Latest F1 news in brief – Thursday

  • It's nice to have dreams
    It's nice to have dreams

    2017 is best chance for Williams – Massa

  • McLaren-Honda says update 'better than expected'
  • Boss says F1 calendar 'attack' on Le Mans
  • Ferrari backs Raikkonen after crash criticism
  • Haas F1 Team Principal Guenther Steiner On Series' Appeal, Esteban Gutierrez
  • F1 On 'Edge Of Seat' In Light Of Potential European Commission Investigation

2017 is best chance for Williams – Massa
(GMM) Williams' Felipe Massa admits the British team might struggle to take on the might of grandees Mercedes and Ferrari until 2017.

Despite the fact it is an engine 'customer' and independent team with a more modest budget, the Grove team has consistently been F1's third force throughout the new 'power unit' era so far.

And Brazilian Massa, who is happy with his switch from the grandee Ferrari to Williams last year and is already signed up for 2016, admits that maintaining its position in the pecking order is the most likely challenge for the British team for now.

"Yes, those two teams (Mercedes and Ferrari) are now best adapted to the current rules," he told Russia's Championat. "Especially Mercedes.

"With stability under the current rules, Mercedes has the best chance to remain the best. For us (Williams), we need to continue our work.

"And when the rules change again, we will do everything in order to understand them better than anyone else. But before then, before the great changes to the regulations for 2017, it will be hard for us to do better," Massa added.

Boullier (L) playing nice-nice with Arai (R) even though Arai's engines are dogs.  McLaren does not want to badmouth its engine manufacturer like Red Bull did and find themselves without engines
Boullier (L) playing nice-nice with Arai (R) even though Arai's engines are dogs. McLaren does not want to badmouth its engine manufacturer like Red Bull did and find themselves without engines

McLaren-Honda says update 'better than expected'
(GMM) McLaren-Honda is suddenly sounding much more confident about the future.

Until now, while insisting that the fabled Anglo-Japanese combination will eventually bear fruit, there has been little sign of progress in 2015.

But that may all have changed at Sochi last weekend, where Fernando Alonso was at the controls of a new Honda engine specification.

Observers said the power unit had a notably different engine note, but the team decided to shelve it after practice so that Alonso could use it to best effect next weekend at Austin without the handicap of grid penalties.

Team boss Eric Boullier is quoted by Spain's El Mundo Deportivo: "This update performed better than expected.

"It was a positive test — above even what we expected," he repeated. "So if we did not use it in the race it was only because we believed that the design of the (Sochi) circuit did not suit our package."

Honda's Yasuhisa Arai agreed: "It (the new engine) responded better than expected, although the total performance is still not high enough."

Indeed, Jenson Button said the biggest problem with the current Honda layout is "energy recovery. The ERS," he explained.

"We run out of power on the straights long before we get to the end of them."

The report also said Honda, and F1's other engine manufacturers, will be turning their minds to the new rules for 2016 mandating separate exhaust pipes for 'wastegate' gases next year, with the intention of ramping up the volume.

But El Mundo Deportivo said teams will be considering whether the additional one or two exhausts can be exploited for an aerodynamic benefit through the diffuser — otherwise known as exhaust 'blowing'.

Just like IndyCar, Ecclestone does not want his star drivers bringing good publicity to another series
Just like IndyCar, Ecclestone does not want his star drivers bringing good publicity to another series

Boss says F1 calendar 'attack' on Le Mans
(GMM) Le Mans chief Gerard Neveu says F1's re-jigged calendar for 2016 is "a clear attack" on the fabled 24 hour endurance race.

FIA president Jean Todt has already approved and defended Bernie Ecclestone's schedule, despite the fact the clash of the inaugural grand prix in Azerbaijan and Le Mans in June will prevent Nico Hulkenberg from defending his title.

"Le Mans is protected as much as we can," Todt told Auto Hebdo recently, "but we also have to respect the interests and capacities of other disciplines."

World endurance championship chief Neveu, however, does not agree, arguing that Ecclestone knowingly designed the clash to hit back at Le Mans' rising status and popularity.

Indeed, Mark Webber, who has no regrets after making the switch from F1 to Porsche, said he knows that Hulkenberg was not the only current F1 driver considering Le Mans for 2016.

"I know that some really good (F1) drivers are a bit frustrated that they cannot get into a competitive cockpit so they've been looking around here," he is quoted by motorline.cc.

Neveu said of Ecclestone's 2016 calendar: "It's a clear attack on us and on this race.

"Ecclestone never does anything nonchalantly. It is a shame because we could have had had Hulkenberg and also other F1 drivers -– motor sport fans are losing out."

Neveu pointed the finger at Frenchman Todt, whose hands-off approach to his presidency has been widely controversial.

"The FIA should have protected us better," he claimed.

Raikkonen under fire again
Raikkonen under fire again

Ferrari backs Raikkonen after crash criticism
(GMM) Ferrari has leapt to the defense of Kimi Raikkonen, amid rising criticism of the Finn's driving in Russia.

The 2007 world champion was penalized by the stewards for ending his podium battle with Valtteri Bottas with a crash.

Fellow Finn Mika Hakkinen criticized Raikkonen for not clearly accepting the blame, surmising that he "had some frustration that his teammate (Sebastian Vettel) was once again ahead of him and heading for the podium".

Mercedes team chairman and F1 legend Niki Lauda agreed: "Raikkonen tried as hard as he could and Sebastian blew him off in the end.

"And he blew himself off by hitting Bottas. I don't think it was such a great drive," he added.

Immediately after the race, however, Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene said that the Maranello team admired Raikkonen for his fighting spirit in the battle for the lowest step of the Sochi podium.

As for the penalty, he recalled a similar move made by Daniel Ricciardo at Monaco, which was "almost the same (but) considered a racing incident.

"So I can't find any reason why (this) can't be considered a race incident too," Arrivabene added.

Raikkonen's crash also got the green light from the highest places at Maranello.

Piero Ferrari, the vice-chairman, co-owner and only living son of the great Enzo Ferrari, had a conversation with the Ferrari insider Leo Turrini this week amid events to mark the carmaker's stock market floatation.

"All of a sudden, he (Ferrari) said to me 'What about Kimi's race?' He said that he (Raikkonen) is exceptional, a real racing driver who is worthy of the Ferrari tradition," Turrini reportedly said on his blog.

Steiner and Haas diss American drivers
Steiner and Haas diss American drivers

Haas F1 Team Principal Guenther Steiner On Series' Appeal, Esteban Gutierrez
Haas F1 will become the first U.S.-based team to compete in the motorsports series in more than 30 years when it takes the grid in March. The team established a technical partnership with Ferrari and commissioned Italy-based Dallara to build the car for '16. It also recently unveiled its lead driver for next season, Frenchman Romain Grosjean.

The team was founded by NASCAR co-Team Owner Gene Haas, who hopes F1's global exposure will benefit his machine tool brand Haas Automation. Haas put motorsports veteran Guenther Steiner in charge of the new team. Steiner brings nearly 30 years of experience in the industry, including rally, F1 and NASCAR, to the team. He recently spoke with SBD Global about getting ready for year one, expectations, F1's appeal and the potential of a Mexican driver.

Q
: With only six months left until the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, what are the most important steps between now and then to get the car on the grid at Albert Park?
Guenther Steiner: The most important thing is to get the best possible people hired for the race team, and to get them to work together as best as possible in a short time.

Q: Does being Ferrari’s de facto B-team lead to higher expectations at Haas F1 than those of other newcomers in the past?
Steiner: We are not a Ferrari B Team. We stand on our own two feet, but we work closely with a very good and experienced technical partner in Ferrari. Our expectations are to perform respectfully, and I feel that the expectation/pressure is coming from our surroundings. I think we are ready to deal with it.

Q: There is concern in F1 about the financial state of smaller teams, with Sauber and Force India filing a complaint with the EU accusing the series of "unfair competition." Do you see Haas F1 being impacted by those issues next season?
Steiner Right now, we are not involved in any of this as our entry for 2016 will be only accepted in November. We’re focused on what we can control. We plan to make our program as secure as possible and go from there.

Q: Haas F1 publicly stated that its second driver will be a Ferrari reserve/test driver. How important would it be for the team to have a North American driver like Mexican Esteban Gutierrez in terms of fans and sponsorships?
Steiner: It would be good for the sport to have a driver from North America.

Q
: Are there any advantages of having three locations in the U.S., the U.K. and Italy?
Steiner: I do not see an advantage in having three locations, but for us and how we approach F1, this is the best solution.

Q: From a personal view, how do you see the current state of F1, and what has to change to make it more competitive and more appealing for fans, especially in the U.S.?
Steiner: I think using social media in a more extensive and better way would help, in general, and, specifically, in the U.S. to better engage fans. We also should make the cars faster and more exiting, and I think this will happen with the new technical regulations for 2017. HJ Mai/SportsBusinessDaily.com

Ecclestone's defense will be - The teams all knew what they were getting when they agree to sign the contracts. No one put a gun to their head.
Ecclestone's defense will be – The teams all knew what they were getting when they agreed to sign the contracts. No one put a gun to their head.

F1 On 'Edge Of Seat' In Light Of Potential European Commission Investigation
The world of F1 "is currently on the edge of its seat waiting for regulators in Europe to decide whether to open an investigation following a complaint from two teams over the allegedly anti-competitive way the series is run," according to Christian Sylt for FORBES.

However, new opinion "has cast doubt on whether there is actually anything to investigate."

If the European Commission "decides to investigate it could lead to an overhaul of the contracts at the heart of F1 but the latest views from one of the most seasoned observers of the sport suggest that one of the beneficiaries of the allegedly anti-competitive behavior may have actually lost out, rather than gained."

There "are two issues at the heart of the complaint." The first concerns the terms of F1’s prize fund, which was revealed to have hit $863.1M last year. Three of the 10 teams — Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull Racing receive 44% of the total "thanks to bonus payments for their prior success."

If the complaint to the EC triggers an investigation by the regulator "it could demand that this money is distributed more fairly in future which would give F1’s minnows more of a chance on track." Adding to the alleged hurdle against F1’s smallest teams "is the fact that the top six have seats on the sport’s decision-making body the Strategy Group."

In April last year the Strategy Group vetoed a $200M cap on team budgets which would have leveled the playing field and in turn "boosted the chances of the smaller teams."

The EC "is now deciding whether to proceed to a formal investigation and it could have significant consequences if it does." It would not be the first time this has happened. FORBES

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