Latest F1 news in brief – Wednesday

  • Kvyat most impressive young driver in 2015
    Kvyat most impressive young driver in 2015

    Verstappen, Kvyat most impressive – Hakkinen

  • Zetsche backs Lauda, Wolff to stick together
  • Raikkonen 'closer to end' of F1 career – Webber
  • Williams must improve for 2016 – Bottas
  • Renault announcement now imminent – report
  • Haryanto, King upbeat over Manor outings
  • Marko: Toro Rosso pair 'exceeded expectations'
  • Current F1 cars much easier to drive – Smedley

Verstappen, Kvyat most impressive – Hakkinen
(GMM) Max Verstappen and Daniil Kvyat have been singled out as two of the most impressive youngsters in F1 this year.

"Definitely the biggest surprise was Max Verstappen," former double world champion Mika Hakkinen, who was in Abu Dhabi for the 2015 finale, told Ilta Sanomat.

"His driving style was really impressive, although at times maybe a bit too much. But this aggressive driving was very interesting to watch from the outside."

Another surprise, said the famous Finn, was Russian Kvyat, who despite an early struggle eventually out-scored his highly-rated Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo.

"He showed a lot more mental strength and self-confidence (than before)," said Hakkinen, "as I don't think Ricciardo suddenly became slower than last year."

Dieter Zetsche
Dieter Zetsche

Zetsche backs Lauda, Wolff to stick together
(GMM) Dieter Zetsche has backed Mercedes' F1 chiefs Niki Lauda and Toto Wolff, amid mischievous reports of discord between the pair.

Reports in Abu Dhabi had suggested the rift led to the point that team chairman Lauda, a shareholder just like team boss Wolff, was on the verge of quitting.

The two Austrians, however, humorously rebuked the speculation by walking the length of the Abu Dhabi paddock last weekend holding hands.

Daimler CEO Zetsche, who attended the 2015 finale, said it is no problem that Wolff and Lauda disagree over certain issues, like whether Mercedes should supply an engine to Red Bull.

"That you sometimes comes to a common position after starting at different points is quite normal," he told the German broadcaster Sky.

"But definitely the future cooperation has not at any time been in question," Zetsche insisted. "I could not imagine a better team than the one we have at the moment."

The end near for Kimi Raikkonen?
The end near for Kimi Raikkonen?

Raikkonen 'closer to end' of F1 career – Webber
(GMM) Mark Webber thinks Kimi Raikkonen might be nearing the end of his useful career in formula one.

2007 world champion Raikkonen, although impressive when he returned to F1 with Lotus, has struggled to match the pace of his successive teammates at Ferrari in the last two years, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel.

Indeed, when told that Ferrari could have a winning car in 2016, Finnish countryman Mika Hakkinen said of Kimi: "He has to first of all beat his teammate, then he can move to the next step."

Raikkonen was once regarded as perhaps the fastest man on the grid, but F1 veteran Mark Webber – the newly-crowned world sports car champion – said every good driver eventually races past his prime in formula one.

"I think Kimi is going through a bit of what happened with me," the Australian told Finland's Turun Sanomat newspaper.

"Kimi is no longer at the peak of his career but he's closer to the end, which happens to all of us.

"I know just how challenging it is to try to keep your motivation right up there, in particular to pull together all those little details of your performance.

"It's a big ask, and against the younger guys like Sebastian, it will only get harder.

"I have a huge amount of respect for Kimi," Webber continued. "He is arguably one of the best F1 drivers we've ever seen. I only hope he can draw his career to a close on a high note."

Hakkinen agrees that when it comes time for Ferrari to consider its drivers for 2016, Raikkonen will have to perform at a high level in every area.

"When the teams analyze the drivers, they look not only at the numbers and results but also the working spirit and team-work.

"It will be interesting to see how he goes next season," the Finn, who is part of Valtteri Bottas' management team, also told Ilta Sanomat newspaper.

Bottas again says Williams must improve
Bottas again says Williams must improve

Williams must improve for 2016 – Bottas
(GMM) Valtteri Bottas has called on Williams to up its game in 2016.

Just like last year, the British team finished this season's world championship third overall, with Finn Bottas and teammate Felipe Massa respectively fifth and sixth.

"There were many great moments," Bottas, who flirted with a switch to Ferrari earlier this year, said, "but also many disappointments, and we have to learn from them.

"We can do better as a team," he insisted. "If we want to win, we have to improve in all areas."

Mika Hakkinen, a part of Bottas' management team, reportedly pushed hard for Bottas to replace countryman Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari for 2016.

It didn't happen, so "At the moment, Valtteri is focused solely on Williams," the former double world champion told Gulf News.

But Hakkinen also told Ilta Sanomat newspaper that Bottas, 26, is justified in feeling disappointed with aspects of Williams' past campaign.

And "It is clear that the drivers will be disappointed if the results do not improve next year," he told Ilta Sanomat newspaper.

"Williams' competitiveness was not quite as good as it was last year, but the team finished a good third in the constructors' championship.

"I also know that Williams is more than satisfied with the work of Valtteri," Hakkinen continued. "In this case patience is a virtue."

As for whether Bottas can win a title with Williams, Hakkinen answered: "Good question.

"Currently, there are two very strong teams ahead of them and so there would have to be a big power shift next season. Williams however has a highly skilled and motivated team and they want to keep improving.

"I don't want to say that Williams is unable to fight for the championship, as bear in mind that the cars will change quite radically after next season," Hakkinen added.

Cyril Abiteboul
Cyril Abiteboul

Renault announcement now imminent – report
(GMM) Renault's decision to return to full works status in 2016 by buying Lotus is now imminent.

That is the claim of the well-connected French source RMC Sport, reporting that the carmaker's CEO Carlos Ghosn was expected to give the green light shortly after returning from a trip to Japan late on Tuesday.

It ties in with Renault Sport F1 chief Cyril Abiteboul's news as he left Abu Dhabi that an announcement is "very likely" to happen this week, and similar sounds coming out of Red Bull, who intend to stay with Renault power in 2016.

It is believed Red Bull's engine will be rebranded as Tag-Heuer or even Nissan, the latter being Renault's Japanese division.

Tasked with conducting intense negotiations with Bernie Ecclestone in Abu Dhabi was Jerome Stoll, Group Renault's marketing chief, and the talks were reportedly successful.

A source close to the F1 supremo said Stoll had succeeded in getting "every penny" it wanted from Ecclestone in terms of Ferrari and Mercedes-like bonus income payments.

RMC said those negotiations also involved CVC chief Donald Mackenzie, who was making a rare paddock appearance in Abu Dhabi.

Ron Dennis, the McLaren supremo, admitted he had been critical of Mackenzie and his approach to the sport's issues at the latest meeting of the F1 Commission.

"They (CVC) make a great deal of money from motor racing and they need to put a bit more back into the sport at critical moments," he told Sky. "And the critical moment is keeping Renault and keeping the Red Bull team supplied with engines."

So with an announcement by Renault now imminent, the RMC report said Frederic Vasseur – currently with the GP2 team ART – will step up with a prominent team management role, to work alongside F1 legend Alain Prost.

Abiteboul admitted that 2015 was an unsatisfactory season for Renault in F1.

"Fourth in the championship for Red Bull is no doubt hard to accept and we all share that responsibility," he said.

"At the start of the year when we came under fire it would have been easy to lose motivation, but all have kept their heads down and kept development on track.

"We have not reached the targets we set for ourselves, but I hope this year will be seen as an aberration to our usual good form," Abiteboul added.

Jordan King (R) talks to GP2 teammate Alexander Rossi
Jordan King (R) talks to GP2 teammate Alexander Rossi

Haryanto, King upbeat over Manor outings
GP2 drivers Rio Haryanto and Jordan King were both upbeat over their respective outings for the Manor Marussia team during the post-race tire test in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.

Haryanto completed 56 laps of the Yas Marina Circuit in the morning with a best time of 1:49.593, before King took over for the latter stages of the day, racking up 59 laps and clocking a 1:49.661.

"It has been quite a while since I last tested a Formula 1 car, with Manor, in 2012," said Haryanto.

"The cars of today though are quite a lot different, especially in respect of the new engine developments, so it took some time to get used to the changes, especially the engine management.

"As the morning progressed I was improving all the time and with no issues I really got into the program.

"Obviously this was Pirelli's test, so the program was determined by their requirements, but I am pleased with the job I did and very happy to have another opportunity to drive a Formula 1 car and show what I can do."

King has acted as Manor Marussia's development driver since the outfit's revival in 2015 and his run in the MR03B was his first taste of Formula 1 machinery.

"The test had a very specific focus and I was determined to make the most of this chance to show my development capability as well as my potential for the future," he said.

"We had a trouble-free day, so I could really get stuck into the plan, and this enabled me to build my confidence as the afternoon progressed."

Alfonso Celis Jr.
Alfonso Celis Jr.

Celis Jr. pleased with Formula 1 test debut
Force India development driver Alfonso Celis Jr. was pleased with his first day of running in a Formula 1 car as he conducted duties during the post-race tire test in Abu Dhabi.

Celis Jr., who raced in both Formula Renault 3.5 and GP3 in 2015, completed 65 laps of the Yas Marina Circuit with a best time of 1:48.545, 2.7 seconds slower than Nico Hülkenberg, who also ran in the test.

"My first day in a Formula 1 car certainly lived up to expectations," said Celis Jr.

"The car had huge grip and excellent braking efficiency, but my experience in the Formula 3.5 car had prepared me quite well for this big challenge.

"I really enjoyed the experience and I'm pleased with how the day went. For the first few runs I took things steady while I got used to the car and all the systems.

"Then, with each run, I started to push more and more as I kept learning about the car. With the program for the day set by Pirelli, I could simply focus on my driving and getting to know everyone.

"2016 is going to be an important year for me as I continue working with the team so I'm pleased to have some valuable miles under my belt already."

Celis Jr. is set to conduct extensive simulator duties, along with seven free practice sessions, for Force India in 2016.

Helmut Marko
Helmut Marko

Marko: Toro Rosso pair 'exceeded expectations'
Red Bull motorsport consultant Helmut Marko says that Toro Rosso's pairing of Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr. "exceeded expectations" during their first season in Formula 1.

Verstappen became the youngest driver in history after debuting aged 17 and went on to score 49 points to place 12th in the championship, with Sainz Jr. (15th) adding 18 to the team's tally.

The pair's efforts ensured that Toro Rosso finished seventh in the Constructors' Championship, with the squad's highest tally of points (67) in a single campaign.

"They have exceeded expectations," Marko told

"We are very pleased with them, and the best thing is that there is an ongoing upward trend, both in qualifying and in the race."

The pair were also hindered by reliability issues across the course of the campaign and Marko praised the mature manner in which they dealt with the setbacks.

"Both guys have had technical problems, Carlos slightly more," he explained.

"But generally they are on the same level and they have developed in the same way. Whatever went wrong technically, and it was not a little [amount], they dealt with it as true professionals."

Verstappen and Sainz Jr. will remain with Toro Rosso for 2016, as Marko added that they were "never considered" for an immediate promotion to Red Bull.

Easy to drive says Smedley
Easy to drive says Smedley

Current F1 cars much easier to drive – Smedley
Williams' Rob Smedley considers that the current generation of Formula 1 cars are easy to drive, a fact he says which may conceal to a certain extent differences in talent between drivers.

The 42-year-old engineer, who started his F1 career with Jordan Grand Prix back in 2001 before enjoying a lengthy spell with Ferrari and then moving to Williams in 2014 as head of vehicle performance, believes that F1's technology evolution has made the cars an easier proposition from a driving point of view but has also increased the work load inside the cockpit.

"The cars are without a doubt significantly easier to drive," Smedley told F1i after season' finale in Abu Dhabi.

"But from a sporting and entertainment point of view, if the cars are too easy to drive then perhaps we don't see the difference between a very talented driver and a mediocre driver.

"The braking points are a lot earlier, cornering speeds and techniques are slower and easier respectively, so whether or not it's a good thing or a bad thing, we should ask if we are seeing the difference between the drivers that we should see."

While the physical effort or level of talent necessary to extract the most out of today's Grand Prix car may have decreased relatively, Smedley believes that this has been largely compensated by a driver's ability to manage systems behind the wheel given the extraordinary complexity of the modern power unit.

"In terms of how much they have to do, these power units are extremely complicated to manage, and that's not just for Mercedes, but also for the Renault and Ferrari power units.

"You can just watch the in-car camera and you can see throughout the race the amount of messages the drivers get, the amount of management they have to do. So from that point of view, they are probably a little more difficult to drive."

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