Latest F1 news in brief – Wednesday

  • Grosjean happy with Haas move
    Mike Mercurio/

    Lotus troubles contributed to Haas move – Grosjean

  • McLaren says Button-Renault story 'nonsense'
  • Verstappen not worried amid Red Bull crisis
  • Ecclestone not worried about 'strange' European complaint
  • Ecclestone said Mercedes blackout 'over the top' – Lauda
  • Lauda relieved Mercedes ended Singapore slump
  • Steiner: Grosjean the 'best' candidate
  • Ferrari: Result shows 'major development'

Lotus troubles contributed to Haas move – Grosjean
(GMM) Romain Grosjean has admitted that Lotus' financial troubles contributed to his decision to leave the Enstone team.

The Frenchman was on Tuesday unveiled in North Carolina as the "lead driver" for the new Ferrari-linked American team Haas.

Some, however, questioned Grosjean's move, particularly as Lotus – despite its obvious financial troubles – now appears close to being taken over by Renault.

58 per cent of 22,000 voters at the French publication L'Equipe said they think the 29-year-old has made the wrong move.

But after Tuesday's official announcement, Grosjean told France's RMC that "The conditions (at Lotus) have not been easy this year".

Grosjean admitted that his decision to join Haas was taken before Renault signed the letter of intent to buy Lotus.

"The first contacts (with Haas) date back a year," he said. "And things accelerated around Monza time. Just before Singapore I made my decision."

He told the French broadcaster Canal Plus: "The Renault challenge could have been something very good, but the wait as to whether they are coming or not was long. And we still do not know for sure today.

"Unfortunately, the 2016 season is fast approaching."

So Grosjean insisted he is now feeling secure at Haas, and upbeat about the future.

"Yes, we are talking about a new team," he said, "but the support of Ferrari should not be underestimated.

"I also felt that they really want me, which is always a nice feeling for a driver. At the same time there was a lot of uncertainty about Lotus, as for a long time no one knew whether it would work out with Renault.

"So I can say now that Haas is right for me," Grosjean insisted.

Clearly, Ferrari is an important ingredient in the Haas recipe for Grosjean, as he declares that the "technical partnership with Ferrari and Dallara is very clever".

"From the beginning, they wanted the best drivers, the best engineers, the best solutions to be competitive from the very beginning. They do not have to work with pay-drivers," he explained.

Grosjean says Haas really wanted him
Grosjean says Haas really wanted him

Some, however, believe Grosjean has only signed up in the hope that it might eventually lead to a full works seat at Maranello.

But he said: "Ferrari was not the primary reason for signing with Haas. It is more the big picture that I like. But of course it is also nice that we are counting on a partner like Ferrari.

As for the future, "Later is later," Grosjean said. "What is clear is that everyone – engineers, mechanics, drivers – dreams of Ferrari.

"But I can also dream of one day returning to Renault and trying to win the world championship as a Frenchman with a French team.

"Everything is open," he insisted.

"I have always been supported by Total, and my career has always been with Renault.

"It's too fast to think that I'm going to go from Haas to Ferrari if Kimi Raikkonen leaves. First I have to show what I'm capable of at Haas.

"For sure Ferrari will keep an eye on what happens, then we'll see. Clearly I am in formula one to become world champion."

Still, he admitted that choosing between his two options caused him "sleepless nights", but now he is comfortable with his new path, even though team owner Gene Haas on Tuesday declared that Grosjean will have pressure on his shoulders as "lead driver".

Grosjean says he is unfazed.

"Since Kimi Raikkonen left Lotus, I set the direction in the team so it's not as though it's a new role," he said.

"Certainly it would have been easier to stay at Enstone, where I know everyone and everything, but now and then you want to try something fresh in life."

Since he drove for them earlier in his career, it would make more sense for Alonso to go to Renault than Button
Since he drove for them earlier in his career, it would make more sense for Alonso to go to Renault than Button

McLaren says Button-Renault story 'nonsense'
(GMM) McLaren has rubbished the theory that Jenson Button is weighing up a move to Renault next year to replace the Haas-departed Romain Grosjean.

"This article is nonsense," a spokesman for the struggling Honda-powered team told us, after the speculation of a switch to Enstone for Button did the rounds.

Clearly, however, the threads of the story are all present.

Button and Ron Dennis are openly disputing whether a deal for 2016 is in place, Button says he only wants to be in F1 if he is "competitive", and managing director Jonathan Neale said in Japan that McLaren would "respect" Button's desire to go.

But Speed Week quoted Button as saying: "After so many years together, it would feel wrong to go somewhere else.

"If I am in formula one in 2016, it will be with McLaren-Honda," he insisted.

The Button saga aside, another sign that McLaren-Honda is in turmoil is fresh speculation in the Spanish press that Fernando Alonso could decide to take a "sabbatical" in 2016 rather than spend another season at the back.

Former two-time champion Mika Hakkinen, referring to Alonso's radio outbursts at Suzuka, told Finland's Ilta Sanomat newspaper: "When development of the engine is very slow, it is a frustrating time for the driver.

"I remember it from my own career, when Mercedes came to McLaren," he said. "But especially with these rules you cannot assume that engine manufacturers can take big steps at every race."

Hakkinen continued: "Alonso and many other drivers are compensated really well for what they do, when they agree to support the team in good and bad times.

"Myself, I waited seven years for my first victory. Yes, Alonso is a double world champion, but he has only driven the McLaren-Honda for about half a year — yet already he has begun to complain about the engine manufacturer.

"Fernando should keep in mind that he signed up for this challenge," Hakkinen concluded.

F1 legend Niki Lauda hopes McLaren-Honda can remain united amid the challenge.

"I just hope they don't make the same mistakes that Red Bull and Renault made," the Mercedes team chairman told Swiss newspaper Blick.

"Sure, McLaren expected more from Honda in the first year, and perhaps vice versa. But it also needs time, just as with Mercedes in the early years of Schumacher and Rosberg," Lauda insisted.

"There are no guarantees of success in formula one," he said.

Lauda tells Arrivabene - you take Red Bull, we don't want them
Lauda tells Arrivabene – you take Red Bull, we don't want them

Verstappen not worried amid Red Bull crisis
(GMM) Amid all the talk of a Red Bull crisis, Max and Jos Verstappen insist they are not worried.

However, the energy drink company – owning not just Red Bull but also Dutch sensation Max's team Toro Rosso – is threatening to quit formula one over its engine predicament.

Even F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone is alarmed, particularly amid the prospect of a European Commission investigation that could further enrage Mateschitz by ordering he hand back 'special payments' for his team.

"He has probably had enough of everything going on," Ecclestone told the Times.

"I am doing everything I can to make sure Red Bull stay with us, but things need to come together quickly. He is serious when he says he will quit if things don't improve."

Ferrari, however, is offering Red Bull only an outdated 2015 engine for next year, while Mercedes has hit back at reports it might re-think its decision to withhold 'power units' from the energy drink camp.

"Impossible," team chairman Niki Lauda told Italy's La Repubblica. "The negotiation ended long ago. They had a wrong approach, which Mercedes did not like, and now the door is closed.

"They should go with Maranello," he advised.

Lauda also told the Swiss newspaper Blick: "It strange that the names Red Bull and Mercedes were ever mentioned together, because Mateschitz does not like Mercedes."

The fact Ecclestone is now actively involved, however, is a sign that a compromise might eventually be reached.

The 84-year-old Briton said: "It is not ideal but Mr. Mateschitz will have to be patient. We definitely do not want them to leave."

And amid all the uncertainty, the Verstappens are not worried they could be left in the wilderness.

"I don't think it's necessary to worry," Max told the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf.

"I don't know what will happen and what is being discussed, but my feeling is that Red Bull and Toro Rosso will be on the grid next year."

And Max's father Jos suggested the 17-year-old would have other options anyway.

"Max has made an incredible impression in the past months and so I'm convinced everything will work out.

"It would be great if he can continue his career with Red Bull and Toro Rosso," the former F1 driver added.

Finally, Lauda also predicted that F1 will ride out the current Red Bull storm.

"If they actually go, which no one really believes, then it would indeed be a great loss for formula one," he told Blick.

"But at the start of the season next year in Australia, hardly anyone will be talking about it."

I'm not worried
I'm not worried

Ecclestone not worried about 'strange' European complaint
(GMM) Force India, Sauber and the European Commission have all confirmed reports a formal complaint about formula one has been lodged and received.

In their complaint, we can reveal that the two midfield teams say the current income distribution model and rule-making strategy group are both "unlawful and unfair".

They say that, unlike the middle-grid private teams, the powerful top outfits receive extra payments not connected to actual results, while their position on the strategy group mean they can steer rules "to their own advantage".

"By locking in a permanent advantage for a select few teams, the sport has been gravely undermined," said the document authored by Force India and Sauber.

And the teams are not denying the complaint has been lodged.

"Due to the ongoing legal discussions," said a Force India spokesperson, "it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time."

And a Sauber spokesperson added: "The process has been initiated, so we are unable to make any further comment."

The European Commission, meanwhile, admitted: "We have received a complaint and will assess it."

According to the paddock grapevine, the early reaction to the prospect of a European investigation is that it could spell real trouble for formula one.

Red Bull's Dietrich Mateschitz is already threatening to quit, it might affect Ferrari's plans to float on the stock market, and strict company compliance rules and laws could mean that Mercedes' position is in doubt.

F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone told Germany's Sport Bild: "I will not comment on that.

"But I am sure that the Commission will be satisfied that we have conducted our business properly."

He also told the Swiss newspaper Blick: "It (the complaint) is strange, as these teams signed the contracts themselves."

Ecclestone says Mercedes has to stop making F1 a borefest
Ecclestone says Mercedes has to stop making F1 a borefest

Ecclestone said Mercedes blackout 'over the top' – Lauda
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone has admitted at least twice now that the Mercedes blackout during Sunday's television coverage of the Japanese grand prix was wrong.

The silver cars finished first and second at Suzuka, but featured on the Ecclestone-controlled 'world feed' for only 5 of the broadcasted 90 minutes.

F1 supremo Ecclestone denied he ordered the blackout in retaliation for Mercedes refusing to supply engines to Red Bull next year.

He says Formula One Management simply decided to focus elsewhere because the lead cars are usually "boring" and to better "support the midfield teams".

"The directors in Japan maybe went a bit far with it," he admitted to the German newspaper Welt, "but I did not intervene."

So concerned about the blackout was Mercedes team chairman Niki Lauda, however, that the F1 legend travelled to London on Tuesday to confront Ecclestone.

"Bernie admits he went over the top," Lauda told the Times.

"He said it is our fault because we keep winning by too big a margin. I have to admit that is what happens when one car is out in front," he added.

Ecclestone explained: "There is no revenge. That is silly. But we try to give the viewers a good show. Lewis (Hamilton) and Mercedes are just too dominant for their own good at the moment."

No worries Niki, Mercedes will win every race where it can put its 100 HP advantage to good use
No worries Niki, Mercedes will win every race where it can put its 100 HP advantage to good use

Lauda relieved Mercedes ended Singapore slump
(GMM) Niki Lauda has admitted to feeling relief after Mercedes returned to the top of the podium in Japan.

While the German camp thinks it was due to a combination of factors, an air of mystery continues to surround Mercedes' recent Singapore slump.

The silver cars, however, returned to the highest steps of the podium in Japan a week later, so team chairman Lauda admitted: "Singapore was a bit of a worrying setback.

"But to see at Suzuka that we were just like before – the strongest – calmed us down," the F1 legend told Italy's La Repubblica.

But that doesn't mean he will once again be trotting out the controversial line about Ferrari, who won in Singapore, being better at making spaghetti than fast F1 cars.

"Enough of this joke," Lauda insisted. "Ferrari has improved a lot this season and done a great job. They are a serious and formidable opponent.

"And in Singapore they did well enough to put some doubt in our minds. At Suzuka however we got rid of that uncertainty and brought us back to reality — on some circuits, almost all of them, we are still the best," he declared.

Indeed, many now believe that the only remaining threat to Mercedes this year is a re-escalation of hostilities between teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

A collision was only avoided at the start of Sunday's race, for instance, when Rosberg drove off the track to avoid the aggressive Hamilton.

Lauda, though, says he has "zero concern" the situation will descend into a damaging war.

"We had this bad collision at Spa last year, but since then nothing has happened," he insisted. "So we are talking about August of 2014 and a lot of time since then."

Asked if a repeat of the crash can be ruled out, Lauda exclaimed: "Absolutely.

"We have two very professional drivers who love the challenge and want to win, but also know that they are racing for a team."

Runaway championship leader Hamilton, however, has a growing points lead, sky-high confidence and near-unprecedented form, causing Lauda to predict he will win the title.

"Given his advantage and the way he is driving the car, I would say yes," he said.

"Surprises are never excluded, but he has 48 points on Rosberg. In single races he can be attacked, but in the standings he is unreachable," added Lauda.

Asked if the Briton therefore already has his hand on the championship trophy, Lauda said: "He never removed his hands from it, as he also won last season.

"And from the team perspective it is nice to think that if he cannot do it, his teammate (Rosberg) will."

Steiner: Grosjean the 'best' candidate
Haas Team Principal Guenther Steiner has described Romain Grosjean as the "best" driver to lead the squad into its debut 2016 season.

Steiner sounded out Grosjean several months ago over a potential move to the nascent team and convinced the Frenchman to depart Lotus.

Grosjean is currently contesting his fourth successive season at the Enstone-based outfit, with 280 points and 10 podium finishes to his name.

"We looked around a lot to find the right driver, because we wanted somebody with experience, but still hungry to do something, and to go with us this long way," Steiner explained.

"I started talks with the management of Romain [at the Spanish Grand Prix] in Barcelona, to see if he's interested – we spoke to quite a few drivers.

"I also spoke with the technical team, what they think about Romain, how he develops the car, because we have a steep mountain to climb here.

"We are a new team, all new team members, so we need somebody who knows what he's doing, and in the end I think we found the right guy.

"He's still aggressive enough, and still wants it enough, but he's not young anymore that he's inexperienced, and we lose time by having accidents, or rookie mistakes.

"We just picked the best one out there for what we are doing. We focused on him and we got him. We're very happy and looking forward to working with him."

Arrivabene: We are making gains
Arrivabene: We are making gains

Ferrari: Result shows 'major development'
Ferrari Team Principal Maurizio Arrivabene says that the team's performance during the Japanese Grand Prix, in which it finished third and fourth, reflects the progress it has made across the course of the season.

Ferrari had struggled for outright pace at circuits with similar characteristics to Suzuka earlier in the season, such as at Silverstone, when it was third best before wet weather struck.

At Suzuka, Sebastian Vettel was able to collect third place, just two seconds behind Mercedes' Nico Rosberg, while Kimi Raikkonen jumped ahead of Valtteri Bottas for fourth position in the second round of stops.

Arrivabene believes that Ferrari's pace at Suzuka, rather than its race-winning performance at Singapore, is more indicative of the development carried out by the marque in 2015.

"You're never completely happy when you don't win the race, but I think this result should not be compared with what we had achieved in Singapore one week ago," he explained.

"We'd rather compare this track to Silverstone, because it has similar characteristics. And if we look back at the British Grand Prix, at the gap that we had there to our main rivals, we can see that we have been closer.

And this means that there has been a major development in all areas, starting from our power unit."

Ferrari now has 337 points and occupies a clear second place in the Constructors' championship.

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