Latest F1 news in brief – Thursday (Update)

UPDATE Updates shown in red below.

10/01/15

  • No LeMans for Hulkenberg in 2016

    F1 turns up volume, no Le Mans for Hulkenberg

  • Calmer waters for McLaren after Suzuka turmoil
  • Putin approves night race switch for Sochi
  • Wolff impressed by Ferrari resurgence
  • Ecclestone Responds To EU Complaint By Sauber, Force India
  • McLaren confirms Button for 2016 season
  • Grosjean targets early points with Haas
  • Button staying at McLaren, no mention of Alonso New
  • Manor's Mercedes deal hints at Lotus takeover New
  • Dennis admits he tried Button pay-cut New

F1 turns up volume, no Le Mans for Hulkenberg
(GMM) F1 has introduced a new technical rule that should turn up the volume for 2016.

Ever since the new 'power unit' era dawned, some have praised the high technology on the one hand whilst lamenting the loss of the sport's screaming sound on the other.

"I think the power unit, well, it is what it is," said Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, an admitted critic of the new energy recovery-dominated 'green' era.

F1 is going to turn up the volume on their quiet engines
F1 is going to turn up the volume on their quiet engines

"Whether we need it or not, that's for everyone to decide individually I guess," the German said last week in Japan.

"Obviously in terms of sound it's a step back but in terms of the technology behind it, it is incredible," Vettel added.

Now, in a move designed to close the gap between the ultra-modern technology and the fans' desire for more noise, a new rule will be brought in.

"For 2016," the FIA announced after Wednesday's meeting of the World Motor Sport Council in Paris, "all cars must have a separate exhaust wastegate tailpipe through which all and only wastegate exhaust gases must pass.

"This measure has been undertaken to increase the noise of the cars and will not have any significant effect on power or emissions," the statement added.

Also revealed on Wednesday is that Bernie Ecclestone's re-jigged race calendar for 2016 means the inaugural grand prix in Azerbaijan next year will clash with Le Mans.

It means Nico Hulkenberg, who admitted last week that he was anxiously waiting for the amended calendar to be revealed, will not be able to defend his title with Porsche.

The Force India driver said last week: "The first thing is to wait for confirmation of the calendar, as it is important that Le Mans doesn't interfere with formula one, otherwise there is no chance."

Ron Dennis
Ron Dennis

Calmer waters for McLaren after Suzuka turmoil
(GMM) McLaren has raced into calmer waters in the wake of the team's tumultuous weekend in Japan.

At Suzuka, the Honda-powered team was in obvious turmoil, as frustrated drivers Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso hinted they were on the verge of quitting.

Spaniard Alonso, however, moved to repair the damage of his radio outbursts, while Button no longer appears at war with boss Ron Dennis' claim that the 2009 world champion is staying put next year.

"As Ron stated at the last race, I have a contract with McLaren-Honda for next year, so I'll be racing for McLaren-Honda," the Briton told Downforce Radio.

While the waters are calmer, however, that does not mean everyone believes Button will actually still be driving a dark grey car in 2016.

"I think Ron Dennis' comments (at Suzuka) were to calm the situation," Finnish pundit Oskari Saari told the broadcaster MTV.

"But I believe that the outcome will be that Button leaves, because he has other good options. I think it is also important (for McLaren) to find a good seat for Stoffel Vandoorne, as he is no longer young and the other teams will certainly be interested," he added.

Another piece of positive news out of the McLaren camp this week is the announcement of the sponsor deal promised by supremo Dennis at Suzuka.

The deal is with Chandon, the prestigious sparkling wine brand, involving significant branding on the monocoque sides and drivers' overalls.

And as it was revealed, Dennis sounded upbeat about the improvements that struggling Honda should be able to make over the winter.

"It's over five months to the first grand prix (of next season) and five months is a lifetime in formula one," he told the Associated Press.

"Everything has been multiplied to make sure we are strong at the beginning of next season," Dennis added.

Ecclestone got Putin to approve lighting for Sochi
Ecclestone got Putin to approve lighting for Sochi – called respect. Meanwhile Putin bombs the crap out of Syria the day after he meets with Obamination and never tells him – that's called zero respect.

Putin approves night race switch for Sochi
(GMM) Vladimir Putin has given his approval to the switch to floodlights for the Russian grand prix at Sochi.

In August, promoter Sergei Vorobyov travelled to Spa for talks with Bernie Ecclestone, with both the Russian and the F1 supremo declaring that the potential switch to a night race for 2017 is on track.

And now, the Russian news agency Ria Novosti has quoted Dmitry Kozak, the deputy prime minister, as saying talks are under way on the extension of Sochi's F1 contract beyond 2020.

"There are also talks on moving the race from daytime to night-time, because these (night) races are more popular," he said.

Ria Novosti published a conversation between Kozak and Putin, the Russian president, in which Putin eventually approved the plan for a night race.

"The race at night? Then nothing will be seen!" declared Putin.

"On the contrary," Kozak explained, "what is seen is more spectacular. In Singapore, held always at night, there is additional coverage because the TV pictures are so colorful.

"At night it will be even more beautiful," he promised.

Putin then responded: "Well, alright."

Wolff respects what Arrivabene and Vettel have done for Ferrari
Wolff respects what Arrivabene and Vettel have done for Ferrari

Wolff impressed by Ferrari resurgence
(GMM) Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff says he is taking Ferrari seriously as the Italian team continues its resurgence in 2015.

While Sebastian Vettel won dominantly in Singapore, Mercedes successfully ended its brief slump last weekend at Suzuka with a one-two.

Still, German Vettel is not giving up the fight for the championship, even though he trails Lewis Hamilton's lead by 59 points with just five races to go.

"What kind of racing driver would I be if I stopped believing?" the Ferrari driver said.

According to Speed Week, Vettel's continuing belief could get a boost in Austin later this month, when Ferrari trades in its final four upgrade 'tokens' for one last engine performance upgrade.

It is enough to make Mercedes' Wolff very wary.

"Ferrari is marching forwards in leaps and bounds," he told Germany's Sport Bild.

"The speed with which they have done that is impressive, and we can expect another great leap in 2016."

The Austrian agreed with Vettel's view that Mercedes is still obviously superior, but "Whatever happens in the future, it is clear that what took place in 2014 will not be repeated".

He is referring to last season, when Mercedes was not seriously rivalled by any other team. In 2015, however, there is the ever-improving Ferrari, ably led from the cockpit by Vettel.

"He (Vettel) has certainly had an influence," Wolff admitted, "by motivating the troops but also because he has a great technical understanding and knows how to win races."

Bernie Ecclestone
Bernie Ecclestone

Ecclestone Responds To EU Complaint By Sauber, Force India
F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone "does not blame Force India and Sauber for voicing their dissatisfaction" with F1 through an official complaint to the European Union, according to Ian Parkes of AUTOSPORT.

The teams have lodged a complaint to the EU competitions commission regarding F1's governance and payment structure, as negotiated by Ecclestone and F1 owner CVC Capital Partners.

Ecclestone: "We haven't discouraged or encouraged anybody to do anything. That's what the European Union is there for, for these sorts of things. They [the teams] must give it a go, and if they're successful it's good, and if not then it costs nothing."

If the EU decides to investigate and F1 is found culpable of an "abuse of power in the way it handles its affairs," a fine of 10% of turnover — which last year was $1.6B — can be levied, as well as "forcing a shakeup of its structure."

Ecclestone remains unconcerned, "and holds no ill feeling" toward Force India and Sauber in their bid to "compete on a more equal financial footing."

Ecclestone said, "The bottom line is, what they [the teams] are saying is we're giving too much money to some people and not enough to the others. But all this was done whereby everybody knew what they would be getting and what would happen, and they all signed contracts which were very clear. They've had a change of heart I suppose, and I don't blame them, not at all."

Ecclestone has confirmed being "fully informed by both teams ahead of the complaint being made," which allowed him to keep CVC CEO Donald Mackenzie in the loop. He said, "I warned him this was going to happen, so he feels the same as me. He's not disappointed or annoyed." Autosport

Button back with McLaren another year
Button back with McLaren another year

McLaren confirms Button for 2016 season
McLaren-Honda has confirmed that Jenson Button will remain with the team through 2016, for what will be a seventh successive campaign, ending speculation over the World Champion's Formula 1 future.

Button made the switch to McLaren ahead of the 2010 season, after claiming the world title with Brawn GP, and has gone on to take eight race victories and 18 further podium finishes for the outfit.

Button's future has dominated the headlines over recent races, but following productive discussions with McLaren chief Ron Dennis, the 35-year-old will remain onboard for another season.

"Jenson and I have been discussing his plans in private for the past few weeks, and the fact that our talks have led to today's announcement is very pleasing to both of us and will delight and motivate all at McLaren-Honda," Dennis said of the extension.

"As I have made clear whenever I have been asked about the subject, Jenson's current contract is of two years' duration [2015 and 2016].

"There is a 'terminate after year one' option that McLaren could have triggered if we had wished to do so, but, once it became clear from my many conversations with Jenson that he remained as enthusiastic and as committed and as focused as ever, that option immediately became an irrelevance.

"That being the case, Jenson will race for McLaren-Honda next year, under the terms and conditions as set out in the two-year contract that both parties entered into a year ago."

Dennis says Button has all the attributes desired in a Formula 1 driver.

"Jenson is the most experienced driver currently racing in Formula 1, and next season he is due to become only the third driver [after Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher] in Formula 1 history to pass the milestone of 300 Grands Prix," Dennis went on to explain.

"But, although that wealth of experience makes him a massively valuable asset to our team, hugely expert in all aspects of the 21st-century Formula 1 driver's craft, he is also supremely fit and as super-fast as ever."

Button's team-mate, Fernando Alonso, signed a three-year deal with McLaren from 2015.

Romain Grosjean
Romain Grosjean
Mike Mercurio/AR1.com

Grosjean targets early points with Haas
New Haas F1 Team recruit Romain Grosjean has set his sights on scoring early-season points finishes during the outfit's debut Formula 1 campaign next year.

Grosjean, currently racing for Lotus, was announced as Haas' first driver at a press conference on Tuesday, alongside founder Gene Haas and team boss Guenther Steiner.

Of the three teams to enter the sport under the previous tender back in 2010, only Marussia went on to record points, with the late Jules Bianchi scoring in its 83rd race.

But Grosjean reckons the approach taken by Haas, which includes a major technical tie-up with Ferrari, should yield much stronger results from the outset.

"That's always a question you get at the beginning of the year," explained Grosjean, when asked about his initial targets with the squad.

"It's a tough one to reply to when you know a team. It's even more difficult when you know it's going to be the first time the car is on track.

"But I think from what I've seen so far, we should be able to run straight away without I think the problems for new teams, which was part of my reflection for the decision.

"I think it would be really good to score a few points early in the season for a newcomer American team, and I think [we have] a lot of support behind us."

Grosjean says his move to Haas was driven by a desire to fight for wins and titles in the long run.

"There was not decision A and decision B," said Grosjean about choosing Haas over Lotus.

"I've met Guenther, I've met Gene. We spoke. They explained to me what the project was like. I believe that it's a new approach going on in Formula 1 and an approach that's going to work.

"I've spent 10 years [affiliated to Renault/Lotus], and I know the guys very well, and it would have been easy to take the comfortable road and stay there.

"But, on the other hand, I want to try to win races, win championships, and I thought that coming here to Haas was a good step in a good direction to achieve that."

Alonso staying too
Alonso staying too

Button staying at McLaren, no mention of Alonso
(GMM) McLaren has ended speculation about Jenson Button's future by announcing on Thursday that the Briton is staying at the Honda-powered team in 2016.

The rumors were so intense ahead of the Japanese grand prix last weekend that international reporters were surprised when, at the FIA press conference, the popular 35-year-old did not announce his retirement.

But supremo Ron Dennis said after the Suzuka race that he never had any intention of triggering the team's option to terminate Button's two-year deal.

And Dennis said on Thursday: "There is a 'terminate after year one' option that McLaren could have triggered if we had wished to do so, but, once it became clear from my many conversations with Jenson that he remained as enthusiastic and as committed and as focused as ever, that option immediately became an irrelevance.

"As I say, I am extremely pleased," the 68-year-old added in a statement.

2009 world champion Button, meanwhile, admitted that he did contemplate calling time on his 16-year F1 career.

"Over the past month or so I have done quite a lot of thinking, and it is no secret that I was at one point in two minds about my future," he said.

"(Dennis) and I have had some very good chats these past few weeks, and during those chats it has become clear to me that Ron is both utterly determined and uniquely equipped to lead our team through its current difficulties to great successes in the future," added Button.

Thursday's statement did not mention Button's current teammate Fernando Alonso even once, with the Woking team explaining: "Today is about JB."

A happy John Booth
A happy John Booth

Manor's Mercedes deal hints at Lotus takeover
(GMM) Mercedes on Thursday confirmed speculation the British backmarker Manor will use the German marque's 'power unit' from 2016.

A statement said Manor, currently powered by a year-old Ferrari unit, has now entered a "multi-year supply agreement" with Mercedes.

"Under the agreement, Manor Marussia F1 Team will be supplied with current-year power units throughout the term," Mercedes added.

Manor chief John Booth admitted 2015 has been challenging in the wake of last winter's near collapse, but "Together with the potential we are seeing with our 2016 car in the wind tunnel, the Mercedes-Benz power unit will assist our return to aggressive performance development with effect from next season".

"I would like to take this opportunity to thank Scuderia Ferrari for their support for our team over the past two seasons," he added.

Booth also revealed that Manor will resurrect its earlier "technical partnership" with the similarly Mercedes-powered Williams team, comprising the supply of gearbox and suspension parts.

"We are very excited about the strength of our new powertrain package and what it means for the long-term future of our team," he said.

Engine chief Andy Cowell explained that, with the Manor deal, Mercedes will probably keep its number of customers at three, which is an indication Lotus is definitely set to tie up with Renault from next year.

Cowell said three customers, set to be Manor, Force India and Williams, "is our ideal level in terms of technical and logistical capacity".

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff explained: "In anticipation of Renault's takeover of the Lotus F1 Team, we are pleased to announce Manor Marussia as a new customer of Mercedes-Benz."

Button to earn $18M in 2016
Button to earn $18M in 2016

Dennis admits he tried Button pay-cut
(GMM) Jenson Button will next year earn the full $18 million promised to him in his existing contract.

The pay dispute between the 2009 world champion – who was contractually guaranteed a $6 million pay-rise ahead of the second year of the deal – and team supremo Ron Dennis was reportedly central to Button's recent deliberations over his future.

And, with McLaren set to take a financial hit with the potential loss of sponsors and significant official prize income, Dennis did not even hide that he tried to re-negotiate Button's deal.

"I'm a businessman and I did explore that between him and I," said the 68-year-old. "But that's my job."

Separately, Dennis told the British broadcaster Sky that despite the team's 2015 struggle on track, McLaren will cope financially in 2016, especially after agreeing the new sponsor deal with Chandon and having other potential backers "in the pipeline".

"We are in a pretty unique position," he said. "Most people are paying significant sums for engines, it is the way you construct your budget that is important and we have more than enough to be competitive."

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