Latest F1 news in brief – Saturday

  • Has VJ Mallaya indeed made a deal with Aston Martin?
    Is VJ Mallya about to steal Johnnie Walker from McLaren?

    Force India deal could be another blow to McLaren

  • Haas finally confirms Gutierrez
  • High speed Mexico favors Mercedes – Verstappen
  • Rosberg to 're-think' approach to racing Hamilton
  • Ferrari defends right to veto engine cost cap
  • Honda not ruling out Red Bull engine deal
  • Schumacher's closest friends do not visit him – Leme
  • Wolff says Manor resignations 'a blow'
  • Pirelli confirms 3 compounds per race in 2016
  • Verstappen 'not fully focused' before crash

Force India deal could be another blow to McLaren
(GMM) After eight years in formula one as Force India, the Silverstone based team could change its name ahead of the 2016 season.

Multiple reports from Mexico City suggest team supremo Vijay Mallya is in talks with Aston Martin, the British luxury car manufacturer, about a naming sponsorship deal and a new blue and gold livery.

The Mercedes engines, meanwhile, would also be rebranded as Aston Martin, thanks to the close relationship between the two carmakers outside of F1.

"We are in discussion," Mallya admitted, "nothing has been finalized, we have many options and I'll be able to confirm or otherwise once I have something to say."

The Indian millionaire added that he doesn't like to "count my chickens before they hatch".

The reports also claim that Force India is in talks with Johnnie Walker, the whisky brand and current McLaren sponsor.

Johnnie Walker is owned by Diageo, a drinks company with strong links to Mallya's own alcoholic beverages firm United Breweries.

Force India had a difficult start to the 2015 season amid a cash flow crisis, and has since lodged a complaint about the sport's governance with the European Commission.

"We've been through hard times, as every team does," team driver Sergio Perez told the Spanish newspaper El Pais. "This sport and life in general is always like that.

"But it was always very clear that we are going forward," said the Mexican.

A tripartite alliance between Force India, Aston Martin and Johnnie Walker could be another blow to McLaren, the once-great F1 grandee who are enduring an horror season in collaboration with struggling engine maker Honda.

"Many people ask me if I'm glad that McLaren are in trouble and I'm really not," said Perez, who was dispensed by the British outfit after a single season in 2013.

"I have great friends there who deserve to be doing better because they are very capable. But I think there are decisions made in the past that are being paid for today," he added.

"My only regret is that I signed for McLaren. Other than that, nothing."

Carlos Slim Jr. (L) bankrolled Gutierez
Carlos Slim Jr. (L) bankrolled Gutierrez

Haas finally confirms Gutierrez
(GMM) Haas has finally confirmed the worst-kept secret in the F1 paddock.

It was already widely known, but Mexican Esteban Gutierrez is now definitely joining Romain Grosjean at the new Ferrari-linked American team for 2016.

"He's young and hungry, but not inexperienced," founder Gene Haas said of the 24-year-old former Sauber driver, who this year has been the Ferrari reserve.

Also attending Friday's official announcement at the Soumaya Museum in Mexico City was Gutierrez's financial backer, Telmex chief Carlos Slim Domit.

The Mercedes are so fast down the straights they are cooking their brakes trying to stop them
The Mercedes are so fast down the straights they are cooking their brakes trying to stop them

High speed Mexico favors Mercedes – Verstappen
(GMM) Max Verstappen's father is not sure the 18-year-old can keep up with the front of the pack throughout the Mexican grand prix weekend.

Max, currently linked with future deals at Mercedes or Ferrari, stunned the paddock by leading first practice on Friday in his Toro Rosso, before crashing out of the second.

It came hot on the heels of almost securing his debut podium a week ago in Austin, which his father Jos said was "incredible for someone who's just turned 18".

But Verstappen, himself a former F1 driver, doubts his son can go one better this weekend in Mexico.

"It would be a miracle for Max to finish high in the points here," Jos told the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf.

"The circuit just doesn't suit the (Renault powered) car, but it will really suit the Mercedes."

He is referring to the ultra-fast nature of the renovated Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez layout, with the altitude and long straight churning out top speeds faster even than Monza.

But the 360kph reached by the powerful Mercedes on Friday was in stark contrast to McLaren-Honda, who are set to struggle with energy recovery systems that run out of juice long before the end of the straight.

Marca, a Spanish daily, quoted Alonso as saying Mexico is a "disaster" for Honda, who would need "500 laps" to properly charge the battery.

"On the straight, we don't move the steering wheel but we lose seven tenths," he said.

According to Jos Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton "obviously deserves" the 2015 title, but he pointed a finger at the vastly spread technical competencies up and down pitlane.

"The sobering thought is that the fight might have been really special if his (Hamilton's) car wasn't quite so good. The only person he had to beat was his teammate," the Dutchman added.

Rosberg does not have the mental fortitude to beat Hamilton
Rosberg does not have the mental fortitude to beat Hamilton

Rosberg to 're-think' approach to racing Hamilton
(GMM) Nico Rosberg has indicated he is ready to make a change in his approach to racing triple world champion teammate Lewis Hamilton.

In contrast, Hamilton is riding a wave of confidence and form at present, while some think Rosberg is even being bullied off the track, as in Austin a week ago.

Clearly, given his demonstrated ability to beat Hamilton both in qualifying and at grands prix, Rosberg is a fine driver, but perhaps he needs to leave Mercedes in order to fully show it.

"No. I'm happy here, driving the best car in F1 that gives me the chance to win races," the German insisted to Brazil's Globo in Mexico.

"I am not thinking today that I will not win next year. On the contrary, I am quite optimistic that I can beat him," Rosberg said, referring to Hamilton.

Perhaps, then, it is Rosberg's approach that needs a re-think.

David Coulthard, who knows the dilemma well given his long stint alongside former double world champion Mika Hakkinen at McLaren, agrees: "Nico is a fine, professional racing driver.

"But at the moment it isn't enough," he told the Telegraph. "It's going to take a 'back to the drawing board' approach."

And that could start straight away, this weekend in Mexico, after some people observed that Rosberg is being consistently bullied by Hamilton in wheel-to-wheel battles.

"I don't want to comment on that," Rosberg insisted.

"But I have heard the fans and thought about it. I will not tell you how I will react because it would help him. I keep it to myself.

"One thing is certain — I have to rethink some things. I just want to say that I understand what I have heard, because I have lost positions in these maneuvers.

"I understand the question," he added.

Another perspective on Rosberg's situation, however, is that he is increasingly regarded as the Mercedes 'number 2', even inside the team.

Niki Lauda, the team chairman, sided strongly with Hamilton after the Austin incident, insisting that a group discussion involving both drivers was not even necessary.

"I can understand why you ask me that because you see things from the outside," Rosberg responded. "But I can tell you that inside it is quite different.

"Niki says certain things, that's true, but he is not the actual person within Mercedes addressing these issues. Niki is about the direction of the team, but he is not Toto Wolff.

"Again, I understand your question, but I feel supported by the team," Rosberg insisted, "otherwise I would not continue here.

"I appreciate having a boss like Toto, he is very capable and we are very lucky to have him as our leader."

Arrivabene defends veto
Arrivabene defends veto

Ferrari defends right to veto engine cost cap
(GMM) Ferrari has defended its decision to 'veto' the FIA's efforts to impose a cap on the price of customer engines in formula one.

In the form of an official statement announcing alternative plans for a parallel 'client' engine formula for 2017, FIA president Jean Todt referred to the veto that is uniquely wielded by Ferrari.

"We exercised our veto in compliance with our legitimate commercial right to do business as a powertrain manufacturer," team boss Maurizio Arrivabene said in Mexico on Friday.

Asked how he can justify that stance morally in the face of smaller teams struggling to stay afloat, he added: "Why do we have to justify it more (than that)?

"If somebody asks you to produce an apple to a specification, you produce that apple but then they want to impose the price of that apple, what are you going to do?"

Toto Wolff, boss of the dominant Mercedes team, commented that by participating in F1 since the start and as the sport's "strongest brand", Ferrari has earned its unique veto power.

"I would like to add," Arrivabene said, "that we are not applying the veto to every single meeting. The last one, I remember, was applied by Jean Todt actually, many years ago."

And Nico Rosberg, a works Mercedes driver, also weighed in on the debate about engine costs in F1, when told that the small teams pay their suppliers some EUR 22 million per season for a supply of 'power units'.

"It's unbelievable," he told Globo. "Crazy, right?

"On the other hand, you spend 22 million but have a marketing return of 2 or 3 billion, so in that case 22 million is nothing. Remember that F1 is the top class of motor sport in the world," added Rosberg.

Honda prepared to supply engine to Red Bull
Honda prepared to supply engine to Red Bull

Honda not ruling out Red Bull engine deal
(GMM) Honda has refused to back its works partner McLaren in ruling out a supply of customer Japanese power for ailing Red Bull for 2016.

Having now dropped its quit threat, the beleaguered former quadruple world champions, Red Bull, have resorted to almost begging for a 'power unit'.

"Lonely RB12 with a lot to offer to the right partner, or any partner," Red Bull declared in a joke newspaper advertisement on its official Twitter profile.

It seems desperate, but team official Dr Helmut Marko told Auto Motor und Sport: "In our situation, everything is an option."

With the Renault relationship seemingly broken beyond repair, and Mercedes and Ferrari categorically ruling out a partnership, Red Bull's last hope of staying in F1 beyond next month's Abu Dhabi finale could be Honda.

And the key could be F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone.

A week ago in Austin, the 85-year-old announced that while McLaren team supremo Ron Dennis has been granted veto power by its works partner, Honda also promised to formula one that it would begin supplying customers from 2016.

So "I don't know if his (Dennis') veto will stand up or not," Ecclestone said.

"Red Bull could run Honda if Honda agreed, but they won't agree to avoid having an argument with Ron."

Fascinatingly, when asked about potentially supplying Red Bull in 2016, Honda's Yasuhisa Arai would not rule it out.

"Obviously we cannot discuss details at this moment," said the Japanese in Mexico City.

"We have been approached by the team but discussions are ongoing and nothing has been decided. I always say this season, 'We are always open, so we are on discussions that are ongoing. That's it."

Schumacher's closest friends do not visit him – Leme
(GMM) Reginaldo Leme, the famous Brazilian F1 commentator, says he can understand why Michael Schumacher's family is so carefully guarding its privacy.

Leme, a highly respected member of the sport's travelling circus for decades, told the Brazilian broadcaster SporTV that even Schumacher's closest friends no longer visit the great seven time world champion at his home in Switzerland.

"The family has stopped any kind of information and access, particularly to the press. But not even his closest friends have been visiting Schumacher," he said.

"For a long time now, Massa has not gone there. Because he understands that it is the time for his family and he wants to protect that," Leme explained.

"Everyone knows that he (Schumacher) is in a vegetative state. He has lost muscle mass and is very thin. It came out in a German newspaper that he weighs 45 kilograms, the family went crazy and sued the newspaper.

"I doubt that the information came from inside the family. So I see it as the family's right to protect him," Leme added.

John Booth quits Manor
John Booth quits Manor

Wolff says Manor resignations 'a blow'
(GMM) Mercedes chiefs will be "curious spectators" as apparent trouble at the British backmarker Manor unfolds.

That is what Toto Wolff said after rumors spread around the paddock in Mexico City on Friday that Manor chiefs John Booth and Graeme Lowdon have resigned.

The news apparently came as a surprise to the Mercedes team boss, having only recently signed a deal with Manor to supply them with championship-winning 'power units' for 2016.

"I've known John forever, since the Formula Renault days of Lewis (Hamilton) and formula 3. Manor means John Booth and John Booth means Manor."

As for Lowdon, who is understood to also be leaving amid a dispute over the future with Manor's new investor Stephen Fitzpatrick, Wolff added: "Graeme was very instrumental in keeping the team alive last year.

"So seeing them go, from a personal standpoint and from the racing spirit, is obviously a blow. Going forward, we have signed the deal with Manor and we need to give credit to everybody in the team who stays but we are curious spectators from now on," he said.

Germany's Auto Motor und Sport said Mercedes put a clause in the engine deal allowing it to be terminated in the event that Manor is sold to a new owner.

The report, adding that there is more than one interested buyer on the horizon, explained that the clause would stop Red Bull from simply snapping up Manor and securing the Mercedes engine deal it really wants.

3 compounds per race in 2016
3 compounds per race in 2016

Pirelli confirms 3 compounds per race in 2016
(GMM) Pirelli will offer three tire compounds for F1 teams to use at each grand prix from 2016.

The news has been a long time coming, but it was finally confirmed by the Italian marque's Mario Isola ahead of this weekend's race in Mexico City.

To spice up the sport, Pirelli will designate three – not 2 – appropriate compounds per grand prix from 2016, with teams able to pick and choose how to populate their allocations of 13 sets of dry slick tires per driver.

So it is possible that a single driver will use all three compounds of tires during races next year.

"There are still discussions about the details," Isola told Auto Motor und Sport.

"But especially at the beginning of next season, we will see teams go in different directions," he added.

Isola also confirmed that an all-new compound, one step softer than the 'Super soft' and reportedly to be called the 'Ultra soft', will be introduced next year that will probably feature purple Pirelli branding.

Pirelli has opened up the selection of the color to the voting public, but Isola said: "I voted in favor of purple.

"It reminds me of the color for the fastest lap on the timing screen, which seems appropriate for the fastest tire."

Verstappen with Mexican fans
Verstappen with Mexican fans

Verstappen 'not fully focused' before crash
Max Verstappen has admitted that he was "not fully focused" before crashing out of second practice for the Mexican Grand Prix.

Verstappen had topped FP1 in the morning, albeit with a controversial best lap, and was looking to build on his strong start in FP2.

But he lost the rear of his Toro Rosso at Turn 16 on his opening run of the session, before sliding across the track and into the wall.

"In FP2 the track was quite slippery, I had cold tires, and I was maybe not fully focused," Verstappen explained to Sky Sports.

"It was my first lap, not even pushing, just warming up the tires, and then suddenly I lost it."

Verstappen is hopeful that he will be able to bounce back on Saturday.

"It should be OK," the Dutchman went on to comment.

"If you look back at FP1, it was quite strong, so I don't see any reason why FP2 would have been less. In general the car is not too bad here. I'm not too worried."

Carlos Sainz Jr. ended the day 13th in the sister Toro Rosso.