Latest F1 news in brief – Sunday

  • Raikkonen in top form at Monza

    McLaren wants Honda to sack Arai – reports

  • Renault delays Sochi upgrade until Austin
  • New contract put Raikkonen in top form – Marchionne
  • Verstappen is F1's answer to Marquez – engineer
  • Engine worry for Hamilton before Monza race
  • Mercedes not worried about Hamilton engine
  • Bitter Alonso: Ferrari should not be happy
  • Vettel keeping expectations in check

McLaren wants Honda to sack Arai – reports
(GMM) Behind the scenes, McLaren is lobbying for Honda's F1 chief to be sacked.

That is the claim of multiple British newspapers, including the Times, Telegraph and Mail on Sunday, amid yet another woeful weekend for the Anglo-Japanese outfit.

McLaren has "written to the company's president, Takahiro Hachigo, calling on him to replace … Yasuhisa Arai," said the Mail on Sunday.

The reports, citing unnamed sources, followed a particularly brutal interview session for Arai at Monza, where reporters asked him whether he would resign. "I do not answer," was his reply.

As for whether he will apologize to Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button for wasting a year of their careers, Arai seemed puzzled. "Why? Why?" he said.

The signs of fracture between McLaren and Honda, however, are now becoming clearer, despite stoical efforts until now to maintain the 'one team' approach.

McLaren wants Arai ousted?
McLaren wants Arai ousted?

Arai was asked on Saturday about his embarrassing recent claim that Honda's latest engine is actually better than Renault's, and while disputing the 25 horse power figure, stood by his stance.

"As one team, I have to agree with Arai-San's statement," said team boss Eric Boullier.

But earlier at Monza, Frenchman Boullier admitted that 2015 so far has given him "plenty of embarrassing moments".

As for whether McLaren-Honda will ultimately split, just as Red Bull-Renault is apparently set to do, he answered: "For us, this question does not arise.

"The other team (Red Bull) is a preferred customer, but we are the factory team of Honda," Boullier insisted.

Lead driver Alonso, however, may now be letting his admirable patience to date begin to slip, accusing Honda of being almost exclusively the cause of McLaren's lack of pace.

"On a track that has only six corners, we can see on the data that we are losing three tenths in those corners," said the Spaniard. "The rest of the three seconds is on the straight.

"On the straight we just press the throttle and keep the steering wheel straight," he is quoted by Spanish reporters.

However, Alonso also said he remains committed to McLaren-Honda.

"We will not put the finger in our own wounds," he is quoted by Spain's El Confidencial. "We have to be professional and remain quiet.

"The only thing we can do is work, work, work."

And teammate Jenson Button also said he is prepared to ride out the storm.

"We knew that Spa and Monza would be like this. But that is why we're now having this discussion. If we are going for places 5 and 6 in Singapore, everything will calm down."

Renault delays Sochi upgrade until Austin
(GMM) Renault has delayed the introduction of a much-anticipated performance upgrade for its 2015 power unit.

Earlier, the Red Bull teams were holding out for October's Russian grand prix at Sochi, because Renault was planning to debut a new engine improved by trading in performance 'tokens'.

But Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said at Monza: "When the upgraded engine will appear is TBC (to be confirmed).

"There's nothing actually confirmed yet," he reiterated.

The feeling is that, as Renault is locked in deep negotiations with Lotus about re-buying the Enstone team, the French carmaker is now more focused on 2016.

Germany's Auto Motor und Sport claims that the Sochi engine will now debut two weeks later in Austin, improved to the tune of 4 tokens, or 0.15 seconds per lap.

F1-insider.com, a website run by German correspondent Ralf Bach, said Red Bull has been informed of the schedule change.

Daniel Ricciardo, however, said: "No matter what is promised to us, I will believe in more power only when I feel it in the car."

Raikkonen back in form
Raikkonen back in form

New contract put Raikkonen in top form – Marchionne
(GMM) Sergio Marchionne thinks Kimi Raikkonen's new contract has moved the Finn to a new level.

On a Ferrari president's customary visit to Monza, the Italian-born Canadian said he was delighted to witness a new engine upgrade deliver the goods, as the two red cars qualified second and third.

But it was actually Raikkonen's first front row qualifying feat since he re-joined Ferrari, and hot on the heels of the Maranello team ending months of uncertainty by re-signing him for 2016.

Earlier this year, boss Maurizio Arrivabene said he was deliberately putting contract pressure on Raikkonen, so the so-called Iceman doesn't "fall asleep".

"Kimi gives the best when he in a bit in trouble," he argued.

It seems president Marchionne, however, does not agree, as he credited Raikkonen's new deal for his sudden surge in qualifying form.

"We saw a whole new Kimi today," the Italian-born Canadian told Italian media.

"To renew his confidence for 2016 was necessary, and today I saw him relaxed and calm.

"The atmosphere in Ferrari has become fantastic," Marchionne added. "It is like the team was born again in recent months."

On Saturday, Marchionne sat down for meetings with his Daimler counterpart Dieter Zetsche, and Marchionne said the subject was the future of F1's rules.

"It is a delicate and complicated subject," he is quoted by Autosprint. "We will meet again in London soon."

Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen

Verstappen is F1's answer to Marquez – engineer
(GMM) Max Verstappen is F1's answer to the young MotoGP sensation Marc Marquez.

That is the claim of Dutchman Verstappen's Toro Rosso race engineer Xevi Pujolar, who earlier said the teenager is better than Juan Pablo Montoya, Mark Webber and all other drivers he has worked with in F1.

"Max is the Marquez of F1," Pujolar told the Spanish newspaper El Pais.

22-year-old Spaniard Marquez won the MotoGP titles in 2013 and 2014.

Pujolar explained: "As happened to Marc, everyone said at the beginning that Max was too much at the limit, even driving above it.

"But now, seeing what he can do, there are fewer and fewer who criticize him."

There is no engine worry for sandbagging Mercedes
There is no engine worry for sandbagging Mercedes

Engine worry for Hamilton before Monza race
(GMM) Mercedes is heading into Sunday's Italian grand prix with concerns about the engine that powered Lewis Hamilton to pole.

The dominant team entered the Monza weekend with a new specification of 'power unit' that is the basis of Mercedes' development direction for 2016.

Making use of the remaining 7 in-season 'tokens', boss Toto Wolff had explained: "Because there are no more tests in the year, we have to test in the race.

"We cannot expect an entirely trouble-free weekend," he admitted.

Indeed, the new unit fitted to Nico Rosberg's car had to be replaced with an older unit before qualifying, and the German now lines up just fourth.

Rosberg openly blamed the 'old' engine for his three tenth gap to Hamilton, but team chairman Niki Lauda disputed that.

Asked to compare the 'new' with the 'old', he told Bild newspaper: "You cannot express it in horse power because the engine is connected to the electric power.

"The new engine is perhaps a tenth of a second (better)," Lauda added.

But other paddock sources dispute Lauda's summary, arguing that Mercedes will have turned Hamilton's engine down for qualifying due to the Rosberg glitch.

At the same time, Ferrari has taken a step forward with its new engine for Monza, as Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel nibbled at Hamilton's heels just over two tenths behind.

Wolff agrees that Ferrari, it seems, now has the ability to "turn up the power" on a Saturday more than in the past.

Rosberg's unit, however, had been pulled out due to a problem, and Mercedes is now looking into what exactly went wrong.

"If we find an issue with Nico's engine which would put Lewis' race at risk we would consider an engine change and a penalty," said Wolff, "because our car has great pace."

Hamilton should have a cakewalk in the race
Hamilton should have a cakewalk in the race

Mercedes not worried about Hamilton engine
(GMM) There was good news from the Mercedes camp for Lewis Hamilton early on Sunday.

Before qualifying, Nico Rosberg had to revert to an older engine, when a problem with his new specification unit was discovered.

Mercedes went into the weekend with concerns about the new spec, which will set the direction for development ahead of 2016.

"Because there are no more tests in the year, we have to test in the race," boss Toto Wolff had warned. "We cannot expect an entirely trouble-free weekend."

So there were worries that the Rosberg problem could also strike the unit being used by Hamilton, who powered to pole with it on Saturday.

That could have meant a pre-race engine change and therefore grid penalty for the championship leader.

But after an investigation overnight, Mercedes is no longer worried about Hamilton's power unit.

That is because the problem with Rosberg's engine was "traced to a leak in the cooling system", Mercedes announced. The issue was therefore "not a problem with the engine itself".

"The (Rosberg) power unit will be inspected in the coming days to decide if it can be used again at future races," the team added.

Alonso has become a bitter little man since being pushed out by Ferrari - Mercedes wasn't the dominant team with these current engines when he was there
Alonso has become a bitter little man since being pushed out by Ferrari – Mercedes wasn't the dominant team with these current engines when he was there

Bitter Alonso: Ferrari should not be happy
Fernando Alonso says former team Ferrari "should not be happy" with its performance relative to Formula 1 pace-setter Mercedes.

Alonso left Ferrari after five years to join McLaren-Honda for the 2015 campaign, but the renewed partnership has struggled all season.

Meanwhile, Ferrari has emerged as Mercedes' main rival, with Kimi Räikkönen and Sebastian Vettel lining up second and third in Italy.

But when asked after qualifying if it hurt to see Ferrari doing well, Alonso said: "Doing well is relative – compared to who?"

"Compared to us they are doing really well, but compared to what we did during the five years that we were together they are not doing anything better.

"We were leading the championship a couple of years at Monza. Now they are 100 points behind Mercedes.

"Congratulations to them but they should not be happy being 100 points behind Mercedes."

Alonso qualified 17th at Monza, a tenth down on team-mate Jenson Button, and made clear that Honda's troubled power unit is responsible for the vast majority of the outfit's current struggles.

"On a circuit that has six corners, on the GPS, we lose two or three tenths," he said.

"The rest of the three seconds we need to find on the straights, and on the straights we are all full throttle, with the steering wheel straight – there is not much we can do there.

"There is a lack of power that is important and even more on circuits like this."

The tifosi swarm hero Vettel but on Sunday Vettel knows the Ferrari cannot match Mercedes new engine
The tifosi swarm hero Vettel but on Sunday they won't be so happy. Vettel knows the Ferrari cannot match Mercedes new engine

Vettel keeping expectations in check
Sebastian Vettel has vowed to stay "realistic" after helping Ferrari to record a season-best qualifying result at the Italian Grand Prix.

Vettel posted the third fastest time, marginally slower than team-mate Kimi Räikkönen, as the Ferraris split Mercedes on the grid at Monza.

But although Vettel says a 1-2 finish would be a "dream" outcome, he admits Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes will be tough to beat in the race.

"First of all, it's a fantastic result," said Vettel after qualifying.

"We're very close to Lewis; I think that is the main positive of the day, which makes us confident for tomorrow.

"It's the first time for me in red, so to get all the support, to see all the Tifosi standing up, waving their flags and jumping up and down in the stands, makes you feel different to other races.

"I'm trying to take it all in, and enjoy the day tomorrow, and hopefully we can both be on the podium. If we were both ahead of [Hamilton] that would be a dream come true!

"I think dreaming is allowed, but nevertheless we need to be realistic. It's going to be a tough race, as these guys [Mercedes] have some serious pace in the race.

"We will try to fight and do everything we can."

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