Latest F1 news in brief – Sunday

  • Alonso says F1 is no longer exciting. Races are won by the engineers who design the cars, not the drivers. Engineering is not a sport.

    F1 'not as exciting' now – Alonso

  • Alonso struggle 'would be hard' – Rosberg
  • Lauda tips McLaren-Honda to succeed
  • Teams concerned about 21-race calendar
  • Hamilton 'light years ahead' in Hungary – Lauda
  • Red Bull 'must take control of future' – Horner
  • Lotus admits Renault talks taking place
  • New car would put Manor 'closer' to McLaren – Merhi
  • Hungary 'ideal' for Red Bull – Massa
  • Hamilton says Mercedes not most dominant ever
  • Boullier not thrilled with 2016 testing cuts

F1 'not as exciting' now – Alonso
(GMM) Fernando Alonso was a hero of qualifying in Hungary, although he admitted formula one is "not as exciting" to him anymore.

McLaren-Honda's nightmare 2015 continued on Saturday when Alonso broke down, but the Spaniard thrilled the crowd by pushing his broken machine back to the pits.

But he was then told the rules, denounced by Alonso as "strange", prevented him from re-entering the fray.

"I love motor sport, all the categories, and F1 is not as exciting as it was in the past — at least to me," he admitted.

Alonso, a two-time world champion now stranded amid McLaren-Honda's struggle, admitted his eyes are starting to wander outside the paddock gates.

"With no testing, with these tires, with these limitations, with the calendar for example of next year, there is the temptation for (doing) other categories, that is true," he confessed.

Another former champion disenchanted with modern F1 is Kimi Raikkonen, who thinks the sport should be significantly faster.

"I think if you look at Monaco and we were a few seconds faster than GP2 only, it doesn't make sense," he told Finland's Turun Sanomat.

"F1 teams spend 200 or 300 million while it is a couple of million in GP2. I think we should probably be 15 seconds faster than them."

Raikkonen had recently been quoted as saying F1 should be more 'dangerous', which might be a controversial claim now in light of Jules Bianchi's tragic death.

"No one wants anything to happen to someone," the Finn insists, "but it is also part of the sport. It is part of the attraction.

"If you don't want to do it, you could certainly find a big group of drivers who do like to take risks," Raikkonen added.

Alonso struggle 'would be hard' – Rosberg
(GMM) Nico Rosberg has sympathy for the plight of former champion Fernando Alonso.

The Mercedes driver said that, before he began to duel for wins and the title against Lewis Hamilton, struggling for mere points in F1 was "not so difficult" because "I didn't understand what it was like to have a car capable of winning".

Alonso, however, has gone from dominating with Renault and dicing for titles in a Ferrari to struggling around at the back with a hapless McLaren-Honda.

"To go back into that (uncompetitive) phase again, just as Fernando is doing at McLaren-Honda … wow. That would be hard," Rosberg told Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper.

"Because now I know how cool it is to win," he explained.

The German, however, said he always knew that his more difficult years in F1 would eventually lead to the top.

"I somehow always knew that my time would come," agreed Rosberg. "Even though it was tiresome at times when Vettel won four years in a row."

But now, it is Mercedes' rivals who are complaining about that sort of dominance.

"I'm sure everyone respects the job that we have done — even if they don't say it," Rosberg said.

"We were nowhere. There were tough years for Michael (Schumacher) and myself, for all of the team. We worked hard and suffered a lot in the first three years.

"I have been here from even before day one," he smiled, "before the team even officially existed, so it is such a pleasure to experience what we are now."

Lauda tips McLaren-Honda to succeed
(GMM) Niki Lauda has tipped Fernando Alonso and McLaren-Honda to bounce back from their current trough.

The once-great team's abysmal 2015 was summed up in Hungarian qualifying, when Spaniard Alonso broke down and pushed his hopeless MP4-30 back to the pits.

But former McLaren champion Lauda tipped the team's struggling engine supplier Honda to bounce back.

"It is quite understandable what they are going through," the F1 legend told Spain's El Pais newspaper. "Because these engines are extremely complex. They have no power and reliability now, but this is normal.

"But I warn you: those Japanese are going to give everything to get back up and to succeed," Lauda, now team chairman of the dominant Mercedes outfit, added.

The great Austrian also said it is wrong to surmise that Alonso's decision to return to McLaren in 2015 could mean he will never again taste title success.

"Fernando is having a hard time now," Lauda said, "but he knows that things will improve.

"I talked to him in Austria and he is 100 per cent committed. The reasons why he left Ferrari are irrelevant, but he is a great professional who has no choice now but to contribute everything so that McLaren succeeds."

Teams concerned about 21-race calendar
(GMM) Team bosses are concerned about F1's plans for an unprecedented 21 grands prix next year.

Earlier, it was believed the sport had set an upper acceptable limit of 20 races per season.

So when asked about the Bernie Ecclestone-penned, 21-date provisional 2016 schedule now rubber-stamped by the FIA, Lotus driver Romain Grosjean grinned: "I think the limit would be the divorce!"

Indeed, the concern is that pushing beyond 20 races is so hard on some in the paddock that teams might have to begin to consider rotating staff.

"I think that if there is more than 20 then you do need additional staff and resources," said Sauber chief Monisha Kaltenborn.

"Then you have to consider what is the possibility (to do that) of the private teams," she added.

Not only that, next year's schedule – including an arduous 7 sets of back-to-back races – has basically eliminated the now-traditional summer break.

"It looks tough for everybody," Red Bull's Christian Horner told AFP. "Tough for the whole factory not to have a summer break. I think it's important that we have one."

And Kaltenborn said there is also the risk that 21 races goes beyond what the public wants.

"On the one hand," she said, "it's great for F1 to go to new countries, which may be important for our sponsors.

"On the other, it may be detrimental if the public perceives that there is too much."

Hamilton 'light years ahead' in Hungary – Lauda
(GMM) Niki Lauda has hailed the dominance of Lewis Hamilton this weekend in Hungary.

As Nico Rosberg scratched his head at the nearly 6 tenth gap to his teammate in qualifying, Lewis Hamilton surmised that he has simply mastered his "favorite" Hungaroring circuit.

"The gap that he has on this track is light years in formula one," Mercedes team chairman Niki Lauda said.

Also on German television, team boss Toto Wolff agreed that while Rosberg suffered from sudden handling problems in qualifying, "Lewis' last lap was probably unbeatable".

Lauda added: "He (Hamilton) is conjuring laptimes that no else can conjure at the moment."

Red Bull 'must take control of future' – Horner
(GMM) Red Bull needs to take back control of its destiny in formula one, according to team boss Christian Horner.

The once-dominant outfit has struggled in the new 'power unit' era, with the finger of blame always pointed squarely at engine partner Renault.

Earlier, it was suggested Renault would finally trade in its performance upgrade 'tokens' in Belgium after the summer break, but now the plan is for Sochi in October.

"The plan (of Renault's) changes all the time," Horner lamented in an interview with the German news agency SID.

Now, the French carmaker is considering a change of tack for 2016 and beyond by potentially buying Lotus.

Horner hinted it could also mean a fundamental change for Red Bull.

"We must take control of our future, rather than someone from the outside (having control)," he said in a clear reference to the current situation with Renault.

"We have to be in a competitive situation."

In reality, it is not just Red Bull who are frustrated with Renault's situation. Even Niki Lauda, the Mercedes team chairman, sounds baffled as to why the marque is struggling so much.

"Leaving aside Honda, who have just arrived, the only one not on our level now is Renault," he told the Spanish newspaper El Pais.

"To this day they still have 12 of the 32 tokens to implement, so what the hell did they do in the winter? We have used most of ours and so too has Ferrari."

Lauda admitted, however, that he is concerned about the situation in F1 generally.

"Yes, because there are several teams like Force India, Sauber and Lotus who have no money," he said, "because Red Bull is struggling with Renault and Honda is in its first year.

"But what should we do at Mercedes? Put ballast in our cars?

"Not long ago Red Bull won four double titles, and if we look back further we find the Schumacher era of Ferrari. Now it's our turn because we have the best engineers and have done the best job," Lauda insisted.

Lotus admits Renault talks taking place
(GMM) Lotus has admitted it is in talks to be bought out by Renault.

The Enstone team arrived at the Hungaroring amid a dispute with tire supplier Pirelli, as it emerged that a $500,000 payment to the Italian marque was overdue.

"We had a problem with the bank transfer," insisted deputy team boss Federico Gastaldi.

"We are not so crazy that we will make the trip from the UK to Hungary without having the money for tires. It was just bad timing.

"In this situation there is a lot of talk but it's a waste of time to have to refute all the rumors," he is quoted by Speed Week.

Gastaldi, however, cannot deny completely that Lotus is struggling financially, as another disgruntled supplier, Xtrac, recently filed a petition to have the team wound up.

And amid it all is the persistent speculation that the team is set to be bought back by its former owner, Renault.

Gastaldi no longer denies it.

"The talks are between Gerard Lopez and the executive board," he admitted. "But I don't know about it in detail.

"We would welcome the return of Renault. It would be a huge advantage to have them back at Enstone. But the decision is not with us (the team), so we can do nothing except to say that we would welcome them back," Gastaldi added.

New car would put Manor 'closer' to McLaren – Merhi
(GMM) Manor might have points on the board if it was powered by an up-to-date engine.

That is the view of Spanish team driver Roberto Merhi, as he hailed his half-second qualifying advantage over teammate Will Stevens in Hungary.

Earlier, it was suggested Merhi might be on the verge of losing his race seat, as the apparently better-funded Fabio Leimer lines up to oust him.

"I suppose that if they (the team) had some doubt, the qualifying lap here might have removed that," he smiled to the Spanish daily AS.

"Fabio is a good driver, he has a lot of experience in GP2 cars that are not much slower here than F1, but I don't think he did anything out of this world," Merhi insisted.

As for Manor's performance, the team is now alone in the constructors' standings with a zero score, but only 5 points ahead is the struggling grandee McLaren-Honda.

Asked if a 2015 Manor and up-to-date Ferrari engine might have put the team ahead of McLaren by now, Merhi answered: "We would be closer.

"I don't know if we'd be ahead, that's too easy to say, but it is true that we might already have scored (points) because there have been races that could have favored us with the circumstances," he said.

Hungary 'ideal' for Red Bull – Massa
(GMM) Hungary might be a one-off for the much more competitive Red Bull team.

That is the claim of Felipe Massa, who had gone into this weekend warning that the tight and twisty Hungaroring might not suit Williams' FW37 car.

On the other hand, the lack of straights makes it ideal for teams with struggling power units, like McLaren-Honda and Red Bull-Renault.

And Massa told Brazil's Globo it also better suits Ferrari.

"This track is ideal for them, particularly Red Bull," he said. "Maybe this is their best result in qualifying. Here and in Monaco and probably Singapore they have a more competitive car, while at the other tracks a bit less."

But whether Williams is ahead of Ferrari and Red Bull or not, there are some in the paddock – notably McLaren's Ron Dennis – who think a mere Mercedes 'customer' like the Grove based team will never be in a position to win races consistently.

Mercedes team chairman Niki Lauda hits back at that notion.

"Williams has exactly the same engine as us," he told the Spanish daily El Pais. "It is just that their car is not as good.

"Their car only goes well at tracks that do not require downforce," Lauda added.

Hamilton says Mercedes not most dominant ever
(GMM) From Valtteri Bottas to Max Verstappen, drivers up and down pitlane are being linked with a Ferrari seat for 2016.

Not Lewis Hamilton, although he does admit to having 'contact' with the Maranello marque.

"Every year. I love their road cars!" he laughed in an interview with Spain's El Mundo.

When it comes to F1, Hamilton is a dyed-in-the-wool Mercedes man, having recently signed what is believed could be the most lucrative contract in F1 history.

But his rapper-style, jet-set lifestyle means he is not universally popular, as the recent global fan survey demonstrated.

And asked if he feels envied by his rivals, Hamilton answered: "I don't care what others think of me. From the age of 8 I have been envied."

Now, however, he is driving perhaps the most dominant car in the sport's entire history.

"I don't think it is. What about Michael Schumacher's Ferrari? Or Vettel's Red Bull?

"I do admit that it is a great feeling to drive a car like the Mercedes. I have never felt anything like it," he said.

But with the likes of Fernando Alonso and Red Bull now struggling, does Hamilton regret not having more competition to fight?

"(Do I) miss what? At Silverstone I was fighting Massa and at other races it has been Vettel. And always Nico (Rosberg)."

However, he doesn't think his old team McLaren will be a threat for some time.

"McLaren has the talent, the history and the resources it needs, but seeing the level of my team, I don't think they're going to be able to beat us (soon)," Hamilton smiled.

Boullier not thrilled with 2016 testing cuts
(GMM) Eric Boullier says he is not thrilled with the further reduction of testing in formula one.

For 2016, the official pre-season program has been cut from 12 days to just 8, while in-season testing has been axed altogether.

Asked if he is happy with that, McLaren-Honda team boss Boullier answered: "I don't think any team would be. But everyone says that formula one is too expensive and that it (reducing testing) is a very efficient way to save money."

However, the Frenchman explained that less testing makes it harder for teams to develop — and McLaren-Honda undoubtedly has a lot of improving to do.

"Yes, it is certainly more difficult," Boullier told Speed Week.

"Maybe we have gone a little too far, but that is what has been decided so we have to live with it."

On McLaren-Honda's difficult 2015 so far, Boullier denied that the team has at least achieved the 'milestone' of a handful of points.

In fact, he said a haul of just 5 points at the middle of the season for a grandee like McLaren is nothing short of "depressing".

"We are taking a more aggressive approach now," Boullier revealed. "After the summer break we will use some of our tokens to improve the engine. And I certainly hope it will be noticeable on the track.

"We still lack 120hp compared to Mercedes. So we need to continue to work under high pressure. It's very important to remove these weaknesses, also with regards to the 2016 season," he added.

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