Latest F1 news in brief – Tuesday

  • The Mercedes drivers paraded around 1-2 pretty much all season as the German fans switched off their TV sets

    F1 popularity in Germany still declining

  • Renault set to show green light to F1 this week
  • Mercedes to investigate Hamilton's loss of form
  • 2016 the 'year of truth' for Ferrari – press
  • Honda 'will be ready' for Melbourne 2016 – Arai-san
  • Determined Honda to work through holidays – Arai-san
  • Stroll hopes Williams road leads to F1 grid

F1 popularity in Germany still declining
(GMM) The popularity of formula one within Germany has continued to steadily decline.

It emerges that the coverage by the German broadcaster ARD of Sunday's skiing-and-shooting biathlon attracted 3.95 million viewers — 120,000 more than those who tuned in to RTL's live coverage of the 2015 season finale in Abu Dhabi.

RTL sports chief Manfred Loppe blamed the latest decline on the fact that the world championship had already been decided weeks earlier.

"Of course that took the wind out of the sails," he said.

"For 2016, we are hoping that Sebastian Vettel can close the gap to the two dominant Mercedes drivers so that hopefully next year the audience can experience a thrilling three-way battle."

Interestingly, Loppe also pointed the finger at F1's authorities and teams for detracting from the 'show' with their constant trackside political bickering.

"I would hope that formula one concentrates mainly on the racing and not so much on the discussions that ultimately produce more problems than solutions," he insisted.

After the German team utterly dominated both in 2014 and 2015, boss Toto Wolff said he also hopes Mercedes' rivals catch up next year.

"I can only hope that for the sake of formula one the others catch up," he said, "as it would clearly be better for the show. I cannot do more than that."

Even reigning triple world champion Lewis Hamilton said: "My heart beats for competition. So I do hope that the others do a good job over the winter.

"That's what the fans want as well," he told Welt newspaper. "I don't know if it will be possible with the current rules, but Ferrari has already caught up a lot.

"I think next year will be interesting," Hamilton added.

F1 veteran David Coulthard hopes the same — for the sake of the sport.

"I cannot really think of any moments (from 2015) which will be remembered in 10 or 20 years' time," he told the Telegraph. "Formula one needs to hope for better in 2016."

Renault's future in F1 hinges on Carlos Ghosn
Renault's future in F1 hinges on Carlos Ghosn

Renault set to show green light to F1 this week
(GMM) Tuesday or Wednesday have been tipped as the most likely days for Renault to announce its decision to stay in formula one next year and beyond.

That is the claim of Austria's Kleine Zeitung newspaper, reporting that after four meetings between Group Renault marketing chief Jerome Stoll and Bernie Ecclestone in Abu Dhabi, a positive outcome was finally reached.

The report said: "Ecclestone agreed to make special payments to the French, although not quite as high as had been requested. We have learned that Renault can live with the compromise, which must still be approved by (CEO) Carlos Ghosn."

The deal between Ecclestone and Renault will not only show the green light to the Lotus buyout, but also the 2016 engine deal for Red Bull, including the involvement of Ilmor chief Mario Illien.

Red Bull's Dr Helmut Marko confirms: "It looks good that the agreement that we have, with whoever it is, can be announced during the (current) week."

He also said the former quadruple world champions have hope that "We can be somewhat competitive and take another step closer" to the front of the grid in 2016.

Lead driver Daniel Ricciardo is quoted by Italy's Tuttosport: "It is good news that it (the engine question) is finally resolved."

As for the likely competitiveness of next year's engine, following the disappointments of the past two years, the Australian added: "I'm sure the (Red Bull) team knows what it's doing.

"I think if they had the feeling that it would be another season like this, they would not have decided to keep going."

With Mercedes dictating which driver will be faster and which will win, what's there to investigate? They will never admit to doing it.
With Mercedes dictating which driver will be faster and which will win, what's there to investigate? They will never admit to doing it.

Mercedes to investigate Hamilton's loss of form
(GMM) Whether Nico Rosberg can turn his newly-found top form into a title challenge in 2016 has become a hot topic for the forthcoming winter period.

"Three wins and six poles in a row," he declared in his latest column for the German newspaper Bild. "It means I will go into next season with a strong feeling.

"My new Silver Arrow (2016 car) is basically a development of the current one, so I would be ready to start the 2016 season already tomorrow," Rosberg exclaimed.

Indeed, it has been an odd turnaround for Rosberg, having been comprehensively beaten to the 2015 world championship by his teammate Lewis Hamilton.

Some are even wondering if the wrong silver-clad driver was crowned 2015 champion, given Rosberg's late form. "Ouch!" responded Mercedes chief Toto Wolff when that idea was posed by F1's official website.

"In motor sport you have a stopwatch, and this stopwatch never lies," he said.

Indeed, Hamilton was so dominant almost right up until he sealed the crown with victory in Austin, making some wonder if Rosberg's post-title wins are simply meaningless.

"The cause of this series of wins for Rosberg should be understood," said the Italian newspaper Corriere dello Sport. "They (Rosberg's races) were indeed perfect, but perfectly useless."

Germany's Die Welt agrees: "Only when it no longer mattered did the Briton's teammate get in front."

What is obvious, however, is that Hamilton did not consciously lift his foot off the throttle, as his desperation to beat Rosberg in Abu Dhabi demonstrated.

Rosberg agrees: "I have to admit it made me happy to see my teammate resort to some desperate acts. Like on Sunday he wanted to get to the end with only one stop, and did not accept the advice of the team that he definitely would not win like that."

Wolff said Mercedes will be carefully analyzing the reversal of fortunes.

"There have been a lot of discussions lately about whether Nico has stepped up, whether the car has come more towards him development-wise, or whether Lewis has unconsciously just taken it a bit too easy," he said. "I have no answer to that.

"We have to make an audit in the next couple of weeks and analyze what happened in the last couple of races," added Wolff.

A lot falls on James Allison to pull Ferrari up to Mercedes in 2016
A lot falls on James Allison to pull Ferrari up to Mercedes in 2016

2016 the 'year of truth' for Ferrari – press
(GMM) When Ferrari puts its 2016 challenger on track in February, the entire world of F1 will wonder if it can be a Mercedes-beater.

And arguably the keenest observers of all will be the partisan Italian press.

"2016 is the year of truth," declared La Stampa newspaper. "The Scuderia has one last step to get back to the top."

After two years of utter Mercedes dominance, the F1 world has been micro-analyzing Ferrari's resurgent form this year. In Brazil two weeks ago, the red team appeared to now be tantalizingly close.

But then in Abu Dhabi, Mercedes flexed its full muscle again.

"Maranello should be very concerned," Corriere dello Sport said after the weekend's season finale, "because the superiority of Mercedes is still very strong."

La Stampa continued: "When the Mercedes drivers start from the front and make no mistakes, they are invincible. The question now is whether three winter months is enough for Ferrari to close that gap."

Even boss Maurizio Arrivabene admits that, despite Ferrari's impressive resurgence this year, there is no guarantee the team will be closer next year.

"But one year ago it seemed like mission impossible. Now we know that it is possible," he said.

Sebastian Vettel, who won three times versus Mercedes combined sixteen in 2015, also acknowledged that while Ferrari has made steps in 2015, "The last step is the hardest".

F1 veteran David Coulthard agrees that Mercedes' current level of dominance is almost "unprecedented".

"People thought Red Bull was bad, but it was all tight margins," he told the Telegraph. "This is something else. I do not even remember Ferrari in the early 2000s enjoying such a significant pace advantage."

Will Alonso be smiling or crying when he first drives the 2016 McLaren-Honda?
Will Alonso be smiling or crying when he first drives the 2016 McLaren-Honda?

Honda 'will be ready' for Melbourne 2016 – Arai-san
(GMM) Yasuhisa Arai insists Honda has no regrets about making its return to F1 in 2015, despite its obvious unpreparedness for the 'power unit' era.

McLaren-Honda staff and fans will forever look back on this year with horror, as the Japanese carmaker floundered from race to race with woeful performance and reliability.

Arai-san, however, said the worst moment was actually the first one, in Melbourne.

"We were not prepared enough, had not done the right testing and yet the first race arrived," he told Speed Week.

"In the middle of the season we found the exact weakness of the engine but we could not resolve it during the season. No chance," he added.

When asked if Honda simply started racing too early, though – for instance in debuting this year rather than waiting for 2016 – Arai-san insisted: "No.

"Because the problem would still have been the experience. It requires the action on the track. So in a certain way we used the races in 2015 as testing and learned a lot."

He says that between Melbourne and Abu Dhabi, even though some observers say the Anglo-Japanese collaboration remains in deep crisis, a lot of progress was made.

"The positive news is that McLaren-Honda attracted no penalties for the 99th race together," Arai-san said, referring to Sunday's season opener.

"That should be the norm. The result in Abu Dhabi was difficult, with incidents in the first lap and in the pitlane, but we were able to confirm our progress through good fights in the midfield."

As for the preparations for 2016, he continued: "We look forward to the development over the winter, where we will focus on reliability and improving the power unit.

"But we know the weaknesses of our engine and it will be fixed for Melbourne. The good news is that the drivers and the team trust us. We want to be ready for the 100th grand prix of McLaren-Honda."

Can Yasuhisa Arai's team produce a competitive power unit in 2016?
Can Yasuhisa Arai's team produce a competitive power unit in 2016?

Determined Honda to work through holidays – Arai-san
(GMM) Honda has vowed to work throughout the forthcoming holiday season to get back up to speed in formula one.

With McLaren, the Anglo-Japanese collaboration faltered badly in 2015 as Honda returned to the grid with a badly under-prepared 'power unit'.

Boss Yasuhisa Arai admits it took Honda until mid-season to identify the main problem – the so-called 'deployment' of the energy recovery systems – "but we could not resolve it during the season", he told Speed Week.

So the Spanish newspaper AS reports that Honda is vowing now to work non-stop throughout the forthcoming holiday season.

"Our philosophy will continue, but it will be a completely new engine," Arai-san said. "It is designed and the tests have begun.

"We have a lot of work ahead of us so perhaps we will not have holidays — I think it is good to keep on working."

Throughout McLaren-Honda's abysmal season, arguably the biggest surprise has been the composure and patience of Fernando Alonso — a driver more commonly associated with Latin histrionics.

"Last year was more frustrating," said the former Ferrari driver. "Everyone would be blaming one another, all trying to prove his work is good, and so to see this project has made me improve and become a better person."

He famously lost his cool at Suzuka, however, describing Honda's work as a "GP2 engine" for all of the carmaker's congregated big-wigs to hear on the radio.

But Alonso said: "That it (the outburst) was in Japan was good, because with our problems we know what to do, but we need the full involvement of everybody, more budget, more people."

As for those who are 'surprised' by how calm Alonso has been in 2015, the Spaniard answered: "I think it is something that has always been there — that (perception that) there are always problems with me or I get angry.

"I have to say I am surprised because quite often I finished the world championship at the final race without success, sometimes dramatically like Abu Dhabi in 2010 and Brazil 2012, but I always put the best of me, keeping a good attitude and staying close to the team.

"Now we see that Mercedes is dominating the podium but throwing caps at each other, not talking … and nobody says anything! And when I'm positive, working with the team with a good attitude if I'm tenth, second or first, it is my attitude that is surprising," he added.

With his father being a billionaire Lance Stroll is well on his way to buying an eventual full-time F1 ride
With his father being a billionaire Lance Stroll is well on his way to buying an eventual full-time F1 ride

Stroll hopes Williams road leads to F1 grid
(GMM) Lance Stroll admits he hopes a new role at Williams could be his road to the formula one grid.

Last week, the British team said its new development driver for 2016 will be 17-year-old Stroll, a European F3 race winner whose father is the Canadian billionaire Lawrence.

Preceding Stroll's appointment, Lance was a member of Ferrari's development program, with the long-time Ferrari figure Luca Baldisserri now linked with a move to accompany the youngster to Williams.

The young driver said of Ferrari: "For sure, for us it is not easy to leave. We have worked together like a family since 2010 so it was not an easy decision," he told the French-Canadian newspaper La Presse.

"But Williams is an exceptional opportunity."

The Oxfordshire based team has said that Stroll's development role will be along the lines of the one originally occupied by Valtteri Bottas, who rose all the way to the grid.

Stroll, 17, said he was approached by Williams last summer.

"I was still with Ferrari and unsure of what we wanted to do." But he says the talks progressed to the point that he was convinced it was "a good opportunity for the future and my career".

Stroll said Williams' record in grooming young drivers, like Bottas and others before him, was "one aspect that really appealed to us".

He added: "They believe in me to be one of their next drivers. They've followed me for a long time and saw not only that I am a good driver, but that I have the potential to win races and titles."

As for what he will actually do in 2016, Stroll said he will continue racing in European F3 but also do "a lot of work in their (Williams') simulator.

"And a lot of learning in the Williams factory about formula one. That means being at the track as well and in the garage during the grands prix, when it does not fall on the same weekends as my F3 races."

As for the possibility of actually testing a F1 car, "We have not yet taken a decision with Williams. I don't know if we will do that (next year), or when."

Stroll said his real focus next year will be on F3, even though Max Verstappen has already shown that teenagers can thrive in formula one.

"One thing at a time," said Stroll. "I'm still a young driver — there is plenty of time and we are not in a hurry.

"We'll see how it goes in 2016 and what is the best opportunity after that."

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