Latest F1 news in brief – Wednesday

  • Jock Clear

    Jock Clear joining Ferrari but not Hoyle

  • F1 figures say Austin uncertainty bad for sport
  • Ferrari expects 'more competitive' McLaren-Honda
  • Montezemolo not sure Alfa Romeo will return
  • No German GP again in 2017 – Ecclestone
  • Hembery: Pirelli hit 2015 tire targets
  • Frijns denies turning down Red Bull chance

Jock Clear joining Ferrari but not Hoyle
(GMM) Benjamin Hoyle, an engineer at the center of a new espionage saga in F1, will never be joining Ferrari.

That is the claim of Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene, a week after it emerged that Mercedes is suing Hoyle for copying confidential data about the German marque's championship-winning F1 'power unit'.

Bloomberg news agency had said Hoyle was preparing to move to Ferrari within weeks, while Mercedes' court filings against the engineer alleged that "Hoyle and potentially Ferrari have gained an unlawful advantage".

But after the story broke, Ferrari insisted that its talks with Hoyle had only ever been "informal", and that he is not moving to Maranello "in the foreseeable future".

Team boss Arrivabene now explains: "The only new arrival (at Ferrari in 2016) will be Jock Clear and no one else. What is said about Hoyle is completely unfounded, even if he is now the most talked about engineer in formula one!"

Even Mercedes clarified that, amid an ongoing investigation, there is "no reason to believe that information has been transferred to Ferrari".

In a statement, the German team also denied that "any of the court documents made any allegation regarding any inappropriate conduct by Ferrari".

Losing yet another USGP will be bad
Losing yet another USGP will be bad

F1 figures say Austin uncertainty bad for sport
(GMM) Two more F1 figures say it would not be good for the sport if Austin falls off the 2016 calendar.

Although many say the US grand prix is now a highlight of the season, a funding dispute between organizers and the Texas government means Austin has been granted mere provisional status on next year's schedule.

"To lose Austin so soon after getting there – and it's a good circuit and a well-organized show which the fans enjoy – would be phenomenally negative for the sport," Pirelli's F1 chief Paul Hembery told the Guardian.

Veteran F1 driver Jenson Button agrees: "It was the best race in 2015 and that is the one that might not be around next year.

"It will be a real shame if it is not. It is a fun circuit, a fun city and it is nice to be racing in the States."

But – like Mercedes and Ferrari earlier this week – McLaren-Honda's Button is also expressing concern about the unprecedentedly-long, 21-race calendar for 2016.

"I think it is difficult for any mechanic or engineer to have a relationship right now," the Briton is quoted by the Daily Express. "So having 21 races is very tough and for those guys it is not going to be easy."

Mercedes' Toto Wolff has argued that teams might need to add a second layer of staff to cope with the schedule, while Button fears that working in F1 for a living may begin to prove unattractive for its people.

"It is tough," said Button.

"You are going to get new people coming in after one year, which is a shame because it is nice having that atmosphere with people that you know and have worked with for years."

Maurizio Arrivabene
Maurizio Arrivabene

Ferrari expects 'more competitive' McLaren-Honda
(GMM) Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene has tipped McLaren-Honda to take a clear step forward for 2016.

As the iconic partnership reunited this year, McLaren-Honda endured a nightmare campaign and finished the championship ahead only of backmarker Manor.

Team supremo Ron Dennis says those in the Woking factory will be working hard this winter.

"Put it this way: if you visit the McLaren Technology Centre on a Saturday or a Sunday this winter, you won't find many free car parking spaces!" he told F1's official website.

But Dennis said he was not at all surprised that Honda struggled on its return to F1 this year after a seven-year absence, because "that's what formula one is like".

McLaren, however, will continue to go it alone with the Japanese carmaker in 2016.

That is despite talks with Red Bull about a second Honda engine supply, with team official Dr Helmut Marko telling Servus TV that "Honda offered us engines for EUR 35 million per year".

Dennis vetoed the deal, and respected F1 journalist Alan Henry said he has heard that the McLaren-Honda union is on track for a big step forward in 2016.

"I hear positive noises from the folk at Woking," he wrote in a McLaren blog, "but perhaps the most telling piece of evidence is just how keen Red Bull Racing was to get its hands on a Honda supply.

"I'm told that team boss Christian Horner was impressed by what he'd learned about ongoing development, and he clearly believed that it was a route worth pursuing."

Henry also said that throughout Honda's long history in F1, the manufacturer always takes "time to get up to speed".

The question now is how much time the new McLaren-Honda partnership will need.

"There will be no surprises for next year," said Ferrari's Arrivabene, "because the rules are stable. But for sure we will see a more competitive McLaren, because Honda is not someone to underestimate.

"I think it will definitely be a much more interesting championship than the one just concluded."

Another positive sign is that, amid all the talk about potentially tearing up the current rules, Honda apparently spoke up to defend F1's new 'power unit' era recently.

"Usually Honda is very quiet in the meetings," revealed Arrivabene, "but at the last one they made clear that they're back in formula one to work on the hybrid.

"So I think that any change in the regulations that would go against what we have now, we would find them (Honda) opposed," he added.

Luca di Montezemolo
Luca di Montezemolo

Montezemolo not sure Alfa Romeo will return
(GMM) The world of F1 should not get too excited about a potential return to the sport of Alfa Romeo, former Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has warned.

Ferrari and Fiat Chrysler president Sergio Marchionne lit the speculation about the iconic Italian marque when he announced that he is "thinking about its return to racing, as our competitor, in formula one".

Driving for Alfa Romeo, Giuseppe Farina won the first world championship in 1950, and the brand was present as an engine supplier as recently as the late 80s.

But Germany's Auto Motor und Sport speculates that Marchionne may only be envisaging Alfa Romeo as the branding for his proposal to set up a new supplier that could provide cheaper engines to struggling smaller teams.

"The reason the deal with Red Bull was not successful was that, in light of the recovery we did in 2015, committing our own power unit to a team that has the technical capabilities of Red Bull would have been dangerous," said Marchionne.

"What interests me is that Ferrari wins, not Red Bull. But Ferrari has the technical abilities to provide engineering solutions to others," he added.

Ex Ferrari president Montezemolo, meanwhile, said that he has heard "so many" rumors about Alfa Romeo coming back into F1 over the years.

"We will see, I don't know," the 68-year-old, now the Alitalia chief and heading Rome's bid for the 2024 Olympics, told Italy's Autosprint.

"As an Italian I hope for it, but it is necessary to see if all these communications are followed by facts. Because I repeat, over the years so much has been said about Alfa Romeo," Montezemolo added.

More generally, Montezemolo said he thinks the biggest issue facing F1 at present is a lack of competitive teams.

When asked by Autosprint about what F1 will be like in the post-Bernie Ecclestone era, he answered: "The real issue is that at the moment there are only two teams.

"This year when Mercedes had problems, the only one that could win was Ferrari.

"I also believe that the issue of governance is very important, but I don't want to say more because someone might think I want to debate, and I would really rather talk about the Olympics!" Montezemolo added.

As for Ferrari's hopes of catching and passing Mercedes in 2016, he said: "For Ferrari there are reasons to be optimistic but we also need to see what jump in performance Mercedes is able to make.

"I recently had breakfast with (Niki) Lauda and he told me that Mercedes is not going to sit and wait for them," Montezemolo said.

Ecclestone: No money, no race
Ecclestone: No money, no race

No German GP again in 2017 – Ecclestone
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone is not confident about the future of the German grand prix.

Just a decade ago, the country was still in the grip of Michael Schumacher fever, which had revolutionized the popularity of F1 in Germany.

But even though Sebastian Vettel, Nico Rosberg and Mercedes proudly wave the flag today, spectator numbers and television ratings are badly down and Germany did not even host a grand prix last year.

"It's a mystery to me," F1 supremo Ecclestone told Die Welt newspaper.

"I don't know what's going wrong but obviously Germany has lost the joy for F1."

Currently, Hockenheim is confirmed to return with a 2016 race, but as the contract is for an annual alternation with the Nurburgring, 2017 could see Germany disappear from the calendar yet again.

Ecclestone blames the Nurburgring.

"When it was for sale, I agreed to buy it," he told the specialist German-language website

"They came back to me and said they had an offer that was one or two million higher."

Ultimately, it is the higher bidder that has got the Nurburgring into its latest trouble, with Ecclestone charging: "The stupid thing is that, for the sake of two million, they lost someone who would have made sure the race is there for 100 years.

"It is disappointing and annoying, but that is why we lost the Nurburgring," Ecclestone said.

And he said he cannot imagine the situation changing in time for a German grand prix in 2017.

"I think we can say for sure that there will not be a race (then)," said Ecclestone.

"Next year is fine, because we have a contract," he added. "Not a very good one, but there is one."

Paul Hembery
Paul Hembery

Hembery: Pirelli hit 2015 tire targets
Pirelli's Paul Hembery says that the Italian manufacturer met its pre-season target by providing an average of one to two pit-stops per race during the 2015 campaign.

Pirelli averaged 37 pit-stops per race in 2015, and 1.88 per driver, with a highest total of 60 stops at the Hungarian Grand Prix, and lowest of 17 at the Australian Grand Prix.

"This was an evolutionary year, with the teams continuing to develop cars introduced to meet the new turbo hybrid regulations," said Hembery, Pirelli's Motorsport Director.

"As always, the development curve accelerated towards the end of the year, with the teams really getting on top of the cars and the tires.

"Nonetheless, we still hit our target of between one to two pit stops per race, during a season where tires continued to provide plenty of sporting and strategic interest."

Formula 1 teams will be given a reduced number of eight pre-season test days in 2016, but the FIA has made provisions for six, two-day tire tests throughout the year.

Robin Frijns
Robin Frijns

Frijns denies turning down Red Bull chance
Ex-Formula 1 test driver and Andretti Formula E racer Robin Frijns has denied turning down a chance to join Red Bull's junior program, seeking to clear up reports to the contrary.

Frijns, now 24, moved to the edge of Formula 1 by claiming successive titles in the Formula BMW Europe, Formula Renault 2.0 and Formula Renault 3.5 categories from 2010-2012.

The Dutchman tested for Red Bull after his Formula Renault 3.5 triumph, and also acted as a reserve driver for Sauber and Caterham in 2013 and 2014, but never made a race start.

In an interview with the Formula E website, Frijns also denied criticizing Red Bull's junior scheme, after Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf quoted him as saying that it treated its drivers "like dogs".

"We [Frijns and a Dutch journalist] just had a conversation and he asked me several things on why were you never picked up on the Ferrari program or McLaren or Red Bull," said Frijns.

"No one came to me and said, 'do you want to drive for us?' The opportunity never came for some reason.

"I said first of all I never got the opportunity, and second of all because I know the stories of Red Bull and I saw every time that a driver comes in, half a year later or one year later they get kicked out again."

On the comments published about Red Bull's scheme, Frijns said: "The guy who put that on a newspaper with the big title 'treated like dogs' or whatever, that guy was never in racing before.

"I checked it [the newspaper story] later on, and for some reason he just wanted to… I mean, I never had that word in my mouth, like 'Red Bull treat you like dogs', because I didn't know.

"So that was a real big mess and I was really angry at that person and he never, ever called me again. And I still remember his name, I'm really terrible with names but I still remember his name.

"I was not treated well, it was a big lie, but sometimes that's how the Formula 1 world goes."

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