Latest F1 news in brief – Friday

  • McLaren trying to convince Button to stay

    Button retirement rumors growing despite delay

  • Alonso may leave F1 to find winning car – Briatore
  • Tost's Verstappen defense 'surprised' Sainz
  • Audi 'definitely' welcome in F1 – Wolff
  • Ferrari, Raikkonen to help Vettel win title – Massa
  • 2016 title 'really difficult' at Williams – Bottas
  • Haas schedules driver announcement next week
  • Palmer waiting on Haas F1 announcement
  • Hamilton denies losing faith in Mercedes
  • McLaren wants Button to stay – Neale

Button retirement rumors growing despite delay
(GMM) Even though Jenson Button delayed his expected announcement on Thursday, rumors the McLaren driver is ending his long F1 career are only growing.

That speculation has been further fired up by Chris Evans, the new host of the British motoring program Top Gear.

It is rumored that, if Button ends his 16-year grand prix career, he will join Evans as a presenter, potentially dividing his time in 2016 between broadcasting and racing at Le Mans or the world rallycross series.

Evans told Radio 2: "We are getting news from the F1 fraternity in Japan. There is a rumor of a press conference about to be held to do with Top Gear at Suzuka.

"But he (Button) hasn't signed on the dotted line or, as far I'm aware told his current bosses. Anyway, we'll see how that unfolds," he added.

The rumor is that Button had planned to announce his retirement on Thursday and had even briefed some British journalists to that effect.

Does Button want to step into the McLaren Honda backmarker in 2016?
Does Button want to step into the McLaren Honda backmarker in 2016?

But subsequent talks with McLaren and Honda officials may have convinced the 35-year-old to hold fire for now.

"It's just respectfully between the team and myself," Button revealed. "That's what you do when you're in business with people.

"So, mutual respect and whatever decision we make will be good for everyone. It will be the right decision."

The BBC, who broadcast Top Gear, denied there are any announcements scheduled to take place in Japan this weekend.

But Button hinted that, notwithstanding the new delay, he knows what he is going to be doing in 2016.

"Even if you know in your mind what you want to do, you still want to talk with the team and discuss the future. It's going to happen.

"It doesn't mean that it changes my mind in any way, but it's important for us to be as one when we decide what's happening."

Button said he has been overwhelmed by the support of the fans, who have been bombarding his social media accounts with messages of support amid the retirement rumors.

"I think 90pc of them are saying I shouldn't retire from the sport, and when they read that it's a possibility it surprises some of them.

"I wish I could tell them a little bit more," he added.

Destined to be a F1 backmarker after being canned by Ferrari, Alonso's years in F1 could soon end
Destined to be a F1 backmarker after being canned by Ferrari for Vettel, Alonso's years in F1 could soon end

Alonso may leave F1 to find winning car – Briatore
(GMM) If Fernando Alonso cannot return to having a winning car, he will seek it outside of formula one.

That is the stark warning issued by Flavio Briatore, who signed up the Spaniard as a teenager more than 15 years ago and still plays a role in his management.

The flamboyant Italian, who was team boss at Renault when Alonso won his two titles a decade ago, revealed to Spain's El Mundo newspaper that he even encouraged Alonso to leave Ferrari last year.

"I encouraged him to leave and go to McLaren," Briatore said. "He could not stay there. They were blaming him for everything.

"He had to leave, especially after Marco Mattiacci arrived. Without him, he might have stayed," he added.

Ultimately, Mattiacci was replaced by Maurizio Arrivabene, who is now leading the ever-resurgent Ferrari whose Sebastian Vettel is an outside shot for the title.

And Alonso is at McLaren.

"No one imagined it would be this disaster," Briatore said, "but I know the people from Honda well and although they do things their way, they know engines.

"In 2016 they will be fighting for podiums."

But what if they are not?

Briatore answered: "If he cannot get a winning car in formula one, he will find it somewhere else."

Sainz knows Tost favors Verstappen
Sainz knows Tost favors Verstappen

Tost's Verstappen defense 'surprised' Sainz
(GMM) In the wake of Max Verstappen's defiant refusal to obey team orders in Singapore, teammate Carlos Sainz has hinted he remains unhappy with Toro Rosso.

In Singapore, the teenage sensation Verstappen was asked repeatedly to let Sainz past so that with his fresher tires he could have a shot at passing Sergio Perez.

Verstappen screamed: "No!"

Afterwards, team boss Franz Tost immediately leapt to Verstappen's defense, saying the Dutchman was right to refuse.

"I was surprised by Franz's comments," Sainz admitted to the Spanish broadcaster Movistar.

"It wasn't me who asked for the team order, it was them."

Sainz disputed Tost's claim that the reason Verstappen was right to refuse was because his Spanish teammate was never close enough.

Sainz argued: "During those 12 laps I was just waiting (for Verstappen to comply). That's why I didn't attack him, but towards the end I was already imagining that he was just refusing to let me though.

"The way Franz came out to defend Verstappen did not sit well with me, but the team can say many things in front of the press and inside of the team it is a different story.

"My approach is not going to change," he added. "I am going to keep on trusting the team and if they call me to do something, I am going to trust them."

Wolff would be happy to embarrass Audi, who will take years to develop a competitive engine under the current rules
Wolff would be happy to embarrass Audi, who will take years to develop a competitive engine under the current rules

Audi 'definitely' welcome in F1 – Wolff
(GMM) Mercedes says it would welcome Audi to formula one.

As Red Bull desperately seeks an alternative after splitting with Renault, rumors suggest the Volkswagen Group is now eyeing a project for its Audi brand.

The sting in those rumors has been blunted by the international VW diesel emissions scandal, but Mercedes – having ruled out working with Red Bull – says Audi would be good for F1.

"Another great manufacturer, and one of such high quality, is definitely in our interest," Mercedes' F1 chief Toto Wolff told Germany's Sport Bild.

"It would strengthen formula one as a platform," he insisted.

Mercedes team chairman and F1 legend Niki Lauda agrees: "Each new opponent is good for the sport."

It is suggested that one reason for Mercedes and Ferrari's reluctance to supply Red Bull next year is nervousness that Audi will come in for 2018, benefitting from knowledge of the earlier engine collaboration.

Is Raikkonen fast enough to get in front of the Mercedes and help Vettel?
Is Raikkonen fast enough to get in front of the Mercedes and help Vettel?

Ferrari, Raikkonen to help Vettel win title – Massa
(GMM) Kimi Raikkonen says he would play a team role in order to help friend and Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel win the world championship.

Happy now at Williams, former Ferrari driver Felipe Massa said the interests of the Maranello team has always been greater than the individual.

That is why Vettel, and Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher before them, were regarded as the clear 'number 1'.

"They are different personalities," Brazilian Massa told Sport Bild, "but there is a common point. Ferrari would be willing to do absolutely anything for them.

"This is in the DNA of Ferrari," added Massa.

Massa ultimately fell out with Ferrari because he no longer felt equally treated in comparison to Alonso, while late last decade it was Massa who had the upper-hand against Raikkonen.

His relationship with Schumacher, however, was different.

"Michael was practically the boss of Ferrari," Massa smiled. "But the situation was different. I was learning, and Michael was very supportive.

"And even if I had less power in the team than Michael, they helped me — because Michael helped me."

And so Raikkonen now finds himself in the situation where, with Vettel dominating and closing on Mercedes' championship lead, the Finn is now moving into a team role.

"We both hope to have a good end to the season," Raikkonen told the Finnish broadcaster MTV, "but I don't have a chance in the championship obviously.

"If I need to (help), I don't have any problems with it. I've done it before so it's nothing new," he added.

2016 title 'really difficult' at Williams – Bottas
(GMM) Valtteri Bottas has conceded it will be "really difficult" to win next year's world championship with Williams.

Earlier, until the great Italian team re-signed Kimi Raikkonen, the younger Finn was strongly linked with a move to Ferrari for 2016.

"It (winning the world championship) is the only thing we're all here for. It's why I'm doing what I'm doing," Bottas told the Finnish broadcaster MTV.

It is believed Bottas' Ferrari move fell over because either Williams refused to release him, or the red team declined to pay the required millions to buy out his existing contract.

No matter which is true, Bottas admits that while winning the title with Grove is "possible", it is not likely next year.

"I believe it will be really difficult," he said, "because we are a long way behind the front and the rule changes next year are not very big.

"It's never impossible, but it depends on many things. If we can find something new, something revolutionary with the new car, some way to deal with the rules really cleverly, then you never know," said Bottas.

And the 26-year-old said that if it doesn't happen in 2016, he still has plenty of time in the future.

"I have time. I still have a long career – hopefully – in front of me and so if I don't do it here then hopefully I can do it somewhere else," added Bottas.

And he said he is optimistic about 2016 with Williams, anyway.

"Next year's car development started really early," said Bottas. "Much earlier than any other car so far. Hopefully it will work out.

"Generally, the sooner you start to develop it, the faster it is."

Anti-Americans Steiner and Haas
Anti-Americans Steiner and Haas

Haas schedules driver announcement next week
(GMM) Haas, the new American team for 2016, has scheduled a driver announcement for next week.

The Ferrari-linked outfit has invited journalists to its Kannapolis headquarters next Tuesday, where it says a "driver announcement" will take place.

It is strongly rumored that Ferrari reserve Esteban Gutierrez will be one driver, with Romain Grosjean probably moving from Lotus to join him.

"The more I think about my decision, the happier I am," Frenchman Grosjean – who earlier admitted his decision may become public "next week" – said at Suzuka.

Indeed, Lotus is painfully scraping its way through the Japanese grand prix weekend, as it waits for Renault's decision after running out of cash.

Grosjean sat on a food-cooling esky in the garage during practice as the team is still locked out of its hospitality tent in the paddock.

Bernie Ecclestone is now feeding members of the team in the expensive paddock club, after some hungry mechanics had pizzas delivered late on Thursday.

But reserve driver Jolyon Palmer 'tweeted' a photo of himself in much less salubrious surroundings on Friday with a coffee and packet of Doritos.

Grosjean, meanwhile, was also spotted in the Suzuka paddock being introduced by Eric Boullier to fellow McLaren official Jonathan Neale.

Jolyon Palmer
Jolyon Palmer

Palmer waiting on Haas F1 announcement
Jolyon Palmer still has his sights set on graduating to a race seat with Lotus in 2016, but admits he is waiting on Haas F1's driver announcement for the situation to become clearer.

Lotus, which remains in discussions with Renault about a potential takeover deal, recently confirmed Pastor Maldonado for next season, but is yet to name his team-mate.

Romain Grosjean, contesting his fourth straight season at Lotus, is poised to leave the Enstone-based team for the arriving Haas F1, which will hold a press conference on Tuesday.

Palmer currently acts as Lotus' test and reserve driver, and made his ninth free practice appearance of the season during Friday's first session at the Japanese Grand Prix.

"I'm still hoping to be racing here next year," Palmer told BBC Sport.

Pushed on a timeframe, Palmer said: "I don't know at the moment.

"I think the Haas announcement might make things clearer. I think things have got to happen really in the next week or two; it's quite an important time, or crunch time, for the team.

"We'll see in the next week what's happening and I'll know what's going to happen."

Hamilton knows that when the Suzuka track dries on Saturday he'll be able to make use of Mercedes 100 HP advantage
Hamilton knows that when the Suzuka track dries on Saturday he'll be able to make use of the Mercedes 100 HP advantage

Hamilton denies losing faith in Mercedes
Lewis Hamilton has strenuously denied losing confidence in Mercedes, after what was a challenging weekend for the team at the previous Singapore Grand Prix.

Hamilton and team-mate Nico Rosberg could only qualify fifth and sixth at the Marina Bay Street Circuit, as Ferrari and Red Bull displayed superior performance.

In the race, Hamilton retired following a loss of power, while Rosberg had to settle for fourth place, behind Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen.

Shortly after the Singapore Grand Prix, Hamilton was widely quoted as saying: "I don't have any confidence. I don't have any information to give me that confidence."

However, speaking at Suzuka, prior to the Japanese Grand Prix, Hamilton made clear that he fully trusts Mercedes and the fundamental pace of the F1 W06 Hybrid.

"I have never had a loss of trust or confidence in this team," Hamilton said.

"Why would I? We have had unbelievable success together; we have won 20-odd races over the last two seasons and now we have had one difficult race."

Hamilton says Mercedes has worked hard to rectify the issues for Suzuka.

"I can't tell you what the team have come up with, but they have come up with lots of reasons and solutions for the way it was [in Singapore]," he went on to explain.

"The majority of them believe that one of the many reasons we came up with had a domino effect – I'm confident it has been understood, but they will continue to analyze.

"I'm not sitting here thinking it was a fluke or anything like that.

"Sometimes there are going to be situations like that, whether it's this year or next year or the year after, so I'm hoping we're going to learn from it and it won't happen again."

McLaren Honda wants Button to stay
McLaren Honda wants Button to stay

McLaren wants Button to stay – Neale
(GMM) McLaren on Friday declared that it wants to keep Jenson Button on board for 2016.

Actually, the world's media assembled at Suzuka on Thursday expecting the 2009 world champion to declare that his lost "joy" for F1 meant he had decided to call time on his 16-year career.

"I get the sense from the media there was a big anti-climax yesterday and there was a lot of discussion about where Jenson was at," McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale said on Friday.

At present, there are plenty of rumors swirling. One is that McLaren and Button, 35, are simply arguing about the scheduled $4m pay-rise in his contract, with the 2016 'option' set to expire in a few days.

Another theory is that Button has already decided to quit, but is discussing the details of when and where to announce it with McLaren and engine supplier Honda, who are marking their first home race in years at Suzuka this weekend.

"Jenson's a fantastic guy, a world champion and a big part of the family at Honda and McLaren," said Neale.

"He's been with us for six seasons and we're contracted with him, we want him to stay, we like him very much," he added. "But if your driver doesn't really want to be in the seat we have to respect that."

It is believed that if Button does go, the place will be filled by either Kevin Magnussen or Stoffel Vandoorne. The latter Belgian is trackside this weekend as reserve driver, filling in for the injured Dane Magnussen.

But Neale said: "I really hope that we have done enough between us (McLaren and Button) to continue those discussions with him and have the confidence to have him with us. That's what we would like."

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