Latest F1 news in brief – Thursday

  • Has Mercedes decided to make Rosberg World Champion in 2016?
    Has Mercedes decided to make Rosberg World Champion in 2016?

    2016 could be Rosberg's year – Stewart

  • F1 cars today not easy to drive – Massa
  • CVC may not help save US GP – Epstein
  • Rosberg hits back at Hamilton's 'favorite argument'
  • Toro Rosso can beat Red Bull in 2016 – Sainz
  • 2016 McLaren car 'already better' – Boullier
  • Marko says carmakers wielding F1 'cartel'
  • Verstappen tipped for Laureus award
  • Raikkonen predicts another year of rumors
  • New rules to re-fire Newey spark – Marko
  • McLaren extends Santander deal until 2020
  • Mercedes pays $4.87m in 2016 entry fees

2016 could be Rosberg's year – Stewart
(GMM) 2016 could finally be Nico Rosberg's year.

That is the view of F1 legend Sir Jackie Stewart, who admits he was impressed with the German's late-season form alongside Lewis Hamilton.

Hamilton, now a triple world champion like 76-year-old Stewart, dominantly won the 2015 title but then Rosberg won the last three grands prix from pole.

Stewart said he thinks Mercedes could be clearly the quickest car yet again in 2016.

"If Mercedes retain the leadership that you almost expect from Mercedes, I'm afraid you could be finding the same thing, but don't count out Rosberg," he said.

"There is nothing to stop Rosberg winning. He is quick. We have seen him have so many pole positions and he is smoother (than Hamilton). I'd like to see him win the title. That would be very good."

In contrast to the "smooth" Rosberg, Stewart says Hamilton is a "quite aggressive" driver, but that is part of the reason he has succeeded in formula one.

"But sometimes that (aggression) can bite you also," said the famous Scot.

"Nico is good and there is no question about it. The trouble is you have to be very good and he has got to just step up that little bit extra."

Stewart thinks a close battle between Hamilton and Rosberg is what F1 needs next year, given the fact that Mercedes is expected to dominate again.

"Mercedes will eventually be beaten," he said, "but I'm not sure the rest of the teams are really good enough yet to be able to take them on.

"More than a second a lap is too big a gap and that's not good racing. But while Mercedes' money is there – both in engine and their chassis – it is going to be difficult for them to be beaten."

Felipe Massa
Felipe Massa

F1 cars today not easy to drive – Massa
(GMM) Felipe Massa has hit back at suggestions driving a formula one car today is "easy".

It is suggested the sport is pushing ahead with plans for more powerful engines and faster chassis regulations for 2017 or 2018 because the actual challenge for the drivers has become diminished in recent years.

But Massa, who has driven across F1's V10, V8 and now V6 eras, said: "When we had refuelling we were faster because the cars were lighter, but I don't think the cars are therefore easier to drive now.

"I think it's just different," said the Brazilian.

Massa said it is too simplistic for pundits and fans to compare laptimes between the past and present and come to conclusions about what the cars are like to drive.

"They say it is now ridiculously easy to drive a formula one car," he said, "but I'm sure that an experienced guy would have problems in these cars.

"If you ask me if I'd like a faster car with more downforce, then of course," Massa continued. "But I don't think that would necessarily make it more difficult. Physically maybe yes, but the car would not be more difficult to drive."

CVC to cut Austin no slack?
CVC to cut Austin no slack?

CVC may not help save US GP – Epstein
(GMM) F1 is heading into its winter sojourn with a cloud hanging over the future of the US grand prix.

It also emerged this week that the promoter of the popular Canadian grand prix is behind in its payments to some suppliers.

"Montreal is one of the best races on the whole calendar," said world champion Lewis Hamilton on post-season personal visit to Canada.

"It has also been a very good race for me for many years, so I hope that continues and we can keep it. It's very important for formula one because there are so many good Canadian fans."

The bigger uncertainty is about next year's US grand prix, with the Austin round attracting mere provisional status on the 2016 calendar due to a funding dispute with the Texas government.

Bernie Ecclestone said on British television this week that he thinks the organizers will "solve their problems" so that the US grand prix takes place.

But Austin circuit chairman Bobby Epstein is not sure Ecclestone's bosses are as supportive.

He told the American Statesman newspaper that while F1 as an entity has "helped us a couple of times", the fact that it is owned by CVC is an issue.

"You've got a large investment fund behind it that's trying to get the most money it can. They want to maximize earnings and helping the guys in Austin might not be high on their list," Epstein said.

Hamilton says Rosberg had a pampered upbringing
Hamilton says Rosberg had a pampered upbringing

Rosberg hits back at Hamilton's 'favorite argument'
(GMM) Even though Toto Wolff has warned them to stop bickering, Nico Rosberg has hit back at teammate Lewis Hamilton's latest verbal jibe.

Wolff has said no less than twice since the end of the duo's often bitter 2015 battle that Mercedes will have to re-think the lineup if the feuding does not stop.

Hamilton's latest taunt is that he thinks Rosberg so often complains because of his sheltered and opulent childhood in Monaco, in contrast to a more modest upbringing for the Briton.

"That seems to have become his favorite argument," Rosberg hit back this week in the pages of the German magazine Sport Bild.

"He mentions my background every few months," he added. "The best response I can give is on the track. And I have shown I have a huge hunger to win."

Indeed, Rosberg finished the season with a trio of wins from pole, with Hamilton returning fire as the season ended by insisting he has no plans to send his former childhood friend even a Christmas card.

Hamilton backtracked slightly on the British television program This Morning by saying: "I'm happy to say Merry Christmas to Nico and to all your family. God bless you guys. I look forward to racing you next year."

Hamilton also told ITV his relationship with Rosberg has "definitely not" hit rock bottom, insisting most of the tension is because "There's only room for one number 1 in the team".

And former Manor team boss Graeme Lowdon thinks Wolff's recent comments were little more than "a gentle reminder" to the Mercedes-clad pair.

"It's Toto's job to remind everyone what their job is and l don't think there is any menace there," he told Sky.

Rosberg, meanwhile, said he is ready to do battle again in 2016, having "already digested" his defeat of this year.

"I wanted to be world champion and I only finished second but fortunately the sport moves very quickly," he said.

Sainz thinks Toro Rosso could beat its bigger Red Bull Sister
Sainz thinks Toro Rosso could beat its bigger Red Bull Sister

Toro Rosso can beat Red Bull in 2016 – Sainz
(GMM) Carlos Sainz thinks it is possible Toro Rosso could beat Red Bull's premier F1 team in 2016.

Toro Rosso – meaning Red Bull in Italian – is known as the energy drink company's second or 'junior' F1 team.

But the Faenza based squad is switching from Renault to 2015-spec Ferrari power next year, while Red Bull Racing merely rebrands its Renault power units as Tag-Heuer.

"In theory," Toro Rosso driver Sainz said, "next season we should be ahead of Red Bull. The Ferrari engine has maybe 50 or 60 horse power more," he told Spanish media at an event at the Jarama circuit on Wednesday.

"For us that means between 6 and 8 tenths, while Red Bull this season was about half a second ahead of us with the same engine.

"So in theory we should be ahead but I think Red Bull will have learned what their weaknesses are and are certain to bring a better car in 2016.

"Their budget is about EUR 200 million but more than that, we all know that Red Bull is Red Bull," Sainz, referring to that team's four world championships, added.

Eric Boullier
Eric Boullier

2016 McLaren car 'already better' – Boullier
(GMM) McLaren says it will have a significantly different car for 2016.

Clearly, the Woking outfit's biggest problem this year has been its works Honda engine as it slumped to ninth in the constructors' championship.

But Jenson Button says the chassis was not perfect either.

"Hopefully next year we will be much higher on the grid because the whole package has improved," he is quoted by Spain's AS newspaper.

"I think we need to improve the ICE (engine) and the deployment (energy recovery) but we also need to improve the car in general," the Briton added.

"It was not the fastest (chassis) on the grid," Button added.

Team boss Eric Boullier said next year's McLaren will be significantly different.

"Almost everything will change except the philosophy," said the Frenchman. "Right now, our new car for next year is already better than this (2015) one."

Honda's Yasuhisa Arai confirmed: "As Eric says, our concept and philosophy remains but a completely new engine is being developed."

Meanwhile, rumors in Italy suggest Ferrari may be moving away from its novel approach to front suspension for 2016 with a return to the more conventional push-rod layout.

Dr Helmut Marko talking to Max Verstappen
Dr Helmut Marko talking to Max Verstappen

Marko says carmakers wielding F1 'cartel'
(GMM) Dr Helmut Marko agrees that the car manufacturers involved in formula one at present are wielding too much political power.

Red Bull, of which Austrian Marko is a leading official, appears to be siding strongly with Bernie Ecclestone in his push to redistribute the control in formula one by significantly changing the engine rules.

The independent energy drink-owned team tried to move away from its underpowered Renault engines for 2016, but Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren-Honda all said no.

And Red Bull's power units will not even be called 'Renault' in 2016, as the marketing agreements between the team and the Renault-Nissan alliance all cease.

Asked if the car manufacturers effectively conspired against Red Bull, Marko told Italy's Autosprint: "That's right. 'Cartel' is the correct word.

"Unfortunately I only became aware of the situation at the end, when it was too late," he added, referring to earlier talks with all three alternative manufacturers that ultimately ended in nothing.

Marko said that in complete contrast, Red Bull at least does not have a driver problem, even though early in the year he had to warn team newcomer Daniil Kvyat to up his game.

"The drivers were never a problem," he insists.

"At the beginning of the season, Kvyat was plagued by technical problems which many mistook as his problems. So it seemed he had difficulty in driving for a great team like Red Bull, but it was not the case.

"He is now very competitive," Marko added, although he did acknowledge that the young Russian was "lost" at one point.

But the Austrian says that, although it took some time for it to become clear, Red Bull made the right decision in replacing the Ferrari-bound Sebastian Vettel with Kvyat.

"Obviously when you have Vettel, you are perfectly aware of his quality and his performance which is always high and consistent.

"We knew that Renault would not be able to achieve a competitive and reliable power unit initially, so it was better to have a young driver who would not give up with all the technical difficulties, which at first were really big," Marko explained.

"Let's say if we took a driver like Fernando Alonso, he probably would have complained all the time," he added.

Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen

Verstappen tipped for Laureus award
(GMM) Max Verstappen's flow of high-profile awards looks set to continue.

Since his meteoric first season in F1 ended, the 18-year-old Dutchman has been showered with awards at the FIA prize-giving gala and also in London for a traditional end-of-year awards ceremony by a British magazine.

Now, a high-profile Laureus World Sports Award could be the next plaudit for the Toro Rosso driver.

Laureus has announced that its nominations panel, consisting of hundreds of leading sports writers, is currently casting its votes for the 2015 nominees.

Lewis Hamilton is tipped to be in the running for the overall prize in the World Sportsman of the Year category, alongside Usain Bolt, Lionel Messi, cycling's Chris Froome, boxing legend Floyd Mayweather and others.

But Verstappen looks set to be among the candidates for the Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year title.

Among the other nominees, Laureus suggested, could be the Chile football team, golf's Jason Day and Brooke Henderson, swimmers Adam Peaty and Alzain Tareq, and female jockey Michelle Payne.

"Whoever is nominated, it's going to be one of the closest contests ever in so many of the categories," said Laureus chairman and Olympic legend Edwin Moses.

The nominees will be announced in the new year.

Kimi Raikkonen with son Robin and wife Minttu
Kimi Raikkonen with son Robin and wife Minttu

Raikkonen predicts another year of rumors
(GMM) Kimi Raikkonen thinks another season of predictable speculation about his future will soon begin.

In 2015, all the talk was about whether Ferrari would replace him with Valtteri Bottas, even though the Maranello team ultimately signed Raikkonen again.

But Raikkonen, who will race in F1 for the fourteenth full season next year, thinks the same journalists will be asking all the same questions in 2016.

"I'm used to it," he told the Finnish broadcaster MTV during a media event in Helsinki.

"It is the same people (journalists) year after year and pretty much the same questions.

"Every year, it is (questions about) motivation problems, the contract running out, this and that. It's not very surprising.

"Sadly it won't change and it will probably start around February next year," Raikkonen, 36, said, presumably referring to the start of pre-season testing for the 2016 season.

"It is the same whether you have a one year or a ten-year contract. It is just formula one," he added.

Adrian Newey
Adrian Newey

New rules to re-fire Newey spark – Marko
(GMM) Looming rule changes could re-fire Adrian Newey's motivation to work in formula one.

With Red Bull's famous but disgruntled car designer having lifted the throttle on F1 in order to concentrate on other projects, he was recently linked with a role at the F3 team Van Amersfoort to support his teenage son Harrison.

Red Bull official Dr Helmut Marko denies that.

"That has been clarified already," he told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport. "The Van Amersfoort team has denied it."

Newey is, however, definitely already working with renowned sailor Ben Ainslie on his America's Cup project.

"We have a gliding contract with him," Marko explained. "Depending on requirements, he devotes his time to formula one or to other activities. At the moment it's about 50-50."

But he said that percentage could change now that the sport has acknowledged the need to introduce significantly faster and more aggressive cars and engines for 2017 or 2018.

"Adrian worked a lot on the car this year," Marko insisted, "but not with the same 100 per cent bite as before — he knew that we would not win, no matter what he did.

"But now with the new chassis rules, he has tasted blood once again."

Button locks a wheel in his McLaren
Button locks a wheel in his McLaren

McLaren extends Santander deal until 2020
McLaren has announced the extension of its partnership with Santander UK until 2020.

Santander has been in partnership with McLaren since 2007, with Jenson Button featuring prominently in a number of Santander campaigns since he joined the team in 2010. The new partnership will run for five years and comes after McLaren lost a number of sponsors – including Vodafone and Tag Heuer – in recent seasons.

"Santander and McLaren-Honda have enjoyed an incredibly strong and mutually beneficial relationship since 2007," Ekrem Sami, managing director of McLaren Marketing said. "Our renewed partnership demonstrates a well-founded belief in the team's ability to successfully activate brands around a shared, common vision for the future. I look forward to developing the relationship and hope to see it continue to go from strength to strength for both brands."

Button says he is pleased to be able to work with Santander on one of his other passions outside of F1.

"I'm really pleased to continue working with Santander, as is everyone at McLaren-Honda," Button said. "We've enjoyed a great partnership to date and I look forward to that continuing. While first and foremost I'm a racing driver, I'm also a passionate cyclist, and so I'm looking forward to doing more with Santander Cycles and helping encourage more people to get involved."

Wolff not happy writing that big check
Wolff not happy writing that big check

Mercedes pays $4.87m in 2016 entry fees
Reigning World Champions Mercedes' entry fee for the 2016 season is almost $5 million, as a result of its success in the 2015 campaign.

Prior to the start of 2013, an amended system mandated every team to pay a flat entry fee of $516,128 – indexed by the US CPI [Consumer Price Index] – in addition to a sliding scale depending on its success in the previous Formula 1 season.

The Constructors' Champions must pay $6,194 for every point scored, with the other teams having to hand over $5,161 per point.

That means Mercedes, which accrued 703 points as it retained both Drivers' and Constructors' trophies in 2015, had to pay $4,870,510 by November 30.

However, as it scored 701 points in 2014, its year-on-year fee has only been increased by $12,388.

Ferrari's resurgence has increased its entry fee from $1,630,904 to $2,725,036 across the 12-month period, while Red Bull's regression means its 2015 fee of $2,606,333 drops to $1,481,235 for 2016.

Williams' entry fee was also reduced for 2016, lowered from $2,167,648 to $1,842,505 on account of securing fewer points in 2015 than 2014, despite placing third in both years.

Having already secured third before the season finale, Williams opted against appealing Felipe Massa's exclusion from the Brazilian Grand Prix, thus saving $20,644 in 2016 entry fees.

Force India's fee has been reduced despite it acheiving its best placing of fifth in the championship standings, while Lotus, Toro Rosso and Sauber all faced an increase.

McLaren's drop down the order with Honda means its fee has been significantly lowered, while Manor did not score a point and therefore only has to pay the initial rate.

The combined entry fees amount to $15,791,528.

Formula 1 team entry fees: 2015 / 2016

Mercedes: $4,858,122 / $4,870,510
Ferrari: $1,630,904 / $2,725,036
Williams: $2,167,648 / $1,842,505
Red Bull: $2,606,333 / $1,481,235
Force India: $1,316,083 / $1,218,024
Lotus: $567,738 / $918,686
Toro Rosso: $670,958 / $861,915
Sauber: $516,128 / $701,924
McLaren: $1,450,269 / $655,475
Manor: $526,450 / $516,128
Total sum: $15,791,528

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