Latest F1 news in brief – Sunday

  • Button and Alonso back with McLaren in 2016

    Button denies row with McLaren over money

  • Gasly is new Red Bull reserve
  • Wolff not denying Merc TV snub by Ecclestone
  • Dennis says Button, Alonso staying in 2016
  • Mercedes wait for Red Bull and Renault engine news

Button denies row with McLaren over money
(GMM) Jenson Button has denied F1 legend Niki Lauda's claim at Suzuka that an argument about money put the cloud of retirement above the 2009 world champion's head.

"I say to Ron (Dennis), 'Pay him the money!'" former McLaren driver, triple world champion and now Mercedes team chairman Lauda said in Japan.

In truth, the 'McLaren quit' cloud is not only hanging above Button.

Fernando Alonso made a point of saying that his effort for 14th place in qualifying was "one of the best laps I've ever done at Suzuka".

And in the race, he screamed on the radio after declaring very publicly at Honda's home race that being easily passed on the straight was "embarrassing" as he is equipped with something akin to a "GP2 engine".

"That's a man trying to get fired," surmised Britain's Sky commentator Martin Brundle.

Still, Alonso rejected his manager Flavio Briatore's claims that if McLaren-Honda does not eventually speed up, the former two-time champion will look elsewhere.

"Definitely I can tell you that I will not go anywhere else. I trust the project," Alonso declared at Suzuka.

"McLaren and Honda, with the potential they both have, will win again."

However, on Saturday at Suzuka, rumors that McLaren is out of patience with Honda as the motivation of the star drivers fades were swirling in the paddock.

McLaren said its supremo Ron Dennis was in bed in Tokyo on Saturday with a virus, but the Briton was back on the grid on Sunday, admitting he "told off" Lauda for his comments about Button.

Button also said claims he is arguing with Dennis about money is "not true".

As for Lauda, "I never understand him anyway," Button said. "It's nice that he's gone to the media and said that, but we didn't really have a conversation."

Spain's AS newspaper reports that Honda may finally have acknowledged the need to change tack, going onto the market to recruit staff from outside of the Japanese marque.

And for 2016, Honda could add a second team to its F1 roster in the form of Toro Rosso, with AS reporting that the Japanese may be willing to supply the power unit to the second Red Bull team at "almost no cost".

Gasly is new Red Bull reserve
(GMM) Pierre Gasly is the new reserve driver at Red Bull.

Late last year, the energy drink company re-appointed for 2015 its regular reserve Sebastien Buemi, but the Swiss also has duties at Le Mans and Formula E.

And now appearing in Red Bull colors at grands prix – including Japan, where no GP2 race is being held – is young Frenchman Pierre Gasly, the most prominent member of Red Bull's development program on the cusp of breaking into F1.

"Yes," the 19-year-old confirmed at Suzuka. "I will remain the reserve driver at least until the year of the year, in Mexico and Brazil as well as the tracks where there are GP2 races.

"It is a nice sign that the team is satisfied with my work," said Gasly.

Wolff not denying Merc TV snub by Ecclestone
(GMM) Rumors that Bernie Ecclestone ordered a 'TV blackout' of a team have resurfaced after the Japanese grand prix.

The first time rumors of this nature began to swirl was in 2012, when spectators noticed that Force India was ignored by the FOM-controlled 'world feed' during qualifying for the controversial grand prix in Bahrain.

Force India had sat out a practice session over security fears in the troubled island Kingdom, but F1 supremo Ecclestone denied he deliberately snubbed the team as retribution.

"Not at all," he said at the time.

The same sort of rumors then returned earlier this year, when Ferrari was reportedly having an off-track dispute with FOM.

One Italian commentator told viewers to "complain to FOM" because images of the red cars were rarely broadcasted.

"Certainly on my part there was nothing," Ecclestone said, once again denying the claims.

And the latest rumors began swirling during and after Sunday's Japanese grand prix, when viewers of the world feed noticed that as Mercedes raced to a one-two, the dominant Silver Arrows were conspicuously absent from the television.

Sky, the German television broadcaster, even apologized for the apparent snub.

The speculation suggests Ecclestone may be punishing or sending a message to the German giant, having refused to supply engines to Red Bull next year.

"I don't know. I don't know," Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff told the British broadcaster Sky afterwards, admitting he also noticed that Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg's cars were rarely seen on the TV during the race. But who wants to watch them parade out front with their huge HP advantage.

Dennis says Button, Alonso staying in 2016
(GMM) Ron Dennis on Sunday moved to end all the speculation about the future of McLaren's driver lineup.

With the struggling team and Jenson Button reportedly arguing over money, and Fernando Alonso letting his fiery frustration show publicly, wild rumors have suggested the Honda-powered team could lose both of its champion drivers for 2016.

Alonso slammed Honda's power unit as like a "GP2 engine" during the Japanese grand prix, held at a Honda-owned circuit and in front of three of the most senior officials of the Honda Motor Co.

When asked if he will be driving next year, Alonso then told the BBC: "I don't know.

"My intention is to stay for sure and we will win together, I'm sure."

If that was a mixed message, Briton Button also sounded beyond frustration after the Japanese grand prix, saying he felt like a "Samurai warrior without his sword".

So as the once-great team looks close to crumbling point, supremo Dennis reportedly pulled himself out of his bed with a virus to be at Suzuka on Sunday.

He admitted this is probably the "lowest point" he can remember in the grand history of his Woking empire.

However, he also had some good news to divulge.

When asked about Button and Alonso and suggestions they may quit, Dennis said on British television BBC: "Jenson is on a two-year contract and Fernando on a three-year contract. It's as simple as that."

The Telegraph newspaper reports that while McLaren and Button may earlier have been arguing over money, Dennis has finally agreed to simply let its September 30 "option" to terminate the existing deal go.

It means the 35-year-old is staying put.

Dennis said Button's flirtations with retirement was probably just frustration that he might not have felt "wanted" by McLaren.

"I told Jenson on Thursday that I have no intention of exercising the option (to terminate)," he said.

"Maybe I should have told him earlier but I think he was pleased (to hear it now)," Dennis acknowledged.

"The contract is completely intact and going to be unchanged," he added.

When told by reporters for Britain's Sky that it would be simpler to just say "yes" as to whether Button is staying next year, Dennis insisted: "Yes! Yes, yes. What more do you want?"

And in another shot of good news amid a low point for McLaren, he added: "We're going to announce a sponsor next week and there are others in the pipeline."

As for Alonso, who may have committed a firing offence by insulting Honda at home, Dennis said he will not publicly berate the driver about it.

"It wasn't particularly constructive," Dennis said of the outburst, particularly with "the three most senior people" at the Honda Motor Co trackside.

"He's a completely different person (to 2007) but he vents his frustration in different ways. At the end of the day I'm not going to get too angry about it.

"It's an embarrassment but I don't want to make any more of it. Maybe it was to make sure the message is heard by everybody. I don't condone it but I'll sort it behind closed doors."

Mercedes wait for Red Bull and Renault engine news
Mercedes are interested in supplying engines to Formula One tail-enders Manor Marussia next season once Renault and Red Bull have sorted themselves out.

"We like Manor a lot," Mercedes motorsport head Toto Wolff told reporters ahead of Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix.

"Because there is a competitive edge to the whole story, that if Manor gets the right chassis and the right engine, it would be a pretty interesting narrative how the team develops.

"But for us at the moment we are a little bit on standby because we need to understand what happens with Lotus as one of our customers, and move from there. So this is where we are."

Manor have Ferrari engines but Red Bull and sister team Toro Rosso have been talking to the Italian manufacturer about a supply after their partnership with Renault reached breaking point.

Renault are meanwhile in talks with Lotus, who currently have Mercedes engines, about taking over that financially struggling outfit.

If all the deals come off, Lotus would relinquish their Mercedes supply while Ferrari — who supply Sauber and their own team and also have Haas F1 coming in next year — would be expected to shed one customer.

Asked whether Mercedes might give Lotus a deadline, Wolff said there would clearly come a point when Manor and the manufacturer needed to know what was happening.

"We are very near to that moment and close to that decision," he said. "And if they don't take the decision, we will decide."

Wolff played down a suggestion that Mercedes could put German reserve driver Pascal Wehrlein into a Manor seat to gain experience, even if it would be an "interesting scenario".

Manor require their drivers to bring sponsorship with them and Wolff said the team might be better served by using the attraction of a competitive engine to bring in a driver with significant backing.

"It's a bit of a tricky situation. We haven't got a dedicated young driver program, we have Pascal, who is with us, whose main focus is DTM (German Touring Cars), and I don't want to take him away from that focus," he said.

"He has done a great job in testing for us and he is a very exciting young driver, but I'd rather like to see how DTM pans out." Eurosport

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