Latest F1 news in brief – Monday

  • Raikkonen's days at Ferrari numbered?
    Raikkonen's days at Ferrari numbered?

    Ferrari has 'deadline' for Raikkonen decision

  • Mercedes driver battle 'down to the wire'
  • Renault contract means 'no decision to make' – Horner
  • Alonso says McLaren-Honda 'crisis is over'
  • Mood for immediate change growing in F1
  • Hulkenberg deserves 'top car' in F1 – Lauda
  • Ferrari: Too early to decide Kimi's future

Ferrari has 'deadline' for Raikkonen decision
(GMM) Kimi Raikkonen's quest to keep his Ferrari seat took another backwards step in Austria.

The Finn, pushing to have the 2016 'option' in his contract triggered, struggled in qualifying and then crashed heavily at the start of Sunday's race.

It follows the spin in Canada that cost Ferrari a podium place and angered boss Maurizio Arrivabene.

On Sunday, stewards decided not to apportion blame, but Fernando Alonso said he only collided with Raikkonen after the Ferrari driver lost control due to wheelspin.

"I was lucky not to hit him on the head," said Alonso, who like Raikkonen was checked in the medical center after the serious crash.

"It was a bit of a strange one as he must have lost his car in fifth gear," the Spaniard added.

Ferrari boss Arrivabene admitted he did not know the exact reason for the crash.

"When I first looked at the pictures I thought Fernando had touched Kimi," he said, "but that's not true."

Then in Ferrari's official post-race statement, the Italian did not mention Raikkonen even once.

Kimi himself said the wheelspin at such high speed was "unusual". "Suddenly (I) went left and ended up there".

Arrivabene told reporters: "Unfortunately there was no onboard footage from Fernando, so we need to trust Kimi. He said that the wheels spun, that's it."

The details of the crash aside, it is clear it came at the worst possible moment for the 2007 world champion, amid Ferrari's hot deliberations about the future.

Asked when he is going to decide the identity of Sebastian Vettel's teammate for 2016, Arrivabene answered: "When the time is right, both for us and for him (Raikkonen).

"It's not about what happened (in Austria) yesterday or today, although of course we have a deadline but I'm not going to say when it is."

Another bad sign for Raikkonen is that his incidents in Canada and now Austria were witnessed first-hand by Sergio Marchionne, the Ferrari president.

"Kimi should not be underestimated," Marchionne said on Sunday, "as he is a world champion. He has given and he gives this team a lot.

"He is currently in a difficult situation, but we are here to support him."

But Marchionne was also quoted by Italy's Corriere della Sera: "His future depends on him — he must decide whether he brings the results or whether he gives up."

World champion turned outspoken pundit Jacques Villeneuve thinks Ferrari will not rush its final decision.

"Kimi does not have another good team to go to," he is quoted by the Finnish broadcaster MTV3, "and Ferrari knows it. So why would they sign him quickly?"

Villeneuve also said there are doubts about the leading candidate to replace Raikkonen; another Finn, Valtteri Bottas.

"He (Bottas) has done some great races," the Canadian said, "but he is sometimes behind Felipe (Massa). He is a fast driver, but is he better than Kimi?"

Toto Wolff knows Mercedes can orchestrate a Rosberg-Hamilton battle for the F1 title to make up for the fact their dominance is ruining the sport
Toto Wolff knows Mercedes can orchestrate a Rosberg-Hamilton battle for the F1 title to make up for the fact their dominance is ruining the sport

Mercedes driver battle 'down to the wire'
(GMM) Toto Wolff has tipped the 2015 title battle to go "down to the wire".

Although Lewis Hamilton started from pole position in Austria, it was teammate Nico Rosberg who was clearly faster all weekend and he duly won on Sunday.

Hamilton, however, has been the on-form Mercedes driver throughout 2015, but the consistent German Rosberg is just 10 points behind after eight races.

A decisive moment on Sunday was when Hamilton was beaten off the line by Rosberg, and the reigning world champion explained that he has not felt comfortable on the clutch since Barcelona.

Hamilton was also penalized for crossing the pit exit line on Sunday, but team chairman Niki Lauda insisted: "Nico was outstanding today, I have to say.

"He would have won it without Lewis' penalty."

Hamilton also acknowledged that, admitting Rosberg was "quicker during the race".

Rosberg said he has worked hard on improving his race pace since being beaten to the 2014 title by Hamilton.

"I think this year I found what I needed to find last year in terms of the race," he said.

Many insiders predicted that Hamilton's 2015 form to date had established a clear hierarchy, but boss Wolff said the way Rosberg keeps bouncing back is proof of his mental strength.

"Nico was the faster man all weekend," he said on Sunday. "Except for one lap in qualifying.

"It is going to go down to the wire," Wolff predicted. "As we saw it last year, it can vary who has the edge at every circuit."

Christian Horner will to go down with the ship with Renault
Christian Horner will to go down with the ship with Renault

Renault contract means 'no decision to make' – Horner
(GMM) Speculation Red Bull might revert to Ferrari power looks set to end.

Christian Horner, the energy drink-owned team's boss, gave short shrift to the issue on Sunday, after Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne indicated he would be happy to supply Red Bull with turbo V6 power units.

"I would give engines to anyone, provided they pay," Marchionne is quoted by La Repubblica.

"But I have to say that if the Ferrari engine is at Red Bull, I still hope that the Ferrari engine that wins would be in the Ferrari," he added.

For his part, Horner seemed to have his tongue planted firmly in his cheek when he thanked Marchionne for the "very generous offer".

"First of all, we have a contract with Renault," said the Briton.

"Sergio generously offered us his engine, but I suppose he did not disclose to you (reporters) the terms on which he offers them," Horner added.

It is believed Horner is referring to the likely 'B' status of Red Bull's hypothetical Ferrari engine deal, as well as the high cost.

Horner added: "We have a contract with Renault, so there is no decision to make."

He insisted Red Bull's relationship with the French carmaker is not broken, but said frustration at not being able to fix the problem is high.

"We still want to win," Horner is quoted by Bild am Sonntag, "but you can't win a horse race with a Shetland pony."

Some believe Red Bull's ideal solution would be for Renault to go its own way, while at the same time the Volkswagen brand Audi decides to enter F1.

One rumor is that Marchionne made his offer to Red Bull public in order to put Audi off.

He denies that.

"Whenever I see the Volkswagen people," he said in Austria, "I urge them to enter F1. I am sure they can have a great future in F1 because they are very good, so it is with open arms."

Fernando Alonso
Fernando Alonso

Alonso says McLaren-Honda 'crisis is over'
(GMM) Fernando Alonso says "the crisis is over" at McLaren-Honda.

That is despite the team's Austrian grand prix appearing to be an unmitigated disaster, and right in front of the Honda Motor Co.'s new president, Takahiro Hachigo.

The draconian extent of the engine grid penalties incurred by Alonso and Jenson Button was ridiculed in the international media, before Button sputtered into retirement and Alonso crashed on the opening lap.

And Spanish media reports say Alonso's misery will now run into Silverstone, as the 44G impact with Kimi Raikkonen and the trackside barrier damaged his brand new Honda engine that now must be replaced yet again.

Alonso told Spanish reporters that, approaching the mid-point of the season, the pressure on McLaren-Honda is now high.

"Expectations are always high for a team like ours, and with a collaboration like McLaren and Honda," he said, "but everything can be solved through teamwork."

Alonso is staying at the Red Bull Ring this week, where he says he can continue to test the new bodywork package, despite destroying the 'short nose' on Sunday.

"We have spares," he revealed.

"The path we have taken is good, I know what's coming and I know that things are going to change quickly now.

"I do not know if it will take two, six or eight races, but no more than that," Alonso added.

"The crisis is over.

"We have found the right direction with several areas of the car that we have now put in place, and although from the outside it looks negative, there is not much longer until we can begin to have fun," he said.

Ecclestone, yes I know F1 engines sound like crap
Ecclestone, yes I know F1 engines sound like crap

Mood for immediate change growing in F1
(GMM) The mood for immediate change in the increasingly-alarmed F1 paddock is growing.

Summing up the burgeoning crisis, McLaren team boss Eric Boullier told Spain's Marca: "Drivers are not happy, the public is noticing and they (the audience) are leaving F1."

Front and center of the argument is Red Bull, who spent the entire weekend at the 'Red Bull Ring' insisting that the sport is spiraling towards the abyss.

"Bernie Ecclestone needs to get together with Jean Todt and do something," boss Christian Horner is quoted by the German news agency DPA.

"And as fast as possible. Formula one is running out of time."

F1 has, however, already acknowledged collectively that it has a problem and is discussing what drastic changes should be introduced for 2017.

"We have recognized the problem," Ferrari's Maurizio Arrivabene told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, "but another thing is certain: We must not waste any more time."

Indeed, there is now a push to speed up the process and introduce radical changes not for 2017, but in 2016.

"The change in the cars should come as soon as possible," agreed Dr Helmut Marko. "If everyone wants it, already in 2016."

Ecclestone, the F1 supremo, is on board.

"We cannot wait and see," the 84-year-old told Salzburger Nachrichten newspaper, arguing that the complexity of the 'power units' is the biggest problem.

"We need something simpler."

Until now, F1 has baulked at simply scrapping the quiet and expensive turbo V6s, as it was said Mercedes would quit the sport in protest.

"If they (manufacturers) want to go, they will go," Ecclestone insisted.

He said that also applies to Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz, who is once again threatening to quit.

"He is in a position where he doesn't have to ask anyone," Ecclestone admitted.

"He is frustrated and that is understandable, because if he was in a position to do something about it, he would."

Honda is also grappling with the current rules, while Renault's problems are well known.

But Ecclestone said: "I am confident that no one is going to leave formula one."

Red Bull's Horner, however, thinks the current governance structure of the sport is clearly not working.

"Perhaps," he said, "we need an independent expert, and someone who is not involved in the championship. I don't know, but someone like Ross Brawn, who understands the business and the complexity.

"I don't think formula one can allow manufacturers of the likes of Renault and Honda to be in this situation. Honda's new president came to the race today and I do not think he was happy with what he saw," added Horner.

Nico Hulkenberg
Nico Hulkenberg

Hulkenberg deserves 'top car' in F1 – Lauda
(GMM) Nico Hulkenberg has earned a place at a top team.

That is the view of F1 legend Niki Lauda, referring to the Force India driver who recently made international headlines by winning Le Mans on debut.

Back in F1, however, German Hulkenberg drives only for Force India, where in Austria he qualified an impressive 11 places ahead of his teammate Sergio Perez.

"The guy is really good," Lauda, who doubles as Mercedes' team chairman, told German television RTL. "I've known that for a long time."

Lauda said Hulkenberg, 27, clearly deserves a "better car" than the Force India.

It is believed Hulkenberg, who is yet to score a single podium in F1, is out of contract at the end of 2015. He has been tentatively linked with Ferrari.

"Of course he has earned a place in a top car," Lauda insisted. "No discussion!

"He has to fight for that. I do not know what will happen with Kimi (Raikkonen) — maybe there will be a place at Ferrari but there are also others who are good. (Valtteri) Bottas for example," he added.

Ferrari: Too early to decide Kimi's future
It hasn't been a good couple of weeks for Kimi Raikkonen, but the good news for the Finn is Ferrari won't make a decision on his future on the back of recent results.

The 2007 World Champion came in for some criticism after the Canadian GP as Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene felt he "threw away" a podium finish after he spun on his outlap following a pit stop.

It meant there was some added pressure on Raikkonen to perform in Austria, but he endured another nightmare weekend as he failed to make it out of Q1 following some miscommunication from the pitwall.

He later revealed they "changed the plan but I was never told".

That wasn't the end of his woes as he crashed out on the first lap at the Red Bull Ring on Sunday.

With the Finn's contract at Ferrari up at the end of the season, many are starting speculate whether or not the Prancing Horse will stick with him next year after the latest debacles.

However, Arrivabene insists it is too early to make a decision and the recent events won't play a major role.

"There are many many things to consider and now is too early to tell him something or to decide something," he said. "I could look too defensive or protecting Kimi, but we are not even halfway through the season.

"Try to be in my position, and going to Kimi to say you are out or you are in or whatever. I want the guys to be concentrated on what they are doing and to give the maximum."

He added: "It's not a question of today or yesterday. It's an overall view that is conducting our decision.

"I was talking about performance – performance means a kind of holistic approach.

"How is the feeling with the engineers, how hard is he working, how quick is he?

"We will decide when it is the appropriate time, for him and for us."

Raikkonen lost control of his car at Turn 2 on Sunday and went on to smash into Fernando Alonso and the Spaniard's McLaren ended up on top of the Ferrari. Planet F1

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