Latest F1 news in brief – Monday

  • Alonso sure rumors will continue

    Alonso sure sabbatical rumors to continue

  • Rosberg donates EUR 100,000 to charity
  • Verstappen staying at Toro Rosso, eyes 2016 podium
  • F1 'will have different engine' rules – Ecclestone
  • Polarizing Hamilton a 'godsend' for F1 – pundits
  • Organizer denies 2016 Russia GP in doubt
  • Vettel not taking bait after Hamilton comments
  • Rosberg welcomes new tire rules
  • Red Bull confirms split with title sponsor Infiniti
  • Alonso samples Honda MotoGP bike

Alonso sure sabbatical rumors to continue
(GMM) Fernando Alonso says he will be on the grid in 2016.

McLaren supremo Ron Dennis caused a stir at the Abu Dhabi season finale recently when he hinted Spaniard Alonso, arguably the best and highest paid driver in F1, might not return next year if the Honda-powered car is not up to speed.

Asked, however, if he will be in Melbourne in March, the 34-year-old driver – who spent his weekend with Honda trying out a MotoGP bike – answered: "Yes.

"I talked to Ron on Friday. I told him what had been published. He said 'I didn't mean that and tomorrow I will clarify it'. On Saturday he clarified but no one copied that.

"I said the opposite on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and I'm sure in January and February I will keep answering the same questions about my future," Alonso is quoted by the Guardian.

Alonso, who had spoken glowingly about Le Mans-style racing as the F1 season concluded, has two years of his McLaren-Honda contract still to run, but he would not be drawn on what he might do beyond 2017.

"We have to be open to any possibility," he insisted. "Right now it is too long ahead to think.

"Let's see what happens in one and a half years, what the situation is, what targets we have met and what the motivations are to keep going on in formula one."

Nico Rosberg
Nico Rosberg

Rosberg donates EUR 100,000 to charity
(GMM) Nico Rosberg has donated EUR 100,000 to charity.

Recently, the Mercedes driver sold the first family photographs of himself, his wife Vivian and his new baby daughter Alaia to the German newspaper Bild.

He has now pledged that 100,000 euros to the Bild-linked 'Herz fur Kinder' (Heart for Children) charity, aiding sick children.

"As new parents, the issue of children in need is very emotional for us," Rosberg, the 2015 runner-up, said.

"That is why we are very happy that a lot of money was made in the international marketing of the photos (of his daughter), and we have rounded that up to EUR 100,000 with our own contribution," he revealed.

Verstappen eyes podium in 2016
Verstappen eyes podium in 2016

Verstappen staying at Toro Rosso, eyes 2016 podium
(GMM) Toro Rosso has confirmed officially that Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz are staying at the Faenza based team in 2015.

Along with Manor, the two Red Bull-owned teams were the last to formally confirm drivers for 2016, keeping speculation alive that the meteoric rookie Verstappen might be promoted to the senior team after just one season.

But Toro Rosso has announced: "We can count on Carlos and Max who, after being confirmed for the 2016 season, will be able to translate all this year's learning and experience into additional valuable feedback throughout the season."

The words come after Red Bull announced that while it is running Tag Heuer-branded Renault power next year, Toro Rosso will switch to 2015-spec Ferrari power units.

"Considering the past achievements with our friends from Maranello, we can certainly expect an improvement in our performance next year," said Toro Rosso.

Team boss Franz Tost, however, admitted that because confirmation of the Ferrari switch has come so late, the small team will struggle to be ready for the first test in February.

"It's true that time will be very tight for us to be ready for the first test, but we have the right team of people for this and I'm confident that together we will achieve a competitive package for next year," he said.

Dutchman Verstappen also said he is looking forward to his second season in F1 next year.

"I want to do better than this year in every way," he told his official website verstappen.nl. "I want to qualify better, score more points and finish higher.

"I'm raising the bar a lot so I'm aiming for a double amount of points and a podium."

Bernie Ecclestone (L) was still talking about new engines for F1 at the FIA awards gala in Paris
Bernie Ecclestone (L) was still talking about new engines for F1 at the FIA awards gala in Paris

F1 'will have different engine' rules – Ecclestone
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone says the idea of an alternative engine in formula one is not dead yet.

Before the recent F1 Commission meeting, the sport's supremo and FIA president Jean Todt were pushing for an independent supplier of a new, louder and more affordable engine to come in for 2017, with rules to run parallel to the existing 'power units'.

The proposal was voted down.

But then, at the subsequent World Motor Sport Council, Ecclestone and Todt were handed a new "mandate" to propose changes for the good of F1.

Ecclestone has told the German newspaper Die Welt that the biggest problem with F1 is Mercedes' utter dominance.

"It is basically nothing new," he admitted, "because we've seen it before with Ferrari. But it was different, actually.

"Mercedes' domination is now so overwhelming that there is hardly a chance for anyone else," said Ecclestone.

"Ferrari had a different feeling, a different presence. That is not to say that Mercedes has done anything wrong, but it is not good for the sport. It makes it boring," he explained.

"Their dominance is so great that many people watch the start of a grand prix and then switch off the television."

Ecclestone said that is why he and Todt came up with the idea of an independent engine supplier with different rules, ensuring more "competition".

"When I say independent, I mean independent of the major car manufacturers. But that does not mean we want to drive them out of formula one — on the contrary. We just want a powerful engine that teams can buy more cheaply," he said.

The F1 Commission scrapped the original plan, with the car manufacturers like Mercedes and Ferrari vowing instead to come up with another solution for 2018.

But Ecclestone says: "Everyone, including the manufacturers, can make a suggestion if it means we have a good, cost-effective engine that is available to all the teams.

"Basically, the discussion about a new engine for 2018 is in full swing," he insisted.

Ecclestone warned that if the talks do not result in a "reasonable" solution, the FIA will step back in.

"Should the teams and manufacturers not like the (new) regulations, they have the right to respond," said the Briton. "Either they can stop being in formula one or make a protest to the FIA — or whatever."

Told that it doesn't sound like polite diplomacy will be the order of the day, Ecclestone answered: "We cannot allow formula one to be destroyed. And I won't.

"There will definitely be a different engine in the future, with more horse power and much cheaper. That much is clear to me."

He said the big problems with the current power units is that the technology is overwhelming the 'show'.

"We are in the entertainment business," Ecclestone insists. "Like any sport, we are massively dependent on the audience. And I am convinced that the audience is for the most part not interested in the engines.

"They have no idea about this highly complex technology. Many in the paddock don't even understand, so how can they expect the fans to? What they want to see is exciting, entertaining races with various different winners.

"That's what we have to deliver. Nothing else.

"We are not talking about manipulating (the manufacturers) or anything, but that we all do our jobs properly so that formula one stays alive," he added.

Lewis Hamilton, sans blonde hair
Lewis Hamilton, sans blonde hair

Polarizing Hamilton a 'godsend' for F1 – pundits
(GMM) Two F1 pundits believe Lewis Hamilton – warts and all – is good for formula one.

"For formula one, I think he's a godsend," said former F1 driver and now German motor racing official Hans-Joachim Stuck.

Briton Hamilton, F1's newest triple world champion, polarizes opinion in F1 with his speed and results on one hand versus his rap-star lifestyle on the other.

His latest post on the video messaging social media phenomenon 'Snapchat', for instance, is a selfie with Niki Lauda in which the 30-year-old declares: "We've had lots of vodka!"

Former Mercedes chief Norbert Haug, however, has worked closely with Hamilton in the past and insists: "Lewis has his lifestyle, but whoever thinks that he just hops from party to party is mistaken.

"He has certainly marketed himself through his own press office called Twitter and Instagram and so on," Haug told the Austrian broadcaster Servus TV.

"He does it very authentically, very cleverly, but the whole thing wouldn't work if he does not also bring the right performance on the track."

Stuck agrees that Hamilton is a rare character in modern formula one.

"Many people love him because he puts on a show, because he's cool, and he doesn't only say that the press lady is whispering in his ear. I think that's what we need in formula one.

"He has his extravagance," Stuck added, "but if in the end he can also be world champion, I think that's great."

Sochi safe..for now
Sochi safe….for now

Organizer denies 2016 Russia GP in doubt
(GMM) The future of the Russian grand prix is secure, race organizer Sergei Vorobyov insists.

"The F1 round at Sochi is (secure) for many years to come and we know this for sure," he told the government-linked Russian news agency Tass.

His comments follow local Krasnodar deputy governor Igor Galas having told the business news agency RBC that "We will not bear the costs for the next formula one round" in Russia.

The reports suggested Sochi needs to secure private sponsorship or risk losing the grand prix.

But Vorobyov said: "We have no problems.

"There are, indeed, various opinions and decisions. Constant work is ongoing to optimize the project's management and ownership structure. But this has no direct relation to spectators of the grand prix in Sochi."

Tickets for the 2016 race went on sale last Friday.

Sebastian Vettel a class act
Sebastian Vettel a class act

Vettel not taking bait after Hamilton comments
(GMM) Sebastian Vettel has declined to hit back with fury at Lewis Hamilton's recent jibe about his talent.

The new triple world champion recently said that because Vettel's teammates Mark Webber and Kimi Raikkonen were and are not at their peak, "It's difficult to assess how good he really is".

When asked about Hamilton's jibe, the German told Sonntagsblick newspaper: "I'm sure my teammates will be pleased to hear about that!

"I think in the end any comparison between drivers is always very difficult to do," Vettel added.

Actually, while many critics earlier downplayed Vettel's four world championships on the basis of Red Bull's former dominance, the 28-year-old's stock has undoubtedly risen during his strong first season at Ferrari.

"That is of course nice to hear," Vettel said. "But what matters the most is that you are satisfied with your achievements yourself.

"On average, I am. The last year at Red Bull was not as bad as many made it out to be. For them (the critics), it is important that Vettel put on a different color and returned to winning ways."

What is clear, however, is that as Red Bull struggles to keep up with the might of Mercedes and Ferrari in the new 'power unit' era, the timing of Vettel's move now appears inspired.

"In retrospect, you can say that. But at the time it was a leap into the unknown, as Red Bull was still the second strongest.

"But I think this year did not go well for them, so I can be happy with my decision," he added.

Vettel was also asked by the Swiss newspaper how many times he has visited his mentor and friend Michael Schumacher since the F1 legend returned home to Switzerland.

"This is a very personal matter and nobody's business," the German insisted.

Indeed, Vettel is famously private, to the point that many of his fans do not even know his marital status or number of children.

"Never married, two children," he admits.

"I think if you look up the word 'private' in the dictionary, you get a clear definition," Vettel smiled. "Of course I can understand that today almost everyone reveals their private life, but my private life is mine."

"This has nothing to do with arrogance," argued Vettel.

Rosberg welcomes new Pirelli tire rules
Rosberg welcomes new Pirelli tire rules

Rosberg welcomes new tire rules
(GMM) Nico Rosberg has welcomed the tire-usage rule changes in formula one for 2016.

The governing FIA and Pirelli announced last week that teams and drivers will get more freedom next year, as the range of different tire compounds available at each grand prix is increased from two to three.

The details of the rules, however, caused some confusion, with Lotus driver Romain Grosjean admitting: "I'm glad I have an engineer to help."

But 2015 runner-up Rosberg told the Austrian broadcaster ORF that he likes the sound of what was announced.

"I think it has been very well thought through," said the Mercedes driver.

"It is good to get another variable to make it both more interesting and difficult. This is great, because the tires are very important for the excitement," he added.

By sticking his foot in his mouth, Mateschitz not only has to pay a lot more for Renault engines next year, he lost the Infiniti sponsor money
By sticking his foot in his mouth, Mateschitz not only has to pay a lot more for Renault engines next year, he lost the Infiniti sponsor money

Red Bull confirms split with title sponsor Infiniti
Red Bull has confirmed its title sponsorship deal with Infiniti will be cut short at the end of the year.

The Infiniti brand is part of the Renault-Nissan alliance and first appeared on the cars in 2011 before becoming Red Bull's title sponsor in 2013 on a four-year deal. However, following a renegotiation of its engine supply deal from Renault, which will see Red Bull continue with TAG-Heuer branded power units in 2016, the new agreement does not cover any marketing activity for the Renault-Nissan Alliance.

The news coincides with the return of Renault's works outfit, which will see a significant investment from the French company in Formula One. A press release said Red Bull had reached an "amicable agreement" with the Renault-Nissan Alliance to end the Infiniti deal one year early.

"We would like to say a big thank you to Infiniti for their contribution to the team since they joined us as a commercial partner in 2011," Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said.

"They became the title sponsor of the team in 2013 where Infiniti enjoyed greater visibility than any other manufacturer in the sport. We wish them all the best with their plans for the future."

Fernando Alonso
Fernando Alonso

Alonso samples Honda MotoGP bike
Fernando Alonso was given the opportunity to test a range of racing machines during the Honda Thanks Day event last weekend, including the Japanese firm's MotoGP bike.

Alonso represented McLaren-Honda's Formula 1 effort at the three-day event, which took place at Motegi, gathering Honda drivers and riders from various racing categories.

Alonso took the RC213V out for a run on Sunday, alongside its usual rider, Marc Marquez, who completed laps in the NSX Concept GT car, with the pair later swapping helmets.

Marquez’s Repsol Honda team-mate, Dani Pedrosa, ex-Formula 1 driver Takuma Sato and McLaren test and development driver Oliver Turvey were also present at the track.

Having tested the MP4/4 in Barcelona earlier this year, Alonso added some mileage in the MP4/6, which Ayrton Senna piloted to his third and final Formula 1 world title in 1991.

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