Latest F1 news in brief – Monday

  • Andrew Ruhan Lotus co-owner

    Legal trouble for Lotus co-owner

  • Alonso will fight for 2016 title – manager
  • Formula 2 on hold until 2017 – report
  • MotoGP racing more exciting than F1 – Lauda
  • Button increases security after robbery
  • Hartstein slams FIA over Bianchi death
  • Mercedes eyes 2016 debut for Wehrlein
  • Mercedes shows green light to Red Bull engine deal
  • No backup engine plan for McLaren

Legal trouble for Lotus co-owner
(GMM) Lotus' troubles are continuing for now.

Amid rumors of financial trouble and a potential buyout by Renault, deputy boss Federico Gastaldi said the Enstone team is braced for a Belgian grand prix weekend full of intrigue and "waffle".

And now the latest piece of bad news has emerged.

Andrew Ruhan, a wealthy property tycoon who is a part-owner and board member of Lotus, is embroiled in legal trouble.

Firstly, his divorce settlement with his wife is expected to be one of Britain's biggest ever, according to the Sunday Times.

And a deal has reportedly been delayed "because of Ruhan's involvement in a legal battle with former business partners" over a hotel chain, set to hit the High Court next year.

Ruhan declined to comment.

Gastaldi, however, has played down the financial troubles swirling around Lotus, including reports of disgruntled suppliers.

"Most of the teams have some financial worries," he is quoted by Speed Week.

"The problem is that unlike Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull, we do not sell cars or energy drinks. We finance through other channels, including the prize money and sponsor contributions.

"And at the end the team owner must also bring in money from his own pocket," Gastaldi added.

Alonso won't be fighting for any titles if his car is a backmarker
Alonso won't be fighting for any titles if his car is a backmarker

Alonso will fight for 2016 title – manager
(GMM) Fernando Alonso will be a title contender in 2016.

That is the confident prediction of the Spaniard's manager Luis Garcia Abad, even though one notable figure does not expect Alonso to ever add a third title to his tally.

In a recent interview, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone answered "No" when asked if 34-year-old Alonso can bounce back from McLaren-Honda's dire 2015 campaign to fight for another championship.

Alonso, however, remains highly rated, with Ecclestone even choosing him as one of his drivers in a 'dream team' feature running on F1's official website.

And according to Abad, his client is still in the running to return to the sport's top step for real.

"Fernando will be a candidate for the title in 2016, without a doubt," Alonso's manager told Cadena Ser.

"McLaren-Honda is a winning combination, the car is radical and they are taking the time to make everything work effectively together.

"The weaknesses of today will be the strengths of tomorrow," Abad insisted. "There are obvious positive signs that indicate that in the future it will be really strong."

While Alonso is definitely staying for 2016, the future of his current teammate Jenson Button is less clear.

But the 35-year-old Briton insists he is still motivated enough to stay put for another year.

"I have a teammate alongside me who's regarded as one of the best in F1 history," Button told F1 Racing magazine.

"With a teammate like that, it's not just about trying to do the best job you can in your car against the rest of the field. You have your teammate to judge yourself against.

"It's a great position be in and it's exactly what I want at this stage. It keeps me massively motivated," he added.

Niki Lauda
Niki Lauda

MotoGP racing more exciting than F1 – Lauda

(GMM) F1 legend Niki Lauda attended the Czech Republic's MotoGP round at the weekend, and admitted he likes what he sees at the pinnacle of two-wheeled racing.

"It is very interesting to watch," he said at the Brno circuit, "because you can see how the rider struggles with his bike.

"In F1, unfortunately, the opposite happens," Lauda, who doubles as chairman of the dominant formula one team Mercedes, added.

"The cars are very easy to drive, they don't even slide," the great Austrian was quoted as saying by the official MotoGP website, having reportedly made the comments to Spain's El Mundo Deportivo.

Although Mercedes is dominant, Lauda is still fully supportive of F1's intended technical revolution for 2017, with the aim being to re-engage the audience with faster cars that are more exciting to watch.

Still, Lauda told the Australian newspaper The Age that he does not feel bad about Mercedes' success in the new 'power unit' era.

"I'm not in charge of the politics," he said. "My job here is to ensure, with Toto Wolff and Paddy Lowe, that we win and you can't make any compromises there.

"If one team shows what can be done, it's much easier for the others to catch up."

And Lauda said catching up is exactly what Ferrari – who entered the August shutdown period with a second win of the season for Sebastian Vettel – is doing.

"We can never sit back and say 'We're good'. That's when you stop going forward.

"I would say that after the summer break, Ferrari will come up with another engine and car upgrade. There's no question they will come (back)," he added.

Button increases security after robbery
(GMM) Jenson Button has stepped up his personal security following a robbery incident whilst on holiday in the south of France recently.

The McLaren driver, his wife and three friends were asleep in a rented villa when two men reportedly broke in, perhaps after pumping anesthetic gas into the air conditioning.

A spokesman for Button, 35, admitted the 2009 world champion was "shaken" by the incident, and now the Mirror reports that Button has reacted by stepping up his personal security.

"The whole incident has been a real shock, so they have taken sensible steps to increase their security precautions," a source said.

"The new arrangements are discrete but involve specialist security staff keeping an eye on things and installing appropriate technology to make sure there is never an incident like this again.

"They don't want to over-do it, but they've agreed it's the sensible thing to do."

Gary Hartstein
Gary Hartstein

Hartstein slams FIA over Bianchi death
(GMM) Former F1 doctor Gary Hartstein has launched an attack on officials of the sport's governing body following the death of Jules Bianchi.

His comments follow hot on the heels of those made by Felipe Massa, who said Bianchi's death has united the drivers, and Felipe Nasr, who said F1 is still pushing to improve safety.

Hartstein, however, tagged both Massa and Nasr in a social media post on Twitter by saying the drivers should be focusing their attention elsewhere.

They "should start by demanding the firing of the (F1) medical delegate", said Hartstein, whose relationship with the FIA has been acidic since his contract was not renewed at the end of 2012.

The FIA's current medical delegate is Jean-Charles Piette, but Hartstein said the medical commission's chief Gerard Saillant is "even more clueless".

Some of Hartstein's tweets over the weekend were apparently deleted, but he insists that "Everything I said is factual and meant as such, not as insults".

Nonetheless, he was scathing of Piette, insisting he is "responsible for the disastrous land-based evacuation of their (Massa and Nasr's) late colleague (Bianchi)".

Hartstein said there should have been "no racing" occurring at Suzuka at the time of Bianchi's crash as the helicopter was grounded and the estimated evacuation time to hospital was more than 30 minutes.

"And his (Piette's) total lack of knowledge or experience in trauma care places them at risk every time they're out" on track, Hartstein charged.

So until Hartstein's concerns about the FIA medical team are addressed, he said Massa and Nasr's "concern for their own safety rings a bit hollow. Start with the basics guys!"

Hartstein thinks the FIA could even be held liable for Bianchi's death.

"I expect that the Bianchis have been told that. I believe they (the FIA) are indeed liable."

The New Yorker also aimed fire at the FIA president Jean Todt. "The sport was not his agenda. HE was his agenda. Even his road safety crap is all show, no meat," said Hartstein.

Pascal Wehrlein
Pascal Wehrlein

Mercedes eyes 2016 debut for Wehrlein
(GMM) Pascal Wehrlein could be the next rookie in formula one.

The 20-year-old German is not only Mercedes' star driver in the German touring car series DTM, he is also reserve driver for the title-winning F1 team.

Wehrlein has also tested Force India's car, and is reportedly right at the front of the queue for a Mercedes-powered race seat debut in 2016.

"We want him to drive in formula one next year," Mercedes' Toto Wolff confirmed to Auto Bild Motorsport.

It has been rumored Wehrlein might even be in the running for a Williams seat, should Valtteri Bottas move elsewhere or Felipe Massa's 2016 option not be taken up.

"Conversations are already running with Force India," said Wolff, "and perhaps there are also other options."

Currently, Wehrlein is running third in the DTM championship, as he admitted: "Of course my goal is to be in formula one.

"But the package has to be right, as I feel very good in DTM."

1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve, however, urged Wehrlein to take any opportunity he can get his hands on to move onto the grid as soon as possible.

"When you get the opportunity to go into formula one, you must not hesitate for a second," he said.

"All the preparation you can do in DTM can never be as good as with a small team in formula one," Villeneuve insisted.

Might Red Bull have Mercedes power in 2016?
Might Red Bull have Mercedes power in 2016?

Mercedes shows green light to Red Bull engine deal
(GMM) Red Bull and Mercedes appear to be closing in on an engine deal.

Earlier, a collaboration between the arch-enemies appeared impossible, but Mercedes' Toto Wolff is no longer ruling it out.

"If we think about the long term, we must discuss the pros and cons rather than just wipe the issue from the table," he told the German newspaper Bild.

And he also told Auto Bild Motorsport: "We need to find a balance between pure egoism and the welfare of the sport."

As Red Bull's relationship with current engine partner Renault crumbles, Bernie Ecclestone has gone on the record to admit he hopes the French carmaker buys struggling Lotus.

Germany's Auto Bild newspaper reports that if that happens, Red Bull would no longer be the 'premier' Renault-powered team, and the 2016 contract could be voided.

Until then, however, Wolff said he is staying out of the Red Bull-Renault spat.

"We respect that agreement," he insisted. "Therefore, there are no negotiations between Red Bull and us."

The very latest development is that Mercedes' board in Stuttgart has now reportedly given a green light in principle to a Red Bull collaboration.

And the influential Dr Helmut Marko also appears to be on board.

"We no longer have an engine in formula one," he said. "It is a power unit and in all of its complexity, Mercedes' is simply the best."

Marko said he can imagine a Red Bull-Mercedes collaboration working effectively, even though in the past it has been ruled out on all sides.

"Yes, they would help us to be a strong competitor, but in the end it would still be a Mercedes (engine) winning with Red Bull.

"Secondly, their victories would be even more valuable when they beat us and, thirdly, formula one would be a lot more exciting again," Marko argued.

No backup engine plan for McLaren
McLaren need to make their new engine partnership with Honda work as there is "no B plan" for the Woking team.

McLaren and Honda revitalized their partnership of old at the start of this season as the Japanese manufacturer returned to Formula 1.
To date, though, it has been a difficult relationship.

Dogged by reliability issues and a lack of pace, McLaren-Honda have scored just 17 points in 10 grands prix.

McLaren, though, are determined to push their engine partner forward as Eric Boullier says Honda is their only option for the future.

"We have no B plan," the Racing Director confirmed to Autosport. "It's up to us to make sure we all work together.

"Like in a marriage, sometimes there is some stress, but we follow the same path.

"The belief comes from the fact they've committed to the long term and the facilities they've built are amazing.

"You need to let them have time to settle, get the knowledge, get the experience, get the process in place and when the machine builds it's going to be massive."

Despite their struggles, Boullier reiterated his belief that teaming up with Honda was the right move for McLaren as they were not willing to settle for a customer role which is what they had with Mercedes.

"It's always easy to analyze afterwards rather than before.

"We have to stick to a few basic rules – the reason why we moved to Honda was clear.

"When Mercedes decided to run their own team, you know you become a customer.

"And as soon as you become a customer, you know you will never become world champion. That's clear. Planet F1

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