Latest F1 news in brief – Wednesday

  • Berger too says F1 magic is gone
    Berger too says F1 magic is gone

    F1 has lost MotoGP-style magic – Berger

  • Official slams 'stupid' F1 penalty system
  • Red Bull-Renault split no surprise – Berger
  • McLaren, not Honda to decide Button future
  • Teams often took 'risks' with pressures – Hakkinen
  • Monza showed Mercedes 'fragile' – Marchionne
  • Michelin still sure F1 needs tire change
  • Lotus cannot pressure Renault for decision – Gastaldi

F1 has lost MotoGP-style magic – Berger
(GMM) F1 has lost some of the 'elbow-to-elbow' racing magic that can still be seen today on two wheels, legend Gerhard Berger says.

"It is perhaps a matter of taste," he told Austrian Servus TV, "but I personally miss the tough driver-against-driver where it is decided on the last lap by a few seconds."

He said that since his racing days, spanning ten grand prix wins and stints at iconic teams like McLaren and Ferrari, he thinks F1 has taken backward steps.

"The emotion now is less," said Berger, "it is too technical and the regulations overly complicated. You have to be an extreme fan now to understand everything that is happening.

"I have spent my whole life in this sport, but when I watch the TV now I have my hands full just trying to understand.

"When you're a fan and you're watching a race every two weeks and don't have time to read everything, I think it's difficult now," he added.

Berger said that if F1 needs help as to what to do to rediscover some of the lost magic, it should look no further than MotoGP.

"It is still as it should be," he said. "The riders fight from the first to the last lap, and as you watch them you think 'Wow, how do those guys do that?' I think we've lost that in F1."

Official slams 'stupid' F1 penalty system
(GMM) A Russian motor racing official has hit out at "stupid" penalties that are affecting drivers at today's grands prix.

The spate of penalties up and down pitlane hit an embarrassing zenith at Monza last weekend, as drivers ran out of their allocation of four engines for the season and teams reacted tactically.

Igor Ermilin, a leading official of the Russian grand prix and a presidential advisor, said of the penalty system: "I have no civil words to say about it.

"It is artificial and completely against the interest of the sport. And that's the nicest way I can put it. It is the most stupid thing I think the FIA could ever do.

"I also resent the absurd requirement of a certain number of engines that can be used during the season. It is beyond common sense," Ermilin told the Russian news agency Izvestia.

Red Bull to split from Renault
Red Bull to split from Renault

Red Bull-Renault split no surprise – Berger
(GMM) Rumors that Red Bull and Renault are definitely splitting is no surprise to Gerhard Berger.

It is believed Red Bull has now triggered the end of the agreement with a full year still to run, citing a clause that Renault must supply state-of-the-art technology.

Reports suggest Renault has now verbally accepted the end-of-season split.

Indeed, Germany's Auto Motor und Sport said Red Bull is so determined to take a new direction that it is prepared to forego the EUR 88 million brought by Renault-linked sponsors Infiniti and Total.

"I can understand that Red Bull is very unhappy about the last two years," Berger, famously close to Red Bull's Dietrich Mateschitz, told Austrian Servus TV.

"In its development, Renault has gone more backwards than forwards and Red Bull has seen that the train has departed."

The big rumor now is that, with Mercedes reportedly ruling out working with Red Bull, the next best option for the energy drink-owned stable is a deal with Ferrari.

"With its place in F1, Red Bull is configured only to win, but today that is possible only with the Mercedes engine," said Igor Ermilin, a top Russian motor racing official.

"Ferrari is close to that top level now, and there is a chance that they will catch up completely," he told Izvestia news agency.

"The only other option is Honda, but when and how they will be in a position to go for championships again is a big question.

"So I think Red Bull's first priority for talks was with Mercedes, then with Ferrari and finally Honda," Ermilin added.

Button's future rides on McLaren
Button's future rides on McLaren

McLaren, not Honda to decide Button future
(GMM) McLaren has admitted it will take a quick decision over the future of Jenson Button.

Last year, the 2009 world champion faced a long and ignominious wait for news about his fate for 2015, declaring at Monza last weekend that he has told Ron Dennis an earlier decision should be made for next season.

"There is obviously a date for the option on Jenson and we know that we will not wait for the end of the year this time," team boss Eric Boullier told F1's official website.

It is believed the 2016 'option' runs out at the end of September.

Earlier, at Monza, Boullier was asked if Honda will have a say in who Fernando Alonso's 2016 teammate will be.

Last year, it was believed the McLaren-Honda camp was split down the middle over retaining Button or giving the other seat to either Kevin Magnussen or fellow young charger Stoffel Vandoorne.

"We will discuss it with Honda of course," Boullier said, "but in the end McLaren will decide."

Mark Webber, the F1 veteran who now enjoys the world of Le Mans prototype racing, thinks 35-year-old Button should consider a change of scene.

"To know he's going into a race and has no chance is mentally very difficult," the popular Australian told BBC radio.

"I'd love to see him try something different, try sports cars. I get frustrated watching his situation. I want to see him in a competitive car but is that going to happen next year? Unlikely.

"JB, the type of guy he is, gutsy and a dark horse, he would love the environment where it's a little less tense," added Webber.

Mika Hakkinen in 2001
Mika Hakkinen in 2001

Teams often took 'risks' with pressures – Hakkinen
(GMM) Mika Hakkinen has weighed into the Monza tire pressure saga by saying that in his experience teams often took "risks".

The Italian grand prix was the first time a tire manufacturer's usage guidelines were strictly enforced, after Pirelli increased the recommended minimum pressure in the wake of high-speed blowouts at Spa.

After the checkered flag at Monza, Lewis Hamilton's victory was in doubt while the stewards and Mercedes had a lengthy post-race hearing because his pressures were found to have been too low on the grid.

Ultimately, the world championship leader kept his win, as the FIA conceded that the protocols for checking the pressures need to be improved.

"It was interesting," former two-time world champion Hakkinen, a long-time Mercedes-powered McLaren driver, told the Finnish newspaper Ilta Sanomat.

"At Monza the pressures were forcibly raised, because of the tire explosions of the last race at Spa.

"I remember from my F1 career how radical decisions were sometimes made with the tire pressures," the Finn revealed.

"The team wanted to improve performance, so we took risks even if the tire company had a strong view about it. Safety should always be above everything else," Hakkinen added.

The 2016 engine Mercedes brought to Monza was scary fast. Any driver could have driven it to victory.
The 2016 engine Mercedes brought to Monza was scary fast. Any driver could have driven it to victory.

Monza showed Mercedes 'fragile' – Marchionne
(GMM) Monza was proof that Mercedes' stroll to the 2015 title might not be as easy as some are now expecting.

Red Bull boss Christian Horner has been quoted as saying the engine performance upgrade brought to the Italian grand prix by Mercedes was "scary".

But the new unit used initially by Nico Rosberg had to be removed after a problem, and then the German driver retired from the race with yet another engine-related issue.

At the same time, Ferrari also introduced an improved engine for Monza.

As he scythed through the field following the botched start, Kimi Raikkonen told Auto Motor und Sport: "We are going in the right direction with the engine.

"Force India are quick on the straights but I was a little surprised at how I managed to get past them," he added.

Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne agreed, telling La Repubblica: "It was a great comeback from him (Raikkonen) and just a shame that he made a mistake at the start.

"Is Hamilton impregnable? If Kimi had stayed at the front, I'm not sure what the result would have been. We also saw that Mercedes is fragile," he added, referring to Rosberg's reliability problems.

Finally, Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene would not respond to Fernando Alonso's latest comments, after the Spaniard suggested not much has changed at the Maranello team since his departure.

"I do not want to talk about Fernando," said the Italian. "I knew him in another job and we have a great relationship, but I do not want to talk about it.

"I will only talk about my drivers and I'm perfectly fine with them," Arrivabene added.

Michelin still sure F1 needs tire change
(GMM) Michelin is sticking firm on its stance that F1 needs a change of tire philosophy.

After the blowout saga of Spa, and now the post-Monza tire pressure controversy, it might be said that Michelin has put its nose in front of Pirelli when it comes to securing the official supply contract for 2017.

Not so. Amidst all the recent tire-related drama, Bernie Ecclestone – who will decide which manufacturer gets the nod – issued a statement of full support for Pirelli.

The statement, circulated by Ecclestone's company FOM, said Pirelli has been encouraged "to provide tire compounds with performance limitations because tire degradation contributes to the challenge and entertainment of a formula one race.

"Thank you, Pirelli, for helping us to deliver excitement to formula one fans!" another section of the statement read.

Michelin, on the other hand, has never hidden its attitude that a F1 tire should not be designed to degrade, but rather to allow the drivers to push hard and show their talent.

"We have been very clear for some time now," said competition director Pascal Couasnon.

"We're not saying that Pirelli are doing the wrong thing, what we're saying is that the philosophy of Michelin is different," he told UOL's Grande Premio.

"Two things," Couasnon explained. "First is that we believe a tire supplier needs to show a positive aspect, but we believe a tire that wears out after a few laps does not give us the possibility of developing a strong product.

"The second thing is that today, the tires used in F1 are 13 inches with a very large sidewall, which is definitely not representative of what is used in normal cars, not even cars with high performance."

However, since the Spa tire blowout story, some have pointed out that Michelin has also had serious safety problems of its own in the past.

Asked if the absolute debacle of the 2005 US grand prix is denting Michelin's chances of working with F1 again from 2017, Couasnon said firmly: "No.

"That was long ago, and in that ten years, we have learned a lot.

"I think we prove it every weekend, in very difficult forms of motor sport, such as LMP1 with Porsche and Audi, and even FIA GT with Ferrari and Corvette and all these great brands that trust Michelin.

"When they have a choice, they choose Michelin," he insisted.

"I am sure that the FIA and even F1 acknowledge that we are a very strong brand," said Couasnon.

And he didn't want to comment specifically on Pirelli's problems encountered at Spa, saying: "I don't know how the tires were made and we were not there.

"We do know that Spa is a difficult track, but I have no comment to make on that subject."

Federico Gastaldi
Federico Gastaldi

Lotus cannot pressure Renault for decision – Gastaldi
(GMM) Lotus deputy Federico Gastaldi says he is still waiting for Renault to make its decision about buying the Enstone team.

It is a harrowing time for the financially-crippled black and gold-colored team, who have faced off recently against angry unpaid suppliers and even the British tax authorities.

But Gastaldi said the fight with former reserve driver Charles Pic, resulting in team equipment being seized by court bailiffs at Spa, is at least now over.

Asked if bailiffs will be visiting the paddock at any forthcoming races, he told Bild newspaper: "No, that's all settled.

"There was a dispute and both sides exchanged legal documents and now the issue is settled.

"I spoke to Charles on Sunday, and he apologized for what happened. He was wrong to behave like this, but now it is behind us," Gastaldi added.

What is now immediately in front of Lotus is next weekend's Singapore grand prix, with some believing that if Renault's decision is not made quickly, the embattled team might be absent.

And the delay might also be affecting Lotus' current drivers, as La Gazzetta dello Sport says the new entrant Haas is now closing on pairing Romain Grosjean with Ferrari's Esteban Gutierrez for 2016.

There are also rumors that Pastor Maldonado's crucial backers at PDVSA are holding back a due payment to Lotus amid the uncertainty.

Gastaldi said: "We are in talks with Renault and waiting for the final approval. We cannot put pressure on a global corporation like Renault, but we have already worked with them — we know each other.

"One thing is clear: we would of course like to work with them as soon as possible. So we can develop the car for next year."

As for Singapore, he insisted: "We will go there and do the race and hopefully it will be better than Monza."

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