Latest F1 news in brief – Monday

  • Damage between Red Bull and Renault unrepairable?

    Prost doubts Red Bull, Renault can repair 'damage'

  • Mercedes' title celebrations not ideal at Sochi
  • Ferrari admits real focus now on 2016 and beyond
  • Engineer switch pays off immediately for Nasr
  • Russia could stage first F1 night race in 2016
  • Signs of progress as McLaren-Honda 'tests' in 2015
  • Cregan wants quick decision over Sochi night race
  • Hamilton wanted straight fight with Rosberg
  • Button: McLaren 'did everything right'
  • Grosjean apologizes after spectacular crash

Prost doubts Red Bull, Renault can repair 'damage'
(GMM) Alain Prost is not sure the damaged relationship between Renault and Red Bull can be repaired.

Red Bull, and its sister team Toro Rosso, risk being left without a power unit to use in 2016, after Mercedes and Ferrari ruled out jumping to the rescue.

And it is clear that officials of the energy drink company are not prepared to beg.

"It is an honor that we seem to be considered such a threat by our competitors," Dr Helmut Marko told the German newspaper Bild.

Asked what the current situation is at the checkered flag at Sochi, the Austrian added: "We have no engine. Still not. And it is not in our plan for Christian (Horner) and I to push the cars.

Horner burned his bridges and is not paying the price
Horner burned his bridges and is not paying the price

"Our chassis is good, but not so good that we can race without an engine."

And so F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, known in the past for putting together miracle deals, is now involved.

In fact, the 84-year-old declared at Sochi that the Red Bull crisis is now "sorted".

"Bernie is trying to do what he can do," Mercedes' team chairman Niki Lauda told the German broadcaster Sky.

"It would be madness if Red Bull would leave formula one like this. The damage (to F1) would be too great, so somehow it has to be prevented."

But that does not mean Mercedes is going to change its mind about supplying Red Bull next year. Indeed, there are rumors the German marque has already started making approaches to some of Red Bull's potentially out-of-work top engineers.

And Toto Wolff was spotted in conversation at Sochi with Toro Rosso sensation Max Verstappen's father Jos as well as his manager, with 18-year-old Max having already referred to the possibility of racing a 'third car' in 2016.

"I've known 'crazy' Jos for so many years," Wolff told F1's official website. "So we just had a nice talk over coffee."

Red Bull's last chance of survival now might be to patch up its shattered relationship with current engine partner Renault.

But the French carmaker's F1 ambassador Prost is not sure that is possible.

"A lot of damage has been done and I don't know if it can be repaired," the F1 legend told French broadcaster Canal Plus.

"The facts are that Dietrich Mateschitz announced that he does not want to continue with Renault, and Carlos Ghosn said that Renault will not remain in F1 only as an engine supplier.

"From there, I don't really see how the situation could evolve favorably (for Red Bull)," Prost added.

Poor guys didn't get a chance to celebrate
Poor guys didn't get a chance to celebrate

Mercedes' title celebrations not ideal at Sochi
(GMM) With the late announcement of Kimi Raikkonen's penalty at Sochi, Mercedes began to celebrate long after the checkered flag.

The stewards' call, after deliberating over Raikkonen's last lap crash into Valtteri Bottas, gave Mercedes enough extra points to mathematically clinch the constructors' world championship for the second consecutive time.

But the celebrations were not quite as Mercedes had envisaged.

That was partly due to the fact that pole sitter Nico Rosberg's shot at chasing down teammate Lewis Hamilton for the drivers' title was left in tatters by a throttle breakage.

The German was gutted.

"I get the feeling that this is just not my year, and just at the point where I really need to attack," he said.

Rosberg, however, is refusing to give up.

"I'm very disappointed," he said, "and I can't really enjoy yet that we have become constructors' champions. It's just not the best moment for me and also because it (the team title) happened with the Raikkonen penalty.

"But tomorrow the world will look different again, I will see my family, forget the disappointment and look ahead to trying to win in Texas."

But even team boss Toto Wolff had to concede at Sochi that Rosberg's title chances look all but lost now, as Hamilton will get his first 'match point' in Austin.

"I don't agree (with Wolff)," Rosberg insists. "I'm not thinking about 2016 yet at all. I want to win all four (remaining) races."

Indeed, Mercedes' championship celebrations were somewhat restrained late in Sochi, as the big-wigs Wolff and Niki Lauda were no longer even in the paddock.

Referring to the long wait for the stewards' call over Raikkonen's penalty, Wolff told Bild newspaper: "When you fly with Niki, unfortunately there are no delays!

"But we will celebrate with the whole team on Monday here in the factory."

Arrivabene says real focus now is on 2016
Arrivabene says real focus now is on 2016

Ferrari admits real focus now on 2016 and beyond
(GMM) Sebastian Vettel is still in the hunt, but Ferrari's realistic hopes are now firmly set on a proper title challenge for 2016.

Indeed, while Vettel actually overtook Nico Rosberg on Sunday to now be Lewis Hamilton's main challenger for the title with four races to go, boss Maurizio Arrivabene acknowledges that Ferrari's real sights are further up the road.

"I am grateful for this question," he said after the Russian grand prix, "because internally I am always now saying 'We do not have a Scuderia working for 2015, we have a 'Squadretta'.

"Most of the team is working on the 2016 car," Arrivabene admitted, "and yet another group on the one for 2017. So we are well positioned for the future."

Indeed, Mercedes already has the constructors' crown wrapped up, and Hamilton has a firm hand on the drivers' title — and could even finish the job as soon as Austin.

"The maths says Vettel can still do it, but our humility says no," said Arrivabene.

So it is rumored that Ferrari's focus is now so firmly on 2016 that, in Austin, the marque could voluntarily take grid penalties for installing fifth engines so that it can introduce a developmental 'power unit' for next year.

"I will tell you in Austin," Arrivabene smiled when asked about it.

Engineer switch pays off immediately for Nasr
(GMM) Felipe Nasr is delighted his sharp turn in 2015 appeared to pay off immediately at Sochi.

After a strong start to his F1 career early this season, the Brazilian has struggled more recently to feel comfortable in the Sauber and fend off the challenge of his resurgent teammate Marcus Ericsson.

But in Russia, Nasr easily outpaced Swede Ericsson in qualifying, and in the race he finished sixth — his second best F1 result after his Melbourne debut.

Earlier in Sochi, Nasr had announced that he is starting work with a new race engineer, Paul Russell, after "mutually" deciding with Sauber to stop working with Craig Gardiner.

A delighted Nasr said after the checkered flag at Sochi: "It took a lot for us to take this decision, and we have a lot of work ahead.

"But the important thing is that the car has gone back to the balance that I like," he told Brazil's Globo, "making me very confident about what is ahead now."

Russia a night race in 2016?
Russia a night race in 2016?

Russia could stage first F1 night race in 2016
(GMM) The chances the Russian grand prix could switch immediately to a night-race format stepped up a notch on Sunday.

As recently as mere days ago, Sochi race officials insisted that while there is a chance the 'Autodrom' could install floodlighting ahead of the 2017 race, next year's edition will definitely take place in the day.

That is despite the fact that Russia, despite only holding its 2015 race on Sunday, will switch to become the fourth round of next year's world championship in May.

Organizer Sergei Vorobyov insisted on Sunday that Sochi is "happy" with its new May date.

And Dmitry Kozak, the Russian deputy prime minister, was quoted on Sunday as saying that the grand prix next year will in fact be a floodlit night race.

Asked if Kozak misspoke, Vorobyov answered: "As you can see from the media, the discussion on this topic took place at the highest level, between Bernie Ecclestone and Russian president Vladimir Putin.

"And we, the organizers of the grand prix, are waiting for the task. If the task is to have a night race in 2016, we will fulfil it," he insisted.

Ecclestone, 84, told the R-Sport news agency that he could not be happier with having Russia on the calendar.

"As long as I am alive," said the diminutive Briton at Sochi, "we will be here."

Signs of Progress for McLaren-Honda - the new engine in Alonso's car in practice had a much different engine note
Signs of Progress for McLaren-Honda – the new engine in Alonso's car in practice had a much different engine note

Signs of progress as McLaren-Honda 'tests' in 2015
(GMM) McLaren-Honda's focus is now firmly on 2016, as the Anglo-Japanese collaboration openly eyes the remaining races of this season as tests.

Indeed, at Sochi, an upgraded 'power unit' – with a notably different engine note – was debuted in Fernando Alonso's car in practice.

And after Sunday's race, teammate Jenson Button said: "We are running the cars a little differently to normal now because there is so much work for next year.

"So that's promising," the 2009 world champion, who like Alonso is signed up for 2016, is quoted by Spain's El Confidencial.

"You can take more risks with the car when you know you are not really going to be in the points. You can try different things and that's what we did this weekend and we will do for the rest of the season," Button added.

However, Button did score points in Russia, even though Alonso was shunted out of the points by the stewards for repeatedly abusing the limits of the track.

So it is tempting to recognize signs of real progress at struggling McLaren-Honda, even though many in the paddock are predicting another year of misery in 2016.

When asked about that, Button told Kolner Express tabloid: "I can't deny that we are a long way behind our schedule.

"But it doesn't help to point fingers. Our engine is very aggressively designed — more so even than the Mercedes," the Briton insisted. "That is why we have had so many reliability problems.

"But that's what we have to do if we want to beat Mercedes," said Button. "I think everyone knows that McLaren knows how to turn things around and win."

Honda is aware that its ERS (energy recovery system) is a major weak point, but homologation regulation restrictions mean little can be done until after the season.

Cregan wants quick decision over Sochi night race
(GMM) Richard Cregan wants a decision to be made quickly if next year's Russian grand prix is going to be held under floodlights.

Earlier, we reported that Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Kozak and Sochi race organizer Sergei Vorobyov had indicated the 2016 edition could be held at night.

That is despite the fact that officials had previously said switching to a night format could only be done for 2017 at the earliest.

"We had planned to do the first night grand prix of Russia in 2017," agreed Richard Cregan, the international advisor to the race.

"I know that (Russian president) Vladimir Putin discussed this issue with Bernie Ecclestone" on Sunday, he told the Russian news agency Tass.

"Theoretically it is possible to organize it by the next grand prix, but it needs a decision to be made soon," Cregan added.

Indeed, Sochi is moving to a May race date for 2016, leaving only about six months for organizers to install the floodlight technology.

Cregan agreed: "To prepare for a night grand prix takes about 40 weeks. But if the decision is made, we can speed up the process."

This is the only fight the two McLarens had - the start
This is the only fight the two McLarens had – the start

Hamilton wanted straight fight with Rosberg
Lewis Hamilton says he would have preferred a straight fight with Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg during the Russian Grand Prix.

Rosberg started the race from pole position, but dropped down the order and ultimately retired amid issues with his throttle pedal.

Hamilton soon built up a comfortable lead and was unchallenged en route to a 42nd career victory, moving him ahead of Ayrton Senna.

Sebastian Vettel finished six seconds adrift as Hamilton nursed a late rear wing concern, with Sergio Perez half a minute back in third.

"I was excited because Nico and I were quite close together at the beginning, and I thought we have a race here," Hamilton explained.

"It was a shame for the team to lose one of the cars. I wished Sebastian was with me as well, as we would have put on a race for the fans.

"But I don't take what we have granted. It's a special moment to surpass Ayrton; I couldn't do it without this amazing team, I'm so proud to be part of it."

Hamilton will secure a third title – the same tally as Senna – if he wins the next race in the United States and Vettel finishes no higher than third.

Jenson Button
Jenson Button said his McLaren Honda was down 28 mph on the straights

Button: McLaren 'did everything right'
Jenson Button says he and McLaren-Honda "did everything right" to secure a ninth-place finish in the Russian Grand Prix, marking the partnership's first points in five races.

Button started the race from 13th on the grid, having made Q2 for only the fourth time this season, and progressed into the top 10 by taking advantage as a selection of rival drivers hit trouble.

Button's team-mate, Fernando Alonso, had backed him up in 10th, but he was later hit with a post-race time penalty for exceeding track limits, handing Max Verstappen the final point.

"We did everything right, did the best we could, and we took home some points," said Button.

"I was a sitting duck for the first couple of laps: I couldn't really fight off the people behind, my deployment was cutting off at the end of the straights, so it was very easy for people to overtake.

"That was tricky: they were trying to pass me into Turn 13, which is a pretty scary place, especially when you don't have DRS and can't gauge the closing speed of the cars behind.

"I was racing Fernando for the whole race, which was all I could do, as all the other cars were quicker.

"We haven't made massive progress with the car's performance, but we did lots of interesting things with the set-up this weekend – we'll analyze those and see whether they paid off or not."

Romain Grosjean
Romain Grosjean

Grosjean apologizes after spectacular crash
Romain Grosjean apologized to Lotus after he suffered a high-speed exit during the early stages of the Russian Grand Prix.

Grosjean had been trailing McLaren's Jenson Button when he lost control of his car at the fast left-hander of Turn 3 and crashed heavily, causing substantial damage to his E23 Hybrid.

Grosjean was able to walk away uninjured from the wreckage after recording his fifth retirement of the season

"I lost the rear end in a very high speed corner going through Turn 3 and couldn't recover it," said Grosjean.

"We don't know exactly why yet. We need to check what has happened – was it a driver error or something technical? – we'll see."

Grosjean reckons that he was on course for a top 10 finish until his spectacular crash.

"I feel sorry for the guys because there will be a lot of work to repair the car," he said.

"I feel OK physically and I'll certainly be a bit sore tomorrow morning, but I'll be completely fine again after a couple of days.

"We lost some good points today but let's understand what happened and look forward to the next race."

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