Latest F1 news in brief – Wednesday

  • Lotus clings to survival

    Lotus clinging to survival at Monza

  • Rosberg has not taken backwards step – Hamilton
  • Monza rescue talks to hit highest gear
  • More mixed messages as Honda tackles Monza
  • Michelin remains open to Pirelli tire war
  • Raikkonen backs new 'Iceman' alcoholic drink
  • Hulkenberg set to keep Porsche seat for 2016
  • Turkey could still return to F1 – operator
  • Sainz Jr. set for 10-place grid drop at Monza

Lotus clinging to survival at Monza
(GMM) Lotus is clinging to survival ahead of the Italian grand prix.

Bernie Ecclestone paid the latest $2.3 million wage bill for the embattled team's 400 staff, which has ensured the black trucks are en route to Monza.

But beyond that, fingers and toes are being crossed that the Renault buyout deal will be completed imminently.

Citing a source, the Telegraph newspaper said the canteen at Enstone is already closed, and staff will have to make do this weekend at Monza without some "software licenses and building materials".

The financial squeeze is not just because owner Gerard Lopez has turned down the money tap while the prospect of being bought by Renault and Alain Prost is looming so large.

Amid the uncertainty, Pastor Maldonado's backer PDVSA – undoubtedly the largest team sponsor – is reportedly holding onto the due payment for August.

"PDVSA wants to wait until the future of their protege is clarified," said Auto Motor und Sport correspondent Michael Schmidt.

If the Renault deal goes through, the French carmaker might conclude that PDVSA, a Venezuelan oil company, clashes with Total, a partner of Renault Sport.

Roger Benoit, the veteran correspondent for the Swiss newspaper Blick, thinks that if Renault does buy Lotus, Maldonado may go "with his millions to Force India".

Rosberg and Hamilton
Rosberg and Hamilton

Rosberg has not taken backwards step – Hamilton
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton does not think his teammate and title rival Nico Rosberg has taken a step backwards in 2015.

Just like last year, the pair are still dueling effectively alone at the top of the standings for the drivers' title.

But many believe Hamilton, the reigning champion and current championship leader, has a clear edge on his German rival this year, with Mercedes' Niki Lauda saying in Spa he thinks the Briton is "unbeatable".

Hamilton, with a new eagle tattoo on his neck, told Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport: "Rosberg is still driving at a high level.

"He has not gone backwards, but I have improved in a number of areas."

Hamilton, 30, recently took himself off the driver market by agreeing a lucrative new deal with Mercedes.

But asked about a potential future in red, he responded: "I call Ferrari every now and then, but only because I like their road cars!

"When it comes to formula one, I spoke a few times with Stefano Domenicali, but it was never anything serious. I feel comfortable with Mercedes.

"Everyone knows how I admire Ayrton Senna, and he became a legend even without ever driving for Ferrari," said Hamilton.

He is now on the cusp of matching the great Senna's record of three world championships, which according to Hamilton would mean his career ambitions are met.

"People are always like 'Hey do you want to do what Michael Schumacher did?'" Hamilton told the Wall Street Journal. "'No, I'm only focused on what Ayrton did.' That's how it's always been."

Monza is magic, but it could soon be gone
Monza is magic, but it could soon be gone

Monza rescue talks to hit highest gear
(GMM) Talks to secure Monza's future on the F1 calendar will step into a high gear this weekend.

Bernie Ecclestone has warned that unless a new deal is agreed, the historic circuit will fall off the schedule.

So Roberto Maroni, the regional Lombardy president, resorted to humor this week when he was asked about the F1 supremo's presence at the fabled Autodromo Nazionale this weekend.

"Given that the UK is not averse to suspending the Schengen Agreement, we will only allow him into Italy if he signs a new contract," smiled Maroni.

Maroni said Lombardy is ready to do its part, pledging EUR 70 million to Monza over the next 10 years. It is also rumored that Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi could attend this weekend's race.

But Maroni warned: "We do not want any alternation with Imola or Mugello. This (Monza) is the only possible venue for the Italian grand prix."

Angelo Sticchi-Damiani, head of the Italian automobile club ACI, said: "Personally I am optimistic, but we must work together.

"We know that Bernie wants concrete actions and that is what we will try to offer him.

"He is sensitive to the history of Monza, but formula one has very high expenses and we have to be able to meet these commitments."

Honda out to lunch because of the ludicrous technology in F1 engines
Honda out to lunch because of the ludicrous technology in F1 engines. Fans come to see a race, not a hybrid engine. Talk about a waste of money.

More mixed messages as Honda tackles Monza
(GMM) Honda is going into yet another race weekend with mixed messages.

As McLaren's struggling Japanese supplier debuted an upgraded engine in Belgium recently, boss Yasuhisa Arai said it would be a match for Ferrari's power unit.

But Spa-Francorchamps turned out to be one of McLaren-Honda's worst performances of the season.

And now, at least officially, Honda is heading into another high-speed venue, Monza, with low expectations.

"Monza is another high-speed track which unfortunately does not suit our package," Arai said in a media statement.

"The drivers are on full throttle for most of the lap due to the long straights and fast corners, and since maximum power and minimal drag are key we know we have a big challenge ahead of us this weekend," he added.

The comment about 'minimal drag' is key, with McLaren and Honda now increasingly pointing the finger at the other for the reasons for the dire 2015.

In media reports, Arai has been quoted as suggesting Honda's power unit is no longer the worst in pitlane.

"Our engine is a bit behind Ferrari," he is quoted by Spain's El Confidencial, "but it is much better than Renault. Mercedes is still far away.

"We are about 40-50 horse power behind Mercedes, but about 25 ahead of Renault," Arai added.

Michelin remains open to Pirelli tire war
(GMM) Michelin remains open to going wheel-to-wheel with Pirelli in 2017.

Currently, Bernie Ecclestone is in talks with the tire manufacturers regarding which of them will be F1's sole supplier beyond Pirelli's 2016 deal.

But after the tire blowout controversy following the recent Belgian grand prix, Michelin is applying the pressure.

"We know Spa very well," said the French marque's motor sport chief Pascal Couasnon, "because we have been there every year with the WEC for the 6 Hours.

"And we know it is a very demanding circuit for the tires," he told Germany's Sport Bild.

Pirelli, however, is poised to announce that it was actually track debris that caused both blowouts in Belgium, including the one suffered by the furious Sebastian Vettel that was earlier blamed on excessive wear.

So while Michelin and Pirelli are dueling behind closed doors with Ecclestone, Couasnon said Michelin is open to also doing battle on the track.

"The move to 18-inch tires would already be a challenge in itself," he said, "but we always prefer direct competition and therefore an open battle against other tire suppliers would be welcome."

Kimi's Iceman drink
Kimi's Iceman drink

Raikkonen backs new 'Iceman' alcoholic drink
(GMM) Kimi Raikkonen is the face of a new alcoholic drink in his native Finland.

Famous also for his partying and drinking, it emerges that the Ferrari driver is backing the tinned gin and dry 'Iceman Long Drink'.

The marketing says the drink is "Served as cool as the Iceman himself".

Former McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh told Motor Sport Magazine: "Kimi does like to party and drink, but he's actually much more disciplined about training than most people realize, and he's also very intelligent — one of the sharpest drivers out there, in fact."

Hulkenberg wants to win LeMans again
Hulkenberg wants to win LeMans again

Hulkenberg set to keep Porsche seat for 2016
(GMM) Nico Hulkenberg looks set to defend his title as Le Mans winner at next year's edition of the fabled 24 hour sports car race.

Splitting his time between his Force India and Porsche cockpits this year, the German won on debut in the premier class of arguably the world's most famous motor race.

It had been said Hulkenberg's Le Mans feat might be the springboard to a better seat in formula one, as he had been linked with Ferrari, Renault and the incoming Ferrari 'B' team Haas.

But the 28-year-old has now signed up for two more years at Force India.

Hulkenberg admitted at Spa that being allowed to split his F1 program with Le Mans was important as he negotiated his new deal for 2016.

He now tells the German newspaper Bild: "If Porsche has a third car again, there is every chance that I will be one of the drivers."

And it appears that his F1 boss Vijay Mallya will once again indulge Hulkenberg, commenting: "With us, he has developed into one of the best drivers in the world.

"When Nico won Le Mans I was very proud of him. If he thinks it's good for him to go there again, I will let him do it."

Bild speculates that Hulkenberg signed up early with Force India for 2016 amid the threat that Lotus and Pastor Maldonado will split, putting the Venezuelan's $50 million per year in PDVSA sponsorship on the market.

Hulkenberg said: "I am happy to have my plans in the bag at an early stage."

And Germany's Auto Motor und Sport surmised: "The Venezuelan petrodollars (of Maldonado) could now become a problem for Sergio Perez, but there are also rumors that Williams could be interested in Perez and his Mexican connections."

Turkey could still return to F1 – operator
(GMM) The new operator of Turkey's former F1 track says the sport could return to Istanbul in the future.

The Turkish daily Sozcu this week reported that a company called Intercity has signed a 10-year lease, and plans to turn the circuit that hosted seven grands prix until 2011 into a used car or car rental dealership.

But Intercity chief Sadi Hezber has told Speed Week that motor racing remains central to Istanbul Park.

"The rental business will be just one part of our diverse activities," he said. "Intercity Istanbul Park still has a grade 1 FIA license, so that formula races could be held here in the future again."

Sainz Jr.
Sainz Jr.

Sainz Jr. set for 10-place grid drop at Monza
Toro Rosso rookie Carlos Sainz Jr. is set to take a 10-place grid drop for this weekend's Italian Grand Prix at Monza, with engine supplier Renault changing the engine in his car.

Sainz Jr. was unable to start the last race in Belgium due to power trouble and, although he joined the action two laps down, Toro Rosso ultimately made the call to retire him from the race.

Following post-race investigations, Sainz Jr. has confirmed that the engine has been changed, which, as per current Formula 1 regulations, will lead to a 10-place grid penalty.

"I'm positive, even if I'll have to take a 10-place grid penalty," said Sainz Jr., who last reached the finish in Canada. "I really want to at least gain all those positions back in the race."

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