It is believed the 23-year-old's contract is for 2016 only.

"It's one A4 page," Magnussen said. "I cannot go into detail about what it says. The main thing is that I needed to race this year and the future is completely open to be here.

"As always in formula one, there is nothing certain," he added. "If you do not perform, you will get nowhere. Formula one is a tough world where there are only the best."

Flavio Briatore was careful not to say 'will win again'
Flavio Briatore was careful not to say 'will win again'

Renault can win again in future – Briatore
(GMM) Flavio Briatore has wished his old employer well as Renault prepares to return to full works status in formula one this year.

The flamboyant Italian was team boss throughout Renault's most successful era last decade, until the 'crashgate' scandal ended his F1 career.

When asked about Renault having bought back Enstone to re-start a works foray, the 65-year-old told the Italian news agency Adnkronos: "This is wonderful and positive news, but winning will be tough for them.

"Winning is unlikely right away, but for the future everything is possible, even if the team needs to know that there is much work to do."

Asked if Renault can recapture its title glory of the past, Briatore answered: "Why not? If they did it ten years ago, they can do it again."

Indeed, Renault Sport chief Jerome Stoll suggested Renault will at least have a winning-sized budget on its hands, as Canal Plus quoted him as saying: "We will spend about EUR 300 million a year."

As for Ferrari's chances of taking on Mercedes for the 2016 championship, Briatore said: "I hope so, and I hope it for all of the fans in particular.

"If there is no competition in the races it hurts all of formula one, even if it will be tough as Mercedes' technical advantage is very significant.

"If formula one wants to return to being the event that everyone loved, there must be a struggle between at least two teams, even if four teams was even better," he added.

Alain Prost says the obvious - of course Honda will be better in 2016, no one can they be worse than they were in 2015?
Alain Prost says the obvious – of course Honda will be better in 2016, no one can they be worse than they were in 2015?

McLaren-Honda must be better in 2016 – Prost
(GMM) Alain Prost thinks McLaren-Honda will have a better season in 2016.

The quadruple world champion and F1 legend was in Paris earlier this week for the Renault launch.

It had been rumored Prost might take on a direct managerial role at Renault this year, but he will instead simply continue to be a brand ambassador.

"This is perhaps just as well, because my presence would have only increased the pressure to succeed," he is quoted by Speed Week.

Prost said success for Renault will take time.

"We have patience," he smiled, "but will the media have the same?

"It is going to take at least two or three years. Then when the new rules come (in 2017), that could be an advantage for Renault," Prost is quoted by La Gazzetta dello Sport.

On the current process of formulating the new rules for 2017, he answered: "We need a unified strategy, but I do not see that" happening.

Finally, when a Spanish reporter asked Prost about the hopes of Fernando Alonso and the struggling McLaren-Honda project, the Frenchman said he was reluctant to comment.

"Today is not a day for McLaren, it's a day for Renault," he is quoted by AS newspaper.

When pressed, Prost added: "If I have to say something, I would say it will be an improvement this year, as they cannot have another year like the last. They will get better because they can do and they have to.

"The only question is how much," he said.

Magnussen knows how Maldonado feels, his check wasn't big enough to buy his ride for 2 years and he had to sit the bench
Magnussen knows how Maldonado feels, his check wasn't big enough to buy his ride for 2 years and he had to sit the bench

Magnussen sympathizes with ousted Maldonado
(GMM) Kevin Magnussen has expressed his sympathy for the plight of Pastor Maldonado, who was ousted at the last minute by Renault for 2016.

It is Magnussen who is replacing the controversial Venezuelan, and the young Dane said: "Pastor has my full respect.

"I have been in the same situation as him (at McLaren) and know how hard that is. But I am sure that he will succeed in whatever he does next," said Magnussen.

Maldonado was due to be paired with Lotus' 2015 reserve Jolyon Palmer this year, and the British driver commented: "He is a really nice guy — I worked with him for a year and we got on very well.

"So I do feel for him, because it was pretty late."

Palmer, however, sounded relieved that he managed to survive the uncertainty of Lotus' 2015 situation and the Renault takeover, explaining: "I don't know where he stood, but there was always this uncertainty.

"So maybe it was not completely unexpected (for Maldonado)."

From Renault's perspective, new team boss Frederic Vasseur said the late driver change is not a problem.

"It would be if there was a difference of 20 kilograms between the drivers, but that's not the case," he added.

Indeed, Renault is taking a very cautious approach to its first year back as a full works entrant, as managing director Cyril Abiteboul explained: "We have to be realistic.

"We have approved this program very late. So we cannot expect that we will have absolutely top drivers. For this first year we have the ideal driver pairing," he is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport.

"It is a combination of young, hungry, talented drivers, and with Magnussen we even have the advantage of some experience," he added.

Chris Dyer
Chris Dyer

Chris Dyer returns to F1 with Renault
(GMM) Chris Dyer, a well-known former engineer for Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen, is returning to F1 after a five year hiatus.

The Australian lost his job as chief track engineer at Ferrari after a bungled race strategy cost Fernando Alonso the drivers' title at the 2010 season finale.

More recently, he has been chief engineer for BMW's DTM program.

But Italian media reports including La Gazzetta dello Sport now confirm that Dyer, 48, is returning to F1 this year with Renault, to be 'head of vehicle performance'.

Autosprint also reports that Romain Grosjean's engineer at Lotus (now Renault), Ayao Komatsu, has followed the Frenchman to Haas.

Cyril Abiteboul says Renault will win again in 2018
Cyril Abiteboul says Renault will win again in 2018

2016 Renault car 'conservative' – Abiteboul
(GMM) Renault will walk a fine line between improving the 2016 car and preparing for the opportunity presented by next year's radically different rules.

"2017 will be important for us," agreed new team boss Frederic Vasseur.

"The regulations will change significantly, which for us will be an important opportunity."

Having taken over Lotus at the last minute, Renault is aware that 2016 will be a difficult campaign, as the new car was actually designed for a Mercedes engine.

But CEO Carlos Ghosn is actually saying the podium is not the target until 2018, which according to some might be interpreted as too low an ambition.

"Really?" managing director Cyril Abiteboul told Auto Motor und Sport. "Red Bull took five years, Mercedes as well. I would say our plan is ambitious.

"What we can say is that we will not be on the podium this year. That's absolutely impossible," he insisted.

"Everything we do this year is in preparation for 2017 and 2018. But in 2018, podiums must be possible."

Abiteboul openly admits that Renault bungled the new 'power units' regulations in 2014 and 2015, but he says the carmaker is back on track for 2016 with a significant step.

"Now we have some really good things in development," he said. "For the first time we know what we have to do in order to reliably implement improvements with the engine.

"But it takes time. With the chassis, there are clearly compromises. It was designed for the Mercedes engine and so there will be some design disadvantages.

"But again: 2016 is the year in which we have to prepare for 2017," Abiteboul added.

'Racing director' Vasseur agrees, but he also says Renault must tread a fine line between getting ready for 2017 and not completely writing off this year.

"I have to decide how we want to distribute the resources," he said, "because if we just stop with the current car, there is a danger the staff lose motivation."

Abiteboul continues: "What we need this year is a reliable platform on which we can build.

"That is why we have asked Enstone to take a conservative first step. We will not rush. We need kilometers: for the car, the engine and the drivers."

A plan to add 200 staff to the Enstone factory has already been revealed, but Abiteboul said the 250 engine people at Viry-Chattilon is enough.

"Although Red Bull always said it is not enough, I can assure you that Viry has the people and the money," he said.

Ferrari managed to speed up its process of catching up last year by poaching some staff from Mercedes, and Abiteboul agreed that trying to sign experienced people from elsewhere is a logical route to take.

"Of course," he said, "but to entice people from the competition, you have to be attractive. And we were far from attractive, because it wasn't clear where we were headed.

"That's different now that we have a plan and a long-term project."

Remi Taffin not surprised by comments
Remi Taffin not surprised by comments

Renault not surprised by Marko comments
(GMM) Renault says it is not surprised by comments made recently by Dr Helmut Marko.

After a long period of tension between Red Bull and its engine supplier, they will effectively be competitors in 2016 after Renault took over the Lotus team.

Red Bull, now effectively a paying customer, will still be powered by Renault but the engines have been de-branded as the carmaker focuses on its new works project.

Marko said in mid-January: "When I consider the current Lotus team, which is now the Renault factory team, if they (Renault) were in their right mind they would put everything on us."

When asked about the comments, Renault's engine chief Remi Taffin said: "If I was Dr Marko, that is exactly what I would say, as he has his own team and wants the best for it.

"In fact, I'd be surprised if he had said otherwise," he is quoted by Brazil's UOL.

Taffin also said that when Renault ups its game on the engine side, Red Bull will once again have a competitive package because "we know that they are able to make a good car".

"It will be a good battle. I would be happy to be able to fight with Red Bull, hopefully with us winning of course," he added.

Red Bull has been promised engine equality with the works team, Taffin added, even though Red Bull may be "out of sync" at times as Renault pushes development.

Esteban Ocon's check was big enough to afford him some track cleaning sessions in 2016
Esteban Ocon's check was big enough to afford him some track cleaning sessions in 2016

Friday outings possible for Ocon
(GMM) Esteban Ocon may get some Friday practice outings in 2016.

'On loan' to Renault after re-signing with Mercedes' driver development scheme late last year, the 19-year-old reigning GP3 champion will be the official third driver in 2016.

And the Frenchman could get some free practice outings in the new Renault in 2016, managing director Cyril Abiteboul admitted.

"I cannot go into details but I confirm that," he said.

Having signed with Mercedes, Ocon admitted he was surprised when the Renault opportunity emerged "very quickly" in the last couple of weeks.

"I am really excited and I think it shows," he smiled.

"Yes I am a Mercedes driver, it is they who run my career, but I am very happy they have reached an agreement with Renault so I can seize this opportunity," Ocon added.

"I do not know what my program with the team will be exactly, but I know that I will be at all of the races and technical briefings.

"I will be ready if I am asked to go onto the track," he said.

Video: Bob Bell discusses Renault technical role
Bob Bell discusses his new role as Renault's Chief Technical Officer as the 2016 season approaches.

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