Latest F1 news in brief – Saturday
Ricciardo and Marko might not be laughing much longer
Red Bull crisis hurtling towards F1 exit
- Manor hits back at Alonso's 'airplane' jibe
- Mercedes offered 'cheap engine' to rivals
- Honda finally making progress with upgraded engine
- More success will drive Mercedes' costs down – Wolff
- Manor seat not guaranteed for Wehrlein – Wolff
- Verstappen eyes top team 'third car' if Red Bull quits
- Russia determined to have long F1 future
|No more Red Bull?|
Red Bull crisis hurtling towards F1 exit
(GMM) As the Red Bull engine crisis continues to unfurl, F1 seems increasingly destined to lose the energy drink company.
As almost unprecedentedly-frenzied negotiations took place in the Sochi paddock on Friday, every iteration had its moment — talks involving Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault, and all with the involvement now of Bernie Ecclestone.
"There was a lot to discuss," Mercedes' Toto Wolff told Bild newspaper.
Publicly, F1 supremo Ecclestone said the issue was "sorted", and that Dietrich Mateschitz would ultimately be "ok", but to his closest confidantes, the 84-year-old just shrugged.
Renault sounds reluctant to heal the wounds caused by years of sniping about its engines, and Mercedes and Ferrari are ruling out working with Red Bull.
"Without their cooperation, there is no Red Bull", a source close to Ecclestone told The Times. "And you think they care if Red Bull walk away?"
Indeed, they would benefit to the tune of extra millions in newly-inherited official income, with the Telegraph newspaper claiming Mercedes is already making approaches to what soon could be Red Bull's out-of-work top engineers.
A careworn Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said late on Friday: "There are lots of discussions going on but nothing is concluded, nothing is confirmed.
"Millions of fans support this team and they will not want to see it lost like this."
Indeed, while there may be some sympathy for Red Bull outside of the paddock as Horner suggests, many inside the inner sanctum believe the Austrian outfit brought on its own crisis.
"The situation is quite difficult to understand," McLaren-Honda driver Fernando Alonso said at Sochi as the rumors swirled.
"It does seem like a strange situation but I think that for the sake of the sport, they need to find a solution," he is quoted by Russia's Championat.
|With Mercedes power will Manor be in front of McLaren-Honda in 2016?|
Manor hits back at Alonso's 'airplane' jibe
(GMM) F1 backmarker Manor hit back with a cheeky jibe on Friday following an insult made by double world champion Fernando Alonso.
Spaniard Alonso was asked by the British broadcaster Sky at Sochi if he had any concerns that the new engine deals between Manor and Mercedes, and Haas and Ferrari, could mean that McLaren will be dead last in 2016.
"Zero," he answered.
"The Manor thing with the Mercedes, with total respect for Manor, I think they can put in an airplane engine and they will not be much further (up)," Alonso declared.
Manor hit back with cheeky fury on Twitter, pointing out that Honda's high-profile struggle this year means that McLaren is just one place off dead last in the constructors' world championship.
"We'll let that comment lie for now," Manor said on the social media site. "Plenty of time to discuss it when we're garage neighbors next year."
Reigning world champion and current championship leader Lewis Hamilton, meanwhile, told the Spanish daily AS he refuses to criticize Alonso for making the move from Ferrari to McLaren for 2015.
"People said I had made a mistake to leave McLaren," said the Mercedes driver, "but then I showed that I did not.
"And now I'm not going to be one of the ones who says Fernando's decision was wrong. He was the one who decided, not me, not you, not the fans. No one. It was his choice," added Hamilton.
During his 'airplane' interview, Alonso said he has 100 per cent confidence McLaren-Honda will be among the top cars in 2016, but Hamilton has already gone on the record to doubt those sorts of claims.
"I said that?" Hamilton answered.
"It's not going to be easy (for them), but in F1 you can never say never. I just hate to see them suffering like this.
"I feel sorry that they're racing with Manor, Jenson (Button) is also a great driver so I hope they do get back to the front," he added.
Mercedes offered 'cheap engine' to rivals
(GMM) Mercedes had no takers when it offered a more affordable version of its title-winning power unit to potential customers last year.
Germany's Auto Motor und Sport claims the German camp proposed to sell the unit, based on the championship-winning turbo V6, to customers for EUR 10 million.
That is reportedly EUR 7 million cheaper than what Lotus, Force India and Williams currently pay for the full-specification engine deal.
"These units would have had fewer settings and the teams would have only needed two or maybe three per season," said team boss Toto Wolff.
Technical boss Paddy Lowe said the 'more affordable' Mercedes engine would have been "between three and four tenths" per lap slower than the full spec.
Wolff added: "Not a single team made an enquiry. Nobody wanted to have this engine."
|Will Alonso be dead last in 2016?|
Honda finally making progress with upgraded engine
(GMM) Struggling Honda appears to finally be making progress with its F1 power unit.
Fernando Alonso was at the controls of a new specification of the Japanese carmaker's turbo V6 at Sochi on Friday, making use of the final four in-season development 'tokens'.
Trackside observers noted that Alonso's Honda had a notably different engine sound.
"The engine has the power that we expected, but as we are on the tenth for the season, hopefully this will be better in reliability too," the McLaren driver told Spanish media.
Alonso is therefore taking the penalties for installing the new engine at Sochi, but the actual use of the unit in the race will be postponed until Austin.
"It's going to be a difficult race (in Russia)," he predicted, "as we are only going to use the new engine in Austin where we have a better chance without the grid position penalties."
Alonso also seemed unfazed at the prospect of a 35-place grid drop, smiling that it is "nowhere near the record which I think was 55 (positions) at Spa".
Indeed, McLaren seems buoyed that Honda might finally be making some observable progress.
"Ferrari had a similar problem last year and they managed to solve it," said team boss Eric Boullier, "so although it is not easy, others have shown that it is possible."
Along with his 35-place drop, Alonso is also marking his 250th career grand prix this weekend, and almost every team and driver attended a party late on Friday.
Notably absent, reported the sports daily Marca, were the two Ferrari drivers and Lewis Hamilton.
Perhaps even more notable was a long embrace during the celebrations between Alonso and Honda's Yasuhisa Arai, just a fortnight after the Spanish driver denounced the "embarrassing" Japanese-made "GP2 engine".
More success will drive Mercedes' costs down – Wolff
(GMM) Continuing success will drive Mercedes towards a clean balance sheet in formula one.
That is the claim of team boss Toto Wolff, after it emerged recently that the Brackley team recorded a more than $100 million loss as it raced to the titles last year.
That loss is despite premium sponsorship deals with Petronas, Blackberry, Hugo Boss and others, and many millions in official and bonus F1 prize money.
But Wolff told DPA news agency at Sochi: "Upon winning the championship, the lost to Daimler will fall sharply to the point where it is cost neutral."
He is not exactly sure, however, when that will happen.
"Formula one is not static," said the Austrian. "New technical regulations mean new costs in this hugely competitive sport.
"But the goal for the costs to move downwards is chiseled into stone for us. You must also remember the real costs versus the enormous marketing value of the team," Wolff added.
|Mercedes likely to put Wehrlein in Manor seat in 2016|
Manor seat not guaranteed for Wehrlein – Wolff
(GMM) Manor's new engine deal does not guarantee Pascal Wehrlein a race seat with the British backmarker.
That is the claim of Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff, who recently signed off the deal to supply the German marque's title-winning 'power unit' to Manor next year.
Many believe it is a sure sign that Mercedes' F1 reserve Pascal Wehrlein, who is on the cusp of winning the DTM series, will make his grand prix debut in 2016.
"At the conclusion of the engine contract the subject of drivers was indeed a point of discussion, but it is not part of the contract," Wolff told DPA news agency.
Indeed, at least four drivers are clamoring for Manor's two race seats, including incumbents Will Stevens, Alexander Rossi and Roberto Merhi.
Wolff added: "With a Mercedes engine and Williams technology as well, Manor now has a valuable cockpit to sell. We have not yet completed the discussion about Pascal.
"It is important that he completes the last weekend of DTM well and without mistakes, then we will discuss what options are available for him.
"But it's not just about Manor. There are other options in F1," added Wolff.
Manor deputy Graeme Lowdon at Sochi said the driver question for 2016 remains "completely open".
"It's not easy for any driver to get into formula one at the minute and there are some quite good drivers looking to do that but also the grid is pretty full at the moment," he said.
"Decisions on drivers for us will come much later in the season."
|Verstappen may soon be looking for a ride|
Verstappen eyes top team 'third car' if Red Bull quits
(GMM) Even amid Red Bull's ever-deepening engine crisis, Max Verstappen's father is not very worried.
The energy drink company could be set to pull its four cars from the grid ahead of the 2016 season, throwing into doubt the future of the stable's drivers.
But up and down the paddock, very few are concerned that F1 could be set to lose 18-year-old Verstappen, one of the most exciting emerging young talents in the history of the sport.
"It seems unnecessary for me to say that Max is doing well," quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel told the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf.
"Everybody recognizes his talent and Toro Rosso is the perfect training ground for young talent."
But Toro Rosso, along with the premier team Red Bull Racing, could be exiting the F1 paddock amid their seemingly ill-fated search for engine deals.
Max's dad Jos, however, is not too concerned.
"Everyone is asking me about Max and next season and what's going to happen," he said.
Verstappen snr said that if Toro Rosso does stay, he is "really concerned" that time is now running short for the Faenza team to design the 2016 car around a new engine and get it up-and-running for winter testing.
He added: "It might sound weird, but I'm less worried about Max's career in formula one, despite the uncertainty of the moment.
"If I reflect on how Max started and where he's at now, then I think his career in F1 is fairly secure."
Jos said that even if Red Bull does pull out, "There are rumors that top teams will enter a third car — even Bernie Ecclestone has said it. If that were the case, Max's outlook would obviously change."
He insisted, however, that he hopes Red Bull stays in F1 so that Max can race out the final two years of his contract with the energy drink company.
"In the end it's all down to (Dietrich) Mateschitz and no one else. I think it could go either way.
"Red Bull has done a lot for formula one and I've got the feeling that he (Mateschitz) hopes F1 wants to take care of him now. I hope the same, but I'm prepared for anything," said Jos.
Russia determined to have long F1 future
(GMM) Russia appears determined to establish a long-term future on the F1 calendar.
The race at Sochi, a resort city on the Black Sea coast, was initially controversial amid the Vladimir Putin regime, where the circuit was built on the site of the 2014 winter olympics.
But talks are now taking place between authorities and F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone as Russia seeks to extend its current deal beyond 2020.
"We will do everything possible to keep formula one here," said Alexander Saurin, vice governor of the Krasnodar region, according to the broadcaster RTL.
It is said that race officials are keen even to modify the circuit so that the grand prix can be held under floodlights, despite the tough economic times.
"We do our best to make the business model efficient," Saurin insisted.
Race organizer Sergei Vorobyov, meanwhile, said the addition to the calendar next year of Azerbaijan, a former Soviet country, is welcomed by Russia.
"Baku will help to make the sport more popular in this region," he said, "and of course, both races will benefit from that."